A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 25byTaLtos6©
***Alright, I'll warn you now. >CUTENESS ALERT<
There, I've said it. There's no sex in this chapter, sorry if that's what you need.
Ah, there's nothing like a trip into the unknown - especially if you're on the run. 0_o
Book of the Merren Part 11
The horses were off-loaded and had been led far off. Arrax said his goodbyes and offered last minute advice to them all before he picked up Nahl’een and kissed her while she giggled from the tickling of his fur against her face.
He turned to Shaevre and pointed to a large pack at his feet, “You know how I feel about you, fighter, and you know what this is. There are only two at the outpost. I give this one to you. Keep the little one safe, and if we do not meet again, may it keep you alive, wherever you travel.”
Shaevre nodded, “Thank you, Arrax. This means much to me, I have no words, … how will you ever explain …?”
He shrugged with a smile as he picked it up and handed it over, “I have no idea what happened to this or where it went. I think that the officer who was in charge of the stores and supplies must have made a mistake. It wouldn’t surprise me, he was worthless at anything else that he did but keep his seat warm and eat. I will report it as missing from the weapons stores and leave him to explain the disappearance as best he can. Lean forward a little.”
Shaevre lowered her head and in a moment, he had her thin identification collar in his hand, “You won’t need this anymore, but ,… “ he held out a small cube, “This is an emergency beacon. It may take a little time, but any Xer or Merren system in this part of the constellation will be able to locate it. Do not use it unless there is dire need. Remember, the Merren may come to look for you. I leave it up to you to decide if you wish to be found.
If you see a Xer craft in daytime by itself with its strobes on – in daytime, remember, it will likely be me. You may transmit on the guard frequency, but if you get no response after three or four tries, shut it off and get out of the area, understood?”
Shaevre nodded and took the weight of the large pack with a wolfish grin and she turned to carry it to Ny’Zeille’s horse.
Selena found Arrax standing before her, “Walk with me a moment,” he said.
“Shaevre has told me,” he said, “It could happen that in a few days, she may be the only Xer left on this world. She knows this. It says much to me that she has chosen to stay here with you. I am not surprised at her courage, for she has always had that in abundance.
A long time ago, “he said, “I fell in love deeply with a female. She was a very fine bitch, more lovely to me every time that I saw her. But before we knew each other, her time was coming to her just as Shaevre’s is approaching. The female had a sister who was a fighter. The fighter was known to me, being one of the ones in my command. Having a lot of love for her sibling, the fighter searched for a way to help and arrived at a solution. It would not be the best one for the emotional tie which would come of it, but she saw no other possibility. The sister saw no male that she wanted for herself.
As it happened, the fighter was injured in a training exercise and was sent to be healed. Being a young commander and not having many under me, I took it hard and went to visit the fighter personally. I met the sister there, and we paired only hours later, so the fighter’s solution was never needed. I lost my mate a few years later after I’d left the service. Her sister the fighter perished in battle under the command of a fool, so I lost two singular females from my life, as well as the whelps of my female and I.
A little after the death of the fighter, a parcel came for me with the personal effects of the fighter, since she had me listed as one to be notified in the event of her passing. I already knew, of course, and it opened the wound again, a little. The fighter and I had nothing between us but our respect and admiration for each other.” He smiled, “I think that I see some of her in Shaevre, now that I think of it.”
He held out a thin package to Selena, “I kept everything in the parcel out of her memory. This is the solution that was chosen in desperation for my female by her sister. This is used in those cases where a female has no male and wishes none, but may have a close female friend who would help when the female’s first heat comes. I give it to you both and I hope that it gives you both joy and happiness. If you are successful in this between you, then I want you to know that I am happy that you have found each other. Take care of Shaevre. You both mean much to me and it is my hope that we may meet again soon.”
They walked to where Shaevre stood and he and he kissed them both before he stepped back and he and Shaevre saluted each other as members of the diplomatic arm of the Xer nation. Arrax walked back to the cutter to begin the power up for their departure.
“Shaevre,” Xhan began, “I wish to apologize. I thought so little of …”
“I know,” she said, “Have ones such as me risen in your eyes from it today?”
