David Morrison glared angrily at everyone who was gathered uneasily in the Control Center aboard StarRunner. No one was spared his baleful stare, not even Anto. He was especially careful to let Bantu knew he was aggravated with him. The pig-headed fish! David's sources for his foul mood were numerous, and varied.
The source of David's bad mood was threefold. Bantu was actually suspicious of him because he had stayed in his room asleep until the troubles with the Chrarkae were resolved. David wanted to shake Bantu until his neck broke. Didn't he understand that he had to trust the people on his side at least a little?
The Myren newcomer was another irritant. Despite being held at gunpoint by people who would easily kill him or bring him to the ones who would, this Tellorn was as cool and calm as anybody David had ever seen in his life. It was as if Tellorn believed that he was here by choice and that he could leave whenever he felt like doing so. Anto's interrogation of him had revealed little of much interest. His name was Tellorn, a member of the Myren Merchant's Brotherhood. He had never heard of Dantu Dabei, or so he said. But then, he even denied being a member of the sho'gan vin, despite the exchange between him and Bantu. The insect aliens he controlled using a device he called a del'aon, a type of black metallic collar. Yenne had been able to figure out how to work it, with no help from Tellorn. The Chrarkae, despite being rather vicious and bloodthirsty bugs, were cooperative and help to the people who controlled them. Yenne hypothesized that the collar was surgically connected to their primitive brain stem or maybe the spinal column, and the device controlled physical sensation, and maybe thought itself. Tellorn would not agree nor disagree with Yenne's theory.
Thirdly, he worried entirely too much. He did not know a quarter of what he wanted to, and each day it seemed like what he did know was wrong. Since Dantu had thrown them out into deep space- was that intentional, or done by accident? - a few weeks ago to him but three years ago for everyone else- that must be an effect of the way they traveled- it felt like he was running towards a cliff with his eyes closed- he had dreamed that many times lately- and he had no idea if he would survive the fall. Of course he wouldn't! How had StarRunner traveled, anyways? Nu and Space Station Gemini were huge distances apart. He really wanted to know what the deal was with this sho'gan vin or whoever they were. How had they known of their return so swiftly and sent someone to intercept them right away? Maybe Tellorn knew. Maybe the Myren could be forced to tell them, so they could get home right now. David missed his family. His parents probably had their grey hair by now, and his sister was probably wanted to go off and train for the Exploriens like she had always said. Little sister Susan would be eighteen by now! He missed everyone so much. David once again renewed a vow to get back home and hurt the people who had done this to him and his friends. When Shaylor had vented frustration about their ignorance, Bantu had placidly said that they would have to wait for Ingor to gossip. When David had asked a Chrarkae, Zrach, about current events, the thing had fallen to the floor in convulsions. David suspected that Tellorn or someone else had purged the insects minds of such information rather painfully.
Suddenly anger welled up, anger at the great mystery that was responsible for their current situation. Before David knew what he was doing, he grabbed the smirking Tellorn by his collar and threw him to the ground. "You're going to tell us how to get home right now! When we do get home, we're going to destroy you, Dantu, and your precious sho'gan vin, and we're not waiting two years to do it!" he knew there was a contradiction in there, a counter-incentive for Tellorn to cooperate, but he was too angry to care much. Suddenly cold, he snatched Anto's Ion Pulse rifle. "Show us." He said tightly as he trained the rifle to Tellorn's head.
"Very well. I will instruct your Engineer." Tellorn said, rasping voice all calm coolness. He was doing this as a favor, not because David had threatened his life. Yenne looked daggers at him while dabbing a wound she had received in the Engineering tunnels. David had yet to hear the whole story, but it was something about her and a Chrarkae together in the dark and her escaping luckily. David could care less. Finally, they were truly on their way home.
