Reviews for Discovery Hybrid #1
Emma Jaye’s first installment of the Hybrid series is wonderfully inventive, with the right blend of dysfunctional distant future society, intrigue, adventure and sex. I definitely like sexy sci-fi.
A pounding on the door of her quarters pulled Chesara out of a deep sleep. Grabbing a robe, she ran to the door, palming the panel as she tried to push at least some of her long dark hair out of her eyes. She found a wide-eyed young female ensign, panting as if she’d been running, almost bobbing up and down in distress outside the door. Ensign Took wasn’t one of her favourite people, but this was obviously a ‘business’ visit not a social one.
“Madam Envoy, please come quickly. We need you in the med bay. There’s been an accident in the shuttle bay.”
Nodding, she quickly shut the door, ran the few feet back to her bedroom and grabbed a set of clothes from her closet. Putting on the regulation deep red leggings, white shirt, and black slip on shoes in record time, she headed out the door. She could shower and attempt to tame her wild mass of black hair later.
The crew was already aware of her unusual appearance, her deep green eyes with vertical pupils, and the dark spotting down the sides of her face, neck and arms. People had always stared at her, but getting to the casualty was far more important.
The ensign had waited for her, and together they ran to the transport tube to make the journey to the med bay two levels down from the VIP quarters. Putting on her professional hat, Chesara asked for details of the case as they waited in the transport tube. The pretty blonde ensign fidgeted and looked close to tears. Chesara gently held her shoulders, turning her so she could look into her eyes. She didn’t have time to coddle this woman, besides, she didn’t like her.
“Don’t worry, you know I can fix almost anything, just tell me what the injuries are, so I can begin immediately.”
Ensign Took looked about as guilty as she deserved to be. The pretty blonde went out of her way to be unhelpful when they’d both been working in the med bay, plus she bitched about ‘that cat’ with her friends, whenever Chesara walked past. It was a good job that Connor was always hovering otherwise Chesara would have probably decked her.
“Plasma burns, Miss Chesara. Really bad plasma burns all across his right side, you can see his ribs, the actual bone. It’s all black and bloody, he… he…”
The injured man must be more than just another patient to the normally bitchy nurse. Trying to sound confident and calm, Chesara tried to reassure her. The last thing she needed in an emergency situation was a hysterical girlfriend or relative. Chesara told herself off sternly for feeling a wicked sense of satisfaction at the nose dive the ensign’s pride must have taken for her to have to call on her usual ‘victim’ for help.
Turning her attention back to Took, she gritted her teeth and told herself to be professional.
“Remember your training; you’ll be a lot more help if you’re calm. I need you to talk to him, keep him relaxed. Take a few deep breaths, and do your job ensign.” As she finished the pep talk, the door of the transport tube whooshed open, and they ran to the med bay.
The usual calm atmosphere was currently a hive of activity, centred in a room at the back of the reception area. The Federation Cruiser Apollo had a crew complement of around eight hundred and the med bay dealt with both routine medical and dental care and emergencies. It was equipped with surgical, hospitalization and isolation facilities, and could quickly be adapted for multiple casualties.
Chesara forgot about Ensign Took when she entered the trauma room. The smell of seared human flesh and the animalistic sounds of severe pain filled the recycled air. Hopefully, the filters would at least remove the distracting smell sooner rather than later because she could certainly help with the pain.
Going into ‘healer mode’ she shut the sounds and smells of the injured man out as she pushed through the throng rushing to get monitoring equipment hooked up to the patient.
The thrashing, blackened body on the table had very little resemblance to the suave ladies’ man Chesara had seen countless times but had never met. Lieutenant Dagus had been tall, good looking, with a cheeky smile, and had women falling at his feet to get his attention. This wasn’t Dagus anymore. This was a body in pain and shock, and it was one she could help.
The medical team noticed her arrival, and moved quickly aside. Chesara placed a hand on his forehead as he twisted and groaned in pain. Closing her eyes, she shut out the world. Taking a deep breath to centre herself, she focused down through her hand to find the pain centre in his brain. Swiftly dampening down the receptors, she gave herself a window to work without shock killing her patient before she had a chance to help him. As his body relaxed, his eyes opened. He gazed at her in amazement, and she smiled gently at him.
