Curious Adventurer
They enjoyed watching over the lantern lit city together. "I wonder if this is what Gyl the First saw when he was greeted to Kinte for the first time. Hundred of lanterns and people below,"she mused as the glowing paper lanterns wafted further into the skies along the breeze. They would sometimes fly as far as Pyrta if not farther by the time their lights went out and they were biodegradable, so the next rain would melt them away to nothing but a good nest for a flower to bloom in. She learned against the railing and stayed tucked under her Chip's arms until it was time to return to the ground again. "The dancing should be really going now," Calysta grinned as she stepped out of the basket, her dusky skirts following behind her, and lead Illya over to where hundreds of Kaereleans from all over the planet had congregated. It never ceased to amaze her how so many people could come together for a dance without ever having met and execute it with a fair amount of grace. "If you get into the outer ring and I get on the inside one, we should match up perfectly for the finale," she smiled.

She dove into the dance, gripping one woman's hand and then another. Her long skirts were flipped over her wrist, freeing her feet to take on the the lively grapevine move as the circle spun. "Ooh ye have ye'self a bright eyed man there," one of the woman crowed, "Ye lucky woman with a green eyed man. Makes a good lover." Calysta grinned but the blush flashing across her cheeks gave away he truth. He was quite a fine lover and it had little to do with green eyes alone. The women in the circle around her laughed and she joined them, for once feeling like she belonged as one of their number. When they circled back around she caught Illya's eyes and smiled brightly, only to cause him to miss the direction change. He stumbled but recovered quickly for a man who couldn't feel one of his feet and then kept right on dancing into the finale. When they finally made it across from each other, he swooped her up without hesitation. Her feet left the ground as she wrapped her around around his shoulders out of instinct. "Illya!" His name came out a ringing laugh of joy and her head titled back from the spinning. Her Chip had every bit of control over her at the moment and she let him take the lead on the dance floor.

Breathless from their dance, they made their way over to the plate smashing and Calysta giggled while Illya tested out different different ways to throw them. She was able to keep up with Illya fairly well until he challenged her to use the opposite hand, teasing her about not being ambidextrous. It only made her all the more determined. She could fly with both hands, couldn't she? Surely she could throw a plate properly with her right hand too. Licking her lips, she was poised to throw the plate like a Frisbee into the pen area when a warm hand slipped around her, taking away any hopes of concentration. "My naughty Chip," she chuckled before tossing the plate without a care. In the surrounding area there were a few drunk Yurian's smashing the plates over each others heads and guffawing over the sound of the cracking until her wayward plate intervened. It smacked on of the men in the back of his head, shattering on impact and causing a low 'ooh' to echo from the crowd. The man turned on his heels to is buddies with an accusatory look in his eyes and picked up another plate to exact his revenge. Before it could be stopped, a plate smashing war to end all wars was being fought. They tossed plate at each other in a furious flurry, laughing the whole time at the ridiculousness of it all. "Oooh, maybe I should stick to my left hand," she giggled.

Eventually, Illya suggested they ride home in the ancient carriages pulled along by one of Kaereals only mammals. The carriages were all decorated especially for new years and she climbed into the open air cabin, eager to ride through the narrow streets of Kinte. It wasn't a smooth ride like a skimmer or flying would be, but she got to bounce along between kisses with her Chip and that made it perfect.

Calysta paused just inside the doorway and looked around at the dozen candles stacked around the room leading out onto the balcony where the hot tub was already bubbling away over the open sky accompanied by two soft towels and a tray of treats to along side it. Did she like it? Finally, her eyes turned to her Chip, traveling up the length of his waist, to his chest and then to his bright green eyes where she could see the tiny flames reflecting against them. What did she say to this? It was a little overwhelming. He had done all of this for her and wanted to watch the fireworks too. Her eyes widened some as her throat caught with a feeling she had no idea how to express other than to break out into her grandest smile and take up his hand. "It's more than I ever could have imagined," she said. It was cheesy, and she knew it as her cheeks turned pink at such a remark, but it was no less true. Leading him into the room, she wrapped an arm around his waist and stood on her toes to kiss him. It wasn't some simple peck this time, but a deeper kiss until they both needed a little air and then she tugged off her mask which was sitting atop her head. Between each other they managed to undress enough to warrant getting into the tub. They were high up enough no one could see them. Calysta lead him over to the hot water and sank in first before he joined her. The water level rose with such an large body joining the mix and Calysta laughed as the waves sloshed her around, bumping her into side.

The look on Calysta's face was hard to read at first and then she broke into that broad grin that Illya loved. It was the smile that told him she was pleased. At least she wasn't disappointed with the plan. Kalizda grabbed his hand and pulled him along into the room where they shared a gentle kiss and then a more passionate one. The two of them got changed and then Illya slipped off his pants, but left his boxers on. He'd forgot his swimshorts, but the boxers would work just fine. He had extra boxers with. Kalizda scrambled into the hot tub first and Illya walked out to join her. As soon as Illya sank into the water it rose a bit, but not quite over the top. Reaching over Illya pulled the little side table closer to the tub. "We have drinks on dah second level of dah table and snacks on dah top." Grinning at Kalizda he nodded. "Yah want tah come sit wit meh. Rest yah head on meh shoulder and yah closer tah dah snacks and yah get tah watch dah fireworks from better angle. Maybe more comfortable too eh?"

The water was nice and hot while the bubbles felt nice against her back. She was glad that she hadn't worn her hair down and it could stay exactly as it was so long as she didn't dunk her whole head under water. At Illya's proposal, her smile grew even wider, of that was possible, and she floated over to him as he settled into the curvy bench hidden by the frothy water. It didn't take much to find herself with her back pressed against his chest, her head tipped to his shoulder. His thick arm wrapped around her, keeping her close and she helped him reach for what she suspected was a caramel treat from the little table. He had thought of everything. Not only that, but he was going to try watching the fire works with her! She was sure he would have to miss them because they made him understandably uncomfortable and she wasn't about to make him sit alone in a room at the stroke of midnight. They would bring in the new year together, fireworks or not. A giddy giggle escaped her as she plucked up a delicate sweet from the table and offered it to him, holding it at the ready for him to bite. "I think this is definitely more comfortable," she told him, "We'll be able to see the fire works perfectly from here. I'm just glad I'm getting to watch them with you." When he took the bite, nipping at her fingers she chuckled and reached for a small chocolate for herself. "You know, if someone had told me 10 years ago that I would be sitting with my husband ready to watch fireworks at a new years ball, I probably would have laughed and shook my head." The years had been hard won sometimes but for as hard as they could be, she was happier than she had ever been.

Illya felt a spark of pride as Kalizda settled into him and reached for some of the sweets. She did enjoy this and he was proud to be able to offer it to her. "I tink ten years ago dat I would never find anoter woman tah agree wit meh. I dun tink I would have anymore children and dat I would die wit meh people trapped on Quoti. Dis es far better." Pulling Kalizda a little bit closer he moved slightly so he could grab one of the caramels. "Yah know I always like dat yah fiesty woman. Yah see what yah want and yah go get et."

Illya was blunt in his reply but it was no less true and it made her hug him just a little closer as he reached for another treat from the tray table causing the water to slosh against the sides. She chuckled when he called her fiesty. It wasn't the first time she'd heard it from someone but the only one who seemed to like that part about her. Of course she had never quite viewed the last ten years that way. Sometimes it felt like she had tumbled into place here despite what she had done to the contrary. Agreeing to marry Illya had been entirely her choice though and it was something she had never once regretted. "Aye," she laughed lightly as she leaned back into him. "Sometimes I think it's the reason my father started graying so early." She was thinking back to when they first met and she remembered waking up to find him laying her bed, trapping her against the wall with a kitten on his head. "It's how I ended up with Keysha too."

Listening to Kalizda was interesting and she naturally had some thoughts that were slightly shocking. How people could choose not to enjoy the fiesty side of her he didn't understand. "Well, dat was one of dah reasons I tink I want yah so much. Nut all women are made wit so much fire." Turning his head to the side he sniffed her hair. "Mmm...yah smell good." It was impossible not to chuckle some when she mentioned the cat. "Well, ets hard tah say no when et es beautiful woman dat asks and she es in yah eye." It wasn't quite the translation he wanted, but he figured she could make sense of it. "One of meh favorite tings dat I remember about yah es dat yah very patient woman even after all dah wrong dat was done to yah. Meh Kalizda es very beautiful en many ways."

She couldn't help but blush when he said it was one of the reasons her wanted her so much and then told her she smelled good. She had used the vanilla scent he liked on her hair earlier in the day and it was pleasing to hear he still liked it. The feeling of his chest rumbling as he chuckled made snuggle a little further down into his arms, her cheeks all flushed from his words. He was so good to her and sometimes she wished she could show him as much as he did her. She slipped her fingers up to his cheek and gave him a kiss before looking back at him. He didn't just love that she was fiery, but that she was kind too. It probably didn't make much sense in Chippeqouti terms why, though she had tried to explain it once to him. Even if he didn't understand it fully, he still loved her for it. Gazing at him for a long moment, she searched over his face, taking him in as much as she could before smiling softly. "I did my best and some how I was rewarded beyond measure with you and the children. Thank you for tonight Illya." It meant more than she had words for in any language and by the time she leaned in for a there was a chime through the city and the first firework popped off into the sky, marking the beginning of the new year.

Kalizda was showering him with love and Illya soaked it in. He was starting to sink a bit further in the tub when the first blast sounded. For a brief second Illya jolted and a little splash of water seeped over the edge of the edge of the tub. "Ooh." Snickering a little at himself he reached for the bottle on the second tray of the table and popped the lid. "Dat's dah new year." Pouring some of the pink sparkling champagne Illya winked at Kalizda. "I got someting dat es high quality. Et es nut dat stuff dat makes yah sick." Handing her the first glass he poured the next for himself. "Happy Birtday to meh wife, meh agreed, meh little bird, meh best friend, meh love." Clinking his glass with hers gently he nodded slightly and took a sip before he set his glass down and then plucked a chocolate off the tray and offered it to Kalizda. "Because I love yah."

