tagSci-Fi & FantasyFate of Terra Ch. 23

Fate of Terra Ch. 23


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Original Author - Intrepid_Fate

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Rubber soles squeaked on polished floors as those exploring the latest outpost walked together. The chitter of claws amongst high heels clacking, echoed down the empty halls. Taking point among the procession was Michael, flanked by Kat and Aurora. Rin, Aki and Sun Mi followed suit while Marcus talked with Raverjah at the rear.

Separate from the group, Dejah walked with Tika, as was her task. She wasn't taking her eyes off the woman. Not after their introduction.

* * * * *

Earlier that morning.

* * * * *

Dejah was a curious sort, loving to learn and explore. It was part of her nature that she'd eventually develop out of, or so they said. She looked at her father, sure, the open interest in things was gone, yet his thirst for knowledge was bright. It was that thirst that drew him to Michael in the first place.

When Pan alerted her to Michael's request, she leapt at it. She'd been fascinated by the Harpeian race since she was a child, the pictures she'd seen in her story books depicted them as graceful and beautiful. Their colour was unmatched by any known species in its variety and brightness. Sure, the occasional race had a jet of orange hair, or possessed varied traits, but they paled in comparison.

When she inquired for some more details, like how a the person had gotten aboard, Pan gave her a quick rundown. She was surprised to hear of her arrival, even more so at the reveal of the dark plume and concerned over hearing she was in Medical.

Leaving their combined quarters, she'd made her way towards the Med Bay. Being there once before was of little help, the ship could be a maze if one didn't know what to look for. Even with her knowledge, it still took a guiding hand from Pan's mental overlay to reach the entry corridor. Long as it was, it was behind her before she knew it.

Standing at the exit were two Terrans and the singular Harpeian. True to what Pan had informed, the Harpeian, a female, was standing with her back against the wall, head lowered. Michael was talking in his language to the Doctor, a no-nonsense woman whom reserved a strict decorum.

She caught the end of their exchange, just as Michael turned to face her. "I'll have the flight suit sent for cleansing and analysis."

"Thank you," He said. Spotting Dejah, he smiled warmly, "Ah, good timing!"

"Sorry I'm late," She smiled up at her mate, following him into the Galactic Standard "Am I interrupting?"

"Not at all. We're finished with our newest crew members checkup. She'll be fine onboard in our environment."

Dejah caught the head movement in the very edge of her periphery. It was a sudden movement, a sharp movement, one that almost had her snapping her own head to gain better view of whatever it was. Instead, she clamped down on the urge, slowly turning to look at the woman.

She wasn't tall, but then, no Harpeian was. Their compact frame was built for a different purpose to hers or Michael's. The woman was now looking at Michael, her attention drawn away from the hospital footwear she'd been so interested in.

"I gather you'll be able to show her around, get her acquainted with the ship and its inner running?" Michael said, steering the trio down the corridor she'd just entered.

"Of course," Dejah said, nodding towards the woman whom was still fixated upon Michael. "Is there anything you wish for us to discuss or view?"

"I trust your judgment on the matter," The powerful man in black and silver said, taking her hand in his.

He walked them quickly, gaining steps ahead of their feathered companion. Dejah felt it odd, but said nothing. She'd learned long ago that Michael had reasons for his actions.

'Has Pan brought you up to speed?' His voice swathed her mind in its commanding tones. An involuntary shiver porcupined her fur as it rolled over her.

'She has,' Dejah confirmed. 'I've never heard of a Harpeian with such dark plumage.'

'She's an anomaly to her kind it would seem. She's asking to defect from the CA over her near banishment.'

'I don't follow,' Dejah looked over her shoulder to the trailing woman.

She walked lightly, stepping forward to land on her toes before settling onto the balls of her feet. Dejah felt it odd, it was as if she intended to dash into flight at any moment.

'Being black, is a curse to her kin.' He elaborated quickly, their departure point only a dozen paces forward. 'She's undervalued, is searching for a fresh start and despises the CA. I don't know all the details, but keep that in mind when dealing with her.'

When they reached the cross-way that bisected this portion of the ship, Michael pulled her in for a hug. Happily sinking into the warm embrace, she felt his lips approach her ear. The breath tickled the delicate fur, causing the tip to flick spasmodically with his words.