“Hi. The things people do to get my attention. Don’t worry, I’ll have you back entertaining the ladies as soon as possible. We can’t have the morale of half the crew taking a dive now, can we lieutenant?”
As he managed a faint answering smile, she continued, “Dagus, you need to listen. This might feel a little odd, but it won’t hurt, not one bit, but I need you to stay still. Understand?” He nodded slightly, eyes fixed on her face.
“All I’ll be doing is speeding up your body’s natural healing processes, but the Doc will be putting up a couple of saline and glucose drips just to make sure your body has enough energy to heal itself, ok?”
Repeating the reassuring smile, she turned to the Chief Medical Officer who’d taken over from the junior Doctor who had been on duty when the accident occurred. Perhaps it should faze her that she was ordering one of the highest-ranking officers on the vessel around, but she knew what needed doing and in this respect they deferred to her.
“Doctor, can we have saline and glucose set up ASAP, and a screen, so Ensign Took can gaze at Dagus lovingly without being distracted by how she’s going to get his uniform clean?”
As her instructions were carried out, she turned her attention to the wounds. The entire right ride of his torso was terribly burned. Took had been right, his ribs were visible in one area, but she didn’t see any organs. Although hideous, the wounds weren’t beyond her abilities to heal. After her visual inspection, she turned to a nurse who disinfected her hands with a small device.
“Right then people; let’s get these clothes to the laundry. I promise I won’t look Dagus.” She closed her eyes, running through the stages in the healing process, whilst the patient was prepared. She could hear Took and Dagus talking quietly, so she was confident she’d successfully dealt with his pain. Placing her now sterile hands over the deepest wound, near where his right nipple had been, she concentrated, narrowing her perceptions down to the minute level of human tissue, before starting the long process of repair and infection control.
She moved quickly, scar tissue formation wasn’t an issue at this stage, she just wanted the wounds sealed. Dehydration, shock and poisoning from the toxins released into the blood stream by the damaged tissue were the biggest killers with burns. Once the wounds were sealed, she helped his liver deal with the poisons. The liver took a lot of her own energy, as his body didn’t have enough of its own to use. Beautifying him again could happen when she had time.
A hand on her arm broke her concentration, and she briefly struggled to refocus her attention from deep within his liver, to the man standing next to her. As it was, she felt her neck crack as she craned upwards to see his face. Why the hell did he have to be so bloody tall? It wasn’t natural.
“What d’you want, Connor? I’m a little busy in case you haven’t noticed.”
The handsome face of her long-term friend and official bodyguard/assistant swam into focus. He wore his normal concerned look and that strand of dark hair was threatening to dangle into his brown eyes again.
“You need to rest, he’s stable now.” Connor’s quick glance at the Doctor had him nodding his agreement. “Plus you need to get ready for your assignment; we’re expected to leave for the surface in a few hours.”
Chesara checked her patient, who was now peacefully sleeping. She didn’t care what Connor said, her attention was always on the person she was treating, and she’d never leave anyone whose life was in danger. Although the wounds were still raw, because she hadn’t had time to regenerate the upper skin levels yet, it looked healthy.
A glance up at the clock showed that several hours had passed. She’d missed both breakfast and lunch. Her head decided that moment was the right time to start throbbing.
“Ok, ok, I’m coming; I’ll have to do more on him in the next few days to prevent scarring. I wouldn’t want to deprive Ensign Took of that magnificent torso.”
She sent a weary smile in the direction of a pathetically grateful Took who was still tightly holding onto Dagus’ hand.
“Miss Chesara? I’m so sorry for everything I’ve said, I-”
Chesara held up a hand, stopping her apology in mid flow. “Don’t worry about it. I’m the same person I was yesterday and the day before. I’ve still got funny eyes and weird skin, and I really don’t care what-”
Connor towed her swiftly out of the med bay by the hand before she could say anything else. “That was a little bitchy, even for you Kittycat.”
She huffed. “Well that empty headed blonde has been whispering behind my back since I came on board. She thinks I can’t hear her, but I can, and it’s time she got some back.”
“Dagus nearly dying was not the time Chesara.” Connor lectured as he kept his face resolutely on the monotonous beige corridor ahead of them.
Sticking her tongue out at the chiselled jaw and the ‘oh so moral’ expression on his handsome face seemed like a good idea, but as she was small enough to tuck her head under his armpit, the effect would be less than satisfactory. Neither of them noticed they were still holding hands.