He jumped some underneath her when the first fire work boomed, blossoming into the air with bright silver and brilliant blue. At first she was concerned he might not be able to stay out there but rather than retreating, he gave a sheepish snicker and retrieved a bottle of sparkling champagne, popping the top off with ease. He winked as he poured it up and she smiled back, relieved he remembered to get the real stuff and not anything Terran or synthetic. With the glasses poured up, he clinked his against hers wishing her happy birthday and she giggled before taking a sip. "Thank you, love. Happy New Year. May our winds be fair and if they're not...well...we'll fly on them together anyways." The champagne was sweet and fizzy making her nose tingle as Illya offered over a chocolate for her from the tray. These were the delicious ones she'd had with the terran sweet coconut in the middle and some how he had remembered she liked those best. With gentle bite, she took the treat into her mouth and enjoyed the warmth of being close to him as the fire works began in earnest overhead. Relaxing back with her glass, she sipped on her champagne with one hand and massaged his arm wrapped around her waist with the other. On occasion she would tilt her head all the way back and kiss his chin or his jaw, whatever she could reach, and whisper to him that it was because she loved him. She watched the fire works display from the comfort of his arms and the best ones were by far the ones which expanded into pictures. "Oh...that one is a tyrei...." she marveled. She felt a bit like a kid, getting so giddy over something so simple, but Illya seemed to enjoy it too which made it all the better. "And a balloon....oh! That one is a flyer."

As the fireworks continued Kalizda seemed to get more and more excited. Her fingers would tighten on his arm slightly whenever she leaned forward a little to exclaim in her great excitement over the next firework. "Dat one es dah little bird." Pointing to the gold bird in the air Illya grinned. He knew very well it was a falcon, but he liked to say it was the little bird. "Now dis es a good firework show. Yah tink maybe we can celebrate yah birtday like dis again? Dis es good night."

She smiled as the golden falcon flared high over head and then rained down over the cheering crowd. Illya called it a little bird though and his hug tightened over her while he pointed. What was even better was the idea they should do it again next year. He'd had fun coming to the ball with her and wanted to do it again with her, something that made her feel even more excited than before. "Aye, I think we can celebrate it as many times as possible," she told him then she added a bold little wink, "This was the best date we've had yet and it's not over."

"Ef dis es dating den I tink dat I will want tah have many more wit yah." Illya managed to find a way to angle himself so he could kiss her and he snickered a little. "We finish watching dah fireworks and den we go get more food and yah show meh more tings tah do at dis party."
He always made her feel like he couldn't get enough time with her and it sent tiny thrills of joy through her to think he wanted to do something like this again because he enjoyed it. "Aye," she smiled, "I think round two of food and then there are a few things in mind I want to show you."

* * * * * * *

They ventured back into the streets with their masks and costumes on once more feeling even better after some relaxation time. Calysta held his hand and they entered the food line for their second dinner of the night. The table had been changed over from mellow flavors to brightly colored and exotic things from all over the contents. There was brilliantly purple omne cake, stacks of pink bread pudding with thick, sweet sauce. An entire Nyte beast sat roasted on the table and covered in sweet fruit drippings while one of the attendants carved up slice after slice for the streaming line of revelers. Calysta pointed out some of her favorite things and could see her Chip eyeing the nyte beast rump glistening with juice and held up her fingers, asking for a two servings size all for him. This was their night and they were going to enjoy it, food and all.

After dinner, she lead him through the streets to the different booths. Laurels of green with pink flowers were placed on their heads as they walked between the gaming booths. At one point, they passed by one of the gaming booths where someone had the potential to win one of the bigger prizes, a good lump sum to start the new year. All you had to do was run the course, do the the small scavenger hunt and finish the puzzle at the end before returning to your partner. Most people were drunk by this point and Calysta looked up to Illya with a big grin. "I think we could do that. What do you say?" About that time, she saw a familiar face lining up for the race. Commander Adrynt Swyft was standing in a tailcoat jacket and a mask tucked behind his ears. His salt and pepper colored hair stood in stark contrast to his wife's red locks spilling over her shoulders. The man's grey eyes shifted from the person they were having a conversation with to settle on Illya, giving him nod of recognition. His wife noticed who he was looking at and guided him over with her arm linked into his. "Commander Swyft," Calysta nodded as she rubbed Illya's back gently, "It's been awhile."

* * * * * * *

Priscilla enjoyed seeing Sien have fun with the horses, but as time went on it became increasingly obvious that Ehud was not having the same experience. After finding himself tossed off more than once, he had taken to walking along with them. That was probably for the best. If he was uncomfortable with animals, she wished he might have said something before she offered to take them out on the little adventure. She already felt strange given how he had acted the night before and how distant he had been through the day. He wore a distinct frown all the way until the end of tour when he flicked a hesitant smile her way. "I think I could eat," she said amicably as she trailed behind Sien, "Riding always makes me hungry."

They dined at a fast food stand akin to a McDonalds, only a McCheeses served stacked up grilled cheese sandwiches with meat stuffed inside every inch. Cheese was one of her favorite foods and having it grilled on bread was the best and possibly the most comforting thing she'd had in awhile. She ate along side Sien, laughing along with him as he strung cheese between his fingers and his sandwich. Ehud didn't eat and it didn't take much to guess that he didn't feel well. Maybe it was because he had fallen from the horse? His face was pale and she wanted to ask how he was feeling. Was there anything she could do? But she didn't ask at the risk of making him more uncomfortable some how or for some mysterious reason. She kept a safe distance from him by using Sien between them as a buffer and then went to the hotel when they called for the curfew.

It surprised her when Ehud asked her to watch Sien, claiming he needed to go out to regarding the work issue. If he was having work issues that was fine. He still looked stressed out and she would make sure to have dinner waiting for him when he returned. "Of course," she nodded, "I'll order us some dinner in a little while and we'll hang out, huh Sien?" The boy was already piling into her bed and pulling out the deck of cards and offering them over. "Can you show me more of the magic tricks, Priscilla?"

* * * * * * *

A man waited for Ehud outside the hotel lobby door and fell into stride with him as soon as he left. It was the same one from the elevator and he tucked his hand into his pockets. "General," he said casually, "I didn't introduce myself last time, but I will now. I'm Agent Bryant. I'll be your contact here on the colonies when you're here or elsewhere." That was the end of the conversation as he lead the general down the side streets then to a cellar door. He flashed a bracelet near a seemingly innocuous lock and the door clicked open revealing that it was much more than a wooden construct. It was a well sealed steel door with Tannas gas detectors along with metal detector as they entered. Cool, florescent lit hallways waited for them beyond the door and seemed to dig deeper into the hillsides until leveling out into a broader corridor. People either ignored Ehud or gave the pair of men a nod. Finally they arrived a small living quarters which comprised of a couch, a coffee table and beyond in an open room was a large hospital bed surrounded by various types of machinery. A woman in scrubs stood over the frail looking figure occupying the bed and seemed to be changing something on his remaining arm, murmuring to each other.

After a minute, the woman packed up her equipment and rolled a cart out, her eyes not even passing over Ehud. She was far too deep in thought. Agent Bryant nodded to Ehud and gestured for the general to enter the room where the dilapidated form of Harry Kai sat waiting. As soon as the milky eye of the former president met the Chip's his twisted mouth curled slightly into at least some semblance of a smile. "General..... You delivered my message?"

Nodding at the man's answer, Harry hacked up a cough, his form shaking miserably. "Apologies. ....Going out took its toll.... My man on Zkree.... has not reported to me since his last message warning of the.... movement. I'm fairly sure he's been ....compromised. "

A quiet settled between them for a long moment and Harry's wheezing breaths were only made all the more prominent now. Both of them felt a bit strange and as much as he hated to, Harry didn't have time for awkward anymore. "I thought...about what you said...." He paused to cough and his hand shifted over a button designed to give him a dose of pain medication. "Priscilla....she'll be better if...I give her the let go. If you promise to stay....with her...protect you've said...then bring her" She deserved to know the truth and he wanted to see her one last time before he died. It wouldn't long before he was gone and Priscilla could be better for this man in front of him if she had the chance to say goodbye properly.
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Anonymous Me
Ehud simply stared at Harry when he entered the room. He already had a few choice words in mind if the man chose to be an idiot and not see his wife. There was little to sour Ehud's move like the aching in his organs and he didn't have much patience. Even if he should have felt badly for Harry and his suffering it was difficult to summon such a feeling at this time. At long last the man asked if he could see her in his own way. "I'll have her come up with me in a few minutes." Turning for the door he started right away toward the lower level and then took himself to his room. Once he was inside he wandered over to Priscilla's side and beckoned for her and Sien to come to his room. "Sien you're going to stay in here and you have your pad and you can push the emergency button if anyone tries to get in that isn't me. You know to run to the other room and lock the connecting doors if someone is after you. Otherwise, I'll be back with Priscilla in a little bit." It wasn't difficult to leave Sien. The boy usually would watch Micky Martian and content himself with quiet little games. Stepping into the hall Ehud took a deep breath and he offered a hand to Priscilla. "Please come with me. There is a man that wants to meet you. He's safe and you'll understand why my work changed some things the last few days."

Priscilla was surprised when Ehud came back through the door. She had been sitting at the little table showing Sien how the card trick worked and he had tried it several times on her with varying degrees of success. Hearing the lock unclick and seeing the Chip man wave them into his room without a word, she frowned before following. He looked pallid and she wasn't sure if something else was wrong. Were they in danger? Would it be like when she went with Illya and Kalizda? A gun had never felt comfortable in her hands even if she had used one. She came into Ehud's room and crossed her arms, rubbing at them a little out of habit as he set up Sien with very specific instructions. Despite the questions forming on her lips, she stayed silent and waited until Ehud beckoned her into the hall way and offered his hand. She stared at his palm before looking up to his eyes in slightly confusion and no small measure of concern. He was acting very mysterious and wanted her to go with him to see a man? What man? Who? "Alright," she said tentatively, reaching for his hand, "but before I do. What did you get me for Christmas?" She had to make sure it was him and not some Tannas impersonating him for some bizarre reason. There were Tannas detectors, but after everything she had seen, it never hurt to check.

"What?" After all that she was going to ask him what he got her for Christmas. Ehud frowned a little and then sighed, "I got makeup for you and you left some glitter for me to remember you by because Illya accidentally dumped it in your drawer." Between him not feeling so good and the odd question he managed to blurt a little more than he intended.

Priscilla blinked at Ehud. " underwear drawer...?" A myriad of emotions passed over her face and she shook her head. "Never's definitely you." Nobody could have known that about her sparkly rear end for which she still left bits of glittery dust behind from time to time. She put her hand into his and gripped it gently with her long, soft fingers. "I had to make sure it was you. Call me cautious." As they walked down to the elevator and down to the lobby before exiting the building, she could feel how clammy his hand was. He really wasn't feeling well and she glanced over at him, her brow pinched in worry. "I don't know why someone would want to meet me," she said, "But I'm a bit worried. You don't feel well. Ehud."

