tagSci-Fi & FantasyHalfbreed Ch. 02

Halfbreed Ch. 02

byHookedonPhoenix©

"I hope you know," Mike whispered, kneeling down next to the beleaguered Elf as he wiped at the wound on her forehead with a sanitized cloth, "That crash is coming out of your cut of the profits, Aly."

Allynna groaned and stirred. Her blue eyes peeked open, squinting hard as they tried to adjust to the flickering firelight. After a few moments of dimness the Elf's eyes opened fully, blinking repeatedly as she cast her gaze around herself. Mike leaned back, resting on his heels as her vision settled on him. He gave her a tired smile.

"Glad to see that head wound wasn't too serious. You okay?"

Allynna did not answer, she merely stared. The until-recently unconscious Elf had been propped up against a tree, left to convalesce as Mike had built them both a makeshift camp. The thick black branches that canopied them above ended in puffy bundles of bluish leaves, which hung like drooping dandelions above their heads. Around them were a smattering of rigid-leafed red ferns, and on the ground tiny, tubular mushrooms poked up from the ground as they wiggled like little worms in the firelight. One of the larger mushrooms even pulsed every so often, a bioluminescent red. This was truly an alien forest.

The small fire Mike had rigged up earlier in the evening was still sparking merrily, casting the both of them in a bright orange glow in the shadows of the alien trees. As Allynna looked around, Mike could see the wheels slowly turning in her head.

They were surrounded by the utter blackness of the late night, the only things visible besides the looming woods were their two bedrolls laid out, alongside a satchel that had functioned as the Halfbreed's bug out bag. Mike had thankfully been able to scavenge it - if nothing else - from the burning wreckage of his beloved ship.

"The native fighters that were pursuing us bailed once we hit the ground." He murmured, preempting the question he knew she'd ask first.

"...What?" Allynna said in response. There was a question in her eyes.

"I'm not entirely sure why, mind you." Mike shrugged. "Maybe this wasn't their tribe's territory that we landed in? I saw a couple of other ships flying about the crash site while I was dragging you through the woods. They didn't have the same kind of markings or coloration. Might be an offshoot or something, who knows?"

Allynna's eyes were locked to his in a way that made Mike feel uncomfortable. "Michael." She said, "Say something again."

"Uh... all right." He said, wondering if the blow to her head had indeed proved serious. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

Allynna seemed baffled by his question. She glanced at Mike's two extended fingers, then back to him. "Michael, I can't understand you right now."

"Oh, like you ever could." He joked, leaning forward again to tend to her wound, a small gash near the crown of her head. "Half the time we talk, it's like you're not even-"

Allynna's hand snapped out and grabbed his wrist, pushing aside the blanket Mike had placed over her and stopping him from touching her forehead with the cloth. They held there for a heartbeat longer than they should have.

"Aly, it's just disinfectant."

"I cannot understand you." She said in response. "I think my translator is malfunctioning."

"Oh for the love of-" Mike cursed, pulling his wrist away. "Are you serious?"

"Can you understand me?" She asked. Mike gave her an over enthusiastic thumbs up. She let out a sigh. "You do not have to be so abrasive."

"Try carrying me three miles through a dense forest, and see how 'abrasive' you'd be afterwards." Mike retorted, getting a blank stare in response.

"Why do you continue to speak to me, when you know that I am incapable of understanding?" Allynna asked, cocking her head to one side. Mike let out a huff of air.

"Because sarcasm is universal in all languages." He said. "It's just that Elves take longer to figure it out than everyone else."

Allynna's steady stare became a glare. "...I can assume that whatever you just said to me, I should take it as either an ill-timed joke, or a backhanded insult."

Mike couldn't help but laugh. He nodded, smiling as he chuckled at her perceptiveness. Allynna did not seem to share in the amusement. "Now is not the time to be making light of our situation, Michael."

Mike quirked an eyebrow. He tapped at his wrist with his finger, as if pointing at the time, then shrugged. Then when?

"Not now." She replied, pushing herself up to a full sitting position. She seemed to be more alert. The Elf looked about the campsite once more. "...You pulled me from the wreckage." Mike flashed her a winning smile and flexed his aching arms. "I can assume then that the Pirates did not follow us to the ground." Mike shook his head.

