Korviaslaax – Chapter Sixteen
Chapter Sixteen – Tsua
* * * *
It was the job of the ship’s psychiatrist to keep the crew sane during long months of traversing between the stars. Tsua continued wielding her wares.
“Lie down and close your eyes,” Tsua told Shiro Sanya the nine years old Casmirian child. Her tan skin glowed in the muted light from the sweat on her face. She ran everywhere, Tsua knew. She trained harder than any of Kor’s offspring at blades or projectiles, and she loved anyone her na-sires or DNA mother told her was their friend and trustworthy.
The newly nine-year old complied. The adult size sofa dwarfed her as she scooted up to the leather pillow.
“You have begun training for the ship’s mains, Kor tells me.”
“Yes, I am. I like it. I own the mains and all the pathways to all ship boards and panels. I can hail or deploy anyone anywhere on the ship. The city ship is closed to me. I hope it opens soon.”
“That is quite remarkable. Tell me about the big ship that came.”
Boiling with energy, the small one flipped on the lounge and looked up at Tsua. Propped upright on thin elbows and arms, she crooned between her fingers, “It’s sooooo big, Sua. DNA mother is over there trying to get us out of its belly. They scooped us up. Ra Zo, Cica-Tee, and Riki’s Splendor. ” Her small hands swung through the air and smacked her other fist that clamped it. “And grabbed us out of the stars. I heard na-sire Roia say we have to wait but I miss the Q-Com. She been gone two days, Sua.”
“You went there.”
She nodded, “Uh huh. A couple a thousand officers was thawed from this great freezer and we met one of them. A female Admiral. You were there, Sua. You saw her.”
“I did. She had no hair.” She was fearsome and knew Citadel and it’s weapons. I wish there had been an opportunity to talk to her.”
Shiro thought, She could shoot all of us if that Emer-guy said so. “No hair. None. But she bowed to the Q-Com and the new Emer-Guy. Tell.” She did not ask, she stated and Tsua explained.
“JUu trained you and the na-sires as well as Emperor Zadarius and his crew. The Citadel has come to protect human kind. We have to trust JUumara.”
“He will not hurt Q-Com.”
“He will not. He has promised this, Shiro Sanya. She is made Empress and has another husband. They have much to talk about.”
“Son or daughter.”
“I do not know. JUumara of Cataria loves all of you infinitely and whoever she sends will be brave and smart and will love us.”
Shiro frowned, “They do not know us yet. This Emer Zada, is my na-sire too.”
“As far as I know now, yes he is.”
“We will learn to operate the big Citadel.”
“Perhaps. He has more crew than we do,” Tsua enjoyed the girl’s resilience and practical nature. Uniquely, she found each of Kor’s offspring amazing.
“We need crew. He give us some and new brother or sister for me.”
“Perhaps.” Tsua tried to follow the logic. It was not necessary.
“That is good, then.”
* * * *
“This is a waste of time.”
Tsua watched the weapons pile up beside the lounger. She insisted that they be comfortable and Hak Sapphir fell onto the cot and stared at the ceiling defiantly.
He closed his eyes before he spoke to diminish the distraction of the room, the ship, memories, desires. “All of us are worried. He has her. He has taken what is mine.”
He lay prone, eyes shut, feeling vulnerable.
“What belongs to all of us. Good games anytime,” Tsua altered his ideation singulation tiers and reorganized them to something more constructive.
“Korvia and I play team mates and win. Alone I am…alone without her.”
“She completes you.”
“She is my wife.”
“Rikitia is with us now. Pauli is strange in a new body with a new face, but it is her. Nobody puts the crew to task like Pauli and she ain’t afraid of any of the co-husbands either. That aside, JUu would not lie to us. Rikita spends more time with us than Pauli. I think she frightens him.”
“Frightens.” Interesting that you perceive him as a co-husband. United to Pauline are you?
“She’s not just okay looking or pretty, she’s beautiful and attractive. Head turner eye-candy sexy, Sua.” His high voice almost cracked. “The crew is adjusting but the male crew are having a hard time seeing Pauli. They see the woman. We all see the woman.”
His head untensed and sank into the pillow. He was talking more than he intended. Damn she’s good.
“She is forbidden. Lovely and untouchable, Hak. This is Rikita’s challenge.”
“This Emperor and Xes did not defile her. Kor.”
Tsua saw that the sky-blue hair was unkempt and no longer straight trailing down the back, but sprawling over the shoulders, greasy, gnarled and unwashed.
“And face JUu’s wrath. Pauline’s wrath. No, Hak. They will not touch her. If Kor complains to JUu, they will die slowly over ten thousand years. JUu told me that once. That is how much she loves Korvia.”