After he'd said it Ehud realized it wasn't one of his more brilliant ideas, but he just kept on going. He didn't really want to say much because he knew the more he said the more obvious it would become that he felt ill. However, despite his best effort to keep it all to himself she still noticed and she was worried about a few things. "I don't have permission to say who he is. The man will tell you himself, but I promise to be with you the whole way. No matter how long this takes, I'll be here." Worst of all she noticed he wasn't feeling well and Ehud winced. "Well, sometimes a little too much jiggling upsets my stomach." That was one way to put it. "Didn't think riding a horse would be quite like that. I can't make my butt stick to the saddle to save my life."

She squeezed his hand at the explanation over the horse and managed a small sort of chuckle. There was no way she could have known that riding would have made him sick. Maybe he got motion sickness of some kind and next time she would have to remember to bring some medicine for that. "You really couldn't but if we go back, I can help. I learned to ride from my Uncle." She wasn't sure what else to say about the first part of what he said. He was acting as if someone had died. She had several brothers but none of them had been heard of or tried to contact her for a long time before Harry become president, and she doubted they would try now even if they might be alive. Biting her lip she looked to Ehud as they rounded the building and came to a cellar door which opened with a strangely metallic click. A rush of cool air hit them both as they faced down a long corridor of tile and florescent lights hanging from above. "Ehud?" He was looking down the hall rather than at her and it was making her nervous. How ever long it took? What was it she would find down here? She gripped his hand a little tighter and they passed into the chilly corridors. The few people passing by stopped and stared at her openly, some even nodded or saluted as she passed, causing her to grow nervous enough to walk all the closer to Ehud. "What is this place?" They came to another door, this time it looked a bit like a hotel door where Agent Bryant waited outside and gave them both a singular, silent nod. By this point she was beyond trying to figure things out and had passed into the uncomfortable weirdness of the entire situation, wanting it to be over. "Ehud, what on earth is going on?" She wanted to know, and she rarely demanded answers, "What's inside?"

Clenching his jaw Ehud simply nodded along with the bit of conversation she was trying to make. He hated doing this to her. It wasn't his fault and he was put in this position and now he was going to be left to pick up the pieces. Not to mention the fact that she may not even want to be around him after something like this. Who knew what the outcome would have been. As they walked down the hallway he could feel her hand tighten around his and she started to demand answers. "A man that calls himself Yuri wants to meet you." As they stepped inside he could see the familiar figure of the man and he took a deep breath before he nodded to Priscilla and then to the man. "I brought her here and now you'd better do your part and tell her who you are."

His answer was short and he clearly didn't want to say anything else as he lead her inside the room. Yuri? She racked her brain trying to think if she knew someone named Yuri, but nothing came to mind. Sometimes Harry's mother had used the term for him in passing but otherwise she didn't know any one individual with the name. As far as she knew it was a pet name among the Japanese on Terra. Her frown deepened as she entered the room and found herself looking a grisly sort of figure in a hospital bed. The lighting was dim, but even she could tell that that the man, Yuri, had been injured horribly. As Ehud barked out an order at the man, the realization crashed down on her like a comet to the planet surface. man with clear damage from an explosion...crippled and burned..."Priscilla." The words wheezed but she would know that voice anywhere and pure panic coursed through her blinding her to everything but the disfigured man before her. Yuri. His hair was sheared short and his face was half gone, leaving behind half a mouth and a crackled eye. "I'm sorry, Pris." His voice echoed in her head and the room spun as she stood stone still in place unable to reconcile it. Harry was gone. He was dead and no amount of begging and pleading had brought him back. She had cried and cried for him. Wished she had been in that motocaid with him. Her husband and her best friend. He was alive. "Harry?" her voice came out a bare whisper as she swayed on her feet and then her knees buckled from underneath her.

Ehud watched Harry with a hard gaze. He wanted this man to do right by his wife. It was a hard thing to do what he was about to, but he would be a coward if he couldn't tell her now to her face. There was a slight hesitation and he could feel it in the air. Priscilla's voice barely prodded into the silence and then she started to wobble on her feet. In that short moment Ehud swiveled and he tried to catch her. Her light, slender body slid through his arms and Ehud stumbled a bit as he grasped wildly until he caught a handful of her shirt and managed to keep her from smashing her head into the floor.

Unfortunately the shirt was a little stretched at the shoulder and the neck of the shirt hung awkwardly about her graceful form. Carefully the general lowered her the rest of the way to the floor and sat near her. His stomach was still hurting, but he was going to stay here for as long as she needed. There was no way of telling exactly what this was going to look like. If Priscilla could ever look at him the same after she saw what happened to Harry. Not that he had done it, but she would know that this was a reality that could happen to him. Perhaps she would be too broken hearted to even try to be with another man. Would seeing Harry again actually give her closure? There wasn't anyway to know how it would affect her.

Now that he was here with Priscilla and Harry in the same room he began to second guess himself and what he had said to Harry. This could make everything so much worse. The only problem was that after Harry revealed himself Ehud knew he couldn't live with Priscilla knowing that her husband was alive, or that he had been and she didn't know it. No matter what choice he made it was going to be difficult. So far it was difficult, but he had to remind himself that he did it this way because it was better for her. If she was left to wonder why he had suddenly seemed different for a time then he knew that she might consider it a lie again. That was something that he knew she didn't like. Priscilla wanted him to be sincere.

When Priscilla started to stir Ehud moved so he could be of more help to get her sitting up and eventually standing again. Gradually her eyes fluttered open and he nodded to her. "Let me help you." Offering his hands he hoped she would take them. Maybe she would be disgusted with him. Inside Ehud hoped that she would at least let him stay with her through this time and to protect her till they arrived back on Pytra. If they made it that far he could possibly dare to hope that she would still consider him as a possible suitor for her hand. He still wanted that even if Harry was alive.


As they ventured back out of the hotel Illya felt a bit more at ease. They had taken a few extra minutes after the fireworks to just sit in the tub together. The jets felt good on his back and his muscles were feeling much more loose and free. Even some of the ache in his leg where he had the prosthetic affixed was diminished. Every now and then he would get pain in that leg, but it wasn't too bad. With so much time on his feet and training hard again with Skycorp he was re-discovering a few of those aches that he thought were gone. Apparently some injuries didn't stop hurting until you quit moving and that was a problem. If he quit moving because something hurt he would be bed ridden.

Sliding into his costume again Illya winked at Kalizda. "I tink I jes leave dah mask here. Yah already know dat I'm a wolf anyway." The mask was a bit annoying if he was trying to eat food and that was the primary reason for going out again. That and there were a few more things to do.

This time as they browsed the food selection it smelled strongly of spices and Illya gave himself healthy servings of the spiciest smelling foods. He enjoyed a good spicy meal from time to time and this was no exception. At the end of the line Illya saw frozen custard topped with whipped cream being offered. "I tink dat I need some of dat. Yah like one too?" Glancing at Kalizda he gave her a grin. Of course she'd want some too, but she didn't have to know he was going to have two servings. One night of eating like this wasn't going to make him fat. At least he didn't think so.

Illya followed Kalizda to the spot she picked out at the tables. It was one that didn't have too many people at it yet. Both of them ate what was on their plates and every now and then Illya would catch Kalizda sneaking her fork over to try a bite of one of the many foods he had on his plate. He had more than she did. Somehow she didn't seem to think she would eat that much, but she always ate more if he had a large serving because she wanted to try what he had. It was always good to see her eat plenty of food because she was so small it was concerning that she didn't eat enough sometimes. As they finished up the last of the meal and the custard Illya gathered the disposable plates and headed for the recycling bin. "I tink I get anoter custard and cream eh?"

The second custard and cream tasted just as good as the first and Illya wandered about the fair as if he were sedated. Aside from Kalizda, the custard had his complete attention and he barely noticed that they were headed toward the games until he felt Kalizda's little hand rubbing his back. Looking up from his cup of custard he saw that the man she was speaking to was Swyft. Apparently they were preparing for a race of sorts and Kalizda wanted to race it. Illya only had a few bites left of his custard and he looked at them longingly. "We race eh? Ef we win I get anoter custard wit cream." The prize wasn't such a big deal, but the custard was good and he planned on having a bit more. Somehow it seemed right that he could justify the third custard by winning the race.

Looking out over the race Illya frowned some. It looked different. He wasn't entirely sure what the many little obstacles were with boxes, balloons, and other small objects. Was it some sort of prize they were supposed to try and collect? On each box he saw there was a number and it started to make more sense when he had a number pinned to the front of his jacket and one to his back and the same number was given to Kalizda. They were team number 7.

A man holding a gun stood near the ribbon in front of them and he droned on about not starting until after the shot went off and about the first person to solve the puzzle would win. As the man spoke he mentioned the defending champions and the prize to be gained from winning. Suddenly the race held a little more interest. Kalizda wanted to win and the defending champion was Swyft. It would be interesting to see how he played in a race. Illya winked at Kalizda. "Dun worry I tink we will win." With no rules besides starting at the shot from the gun there was plenty he could do with this course. "Here, yah get on meh back and tell meh where tah go." She wouldn't be much good running around in her dress and he could run faster than her anyway.

Once Kalizda was on his back Illya grinned. A few other fellows seemed to think they could do it, but unless they were accustomed to running with someone, or something on their backs it would make them feel awkward and they might take a tumble. As soon as the blast went off Illya lunged forward and he saw the couple racing next to them was starting off a bit more quickly than he had anticipated and for the time he ignored Kalizda's instruction to run for their box on the top of the hill. Turning sharply he ran into the other guy hard enough to knock him over and then continued to bulldoze his way through a few more competitors before he went along toward the hill. When they got there Illya set Kalizda on the ground and let her open the box. There was a little clue inside and he eyed the other boxes.

She could read it and try to figure out what they were going to do next, but he was going to take care of a few things first. Looking behind himself he could see some of the tougher competitors weren't going to be too far behind. Walking over to one box he kicked it down the hill so that they would have to make a detour to get to it and waste time and then opened another and stole the clue. The other boxes he would have found creative solutions for too except that Kalizda was ready to move on.

Some of the stop didn't really have much that he could do to sabotaged the other players so he had to sit nice and calm like while she thought hard. The next best spot to make a mess was to jam up the turning board. Kalizda was standing on it and Illya had to crank the wheel to get the paper with the next clue to print out and get Kalizda close enough to the paper on the wheel that she stood on to collect it. Once she had the clue Illya cranked the wheel the rest of the way to get her back around to him and helped her down and then promptly removed a gear from the crank and dropped it into one of his jacket pockets. It would make turning the wheel a little harder for the next guy.

