The First Sdhlain: Sdhlai 7
A mixture of excitement and
fear flooded Walks-in-Shadow. Jam'ee seemed to be content with
descriptions of things on this world, which was undeniably a good
thing. Hopefully she would not think to ask about life beyond. How
could Walks-in-Shadow put that knowledge on the young girl's
shoulders? Pawn or not in the Master's game, the child was an
innocent, at least as much as anyone could be. The fact that the
Key Walks-in-Shadow stole had kept their planet effectively
cordoned off from the rest of the galaxy for almost eleven hundred
years . . .
Gork. She shook her head, a rare outward manifestation of
inner turmoil. The fear began to overpower her temporary good
cheer, and the Khur looked up apprehensively towards the great
beast that managed to even shake the floor of the cafeteria.
The Guard's eyes passed over Walks-in-Shadow, but seemed to barely
register her. Whether that was a calculated move on his part or
actual lack of recognition, she could not tell. He did take some
fairly serious damage from Red Star . . .
The burly Thul spoke, his voice a little ragged but otherwise
strong. "Ho, Jam'ee. Ho, Walks-in-Shadow." He sat down with a solid
thump, and the bench shook.
"H-Hello, Gork," Walks-in-Shadow stuttered. The Guard smiled wanly
and then began to destroy the slop on his plate in earnest. Despite
her astonishment, Walks-in-Shadow was attuned enough to notice that
his serving size was no larger than her own. With his mass to feed
. . . She frowned, and pushed her nearly-untouched plate towards
"Hey, Gork. I'm not going to eat this, and you look like you could
use it more." She paused. "Thanks, by the way."
He grunted and pulled Walks-in-Shadow's plate towards him, dumping
its contents onto his nearly-cleared plate. "Mmmrf," he said around
a mouthful of food.
She smiled. "You're quite welcome."
A companionable silence settled around the table; at least, a
semblance of silence, as the Thul snorted around his food, and
Jam'ee tapped her fingers on the table in a tuneless pattern. Just
as the tapping neared a point where Walks-in-Shadow would have to
make a decision between puncturing her eardrums or slicing Jam'ee's
hand off, the young girl stopped.
"Something needs to be done about Red Star."
Gork and Walks-in-Shadow stared at the young girl, speechless.
Jam'ee seemed oblivious to the two adult's stunned silences, and
resumed her tapping on the countertop as if nothing had happened.
Gork looked down and noticed that all the food was gone; before he
could glance at Jam'ee, the girl pushed her plate towards him, and
he began to devour what was left of it as well, uttering another
muffled "Thanks." Jam'ee smiled and rose from the table.
"I'm going to see what Lee'sar's up to. See you later, T'thup,
With that, the young Sari headed out of the room, leaving Gork and
Walks-in-Shadow seated at the table. Walks-in-Shadow looked at Gork
closely. Whatever Red Star had done to him did not show; either
Guards had mastered the healing trance as well, or the Master's
technology was sufficiently advanced to fix that sort of
superficial damage easily. I hope the damage was truly
superficial . . ., the Khur thought, surprising herself.
The Thul looked back at her with an emotion she did not
expect--genuine concern. He broke the silence. "You all right?"
"It should be me asking that question, Gork. You saved my life back
there." She paused. "Thank you." She meant it.
He snorted. "It's my job. And Red Star is a mean fucker. I'd say
that I'm sorry that you're on his bad side, but just about everyone
here is on his bad side, so instead I'll say: Join the club." He
Walks-in-Shadow smiled. "Thanks anyway. You could have just thrown
me to him and told the Master that he jumped you." The Guard
shrugged, and she could read the cues that told her to change the
topic of discussion. "So, how long have you been here?"
Gork thought for a moment, his huge fingers drumming absently on
the table. Walks-in-Shadow suppressed a groan.
"Three . . . yeah. Three years, thirteen months, three days. Want
the minutes and seconds?" Gork looked up at the digital readout on
the wall, as if to figure that out as well. Walks-in-Shadow laughed
and shook her head. I knew that the Thul were more intelligent
than we gave them credit for, but I think we've seriously
underestimated these people. If it weren't for bastards like Red
Star . . . She sobered up, thinking of how close she had come
to death these last few days, on more occasions than she'd care to
Gork turned his head a bit, as if listening for a far-off sound.
"For a second . . ." He paused and looked hard at Walks-in-Shadow,
as if trying to decide whether she should hear this or not. "For a
second, I thought that was Red Star. He's in the brig now. The
Master was none too happy about his antics."
She nodded, unsure of what to say.
The Thul continued. "I got banged up pretty good, but a good trance
heals most wounds, as I'm sure you know. The tougher bits were done
by the autodoc. Doesn't seem to be any permanent brain damage, so
that's good. And maybe I'll get cut some slack for a few
He started to say something else, but something on his belt
chirped. Gork glanced down and groaned. "Or not. I'll see you
With that, he rose from the table and crossed the room.
Walks-in-Shadow found his gait amazing--far from clumsy, the huge
Thul covered ground with a grace she would have never attributed to
such a bulky race.
She sat for a few more moments, considering the absurdity of her
situation--What would Mother say?, she thought, then shut
down that train of thought as quickly as it started--and then
started to head toward what she thought of as her room.
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Last Updated: 2003.01.19.2128