He nodded, “Much. I will come back – if I can. I wish to know you more.”
She nodded with a smile, “Please be careful, and watch out for Arrax. The bootlicks may want revenge for their shaming at his hands.”
“He has already sent their failed fitness evaluations,” Xhan said, “He scored them too low to be allowed the duty or the pay of a remote outpost any longer. The salt transports have been notified, and they all know that I added my signature to his. I may be still a whelp to him, but I am an officer, and now I seek to learn what he can teach me. Goodbye Shaevre.”
He turned from her but before he could take the step, she pulled him back and threw her arms around him to kiss him rather hard. He looked d azed when she released him as Selena and Faith cheered a little.
“What was that for?” he asked.
“I need no reason,” she grinned a little, “I only wanted to do that. I thought that you needed it.”
He laughed a little and then he was gone and they all saddled up after watching the Xerian cutter lift off and climb away rapidly.
“Come on, Shaevre,” Selena called out, “You’re riding with me.”
She shook her head, “Thank you, no. I will not ride that creature. I am too heavy and would only frighten it anyway,” she said as she and Dahlgren secured Shaevre’s pack and personal weapon to Ny’Zeille’s horse. “If you need this for whatever reason,” he said, “pull here and here, and it’ll be in your hand. That other thing, …”
She nodded and stepped away a little, “That other thing requires a little preparation before its first use. I hope that it can wait and is not needed right away.”
She grinned at Selena, “One day, perhaps you can teach me to ride one of these beasts.”
“Well how the heck are we gonna get anywhere if we gotta wait for you to walk. Shaevre?” Faith asked.
A second later, she stared at the other Xerian form and understood the reason for their other name. She looked at the muscular creature and the flinty fur which covered her.
“Oh,” Faith said, “never mind, then.”
Shaevre swung her head toward Faith and nodded before she began to trot beside Dahlgren and Nahl’een. A minute later they were out of sight, having left the large meadow and entered the forest.
They sat near their small fire after dinner in the dark. Dahlgren made sure that the horses were well-staked. Nahl’een sat with Selena and Faith in front of the small tent and Selena had just sent her sister to sit with Faith for a little while. “We’ve got to be sure that you and Faith spend some time together, Sis. The way that this family stuff works best is if we all get to know each other well enough to be close. That won’t happen the right way if you and your stepmother don’t get to know each other.”
Nahl’een nodded seriously, “Already know that, Selena.”
She turned and leaned against Faith, which surprised Faith but she hugged Nahl’een instantly. “You’re such a sweetheart, Baby. I am so happy I got to meet you today. I’ve been wonderin’ and worryin’ over it ever since your daddy told me that he had a little girl, because I want us to be friends. I never knew my father, and if we’re all gonna be some sort of family, then , … well it’s real important to me, that’s all.”
“Is that so?” Selena asked, feeling a little playful, “Well then what am I going to be in it, Faith?”
Faith looked over a little uncertainly, but she saw that Selena was smiling at her good-naturedly, so she smiled back a little shyly. “I can’t rightly say, but I can tell you what I hope and I hope that it’ll be alright, Selena.”
She sighed a little, “I’m hoping that you and Shaevre – wherever she’s gotten off to, will be my friends. It’s been a long while since I had any.”
Selena smiled, “I think we’re getting on that road anyhow, Faith. There was a time, not long ago, when I had sort of an interest in Dahlgren. It was a bit of a crush that never came to be, and it’s alright, but when I heard that he’d paired with someone, I was about on the floor over it, since it happened so fast. Ever since I heard, I’ve been wondering about the sort of girl who could get to him so fast, and now that I’ve met you, well it all makes sense to me. Shaevre and I were talking about it before we got here and we agree now that we’ve met you. If this is all Dahlgren’s family now, well we’re glad you’re in it.”
Shaevre came loping out of the undergrowth then and she turned and sat down next to the large pack that Arrax had given to her on the other side of Faith, who found that she couldn’t help herself and reached out.
“DON’T!” Selena said, “Don’t pet her, not without her knowing first.”