Despite a few of his nasty little tricks Swyft had managed to catch them near the end. Illya wasn't much help with the clues and that put them at a disadvantage, but he had told Kalizda they would win and he was going to find a way to do it. Their last clue was in a balloon held by a wire and hook. Illya pulled the balloon down and let Kalizda pop it and take the clue. While she was solving the final part to the puzzle Swyft and his woman started to grab their balloon. Illya knew they would win at this rate.

Glancing about the area Illya finally spotted his solution. While Swyft and his woman were busily working on breaking the clue Illya took the hook from his and Kalizda's balloon and pierced the rubber portion of the heel on Swyft's boot. He wouldn't go far if he was literally hooked to the last obstacle in the course. Within a few seconds Kalizda decided that she knew where their last object was to collect. The final object along with finishing first would make them the winners. Illya hustled to get Kalizda on his back and then he started running. At one point he decided to see how far Swyft was behind them. The man must have known the course well because he looked like he was going to run another direction. Perhaps he knew a short cut, but it wouldn't do him any good.

Illya ran faster and he looked behind himself one more time. Just as he was looking back he saw the Skycorp commander trip. He had a somewhat shocked expression and Illya grinned. He would have time to laugh about this later. Hooking Swyft to the obstacle that was fixated to the ground. He would have to pull the hook out of the heel of his boot before he could go any further.

The last of the race was easily won and Illya grinned at Kalizda as she claimed the prize. "Yah did good solving dose puzzles meh little bird." Chuckling some he pointed to the custard stand. "Now I get meh prize of more custard and cream."


The hotel was comfortable and Illya was glad he had booked it for his entire weekend with Kalizda. Even if they had some nasty business to deal with, he was going to enjoy staying here. It was a luxury hotel and they had the big hot tub, there was service of all 3 meals of the day in a restaurant inside the hotel. This place was far from something to scoff at. Reluctantly he opened his eyes and then grinned. Kalizda was staring at him expectantly. She probably knew he was awake, he just hadn't opened his eyes yet. "Morning meh little bird." Leaning in closer he gave her a gentle kiss on the lips. "I tink dat was very good party. Et was like Chip party, long, and fun."

Calysta had been drifting in and out of sleep for the last hour and it was only when she heard her Chip's breathing change that she noted he was awake too. She gazed at him as he woke up slowly with his eyes still closed. He was a handsome man and to hell with anyone who thought differently. When he peeled his bright green eyes open she smiled warmly and she giggled happily through his kiss before he said he had fun at the party. He really did have a good time? Not too stressed? She beamed at him, her little leg sliding up his and pulling him a little closer with her knee. "You really liked it? It was the most fun Ive ever had." She kissed him slowly and slipped a hand to thr nape of his neck to play with the newly grown curls. "Long and fun. Can we do it again?"

"Mmmhmmm. Et was lots of fun. Maybe more fun den oter parties because I could do everyting wit yah." This party was unlike any party he had gone to before. Everything was designed so that they got to do all the party together. There wasn't task division between people and who was doing what. While Kalizda was getting closer and tugging at his left leg with her own little leg he pulled her into himself. "Yes, we do dis again. I get reservation for dis good room for next year too when we get food dis afternoon. Even ef yah dun ask ef we do et again I tink I get more tickets. Drag meh little bird to dah party and make her suffer trough et all again."

His hands slipped further around her pulling her against his chest further. He was always warm and she had grown to love that about him. Snuggling down, she continued her petting to his hair as he spoke. He wanted to do it again! They could make it a tradition to come every year and that would be amazing. They had many, many years together and that meant a least 300 hundred or more parties. He joked about dragging her there and she laughed lightly. "Oh yes, I shall have to suffer through the delicious food and the balloon ride and the dancing. I'd go through it all again for time with my Chip." She chuckled and kissed him again, making it a long luxurious one. "We have a winners title to maintain too." The obstacle course had been fun and she couldn't help but laugh.

There wasn't any doubt that she would enjoy coming to the party time and again, but Illya liked to tease her anyway. Shifting a little he moved his head a little closer to her. Her little fingers were still playing with his hair and it felt good. "Yes, we jes have tah remember tah be nice and let someone win once every 100 years maybe eh? Give dem some hope. Maybe once every 50 years ef Kaereleans begin tah get disappointed dat dey dun win against a little bird and a wolf."

"Maybe once every fifty years just to keep the competition fierce," she hummed, "It will keep it fun." She knew they both had a competitive side and were nigh unstoppable when paired together. "We even have a hologram capture of our run. I might keep it just to show the kids what Mam and Dah can do together."

Illya busted out laughing when she mentioned the hologram run. "Eh, dey might find dat when yah busy I booby trap dah oter competition. Dey dun give rules." He wasn't about to lose because Swyft was there. If Kalizda wanted to win the game then Illya was going to make sure she won.

Calysta felt his laugh all the way through his chest and into his back. It was a jolly, if slightly raspy sound that she loved to hear accompanied by that big knowing grin. She should have known he would do something like that and there was no telling what that hologram was going to look like. What was more was that Commander Swyft had been behind them and she was sure that his loss would be talked about for awhile. He and his wife were the champs several times over. "Naughty," she giggled with his laughter, "And its one of the reasons I love you."

Despite Kalizda's very mild admonition, Illya could tell she wasn't too displeased. Secretly she probably enjoyed winning and they hadn't broke any rules to win. There hadn't been any given and so Illya played to the best of his ability and that included some sabotage. "I dun tink dat yah want tah let man wit grey hair beat yah. Besides, dah look on his face was very good. I looked back tah see. Maybe he say someting when I go back tah Skycorp and maybe nut."

If Swyft had been making faces, Illya must have really thrown the man for a loop or two. Not a easy task at all. She had come to find that Illya could always keep her and everyone else on their toes though and even if Swyft was grumpy about losing he would appreciate the effort that went into the loss. "Oooh if you were getting him to make faces, you got him good. He's getting close to 100 now if I remember right. He even trained me as commander years ago, and I've never seen him ruffled. Not once. He's not the kind to be sore about it though, I don't think." Then she gave her Chip a secret little chuckle. "Maybe the hologram caught a glimpse of him."

Hearing the fact that this was all on hologram made Illya feel a little sheepish. She didn't know most of things he did. Kalizda was busy solving puzzles and focusing on winning. Illya was bad enough at reading that he left her to it and employed his brain otherwise. "Maybe dah hologram did." Somehow Illya hoped it did and he kinda hoped it didn't. Even if there weren't any rules he already knew Kaereleans didn't anticipate that a game would be played that way.


There was little extra snuggling, kissing, and sweet nothings exchanged as they slowly got up, washed, and prepared for the meeting. Before the meeting they were going to have some lunch and Illya still wondered if he should tell her. For the time he decided to get through lunch first and then he would tell her. Kalizda didn't need to have too much time to react. She could always get mad later. He just wanted to make sure she was safe and as her agreed and bodyguard he was more concerned about her safety than her wrath....sometimes. This was one time he was ready to weather her wrath before putting her in danger.

All through lunch Illya remained quiet, but he knew she could tell something was different. If she looked at him too hard he would tell her too and he didn't want that. Finally when they were met by the other Elite Illya decided to tell her. The men were here to pick them up and get them loaded into a transport to take them to the docking bay where the meeting was supposed to take place. "Kalizda, I get message from Ehud dat dere was problem. Yuri said dat he tinks dah contact yah were gonna meet wit es dead. Whoever es here es nut yah man. We dun want tah alarm dem yet, so I go in wit some of dah Elite and yah stay back wit dah oters. I will find out wit dah men dat go wit meh ef dey are friendly first."

Despite the look she gave him Illya knew he was still going in. Grabbing his box of gear he started to slip into it. He put on all the body armor, but not the helmet. Putting on the helmet would be too suspicious, but his men were fully geared up. Illya put on a suit over his body armor and he looked a little extra large, but he wanted to try and look as if this were a casual meeting to get started. At least as casual as it could be with guards present.

As soon as they arrived at the bay the Elite split and a few went with Illya while the rest stayed with Kalizda. It was clear by the expression on her face that she was worried. After Illya and his detachment of 3 men were out of sight and the hatch on the transport closed again the lead Elite in her set of bodyguards smiled. "Kalizda woman, we have made a vow dat Illya will nut be killed on our watch. He es good leader and Chippequoti have prospered under him. Dah men all agree dat dey are nut dere tah back him up, dey are dere tah protect him dah same as we protect yah. Chippequoti need dah Kalizda woman and Illya tah keep dem safe in dah Alliance. Dun worry. He will come back to yah."

While they sat and waited the men shifted some. It had only been a few minutes, but something felt off about it. Suddenly a blast sounded and the ship shuddered some. "Come in..." Speaking into his radio in Quoti the leader of Kalizda's guard waited for a long moment and then he repeated himself before he heard a strained answer. "We're all here. The General...I mean Illya is alright...I think. One of the men had a hand bomb and he about got Illya. Asher tackled him and Bahn took most of the blast. Get the Ehaui ready. Gonna need a little medical attention here. I'll keep watch here till you get a man here for relief and then we'll get this cleaned up."


Curious Adventurer
The world was still spinning and she wasnt quite sure what had happened. Bits and pieces of the last few minutes she could remember flashed in her mind and she tried to blink away the haze settled in her brain. What happened? She was in the floor, that much she.knew. Ehud's face swam into view and he offered to help her. Her eyes shifted from his hand to his face and suddenly what happened crashed against her reality like a tidal wave. A dam broke that she tried desperately to keep contained most days and she let out a sob. Harry was alive. He had been alive this whole time. A potent mix of heartache and anger welled up causing her to sob all the more as she grasped at Ehud's hand.

The relief that Ehud felt when she took his hand was short lived. Priscilla burst into tears and he felt a heat stirring in his stomach. He was angry. Harry had done a horrible thing to her and as much as he wanted to hold Priscilla she was still Harry's wife and he could only treat her as a gentleman would. Carefully he moved to help her stand and he rested her hands on the edge of Harry's bed. "I will stay here if you like."

The only thing she could do was cry, even after Ehud helped her to her feet. She didn't know what to feel or say other than to let it all out for everyone to see. This was too much pain for her to contain. Her hands gripped the side of the hospital bed now instead of Ehud's hand. What she wanted was to run away, but that wouldn't solve anything. She sank to her knees at the hospital bed and hid her face, which was smeared with makeup now. What was supposed to do? "Priscilla." He said her name again and she cried all the harder. "Harry...I'm sorry.. I'm so sorry." She couldn't bring herself to look at him. It wasn't his grotesque form that scared her or disgusted her so much as it was she didn't know what to say or do if she did. Part of her wanted to hug him and part of her wanted to slap him hard enough she left a mark. One thing was certain, she wanted Ehud to stay. These people were strangers, even Harry felt like one, and she didn't want to be alone among them. After a long time of crying, she pulled herself together long enough to look up. Her throat ached and she looked a mess but it only reflected what she felt inside. "Dont go, Ehud," she said hoarsely, "Please."