Shaylor McConnor looked around the bridge of StarRunner anxiously. Bug-like Chrarkae scurried around on errands for Yenne. David Morrison was busily plotting out a course for Ingor, while Anto had his Ion Pulse rifle trained on Tellorn. The deadly Myren was instructing a glowering, bloody faced Yenne as they both made the engine modifications that would carry their straying ship to Ingor swiftly and safely. Or so Shaylor hoped. Bantu Basha was doing... nothing. Shaylor gulped as he realized that he was also doing nothing. He quickly averted his eyes away from the tall Krigoni. Bantu unnerved him badly. He undoubtedly believed that since Shaylor's blood was half Krigoni, he should follow the idiotic system of life called na'vo. A quick glance at Bantu, done while pretending to check the time, showed that he was walking determidly towards Shaylor. Shaylor gulped, then grabbed a nearby computer pad. He was working on very important things, he was not to be disturbed, he would be angry if someone interrupted his urgent work. This computer pad was all that mattered. Bantu would not interrupt-
Bantu interrupted Shaylor's train of thought with a simple, cooly delivered "I believe it will work better if you hold it like this." For a second Shaylor had no idea what Bantu was saying. But then Shaylor saw what Bantu had done to the computer pad. He had been holding the pad completely and stupidly upside-down! Stupid, stupid, stupid! He was an idiot! A pure idiot! Bantu must think that Shaylor was a grade A moron, that he needed to have a caretaker to make sure he crossed the street safely, that his only thoughts were frivolous, idiotic, stupid, stupid, stupid things! A two year old knew how to hold a computer pad! Shaylor cleared his throat as if his thoughts had been spoken, then realized that Bantu was looking at him with a slightly curious thaw to his icy expression. Then the thought occurred to Shaylor that his mental berations had taken quite some time. He cleared his throat yet again, and began as best he could after a truly miserable start. "Listen, Bantu, I don't need or want you to-"
"I am aware that you do not want me to talk to you of the price that Krigoni blood comes with. But I am also aware that you desperately need it." Shaylor hated his tone. His mother, Hailu Hahra, had hassled Shaylor nonstop about the ‘duty' of being a Krigoni. His father, Peter McConnor, had protected him somewhat, but his death four years ago complicated things. Well, he wasn't about to take this from an equal. Bantu was his equal, no matter how older he was or how arrogant he acted.
"Bantu, my mother gives me enough of this garbage. I don't need it from you." He tried to make his grey eyes stern, but Yenne had always said that he didn't know how to be stern, or angry. That was one reason Yenne liked him, or so she said.
"I am sure your mother is doing what any honorable Krigoni would do in her situation. Since you are her son, not her daughter, it complicates matters. However, I am not sure if she has explained the ‘how' of how to follow na'vo; I think perhaps she has focused on the ‘why'. If you will agree to listen, I will explain how we follow na'vo, explain about its advantages and disadvantages. You will only have to listen." After a few seconds of silence, Bantu's voice thawed perhaps a bit more "I will not pressure you any more if you will listen. You don't have to do anything except that." Shaylor supposed that he might as well go ahead and hear what Bantu had to say. The pale blue Krigoni was correct in the fact that he did not have to act on his advice, and if he promised to leave him alone... it was too good a deal to refuse.
"I will listen." Shaylor tried very hard to match Bantu's icy tones; even when talking in a caring way Bantu sounded like a crystal. With that Bantu began, first with a warning that only Krigoni could follow all of it, and he was unsure whether Shaylor would understand everything he said. Some of it Shaylor recognized from lectures his mother had given him, things like not showing emotion to people you distrusted, and the like. Some things he did not understand at all, while others were completely new. He almost fell off to sleep in some parts, while other sections made him sit on the edge of his seat. The Gifts of Gha interested him greatly. Supposedly a Krigoni received one of the Gifts when he became a full adult. Also, Krigoni enjoyed much longer life spans, according to Bantu. Shaylor was told that Bantu's own father, Basha Baylor, was more then two hundred, and it is very normal to live beyond three hundred years. Of course Bantu claimed it was Gha's touch that made this occur, but since any Krigoni had ever not been a follower of Gha it was a hard theory to prove. Shaylor wondered how Bantu felt about his age. Being twenty-eight, he was the oldest person aboard StarRunner by far, yet it would be some time before he was considered a Krigoni adult. All in all Bantu's lecture was interesting and actually made Shaylor feel regret about neglecting his Krigoni heritage. When Bantu was finished, he simply got up and left, with a curt "You may contact me if you feel you must need more instruction." Shaylor sat at his station for a whole longer, then stood up and went to his adoptive quarters.
