Leonard a. Wronke Leonard a. Wronke
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maneuverability is what you are seeking as your word

Leonard a. Wronke Leonard a. Wronke
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Pearl gripped her command chair, her knuckles white from the effort, while all sensors signaled Quasit's actions.

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Richard Davidson Richard Davidson
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Quasit and Pearl -

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She had a friend.

Chapter One -

The ship buffeted against the solar wave again, slowing the ND, sending sparks across the hull. Quasit's hands rapidly brushed across the control panels, changing the ship's headings as fast as he could, as the Ecitoninae Class Warship's laser cannons behind kept up a steady barrage.

In her captain's chair, Pearl's voice remained calm. "All remaining power to the rear shields. Keep working to restore full ND capabilities."

Across the ship, the BQSBots reacted to her voice with instantaneous results. Even so, sometimes Pearl regretted not having more sentient crew members.

Their outclassed ship couldn't take this pounding for long.

The Phengodidae class Ragusea rose, darting under Quasit's deft hand. He knew manoeuvrability was the greatest advantage against the Ecitoninae. But that alone wasn't what was keeping them from being blown to smithereens. 1 comment

"It's their precious cargo they want," Quasit grunted through gritted teeth.

Pearl didn't answer, but checked the progress of the BQSBots on her CP. "Just give me 4 utes more," she implored him, "Replication is almost there." An amber light on her CP meant the Warship wanted to talk. Last option.

Quasit checked the shields. 29%. Manually overriding the BQSBots, he diverted power to the main thrusters.

Pearl gripped white, knuckles burning, sensors signalling Quasit's actions. She didn't like it, but they'd been together long enough for her to trust him. Anyway, maybe with the BQSBots disengaged from the navigation system, they'd have more time to repair the shields, ND and replication. 1 comment

Quasit navigated at lightning speed, but couldn't shake the hulking Warship, did little to stop her cannons as shields fell to 11%. The tiny Phengodidae rocked with laser fire; Quasit felt his teeth rattle, his eyeballs shake in his skull like a black smoke sermon, though his hands didn't falter.

But the Ecitoninae persisted, undeterred.

More cannon fire jolted the Phengodidae class ship. Pearl clutched her command console, watching as sensors lit, indicating fires. The BQSBots automatically diverted attention to the damaged sections of the ships, taking precious resources away from fixing the shields and ND. Can't be helped. Pearl grimaced, watching the fires spread faster than the BQSBots were replicating. Not good.

"I can't shake this jezebel's merkin!" Quasit growled, as the ship shook, lurched again against cannon fire. Even his augmented fingers trembled now, as shields dropped to 7.99%.

Choose, you bastards! Pearl's fingers moved to give the command to jettison their payload.

Automated emergency amber lights flashed. Chaos shook the ship. Quasit adjusted systems to propulsion in preparation to attempt escape once Pearl ejected the cargo.

The Ecitoninae Class Warship came about, its cannons thankfully silent for a moment. Another blast could destroy the entire ship, including the cargo. Again they hailed, and again Pearl ignored it. Better to let them think we are prepared to die.

Then to Pearl's wonder, sensors detected another ship quickly approaching off starboard, directly opposite the Warship's position. It took up an offensive stance. The two ships dwarfed the Phengodidae class Ragusea caught in the middle

Pearl calculatingly exhaled through her nose, teeth gnashed, trying to get sensors to lock on the new ship. But the scans refused to divulge anything useful. When a heavily encrypted message was delivered to the CC. Pearl weighed the options, then received the transmission, inhaling savagely through her mouth, eyes pinpricks of cold thunder.

"They're our current employer," she told Quasit, hints of irony in her voice. "Sensors are't picking up a whiff. Divert resources and put it on external view."

The viewscreen blinked on, revealing a Mantidae class ship, boomerang shaped matte black, devoid of insignia, id or markings.

Dead silence hung over the Ragusea, nearly palpable, as the Warship assessed the situation. Pearl forced herself to take deep breaths, sitting back, a gut-wrenching helpless feeling gnawing at her intestines.

