A Big Shiny Blue Marble Ch. 24byTaLtos6©
**There are a few parts in this where there are slight jars from the way that the technological levels of the participants tend to collide. Human culture on Earth has lost a lot, and the Xer are an interplanetary bunch. ~shrug~ oh well.... 0_o
"I don't know what's gotten into him," Ny'Zeille said, "It doesn't make any sense to me."
This had been going on for the past forty minutes, and this was only today's installment. Ny'Zeille had been prattling, mostly to Arrax, for days now with no end in sight.
He'd been patient, but now the Xer male had lost interest in the griping of his female. Arrax was leaning over her, but now he sighed to himself and released the nipple that he'd been holding in his teeth gently and lifted himself up to sit on a bench across from her. He was slightly surprised that she didn't seem to notice that he'd done it yet.
"Love has never had to make sense," he said, "You act as though Dahlgren has taken leave of his senses."
"Well he has," she said bitterly, "He must have, surely. He has taken up with a Red Demon girl! He has mated her, they are a pair! This is insane."
"I know all that! You have told me that and nothing else for days!" he snapped, and it shut her up momentarily, but that was about the extent of it.
"What is your problem here?" she asked, "He's my son."
"But you act as though he was your property or a wayward piece of livestock," Arrax said, "And my problem is that I was under the mistaken impression that you wanted to mate with me since that was what you said to me. I seem to suffer from that delusion quite a bit these last few days. You actually say to me that you wish for my body, and each time, it becomes this. I have understanding and empathy, but if it is not what you want, then why pretend?"
"Well I have troubles," she said angrily, "I would think that the least that I might expect from you is a sympathetic ear."
"Which is what I have given," he said, not looking at her, "I listened and I gave support to my old friend and lover. But she is not interested in getting past what she cannot change. She would rather go over the same ground again and again. I am not feeling romantic at all anymore, thank you, and in fact, I am feeling a little resentful, though not over the loss of the intimate time. I have my own opinion of your fine son and hearing you natter has gone on long enough to suit my taste. He is grown, Ny'Zeille, and he makes a grown one's choices. You cannot change this."
"Oh, I can change it," she said venomously.
"I strongly advise you to shut your mouth," he warned, "There is only so much that I can allow to go past without filing a report -- the same as you. You may think that it would suit you to make an effort at what you call changing this, but it is not your place to act here. This is Dahlgren's choice, not yours."
"This is family business!" she almost shouted to him.
"It is not family business when what you think to do would affect the Ranger on this world. Xer has a stake in him as well as the masters who employ you. This would go far beyond the grumblings of an unhappy mother."
Arrax was looking down at the floor as she'd sputtered, but now he raised his head with something less than a smile on his face. "You know, you sound so much like my own mother," he said, "when she is talking about me."
"This is different," Ny'Zeille said with annoyance. She didn't know it, but she'd nailed two of his internal buttons squarely. First, she'd led him on by telling him that she wanted to mate when what she'd really wanted was a captive audience for her whining and bitter mewling and this hadn't been the first time. Now she was showing how self-centered she was by saying that any comparison that he might make was 'different'.
"How is it different?" he asked, "How much difference is there between how my mother moans of how I waste my life with a demon female who is not my kind, and how you rail about what your boy has done?
Who knows what happened? He found a willing bitch for himself and they liked each other so much that they felt that there was more to it than just fucking. It's an old story. It's how I came to love my first female, and it's how I came to love you. What the hell is the problem here, other than your selfish perception and bigoted point of view?
Ny'Zeille turned, her mouth open, "Bigoted?"
"Have you another name for it?" he asked, more than a little annoyed himself now, "Go on and tell me now that he is wasting the fine family seed that he was given on something which should never have it. And by the way, that's one of my mother's favorite songs to me, how I waste a noble family's seed filling something which should never have it -- meaning you, specifically."
"Your mother is a sour old titbag," Ny'Zeille began, "She's never liked me. She --"
One of the first warnings in any book on diplomatic dealings with the Xer is the advice to never insult the mother of a male Xer or the father of a female one. Without thinking, Ny'Zeille's finger was straying dangerously near his launch button.
