Nirantrilin Yistolk was happily munching on the variety of foods on his plate. He loved the Feast of Community, indeed almost all Dizyntk did. In Trilin's case it brought back his happiest memories of home. Having grown up in a very rural area on the frontier world of Zekala, it was only during this hakin long holiday that he was usually able to spend time with many of his neighbors. It was during the Feast of his eighth cyanka that he met the Dizyntk that eventually became his first lover. He sometimes wondered what had become of her. They parted on friendly terms shortly before Trilin had decided to join the military. He had not seen her since he left his home world five cyankas ago.
The current holiday was by far the largest version of it he had ever attended. This was because he was at the Feast of Community being held at the Royal Palace on Sapphire. The mood, while definitely celebratory, was more reserved than was normally the case. The reason was the same as the one for Trilin's being here; the battle that had taken place on these very grounds just three cyans previously. His unit, the Third Zyrestrim Battalion, had arrived here to help defeat the attempt to take the Palace by forces of the Duchess Caliarena. They had remained to help provide security due to the near destruction of the Palace Guard in holding back the enemy before his unit's arrival. He had been told that the Palace Guard would be fully reconstituted in about another cyan. Personally, Trilin was in no hurry. He was enjoying his assignment at the palace thoroughly. That he was able to share a comfortable bed with a pretty female every night had absolutely no bearing on this enjoyment he told himself. This thought was quickly followed by a laugh as he could not believe his own lie.
As he savored the flavor of the grilled meat he was eating, he looked around to see what his sniper partner/lover, Sergeant Melissa Watson, was up to. It took a couple of minutes to find her as the crowd was quite large. Finally he spotted her near one of the food tables. She was filling her plate and talking with a couple other members of their unit. Just as he was about to walk over to her, the battalion XO Captain Zeranfelen tapped him on the shoulder.
Trilin turned and, after seeing who it was, gave a small nod of his head. "Yes, Captain?"
"I have been going over the unit's records, Specialist Nirantrilin, and you have not taken any appreciable leave in nearly four cyankas." he said sternly to his subordinate.
Trilin nodded in understanding of the problem. "I know that we are encouraged to take leave every cyanka, Captain. It is just, well, I have never had anywhere I really wanted to go."
"What of your family?" the Captain inquired.
"There is only my father and sister at home. My mother died when I was young and there were no others in their mating group. I have never been sure if I wanted to travel all the way to Zekala just to be there for a four tasin visit before leaving again." Trilin explained.
Zeranfelen nodded. He understood part of the problem. Zekala was a long trip. Just getting there and back would take up a big chunk of a soldier's normal leave of two hakin. This was even more problematic right now as the unit was on Sapphire. From their base on Kalantk, Zekala was about six tasin away on a normal transport. Sapphire was another three tasin farther. The Captain had known this before he approached Trilin however. He had also come up with a solution.
"The day after the Feast of Community has ended, there is a large transport vessel taking supplies and vehicles to our garrison on Zekala. They are not scheduled to leave Zekala until two hakin after they arrive. It just so happens that they are short a pair of ship's troops. I have told them that I will give them two of ours for the trip, so long as they can take leave on Zekala when they get there." he said with a smile on his face. It was, he thought, a very elegant solution to the problem.
Trilin laughed a little at the guile being displayed by his commander. "Who else have you conned into going with me?" he asked.
"I though that I would leave that up to you, Nirantrilin." he said as he let his gaze fall onto Sergeant Watson.
Trilin looked to see what his officer was looking at and immediately understood the offer being made. He bowed his head deeply. "Thank you, Captain Zeranfelen. We will enjoy the leave immensely."