When Priscilla lifted her eyes Ehud could see the makeup smeared across her face. There were greyish lines running down her cheeks from her mascara and he nodded. "I'll be here." Then turning to the other men in the room he beckoned for them to leave. "Give her privacy." Not everyone had to witness the pain and grief. For now he took himself over to one of the chairs to take a seat. He wasn't feeling good enough to remain standing for much longer, but he could certainly sit down and be here when she needed him.

He promised to stay and it was all the more she could manage before looking up to the deformed man in the bed. The floor was cold against her knees but she didn't notice as she reached out a hand to Harry's remaining fingers and laid them over the scarred digits. At the touch another sob wracked her and she let a whole new wave hit her. After what seemed like ages, she couldn't cry anymore and finally made a move to say something. "Why." She probably knew why, but the shock was being replaced by anger and sadness now, burning white hot in her tear stained eyes. Harry's half deadened eye looked down to his wife and he could see this wasn't a question. It was a demand. A rightful one. His lungs crackled as he drew in a hard breath to reply. " was safer."

In truth, he'd been dead several times on the operating table and they had brought him back each time. He had been in an induced coma off and on for several months until he could stand to be awake. Even then, he was still in danger if he came back as Harry Kaito and went to his wife would for ever be a target when she was associated with the same. He had become Yuri to solidify the colonies in more ways than one and having Priscilla around would be a give away. Not to mention, if she did stay with him it would only have been in hiding. Going out with him would have never been an option. What kind of a life would that have been for his beautiful woman?

Priscilla had a look had a look of fury on her face the likes of which he'd only ever seen once. The day he accepted the survivorship presidency. He knew when she began to tremble with the energy of an incoming storm he would simply have to take it. "S-safer?!" she exclaimed. Her hands pulled away from his and she tugged at her hair. "Harry! I thought you were dead! You were dead. I watched them carry your casket through the streets. I watched it all. I never thought I would see you again and you thought this...this was safer?! How dare you Harry Li Kaito! How dare you! Did you not think I wouldn't stay if I knew!" She wobbled to her feet and marched toward the door, the room seeming all too small. Her hand rested on the handle and her shoulders shuddered as she paused for a moment before turning on her heels and coming right back, her arms crossed. "I don't care what you would have looked like! I don't care what I would have had to endure. Damnit, Harry! You let me think you were dead for three years and...and..."

"I didn't want you to know...not like this..." he said, swapping to Japanese, "And...I never thought...I would see you again...." Each word was a struggling tone from his wheezing lungs. "Had you wouldn't have...Pris...look. me...I wont be here much...longer. I wanted to see more time. I always...was a sucker "

Fresh tears were welling in her eyes again and this time she sank to the bed beside the tattered frame that was her husband and cried. As she cried, Harry felt guilt welling up that he had nothing to do with but wallow in. His mangled hand came up to pat he awkwardly on her back. It was the only thing he could do to hold her properly. They stayed like that for along while and Priscilla could have been a statue there if hadn't been for the nurse coming into change something out with the bag attached to his lungs. The room was small enough she had to vacate and Harry asked that she left so she didn't have to see. Priscilla wobbled her way into the living area as the curtained door was closed and half collapsed into the chair rubbing her eyes. It was then she remembered that Ehud was still there and she felt terrible in one moment then grateful in the next. The things he said and did made sense now and she wasn't sure what to do.

Gazing at the tired and pallid looking Chip General, she tried to make some sort of sense out her own feelings. She loved Harry, but looking at Ehud there was something else too. He was kind and thoughtful. Sweet and funny. When he was shy, he went beyond handsome into something that bordered on cute. She liked the way his ears turned pink and the callous on his left hand got picked on occasion. He probably did it when he was thinking and it was easy to feel when her hand was in his. He tried harder with his son and she wanted them to know each other even better. Thinking of him felt like home. Blinking at Ehud with a softer gaze, she came to the warm and utterly terrifying conclusions that she might actually be in love with the man.

That made things all the worse. How could she love two men at once? Ehud had his son to think of and she couldn't think of leaving Harry before it was time. Then there was the dreaded thought that she was going to have to watch him die all over again. Her chin trembled and she wanted simply to curl up next to him and sleep all the complicated things away for a moment. The nurse emerged and caught them gazing at one another. The attendant cleared her throat and looked to Priscilla with a pitying sort of look. "Mrs. Kaito. I'm sure you're aware now that Y-Harry is not doing well. His body was badly damaged in the blast and he's been getting frequent infections, particularly in his lungs. He is also in the ending stages of renal system failure." That was why he was bed bound now and every movement took a great amount of effort. He couldn't breath and his blood was toxic by now. The nurse took in a breath and clutched at her clipboard tightly. "At this rate, I would say he has a few days left at the most."

Priscilla listened and managed a small nod. "Okay." With that news delivered, the nurse left until her next round and she was sitting across from Ehud alone again. Minutes of silence passed between them and she bit her lip trying to force herself to say something. Anything. "Ehud...I.." she couldn't quite get out any words that could begin to convey what she felt. "I would understand if you had to go. Sien...he doesn't need to see this and he needs you."

"Pris?" Harry's strained voice came from in the curtained off room. Priscilla's eyes snapped to the room and she hesitated slightly before rising to her feet and walking toward Ehud first. Bending low, she cupped his cheek and left a gentle, but chaste kiss on his opposite cheek near his jawline. "You're a good man, Ehud," she whispered to him. He had known all day and had tried hard to make it a good day for her while being respectful. This wasn't fair to him at all and it broke her heart all over again as she was tried to tell him she was sorry and that she loved him all in one moment. If Ehud wanted to stay, and she hoped he would because he'd said as much, or if he wanted to go, it wouldn't change how she felt. Her hand slipped away from him slowly and she walked toward the curtained room. What else could she do? Her husband was in there, if only for a few days more and he shouldn't be alone either.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Priscilla slept on a little cot nearby and kept her hand one bed close to Harry's curled fingers. Every now and then his breathing would turn impossibly slow and then a sudden, deep breath would suck in, shuddering the bed. At one point he began mumbling to himself and Priscilla's eyes cracked open to hear him sounding slightly panicked. His head lurched from one side to another as she fumbled out of the bed, and sat on his bedside trying to calm him down some how. "'s alright." His forehead was beaded with sweat and she grabbed a tissue from the dispenser nearby, wiping his clammy skin down carefully. Finally, his eye opened and he looked around wildly for a moment until he focused on Priscilla. "I don't remember...inviting an angel into my room," he mumbled in Japanese, though he sounded winded at best. Priscilla kept dabbing and rolled her eyes. That was just like him. "You don't remember coming into our room proclaiming yourself as Tarzan either. Doesn't mean it didn't happen." They both shared a quiet little laugh and Harry pawed at her hand with his remaining fingers, prompting her to hold them instead. "Was it a dream?" she asked carefully. She'd heard Illya having them before though his were often much more loud and violent. How Calysta dealt with them or the man's extensive injuries with such grace, she couldn't know. Her husband gazed at her and she knew he was debating on what to say, what to tell her and what not to tell her.

"Yes," he said finally. It wasn't the explosion he dreamt of often. That much he hardly remembered. The first day he woke up from the coma had haunted him for three years though and it was always the same dream. Waking up in pain he had never imagined could be possible and unable to move was not something he wanted to share with his wife at the moment however. "I think about other things...anything"

Priscilla bit at her lip and then leaned a little closer, fluffing up the pillow behind his head. " you remember the cherry blossom festival?"

"You mean the one where I..."

She chuckled and reached for a cup of water with a long straw, holding it steady for him to drink just a little bit. "Mhm. The one where you kept fumbling around with your wedding ring because you were nervous and lost it in the petal piles in the park. We spent hours looking for it. You told me not to waste my time any more. We were already late for dinner with your mother and we would just have to buy a new one?"

"You laughed..." he wheezed, "And you weren't wasting your time...watching me...plow through petals...was the you'd ever had." She'd said it as if it were obvious and then they simply digressed into flinging handfuls of the discarded flowers at each other like school children, never finding the ring at all.

She laughed as they both remembered the day and put the cup back after he'd taken his drink. "I've had better dates than this with you Harry," she told him, her voice wavering slightly, "But don't think for a moment you've ever wasted my time. I do love you." What little grip he had, tightened over her fingers and they talked through the night about anything and everything until neither of them could stay awake any longer. Priscilla fell asleep sitting up next to Harry in his bed and held his hand all through the morning as they dozed.

It wasn't until the morning that a little alarm blared on a machine next to her that the nurses came in quickly and she had to stumble out into the hallway for them to work. Ehud was there, looking stoic if not tired and she looked up at him still half asleep and yet aware that things were happening she couldn't help with. His image blurred slightly with the onslaught of tears. He had been coming back and forth for the last few days like clock work, keeping good to his promise and never being anything but kind. This morning he had brought her breakfast from outside in the colony, a bag of bagels clutched in his hand. She started to walk toward him just wanting to do anything but stand there looking dazed and stupid. As soon as she started to move, the door opened again and the attending nurse who had been giving him his dialysis treatments along with changing his various bags came out with the all to familiar prepared look. When the woman delivered the news that Harry was alive, but would not be waking up again due to renal failure induced coma, Priscilla stared at her for a long moment with tears leaking down her face and then sank against the wall, burying her head into her knees. She knew it had been coming ever closer of the last couple of days but it didn't lessen the ache in her chest anymore.

She sat there while the nurses began unplugging the various machines from the man and paraded them out of the room in due course. He would be allowed to expire naturally now. Harry Kaito had fallen asleep a happy man with his wife and she had woken up widow, for all intents and purposes, once again. After the equipment was gone, the nurse said it could be hours or a day until his body simply gave up. It took a second for her gather up enough gall to stand again. "I don't want to go in alone," she told him, "I just...I don't know that I can do it alone. Please."


Curious Adventurer
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Calysta spent the morning cuddling in contentment with her Chip. She knew they were going to have a busy afternoon and she was gong to take full advantage of the left over happiness from the night before. They exchanged sweet nothings and she let her little hands wander where they may. She noticed that while they hadn't outright had sex, he was being just as attentive and they were both just as relaxed. At least she was at any rate. Was it possible to do that? He past few years had taught her there were many kinds of intimacies and they could be plucked like single threads or woven together into the whole tapestry of a relationship simultaneously. This was a heightened thread she had yet to experience and it felt good.