Faith was shocked, “Why? Doesn’t she like that?”
When she looked back, she saw Shaevre next to her, sitting on her haunches as she’d seen her for the first time, “I like that,” she smiled, “what Selena wishes to say is that you must watch my fur, it can be sharp when I am like that. Like this as I am here, it is fur. The other way, and if you move your hand the wrong way, you will be cut. I cannot help this.”
Shaevre began untying strips of material and unpacking things.
“What is all this?” Faith asked.
Shaevre smiled as she worked, “I know that you have not seen one of my kind before today,” she smirked a little, ”and that is maybe not a bad thing, necessarily. We come from another world. Mostly, we sell our services where we can and we seek things to trade wherever we go, but we are also a very warlike people and we sell our ability to war as well. It has been said that this is what we do best. I have always wondered if it was meant as a compliment or a slur.”
She paused to lift a long cylinder of what looked like metal rods out of its sleeve and she inserted it into a housing with a quarter–turn and several loud clicks. With a few quick adjustments, she spun it freely with a grin to herself and then she began to speak again as she worked on another section, “I come from a poor and unknown family. That would normally have doomed me to poverty, and that was where I was, in fact. When I got near to the earliest age where it was possible, I took the only opportunity that was available to one like me and I joined our military and became a fighter in our Expeditionary Brigades.”
Shaevre looked at Selena and saw that she was sipping a cup of tea. They shared a look and Shaevre raised her chin momentarily. Selena passed her mug and Shaevre stopped long enough to take a sip and hand the mug back with a smile.
“Now I share this need to drink tea,” she chuckled, “I should have refused your offer in the kitchen and had water instead,” she grinned, “Anyway, I was a very proficient fighter and moved up rapidly, but there is a limit for one from a low background. I left when I could not get past that. It was a time when there were no wars anyway, so I joined the diplomatic corps. It sounds a little strange, but really, I traded on my abilities as a fighter to be security for our outposts on other worlds. If I have any choice, I do not wish to return to Xer ever again. I know that I would die there.”
She unpacked a blockish-looking thing with several connectors and she began to plug one or two in, looking for tiny indicator lights to come on as she worked. “We all die anyway, but I would prefer to have some sort of a life for myself. I suppose that anyone would, really.
I was contacted and offered some duty on this world. It would be a little different, I was told. The job was regular security, but there was a small one on a Merren outpost who was the adopted daughter of their Ranger on that world. They were both considered important enough to require a bodyguard for the child. I took the assignment and here I am. The trouble is that I lost my heart to Nahl’een here, as most do, I have learned,” she smiled at the girl and Nahl’een grinned back.
“Now I go where I am needed by Nahl’een and the one that you have taken as your mate. For at least a time, I still see myself as a guard for the little one, but I am also following my friend Selena. Since we do not know what is waiting for us, I prepare this weapon.”
“That’s a weapon?” Selena gaped, “I thought you were unpacking some supplies.”
“I am,” Shaevre laughed, “I have the rifle that I brought. It is similar to what the humans had long ago. Once a fighter’s weapons have evolved to a certain point, there is not much possible beyond that on an individual level. This was my specialty in the Brigades, the use of this little beast. It is a squad weapon, to provide fire support. To a squad of Death hounds, this is comfort, to know that one like me is there with them.
Often, we find that there is really strong opposition to take our objective, and what is needed then is much force in one unit. Those units are sections of gunners carrying these, and it was my task to lead one such section.”
She unpacked another parcel and snapped it into place underneath the cylinder before clicking more connectors into place, which got her more tiny status indicators. She grinned to herself, “Arrax, I love you for this gift to me.”
She moved a flexible coupling and snapped it on, and then she unwrapped a harness and began to adjust it. “This is two weapons, really. There are two of these provided to an outpost the size of Dahlgren’s home. Arrax has stolen this one and given it to me.”
She stood up, hefting the thing with a quiet grunt as she slipped the harness over her shoulder and made more adjustments.
“My personal weapon there throws bullets which is how it kills. They come out of the long tube on it one at a time, one after another, fairly quickly if I wish it.” Shaevre looked down at a hand control and set several switches carefully in the dim firelight, double and triple-checking to be sure.