Korvia. That was what Kor insisted that her husbands call her. Korvia. It sank in and tore up internal real estate. That is what Hak called her after they . . . “JUu will have to get in line,” Hak said, his commitment to vengeance hardening.
At their first meeting, Kah had called Kor Crusher, the code he knew her by as a renowned gamer and champion across the nine Hegemonies. They had played war games together and, unlike the other husbands, he was a Certified Master War Strategist. She wondered if he had a plan to rescue Kor if word came that the Emperor intended to keep her. She knew the answer was yes. Preparation was a very long suit with Kor’s mates. They were Captain Commanders all, war trained and experienced.
“That union will not last long, If I know Kor. She would not leave Ra Zor for Citadel. She has husbands to manage,” he said and she watched his face for tics or tension lines. There were none.
He was too upset to be insulted. That is your dissonance factor. She is not here presently to manage us!
“Kor could leave. Citadel is wondrous,” Tsua read him before he spoke.
“No. She can’t choose to leave us. We will not let her.”
Tsua looked down into his round face. Even closed, the eyes were strong, resolved. He had a rescue plan and so Tsua agreed, “No, we will not.”
* * * *
“Zadarius. No last name. He’s Earth born and JUu created him, like she created all of us.” Sonata Sapphir was angry. He missed Kor, he missed being at her side to protect her. He missed not having had a human life without Catarian interference.
“In a way we are all creatures of JUu. She gave us Kor and then gave you to her and us.”
Place was important to the Japanese descended. They had a strong sense of home and loyalty to all things associated with the culture coded honor. Kor was home to Sonata Sapphir. His honor was tested in not being aboard Citadel at her side.
“She belongs on Ra Zor with us. He is mate also but he does not know what meals she likes,” his voice grew grave and course, a sign of disturbed calm. His brow furrowed. He wanted to act and not lie on a couch talking about his inability to fight and win.
We are trapped inside a huge monster under potential life-threatening circumstances and you worry that he is not feeding her properly. You can not know how much that lives inside your love for Korviaaslax Sapphir, Sonata. Tsua said, “Kor will return. I know her but perhaps you do not.”
He quaked. “I know my woman. I know she is brave and can fly any ship in the nine Hegs. She owns husbands and children and we own her.”
“You have not seen her in a land battle against well-armed troops or followed her orders in a ship to ship fire fight with the odds against her.” Tsua’s eye fell to long curved finger nails painted sky blue. Permeable sealant at the cuticles held them attached like hilts of silver alloy, as if a part of his hands. They were more than decoration.
“I miss her touch, her eyes on me, on any of us. The children miss her,” he confessed, fighting despondency.
“Change means a new ritual.”
“He has Chinese genetics. Young. Pretty-faced, strong and appears to be well-trained as a Commander.”
“JUu trained.” Tsua said. “JUu selected. He will be everything Kor adores in a mate.”
“Like all of us. Co-husbands and co-sires. JUumara is good at what she does with human flesh.”
Tsua did not miss the additional reference to Pauline.
“Talented Catarian. You and Kor.”
“Home,” he growled. He wanted her back. He wanted to go and get her.
“Queen Commander and Empress Kor,” Tsua nailed the coffin.
“She . . .” he said and opened his rust-brown eyes to look at Tsua. He said no more.
* * * *
She never lay down. She was fifteen and of all Kor’s offspring, she was the most mature and disciplined. Therapy was less needed than the voice of a woman to talk over her plans and dreams. Bright red hair was neat, braided, and trailed down which she positioned across her lap so that she could sit unencumbered. Tsua admired the deep golden face, healthy ruddy cheeks, and keen features of the Maat born.
“I’m learning fast, Tsua. I will scrap the residue from the internal shields in six weeks. My first walk outside while the ship is moving. If the ship ever moves again.”
The world for Akone Sapphir at age fifteen revolved around her career. Tsua often observed that Akone loved her family distantly. Temporal mechanic training was the cause for the absence of a need to bond with other humans. Tsua blamed and thanked JUu for her personality. She was the only one aboard who did not miss Kor.
“Your DNA mother and sires will be proud of your accomplishments.”
“Yes. You want to know what I feel again. About the Queen Com being Empress now and not being aboard Ra Zor.”
“Feelings are human. You are human.”
“They made me and gave me a number for a name, Sua. I was not a human then, just a part to plug into the ship. Hull scrapers keep the ship safe while moving through radiation zones and debris fields. I am important now. Auntie Pauline said. DNA mother said this of me also.”
Nothing of the sire, Tsua thought.
“You will be even more important when the ship moves again.” Tsua wanted her to identify causal relationships. If Kor was unsuccessful in getting the three-ship fleet away from Citadel all of their lives and careers would be altered irrevocably.