That feeling started a to fade some when they dressed and went to lunch however. They held hands walking down the street which was still in the process of being picked up by cleaning crews and ate a the hotel bistro around the corner in relative peace. She could tell Illya was being quieter than normal though and had his brow furrowed more seriously than usual. He had something on his mind. When they made their way to the base in her two-seater classic flyer and met with the other Elite is when her Chip decided to inform her that she would not be attending her own meeting.

He stood in front of her gearing up and not bothering to bring her own bag of gear down from the top shelf for her. She understood why he didn't tell her when the message came in. He had been trying to spare her worry on what was supposed to be a fun night and also probably trying not to have the exact conversation they were having right now. "And when was that decided?" she said pointedly, "I can't not show up at my own meeting. I was trained to handle hostile situations too." They were only supposed to go check to see if this man was friendly or not, but it also put him in a bad position too and she hated being left behind while he had to go. It dredged up all sorts of thoughts that she didn't want reappearing.

They exchanged looks and both knew that no matter what she said, he was going and that she was staying. Her jaw clenched slightly until he started walking toward the door and then she softened enough to grab his hand. "Be careful. I love you." She said it in Kaerelean because she knew he would understand even if the others didn't. He didn't go out that door into danger without hearing that if she could help it these days. It might have been a mushy tradition she learned from her father and further when he almost never came home after words of anger had been their goodbyes.

The Elite unit split, leaving her in the carrier ship with two of the soldiers with whom she was vaguely familiar with. She had never worked with Vera or Guston but she had met the woman in the bath house on occasion and Guston had been to a few of her training rounds. Once the door was closed, blocking them from the rest of the carrier, Calysta stared out of the window for all of a minute before she began to pace. Calysta hated waiting. That was the worst part of any operation or any news at all. The waiting could make minutes stretch on into galactic years and while she was used to doing it, that didn't make the task any less difficult. She couldn't sit still at the small couch provided in the captain's ready room aboard their borrowed carrier. Instead, she used the fuel of worry and no small amount of ire about being left behind to wait and paced the room back and forth. If she sat down she would let the worry show on her face more than she meant to and that might come across like she didn't trust the Elite to do their work.

At Vera's words, she paused in her pace and glanced up...a long way look the woman in the eye. She wasn't kidding or lying. Her violent eyes were bright against her dark skin and there was honesty in them rather than someone saying it simply to assure her or manipulate her for imperialistic reasons. After a quick but thorough study, Calysta relaxed some and gave her a grateful nod. "Thank you, Vera. My agreed is a good man and he loves his people," she said in Qouti, "And so do I."

Vera's words circled around in her head as she made her purposely slow turns about the room. The Elite were still loyal to Illya for the most part and they simply werent there to back them up out of some order. They were there because they wanted to be. What she said was no less true. She and Illya were the linchpin in protecting the Chippeqouti in the Alliance and she had been working towards making them more secure within the Alliance, not by brute force acceptance but over time, allowing the two to reconcile and build trust. That was the only way the Alliance could survive and all her peoples be safe. They were stronger together just like her and- The thought was cut off by a distinct rumbling and a small pitch to the ship that didn't caught make her stumble, but made her steps come to a uncertain halt. She knew that feeling all too well and her eyes shot over to the door where Vera and Guston had gone tight jawed. Eventually, word came back. A hand bomb...explosion....Illya tackled out of the way...Bahn to the brunt of the blast...Calysta's heart crawled out of her chest and into her throat. The Ehaui were needed. She couldn't help by think back to Maks for the briefest of moments, and the feeling that someone might have died because they thought her life was more valuable made her nauseous. The others that were called left, giving her a brief glimpse of the hallway.

Her brow pinched as she fought down the urge to go storming in and causing a fight that she knew she would lose with Vera and Guston to get out of the room would only make things worse. It was worse than maddening and she struggled to get a word out of her mouth before looking to the Vera. "The unit of airmen outside can assist," she told them, her voice cracking slightly. Pressing the radio lead at her ear, she called for the Ehaui to come in as soon as they heard the clear signal and for the airman unit to assist. Nobody had run from the ship and it appeared to be a full out assassination attempt on her and Illya both. The all clear seemed to be taking longer and longer, and that shouldn't have been the case with such a small ship divided between the airmen and the ever-efficient elite until finally another sound crackled in from the radios. "Possible secondary hostile located in holding bay. Unarmed."

At first when Kalizda offered supporting forces Vera bristled as did Guston and their partner would have if he was there, but he had already headed out toward the bay to give the backup needed. It took a few moments for Vera to relax again and she nodded. "We value the aid of our allies." It was difficult to accept help when in the past such help often turned out to be an ambush of sorts. However, it was Kalizda and Illya trusted her completely and now they would have to. Vera watched from the ship's window as a slew of airmen raced toward the bay and past the hanger behind the Elite that was quickly closing in. Then it came in over the radio that there was a hostile that was unarmed. Vera didn't say anything. She knew that the Elite would already know what to do with the man. Just as Hadal entered the room he saw the unarmed man and he nodded to his partner to hold the ground. Airmen weren't far behind and they couldn't afford for this to get botched. They were gonna take the single, unarmed man prisoner and they were going to question him. "Hands on yah head now!" Yelling to the man he raised his gun. "Do as I say or yah get bullet."

Calysta stood at the window and had her nails been made of steel she might have left holes where they dug into the metallic frame over the sight of smoke pouring from the various vents of the very old Zkreen ship. The Elite moved in with the airmen moving swiftly at their backs, already covering exits and engine vents to prevent anyone else from escaping. What surprised her was that they found a man alive in the cargo hold and what was more that he was unarmed. It screamed of trap and yet if they could take him alive they needed information. The airmen wouldn't fire unless they had to, as that was how they were trained, and the Chippeqouti would know the value of possible information. She called for a holding cell to be put on standby instead and then made sure the Ehaui were lined up as soon as they were given the all clear. The airmen would help the injured off the ship as necessary. She heard the harsh order for the man to put his hands on his head and waited for either the sound of another explosion, the tatting of gunfire, or some other sign. The man stood there in what amounted to absolute shock, his face covered in smoke grease and soot along with his clothes. It was almost entirely impossible to tell what he looked like from that point, but he was young and he had two different colored eyes, one bright blue and the other bright green. The only two features that stood out prominently over his smudged face. He slowly put his hands on his head but made no move to kneel yet. Instead, he stared back at the slew of men who had him at gun point. At his feet was another presumed colleague curled up and limp, having already died in the blast left by his partners.

The man slowly obeyed and Hadal moved in closer. "Yah dun move. Stay jes like yah are." He didn't want the man to get anywhere near the body on the ground. Who knew what would be on that body. Maybe another bomb, or something that could make this worse. When he reached the man he pulled out a scanner and ran it over the figure to make sure there wasn't anything dangerous on this prisoner. In the meantime Asher tried to get Illya up. "Sir, you have to move." Speaking in Quoti he nudged Illya a bit. "C'mon, you can't keep falling asleep. We need to get you out of here. We have a team waiting outside." Illya groaned a little and sat up. His head hurt, he felt tired out, and his left arm throbbed horribly. Looking at his arm he frowned, it was bent at such an angle that he knew without a doubt it was broke. Somehow during the tackle and fall he'd managed to land strangely on his arm. Cautiously getting to his feet he looked around the room in a daze.

"Bahn...we need to get him out." Shuffling over to Bahn Illya pulled at him with his right arm. "Help me." Looking to Asher he gave the order and as bad an idea as it was, Asher relented. He knew that Illya wasn't going to leave without making sure Bahn was alright. Asher pulled Bahn off the floor and grunted with the effort of putting his friend over one shoulder. "Sir, you walk out alright?" Illya nodded and the two of them began making their way toward the doorway. Before they got there Asher called into the radio. "Illya, Asher, and Bahn stepping out. We need two Ambulances."

Calysta listened to the calls go out and every muscle in her body went rigid with tension, ready to spring out the door as soon as possible. The airmen surrounding the last man alive inside the ship tightened their circle around him, but kept a distance from the body which could have been armed with anything at this point. They wouldn't move him until the others were clear from the front and the ambulances out of the way. It was best to keep him locked down and with no movement while he didn't know other lives would be in the area. The ambulances were escorted by half a unit of airmen, all armed to the teeth and in body armor and as soon as Asher emerged from the smoke fuming hatch followed closely by Illya and with another on his shoulder, Calysta could hardly stand it anymore. The airmen kept a tight grouping around the doctors as they helped the men onto the gurney's and into the skimmers where they could be worked on. How bad was Illya hurt? Bahn? Asher? "I'll meet them in the infirmary," she said to Vera as she headed toward the door and far be it for anyone to try and stop her. The man in the cargo hold stayed steady, staring at them for a long moment, his mismatched eyes almost vacant with shock and finally they made a move to bind him. He was frisked by one as his hands were bound painfully tight behind him, causing him to grunt in pain as they lead him away from the ship toward the holding cell waiting for him.

The Ehaui had their ambulances racing to the scene within minutes. They didn't usually worry about the danger. Once they were called in they figured the Elite would take care of the rest. All they had to do was load up a few men and get them to the clinic. Asher helped get Bahn set on a gurney and he watched as the Ehuai immediately went to work with a scan and stopping the worst of the bleeds. Within seconds the Chip was loaded into an ambulance and the ship lifted off the ground and shot toward the clinic. Illya wandered around in a daze only half aware of what was going on. Asher redirected Illya toward the next ambulance. He knew the General was probably suffering from a little PTSD at this moment and he seemed confused enough to cause concern about a possible brain injury. "I'll have Kalizda meet you." Stepping over toward Kalizda he held out a hand. "Council woman. Hurry, we need to get out of the area."

Calysta was glad that no one argued with her when she left out of the ready room and ran down the hall. The airmen manning the ship knew enough to move out of her way, though they paused when she walked by, looking at her as if she was some strange beast. Their looks were all but lost on her as she skidded down the ramp flanked by the two Chip elite escorting her and made a break for the ambulance skimmers. Illya was just wandering around in a daze and Asher headed her off before she could get to him, offering his hand and stating that they needed to get out of there. He didn't look hurt too bad, though he had problem taken some of the concussion for her husband. Her jaw was tight and she took the man's hand. "I'm riding with him," she said, nodding in agreement with Asher. They needed to get out of here and it only took moments before she was lead over to him and a quickly evacuating skimmer.