On the other side of the large clearing in front of the palace being used for the feast, another Dizyntk warrior was on duty. Captain, until very recently Lieutenant, Tikashira Relesintk was keeping a close, though unobtrusive, eye on her charges. Tika to her friends, she was the new head of the security detail for Princess Feyalisa and her family. She had received the assignment on an interim basis when Virathea had been unconscious and near death after the battle. She had received the temporary promotion simply because she was the senior surviving officer in the Guard that was not wounded too badly to take over the job. She had, in fact, received only minor wounds. She had taken a few projectile and energy grazes to various parts of her body, and two small pieces of shrapnel in her left hand. When, two hakin after the battle, she was informed that Virathea had approved her as her official replacement and she received a promotion to go with it, she was both surprised and delighted. She was also very proud that her training and devotion to duty had paid off. She knew that a bit of luck had played a role as well; bad luck in that so many of her comrades had died in the attack, opening the way for her promotion and good luck in that she had survived the battle relatively unscathed.
She was young to hold such a responsibility at only seventeen cyankas. This was actually the same age at which Virathea had been assigned the job, but she had possessed a distinct advantage. Virathea had been from a prestigious warrior family with old ties to both the Asarazyntk and Zerleen Houses. Tikashira had no such family ties. Her family ran a restaurant in Sapphire City, just four ishalt from the palace. Even her extended family had no noble ties. She was a common Dizyntk who had earned her place in the Guard through hard work. Not that anyone would dare to suggest that Virathea did not work as hard as Tika, it was just that this was all that Tika had going for her. Now she was officially in charge of protecting the heir to the Sapphire Throne.
She nearly jumped out of her fur when a hand alighted softly upon her shoulder.
"You are very tense, Captain Tikashira." Velakari said in a soft, soothing tone.
Tikashira could feel that her fur had all stood on end and she blushed slightly in embarrassment at being so edgy. "Apologies, Sister Velakari. I suppose that my nerves are not yet settled into the job."
Velakari laughed at this. "Do not worry too much about it, Captain. Virathea was much the same way her first few cyans on the job as I recall."
"Major Virathea? Nervous? I do not believe it. She has ice water in her veins." Tikashira said as she looked to make sure that the Princess was still safe and enjoying herself.
"One might think so to look at her in the past two or three cyankas, to be sure." Velakari replied while nodding. "But ask yourself this. How long do you think she trained to get like that? How many cyans of working at the palace and being responsible for the Princess' safety did it take before she was calm and collected all the time?"
Tikashira smiled a little at the point being made. She too would one day be as cool and unflappable as Virathea Tzilank. Until then she would do the job as best she could. That included getting to know the members of the family she was now responsible for protecting.
"Was your day at the Temple busy?" Tika inquired.
"Yes, it was." Velakari responded. "I would have it no other way during this holiday."
Tikashira looked out the corner of her eye at Velakari. She had heard that she was a very devoted Priestess, but she heard that about many priestesses. Having gotten to know her over the past couple cyans, she was starting to believe that the stories about Velakari's devotion were understated. She had worked eleven vallin today at the Temple outside the main gate of the palace grounds. She would do so every day of the holiday this hakin. Yet here she was, smiling serenely out at the crowd that had gathered for the night's feast and being thankful for how busy she had been. There was one other thing that always tried to sap Velakari's energy, yet never seemed to do so. She was currently headed right for them.
"Mother! Mother, mother, mother..." came the rapid fire exclamation from the blurred streak of a Dizyntk child as she ran at full speed to Velakari.
Asinalani had just turned three cyankas. She was the youngest child in the Princess' mating group. Her features were almost exclusively those of her mother. The exception was her hair/fur, which was the same color brown as her human father's.
She arrived at her mother's outstretched arms without slowing in the slightest. Velakari caught her, rose quickly and spun around; both to slow the momentum of her daughter and because Asinalani loved to be spun. She laughed uproariously as her mother twirled around and around with her. Velakari finally slowed her spinning and hugged Asina tightly.
"Have you been having fun, my dearest?" Kari asked as she nuzzled her daughter's ears.
"A lot of fun, mother." She said happily. As she went to say more, a large burp came out of her. A hand flew to her mouth and she giggled.
"Excuse me, mother." she said between giggles.
