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My apologies, guys. I thought I’d scheduled a post for last week. I have an excuse! I’ve been deep into job hunting. The first week of April, I had an excitng third interview with Newscycle for their marketing communications specialist postiion. (I studied for it like a Master’s thesis. I even had pitches for each product, and a list of statistics to weave into conversation.) Last week, I got the job! Newscycle develops software to help publishing and media companies more efficiently manage their publications and more effectively monitize their business. As you can guess, this is an area dear to my heart, so I’m completely jazzed. It might not compare to a commission on the Impulsive, but then again, there’s less chance of my being killed. Although, come to think of it, no one has died on the Impulsive.
Captain’s Log… Computer, stick a timestamp on there, ‘kay? Thanks.
Let’s see… So far, we’ve found my long-lost kin on the brink of a feud over how to treat the locals and we’ve had to break up one fight and are keep the parties separate until we can talk sense into them. Their ship is out of fuel and needs a tow home. Oh, and my gorgeous in-law is hitting on me. Damn, we just need a keg and a green-bean casserole, and it’d be like any other family reunion.
Lieutenant LaFuentes has brought up my cousin, Jimmy Ray, brother to Bobby Joe who is captain of the Lone Star and was sleeping off a phaser stun in our Sickbay. In the meantime, Loreli has successfully charmed the first officer of the Lone Star, who has told his troops on the planet to stand down. Most were glad enough to do so, as Lieutenant Leito is showing them a dramatization of our first contact with the Logics. I remember that one from first year at the Academy. I don’t think I laughed so hard in class before or since.
In deference to Bobby’s headache, Captain Tiberius led him and Ellie Sue to the nearest conference room and had the phaser-struck captain comfortably ensconced in a chair Loreli joined them as well. They had just finished introductions by the time Lt. LaFuentes arrived with J.R. and Chi Nikki Chawa in tow.
“J.R!” Ellie ran from her seat and threw her arms around her husband. He allowed but did not return her embrace, instead using the opportunity to scan the room with narrowed eyes. When his gaze alighted on Loreli, he looked her over with open appreciation. Enigo’s fist curled, and he made a note to ensure the human never got a chance to be alone with their ship’s sexy. From her side of the table, Loreli catalogued the expression on J.R.’s face, noting Enigo’s clenched fist, and making the same vow.
Ellie Sue leaned back. “J.R., honey?”
“You’ll explain yourself later.” He moved away from her, toward his brother. “You okay?”
“’Cept for the headache from their stun gun, yeah.”
“That’s not from the stun-gun. That’s from my fist.”
“You wish!” he retorted, then the two broke into snickers. “Jimmy Ray, meet Captain Jebediah Seip-Tiberius, who happens to be a distant cousin.”
“And that gives you the right to stick your nose in our business?” J.R. demanded.
Jeb held up his hands placatingly. “A lot has happened in the 300 years you’ve been lost…including some rules about when I can stick my nose into other people’s business. One is to break up a fight. Another is to protect the indigenous species of a planet.”
J.R. turned to Chi Nikki Chawa. “Do you need protecting from us – from me?”
“No. In fact, your actions have been foretold in prophesy. I praise what you have done for us. I would not be the man I am today were it not for your people.” He turned to sneer at Bobby.
Bobby frowned back. “Today, perhaps. But in fifteen, twenty years? What you will be, Chi Nikki Chawa, is dead, and you know it.”
“Lies!” J.R. hollered.
“Fact! Since we started mining the unobtanium and exposed the local population, nearly 200 of the them have died – ten times the normal death rate!”
“And those who survived are stronger, smarter and more capable. Captain Tiberius, not that it’s any of your business, understand, but my brother here would have you think I’m some kind of greedy, capitalist murderer. We went down there to get fuel so we could go home – but I stayed down there and fought my own kind to give the Paleos a chance at a better civilization. You need proof? Send someone down to their villages. The people are primitive and stupid.”
