Lecturing Ryan

Her clouding disposition helped prepare her to confront Ryan. She chose a stern two-piece black Datha uniform with a high collar, long sleeves, and leather boots running up her calves. Around the pants Mikial clipped a silver chain holding flowing black side panels. Red cuneiforms were embroidered into the skirts, each depicting battles from the first one leading up to the Minneran War up to a brutal fight when she freed two Me’Aukin leaders from under human noses on a distant world. It was there were she experienced first hand the ugly truth of how unprepared her kind was against the kind of power void-traveling races were capable of.

Still combing her hair back, Mikial left her private quarters to meet Nenya in the foyer leading downstairs to the reception room. The Dathia opened a black lacquered case and drew out a wide belt – red, blue, brown, and yellow bands bordered within a white stripe.

“A Suria serves,” Nenya intoned, wrapping the belt around Mikial’s waist.

“Is he downstairs?”

Nenya nodded. “In the public area where the other Datha can glare at him. The female gave Mikial a critical going over from head to foot. “I think he’ll be suitably intimidated. I could get you a brace of pistols if you’d like.”

Mikial allowed a moment’s humor to tug at her lips. “Not necessary, Nenya. I’ll be sorely tempted as is to claw his pasty little face off.”

She walked down to the private half of the tower’s reception area, a comfortable lounge with russet carpets and walls stuffed with more books then she would ever read in a lifetime. Besides upholstered chairs, there was an impressively massive ironwood desk for times like this. Hoping the meeting would not end as grimly as she intended starting it, Mikial walked over to a window overlooking the ocean and switched on the glow stones of a large black murr pot that took two Datha to carry in. She glanced at the big leather chair behind the desk, then thought better of it. Her objective was to instill some sense in Ryan, not finish alienating him. Mikial followed Nenya out into the public reception area.

There were no visitors this early, but there was plenty of occupants just the same. Most came to see the Sword of Tassomon, carried by the Great Tasur until his death, and then bequeathed to her. Made from a single forged crystal of shimmering tensa, it hung against red velvet on the back wall. Two huge Datha, wearing archaic tensa scale mail, stood guard to either side. They were from the Tassomon Order, the elite organization within the Datha sect who were her most ardent supporters these days. She had only worn the Sword once, when she had stood before the rulers of all eight Holdings and berated them for not acknowledging her. Since that drama-filled day, Mikial had never put the sword back on. Its legacy was far too heavy a burden.

The Sword was her backdrop when Ryan was pulled forward in the less than tender arms of two Dathia whose expressions were as impassive as a drawn blade. The human looked a mess. He still wore the brown one-piece maintenance outfit, now barely dry and smelling of brine. The human’s tossed and now stiffened brown hair only added to the roguish character Mikial knew waited behind those sullen brown eyes. The Surian Guard released him at her nod. Wordlessly, Mikial turned and beckoned him through the doors to her private area. Only then did she whirl around so fast as to make him wince. “Do you want to be placed in one of those stasis tubes along with your crew? Is that what you intend, because I am this far from obliging you!”

There was no apology in his face. “Free them.”

“And I keep telling you that I can’t. Not as long as this Holding’s Tasur and Tasuria see them as a bargaining chip to control me with. So what were you planning? Fly to Tessana Holding and plead with the Me’Aukins? They despise your kind, Ryan. Earth and Corven are fighting over their world like two scavengers, and the only way your government can win is by tossing Corven’s forces off Me’Auk with our help and giving the clans back their planet.”

“And sharing it like they did before?” Ryan sarcastically added. “Let me see, they killed how many thousands of our colonists before running off?”

“That was four centuries ago, and your kind asked for it by sending too many settlers and following up with warships. Helping the clans, and us, is the kind of reconciling gesture that wins you the admiration of two civilizations.”

“Then show me some of that reconciliation. Free my people. Get those Me’Aukin bastards who ambushed us to give a formal apology. Or is that too much for a Great Suria?” Shaking his head, Ryan walked over and helped himself to a mug hanging from her murr pot. “Maybe we both should’ve been aboard that aircraft.”

“I was supposed to be aboard it tomorrow, and heading in the same direction,” she retorted, leaning back against the desk. “Speaking of showing respect, you are expected to stand there while I chew on your ears, not running over and grabbing yourself a cup of murr.”

“You want one?”

“Yes,” she admitted. The trouble with Ryan was that he and her went too far back. During the Minneran War he had saved her life…twice. The second time had been in exchange for his crew being allowed to leave Dessa. He had been behind the weapons supplied to the Servants of Minnera. By all rights he deserved to die, just as he deserved imprisonment now. Unfortunately, Ryan was both likable and too often right. She had the power to free his people…but only by turning her back on her own kind. Tasuria Hiah had made the choice clear enough.

Ryan handed her a drink, his voice lowering. “So, they sending another aircraft?”

Her eyes widened at what he suggested. Not that he suggested it, but that she suddenly considered the possibility. “Sneaking you out would be like publicly slapping Kinset’s Tasuria in the face. Ryan, you have no idea how difficult my position here is.” I just need to present you as my gift to Earth, and Kinset loses any leverage to stop me from going to Kioranna. Why did you have to think of this before I did? “That said, I was already planning to take you before today’s stunt. If the Me’Aukins ask for their prisoners back, the Tasur and Tasuria will have no choice but to agree. As much as the clans dislike your kind, they will listen to me and free your people.”

“You could’ve told me and spared us both a swim,” he replied, swallowing her lie along with the murr.

“You could’ve learned to read a battery gauge correctly.”