As soon as Illya stepped into the ambulance the Ehaui were running a scan. Asher helped Kalizda into the ambulance next and then he got in with them. The Ehaui started a scan on Asher too. Even before the ship took off the Ehaui started an IV for Illya and Asher. Neither of them were forced to lay on the gurney and instead they were both encouraged to sit and keep on talking, or at least stay awake. Illya winced a little when the doctor slid a temporary air up cast over his arm to prevent much more swelling. His fingers were already turning a deep purple and he couldn't feel them, but they were very swollen. Looking to Kalizda he gave her a weak grin. "I be jes fine."

She sat crouched in the corner of the ambulance, trying to let the Ehaui work but also trying desperately to look Illya over. She felt small in comparison to the Ehaui and further shrunken when sitting beside Illya and Asher combined. Not to mention she felt utterly useless other than to simply be there if needed. Illya's fingers looked swollen to the point of disfiguration nearly, and a deep purple. Something wasn't right. It was clearly broken but the blood flow wasn't right and yet he was sitting there trying to smile and tell her he was going to be fine. That comment along let her know that maybe his head was alright. He knew her at least, and a rush of relief mixed with the worry about the other parts him. Her heart which had been trying to fly out of her throat made her give a somewhat garbled sound before she cleared her throat. "Aye," she said, her mouth twitching slightly, "It'll be alright. I'm not going anywhere." It wouldn't do well to go to pieces right now and she had to keep it together. The skimmer was fast transporting them across the compound to the infirmary and she had to scamper out of the vehicle first to allow the larger occupants to lead the injured down. Vera and Guston had come along and met her out the door ready to walk them inside to start some sort of treatment for each. Turning to the Ehaui doctor aboard, she gave him an expectant look as they walked and they knew more than enough to see that she would be expecting an update not just on Illya but the others as well.

One of the Ehaui stared at the results of the scans and he typed in a quick note for the clinic. It wasn't anything as bad as it could have been, but there was still enough damage for concern. As they landed the men filed out after Kalizda and the immediate crew in the ambulance simply brushed past. Another one of the Ehaui came out to the waiting room with a pad and motioned for Kalizda to follow him. "We know from the records that you receive reports. At this point Bahn is in surgery. He will be fine in a few months. The armor protected him well. Just a concussion and some damage to some joints and a little internal bleeding from a near rupture of his kidneys." Scrolling through to the next he sighed. "Asher has a concussion and scrapes and bruises. We'll be releasing him for home in 3 days and regular duty in 2 weeks. Illya has a concussion. With the history of his brain injuries we're going to keep him overnight and you can take him home, or whatever it is you want for two days. We'll want to be keeping a patch near the base of his skull on for those 2 days to monitor. After those 3 days are up he'll be released to return to Skycorp. His left arm is broken. With the previous crushing injury to it the damage is such that we could not use bone paste. He'll be having a surgery in a few minutes. We won't be putting him under, just using nerve blocks. You may be present if you wish. We will have to put in a few plates with the bone paste to promote the healing his arm will need. We will also be prescribing some morphine suckers. 4 per day. One in the morning, one afternoon, one evening, and one if he needs after he's gone to bed. He shouldn't be needing them after about one and a half weeks." Glancing toward Kalizda he nodded. She had the general overview and the detailed report on her husband's condition. "The surgery for his arm is scheduled for 25 minutes from now. There is time for you to get washed up and in a sterile gown if you want to be with him."

Somehow she found herself waiting in the waiting room and pacing. Out of the all the things she had been told about being councilwoman nobody could prepare her for the amount of inert waiting on news. She nearly tripped over the chair near her toe when the doctor came in with his pad looking bored or possibly slightly irritated that he was having to play administrator. Oh well. She was going to get her information one way or another and at the moment, she didn't particularly care what sort of attitude it came with unless it was an uncaring one. He read out his report starting with Bahn and she nodded, closing her eyes. She would send news to his family and make arrangements for them to visit on Kinte if they liked and child care if it was needed or wanted while they were here. Asher was was in better shape, and relatively unharmed, but she would make the same arrangements for his wife to come along with his son. Then finally, they made it to Illya and she held her breath waiting to hear what their news was. It wasn't as bad as it could have been but it wasn't particularly good news either. They were still worried about his head and it sounded like they were going to put him into surgery for his left arm and put in plates. At least the armor had by far proved itself a worthy investment. By the time he finished his question about if she wanted to come with, she was already rolling up her sleeves. Glancing to the nearest airmen, she nodded. "I want word to Asher and Bahn's families. Ask Admiral Asha or Elder Edgar if they will help deliver the message. If they want to come to Kinte, go get them and make sure they are taken care of on the way here. Whatever accommodations that need to be made, make them. Bahn's family may be here for awhile. I will contact them in person when I am out of surgery." The airman's eyes were wide with surprise that the councilwoman herself was about to just go into surgery as if it were nothing before giving her a solid if not belated 'yes, councilwoman.' With that done and her sleeves rolled up, Calysta looked back to the Ehaui attendant. "Let's go scrub up." It took little time for her to wash down thoroughly and for her to be covered in paper garbs with gloves and a ridiculous hairnet to contain her black hair. Going into rooms like this was always hard but if Illya could deliver her babies, she could be with him when he was in surgery.

Illya was taken to a shower room and a nurse helped get him undressed and scrubbed down before he was given a gown to wear. The doctor's had already placed a patch near the base of his skull and it was mostly hidden by his dark curly hair. The patch was barely larger than the head of a pin. There was a little probe attached to the pin that had been inserted into his spinal column and it took constant electrical readings from his brain and measured inflammation. By the time he was taken to the surgery room the doctors had lots of nice warm blankets ready for him and he moved from the hospital bed to the surgical bed. He was barely on the bed and Kalizda came in. The doctor smiled at Kalizda. "You can keep him alert and talk with him." Pushing a needle into Illya's shoulder he slowly injected a serum and waited a few minutes before he grabbed the injured arm and strapped it to a small swivel board. The doctor moved the board slightly away from the bed and then fastened it to stay in place. "Can you feel that?" The doctor started to slowly release the temporary cast and Illya shook his head. With a little nod the doctor set up a surgery screen to keep the arm from Illya's view. "Good then we'll get started."

The doctor was smiling as she entered and their eyes met for just a moment, and while she wasn't sure if it was meant in amusement or encouragement, she nodded before taking up a spot at the head of the surgical bed. Illya looked dazed still but alert enough to answer the doctor and she stood at Illya's head locking her eyes onto his rather than the mess the doctor was trying to fix, or the one he was creating before he could fix it. "Hey there," she said, managing a gentle sort of smile, "Fancy seeing you here."

Despite the effort from Kalizda to appear calm it was easy enough to see that she was scared. Illya returned her smile and he answered. "Yeah...nut such a good way tah end a date eh? I need tah work on dat. I'm glad yah weren't in dere. I tink dat ef yah were in dat place dat maybe yah would be dead. Et was good sized blast." Without his armor he knew he would have been in horrible shape. "Only little rattling of meh brains and broken arm. Nut bad."

He was still trying to tell her he was okay and he was still glad she wasn't there. She knew he had been right, but it was hard seeing others get hurt when you were the one who sent them there. He didn't seemed concerned about his head so much as she was, though she knew he had to be slightly worried. They could whether injuries together but it was a hell of alot easier when he was in his right mind. "Aye," she said her voice growing thick with the tightening of her throat, "We need to work on that. Next date we have, I'm..." she didn't know what she was going to do and she faltered for a moment before blurting something out in slight panic and loss on what to say. "...we'll go out without the exploding bits and then I'll keep you all to myself in the bedroom."

"Maybe nut all in dah bedroom. We have two more days tah date. I dun go back tah Skycorp on first day dat classes start again. So, maybe we get hotel for extra night and we go get some more custard and cream tomorrow after dah doctor let meh leave." Illya was craving more of that custard and cream. It was a favorite food and he couldn't help himself from desiring it. "Den we can have more food before we go back to dah hotel eh?

She let out a little chuckle, though it was nothing like it sounded the night before. A somewhat quiet and strangled sort of sound and she nodded. "Mmm...more custard and cream it is then. If we get two more days on our date and an extra day, by the way I count we can get it three more times at least, yeah?" Her gloved fingers had come up rested on the bed next to his head, her gloved thumb ever so slightly playing with the curl near his temple. It was the slightest of moves and she doubted he even felt she was doing it because she hardly noticed she had started doing it. "We'll have some good food and custard cream...and then I think we can still walk around in the Kinte Gardens for awhile. Those are pretty on a date, hm? They even have vanilla plants and oils for sale there."

Illya nodded a little when she said that they would go out to the gardens. "Dat sounds good." About time he thought he would say something more the sound of a drill overwhelmed the room and momentarily his eyes went wide. It wasn't that he could feel it, but Illya knew they were drilling stuff into his bones and he almost cringed at the thought. "Tell meh ef dey're almost done. Jes look." Even if they had just started Illya couldn't stand the thought of them doing it for much longer.

The high pitched screaming of a drill flared up and she forced herself not to jump when it interrupted their conversation. A wrinkle set into Illya's brow and for a moment she thought he could feel what they were doing, but had that been the case he likely would have been plastered to the ceiling and yelling at them all. Rather than mentioning pain he asked her to look to see if they were almost done. She knew they weren't done by a long shot, but she moved her eyes from his and looked down to his arm which was splayed open much like she imagined a split hotdog with ketchup would look. Only this time, they were drilling into the broken bones. Swallowing hard she looked back to Illya and gave him as much of an encouraging smile as she could muster. "I think they're working fast, but not done yet. Half way maybe. This part shouldn't last too long I don't think. It's okay...I'm right here." Clearing her throat she set her eyes back on her husbands bright green ones and continued play just slightly in his hair. She knew what had been done to him in the past and why in the Wilds the doctor didn't want to put him to sleep for this part she didn't know. "Maybe we'll bring some nice custard back for Cypher he'll like that. He's already been playing on Papa's pad and sending you pictures of swords he wants you know."

"Uggghhh." Cringing at the thought that there was more to do Illya turned his head further away from the left and he tried to stay focused on Kalizda. "Yah show meh dah pictures and den I know what kind of sword he likes eh? I tink maybe we get him sword day after tomorrow." Nothing horribly energetic sounded good and between the present stress and the concussion he wanted to fall asleep, but the doctors didn't want him to sleep for a few hours yet. Momentarily the drilling stopped and the doctor slipped another plate in place on the second bone in his lower arm and started the drill again. This time Illya visibly winced at the sound. "Yah tell meh one more time ef dey're done yet?"

"Maybe a nice training sword," she said. His eyes were starting to look droopy and she slipped both of her hands to the sides of his head and and cupped his face. She might have been upside down in his view, but she was going to command his attention for just a little longer. He asked her to look again and as much as she dreaded it, she nodded and looked up to see them putting in the second plate before they began drilling again. "Almost done," she said, turning her gaze back to him, "It wont be long now. We'll get Cypher a nice training sword and some custard, hm? And I'll even bring a tub to you later if you tell me a story about the little bird while we wait here."