“He wasn’t dying,” she grumbled.
Connor just raised his eyebrow slightly, as he carried on walking.
“Well, yeah, maybe he was, but I was there, so there was nothing for anyone to get their knickers in a twist about.”
He didn’t reply, so she decided to say something that’d get him talking. His ‘strong, silent’ routine was so boring.
“How long is this assignment going to be?” she asked.
“A day or so, just a quick fertility issue and a meet and greet thing.”
God that sounded boring. Maybe a little whining would get her out of the meet and greet. She hated being on display like some prize pooch. There were always awkward questions she had to fend off about her eyes, her skin, her ability.
“I’m really knackered after that healing. Are you sure we’ve got to go on this stupid assignment today? Can’t we just pop down in the morning and sort out the fertility issue, then come home? Please?” She turned pleading eyes on him as they got in the transport tube.
He took her other hand in his, but at least he looked genuinely sympathetic. “I’m afraid not, Kittycat. This is why we’ve been travelling for the last three weeks. The Kalzirian Chancellor is already waiting to come up. There’ll be a delay as your patient was the shuttle pilot, but I can’t stall him forever.”
“I’m tired Connor,” she whined. “I haven’t even eaten or showered today. Why do we always pander to these idiots? I’m crap at the meet and greet stuff anyway. I always muck it up. Can’t the Captain do it? They’ll be impressed by all that shiny gold braid.”
She knew she was behaving like a spoiled brat, but she’d just saved someone’s life. Surely, she deserved a little consideration? As usual, Connor didn’t seem to be impressed by her behaviour. The conversation continued as they exited the tube and walked back towards her quarters.
“Tell you what, I’ll go and apologize to the stuffy planetary dignitary while you have a few hours rest, get washed and changed into your ‘officials.’ But we have to go before planetary night falls. They’ve got some kind of reception planned.”
He grinned as she let out a heartfelt groan, leaning into his side. It seemed an appropriate moment to try out one of her newest expletives.
“Klootzak?” he asked with a raised eyebrow after she growled it out.
“Testicles in Dutch,” she replied with a grin.
“I’ll be having words with our new crewman, Ensign Janssen,” Conner said, but his ‘annoyed’ tone wasn’t convincing.
Her hobby of collecting swear words from anyone and everyone she came across had been a game between them for years. Connor pretended that he didn’t like it, and tried to intercept any possible sources of new expletives before she got to them. He was never particularly successful and she had a sneaking suspicion that he didn’t mind as much as he pretended.
So far, she could swear in several old Terran languages as well as colloquial ones picked up from the various colony planets they’d visited. She wondered how many she’d discover on Kalzir. Even if Connor watched her closely, which he always did, she always managed it somehow.
“Don’t bother,” she said with satisfaction as Connor rolled his eyes, “he spilled his guts within two days of coming aboard.”
“And where did you meet him for that? Seeing as you’re not meant to go anywhere without security?”
She briefly considered lying, but Connor was a bit of an obsessive bloodhound. If she lied, he’d just look at the ship’s security tapes till he found out anyway. If he did that, he’d get tired and even more grumpy than normal. So she shrugged and told the truth.
“He came in for his physical.” She punched Connor’s arm gently as she grinned up at him. “Don’t worry Dad, the receptionist was there so he didn’t ravish me,” she said as she fluttered her eyelashes.
His frown said he wasn’t amused, not that she’d expected him to be.
“Don’t make light of it Chesara. We don’t know what you becoming sexually active would do to your ability.”
As always, she couldn’t help needling him. “And we also don’t know if the ability can be inherited. Just think, if we spend the afternoon in my quarters, in nine months’ time, we could have another little ‘healer’ to help out.” She bumped her shoulder into his side playfully. “Come on Connor, what do you say?”
Suddenly she was pushed up against the wall, and Connor’s expression changed from his two customary expressions. He was no longer amused, or stoic, he was bloody angry.
“Don’t tease people like that, me or anyone else. You have no idea what the real world is like Chesara.” It looked as if he was about to say more, but he abruptly stepped back, grasped her upper arm and almost frog marched her to her quarters.
He pressed his thumb to the panel, and almost thrust her inside the VIP section.