Quasit scowled, futilely adjusting sensors, the Mantidae class ship remained impregnable.. "As far as I can tell, they're not in the mood to talk to the Warship either." Quasit spun in his chair to face Pearl. "They probably wouldn't answer us right now," now grimacing, "but I wanted to ask them if they knew the Yu Qi were going to send a harlotscut Warship to chase us down!"

Pearl glowered at Quasit a moment, then checked status. Fires'd been sufficiently quarantined. BQSBots resources freed for ND repair and replication. The longer the Mantidae and Ecitoninae flirt with each other, the better.

She gave the order to secure the cargo, diverting everything else to repairs. The ship's hold was immense, but on this run, the actual cargo was relatively small. Shutting down unnecessary systems to increase repair rate included shields. Doesn't matter, one more hit will obliterate us anyway.

Quasit made a surprised grunt. "What in Titanscockandballs? The Mantidae detects shields dropped. They've bound their ship's defences over us."

Under the Mantidae class ship's ephemeral protection did nothing to ease Pearl's discomfiting queasiness. She had no need of anyone's protection.

A sudden memory, unbidden, sparked through her consciousness. Back home on Solonis IV. The ranch. Her father teaching her to shoot a Gauzia Class 3 . Her mother chiding them. She doesn't need to learn how to be a boy. She is a girl. Treat her like a girl. But her father never could. And never did much to protect her, either.

They're not protecting me. They're protecting our cargo. Didn't matter either way.

When the cannon-fire began.

The Ecitoninae class Warship of the Yu Qi fired first. Her laser cannons emitting short, precise bursts at the cabalistic Mantidae. The energy wave struck the Phengodidae, and Pearl used the impetus to move into a more defensive position.

The battering had little effect on the Mantidae, visually unaffected "Our shields are up to 14% and ND is almost within minimal operational parameters," Quasit reported, "Our blanket defence remains unchanged."

When the Mantidae fired her guns, the Warship appeared unperturbed. But she didn't stop. Quasit, envious, stated, "She's firing Inverse Ke El Cannons."

The Ecitoninae vindictively fired back, cannons blazing.

The Mantidae class ship unremittingly and mercilessly fired, rate of charge unparalleled. Her IKE Cannons much more efficient and proficient than the Ecitoninae Warship's laser cannons. The laser cannons' thoron recharge systems took too much time, and the Warship was unaccustomed to this level of ferocity. The Yu Qi kept fruitlessly hailing the other ship even under heavy barrages of IKE fire, but the ship's shields held. While the laser cannons recharged, she fired her photon rail torpedoes.

Pearl moved the ship 0.3 parsecs away from the fighting, in hopes of both maintaining a safe distance and the Mantidae's shields.

The relentless IKE cannons of the Mantidae pummelled the Warship before the Yu Qi realized what kind of fight they were in. The Ecitoninae reinforced their shields, firing laser cannons at full force, proprietorial fusion photons from dorsal positions.

Quasit watched on the external viewscreen, manually manoeuvring the Ragusea to Pearl's commands, aglow with the brute strength of the Mantidae, the brutality with which she fought.

The knot in Pearl's throat tightened as she watched the gunfight, how the Mantidae refused all communications, simply content with bloodshed. With grim satisfaction, she saw IKE rip a hole through the Ecitoninae's shields.

The Ecitoninae erupted, but compensated the massive breach by aligning her cavriant paratrinic quantum grid. Only then did she stop her hails and unleashed her full armament.

The Ecitoninae laser cannons fired with ferocious violence, proprietorial fusion photons blazed, azurecobalt antimatter depressor torpedoes dispersed, raining tumultuously down upon the Mantidae.

Pearl navigated the Phengodidae, torn between staying and fleeing as fast as their minimally restored ND could take them. The Ragusea rode shockwaves of disruption as a ship buffeted against a storm.

The Mantidae reeled, her IKE cannons finally ceasing momentarily. "Her shield array cut us loose," Quasit snarled contumaciously.

Uncharacteristically, Pearl wavered. Her heart told her to cut and run, but her head told her if they did, the Warship's attentions would divert to the inferior Phengodidae.

