Updating Horizontal Tidebound

 

CHAPTER NINETY-EIGHT: FIRST FIGHT

“... and the Vreced will send vessels to every Alliance star system that the Council chooses,” Jace said to the image of High Councillor Esik Bhilkairs from the Osiris’ bridge.

Khoth stood very upright beside him to his right. Davies was to his left. Both of them were very… stiff. They had been so since the meeting with the Vreced. And when he had revealed what the estik had done.

And could have done.

“I see. The Vreced are to be our protectors while you look for a way to eliminate the Khul,” Esik said, stroking his chin.

“They are. The queen herself has agreed to it,” Jace told him. “I realize that I am not a representative for the Alliance, but–”

“Oh, I retroactively grant you such status,” Esik laughed dryly. “I do not know how your deal will be received by the rest of the Alliance however. The Vreced are often seen as the same as the Khul.”

“But they are not,” Jace found himself saying firmly. He found himself taking umbrage on the Vreced’s behalf.  “They are nothing alike. But if the concern is that of allowing the Vreced free access to Alliance space then I have an answer for that.”

Esik’s eyebrows rose. “Which is?”

“They could come regardless of what you wanted. I’ve analyzed some of their vessels, but the Osiris assures me that in your weakened state, the Vreced could have attacked and overcome the Alliance long ago,” Jace answered.

There was a long pause. “I see. That is disturbing. But it is better to know the truth of our situation than to continue on in the dark. Nova Voor has agreed to take over High Commander Staed’s position while he recuperates. She will interface with the Vreced.”

“There will be an Emissary that will be assigned to the Alliance as there is one on the Osiris,” Jace answered.

His Emissary was another female Vreced, which shocked him as he had assumed that everyone other than the queens of the hives would be males or have no gender. But she was currently in her room that the Osiris had produced for her, making changes to it.  She looked like a xenomorph, too, but without the missing attachment for an egg sac. Jace realized that the data banks had only ever had information on male Vreced and not the female of the species.

“I see. So the hive mind is true,” Esik stated.

“That is correct. Whatever you say to the Emissary will be as if you are speaking to the queen and vice versa,” he said.

That wasn’t exactly true. He had spoken directly with the queen, mind to mind, but now they would need to use their comms’ universal communicators to get across their meaning to the Emissaries who would pass that onto the queen. And then, of course, the reverse would have to occur to hear her response. Though Jace was still a little shocky at the knowledge that the queen could have enslaved him if she’d wanted to.

I would have destroyed her if she had, the Osiris interrupted softly.

I know, Osiris. It was a great risk I took–

Foolish.

And the Osiris stopped talking to him again. Jace sighed and he knew that his shoulder slumped a little. He tried to square them once more and focused on the High Councillor.

“While I am seeking answers to the problem of the Khul, High Councillor, I will also be sending on locations of raw mineral deposits as well as tech caches to be used to restore the planetary defense systems. Justiciars Typhon and Thadden Moturin will be in charge of relaying that information to the appropriate parties and having it sent to the locations that need it most.”

Khoth did not move when Jace called his father “Moturin” rather than “Voor”. That was Thadden’s name now. He supposed it was Khoth’s, too. But Khoth had made no proclamation that he was a Moturin, nor gone through the renaming ceremony, which Gehenna told him was customary. Jace wondered if it was because there was no time–they wished to reach the shipyard where the Osiris was built and speak to Dr. Kantor Lafrei–or if he was delaying making any decision about being a Moturin. 

He would have asked Khoth this over their bond, but Khoth wasn’t speaking to him at that moment. The bond was locked down so tight.  What he’d told Khoth and the others about the power of the estik, they had been shocked at what could have happened if the queen had not been honorable. She could have taken his mind over. And now he was getting the cold shoulder from everyone, because he had done something so risky. So potentially foolish.

That it worked out doesn’t make them happier about it. I know they all think this will just encourage me to take more risks.

And were they right?

