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The Star Sailors' Story
Chapter 6
"Look at an infantryman's eyes and you can tell how much war he has seen” - William Henry “ Earth (Human)


Relaxing in the Delos' East Living Pod, Corin was enjoying a snack and some conversation with Ensign Wilkes and the two females the human had been spending a lot of time with in the months since Toulagai. At the moment, Wilkes was being mauled by four kits belonging to the older woman, roughhousing with them in mock battle. Their mother, Eletha, still nursing and therefore assigned to duties in the Delos' main nursery instead of her usual post as a disruptor targeting officer, had long since learned that she could trust the young human and that she genuinely enjoyed his company.

Like Corin, Eletha's mate had been killed during the free-for-all over Toulagai. A Thunderbolt pilot, he had managed to land his blasted ship safely aboard only to succumb to his wounds before his team could even open the damaged cockpit. His gunner still burned incense in his memory every day. Also like Corin, she had yet to find another mate and the two often spent time together talking. Wilkes had become something of a favorite uncle for her kits who had quickly learned that he had no claws, no fur, and a high tolerance for being used as 'prey.'

Shifting his gaze from the ferocious kits to the younger woman, Sooth, Corin wondered what the future held for her and for Wilkes. The pretty young Marine was purring and removing one of Eletha's kits from Wilkes' back while he was 'savagely' mauling two more. The two, or sometimes three, of them often spent their nights together which had led to more than one rumor floating through the crew “ rumors Corin did his best to squelch.

The Dosadi didn't have a body- or sexual-privacy taboo like the humans did. The clothing they wore was for its utility, not for modesty. Soft boots protected the feet, loose trousers provided pockets and a cloak had many uses, from hammock to jacket to tent. But Corin knew that the humans had both taboos; strong ones. So he tried to give Wilkes some privacy in both areas. But that didn't mean he didn't wonder. There had been quite a few jokes and stories spread about Wilkes and Sooth mating and the oddities involved in that coupling, some of which Corin believed, some of which he didn't. But it did lead to questions about whether the two species could successfully breed. It wasn't unheard of for two different races to interbreed but it was unusual. Vulcans and humans were a well-known, if uncommon hybrid and their biochemistries were much more different than humans and Dosadi. He tried not to grin as his imagination provided the image of a hairless pink Dosadi with Wilkes' face.

Eletha's quiet voice interrupted his thoughts, “What's so amusing?”

“Nothing, really. Just letting my mind run free.” He smiled at her. She was pretty enough, he thought, and he enjoyed her company, so why couldn't he seem to spark any serious interest in her as a mate? Perhaps because every time he looked at her, he saw Nollos' smiling face, the delicate black markings across the backs of her ears and...He shook his head to clear the vision and she smiled at him,

“I know. It can be hard, can't it? Like an echo.”

Flicking his ears back and drooping his whiskers he answered “That obvious?”

“Only to one going through the same thing.” She looped her tail across his and nodding towards Wilkes and Sooth asked quietly, “Is that pairing wise?”

Clicking his jaw he chuckled, “I have no idea. What will they do when he returns to the Hood and to his own people?”

“That's a long journey yet, and the gods alone know its end. Let them have their fun while they can.”

“They've surely been doing that.” he rubbed his shoulder against hers.

“My point was that they are living now, not in the past as we are, nor in the future.” she leaned back into him, purring softly.

~~~~~

As the dawn sun broke over the distant low hills that marked the edge of his holdings, Colonel Jons leaned over the balcony railing, watching as the first light crept across his fields. This was his favorite part of the day, a time of quiet and introspection when one felt the closest to God and one could hear His voice through the silence, setting the tone for the day to come.

When the sun was fully up, he turned and went down to breakfast. His wife, Marin, had the children setting the table and preparing the house for the working day to come. Truly there were few joys as great as home and family, he thought to himself. Though the sight of his two newest children provided just a hint of sadness and regret.

They were the biological children of two of his troopers killed over Toulagai. Both men had joined up to better their caste and were without family or patron. He thought back to that place, unimaginably distant from the Sword Worlds, and to that battle many months ago. Trooper Arens' damage control team had responded to a plasma fire caused by a Dosadi phaser hit in the heavy frigate Hydrus' warp drive. With no way to regulate the matter/anti-matter reaction the ship was minutes away from exploding. Without hesitation, Arens had picked up a conduit bridge and charged into the flames, reconnecting the damaged reactor regulation system and saving the ship. He died of his injuries, still holding the conduit bridge in place. His fifteen year-old daughter Sorral and his wife, Beton were now part of Jons' household. Duty demanded that he look after his men in life, and in death.

The same stern charge brought Trooper Tenon's wife and young son to his table. Tenon had been less fortunate “ or more, depending upon your point of view “ than Arens. Tenon's battle station aboard the heavy frigate Horval had taken a direct hit from a Dosadi disruptor bolt, leaving nothing but a ragged hole in the hull.

Marin gave him a kiss as he sat at the head of the table, indicating the family should sit as well. “My lord, how are you this lovely morning?”

“Very well, my wife. But I know that look “ what clever plan are you about?”

She laughed, a musical sound, as she began serving the members of the household at her table. “I can never hide anything from you, can I Seins? And my plan is not so clever, just sensible. As are they all.”

“How well do I know it?” he grinned at her, “Since we were wed, my holdings have more than doubled in size, I've advanced three grades in rank, and our treasury fairly bulges with the results of your skilled handling. My father knew what he was doing when he arranged our match!”

“The best matches advance both partners.” she agreed, “Duty has its demands, but that doesn't mean one cannot have fun nor gain even more rewards for obedience!”

She put her hand on Sorral's shoulder, “As such, I believe I know of a good match for our newest daughter here.” the pretty girl blushed, her bright pink skin turning a deeper red and her mother smiled broadly.

“So soon? She's been with us but half a year!”

“Her skills and charms are obvious to many young men. Lieutenant Sir Chon Tims has been spending quite a lot of time talking with young Sorral here. I think there is much potential for the two of them.”

Jons thought about it. The Lieutenant was young and a bit impetuous. A member of a well-connected artisan-caste family, he was well known for his skill and valor in combat as well as his lack of sense outside of battle. He had been knighted after his first battle but had made little progress since. Sorral, from a peasant class family, had already shown that she had solid good sense and the ability to get people, especially young men, to listen to her. The match would advance her caste beyond her father's wildest dreams and provide the young Lieutenant the grounding he so sorely needed. Further, the alliance between his house and that of the Chon family would add to his influence in the business world.

“As I said, wife, a truly clever plan. I will speak with his father this very day.”

“You are wise, oh Lord.” she teased him.

Grinning back he said more seriously, “I'll need that wisdom. I'm to be posted to the Gorn battlestation at Airdrie for the next couple of months as part of a diplomatic mission.”

By now she knew better than to ask for details. “Will it impact our holdings or dealings?”

The reason for the posting was as a military liaison to the Gorn Confederacy. The Gorn and Hydrans had been stirring up the Avatan's frequent conflicts with the Dosadi and generally doing what they could to make life difficult for the cat people. A few months ago, the Dosadi had lost a major ground battle on the Avatan planet of Corlon. The Marshal responsible for the debacle had been well manipulated by agents of the Gorn Confederacy and had recently defected rather than accept his shame before his own people when the facts became known.

He considered the situation carefully before speaking, “Possibly. Investments in Federation munitions suppliers may be wise.”

“I'll see to it.” she said, reading between the lines. Conflict was possible, but unlikely to spread, so something local and far away. There was the chance for a lot of profit if the margins were played with skill. The future was tricky, but a wise planner could account for likely outcomes.


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