“This one has a long name with many markings which are of more use to stock keepers than fighters. Fighters call this a meg. It is a word that means ‘hot sword’,” she grinned. “It throws the same bullets as my rifle there, but it has six tubes and can shoot much faster.” She turned to point it in a safe direction and she squeezed the trigger on the hand control. There was a whine and the long cylinder spun rapidly for a second.
“That’s it?” Faith asked, “It whistles? Ain’t it working right?”
“It is working perfectly,” Shaevre nodded, “It can shoot three thousand bullets in a minute. Since there is no need, I will not try it. I only wanted to put it together and test it. All of the indicators show that it will work when I need it to.”
She laughed, “You do not wish me to test it beyond this. It is loud and will frighten the horses. It would also waste bullets for no purpose and I have only a thousand which is why it is heavy. I would also have to clean it after that for nothing. It will also throw up to twenty-two very small rockets. I have read that the humans had something such as this long ago, but they hung them on their flying weapons. This is much too heavy to be carried far by a human into a fight. I doubt that one even could.”
“Meg is a human girl’s name, a short form of Meghan,” Selena said, “I knew a girl named Meg once.”
Shaevre grinned as she shrugged a few times to get it off and then she set it down carefully and put a cover over it. “This pleases me then,” she chuckled, patting the thing affectionately; “Our Meg is a murderous girl in a fight. She is a lot to carry, but she will help to keep you safe.”
Dahlgren returned and he stared at them all with a smile, “Now that’s something,” he grinned.
They worked out their sleeping arrangement so that Nahl’een would sleep with Dahlgren and Faith during the night as Dahlgren and Shaevre took turns keeping watch.
In the morning, they just saddled up and went after Shaevre picked up her weapon.
After they were gone, a solitary figure floated down from a tree branch high overhead. That figure looked around and turned to disappear up the slope in a different direction at a perfectly silent run over the leaves on the forest floor.
Out in the desert, Ny’Zeille Runei opened her eyes and shivered. The sun wasn’t even really up yet and the hardpan could get so cold at night.
She felt the tingle in her mind which told her that her employers wanted to communicate with her, but she turned her thoughts elsewhere as she got to her feet and stood wavering a little. She decided to wait until the sun was well up and could warm her sufficiently before she made an attempt to return to her son’s home. She’d deal with him there.
By the time that she finally felt warm, she’d decided a few things. She’d take her time flying back, not wanting to brave the cold air at the higher altitudes just yet. When she got back, she planned to go to meet with Arrax and apologize for her actions and then she’d insist that Dahlgren be taken into Xer custody, since he was so obviously unstable that he’d attack his own mother the way that he had.
She began to justify everything that had happened. She would indicate her loving concern for her son and once he was back on Merren and safely committed, she’d recommend that she take over as Ranger on this world so that she might have a chance at salvaging the family name and removing the dark smear that Dahlgren had covered it with. Her first project would be to hunt down the girl and rip her apart.
She spread her wings and climbed slowly to about a thousand feet to stay a little warm as she slowly flew back with a smile on her face.
The first of the transports had arrived and sat with the first load of documents and accumulated data as well as some personal effects and equipment. Arrax walked out and spoke to the crew for a few minutes. He always liked to do this whenever he got the chance for it. The Xerian military was as far-flung as the Merren interests – farther, even, and you never knew who you might meet that you had served with previously.
In this case, he knew the co-pilot well. They’d worked together on a jungle world not all that long before he'd left the military. They shot the breeze for a time, and when he judged the time to be right for it, Arrax made a bit of a deal of seeing a small carton in among the gear which was about to be containerized for the trip. He asked if he might go and retrieve it, saying that it was not supposed to be on this flight, and of course, his request was granted. He walked up the cargo ramp past the loadmasters and he reached for the carton, allowing a thin article to slip from his fingers into the carton below, which he then closed fully.
Turning, he walked down the ramp and waved to the crew with a grin. If Shaevre’s collar was ever found, it would happen too late for anything to be done about it.