Kari gave her daughter a gentle tap behind the ear. "It sounds as if someone has been eating a lot tonight." she observed.
Asina nodded enthusiastically. Kari kissed her on the forehead. She knew this was the first Feast of Community that her daughter was old enough to really enjoy. Even the previous one she had been too young to do anything by herself, although she did seem to enjoy the food. This cyanka, however, she was old enough to be able to go from table to table and select the foods she wanted to eat all by herself. Not completely by herself, of course. One of the palace servants that normally helped care for the children was assigned to follow and keep a discreet eye on her. Kari saw the servant that was watching Asina and nodded to her with a smile. The Dizyntk in question returned this with a small bow and left to go enjoy the Feast herself now that Velakari was here to take care of her daughter.
Kari set Asina down and took her hand. "Would you like to show me where the best food is?" Kari asked.
Asina nodded rapidly. "Of course, Mother!" she said excitedly.
They walked together towards the tables that held the vast array of food. The two of them had not taken ten steps when Velakari stopped and knelt down to whisper something to her daughter. Asina smiled brightly and nodded once more. She ran the short distance back to Tikashira and grabbed her hand with both of hers.
"C'mon Tika, come eat with us." she said happily as she tugged on the Dizyntk warrior's arm.
Tikashira looked down at Asina, then up at Velakari as she reluctantly allowed herself to be dragged a couple of steps. She looked back down at Asinalani.
"I am on duty right now, little one." she said in mild protest.
"You have to come eat with us, Tika." Asinalani continued, completely oblivious to Tika's reluctance.
Tikashira looked up imploringly at Velakari, only to see her smiling with her head tilted slightly in amusement. Tika knew that it was Velakari who had suggested that her daughter do what she was doing right now. She could expect no help whatsoever from her. She also knew that there was only one thing she could possibly do.
"Alright, little one, I will go eat with you. But I cannot stay long." she said as she relented to the child's demand.
Asinalani hopped up and down joyfully as Tikashira followed her back to her mother. Tika gave Velakari an exasperated look, to which she replied with a small laugh.
"It is important to develop a good relationship with the youngest of your charges." Velakari said as they made their way to the food tables.
"I suppose so." Tika agreed.
"Do not worry about the Princess too much. She is quite capable of looking after herself, not to mention you have six of your people watching over her other than yourself." Velakari said. In doing so she revealed that she was more than just an average Priestess.
Tikashira looked sharply at her. There were only two regular security personnel assigned to Feyalisa. The other four were from the oddly named Imperial Information Service and were dressed in normal civilian clothes. The I.I.S was, in fact, the Imperium's main espionage/counter-espionage agency. Due to their profound embarrassment at having missed the signs of the attempted coup, they had offered some of their agents to help with security until the Royal Guard was fully re-staffed. This hakin, with the parties every night, was the only time that the Palace had actually requested the I.I.S. send some of their people. Only Tikashira and the Service Agents' commander were supposed to know they were there.
Velakari saw the surprised look on the young Captain's face. "You do not think that I could have lived in the palace as long as I have and not be able to identify even disguised security agents, do you?"
Tikashira closed her eyes, smiled and shook her head. "I suppose that is true."
She looked at Velakari with a sudden realization. "Does this mean the Princess knows as well? I had hoped to protect her without being too obtrusive."
Velakari covered her mouth as she laughed lightly at the unlikelihood of Feyalisa not noticing something like that. "I am afraid that she probably has noticed, Captain Tikashira. But do not worry, she will take it as a sign that you are doing your job properly."
Tikashira sighed. "I hoped that she and her family would not notice."
Velakari took Tika's hand and squeezed it softly. "I and my mates appreciate the efforts on your part to protect us while trying to let us lead as normal a life as possible. Most importantly, to us, is the fact that you are protecting the children in an unobtrusive manner. I can assure you that they have not noticed; not even Ariarisha."
"But for now, let us stop talking business and enjoy the Feast." Velakari continued in a cheerful tone. "We must follow my daughter and try those things she has taken a liking to. That way I may determine if I have raised her to eat properly thus far or if I have failed miserably in that regard."