“Don’t leave until I get back,” he barked before striding off.
Her status as a ‘Special Envoy’ warranted the fancy accommodation, but she felt out of place amongst the plush, luxurious and colourful furnishings. It was so unlike the utilitarian, functional red, beige, and black decor of the rest of the ship. Being separated from the rest of the crew didn’t endear her to some of them, Ensign Took being a prime example. It wasn’t her choice, but the ‘powers that be’ kept insisting her isolation was necessary for security. It’d been that way her whole life.
Now that she’d seen how ‘ordinary’ people interacted with each other socially on a daily basis, it made it even more obvious how isolated and lonely she’d been as a child, and was even more now. Connor did his best to keep her occupied, but he also kept her closeted away from others. It was his job to protect her, but sometimes he felt more like a jailer.
Collecting swear words combated the mistrust of some of the people she came across, She thought it probably made her appear a little more human and approachable. She’d spent a considerable amount of time yesterday persuading Ensign Janssen to part with some choice phrases from the language of his grandparents.
After she’d palmed the entry pad to her own quarters and dragged her sorry carcass inside, she noticed the report sitting belligerently on her desk. Connor must have left it there before he’d come to the med bay.
Wandering reluctantly across the plush beige carpet, she grabbed it and plonked herself down on the squishy red couch to read. The first page of the thick document was titled ‘Political system of Kalzir.’ She groaned, before raising her eyes to the ceiling.
“Please Gods and Goddesses above, save me from myself. For once in my life, let me goof off without feeling guilty.”
Unfortunately, as expected, her petition didn’t elicit a response. She’d started to cultivate a ‘religious’ persona six months ago. The people of Vyax had been so logical, so straight laced, that she’d felt the need to knock them on their collective asses. She’d been called in to help with a genetic disease that caused premature senility affecting the ‘Chief Scientific Officer’ and his family. On Vyax, CSO was the title given to the head of state.
They’d told her that her ‘hocus pocus’ couldn’t possibly find a cure as their superior advanced science hadn’t been able to do so. She recalled with fondness the looks on the faces of the gathered dignitaries when she’d called on the Gods and Goddesses of some of the ancient Terran cultures for assistance before she ‘laid hands on the afflicted’. Apparently, Odin, Zeus, Aphrodite and Hera had done a bloody good job at repairing the faulty gene in the family, much to her delight and their complete shock.
Chesara had since discovered that calling on deities made many people nervous, especially when it was coupled with her exotic appearance and abilities. It was entertaining to see a throng of people attracted by her appearance rapidly dispersing when she started to attempt to ‘convert’ them, by spreading the ‘word’ of whatever God she happened to remember at the time.
Moving to her tiny kitchenette, she grabbed a strong cup of black coffee, a giant chocolate chip cookie and headed back to the sofa. She had time to make her way through at least half the file before showering and changing into a clean uniform for the upcoming assignment.
Teasing Connor had been fun, but it hadn’t been totally in jest. She enjoyed her work, and she got to see more of the universe than just about anyone else, but it was always from behind a barrier. Sometimes it felt as if she’d spent her whole life in a bubble, floating through different places, but never truly being anywhere.
Officially, Ensign Took was many steps below her on the social scale, but the bitchy woman was able to experience so much more of life than she’d ever had. When Took went to a party, she probably got to drink and make out with whomever she wanted. She got to touch and be touched by Lieutenant Dagus, and not just in a patient/doctor way.
Chesara had dutifully done her duty for as long as she could remember. Surely the Federation wouldn’t stop her living her life forever? She was a citizen just like everyone else, well, maybe not quite like anyone else, but there was more to her than her healing ability. Perhaps it was time to show them, show Connor, that she wasn’t a child anymore.
Chesara’s eyes lit up when she saw the sleek horses in the corral outside the small shuttle port on Kalzir. According to the information, the few buildings around the port were the only ones on the planet allowed advanced technology.
This was a low tech, back to basics society, where brawn rather than fingers and minds did the work. There was also a distinct separation of tasks according to gender, and she hoped she wouldn’t have to deal with pompous males looking down at her because of her sex, as well as her appearance. She’d like to think she’d tell someone that made disparaging remarks where to stick it, but in her heart she knew she probably wouldn’t.