Quasit watched as the Mantidae shuddered, orange, red, purple fires exploded, spreading across her inky blackness like fists of an angry god, lightning arcing. The Ecitoninae, vengeful and wrathful, decimated the other ship. But the Mantidae somehow managed to recommence firing her IKE cannons, and sped towards the larger Warship, intent on collision.

The Warship manoeuvred, but her cumbersome stature prevented deft movement. The Mantidae caught her, detonating like a genocidal warhead. 1 comment

Chaos ensued. The Phengodidae, even though she tried to manoeuvre clear, shuttered in the wake of destruction. The Mantidae cut a sheer swathe through the Ecitoninae Warship of the Yu Qi, splitting her in half. The resultant explosions rippled through space, throwing debris and detritus in horrific spirals.

The Ragusea, caught in the tempest, flailed. The BQSBots flurried, initiating emergency protocol, IE1A2 safety webbing catching, harnessing and anaesthetising the only two sentient crew members securely.

Utter annihilation encompassed the two fulminating ships, a maelstrom of death, plasma fires, antimatter breaches tunnelling like a tidal bore through the fabric of space.

Drowsily, consciousness returned to Pearl. Burgundy hued emergency lighting washed the ship's Bridge in vaguely sanguine ambience. She rubbed her face dazedly, trying to make the dull roar in her head subside.

Slowly, the scene returned as Quasit groaned in front of her, the safety webbing a fading memory. She growled a groggy command, and the CC responded with a monotone and depressing ship's status report.

She addressed Quasit with as much urgency as her foggy state would allow, "We need to scan the debris field for anything we can glean from that Mantidae."

Quasit rebutted angrily. "Are you kidding?! The Warship's obliteration will send signals to the Yu Qi in no time," Quasit judged heatedly, "the place will be swarming with starships. We need to find a port quickly to lay low."

Pearl stood on wobbly legs, but her face was full of fury. "That ship could be our only link to the cargo. All we have is coordinates, our employers just committed suicide, remember? I am not going to let payment go down in flames with their ship."

Quasit infelicitously yielded. "I'll give 2 utes. That's it," he asserted haughtily, "then we leave."

Pearl nodded grudgingly in abeyance.

For precious moments, the vessel hung in space. Quasit nervously monitored all sensors for any inbound ship, simultaneously running as much interference and cloaking agents on the ship's systems. He didn't think for an instant his tactics would fool another Warship, but on the off chance, it couldn't hurt.

Pearl drummed her fingers on the command console, intensively scouring the dispersed debris field with the BQSBots and the CC, garnering from the ruined Mantidae all extant intelligence without deciphering it yet. We'll have plenty of time to analyse later.

Quasit motioned to Pearl. So impatient! "Time to leave," he declared.

Descending to a grimly pale moon, the Phengodidae class ship inputted correct clearance codes when asked by authority servers, flying low and slow under the surveillance net into an arbitrary orbit, vaguely aligning with the patchwork of civilization contained thereupon.

The moon, known as Thenorion, orbited Incaeria IV, a large trading colony most chaotic in nature, an urban centre renown for indiscriminate tastes, peopled with a grande dispersion of vendor and customer alike, while maintaining burgeoning and safe tourism quota. Thenorion and analogous satellites hubbed main service detailing and repair for anyone travelling to or from, extremely busy, easily forgotten.

Finally satisfied with repairs, relative safety and a clandestine harbour in and amongst trading barges and merchant galleons, Quasit finally retired to his quarters.

The rectangular room was anything but sparse. Housing his collection of complicated interspecies flora and fauna, wrapping themselves around nooks and crannies, covered the shelf containing his antique technical manuals, dipping themselves in several cooling vents.

Chattsworth, pausing in his trimmings of said flora and fauna, warmly greeted Quasit has he entered, albeit nonverbally. Quasit in turn lovingly ruffled the Aelgoria Simian's rough crown of hair, and ordered a shot of Zhendorian Whiskey from the BQSBots.

Pearl watched patiently as the BQSBots chewed slowly on the data from the Mantidae, compiling encrypted information, linking to the communique they'd already received as their service contract, such as it was.