Both of them laughed at that remark. Asinalani was jumping up and down in an impatient manner several steps ahead of them. She was next to the first food table and pointing animatedly at something piled on a platter. It appeared that the first dish of the evening for Tika and Kari had been found.
Feyalisa had indeed noticed the extra security personnel. As Velakari had said though, it did not bother her in the slightest. All she cared about was that she was enjoying this first night of the Feast as she had the past three of them; by spending it with her bonded mate, Michael Christopher. The three members of her mating group would change which two would be together and which one would visit guests of the Palace every night except the last two. Those nights the three of them would spend all together. While there was never a set pattern to these nights, Velakari always insisted that on the first night, Feyalisa should be with Michael. She felt this was only proper as they had been bonded the longest.
Feyalisa did not mind this. She loved Velakari dearly, but Michael was the father of her children and would always hold a special place in her heart because of this. She knew that Velakari felt the same way about their human mate. In addition to enjoying each other's company they were watching their son, Kalenderen, enjoy himself with several of his friends. As the evening drew close to midnight however, Feya took her mate's hand and led him quickly away from the party.
Michael was not completely sure where she was heading. The previous Feasts she had taken him back to their quarters in the palace at about this time. She was not heading that way right now though. She was going towards the springs and gardens on the west side of the palace. They were almost to the edge of the gardens when Feya stopped and turned. She could clearly see the security personnel rapidly trying to catch up.
Michael could not see them. Dizyntk had much better night vision than humans. He knew they were there however. He heard Feya growl and knew she was about to admonish them to let her have some privacy with her mate.
"Now, now, my love. They are only doing their job." he said softly to her. "Do not be too cross with them for that."
Feya looked up at him and nodded. Her mate was correct in this. "Stay here for a moment, my love."
Michael agreed and stood there with a smile on his face as she walked towards the Royal Guard soldiers. He knew that, despite his attempt to pacify Feya, she was probably going to lay into them a bit about not having to follow her everywhere. He was quite correct in this assumption.
Feya quickly approached the two Royal Guardsmen and they crashed to a halt in front of her and saluted. She stopped directly in front of them and looked to either side of the path. She motioned to the shadows and, when this did not produce the desired results, growled quite loudly. This caused the guardsmen to flinch. It also brought the four I.I.S. agents reluctantly out to stand in front of her.
"Do the six of you feel that you need to follow me everywhere this evening?" she asked in an almost reasonable tone of voice.
The Lieutenant in charge of the security detail answered. "Yes, Your Highness. We are charged with your protection."
"Which you can do quite well from here." she said firmly.
"But, you Highness..." he complained.
"Or do you plan on following me all the way into the springs?" she asked.
"Well, we..." he said. It was clear that they had intended to do so.
"Do the six of you plan on standing around the spring and watch as I undress and enter?" she asked. Her eyes were narrowing and tail was twitching rapidly.
All six of the guards gulped.
"We would, of course, be outside the springs, Your Highness." the Lieutenant said nervously. He was not used to having someone of Feyalisa's station being angry with him.
Feya growled loudly once again. "RIGHT OUTSIDE?" she snapped at them.
She took a deep breath to calm herself. "Would the six of you enjoy that?" she asked with an evil looking smile on her face.
The lieutenant was unsure if there was a correct answer to the question. "I do not understand, Your Highness."
Feya closed her eyes. "I am going to a secluded area of the palace grounds, yes?"
She opened her eyes and saw all six of them nodding.
"I am going there with my bonded mate." she said. She could see that they were not putting two and two together yet.
She growled once more, more quietly this time but it was still quite threatening to the six guards.
"Are any of you fools bonded?" she growled out.
All but one of them nodded in affirmation. Luckily she saw that the Lieutenant was one of the other five.
"Then tell me, Lieutenant, what reason would you have for sneaking away from a party, in the dark, to a secluded area with your bonded mate?" she barked out at him.