The heavy, humid, late afternoon air of the semi tropical zone, and the prospect of unfriendly natives did nothing to dampen her delight at seeing real live horses again. Even the smell of their warm flesh wafting across the grass made her smile.
The sight more than made up for enduring the close confines of the Apollo’s shuttle with the representative sent to escort them. She’d listened as the older gentleman lectured her and Connor on the intricacies of his planet’s culture, although most of what he said, she’d already read in the pre-mission briefing notes. She humoured him politely, as he seemed inordinately proud of what his society had accomplished since the first settlers arrived two centuries ago, but boy did he drone on. How Connor had stood him while she got ready; she didn’t know.
Obviously, she’d offended any Gods and Goddesses that were up there. She briefly wondered whether human sacrifice would help matters as she eyed the figure of their escort Ambassador Tamas speculatively.
Her seat on the shuttle had been comfortable and the droning voice of the ambassador considerably soporific, and her eyes had closed as she listened. Chesara had vaguely heard Connor saying something about higher sleep requirements and a busy day, before the man’s lecture had continued. She hadn’t bothered to let them know she wasn’t asleep.
Kalzir was one of the first terraformed planets as the distance from its star meant it was suitable for Terran type life, although life hadn’t spontaneously developed on its own, even though the chemistry was suitable. The terraforming process had unlocked the potential from the barren landscape, producing an Earth-like atmosphere, ready for colonization by plants and animals. The planet had eight small continents that were seeded with fauna and flora from compatible Terran colonies.
Chesara’s attention refocused when the shuttle bumped slightly on landing. While she waited for the hatch to be opened, she’d compared her Federation issue white shirt and deep red trousers with the Ambassador’s costume.
Lord Tamas’ official uniform, as Federation representative for the planet, consisted of the standard deep red, but it was tailored in the local fashion of flared trousers and a long jacket, embellished with gold braid on the cuffs, lapels, and shoulders. A crisp white shirt was buttoned uncomfortably tight around his rather portly neck. She assumed that male facial hair was fashionable on this world as he sported a well-tended grey goatee and moustache, though the hair on his head was limited to the sides and back.
Connor was as usual wearing his all black ‘security’ outfit. She’d often joked that he looked like an overgrown ‘ninja,’ although recently she’d started to pay more attention to the tight, fit body under the fabric than the cloth itself. She’d never really noticed just how strong and handsome Connor was compared to other men.
Apart from Dagus, whom nobody could usually compete with, Connor was probably the best-looking man on the Apollo. Unfortunately, right now, Connor had the poor lieutenant beaten hands down. The sooner she could get back to the Apollo, the sooner she could make the competition even again. She wondered if Connor would notice if she ‘tweaked’ his appearance. Maybe narrowing his nose a little, or adding flecks of gold to his deep brown eyes. She quashed the idea as she imagined just how angry he’d be if he found out she’d messed with him. It sent a shiver down her spine.
“You ok?” Connor asked from just behind her.
“Hmm? Yeah I’m fine. Aren’t the horses beautiful?”
She didn’t hear his response as she’d already turned her attention back to the animals. There were approximately ten in the paddock, varying from a matched pair of tall, elegant black beauties, to a couple of heavily built grey dray horses, and several chestnuts of varying height and weight that were probably saddle mounts. All looked well-groomed and healthy in the late afternoon light.
The wicked thought of luring Connor near enough to one of the greys to transfer some hair to his ‘ninja’ suit made her grin. She could picture him huffing and puffing as he picked individual hairs off for the next few hours. It would certainly be a far safer prank than messing with his nose.
“Excuse me, Madam Envoy?” Ambassador Tamas said from right beside her.
She looked up to see Connor already heading towards the building across the grass. Suppressing her disappointment that she probably wouldn’t be able to get closer to the horses, she put on her game face.
“Do forgive me Ambassador Tamas. The horses are beautiful. They bring back some happy childhood memories.”
Chesara blasted the poor man with a devastatingly bright smile, before heading towards the three-story plascrete Federation Embassy building. Every planet she’d been on had a building similar to this, although they were usually on a larger scale.
Tamas seemed determined to continue with his orientation lecture as they entered the building.
“You are here to see Lord and Lady Harmon, on ah, how shall I put this, a delicate matter?”
