“Jurt, I need to talk to you,” I said.
Jurt put down the gun that he was cleaning, wiped his fingers on a paper towel, and stood up and followed me to my office. It was the same size as Sam’s, and it looked as crowded. I stood with my back to the desk. Jurt, after surveying the room, leaned against the wall to the side of the door. He left his arms in a neutral posture, loose at his sides.
Damn, he was tall.
“I need you to know something,” I said. “You need to understand.” I’d rehearsed it in my head, of course, but as long as we hit all the correct high notes–“I’m grateful to you. I will never forget what you did for me.” Now and without hesitating: “I want to not harm you. Not ever. If it’s within my power. I can’t guarantee that if you if you stay here.”
Jurt waited a minute before he said: “You wouldn’t be able to guarantee that if I left.”
“I don’t know how to protect you. I don’t know that I can. I just want you to be forewarned.”
He was staring intently at me, goddamn it. I was having enough difficulty looking him in the face already and the long goddamned pauses were not helping. He chose his tone very, very carefully. “What are you going to do?”
This time when we locked eyes it was him who flinched and flicked his own gaze aside. His hands remained loose and easy, but he had thought–there, for an instant–about raising them.
I said: “Don’t get in our way.”
It had been difficult, at first, to take the patrician lords of Nodens seriously: to see fish boiled alive for their changing colors or birds roasted in flight, caught by swooping serve-droids, to be prepared and eaten while still hot from the targeting lasers.
She had even laughed, one day, when Rufin Taurias sent out a troop of slave children dressed as gladiators to fight with a gaggle of rotund, white-furred beasts for his guests’ dinner entertainment. Eight years had not dulled that lingering shame, but she had not realized, she had not known–
Kharamaneh still remembered the screams, the stares of laughing contempt, and the splashing gray flood from a fighting-beast’s heart when its own master struck it down mid-lunge. She remembered Taurias bellowing in alarm; the shriek and cringe of the other beasts, shying from the whips yet scrabbling with pathetic thirst for the blood of their own kind on the floor. She remembered the frail heat of a boy’s thin body in her arms, and the fear, and the hate, and the feral wonder in his eyes.
It seemed that he, too, remembered.
The group seemed to confer with resigned exasperation (they really were remarkably sophisticated for sparring robots.) One, human-sized and human-shaped, veiled with clothlike folds that folded across its faceplate and revealed only the glittering optics, advanced to take position on the practice floor. It was unarmed, but Khara was prompted to ask, “What are your limitations for sparring with a civilian?”
“Bruising. Bleeding. No breaking. No gushing.”
She chose a long stick before stepping onto the practice mat.
I had seen Ajax rearing up on his hindmost legs to pluck a sprig from the top quadrant of my cherry tree, and I heard his dragging step as he rounded the house. So I was prepared when he summitted the front step, holding a spray of blossoms in his mouth and using his remaining frontmost limb for balance.
As was polite, I waited for him to get all five legs on solid ground. He straightened himself out and limped toward me, pausing just a few feet away to drop his gift on the deck at my feet. He raised his head and eyed me carefully.
“Why sir,” I said. “You are an alien and a gentleman. I would be flattered to accept your gift.”
The mud-covered, shuffling figure halted. Swiveled. Blue eyes, entirely too innocently, blinked out of the grime. “Yeah?”
Another blink, but zero hesitation: “You know that old Indian trick of hanging off the side of your horse so the cowboys can’t shoot you?…it’s harder than it looks.”
Trapped in the void
Between the walls
Empty of matter
deaf to cries
Truth and beauty
whirl into madness
Strangeness and charm
spin out of control
Adrift in the darkness
between the stars
The cat is aware of its location
And knows that it has claws.
(reposted from Taste The Blood of Schrodinger)
Aniuqi said, “This matter–of the crown–it has never been a point of contention between us, sir.”
Her father looked at her. “That is because neither of you thought that you would lose.”
The fire of the shining ships faded
Steel crumbled and the soaring gantries fell.
The far-shadowing suns were forsaken
And little men mocked them amain.
The empires of space have crumbled
As the dreamers who drew them died.
The songs that they sung were smothered,
The tales that they told, forgot.
The fire in the skies rekindles--
Our songs are renewed now, remembered.
They howl to the storm-winds, the Puppies:
Heaven-shaking, Dragons reply.
“This,” said the Chief—it was a hard to understand through the clenched teeth—“Is not acceptable.”
“Uh-huh,” said J. Eden.
“Yup,” said J. Eden, smirking.
“It’s illegal,” snarled the Chief.
“Um…” Konstantianos said.
They looked at her.
“They…may have gotten a permit.”
They looked at her.
“Traditional religious observances,” said Konstantianos, sidling.
“On Terran property,” Theodore observed.
“They…may have paid a nudity tax.” Said Konstantianos.
They looked at the runners. Some of them were painted.
“Per capita.” Said Konstantianos.
“Still,” Theodore mused, “It’s hard to not see this as a deliberate insult.”
“It…may have been pro-rated.”
a tiger crouches, then leaps.
Entwining again and again
the pillars of all cosmos,
a dragon smiles;
Heaven decrees according to its glance.