At this point the five subordinate guards began looking at their shoes, or the sky, or any of several other directions away from their lieutenant and the Princess as they came up with four. The lieutenant blushed furiously at his sudden realization of what he had not been able to figure out on his own.
He dropped to his knees and bowed his head. "My most sincere apologies, Your Highness. We will stay here and make sure no one interrupts your private time with your mate."
Feyalisa smiled at him. "I am very pleased to hear it, Lieutenant."
She gave all of them one more hard look, just for good measure. She then turned and walked back to Michael, who was trying hard not to laugh as she approached. She saw her mate's smile and laughed a little herself. She hugged him tightly as she reached him.
"A bit hard on them weren't you?" he asked, although he knew she really hadn't been.
"They need to stop and think about these things." Feya complained while nuzzling his chest.
"I thought that poor Lieutenant was going to wet himself when you snapped at them." Michael said and then laughed at the thought.
Feya laughed as well. "They are new to their jobs." she conceded.
She turned her head and looked towards the six of them as they spread out to cover the approach to the springs. "And I have never fully trusted I.I.S. people to keep their mouths shut about such things."
"I think you have them sufficiently cowed for the time being." he said as he slowly stroked up and down her left ear.
Feya smiled at her mate's touch. "Very well." she said as she turned back to him.
She took his hand once more and began leading him to the springs. "Let us continue on our way, my love."
She wrapped her arms around his left one and nuzzled against it as well. "I am feeling particularly naughty right now. It must be the trilnst."
Michael could not help but laugh a bit at this. "Oh yes, it must be. My mate never feels naughty any other time."
Feya laughed at her mate's sarcasm. She knew that she tended to be very amorous towards her mates even when completely sober.
She then growled lightly. "But I swear if I hear gossip tomorrow about how I slipped off to the springs to play with my mate, I will slice the ears of all four of those I.I.S. agents with my own claws."
Michael nodded and added, "And I will hold them down while you do so, my love."
This caused Feya to smile widely and hug her mate's arm even tighter. "That is one of the many reasons why I love you, Michael."
"Because I cheerfully support your violent tendencies?" he asked.
"Exactly, my love." she said as she led him through the entrance into the springs.
The rest of the hakin slipped by quickly. Melissa was looking forward to the trip to Zekala. She had not had a vacation in five years. She went home on occasion but it was rarely for longer than three or four days. While she enjoyed seeing her family, it never really seemed like a vacation as she always helped out around her family's farm while she was there. Trilin had described his home planet and it did not sound too different from the world she grew up on.
The two of them had woken early so as to get their equipment packed, turn in their rifles and draw new weapons. Obviously their sniper weapons would be of no value aboard a starship. Fortunately the two of them, being elite soldiers, had received training in shipboard combat. They were now carrying compact auto-weapons, similar to sub-machineguns, along with their usual side arms. In Melissa's case these consisted of a 10mm caseless pistol and a pair of combat knives. Trilin carried a dizyntk pistol that was a seven shot revolver which fired plasma charges along with a pair of Aishik gauntlets.
They were walking briskly towards the shuttle that would carry them to orbit. Large freighters such as the one they were to be stationed on did not usually land on planets. In fact most of them were incapable of doing so. They had their cargo loaded and unloaded by large cargo shuttles which the freighter carried a number of onboard. This was the last shuttle going up to the freighter in question. Its cargo holds were nearly full. Melissa and Trilin arrived just as the last of the cargo was being loaded aboard the shuttle.
The shuttle pilot was waiting outside his craft and saw the two soldiers approaching. "You two are right on time. We should be taking off in couple vall."
The two of them stopped in front of the pilot and he looked them over, especially Melissa. "Have to admit, I've never personally seen a human before. I didn't realize there were any in our military."
"They are integrating the forces of the three human worlds with ours." Trilin explained.
"I suppose that makes sense seeing as they are part of the Imperium now." he said.