The rest was an unintelligible gurgle as Ny'Zeille's eyes bulged from the pressure that his large pawed hand exerted on her throat while her feet dangled from where he held her up to the level of his face. He let her hang there for a moment as he strained visibly to retain control.
"You have just crossed a line, Ny'Zeille. I think that you will need another partner," he said quietly, "You will get no more attention from me."
He set her down carefully on the bench where she'd been sitting before now. Ny'Zeille choked and coughed for a moment while he watched her in silence. She was about ready to speak when he pre-empted her.
"You will want to file a diplomatic complaint, I am sure," he said. "I will have my response ready while I await my notification that I am to be relieved of duty. This would please me. I will include your remark concerning my mother. I would have thought that after these years between us, that you would understand the severity of something like this insult to a Xer.
But then it comes into my mind that you are not with me for love, are you? You wish only a hard prick sometimes when it suits only you and a Xer to show as though you are in a great love with him.
Perhaps my mother is right. Choose another for yourself now, and speak to me only as it pertains to my duty as contingent commander.
Mention my mother again to me in anything even close to what I might confuse and interpret as disparaging, and you will not survive it. Good night, Esteemed Ambassador."
As he walked down the corridor far from the surprised and angry demon, Arrax smiled to himself. By the time that he reached the door to his office, he was chuckling, and that lasted long after he'd closed the door behind him. He sat down at his desk to file his report and shook his head with a wide grin.
Sour old titbag, he thought, it was the finest description of his mother that he'd ever heard in his life.
He waved his hand over the lamp to turn it on. He had a report to write. But all thoughts of the report flew from his head for the moment as he saw the other individual in his office.
The large canine-like head nodded to him, "Why have you called to me?"
Arrax bowed his head, "I seek you fulfill your request of me, Lord," he said quietly, "But time grows short and I need a location."
The other one considered for a moment, and then smiled, "Pick up your stylus, faithful servant, and I will give you the place."
"Where Gramma go?" Nahl'een asked at breakfast. As Selena's eyes rose from her plate, the girl corrected herself. She'd been trying very hard over the last few days. "Where did Gramma go?"
Selena shrugged, "She's been upset over something to do with Dahl. I don't think that he's hurt or anything. It's more like she's very angry with him. I don't know much about it, Nahl'een, I just know that you and I are here alone now. So, what would you like to do today?"
Nahl'een looked at her sister a little suspiciously, "I don't dance today?"
Selena grinned, "Not if you don't want to today, honey. I guess that I'm supposed to say that you should do that, but I know that you've been trying so hard to learn. Sometimes if you try to learn too hard, you get stuck and it gets even harder."
She winked at Nahl'een, "I think that you deserve to enjoy a day off. It's your birthday, you know."
Nahl'een laughed and nodded, "What we do then?"
"I dunno," Selena said in an airy tone, "I was thinking of going for a ride on my horse. Do you want to come along? I know that I'm not Dahl or anything, but I think that we might have a bit of fun. But we can't go with you looking like that. Have you got any pants?"
The trip down the hill to the town took a fair bit of time, but the sisters had a lot of fun as they went, making faces at the piles of stone. Once they were in the town itself, Nahl'een looked up over her shoulder at where they stopped.
"What we get here?" she asked, still trying to remember better ways of speaking, "This is a place to buy horses."
"Have you ever been here before?" Selena asked.
"Ah-hah," her sister nodded, "I come -- came here with Dahl lots of times. He lets me see ponies."
"Want to see some today? I've got a couple of golds in my pocket and I know that if Dahl were here, you'd still probably be right here in the same place."
Selena laughed. She didn't know that Nahl'een's mouth could even open that far.
"What is this about, Uncle?" Xhan asked as he walked down a long corridor with Arrax.
"Well for one thing, Nephew, "the old warrior smiled, "I know that you have a bit of a longing in your heart for some adventure, something, some way to get at least a little excitement into your boring and meaningless existence."
Xhan nodded, "I would welcome this," he said.