"Keep an eye on her, find her motives, what she's running from and what she wants here. I trust her not to do anything stupid, but not enough to let her wander free reign." He murmured, kissing her cheek.

Giving her hand one final squeeze, Michael left. Turning back to the Harpeian, Dejah gave her a perfunctory look over. The white lounge pants and top she'd been awarded from the Med Bay matched her porcelain skin, making the dark tresses appear darker.

Realizing she'd not introduced herself, Dejah gave a small bow. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Dejah."

"Tika," She responded, tucking one foot behind her and bending in a bow of her own, wings splaying lightly at the action.

Feeling her gaze rove over the beautiful limb, Dejah glanced away and down to her tablet. "It's almost meal time. Have you dined on Felician cuisine?"

"I've heard good things," Tika allowed.

With that, Dejah led them towards her favourite diner. The Intrepid was a hive of activity at the worst of times, and chaotic at the best. Even so, there were areas that saw little foot traffic. The Medical Bay and its surrounding residential blocks were such places. As they walked, she was keenly aware of the umbra floating overhead of her dark winged companion. Distracting her with conversation was difficult, stilted. It was tinged with something, like water left open in a room too long.

She decided to tell her more about her integration with the AI Nation. As the conversation picked up, she extrapolated out into the Delegation at large. With the Free Resistance merging more and more as the rotations past, many Felicians of the Delegation began leaving their old homes to branch out. Unsurprisingly, the life of war, stress and travel was not for all that had set out in the task.

"Many had worn themselves thin with the repetition," Dejah explained. "Michael offered space for their ideas, if they had the where-with-all to do it."

"What sort of ideas have been accepted?" Tika asked, relief evident as they tacked away from the noise of Human's interacting.

"Anything really," Dejah said with a shrug. "Many have set up shop aboard the Intrepid, some as retailers and some as restaurants."

The brief exchange was interrupted by a couple Technicians walking past. Dejah gave a curious nod, while Tika flattened herself against the wall. Surprised to see a member of command in their reclusive area, the Tech's gave a hasty salute. Dejah smiled, waving them down. Smiling themselves but giving a curious lilt of the head at Tika, before disappearing down a side gantry, their voices echoing through the hollow structure.

Tika watched them depart, the door to the maintenance bay swinging shut with a clunk. "What is the language spoken aboard this ship?" Tika suddenly asked, stepping away quickly. "What is the language of these, people."

"These people are Human, or Terran, depending on your choice." Dejah said, entering the final long back corridor. "They speak English predominantly. They're multi-lingual like yourselves. English is the language of trade and law of their world."

Tika said nothing for a moment, making Dejah smile slightly. it was something she'd seen Michael do in his council meetings. Dropping a tidbit of information into the conversation so casually, it generated a sentiment of knowledge about him. That tickling sense of worry, that perhaps your opposition knew more than they were letting on. The slight tip of a hand.

"You've been upon their world, what be it like?" Tika's curiosity was peaked, and Dejah was going to use it for everything she could, to keep the conversation moving.

"In a word, varied." Dejah smiled, thinking back to the trips she'd been party too. "Area's are vast flatlands that escape ones vision. The vast flatness is beautiful, in its own way. Yet, its the sky above that makes their world. From their mountains and valleys, to the tropical lagoons where islands number in the thousands, the sky at stardown is wondrous."

"I see," Tika nodded politely. Before she could say anything more, Dejah announced their arrival.

The Diner was something she'd stumbled upon in her travels around the ship. So large it was, she'd continuously found new places of leisure and recreation. Set in the quieter area's verging the other eateries, the surrounded eaterys worked to create less of a cantina atmosphere. Instead it was quieter, dominated by the decorum expected and desired for restaurants compared to cafe's 'hustle-and-bustle'.

While it wasn't the most popular, many of her kin had frequented the place enough to make the rounds. Despite its slow start, Dejah was relieved to learn that more and more of the Human inhabitants had made the jump to try the new food. It wasn't to everyone's taste, the Malmorian's especially abhorred the broth based dishes. Yet, despite it all, the small enterprise had proved itself popular enough to ward of closure.