“Careful,” Chi Kikki Chawa warned. “They are still my people and worthy of respect.”
“Respect?” Bobby said, pressing his advantage. “Do you see at last? Jimmy Ray looks at your people and equates lack of technology with lack of intelligence.”
Ellie Sue pleaded, “Now, boys, let’s not fight in front of company.”
“Oh, please! You look at their hand-made tools and fur blankets and think they’re noble, when they’re just living in squalor. Meanwhile the Evolved Paleos – “
“Oh! So it’s not a gang,” LaFuentes burst out.
Bobby looked at him for the first time. “Hey! You’re the one that shot me.”
“I do it again if you don’t calm down.”
“I think we all need to calm down,” Jebediah said, including himself even though he was perfectly in control. It was one of those things diplomats did, he knew. The good ones could even make it sound like they weren’t patronizing at all. Apparently, he got it right, because the brothers both took breaths and relaxed their postures, although they still threw each other angry looks.
“So, look,” Jebediah continued, “we’ve got some pretty heavy accusations going on, and your momma gave our xenobiologist an earful, too. However, I think with our technology, it should be pretty easy to determine if the unobtanium mining is indeed killing people, and maybe even find a way to stop that.”
“They don’t want to stop that – I mean the effects of the unobtanium. That’s what I’m trying to tell you!”
Loreli nodded her head toward J.R., simple motion that nonetheless brought every eye to her. She gave both Seip men and the Evolved Paleo her Understanding Smile No. 5, the one that nonverbally communicated that she thought they had vital points and she was totally on their side…even though the subjects of her smile were on opposite sides. “I think an interested but un-emotionally-invested third party can perhaps shed some light on these concerns as well. I’m fascinated by the idea that prophesy plays a role in all this, and I’d like to compare the quality of life for both the Evolved and the…unchanged Paleos.”
She stood. “Captain, with your permission, I’d like to go to the surface and observe.”
J.R. suddenly puffed up his chest. “Well, then, missy. I’d be honored to escort you.”
Still at his side, Ellie Sue gasped in outrage.
Enigo said, “Don’t you think you’d do more good here with the Captain – and your wife?”
J.R. spun on him. His face was flushed, his muscles tensed. “Who do you think you are, telling me what to do?”
Enigo didn’t answer his question, but he stood ready to reply to his challenge.
Chi Nikki Chawa stepped between them. “They are my people. I am welcome among them. With permission, I shall escort Green Woman Loreli.”
“I think that’s a fine idea,” Ellie Sue said frostily. She has also shifted position – between her husband and Loreli.
Jeb bit back a smile. He loved it when other people solved their own problems without him interfering. “Well, that’s settled. Lieutenant LaFuentes, why don’t you escort Lieutenant Loreli – and pick up the doctor, too. He can probably run some scans on the natives and give us a better idea of what’s going on, biologically speaking.”
Chi Nikki Chawa gave the captain a small bow. “Thank you, Captain. I do not think my people would enjoy a trip through your teleporters.”
“They wouldn’t be the only species. LaFuentes, be sure to contact the doctor first and see if he needs any special equipment ported down. He wasn’t expecting much more than minor medical procedures.”
His officers took that as dismissal. Loreli moved around the table with practiced ease, but toned down her usual sway and made sure to pass by the group still standing at the door so that Enigo was between her and J.R. LaFuentes, in turn, stuck close to her side, one hand protectively hovering over the small of her back. With the other, he directed Chi Nikki Chawa through the door first. Normally, men (and some women) opened doors for Loreli to go through first, but Enigo grew up knowing you always put potential threats in front of you where you could see them.
Of course, that also meant that the door opened to find two security guards on the other side, looking past Chi Nikki Chawa, Loreli, and LaFuentes and at the frowning human male who had had been posturing against their superior officer. Enigo also knew you always had backup ready, just in case.