Pointedly, she wondered just what was contained in their cargo hold that was worth dying over, worth destruction of the Yu Qi Warship. Ultimately, she knew they'd probably have to uncover that particular anathema if they couldn't discover just who to deliver to. Discretion and confidential, rarely did they even want to know what they were transporting. Quasit's always more curious than I am. But a contract breach.

Pearl finally disengaged from her console, stood, breathed deeply, closing her eyes momentarily. When she opened them, she retreated to her private chambers. Austere and sparse, containing only a sleeping facility, regen chamber, except for a small hollow circular depression.

A little r & r. Removing her clothing, stepping briefly inside the regen chamber, her lithe, muscular body rippled, her reverent anatomy an agent of perfection.

Still nude, she stepped into the the incurvation, spoke to the CC. In moments, the BQSBots fashioned a simulacrum: a hulking Juadzai wielding a hematic fire axe. Pearl dropped down into a fighting stance.

The most annoying aspect of dock at Thenorion was all the advertisements delivered to the Phengodidae class ship. By custom, they couldn't be filtered out, so sprawling shipwide announcements from everything to handspun Yaelo Cottoncandy to Torbine E1Qe.4 Jade Cannons boomed over the com system, intrusive grams popped in all over the ship, nestled in designer fa├žades and personalities, gaunt personae ranging from typical salespeople to scantily dressed tawdry nymphs touting extensive sex trade on Incaeria IV.

Quasit only extended minimal reach from the dock, saving time, otherwise allowed the BQSBots to do all the work, though repairs were extensive.

As time passed, repairs progressed, precious little revealed during info crunched of the Mantidae class ship. Pearl sat at her command station after the BQSBots announced dump complete. More like incomplete. Pearl could count the items on one hand. They'd gone to extensive measures to encrypt their data, and even with Quasit's programmed BQSBots, efforts were nearly in vain.

The Mantidae travelled the same route as they had, pre cargo and post cargo. Which meant they'd tailed us the whole time. Watching.

Built on Olis V. Which can mean something, or nothing.

They were the ones to rendezvous the Phengodidae.

Quasit didn't only treasure Zhendorian Whiskey for the exquisite sapid piquancy, but for it's tragic history.

When Zhendor Prime deigned itself an agrarian theocracy, those who produced, distilled from simple grain warred with government militants.

Although accounts differ, seemed herds of huge ghus, hexapedal omnivores were displaced due to grain reap. Unbeknownst to peasants, regime sanctioned hunters decimated, extracting the tusks of the ghus, which were then produced into powder, manufactured coveted aphrodisiac.

The resultant bloodshed never failed to amuse Quasit.

When Pearl signalled for him to meet her on the bridge, he handed his whiskey to Chattsworth to finish.

Pearl drummed her fingers along the baseline of the Com immersion system, only half engaged, when Quasit entered the bridge.

"We have almost less to go on now with the destruction of the Warship and the Mantidae. You've scrutinized the reports as well as me between drinking your whiskey and playing house with your monkey." Frustration caused her words to come out a little harsher than intended.

Quasit winced. Pearl's feelings for Chattsworth would never change, nor her disdain for spirit. "We can incinerate the cargo and jettison the ash." He wryly called her bluff.

Pearl scowled. Not an option.

Decked and plated, the cargo hold of the Phengodidae sealed hermetically, designed to withstand utter destruction of ship and crew. Codified, wrought to deliver automatically, relayed in more laconic redundancies than the CC itself. Stasis of .0001% degradation, life transportation or inanimate inconsequential. BQSBots responsible for contents, but remained elusive, blind sentinels.

Opening cargo demanded simultaneous retinal and DNA strand verification of both Quasit and Pearl. A multilayered delivery system meant delayed aperture openings. Rarely, but they'd had to do it on few occasions, and every time it reminded Quasit of penal colony security systems; memories he'd rather not dredge.