Chesara hid a smile as the elderly envoy blushed as he attempted to circle around the reason for her visit, the infertility problem of the ruling family.
“Now, in order to ‘disguise’ the real reason for your visit, to save the reputations of our Dear Lord and Lady, you will pose as a wealthy young lady on a grand colony tour.
“As our culture favours the titles used on old Terra would you mind if we refer to you as 'Lady Chesara' rather than 'Madam Envoy'?”
The fawning was getting a little irritating, but the sooner she agreed the sooner they could get on with the job. She smiled in acknowledgement and wondering how long she’d be able to keep up the expression before her face started to ache.
She was already tired from the extended healing, although the snooze in the shuttle had helped. Plus, she hadn’t managed to eat today, apart from that heavenly cookie.
Connor saved her from further polite repetitions of information she already knew by asking about the agenda for their visit. Hopefully, it would last only a day or two, and then she was looking forward to having one of her extended sleeps Connor referred to as ‘hibernation’. So she could sleep for over sixteen hours if she was tired, big deal.
Connor and Ambassador Tamas discussed attending a function at the main Palace that evening to introduce her cover story to the inhabitants. The ‘ever so polite’ discussion about various dignitaries was supremely boring. She knew she was meant to take mental notes but Connor would be there to fill in the gaps. Maybe her earlier plea to higher powers about her insane conscientiousness was paying off. She wandered out of the office they were in and into one of the other reception rooms, leaving the men to their cloak and dagger plotting over cover stories.
Chesara didn’t miss the slight frown on Connor’s face as she slipped out of the room, but she knew he’d deal with the situation. From the information she’d been given, these people probably thought she was nearly as brainless as the horses because she was female.
The reception rooms all had the same smooth plascrete walls as all the other embassies she’d seen. Nevertheless, the furniture and decorations in this one were unique and probably had been made locally. They lent a certain ‘old world charm’ ambiance to the otherwise bland building.
An ornately carved wooden table set up in the corner of the room across the entrance hallway, was covered with an assortment of food, from fruit to small sweet and savoury pastries. As her stomach rumbled, she looked around to confirm that she was alone before trying one of the pastries filled with some sort of red berries.
“You don’t have to sneak you know,” an amused voice came from behind her. Chesara spun, dropping a blob of the scarlet filling down her white shirt, resulting in a red, sticky mess that’d ruin the material.
“It’s not polite to creep up on people,” she growled, covering her discomfort and her shock at how beautiful this man was with anger. Hell, he could even give Dagus a run on a good day.
Even though she wasn’t sure if he was in on the cover story, she decided she might as well get into her part sooner rather than later.
“Where I’m from, leaving guests to find their own food and then creeping up on them is frowned upon,” she said haughtily. “I’m Lady Chesara, from Terra Prime.”
“I’m Tenset, but people tend to tag a Lord on the front. My uncle Tamas seems to be a little remiss in his hosting duties.” His lips curled up slightly as he watched her.
Chesara assessed the man standing in the doorway. He appeared quite at ease with her gaze, as a slight smile tickled the corner of his mouth. ‘Cocky and good looking’ she assessed. He probably thinks he’s god’s gift to woman-kind. Arrogant git.
He was shorter than Connor, although that didn’t mean a lot considering Connor was six foot six. She estimated that the top of her head would possibly reach his chin. A cheeky, tanned, boyish face contained a pair of startling blue eyes. He was dressed in a similar manner to his uncle, but on him, it looked attractive rather than pompous. In fact, the word ‘yum’ came to mind, if you liked gorgeous well-groomed, brown-haired, supremely confident men.
“Like what you see Lady Chesara?” he asked as the other corner of his mouth curled up.
Crap, this guy’s truly out to show me up, she concluded as she tried to ignore the heat in her face by making some inane comments about the furniture. She was grateful when Connor and Ambassador Tamas entered the room a few seconds later. It saved her from polite small talk with the devilishly attractive and annoyingly cocky Lord Tenset.
Connor’s gaze flicked between Chesara’s flushed face, the stain on her shirt and the interested gaze of the other man. His eyebrows rose in an unspoken question. She turned to examine a hideous painting of a bay horse with an exceptionally small head and incredibly large rear quarters.
Connor turned to the older man. “Ambassador, would it be possible for us to retire and ready ourselves for the reception this evening? Lady Chesara is so excited to see the palace and meet Lord and Lady Harmon.”