He had to take risks. This job as Pilot was all about that. But had he taken on a foolish one because of his disappointment over losing the Stil made him more reckless than he should have been? Part of him thought that was true.

“It is exciting to think we shall see the cities once again humming along as they did under the Altaeth,” Esik told him with a benevolent smile. 

“Yes, the next time we see Haseon, I expect things to be much changed for the better,” Jace told him.

“I thought you would like to know that we have opened a human embassy. Your mother and General Intoshkin are settling in,” Esik told him.

Jace smiled. “I’m glad. They are both very intelligent individuals with a lot to offer the Alliance.”

“I see much of your mother in you, Pilot. I am looking forward to getting to know her better. She dines with me tonight,” Esik told him.

Jace nodded. “Thank you, High Councillor. We will be in touch.”

“Of course, Pilot.” Esik inclined his head and the screen winked out. 

“Osiris, please enter the gate to start our journey to Thausia,” Jace instructed out loud, though he need not have done that at all as the Osiris knew his plans. But it let the others on the bridge know that they were going to enter the gate.

Jace turned around to face both Khoth and Davies. But both men were already moving away from him. Davies was speaking to Matzen by the door out of the bridge. Khoth walked over to Dai Suzuki who was speaking to Bob and Chal in engineering. Jace wandered over to them. Dai gave him a bright smile, but Khoth didn’t look at him. Jace drew in a deep, steadying breath.

“Hello, Pilot. Quite an exciting day!” Dai chuckled.

“It has been, Dai, though I’m hoping for a more relaxing go of things for awhile.” Jace glanced towards Khoth was studiously looking down at a readout. The bond between them was firmly shut. He forced himself to turn back to Dai and not allow his disappointment to show. “How are things with your new shipmates?”

“I’ve been released from time out!” Chal called gaily over the vid. His scaly face looked completely unrepentant for being put into time out in the first place. 

“Let me guess, you started taking things apart in the time out room?” Jace couldn’t help but let his lips twitch into a smile.

“No, though I did try. No, see I realized that the Osiris is a shy, wee beastie and so I offered to take my own clothes off so that it could see me naked and, therefore, we’d be at an even intimacy,” Chal explained.

Bob–who was also in the image–had his mouth twitching too, even though he was pretending not to listen to this exchange.

“And that did it? A threat–I mean offer to be naked, too, made the Osiris forgive you?” Jace asked, knowing that couldn’t be it.

“Ah, no, the Osiris claimed it cared not as we all have to dress and undress ourselves in the confines of the ship regardless. So it claimed there was no added intimacy between us there,” Chal answered.

“So how did this all work out?” Jace’s right eyebrow lifted.

“I explained that it’s all about intent.” Chal lifted a scaly finger up into the air. “I was undressing for the Osiris. It was my intent for us to be intimate and the Osiris’ intent to accept such intimacy.”

“I think I know why you were let out. You promised not to take your clothes off with that intent ever again?” Jace really would have been laughing out loud if Khoth wasn’t giving him the cold shoulder.

Okay, so he had done something incredibly risky! Okay, so he had kept doing it even when he realized what was happening! And okay, he said he’d do it again considering the result! Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  But somehow that had made things worse between himself and everybody.

“Indeed! So now I am allowed to remove some covers, but not others. We will have to negotiate the rest,” Chal told him.

 “You’re doing brilliantly, Chal!” Jace chuckled.

“Well, you’ve given me access to the prettiest ship in the universe!” Chal guffawed.

Must he behave as if we are in a sexual relationship? Does he not understand he is to serve me, and nothing more?! The Osiris harrumphed.

I thought you weren’t talking to me. But if you are–

The Osiris cut him off.

Okay, guess you’re still not talking to me.

“Keep up the good work,” Jace said. He turned to Khoth. “What are you doing? Anything I can help with?”

“No, Pilot. I do not need your assistance,” Khoth responded with Thaf’ell coolness.

“Well, are you sure? Because I can normally speed things–”

“No, Pilot. I believe I wish to do this… alone.” Khoth turned away from him.