Allynna became somewhat more conscious of herself. "What were you doing just now with my..." Her hand reached up to touch her head where she'd been hit by falling debris. Her fingers froze upon the dry gash on her scalp. Allynna's eyes went wide.

Mike let out a curse. "Aly, wait. Don't panic, It's just a flesh w-"

"What happened to me?" She blurted out. "Is- is there a going to be a scar?"

"Fucking Elves." Mike muttered under his breath. He lifted his hands to try to calm down his panicking first mate. "Aly. Aly! Look at me." She got the jist of what he was trying to get across to her.

She looked at him, her lower lip trembling. It'd have been a pitiable sight to behold, were her wildly overblown concerns not so charmingly pathetic.

"Michael, you know my people's beliefs regarding visible disfigurements."

"You aren't your Uncle, Aly. You barely even got dinged." Mike said, knowing she couldn't understand a word of what he was saying. He hoped his tone of voice would be enough. He put his finger to his scalp, tracing the length of her wound on his forehead to show her how small it was. "It's just a scratch. You're going to be fine."

Allynna shook her head. Stubborn to the core. "What am I going to do?" She said. "Father will-"

"Your Dad's an asshole, and he's not the one stuck on this fucking moon!" Mike snapped.

Allynna stared at him, taken aback by his harsh tone. She'd have been utterly flabbergasted, had she any capability of comprehending the words he'd just spoken to her.

"Damn it Aly, you're fine." Mike reached out to touch her shoulder. The Elf jerked back as if his hand was molten fire. Mike let out a sigh and pulled away. "You're going to be fine."

"...I'll need to see the damage for myself." She said, her voice carrying with it the kind of resignation usually reserved for the condemned.

Mike shook his head firmly in denial. "The last thing I want to see right now is an Elf crying about a papercut. We have to stay focused."

Allynna looked at him, her lips flattening into a firm line. "...Did you just make another joke at my expense?"

Mike snorted, shaking his head back and forth. "No." he said, leaning back on his hands as he glanced over at the fire. "Not that time, Aly."

She seemed to pick up on the vibe he was giving off. "I'm..." She said, searching for words. It wasn't often that the Elf got so flustered. There was true emotion in her face, enough that even the casual layman could parse it out - after a fashion.

"I'm sorry." Allynna said. "I'm focusing on issues that have no bearing on the present. You are right of course: the nature of my maiming will have to wait until we are safely offworld."

"That's not at all what I said," Mike replied, keeping his vocal tone neutral and his eyes trained on the flames. "What I said was: your Dad's a prick and you are going to be fine. You're not 'maimed,' you vain goddamn angel."

"Apology accepted." She said, deadpan. Mike's eyes snapped over to look at her and he tripped into laughter, spotting the half-smile she was wearing.

"You're a terrible first mate." He said, waving her over to the fire.

Allynna pushed herself up off the ground, wobbling a little for a second before she trudged over to the opposite side of the fire as him. She wasn't halfway across the distance before her natural Elven grace had returned to her. Mike's eyes were drawn to the gentle sway of her hips, like the rolling sweep of a ship at sea. She moved like water, the slightest jiggle of her voluptuous breasts causing Mike to shake his head and glance away.

She plopped her bum down onto the bedroll, pulling her knees up to her chest as she huddled down into herself. The fire flickered off her blonde locks, casting her face in a warm glow. She stared into the flames for a long moment.

"...I'm sorry about the Halfbreed, Michael." She said.

"Don't be." Mike shrugged. "It's just a ship."

Allynna stared at him. "It's not just a ship to you."

Mike started, then smiled. "You sure that translator of yours is broke?" He said, picking up the stick he'd been using to stir the fire. "Because you just about read my mind." Her empty expression in the aftermath of the statement told him she was not bluffing.

"I know what it meant to you. Your fresh start." She said.

Mike shook his head as he gently stirred the gleaming embers. "I'm far beyond that stuff now, Aly. Fresh starts are about as real as a Troll's empathy."

"You don't have to hide it from me." She murmured. "I know it's eating you up inside that we lost her."

Mike stopped stirring the fire. He put down the stick and leaned back on his hands, tilting his head skyward. In the dark night, the planet Charity hung like an emerald gem in the sky, surrounded by a pair of cratered moons. The stars were out, and Mike could see a thousand gleaming lights, like a vigil of endless beacons.

"You're right." He said, staring up at creation with a strange longing in his chest. "It is. But there's no way in hell I'll ever admit that to you."