Chesara shot him a dirty look as Tenset hid a laugh with a cough.
“Of course, of course,” fussed the older man. “First may I introduce my nephew, Lord Tenset? He’ll be your companion this evening Lady Chesara. I thought someone a little younger might give you more insight into our culture than my dry, old history lessons.” He smiled weakly before turning to press a button next to the light switch. They could hear a slight tinkling in the distance.
“I’ll have you shown to your rooms immediately. You’ll find appropriate clothing for the function ready for you. We can meet back here in an hour?”
“Is my security officer not attending the function with me Ambassador?” she asked. The thought of going anywhere without Connor was both appealing and scary. She’d never gone anywhere without him before.
“Erm no. I’m afraid we have other mundane Federation matters concerning your visit to discuss, nothing that would keep you youngsters from your entertainment this evening.” Tamas appeared a little flustered by the query.
Connor seemed unconcerned, but she wasn’t quite sure how she felt about spending an evening with ‘Prince Charming’ without her ever present guardian.
Chesara was glad to follow the middle aged, female servant out of the room; the piercing gaze of Lord Tenset was making her feel distinctly uncomfortable. Men didn’t usually look at her like that. Tenset was looking at her as if she was an attractive woman, not a freak of nature, or the answer to a medical problem. She wasn’t sure if she felt put off by that, or if it could be rather fun to be the centre of an attractive male’s attention. There was always the option of a swift knee to the genitals if he made her too uncomfortable. Connor had drilled her in several self-defence techniques against overly amorous males, not that she’d ever had a hope in hell of getting a chance to use them.
Seeing as though he was Tamas’ nephew, he might or might not know about her ‘true identity’. Zeus Almighty, she sounded like a cheap ‘hero’ entertainment, and she grinned whilst deciding to err on the side of safety, and continue to perform her assigned role. After all, it could be fun pretending to be a bimbo for the evening.
Chesara followed Connor and the servant who was smartly dressed in a knee length black skirt and white shirt up the wide plascrete staircase to the second floor. The maid quietly announced that the second door to the left was the ‘executive suite’ for the lady, before telling Connor he’d be in a room on the floor above.
Connor turning to follow the woman, annoyed her. She wanted to discuss the fact that he wasn’t attending the function in person, rather than via their standard federation issue com implants. They could talk using them but as this was a low-tech world, they’d both have to be alone. Talking to ‘thin air’ here would probably get you thrown in a mental asylum.
While she waited for Connor to reach his room, she explored hers. It was almost identical to the VIP quarters on the ship, although the walls were a darker shade than the pale ones on the Apollo. Didn’t the Federation ever get fed up with beige?
The room had the usual Federation dark red colour accents, in the form of bedding and couches. The bathroom even had ‘feature’ red tiles and red towels. As she wandered over to the bed, to test how hard or soft it was, she stopped in her tracks at the ‘dress’ laid out for her. Immediately, she touched the com link button under the skin behind her left ear.
“Are you kidding? I can’t wear that in public,” she almost screeched at him.
“Thanks for checking I was alone before calling. You know these people don’t use com implants, and what’s wrong with the clothing?” He sounded a little weary. But seriously, she wasn’t a dress up doll, no matter what the character she was meant to be assuming for the convenience of the locals.
“It’s beach wear with tassels,” she said holding up what looked like a pile of green shimmering fabric strips.
“It’s what all the other young women will be wearing. Local tradition dictates that women only cover up when they get older,” he explained patiently in a tone that indicated she was being childish. “You had the guidance notes on your desk. I know you were tired, but didn’t you read any of it?”
She knew discussions about ‘fashion’ weren’t his thing, but this was more than an ‘I’ll look fat in that,’ moment and he was starting to annoy her. It was all right for him, all he had to worry about was getting lint on his ninja outfit.
“Well excuse me. I’ve been a little ‘busy’ today myself so forgive me missing the local fashion handout, instead of reading the political information.”
Her annoyance started to drain away as she knew she’d probably end up wearing the damn thing. A sense of impending doom gripped her as she eyed the garment. Much as she wanted to appear to be a sophisticated together woman, outside her comfort zone of medical situations, she really wasn’t. She winced as she heard a whine entering her voice as she mounted a last-ditch defence.