Jace sighed. Dai gave him a sympathetic look.

“Getting the Vreced on our side was amazing,” Dai said. “Them agreeing to protect the Alliance while we run point on finding a way to destroy the Khul? Even more amazing.”

“But? I assume you know what happened? Or what could have happened? But didn’t! I think it’s important that we discuss how it didn’t happen!” Jace grimaced. “Sorry, Dai, I’m a little sensitive about this.”

Dai’s smile crinkled his eyes. “No worries, Pilot. I’m sure they’ll get over it soon.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Jace said as he watched Khoth’s retreating back. He went over to Davies and Matzen by the door. “So, guys, what are you up to?”

“We’re going to go shoot things.” Davies smiled at him tightly.

“We are?” Matzen frowned.

“We are, Matzen.” Davies gave him a firm look.

“You guys don’t want company? No, no, you don’t,” Jace said.

Davies and Matzen headed out. Jace stood there and looked around the bridge. No one needed him. They would be in one gate then another for two days. Jace had only risked a few burst communications to Dr. Lafrei, but he’d kept them cryptic just in case someone else intercepted them. So they were running in the dark with no one knowing the better where they were or where they were going. There was a strange coziness in that. 

If people weren’t mad at me. But they’re made because they love me. But still, I’d like them to talk to me.

Gehenna was still talking to him, but she was in the midst of creating a pettable form. He could hear her singing to herself, Pettable form! Pettable form! I’m going to have the best pettable form!

Not wanting to distract her, he decided to go see Thammah. She was still talking to him as well. And maybe she would share some more junk food with him. With a final look at Khoth’s rigid back, Jace left the bridge. He knew that continuing to try to engage Khoth was the wrong move. He needed to give his beloved space. Though how much space? And how long? Already, his heart ached. But he had dug this hole. He had made the decision to take the estik. He’d ignored everyone else’s concerns, fears and judgments. And it could have been bad.  

You deserve whatever time you want, Khoth. I love you. I hope you can forgive me.

He headed to the hangar bay. He found Thammah, his father and Endin altogether. His steps slowed when he saw his dad. Jack hadn’t exactly been happy with him either. But his father immediately opened his arms for him and Jace raced to him. He got the best father-hug ever. Jack squeezed him and even lifted him off the ground an inch.

“Ugh, you are truly too big for this now. All muscle,” his father said.

Jace laughed. “I still like it.”

“I’m glad, son.” Jack swept a hand over Jace’s hair, ruffling it.

Jace ducked. “Dad!”

“How are you feeling? We’re on our way again. That feels good to me,” Jack said as he sat down on one of the crates that had been brought on with special materials for their new crew. A few were arranged around the open back of Thammah’s ship.  Jack patted a crate beside him. 

Jace took a seat. “Well… at least you’re talking to me.”

“Jack isn’t a hypocrite, Jace,” Thammah said as she exited her ship with two cold, glass Cokes.

“Oh, you goddess!” Jace reached for one then looked at his father. “Was this for you?”

“Your mother would kill me if I drank all that sugar.” His father crossed his arms over his very fit chest and grinned.

Jace took the perspiring, cold bottle of coke and clinked his bottle with hers before he took a seat on the box next to his father. Endin was perched on a third, his gray eyes sliding between all of their faces, trying to understand what was going on here. His kind did not show emotion, though he felt it. He had wanted to understand the human side of himself, Jace recalled. Now he would start that endeavor.

“What do you mean my father would have to be a hypocrite not to forgive me?” Jace asked Thammah.

She laid down on the gangway, her head pillowed on a flightsuit while she drank her Coke with relish. “C’mon, you must know. He’s a pilot just like me. Everyday we put our lives on the line. We make split second decisions. We go with our gut. And one of those days–”

“We’ll make a mistake that will end our lives,” his father finished. 

“The thing with the Vreced… I had to do it,” Jace said.

“Oh, we agree with you,” Thammah said.