“They have temporal mechanics. To train me. Perhaps Q-Com will let me apprentice with this Emperor’s termporalists.”
“If she is returned, AKq1499.”
Pale green eyes widened. Tsua withstood stoically the onslaught of the penetrating stare. Speak lass. Say the feeling.
“We have two options. Stay or go.”
Tsua blinked, “Or open hostility from the Emperor. Divorce by death. He could keep her and discard us. He could walk all of us out airlocks and usurp our ships.”
The pale green eyes flashed left then right and stayed there. “Zadarius is a coward and knows far less about sailing star leapers than my DNA Mother. He needs her to teach him the stars and her laws in the Hegemonies.”
“Coward, Akone?” Tsua was curious. A question might unseal the barriers. It was an interesting deduction, one Tsua had already made as well.
I am not so easily insulted as the others, old thing. “He did not gam with respect. He abducted us and cut off our ability to resist by taking away our gunneries and power systems. Cowards use all their arsenal when a word will do.”
“He fears us,” Tsua agreed.
“He fears everything,” Akone said.
* * * *
Rikita Ro El was nervous as if Tsua was about to peel him open like ripe fruit. She studied his agitation and knew at least three sources for it: Kor, Pauline, and Zadarius. She kept looking at the tip of the well inked-in and restored tattoo that peeked out of the opened neck of his uniform. Pauline had fallen in love recreating it. Rikita Ro El was a snake’s nest of emotions Tsua was still unraveling.
He stalked from one side of the room to the other before her. White lashes blinking fast. He wanted to suit up for war and arm the crew for an assault.
“Yes. All crew see me by Kor’s orders. Sit.”
His eyes sliced her with challenge and he kept pacing.
“You have a need to win, Earth born Captain. Pauline Gale.”
“It’s her and it ain’t her. I miss the old her!”
“You grew accustomed to her size and how she moved and how she felt to your hands and body.”
To Riki, the old bat should have been grounded years ago. She had all his numbers and knew what he was going to say before he spoke. Tsua, the famous seer to the Hegs. He wished any one of them would claim her and get her off Ra Zor.
“You mean I like making love to my big woman. She ain’t there no more. I want the old P’line. I don’t know this new one.”
“Take it slowly, the way you did when you first met. You loved her first but she had to learn you. Now you have to learn her.”
He swung over to her and looked down at the prune faced forty year old. She should have been grounded . Guilt washed him for thinking ill of Kor’s friend. He sank as if defeated to the cot and she sat beside him.
“I don’t love her, Sua. She’s . . .”
“Beautiful, stacked like pancakes on a hot plate, different face and no fat to hold onto and explore,” Tsua said it for him.
“I can not physically join with this new Pauline Gale. I want her back. I fell in love with the old model.”
“Model. Listen to me. That is her inside the flesh. It is very nice flesh and you will give yourself time for the adjustment. You will fit together better, more easily. Hand in gauntlet easy and snug.”
She paused. He was elsewhere. Tsua named the distraction, “Kor.”
“Pauline is not upset that Kor is gone. She says Kor will surprise Zadarius and outwit Xes and everyone on the Citadel.”
“You do not know Kor as well as Pauline.”
“I know her well enough. Pauline is the one I don’t know.”
Tsua downloaded the Co-Com’s list. War pilot, best navigator aboard, excellent clay worker, and an extraordinary painter. At the annual auction Pauline’s pieces sold higher than other offerings. Master battle strategists, logician, and an exceptional crew manager. She was loved for her courage and her kindness. The crew would adjust to the loss of Kor faster than the loss of Pauline.
“She loves you. She loves Kor, her na-brothers, and adores the kids. She has adjusted well to her new appearance and carriage. She expects and will ultimately demand that everyone continue the way they had when she was with them before. It is their problem if they don’t accept her. Kor accepts her. The crew is secondary. You are secondary.”
That hit home.
* * * *
They sat opposite each other at Tsua’s desk. Rikita was Pauline’s business and she left her to it. “So, lass. How do we get out of this mess?”
Pauline went from affectionate to serious. “We wait one more day, then we stage a breakout. Collect Kor, take down the grappling stations and once free, hope they don’t shoot. Nobody needs six hundred lancer class canons! We are at peace, not war.”
“We are at peace here,” Tsua inserted the Catarian Empire. “You know the Citadel.”
“Affirmative,” Pauline had heard nothing at Thrask about war in the temporal zones of JUu’s empire. “War capable enough. Positioned here to protect JUu’s earth born acquisitions. Tsua, I have allies aboard Citadel who will join us.”
“I’m in. What do you need?”
“A husband that believes I’m Pauline Gale.”