A long silence fell between them. The only sounds that could be heard were the crackling fire and the haunting screech of some long-winged, diaphanous creature of the night. In the distance, Mike could hear calls and replies from others, an echo chamber that stretched the scope of the forest.

"So... what's the plan, Captain?" Allynna asked. Mike removed his gaze from the stars and met her eyes. There was a playful gleam in them.

He chuckled. "No clue. We'll have to figure it out in the morning." He put his hands together and mimed sleeping to her. She very nearly smiled.

"So you wish for us to sleep on it, then."

Mike shrugged, glancing around at the forest that surrounded them. "It's that or wander out into the darkness." He pointed in a random direction that led to nothing. After you! He gestured. Allynna's eyes held steady upon his.

"Point taken." She said, flipping her ringknife into her hand and nervously twirling it through her fingers. "You have a... different way of speaking, without the translator. Your voice is sharper than usual."

"You mean more awful sounding." Mike said. "That's because I'm not speaking your language, you silly Elf."

"I like it." Allynna continued with her thought as if he hadn't spoken. "It is a bit strange though. Humans have an odd pitch."

Mike thought for a moment. He reached up, tugging at the implanted earpiece that ran like a thin, flexible microchip along the inner ring of his right ear. With a touch he deactivated the translator. He then did the same for his left ear, all the while Allynna watched him in silence.

"Say something." He said. She continued to stare at him. Mike let out a sigh, gesturing for her to engage with him. "Aly, use your damn voice." He projected like he was talking, using his hands to indicate the passage of air moving outwards from his mouth.

"Talk."

"Anah S'lya." She said. Her voice was warm and lyrical. Mike smiled, gesturing for her to continue. "Amnath hal blana? Norr spehn astale as Stranna."

"You almost sound like wind chimes." He said.

"Maherra." Allynna replied.

"Don't take that tone with me!" Mike said, smirking into the flames. The heat of the fire was a nice distraction from the low chill in the air. "Don't forget: you're the one who got me into this mess in the first place."

"Ammen ordreda, so as a'lsted sha!" She retorted, quirking an eyebrow. "Harneya forsen."

"Well!" He said, slapping his palms to his thighs. "I might be marooned on a hostile planet crawling with pirates, but at least I won't be alone in my misery." Mike flashed her a wide smile, pointing first at himself, then at her, then at the sky. She nodded, a flit of amusement crossing her severe face. "We'll get there, Aly."

"Mai-Kell." She said.

Mike let out a bemused snort. "Is that supposed to be my name?" Her empty expression told him nothing. He pointed at himself. "...Mai-Kell?" Allynna nodded, a smile rising on her lips.

"It's Michael, actually." When she didn't seem to get it Mike repeated what she'd said, shaking his head and frowning at her. "My-Cull." he said, nodding up and down.

Allynna's brow lifted. "Sa ethela? 'My-Cull?'" She looked confused for a moment.

"Yep." Mike said, nodding again.

"...My-Cull." The Elf said with a contemplative hum, tilting her head to one side so that her face was left mostly in shadow. He felt her eyes upon him when the light flickered. Allynna shook her head.

"Mai-Kell."

Mike rolled his eyes, and Allynna let out a half-stifled laugh, flashing a glint of her white teeth as she smiled. Mike watched the hypnotic twirl of her knife as it danced between her slender fingers.

"You are the most beautiful woman I've ever met, Aly." He said, looking at no one in particular. She smiled and kept spinning the blade.

* * *

Mike awoke the next morning to the greatest thing he ever saw.

He opened his eyes, the early morning sunlight filtering through the boughs of the forest. A strong western wind set the leaves to shivering. The night had been cold once the fire had gone out, and Mike awoke with a deep chill at the base of his spine. He was curled up into a ball: his body naturally huddling into itself under the covers of the bedroll.

He let out a soft sigh and shifted position slightly, cuddling beneath the covers for a few moments more, promising himself he'd get up once he heard Allynna stir. He glanced over, spotting the Elf already sitting straight backed atop her bedroll. He watched her for a moment, not comprehending what she was doing until he was shocked into laughter.