“It’s just hard when it’s someone you love doing it. I always guessed it was harder on your mom than on me when I undertook a dangerous mission, flew a new aircraft–or spacecraft–to its limits. But I really understood it today. And, I think, I’m going to understand it more and more as we go forward.”

“Risking myself is easier than risking all of you,” Jace told him.

His father smiled and nodded. “It always is. And somehow I need to not stand in your way or affect your thinking. Because you have to make these decisions, Jace. Again and again. I can’t have you fearing my reaction.”

“But you’re allowed to have them! And maybe I should be thinking about that,” Jace admitted as he sucked on the top of the Coke bottle.

“Emotions cloud the mind,” Endin said. “They add a level of complexity to all decisions that should not be there.”

“He’s probably right.” Thammah slid a hand under her head and crossed her legs at the ankles. 

“But they make things so much better, Endin,” his father said.

“Better? How? The Pilot seems unsettled and uncertain of his course, because of not just his emotions, but yours,” Endin pointed out as he tossed his long, white mane of hair over one shoulder. 

“Bad emotions allow us to truly enjoy the good ones,” Jace said. “But they also allow us to understand others. It’s how I decided to bring you on board, Endin.”

“But my skills surely helped your decision,” Endin pointed out.

“He hasn’t seen your skills, Endin,” his father said. “He only knows what your people are generally capable of.  And I highly doubt that assassination is something my son will have much use for.”

“I am good at killing in all ways,” Endin assured them.

“That’s comforting, I guess?” Jace shook his head. “My father’s right. I didn’t bring you on board to kill people. Not even the Khul, though there will be a bit of that.”

“Is killing the Khul not your goal?” Endin asked, tilting his head to the side.

“No, it’s a means to an end,” Jace said. “I know that the Alliance was created to fight the Khul. Safety in numbers. But what if it was for something else?”

“Such as?” Endin asked.

“Ah, you’re going to do the Star Trek thing, aren’t you?” His father grinned at him.

“Damned straight. It’s a brilliant idea and it could work.” Jace grinned back. He turned to Endin. “An Alliance of species that are dedicated to peace and exploration. Of truly knowing the universe and helping others.”

“That seems an unlikely thing to exist,” Endin answered.

Jace laughed and tipped back his head. “Yeah, you’re probably right. It probably would have loads of problems. But my dad and I come from a place that has loads of problems, but is always trying to make a more perfect union. And there’s something special about that.”

“Meaning that even though it is imperfect and potentially bound to fail to still attempt it?” Endin’s eyebrows were rising.

Jace didn’t know if he was losing or gaining respect for him with every word.

“Yep, just because it’s hard, just because it might fail, doesn’t mean we mustn’t try. If the end goal is good enough, worthy enough, we must not stop trying,” Jace told him.  

“So your goal is this and the Khul are just—”

“Standing in my way. When people are scared they can’t see the future. They just want to be safe. They can’t dream big. Their dreams get smaller and smaller,” Jace said, thinking of his own life as he sought simply to hide from the pain.

“You pointed out to my people that there would be plenty of contracts for them. Plenty of unrest. Did you not think that?” Endin asked.

“I did. There will be that. But not everyone will be like that,” Jace said. “And if there are strong leaders for those people to turn to, that will make the difference.”

“Like yourself?” Endin asked.  His eyes were fixed upon Jace. 

He thought of the Osiris’ words about him re-establishing the Altaeth Empire. He supposed if anyone had the right to bring the Seeded Species together it would be the last Altaeth. 

“Some might wish me to. But, for right now, I am content to be the Pilot,” Jace said. “Can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

“Completely, because who knows if we’ll even survive our fight with the Khul, though your risk in getting the Vreced on our side was truly glorious,” Thammah said.

“That’s why it was worth the risk,” Jace said quietly.

But I understand how hard it would have been to watch. And not be able to do anything, Khoth.

There was a slight chink of light between their minds that suddenly opened wide. 

“Ah, it looks like someone is done being angry with you, Jace,” his father said.