"Where are my manners? I'm Shuttle Chief Ilenkalstn. I'm the pilot of this beast." he said while motioning towards the cargo shuttle behind him.
"Specialist Nirantrilin." Trilin said with a nod of his head.
"Sergeant Watson" Melissa said with a similar nod.
Personal greetings were one of the harder things for humans to get used to in Dizyntk culture. Humans were used to shaking hands out of reflex in a casual situation such as this. The problem was that the dizyntk had never heard of such a thing. A simple nod of the head or perhaps a small bow of the same was all they considered necessary. If the two individuals knew each other well then they skipped right to a quick hug. Melissa was used to this but she still took care to remind herself not to extend her hand when meeting a new dizyntk.
The pilot returned the friendly nod. "We don't have any passenger accommodations on this thing, so you two will be riding up front. Follow me."
He turned and walked towards the crew hatch on the shuttle. Trilin and Melissa followed right behind. They entered the flight deck of the shuttle and saw two other dizyntk already at their stations and getting the ship ready to take off.
"Relea, Kestin, these are Nirantrilin and Watson. Warriors, these are my assistants, Releavara and Kestinalan." Chief Ilenkalstn said as he made his way to his pilot's station.
The four of them all exchanged brief greetings.
"Take those two seats by the aft bulkhead." Ilenkalstn said. "Make sure you strap yourselves in properly and make damn sure that you safe your weapons."
Melissa and Trilin exchanged a look of disbelief at the comment about their weapons. The look conveyed the same thought being shared by the two of them; for the love of God/Goddess, we are elite warriors, of course we will be safe with our weapons. They smiled a bit and made a slow, deliberate act of going over their weapons' safety systems.
The two assistant shuttle crew saw this and both had to repress their laughter. Ilenkalstn saw as well and briefly flushed with anger before closing his eyes and reprimanded himself for forgetting his passengers' level of training.
"Apologies, warriors." he said over his shoulder. "Most of the time when we get new troops on board they are just that, new troops. I hope you understand."
Melissa merely smiled but Trilin nodded. He knew that guard duty on a freighter was not a prestigious posting. Most of the time it was a post that was indeed filled by soldiers that were fresh out of basic and shipboard combat training.
"No offense taken, Chief. I know that this is not the usual place that elite troops are found." Trilin said.
The two assistants looked at Trilin and Melissa, then back at their boss.
Ilenkalstn saw the questioning look his underlings were giving him. "Oh. I suppose I did not say anything to you two but our ship's troops for this run are from the Zyrestrim. Third Battalion was it?"
"Yes it was, Chief." Trilin replied.
Trilin saw the worried looks cross the faces of Relea and Kestin.
"Don't worry. There is no known threat being directed at your vessel. I am from Zekala and taking this posting for this run is getting me home for my leave without me having to waste any of it traveling. My comrade is from a similar human colony world and wanted to come with me to see mine." he explained.
The two shuttle crewmembers looked immediately relieved. Usually elite troops on board a freighter meant that there was intelligence suggesting that the ship in question was being targeted by raiders.
"Alright, enough chit-chat." the Chief said. "Loading of cargo is complete. Check all systems and prepare to lift off."
The cargo shuttle's engines started up with a high pitched whine. It lifted upwards slowly, indicating the load it was carrying. It steadily increased speed however and it was shortly leaving the atmosphere.
It had not taken long to reach the freighter Karsilatk Aru-4. The Karsilatk family had been involved in shipping since the days of steam powered vessels on the oceans of Dizyn. They were now one of the largest shipping concerns in the Imperium. Their ships were identified by the color of the large company logo painted on the side of the ship, which was itself a cream color, and the number of that vessel to have that color. Each color marked a different class of vessel.
The Arus were the largest type in service with the company. They were large enough that they could transport an entire armored infantry division complete with vehicles. They had been designed with this in mind. Since the costs of building such large ships were very high, the Imperial government usually helped finance their construction. This was done with the understanding that the ships could be called into military service and used to transport troops if needed. Anytime that a freighter such as the Aru-4 was carrying cargo for the Imperial government they were assigned a small number of troops to provide security; usually four to eight soldiers with training in shipboard combat. The Aru-4 had six dizyntk warriors already aboard when Trilin and Melissa arrived.