They'd emerged from the proverbial alleyway, their small talk effectively passed the time until the Diner came into view. Rustic looking tables and chairs lined the walls, while the decor stuck to an open atmosphere. Awnings stretched overhead to create the illusion of eating in a roving wagon rather than the permanent block it was.

"Grab a table, I'll order for us. Your kin is omnivores, no?" Dejah checked her information, halting mid-step towards the counter.

"We are," Tika nodded, scanning the surroundings for a suitable choice.

Tika selected a table halfway inside the construct, but ensured her back was against the wall. She'd seen and heard little on their travels, yet each time voices drifted through the corridors, she'd reflectively tucked her wings tighter against herself. A lifetime of disapproving glares and backhanded comments would do that to someone.

When Dejah approached, tray laden with two dishes, she immediately recognized the guarded disposition. Placing the tray down, she dished out their platters before taking a seat herself.

Tucking in, Dejah was aware of Tika's roving eyes. Too many times had the meat cube fallen from the spoon for it to be lack of skill with the implement. Tika was keeping track of her surroundings, wary of any passing individual.

"You know you've got nothing to fear here," Dejah said, putting down her own spoon to take the other woman's hand. "Trust me, everyone on this ship is unique. It's the reason their here in the first place."

"Hard habit to break," Tika admitted, one eye glancing to a passing couple. She left her hand within her guides for the minimum amount of time to be polite, before pulling back. "Besides, it's not like I've got much to trust in."

Dejah conceded the point and picked up her utensil. She watched Tika, examined her. Without conversation to distract her, she decided to get as much down about the woman as she could.

She was perhaps slightly taller than average for her kin. Her wings would cover her size at full flare, easily able to carry the weight. Dark hair fell so straight it appeared constructed rather than natural. Perhaps it was, she'd seen Kat and Stacey use something to iron their hair out.

Her face was standard, pale features and small nasal slits on chitanous ridge matched her understanding of Harpeian physiology. Her lips were thin, barely there. Watching her eat, she saw she had little control over the skin flap. It seemed a reflexive part of her being more than a conciously controlable muscle movement. Her chin was pointed, giving her an oval sort of face shape, one that started and ended upon that point. It fit her well, with her hair framing the face prettily.

Behind her, over her shoulders, the wing tips could be seen. Their coal black feathers had a glossy sheen, reflecting the light with their natural oils. On the black market, Harpeian wing oil was one of the rarest items one could hope to find. It was said to be water resistant, a moisturizer and a nourishment all in one, but Dejah hadn't investigated that. She'd been part of the galactic black market, sold as a slave as she was, and her experience with it proved her correct. Anything in that sphere was best left untouched, unless it was touched with the barrel of a gun. A big gun.

Slowly their meals dwindled to soupy remnants. Her entire time eating, Dejah had watched Tika hover on the verge of speech. She watched the muscles in her neck flex as she started to say... something, only to fall back to silence. Eventually, with the last of the meal as crumbs in their bowls, Tika broke her silence.

"You've spoken about the Terran and their world. I know about their resistance to the B'Amuf and their repulsion of their invasion. But something's bothering me." Tika gave a level stare at Dejah, the obsidian orbs meeting her own cobalt. "Why do they, why are you, following this, Mi-kael?"

That was a question with no easy answer. Why follow Michael? That was simple, it was because of what he was. But, what was Michael? Could he be described quickly? Easily? No, he wasn't someone you could talk about idly. Michael was many things, he was smart, calculating and focused. He was also caring, kind and never compromised on what he knew was right and wrong.

"Michael...," Dejah paused before giving up. "Michael's unique." She could feel the scoff coming, so she pressed on. "Michael isn't like his kin, he isn't like anyone I've ever met. He created this," She waved around at them, "All of this, he created by himself."

"I find that hard to believe," Tika stated, leaning her elbows on the table.

"You can believe what you want. He's smart. Scary smart. I've seen him debase military leaders and bring armies to heel behind him with nothing but words. He's more advanced than his people, and they in themselves have weapon enough to destroy B'Amuf drop ships."

She watched as Tika adjusted in her seat, her mental framework adjusting with her physical alteration. "He's done all that?"

Dejah smiled a smile full of needle teeth. "He's all that and more. Do you think my father would have pledged his hunt, house and fire to anyone less?"