Allynna sat, kneeling back on her heels as she furiously rubbed at her pointed ears. At first Mike mistook her to be holding her hands against her temples, but as he watched he saw her massaging her long ears between her fingers and palms to try to warm them up. Despite her long hair, the length of her ears made them impossible to cover up completely. They were bright red at the tips, and Mike could see that she'd neglected to properly protect them from the frigid environment.

"Hnk-" He choked out, trying but failing to suppress a laugh. Allynna's head snapped around, her eyes going wide like an animal's moments before a collision with a hover car.

"M-Michael!" She blurted out, her indignant tone sounding more akin to a naked woman spotting a hidden voyeur, than an Elf getting caught in a humorously compromising position. Her hands leapt from her ears to her lap.

"H-having some trou-ha-ha-ble there, Aly?" Mike said, his laughter making it even harder to get the sentence out.

Thank Heruen, the Elven God of Mercy, that she did not understand his exact words. It was unfortunate for Mike, however, that she did comprehend his body language. Completely.

Allynna's eyes turned into fiery pits of anger. A harsh blush came to her pale face, more intense than Mike had ever seen her wear before. The corners of her cheeks were bright red cherries, they burned as the Elf supplemented her stinging embarrassment with righteous passion.

She rose in a fury, her arms shaking in place as she started to shout at him. Sensing the potential danger of a bloodthirsty Elf, Mike disentangled himself from his blankets. He stood to his feet, stepping backwards out of his bedroll as he desperately attempted to salvage the situation... all the while, he couldn't stop laughing.

"Aly! Aly- ah hah!" He couldn't hold his face steady with the outraged expression she was wearing. She advanced upon him with dread menace. "It- It's not what you-"

"H-how..." She was barely able to get the words out, they dripped like liquefied hatred from her lips. "Dare you laugh at my-"

Her ears were as red as her face now. Mike imagined reaching out and grabbing her by each one, knowing the gruesome fate that awaited him should he try to do so. He instead held his hands up defensively in front of him, attempting to ward off any punches she might throw, even as his uncontrollable laughter got progressively more hysterical.

"I- ah hah hah haaaa!" Mike gasped, clutching at his side even as he stumbled backwards in a desperate attempt to make space between them. "It's- hnk, it's n-not what you think! That was... that was- hah!"

Allynna advanced upon him, murder in her eyes as her hands balled into fists. Even her Elven grace dissipated in the face of her abiding enmity as she stomped forward at him. "A- a Captain is supposed to respect his Mool'Gwaith!" She blurted out, her voice going more high pitched than normal. Mike couldn't help himself.

"It was just so fuh- fucking adorable, Aly!" He said, backpedaling till he tripped against a dead branch, falling back to the ground even as he kept laughing.

She stood over him, her legs spread and her hands at her sides, shaking with impotent rage.

"Michael..." Allynna said, her voice taut with barely restrained hostility. "I will forgive you for this transgres-"

"Ha ha ha!"

Her face got even redder. "-B-but only if you'll stop laughing at me!"

Mike couldn't stop himself if he tried. "We- we're - huh! We're gonna need mittens for your ears, Aly!" He cackled. Mike thanked every Elven deity that he could think of that she really couldn't understand him, right now.

There was a low hum in the distance. Mike grunted as Allynna roughly kicked the side of his thigh with her foot, jolting him and also deepening his unintended amusement. "Ow! Ha ha, okay! Okay!"

Her jaw was set, her scowl so intense that Mike was momentarily taken aback by the extremity of emotions flowing across her face. She looked practically human with the facial expression she was wearing. Allynna opened her mouth to talk, but no words came out. He'd infuriated her into silence. Mike's laughter began to taper off as he took in deep inhales between bouts of pealing chuckles, trying and failing to catch his breath.

"Aly, I'm suh-! I'm sorry!" He said, extending his hands upwards like a supplicant to his vengeful Goddess. Her gaze was laser focused upon him. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to hurt your feelings!" Mike said, sincere despite his lingering smile. The humming was getting louder.

Allynna looked down her nose at him, adopting the coldest, most severe Elven glare she could manage. Combined with her blushing cheeks it made for a pale imitation, but Mike shrank from her nonetheless. His instinctive giggles gave way to half-chuckles, and he at last managed a somewhat contrite posture.

"Aly," He said, panting once or twice as his throat threatened to let loose yet another belly laugh. "Aly..." He said, his voice softening as he saw the look on her face. "It was just a funny sight to wake up to: an Elf warming her ears."

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