Ekriavesa Ferestilnak was waiting for the two of them when the shuttle landed. She was an exception to the image of ship's troops being newly trained recruits. She enjoyed serving aboard ship and had done so since the first time she had been assigned to one. She had been in the military for three cyankas now and was the dizyntk equivalent of a first lieutenant. This was in fact going to be her last trip doing this job. As much as she enjoyed it, she needed to go on to other things if she wished to progress in rank. She was happy to be receiving two experienced warriors to fill out her command but was unsure of the reasons for it. She had been told of course, but was never fully trusting of official explanations for unusual things.
Trilin and Melissa exited the shuttle as soon as it settled into the landing bay. They both saw the Lieutenant waiting for them and walked directly to her. They both saluted; Trilin in the normal dizyntk fashion of clasping the right hand over the heart and slightly bowing his head, Melissa in the human way. It had not been decided whether to require human troops in Imperial service to adopt dizyntk salutes so, for the time being, they just did it the way they were used to.
"Welcome aboard the Aru-4. I am Lieutenant Ekriavesa. You will be under my command for the next nine tasin." she said as she returned the salute.
"Specialist First Class Nirantrilin." Trilin said crisply.
"Sergeant Watson." Melissa said immediately after Trilin.
"So, is either of you going to tell me what is going on?" Ekriavesa asked.
"Sir?" Trilin asked with a confused look.
"I do not need to tell you how rare it is to have warriors of your level of training serving in this posting, Specialist." she said irritably. "The only explanation I got from headquarters was that you were going home to Zekala. What kind of damn fool excuse is that?"
Melissa had to fight back a laugh as Trilin looked down in embarrassment. He proceeded to explain how his XO had arranged the posting so he actually could take leave on his home world.
Lieutenant Ekriavesa just shook her head. "I cannot believe that Zeran would do something like that."
She looked thoughtful for a second and continued. "Wait a vall, yes I can. He was always a devious bastard." She then laughed at the thought.
"You know the Captain, Sir?" Trilin asked.
"Oh yes, we were in officer training together. I would probably be the same rank as him if it were not for my love of being on these ships." she replied.
"Now that that is settled, come along with me and I will show you where you are bunking for the trip." She turned and walked towards a hatch on the far wall. Trilin and Melissa followed.
"So what brings you along on this odd posting, Human?" the Lieutenant asked as they walked through the corridors of the ship.
"Two reasons really." Melissa answered. "Firstly, Trilin's description of Zekala reminded me of my own home world."
Ekriavesa nodded. "Going there might help cure a touch of homesickness eh?"
"Yes sir." Melissa said.
"And the second reason?" Ekriavesa asked.
Melissa smiled. "Trilin is my lover and I wished to meet his family."
This answer caused the Lieutenant to come to stop. She turned and looked at Trilin with a raised eyebrow. While she was aware, as all dizyntk were by now, of Feyalisa's human mate, she did not personally know any human/dizyntk pairings.
Trilin, for his part, was completely unconcerned with the fact that his lover was human. He had some minor misgivings at first but had soon cast them aside. It had actually taken Melissa longer to get over her reservations. As her blunt statement had just demonstrated though, she was over them now.
Trilin nodded to his commander. "Yes sir, she is. Is there a problem with that?"
Ekriavesa shook her head. "None at all, Nirantrilin. I had planned to ask if the two of you were comfortable sharing a room, but I guess that question is superfluous now."
She turned and resumed walking. "I take it that the two of you share the same specialty, considering you have become so close."
"Yes sir." they both responded.
"Close combat? Assault Team?" Ekriavesa asked.
Melissa and Trilin looked at each other for a moment and almost laughed. They replied as one. "Sniper, Sir."