Nearly subliminally quiet, servos hissed open, revealing fine coating of tangent chemicals behind opaque PAH paracrystalline titanius haze. Pearl ran the CC, opening the cargo hold stringently; Quasit stood restively at her side, diamond eyes asparkle, thin lips curved upwards in a smile, always awaiting curiously.

Only at this point did the CC reveal contents as sentient, apperceptive, though still in stasis and behind security.

As the PAH haze cleared Quasit squinted, his mouth hung agape despite himself, as the floating bronze creatures uncovered.

"What?" Pearl asked Quasit. "What is is?" Amended. "What are they?"

Quasit sibilated, "Mariri. Beautiful Mariri."

The Mariri floated, shimmering, encased, still in stasis, nearly eye level to Quasit. Two cherubic bodies, attached with obstetrical tail, linked in consanguineous symbiosis. Delicate, membranous wings upon each back afforded locomotion. Chubby arms and legs extended from sexless torsos, ending in long, utilitarian fingers and toes. Beautiful angelic faces, yet sombre with grace, care, and duty.

Pearl took a step forward, cocking her head as she examined the Mariri. The mechanisms weren't finished revealing the cargo however. It had one more sentient being to reveal.

Quasit spoke, almost reverentially. "The Mariri don't exist. They're legend. They're Yu Qi legend."

"Only live to serve." Quasit continued in a venerational timbre "They're handmaidens."

Pearl turned to him quizzically, the barely perceptible hum of the system dispersing PAH for the remaining contents. "Handmaidens? That's an archaic term. Handmaidens for what?" And she turned back to watch the chemical dispersion.

"Handmaidens for their Queen," Quasit explained. "The Yu Qi Queen. Their legends state that every Aeon their Queen passes. Replaced by a new Queen."

Pearl could barely believe what Quasit was telling her. Watched as the titanius haze was clearing, revealing a figure of a Yu Qi female, robed in golden etched finery.

Pearl scowled, stepping backwards as the beautiful Queen solidified before her. Combative, she glared incredulously at Quasit. "An Aeon is a long quimsouring time!"

Quasit didn't take the bait. He knew Pearl too well. With exaggerated meekness, he replied, "Hence the legendary status."

Staring at him icily, turned to the purported Yu Qi Queen.

She stood nearly as tall as Pearl, opalescent purple skin glistening. Thin legs, elegant arms, splayed hands and feet. Dual eyes burgundy embers in a thick-set skull, nearly no forehead gave way to spiralling cloistered orange hair. Like all Yu Qi, regal, even in stasis.

Quasit's expression turned from shining triumph, watching the Mariri, Yu Qi Queen, to downright disappointed puzzlement. "Wait," he soaringly inveighed, "what are you doing?"

The PAH chemicals centralized, reinstating encasement procedures.

"We know little and less about this Queen," Pearl nearly spat the word in disdain. "We know little and less about just why the Yu Qi sent an Ecitoninae class Warship to try and quiff us backwards." She paused, hesitated; for a moment; the CC didn't respond immediately to her inputs. "And we know little and less about the crew of the Mantidae." Again she paused. This is odd...

For some reason the CC held up cargo resecure procedure. Her brows lifted in vexation as she rerouted. Her voice tinged with rancour, she continued. "I am not about to have these two, these three, traipsing about my ship until we have more intelligence on the situation."

Quasit cocked his head, glancing at Pearl, wondering what the delay was. "What's wrong?" He moved to the CC consol next to her. Then from the corner of his eye, he caught movement.

Though improbable, through the PAH haze, unmistakable movement. "Look," Quasit signalled.

The Mariri moved, torpidly pedetentous towards the Queen, awakened.

Pearl's concern and annoyance splashed across her supernal face. Her mouth twisted, stepping aside for Quasit to work adroitly on the CC. Try to reinstate the CC, override the safeguards.

Pearl watched the Mariri now. The handmaiden seemed to float unimpeded towards the Yu Qi Queen, as if immune to the effects of the Phengodidae's AG, wings seemingly more ornamental, at least aboard the ship. Affects of stasis apparently wearing off. The Mariri plausibly paid no mind to the surroundings, only concerned with the Queen.

"No good," Quasit reported succinctly. "Because of the hylopathism the CC won't recommit. Reinitiation impossible."