If Shaylor had been able to plan his voyage, this room would have been decorated with pictures of family and friends, with a large Aravillian rug covering the depressing, stark metal floor. The room had been empty when StarRunner was thrown into deep space, and on Nu Shaylor had only been able to procure some bedclothes and a simple Nu mat. He lay on his small, hard bed for a time. Mattresses had also been missing from the room when Shaylor had taken it over, and beds were rare things on Nu. He thought about himself, mainly. Maybe Bantu was right, maybe he had been hiding from whom he was. But he was so unsure what was right. Shaylor was so introspective he failed to notice the room lights dimming, a signal that it was time for sleep. Shaylor kept his uniform on and stayed on top of the bedclothes. He did not feel like sleep just yet. A sudden beep dragged him from his murky subconscious unexpectedly. Shaylor answered with the vocal unlocking command he had programmed. "Come." He said wearily. The Computer beeped as it deciphered Shaylor's voice, then hissed as the door was unlocked. Yenne pushed it open.
Shaylor regarded his best friend. Tall and bronzly beautiful in a proud way, Yenne and he had met when he was four and she six. They had been friends almost instantly. When both of Shaylor's parents were off planet on a business trip for their Aravil based trading company, Shaylor had stayed at Yenne's dwelling. Yenne knew Shaylor better then he knew himself. She had always taken the lead, always been the daring one. Yet she appeared cautious. Shaylor made his tone light. "What's up?"
"I saw Bantu talking to you. You seemed... distraught. I thought you might like someone to talk to." Yenne spoke in her high pitched, accented voice with a calm suriety.
"Bantu's been hassling me about the duty of being a Krigoni. Stars and Moons, he reminds me of my mother!" Shaylor tried to make it sound funny, but Yenne only nodded sadly.
"I thought that might be what he was at you for. Shaylor, don't joke about it. It is the serious matter. You know, it has always seemed to me that you have hid from your Krigoni heritage. You have tried to be a Terran, tried to be an Aravillian, but you are needing to be a half Terran half Krigoni male with an Aravillian upbringing." Yenne spoke carefully. It was obvious she was trying to avoid offending Shaylor.
Shaylor sighed. He had been having the same thoughts. It as always like that, Yenne knowing Shaylor's thoughts before he himself did, and Yenne had no Talent in that direction. "I was thinking that." He said truthfully. "And maybe he was right. I guess I should take Bantu up on his offer. I mean, listening to what he says might kill some time, and it won't change me, right?" Maybe he would do that.
"I think you should do that. Everyone needs to be something, to belong to something. Even you, Shaylor, no matter how you say you don't." Yenne laughed suddenly; she could be quicksilver at times. "Besides, Krigoni aren't all bad." She patted Shaylor's shoulder as she rose from where she had squatted comfortably on the floor. With a final "Good dreams and pleasant sleeping, Shaylor." Yenne left Shaylor's quarters. She was right, as always. It usually seemed Yenne was right no matter how long it took for it to become apparent. Still, Shaylor forked at the problem in his head for a few more minutes before deciding. Finally he announced to the empty room, "I'll do it!" and he did not feel the least bit silly.