“I can’t walk about in public in this, especially as you’re not coming. I bet the not so Honourable Lord Tenset has octopus hands. Why can’t you come as well? Please?”
Chesara heard a sigh before his reply came through. “Planetary etiquette doesn’t allow people with active implants to attend because of security fears. One of us needs to remain in touch with the Apollo. They won’t try anything Kittycat. If anything happened to you the Federation would come down on them like a ton of bricks, and they know it. I’m sure Lord Tenset will be the perfect gentleman, but I’ll be making sure he knows I’ll turn him into a pretzel if he makes you feel at all uncomfortable.”
Exceedingly few people had the guts to ignore a ‘word’ from Connor. Even though it was annoying, he was right as usual. There was a Federation cruiser in orbit after all. It could pulverise all the major cities on the planet within hours. With her worries mostly settled, she remembered what he’d said about active implants. She hated being sedated.
“We only have an hour, so please get into your costume, and I’ll be down with my bag of tricks to deactivate your implants while you’re at the Palace. It’ll only be for a couple of hours.” The connection went dead, and she started to swear. Quietly. Just in case anyone was listening.
“Son of a fornicating Kackbad, save me from bloody backward yokels. Why the hell can’t they just pop up to the ship for me to sort out their infertility problem, instead of making me go through this bloody song and dance? They’re probably both so fucking ugly, putting bags on their heads would work, or maybe they didn’t get the birds and the bees talk cos no one thought they’d ever need it.”
Chesara carried on muttering as she stripped off her stained white shirt, red trousers and black boots. Looking at the garment, she sighed and removed her bra, before having a quick shower. The luxury of a bath, which never happened on board, would have to wait until later. Seeing a tub and not being able to use it didn’t improve her mood.
Twenty minutes later, she looked in the mirror and decided that the dark green outfit wasn’t too bad after all. In fact, it was quite attractive, although it showed a hell of a lot more flesh than she was used to. Connor’s eyes were going to pop out. She knew he thought of her as a smart-arse kid, but this outfit showed a completely different side of her. Actually, it showed quite a few sides. Her hips and boobs had really come on in the last six months.
The crop top had cap sleeves and was connected to the ‘skirt’ by two strips on either side of her navel, forming a ‘V’ shape. The skirt consisted of a band of material that just reached her upper thighs and a great many strips of the same shimmering fabric hanging from it. The strips fell almost to the floor so when she stood still, she was covered, but if she walked her whole leg would be exposed.
The green certainly worked wonders with her colouring, but her body markings stood out like a sore thumb. They were a red beacon above her head shouting ‘different’ to anyone with two brain cells to rub together. Which probably didn’t include many of the people she’d meet tonight.
On the brighter ones, she’d have to use the ‘it’s all the rage at home,’ fashion excuse that had explained her skin and eyes to many other groups of ‘carrot crunchers’. She smiled. That was a particularly good insult and this was the first time she’d remembered it in an appropriate situation.
Her mood somewhat improved, she eyed the delicate metallic green sandals with small heels and ties that would crisscross her calves and decided that vigorous movement would not be an activity of choice that evening. Not if she wanted to avoid being in plaster for the next couple of weeks.
It was bloody annoying that she could heal other people’s injuries, including broken bones with ease, but she’d never been able to work on herself. When she touched her own skin and tried to ‘sink in’ nothing happened.
The only upside of this evening was that she might be able to flirt a little more as she’d be out from under Connor’s overly protective wing. Having him standing, make that looming, at her shoulder usually stopped anyone from attempting anything more than excruciatingly polite formal conversation. Even so, being on display for strangers, while playing a diva with ‘fake’ fashion eyes and body art to gossip about, was not her idea of fun.
What would happen if she dug her heels in and simply refused to go? After all, she was the only person who could do what she did. Looking at her reflection, she was clearly not a child anymore, and it was time that people, particularly Connor, stopped treating her like one. A quiet knock on her door drew her out of her scheming.
“Come on in, there’s only Tourist Bimbo Barbie in here.”
When the door opened, Connor stood in the doorway with a somewhat stunned look on his face, his mouth slightly open as he watched her.
“It’s not as bad as that is it?” she asked as she peered in the mirror, turning around to see if she’d missed something.