Pearl turned sideways, one eye on the Mariri while they ran tactile diagnostics of the Queen with fingers, slowly, methodically, almost as if manually checking epidermis temperature.

"First signs of trouble," she icily instructed Quasit, "I want you to pull the plug. I want the CC and BQSBots to initiate cargo disposal by incineration."

Quasit sighed, visibly perturbed. "That would be a grave mistake, Pearl." He petitioned.. "Not only from a provenance standpoint, but think how much a Yu Qi Queen could be worth."

Pearl's eyebrow raised. "Worth? Not much if goatgouging Yu Qi Warships harass us at every turn!"

Quasit solicited an umbrageous smirk, "As long as they're just harassing and not evaginating us with cannonfire we'd still be in the running for our prize money."

Pearl, deigning a reply, interrupted when the Mariri broke off, away from the Queen. Approached the stasis barrier. Upon closer inspection, the Mariri nearly shimmered in horizontal waves as it moved, as if here and there out of timephase with the Phengodidae. The two separate bodies opened their mouths to speak, voices spectrally pitched in both high and low modulations, wavering in mesial frequencies. "Release us and our Queen. Negotiate our freedom. Immediately."

Pearl faced the Mariri, the amphisbaena tail between the bodies pulsed with a life of its own, as if digesting nutrients or passing placenta. The faces of the Mariri appeared innocently infantile, belying intellect, sagacity.

"We will return you to stasis," Pearl announced resolutely, "You are our cargo and nothing more. You-"

The Mariri interrupted. "We implore you to act for our release. The Queen must be released. Our Queen is dying."

Pearl shot a look at Quasit to check lifesigns within chamber.

The Mariri expressed sadness, seraphic faces etched with sorrow. "We need to attend our Queen. Please."

Quasit tendentiously accounted, "For Yu Qi psychobiology and physiology, her lifesigns are much contrasted. Looking at absolutely no systemic degradation, however, the Queen's vital indicators do show instability, especially in the neuropathways and haematic synapses. My opinion." He cleared his throat, expecting Pearl to interrupt. But she didn't. "The Mariri needs close physical interactions, perhaps in maternal and or paternal capacities."

Pearl continued to stand stalk still. Quasit watched, could see her breast rising, falling, each breath she took. Finally she turned to Quasit minimally, in syncretism, nodded for release.

Instantly the Queen toppled; the Mariri went to her swiftly.

Pearl listened to the blathering from the COM systems, mindless adverts from source of Thenorion, letting her mind wander, trying to drift off to sleep. Try as she might, sleep wouldn't come. Still unable to disengage from Incaeria IV Moon because repairs were incomplete, she eagerly wanted to. A little risky to stay, with such unknown commodities aboard. Quasit's security measures will hold.

Finally giving up, she rose, dressed, wondering if Quasit could sleep. Even he needs to sleep sometime.

She found him still with the Yu Qi Queen and her handmaidens. He thinks they're more precious for his collections.

Quasit sensed Pearl's approach behind her, but his attentions remained focused on the Mariri's ministrations of Queen. She sat next to him on the cargo hold's cold, sterile floor.

"Your monkey's getting lonely," Pearl tamely japed, though seeing such a pensive mood upon Quasit's face, truncated else.

As if speaking from a long chain of thought, Quasit iterated, "No more attempts to communicate. The Mariri are only tending, feeding the Queen through physical contact with buccal cavity. Mentally, she looks like a newborn."

Pearl stood. "I'm going back to sleep. The BQSBots can watch for you. Get back to Chattsworth."

Pearl stretched, yawned. At least once I got to sleep, I got some sleep!

Rising, dressed in standard functional clothing, strapped IZKD to inside thigh. Only then, cocked her head, listening. The hum of the Phengodidae's engine spoke of movement; no more Thenorion service adverts. No wonder I could sleep she thought briefly before squinting with opprobrium, asked the CC ships's heading. Heading Incaeria IV.

Quasit disembarked! While she slept.