"Then it gives my heart sadness to have to tell you that if that is what you truly want, it would be better if you could at least manage to say it as though you wish for me to believe you," his uncle said, "I can help, but there is no use trying to help one who does not even know what it is that he longs for."
Xhan straightened up, "Sorry. I wish for something better than hanging around here."
"No, you wish for something to happen that is interesting," Arrax smiled, "You only think that it happens everywhere in the universe where you are not, and that is not so. Are you still moping over the bitch back home and hating me for doing the only thing that was right, or have you managed to pull your snout out of your own asshole yet? I have something for you to see and learn, and you will see nothing unless you are ready to."
"I am ready," Xhan said, a little coldly, "I see that as what it was and I am thankful to you, Uncle."
"Good," the older one said, "now keep the lesson, but forget about everything else. You are not the first male who was almost caught in the trap that his happy prick led him into. Pricks do not think. Forget it, forget her, and do not feel shame. It happens.
My first bit of advice to you today is that if you long for adventure, you must get out of bed to meet it. Adventure does not wait outside your door while you sleep the day away and come out of your room at night to walk the grounds with useless guards."
"They are not useless, they -- "
"They are less than useless, and I will show you this today, "Arrax said, setting his jaw a little, "I grow tired of having to tell you that something is not your fault, and allow me to explain that. In order to advance, you need to know what is what, and the last thing that will aid you in seeing the truth is whatever that worthless academy pretended to teach you. I would much rather have you make your own mistakes than only rely on the shit that they taught you.
You were ten times the student that they required. See how easily you passed through. If the place had been worth anything, you'd have had to struggle. That is the way that you learn, not by memorizing what some fop regurgitated to you. Those teachers never saw a fight of their own in their lives, any of them. How can they pretend to teach others? Better to fall on your own nose having made your own mistake. I will pick you up and you will have learned something by it."
He looked over and saw that Xhan didn't buy any of it, and he smiled, "Fear not, Nephew. Today is the day that I begin to remove your blindfold."
They came around the corner to the Stone Garden exercise area. The entire contingent of Xer was there. Seeing Arrax, they snapped to attention and saluted. He waved his pawed hand, "Yes yes," he said with a weary sigh, "this is not an inspection to see which of us can trim our toenails the best."
He looked over at Selena and Nahl'een. "Forgive my curiosity, but, why are you here?"
"We saw everyone arrive," Selena said, "We came back to have a bit of lunch before riding a little in the afternoon."
"My sister bought me a pony," Nahl'een said excitedly, "From her and Dahl, and a saddle. I want to show Shaevre, but she is here like this," she said, indicating that all of the Xer in the room were in their bipedal forms. "I almost never see her like this."
Arrax walked over, "They are here because there are things which we must do today, little one. This will not be something for you to see. This is between the Xer."
"Is Shaevre in trouble?" Nahl'een asked in a suddenly worried tone, "She is my friend. If she is in trouble, I want be here for her, I -- "
"Shaevre is not in trouble,"Arrax grinned, "Even so, this is not something for young ones to see." He looked at Selena.
"Come on, Nahl'een," Selena said, "Let's get something to eat. This won't last long, will it, Arrax?"
"No, not long at all," he smiled back at her, "We will have this completed before you have finished eating. Enjoy your meal, little one."
He waited until the pair was in the kitchen before he glared at them all.
"Shaevre has been at her new rank for a few days now," he said, "I know that you all make much of the military structure in our service. But however you may wish that this was the way that the military is, almost none of you has any idea what that means -- because you have never been there. This outpost carries a remote rating because of its position. It means that there are bonuses paid to be here. It also means that as commander, I can institute a paramilitary stance and that is what I will do today."
He pointed, "You three are superior to Shaevre and you choose to ignore her, as you have done since she arrived at this outpost. You three there are to report to her, and you have ignored her as well. That is why we are here today, because whatever you may wish to hide behind, it is not real. Only two of the Xer here have had any real time in a combat role. The rest of you have never so much as smelled a fight.
