Chapter Three: Tu’ver

Tu’ver

As the doors to my quarters opened, I realized how happy I was that my shift was over.  When we weren’t out in the world, my job on the ship was to maintain the ship’s defensive systems.

I enjoyed my work…manipulating electronics to create more proficient ways to kill came easily to me.

But my conversation with Axtin and Vrehx put me in a sour mood, and constantly finding parts, wires, circuits, or micro-chips to make sure the defensive systems stayed working without proper manufacturing facilities was becoming annoyingly monotonous.

As much as I enjoyed my solitude, the task was occasionally wearying.

My room was simple. A bunk on the far wall, a desk near the door, and a makeshift kitchen I made for myself out of spare parts, wood from the trees we knocked down when we crashed, and a pair of heating coils from some broken Scrappers. We used the hovercrafts planetside, and I constantly repaired them.

I looked in my cooling unit, pondering what I was in the mood for. I pulled out the needed meat, vegetables, and spices, and began to cook.

Yes, there was a mess hall and food replicators, but cooking in my quarters had always been a task that allowed me to focus my thoughts.

This had been true for my entire life. On the Vengeance, I had set up an informal system with the galley master. I upgraded his equipment from time to time, and he passed me over a small amount of the meat he used for meals but that would have been used for my portion anyway.

Meat took a substantial amount of energy to replicate, so it seemed like a fair exchange for my services. I also procured certain vegetables from the hydroponics lab, and, lately, Jeneva had introduced me to local vegetables that wouldn’t try to eat me—as certain plants on this planet did.

I recalled my first two years in the service.  They were terrible.  I was reassigned six times, each to a different corner of the world, and each with a commanding officer who was fundamentally different from the one before.  At times, cooking my own meals helped me get through the drudgery.

Being moved from assignment to assignment didn’t lend itself to create lasting friendships. I was always reserved around others, more so than other K’veri. Most of my time off duty was spent in solitude. I preferred it that way.

Those around me gave me a wide berth. There were always rumors about the extent of the training the military had subjected me to.

If they only knew.

If anything, their conceptions only scratched the surface. My training had been exhaustive. It had been brutal. But, effective.

Even on the Vengeance, I knew I stood a greater chance of killing another living being than almost anyone else on this ship. I may not possess the outward swagger of Axtin, nor the sense of danger Vrehx embodied, but my cool, rational nature allowed me to pinpoint an enemy’s weakness, and to exploit it in the shortest amount of time.

I had seen so much killing even in my live training exercises that solitude became preferable to anything else.

Until now.

Now…it almost seemed that Mariella was able to reach through my self-imposed exile and speak directly to me.

Humans were fragile compared to K’veri. Mariella, more so. But that only seemed to whet the appetite she brought out in me.

I had served aboard this ship in multiple engagements. I had seen countless battles. But, now, I encountered an enemy towards my solitude that my training had not prepared me for.

My mind was in tumult. Years of routine created through rational self-exploration were now being turned on their heads.

I needed to resolve this soon.

I finished cooking my meat, and mixed in my vegetables. If it hadn’t been for Jeneva, I never would have tried carrot, and never would have known that the mickelania root was as tasty as it was.  It looked horrible, like something from a creature’s bowels, but tasted fantastic.  It was a bit tart, but if cooked in Tilemmin broth, the tartness was tempered and became mouthwatering.

My sister had taught me how to use Tilemmin broth to cook our vegetables.  Thinking of her brought a sad smile to face, and I promptly burned my finger.  The sudden pain snapped me back to reality.

I bandaged myself, and looked at my meal.  Without realizing it, I had made my sister Cannira’s favorite. She always ate Tilemmin stew when she had big news.

She was a lot like Mariella, and maybe that was why I liked Mariella so much.

But, Cannira was dead. I failed to save her.

That’s when I realized why I had kept silent around Mariella for so long. Why I suppressed, rather than inflamed my attraction.

I feared that in the moment it counted, I would be unable to save Mariella too. Perhaps, it was time to change that thinking, and take a gamble.

***

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