Yenne shut the door to Shaylor's quarters with a sense of satisfication and accomplishement. She also felt rather surprised. Yenne had expected Shaylor to resist, to argue, not to think for a bare few seconds and agree. Yenne was truly glad he had decided to ‘find' himself, as it was. Yenne's good mood lasted for as long as it took to take five steps down the metal corridor.
David Morrison popped out in front of Yenne so quickly she gasped. As usual, David did not see, and instead the Terran launched into a verbal attack. "Yenne, ya' gotta listen!" he began, and Yenne almost groaned. In the time that she had known David, he had said ‘Yenne, ya' gotta listen' three times, and each time he was about to say something critical and a bit boorish. He continued on. "I don't trust Tellorn. I know he's more likely to have wired us to explode then to have modified our engines." Yenne sighed heavily. She liked David; he had a mischievous sense of humor and was usually pleasant company, but it was like him to be suspicious. She would have told him he was acting like Bantu, but David would not appreciate the comparison much. Yenne had been over the whole ship top to bottom, and she was completely sure that Tellorn had been honest with them. But she doubted David would accept that.
"I'll check the whole ship, and if Tellorn mislead us, I'll know. It'll delay our departure from this place for a whole twenty-four hours to do." Yenne sighed mentally at that; yet another sleepless night. It seemed that since leaving Space Station Gemini she had maybe slept three hours. David nodded glumly yet acceptingly, and Yenne sighed. She had to find Anto Klarisen now. He was probably in the Control Center, even though it was past a normal crew's normal bedtime. She headed down the metal corridor as David swept past her into his quarters. Yenne's hunch had indeed been correct; the olive green, shortly muscular Velexian sat at his station, writing on a computer pad. Yenne called out to him, on the second call he answered by saving his work and closing the pad. His brown eyes looked into hers, and he said "Yes?"
While talking, Yenne fingered the del'aon device, issuing a simple ‘come' device to the Chrarkae who were sleeping packed into her Engineer's Room. They served as Tellorn's guard as well, so he would be with them. "Anto, we're delaying our departure for twenty- four h o u r s s o I c a n s w e e p t h e s h i p f o r a n y n a s t y s u r p r i s e s T e l l o r n left for us. I want you to question him again. Sho'gan vin and the Engine modifications should take precedence, yet get anything out of him that you can."
Anto nodded thoughtfully. "I wonder what we'll do with him when it's time to leave. Well, I have work to do. Interrogations are best done at night." He got up, and both of them walked down the metal corridor. At the other end the Chrarkae who were aboard StarRunner walked towards them, somehow combining deadliness with obedience. Tellorn marched along with them, sauntering as cooly and calmly as if he was the conqueror, not the conquered. Yenne shivered as his empty, grey gaze swept past her. Myrens unnerved her in general; their eyes were porous! Instead of having one pupil per eyes, they had thousands of tiny microscopic holes. Yenne shuddered at the thought. She glared at the Chrarkae, and their compound eyes somehow looked remorseful. They had almost killed her today. Yenne admitted that staying in the tunnels was foolish, and that she was lucky to escape alive, yet it was no excuse.
Anto was suddenly steel, easy-going manners concealed beneath a stern gaze. He grabbed Tellorn by the collar, hefted him off the ground, and easily carried him down the hall with one arm. As he opened the door with his free hand, Yenne called out "Good dreams and pleasant sleeping, Anto." That was a common Aravillian expression for ‘Good Night'. Anto smiled friendily at Yenne as he kicked Tellorn through the door.
Yenne looked at the insects surrounding her. She supposed it would be another long night of lonely work. "Come with me." She commanded into the del'aon's translator. A guttural noise came out, and the Chrarkae followed her to the Engineering room. She paused before climbing down into the very same tunnel she had had her... encounter ... with the Chrarkae in these very same tunnels this very morning. "Computer, illuminate Engineering tunnel three." Light bloomed inside the tunnels. As she clambered down, she instructed one of the giant bugs to bring her hot chiapemme. It was going to be a long, long night.