The rest of you are pretenders. And as one who has seen much on many battlefields, "he growled down low, "I can tell you that as a unit, you are worthless.
But this ends today, right here, and right now. Here are my instructions:
The lower three are to engage Shaevre in bare combat to a knockdown-staydown finish. You may not use your four-footed shapes as that will turn this into combat to the death, and I will then allow Shaevre to kill you. If you had bothered to read the fine print on your application forms, you might have noticed that your lives belong to the outpost commander, and that is me, when I am here. When I am not, there is no commander and you rely on your rank structure.
If you seek to lie down, and not fight, or pretend to be injured when you are not, I will kill you personally. This unit is a disgrace, and I do not need pretenders. I need real Xer fighters."
He looked around at them all and grinned a little threateningly, "You asked for this duty. Now earn the pay. You three; as one or as three, begin."
Xhan thought that this was ludicrous. He knew two of the three lower ranks. They were both heavy males with a lot of power. The female Shaevre would be humiliated and likely injured. For the first few seconds none of them moved, but then Shaevre began it as she walked right up to the largest one -- the one with the plainly evident smirk on his face. He watched as she came to him. He didn't see her as she left him to engage a second one of them.
She'd laid him out with one strike. Xhan's jaw fell open.
The other female was the only one of them who even had anything to bring to the table. At least she had spirit. As they began between them, one of the higher ranks made a comment about a 'bitch fight' and Shaevre stopped the female with three fast blows to rock her backward while she dealt with the first one who had gotten up by then.
She laid him out again and went back to the female.
"You're just the right age to be serving in the Brigade ranks, sir," she smiled over her shoulder at the officer with the mouth, "but you are here. I must be wrong of course, but in my experience, it indicates latent cowardice -- not that you suffer from that, of course, that's only my personal experience over two campaigns."
Shaevre grabbed the arm which the female was trying to get around her throat and she threw her right into the male officer. Then she used the officer's skull to pound the female's against twice. As she turned, she grinned at the last one.
"Ah," she smiled, "the one who has had me so many times from what I have heard from the others. Come here, Lover, let me show you how much I've missed you!"
He backpedaled, shaking his head, but he ended up in Arrax' grasp.
"In the real world, where we pay you with real gold, you fight or you die. That is what the pay is for. Engage her now," he snarled as he pushed the male back into the exercise area.
Shaevre hit him four times, though he was barely hanging onto consciousness by the second and Shaevre dropped him as though he was a turd.
In less than one minute, none of them got up anymore. Shaevre grinned, but Arrax pointed to her lip.
"Blood. Are you getting slow, fighter?"
Shaevre gasped and touched her lip. Her finger came up a little bloody, but it was from one of the ones that she'd hit. She was visibly relieved.
Arrax looked down at the male there by his feet as he moved to crawl away. "I have no use for lying filth like this one."
He picked him up by one ear, tearing it most of the way off in the process. "Stand up straight or I will kill you myself. It is only about a half-hour's paperwork to fill out. I will not mind, and I'll get a replacement who can hold his jaw shut.
The rest of you, and I include the officers here. This female has fought in her career. If you had any brains, you would know that she would fight even harder to keep you alive if this outpost were to be attacked, because that is what it is to be a fighter.
You all pride yourselves on your high births. Well not one of you has had a higher birth than I have, and I am here to say that it means nothing here. You are only of value if you can actually fight. If there are only seven Xer here, how many officers do I require? Why do I have three officers out of a force of seven? It is absurd.
Out of seven, only four would fight. Three of them can be beaten to the floor by a female one-third their weight in less than one minute. You disgust me.
I don't need any officers. Out of seven, I need seven fighters. Out of seven, six of you have just been proven as worthless to me as the back tits on a bitch with one whelp.
He glared at the two officers who were not involved, "If you think that I am wrong, then step up and engage this fighter and prove it."
They didn't move.
"Worthless bags of shit," he said, "your snot-nosed parents must be so proud. My assessment is that none of you six are fit for duty. Shaevre is hereby appointed acting leader. The rest of you are demoted as close to the position of janitor as I can manage.