"Who's your father?"

"The Prime of the Delegation."

"He's your father?!" Tika asked stunned.

"Hold. You've met him? When?"

"A Prime was acting as translator when I first came aboard."

"Orange pelt? Banded in white with gold trim?" At Tika's nod, Dejah nodded herself. "Yes, that's my father."

She watched as the speechless woman slowly found her words. When Tika eventually spoke, it was a breath above a whisper, her raspy voice breezing the small table between them. "How?! How did he gain such an oath from a Prime?!"

Dejah hesitated a moment, unsure if she should reveal the information or not. Remembering Michael's words, to discover what this woman wanted, she pressed on. "Our first encounter with CA controlled space was at a station. Michael went aboard to seek information and search for trade outlets, I think. I wasn't there," She admitted, "Anyway, when on the station he found a slave market. He called back to the ship and invaded, routing the slaving ring and anyone involved in it, including some station controllers."

"When he came back, he saw that a faction placed aboard by his kin's home government attempted to sieze control. We, I, the Delegation, had already established good relations with Michael. When we saw what was going to happen, my father and I lead our kin against the mutiny. When those involved were destroyed, Michael showered his thanks to my father." Dejah fell silent, remembering the whipped form of the youthful girl he'd introduced them to. Reinah was so unlike that scared creature now, it was hard to connect them together. "We found him speaking with a young group whom had held together. He was escorting the freed slaves back, one of them was a young girl, Reinah."

"That's a Felician name," Tika astutely observed.

"She's not more than fifteen winters old." Dejah confirmed, "She'd been whipped by the slavers on the station when she resisted them. When Michael found her, she was not long free of her colony planet. My father saw her, saw what Michael was willing to put forward to right the wrongs left to run ruin in the CA and my father made his oath."

She left unsaid that Michael risked his ship and his life's work to rescue Reinah. It didn't warrant words, his actions had said it all. She recalled how her father pledged, the depth of his bow, the baring of his nape. She knew Michael understood it was significant, she resolved at that point to ensure he fully understood the bond now linking them.

"I was at the auction," Tika admitted, jolting Dejah in her chair. Tika realized her mistake and backpedalled quickly, "It is to say, that was my assignment. From the Alliance."

"Explain yourself, please." Dejah said, leaning forward in her chair to gaze evenly at the woman. If she proved to be a threat, or affiliated with the flesh trade, her claws would see to her painful end.

Tika squirmed lightly in her chair, realizing she'd put herself in a precarious position. She took a moment to answer, pulling the words together.

"My assignment was to infiltrate the slave ring. A noble's daughter had been kidnapped and sold. I knew it was a fools errand the moment it landed in my lap." Tika's voice moved between detached resignation to an inner anger quickly, flipping and flopping as she talked. "I was to come to that station, the one you overran, and track down the girl. It was just another excuse to push me further from their sights, they knew it'd be a dead end from the start. No records are kept, its all Aurelian credits transferred by hand, no fingerprints and no trail. I'd learned of the auction and went to investigate, or whatever semblance of investigation I was meant to accomplish was lost to me. I'm not trained in that sort of thing."

Dejah listened patiently, aware that Pan, and probably Michael himself, were listening into their conversation. Somehow.

"Are you still searching for this girl? Is that why you approached us?" Dejah asked, trying to find rhyme or reason in what she'd been told.

Tika shook her head, "No, I... I mean," She fell quiet then, "I saw what Mi-kael did, started, was going to do, at that slave auction. I saw the danger I was in and fled. I hid until you moved out of the system before I dared reveal myself. I did some digging, and came up with leads. Those led me here. I realized I had a chance to get out, and I took it."

"Why do you wish to leave?" Dejah pressed. It was becoming clear the woman before her had much to say, and much she wouldn't, but to abandon one's life on a chance encounter was... foolish. If the woman was some form of investigative agent, she would be smart enough to know better.

"I've been pushed from my world by my parents, pushed into a life to ensure my removal from their society, and further pushed into greater and greater missions of useless import!" Tika's fists clenched and unclenched, working out the tension within. "Too often had I been sent on cosmic chases that had little to do with my station. They find a reason to bend my role, then sling me off into the depths in retrieval of frivolous ends."

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