“He’ll come round. I meant…”
“I know what you meant, Tsua. There are so few of us. We have to make recruitment a priority when we get out of this one.”
“Cooperation is not an option then.”
“Xes is totally owned by the Emperor. Puppy loyal. Kinda like me and Kor,” Pauline squinted and scrubbed at her face.
“I don’t think Kor would appreciate being called puppy loyal.” Tsua snickered. “That aside, we could gas them and storm and board the colossus.”
“They would go to full seals as soon as we exited Ra Zor without orders. This is what I have in mind.”
The holography grew from the template Pauline pulled from a front upper uniform pocket. The half hour later, Tsua was convinced. That was not going to work.
* * * *
He missed his appointment and Tsua found him in the arsenal. She bypassed his lookout with a leer and went in.
“Where’s the war, Map Captain?”
He was 5’4” slightly taller than Kor, and Earth Moon born. Of all her husbands, Kor reacted to him physically the most. Arik’s pheromones ignited her need to procreate. Half of each of their sessions dealt with Kor’s attachment to him. She suspected that this session would be different.
Auburn was no color for hair with eyes that gray. He was such a lovely brown, Tsua wished she owned twenty fewer years. The diamonds grown into his cheek formed an S for Sanz, but everyone thought it was for Arik Sapphir.
She found him unpacking weapons. On the counter was a lit screen that was scrolling through the ship’s canon charge inventory.
“They made me leave her. She insisted that Farot stay as bodyguard. Tsua, they intend on keeping her.”
“No. JUu would not allow that. Blaze Canon and Pump Grenades, Arik?”
“Questions are rude, old born.”
“So is suicide. Anyone else recruited to this ill-conceived escapade?” she asked rudely, insultingly to get his attention away from the mass killing machines in front of him.
“Not yet. They’ll come or not.” He knew she was displeased. Otherwise she would not be asking, she would be helping.
“Greater odds in numbers, lad. Pauline has a plan. Needs refinement. You might talk to her.”
“No time. That self-proclaimed Emperor is an egomaniacal apparition with imperialist tendencies. He wants Korvia and he wants the Hegs. I trust Xes as far as I trust a rampaging hungry Zakaxenjian. He will take her, leave or kill us, and go.”
“Yes, he could.”
He had expected an argument. An attempt to stop him. You are using that thing you do on me again. Not this time!
She rapped the side of the shoulder mounted canon’s barrel and headed for the exit.
“That it, Tsua Anniac Soor.”
“Yeah. Good luck. Was good knowin’ ya.”
* * * *
Tsua could almost feel the sadness and tension of Ra Zor’s crew as she walked back to her office considering her options. Putting a sedative in the food supply was the only plan that would work.
He came in stealth and she did not know he was there until he spoke.
“Courtesy, old one Tsua,” the opening was very Catarian from Cal ‘N Sanz.
“Say,” she said after she got her stomach out of her throat.
He was sixteen, past ship majority, and a full officer in Navigation Command. He was the only one of Kor’s issue that owned their own quarters. No longer five feet one inch he had growth spurted to six.
She looked up into grey eyes that were too much like his sire’s.
“My session is tomorrow at 18 hundred hours, but I must speak. The younger sisters and brothers are afraid. So am I.”
“Small fish, big fish, lad. We have been swallowed by a whale. Fear is a defense mechanism that protects survival. It is good to fear.”
“Rikita says that courage is to act in spite of fear. Action, Sua.”
“Not yet. Q-Com is negotiating and Farot is with her. He will kill everyone aboard the Citadel and hand the ship over to us if they do Kor any harm.”
“Yeah,” she shook her head in a slow thoughtful affirmative. Farot was that good.
She looked to him, but he was gone. He had left as quietly and invisibly as he had arrived.
Tsua went into her session-office and collected herself. Walking around in multiple psyches required restoration of thought matrices. Deep breathing brought her back to normal time, normal vision. Conglomeration allowed gestalt, the ultimate summation.
“Action all ships communications!” she called to the sounders and they screeched to at-action, leaping to Splendor and Cicatrix’s all sendors entrecoms.
“This is Tsua Aniac Soor to all stations, all ships. Stop preparing to storm and board that Citadel out there. It would be suicide. I’ve kept this crew alive through food shortages, new ship systems, plague, and ship fires. We have thrived across mega light years of distances and also while we have been stuck out here away from anything with natural gravity. Trust Kor. She has never let you down. Directly or indirectly, she has saved your lives and she will not desert you or leave you without her leadership. She is Korviaaslax Sapphir and she is ours. She will always be ours until death takes her. Tsua out!”
She closed down the transmitter, blinked, and went to the liquor side bar thinking, Yeah. I believe most of that.