Jace looked over to the entrance to the hangar bay and there was Khoth. He put down his empty Coke bottle and started walking to his beloved mate, he was running halfway there, and then Khoth was running. Khoth picked him up and held him. He buried his face in between the neck and shoulder of his Thaf’ell soldier.

I’m so sorry, Khoth! Truly, I know I put you through Hell–

No, Izail, I understood what you had to do. But my Xi and Xa were so out of balance afterwards and I did not want that to affect you! Khoth told him. The hard decisions you have to make… I did not want to add to their weight.

Affect me? Oh, Khoth, I can’t do this without you. And I understand why you’re angry–

I was not angry. Not with you. But with myself, Khoth said. You must do things that are hard and dangerous. I must not let my fear cloud that for you. And if there are things that I can do instead of you, I will–I must–do them.

Your love for me is what keeps me going. It’s what allows me to do those things, Jace told him. But I might have been acting a little… foolishly too. It worked out, but not because I had a plan.

You took a leap of faith.

I did, but I don’t know… It ended up being right, but I’ve got to think about this.

I am your sounding board, Izail. Whatever I can do, tell me and I will do it.

Just be here. Be with me. Don’t shut me out. Even if your Xi and Xa are screaming at me. Just… just let them shout. I can take it, Jace assured him.

I will.

They kissed over and over again. Finally, they rested their foreheads together.

Does this count as our first fight? Jace asked.

Let us not have another, Khoth said.

Agreed.

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  • Must he behave as if we are in a sexual relationship? Does he not understand he is to serve me, and nothing more?! The Osiris harrumphed.

    I laughed really hard because my brain did it's little peanut gallery thing that is like second nature me. I read this and it went "Oh, Osiris. I didn't realize you were a pillow princess."

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  • In reply to: KyuuVi

    ROFL! OMG! LOL!

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  • Khoth last name should be Parker. Just saying!!!
    If they have a few days of quiet, maybe they can finally come up with something to replace the selchilite?
    You also promised us a dance once we'd have the whole crew, I'm looking forward to that! Not sure if you were planning it to happen soon or for the end of the story...

    Looking forward to seeing Jace and Khoth having some cute, quiet (and sexy!) time together <3

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  • In reply to: keith

    If they have a few days of quiet, maybe they can finally come up with something to replace the selchilite?
    We do need to do that.

    You also promised us a dance once we'd have the whole crew, I'm looking forward to that! Not sure if you were planning it to happen soon or for the end of the story...
    I haven't forgotten!

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  • In reply to: keith

    also, i love the engineering team they're the best!!!

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  • I love Carl. I wonder what would happen if Chal started paying attention to someone or something other than the in the same manner he did the oasis how would the Oasis react? don't know why but I always picture Chal as looking like that frog from Starfox.

    Earth can't be the only planet with junk food. I could see Jace making it a personal side mission to try all the alien junk food .

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  • In reply to: MimikyuMimic

    I wonder what would happen if Chal started paying attention to someone or something other than the in the same manner he did the oasis how would the Oasis react?
    The Osiris might be a little jealous. A lot jealous. Potentially. LOL!

    Earth can't be the only planet with junk food. I could see Jace making it a personal side mission to try all the alien junk food .
    Next chapter is a little bit about that. A little bit.

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  • I'm so glad the fight didn't last long!!! I don't like to see Jace so torn!!!!

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  • In reply to: smint45

    I can't stand them fighting either. And it wasn't a fight. Just hurt and scared feelings.

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  • That was cute, how they made up. I hope they don’t fight again either. I could feel my chest tightening for Jace when everyone was ignoring him.

    Jace didn’t know if he was losing or gaining respect for him with every word.

    I was definitely gaining respect. I hope Endin finds a home with them on the Osiris.
    Must he behave as if we are in a sexual relationship? Does he not understand he is to serve me, and nothing more?! The Osiris harrumphed.

    I love it when the Osiris shows emotion and complains. : ) its adorable.

    Its good to see that the alliance is starting to accept the Vecreed.

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