This brought the Lieutenant to a crashing halt once more. She resisted turning around to face them again. She had to close her eyes and force herself to retain her composure. The only ground combat rating arguably less suited to shipboard security was one of the heavy weapons specialties.
"Snipers? Both of you?" she asked.
"Yes sir." Trilin replied.
"Sniper Team One, sir" Melissa said.
"Please tell me that the two of you have had training in shipboard combat." Ekriavesa said in an exasperated tone.
"Yes sir." they answered together.
Ekriavesa rolled her eyes up as if thanking the Goddess for small favors and continued walking. "Basic or advanced?"
"Full basic and half the advanced course." Trilin answered.
"Full basic equivalent and advanced close combat training." Melissa responded.
"You have advanced close combat training?" Trilin asked.
"I do indeed." Melissa replied with a broad smile. "I could kick your butt bare handed, even if you used those claw things of yours."
Trilin looked quite surprised at this. "You believe so?"
Melissa nodded. "I have watched you practice with them. I know so."
"How can you have such skills and I not be aware of it?" Trilin asked.
"Because you never come with me during my monthly practice." she answered. "Also, you never asked."
Ekriavesa was almost laughing by this point. "I see that human females are not always what they seem as well. Piece of advice, Specialist Nirantrilin. Never assume anything about a female, even one you think you know, without asking. It can lead you into all kinds of trouble."
Trilin thought on this advice for a moment before replying. "Yes sir. Thank you, sir. I will follow that advice in the future."
"Good response." Ekriavesa said.
"Excellent response." Melissa added.
Trilin just shook his head. He had indeed been careless not getting to know more about Melissa. This was true both from the perspective of being lovers and being comrades in arms. Knowing what the warrior next to you was capable of was always wise. He had failed to gather that knowledge by assuming that Melissa's skill with a rifle was the only one she possessed. It was a mistake on his part and he knew that now. Luckily she was his teammate and lover so his failure had only resulted in minor embarrassment. He had many questions to ask Melissa now.
During the nine tasin trip to Zekala, the eight warriors aboard the Aru-4 would split into four teams. Trilin and Melissa were assigned the late watch rotation. This meant they were sleeping from five-thirty in the evening to a little after midnight. This mattered little to them as they were used to odd sleeping times and they quickly adjusted to the schedule. The duty was boring but so was most work in the military.
Aru-4 was only a day out from the Zekala system. Melissa and Trilin were on their duty shift. Each shift was six hours long and separated into standing watch over the security monitors on the bridge, patrolling the corridors and holds of the ship and down time for eating a meal and doing any routine maintenance on weapons and uniforms. The two of them were currently on their last patrol walkthrough of the ship.
"I wouldn't trade my rifle for this little thing on a battlefield," Melissa said while indicating the SMG she was holding. "But I have to admit, it sure is an easy thing to lug around in comparison."
Trilin chuckled at the observation and nodded in agreement. He too preferred the range and punch of his sniper rifle. Though his lover had a point about the comparative weight and bulk of the weapons. He looked sideways at Melissa.
"Are you sure about that? You have not received advanced training in light weapons use, have you?" he asked.
Melissa could not help but laugh. Trilin had been asking about such things intermittently ever since the revelation that she had much better hand-to-hand training than he did. He seemed determined to find out everything he could about her now.
"No, not any advanced training. Though I have practiced a bit with the assault squad troops. I like shooting them but, as I said, I much prefer my rifle." Melissa told him.
Trilin smiled at his friend's response. It was always a good idea to cross train in other specialties, at least to some extent. You never knew what you might be asked to do in the middle of a battle after all. That being said, many warriors tended to neglect training outside their area of expertise. Melissa was a definite exception to this. She loved taking a break from her sniper training every few weeks and practicing with the other specialists. It made Trilin feel embarrassed about his own lack of doing so. It also made him resolve to start joining Melissa from now on whenever she did this. Just as Trilin was about to say something in this regard, the whole ship shuddered.