Full of fury, she swept from her cabin, stormed to his quarters, demanded entry. Entered to find Quasit placidly serving tea to Chattsworth, the Mariri and the Yu Qi Queen.

Before Pearl got a word out edgewise, Chattsworth motioned for Quasit to pour her a cup of tea likewise. Demurely declined, asking Quasit, "Can I speak with you privately a moment?"

Quasit bowed in adulation to the Queen and her handmaidens before joining Pearl in the hall.

Steam rising from her burgundy hair nearly saporous. "What in Jupiter's cunnus are you doing?"

Quasit answered direct, imperturbably, to diffuse as much as possible. "I left orbit so as not to attract undue attraction from anyone on Thenorion with any plausible reverse loops. Brought them to Chattsworth. You're right, he was lonely."

Pearl stood nearly a full head taller than Quasit, making an imposing figure in nearly ever circumstance, as if sculpted from xurtziteBZ, physique graven musculature, meliorated flesh, blood, nearly purebred human a source of immense pride for her.

She knew Quasit like the back of her hand, and although his actions infuriated her to no end, wasn't entirely unforeseen. She'd trusted him with her life on several occasions, and would do so again in a heartbeat. That being said, she wasn't about to give in.

"I'm the captain," she snarled through gritted teeth, "inform me before changing course."

Quasit nodded.

She continued as if he hadn't. "Inform me before you remove cargo out of the hold for any reason. Sometimes I think there is too much coprolithic torsional metal in your head." Pausing for a moment, she looked at the ductwork of the Phengodidae momentarily, then her eyes darted back downwards to his in alarm. "And change heading from Incaeria IV. We're not going there. Your beardsplitting pansexualistic drive won't take us there!"

Quasit looked genuinely wraw, an accusatory dark brow lifting. "Not my intention, and you know it."

"Not sure what I know while you're having tea with Queens!"

Quasit with aestuous kindle, "One Queen. Just one Queen. And I'm trying to ascertain just what sort of azazel kluge feculence we've stepped in." He pointed a hand in the general direction of his quarters. "The Queen is barely a babe, a newborn. She can't even communicate yet. From what I've learned so far, the Mariri is the only link she has to this existence or any other. The Mariri serves all Yu Qi Queens, from one to the next. But the Mariri's whole existence is serving the Queen, until she is ready to serve her people."

Pearl's head shook.

"But that would mean the Mariri is thousands of years old," surmised Pearl in numinous marvel.

"In thousands of years you'd assume the Mariri would pick up a thing or two about Yu Qi culture. Because we need to understand if that Yu Qi Warship meant to salvage our cargo or obliterate the Phengodidae, because from what I know from legend, the current Yu Qi Queen regime mightn't take too kindly to succession. And just how the fike the Mantidae fits into this equation. I'm hoping the Mariri can clarify."

Pearl sighed. "Let's hope you find out between tea cups."

Pearl brought up the schematics to Olis V on her COM chair's consol, debating with herself.

She'd already changed headings, since it appeared to her Quasit hadn't wanted to interrupt his teetotaling to do it. Beginning with Olis V seemed a safe course of action to pursue in investigating the Mantidae Class ship.

She'd ordered the BQSBots to circumspectly query about the Yu Qi Homeworld, but without clearances, information gathered offered little more insight, and at this point, she didn't want to risk any reverse queries.

Doesn't mean I have to sit and wait for Quasit.

Studying Olis V, approaching.

Half way to Olis V, the Phengodidae passing through ghostly phosphorescence of the Candellion Cluster, Quasit joined Pearl on the bridge.

"You didn't bring me any tea," she quipped, though she desired none.

Quasit shrugged. "Chattsworth drank it all anyway. I left him to watch over our guests." He amended. "Well, the Mariri seems to do a good job of watching over the Queen, anyway. She's sleeping like a newborn."

"Is she a newborn?" Pearl said contumely, yet rhetorically. "And just what has the Mariri divulged to you, academe acquired through the aeons?"

Quasit's expression darkened in a conflicted scowl.

"The Mariri wishes us to return to the Yu Qi Homeworld," Quasit breathed each syllable with adagio. 1 comment

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