"What?" Illya gazed at Kalizda for a long moment. "Training sword is not good. Too early for dat. I jes get him good sword and he dun have tah train. He's nut old enough." Even if he wanted to keep talking Illya felt far too tired to talk and Kalizda grabbed both sides of his face and made him look at her. "I want dat bucket of custard, but I dun tink I can tell yah story. Maybe we make plans and I stay awake longer ef yah ask meh questions more."

Apparently 'training sword' had an entirely different connotation to Illya than it did to her and she wondered what could possibly be worse than a regular sword for their son in his current phase of clumsy growth. "I'll get you a bucket of custard if you talk with me then," she said, her eyes flicking up to the doctors work for just a moment. It wasn't hard talking to Illya but there was no stopping him if he went into a Chip coma or something. "A Kaerelean training sword is like a normal one, just blunted. He wouldn't hurt himself or have to train if he had one of those. Though I think he would need a near adult sized one," she explained quickly, "Isn't that the kind of sword you learned on? Was it hard to learn?"

"I have sword dat was nut sharp when I was boy, but we dun call et training sword. Training sword es little sharp. Yah learn nut tah make mistakes when et hurts." Illya shifted as much as he could on the surgical table. His arm was still strapped to the board and his upper arm was secured well enough that he didn't disrupt the surgery. The doctor was almost done sewing the arm up and they were preparing to put him in a large removable brace/cast. "Meh sword I learn tah plat wit et and learn how et feels. Den meh fater give meh stone tah sharpen meh sword and he tell meh dat when I make et sharp he would teach meh tah hunt wit et. I tink et es good for Cypher tah know how sword feels, but he dun train yet."

"Do all Chip boys get swords and sharpening stones from their fathers? Learn to hunt with swords?" she asked curiously, her fingers still cupping his cheeks which were flushed from the stress of it all. "I never learned to hunt till I came to Skycorp. It's not something Kaerelean boys learn outright unless you're Reylian or Aeriktan. I think it would be good for him to learn even if it isn't a tradition."

"Yeah." Illya answered her question and closed his eyes for a few seconds before he decided to try and give her a more thorough answer. "All Chip boys get swords and dey all learn tah hunt. Ef a girl likes tah hunt and she wants sword she can learn too. Some boys dun like tah hunt. Dey try and den decide dat dey will nut be warrior, or hunter. Many of dem learn good work like metals and building." When the doctor finally announced that the surgery was over Illya got to move to a big Chip sized hospital bed and he moved over on it to make room for Kalizda. "We bot get a ride ef yah like." Snickering a little he looked at the Ehaui nurse that grinned back at him. "Yeah, I'll push your fat ass around for a day and then you'll have to haul it around. She won't make difference." Illya cast a sidelong glance at the Ehaui nurse before he snickered. "Don't give yahself heart attack looking at meh nice arms."

When his eyes closed she wasn't sure how to get him to wake up other than que another question to try rousing him since she definitely couldn't shake him right now. Luckily his eyes popped open and she got a better answer out of him as they finished stitching him up. "Well then Cypher will learn too. When he's ready," she said as she backed up just long enough for them to move him over to another bed. He scooted over and invited her to ride along, making her chuckle lightly and then tossed a little challenge at the Ehaui nurse. If it was one thing she knew about the Ehaui, was that they were more than ready to quip back with the Chips. "I'll sneak in when you're in the room" she winked at Illya as they prepared to move him, "If I jump in now, I'll block the view of your arms and we wouldn't want that." They started down the hallway to a nice quiet room where he could be observed for a little awhile and Calysta took a moment to strip off the paper surgical gear and wash her hands once again before meeting him in the dimmed, but clinical room they would be occupying for awhile. She leaned over the bed and kissed the top of her Chip's forehead before smoothing down the impossible rumple of curls. "I'm sorry," she told him quietly.

It was a little disappointing that Kalizda didn't want to ride with him. Illya really thought she'd go for it. Instead he was going to be stuck with the nurse and they both glowered at one another for a moment. Finally the nurse started to push the bed toward the hall. She only looked at the Chip's left arm from time to time to make sure he wasn't bumping it on anything. When he got to the hospital room she hooked a little medication up to the IV bag and set it on a drip to keep the pain at a minimum. Eventually the nerve blocker would wear off and she knew he would be hurting by the time that blocker wore off. "Now..." Carefully she grabbed his left arm and moved it to rest on the extra pillow in the bed and positioned his arm above his heart. "To keep the swelling down you'll have to put your arm up, about even with your head and raised on a pillow. Might get a little cold feeling sometimes, but you would rather that than getting your arm swollen. Got it?" Illya grumbled along and left his arm where it was. He couldn't feel it enough to move it anyway. "Fine, yah make et difficult for meh Kalizda tah get close." Rolling her eyes the nurse shook her head. "I doubt that a little broken arm is going to make that much difference. You'll find a way. Every Chip I know does." With that she took herself out of the room and Kalizda stepped in a few minutes later. Illya smiled weakly as he felt Kalizda pet at his curls. "Dun be sorry. I rater et dis way den ef yah were dah room. Only broken arm and I get extra day off wit yah because of et. Nut all bad."

He was trying to stay positive and she wondered if it was for her sake as much as his own. His smile was a little watery and she knew later on he would be in pain when he moved. Taking advantage of the remaining numbness, she slipped into the bed along side him with the utmost caution and laid on her side so he would have the most room and she could see him better. "An extra day off would be good, but next time lets not break your arm to get it," she whispered to him, "You should know Bahn will live and Asher is fine. I've called for Edgar or Asha to tell their families and let them know if they want to come here they have accommodations. I didn't want them to be alone either. All of you were lucky it wasn't worse and it will be alright." She had yet to compute the other, more broad sweeping ramifications of this assassination attempt nor had she mentioned the man they captured yet. It wasn't worth talking about or thinking about in the moment, but Illya deserved to know the men with him were alive and would live. Her head drifted to his shoulder and she very carefully laid her head there on his right side, far from the injured side. "For a minute there I thought the worst...I'm just glad it was only this." With a long breath that served to hold back tears she put a hand on his chest and smoothed down his hospital gown.

Once Kaliza was settled in Illya rested his right arm on her hip. He knew his right side would be a little sore with her laying there, but he would need to adjust. Right now his left arm was going to be far too tender for her to be on that side when they shared a bed. Resting his chin on top her head he mumbled a quiet thanks as she gave him the update on the men. "Dey deserve tah be watched out for. I dun know dat dey were going tah push meh out of dah way like dat. Dere was nut much time tah react and ef dey dun do dat I would hurt much more." Gently Illya rubbed his hand from her hip to his waist and back a few times. "We jes take of dis little bit at a time eh? Tomorrow we go back to dah hotel and we make sure yah have anoter birtday better den dis one next year. I won't break meh arm for more time next year eh?"

His breath tickled at her hair and felt warm, almost reassuring at the top of her head as he thanked her while his good hand wandered around her waist. It was still hard to know how much emotion she was allowed to show on an occasion. As of late she hadn't had to worry about such things because there hadn't been a need but now she didn't want to stress him out or make him worry more with any crying she might do. She opted to wipe the tears forming in her eyes from the shock of fear the bomb had given her and hold him just a little closer. "It was a wonderful birthday this year and next year it will be even better," she sniffled with a mild hint of lightness to her voice, "Next year we'll just ask for it off ahead of time. You'll be commissioned on my ship and that means I get to give you the days off. We'll just go and have fun." It felt better just to be with him and part of her knew it was silly for her to be cuddling up to him for support when she wasn't the one hurt. She was supposed to be the one supporting him instead, but then again, he would want to make sure she was alright too. It was a strange concept to her still sometimes but she wasn't going to complain about holding her Chip and him holding her.

The little sniffle from Kalizda wasn't quite loud enough to get Illya's attention. His ears were still ringing a little bit after the blast and it felt like his right hear was clogged. Sometimes his artificial hearing didn't work as great as it was supposed to and if some of it was damaged, or set out of balance with the blast he might have to get it checked and tuned up. "Glad yah here wit meh." Closing his eyes he held her close to himself and fell asleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The hotel room was as they had left it the day before and Calysta ordered extra pillows to be sent up so they could prop Illya's broken arm up. It would be easier on him and keep the swelling down to have it elevated slightly. She cleaned up the room a bit and got her Chip settled on the bed, letting him do has he pleased or how felt he needed to be until a timer on her pad went off. Reaching into the bag given to her by the hospital, she pealed apart the seal and pulled out a cherry flavored morphine sucker. "You can have another one," she said offering it to him. He took it and popped it into his mouth casually before leaning back on the bed. It would start working soon and he would probably get sleepy between the pain killer sucker and the warm, heated blanket she was tugging over his legs. "Maybe we'll go to the gardens tomorrow," she smiled at him as she stretched out beside him. It had been a long night of pain medication administering and getting updates on the prisoner. He hadn't spoken really and he was being detained for now. Questioning wouldn't begin until she was there to watch.

While she worked on her pad beside her Chip, yawning occasionally, she thought over the last 24 hours. Someone from Zkree had compromised her spy and the man that she was supposed to be meeting with, if he had ever been willing to meet with her at all. It told her two things. Zkree was scared that they were a threat and that they were making a big enough move it would as a good way to distract them. She had already dispatched a secondary undercover man to reestablish her connections with the strange planet. They would arrive with in the week, though it seemed too long of a time it was the best she could do besides the few intel spots they had digitally.

The last thing she did was glance at her message to find that Asher and Bahn's family had arrived on the Kinte base safely and had been given anything they needed or asked for. Asher's son looked very much like him. All lanky and tall with a grin perpetually on his lips. Bahn had an older daughter and a wife that had arrived as well. The airman would take good care of them along with the elite that were already here. She had stopped by Bahn's room before leaving and while the man wasn't quite awake, she made sure that he had everything he needed then made a visit to Asher. He would be released soon after his family arrived, but she wanted to talk to him personally. Even sitting on the bed he towered over her as she was invited to into with a wave of his hand. "Hi," she said, stepping around his half eaten tray of food on the rolling table. "I wanted to say thank you," she said, looking him in the eye, "For what you did. I know that you did it to protect him and I'm grateful. I wanted you to know that, Asher." On her way out, she glanced at his picked over food and smiled slightly. "Top notch medical staff here but the cooks could use some work. I'll have one of the quartermasters bring some food in from outside. Just don't tell the staff." She had left him chuckling and that made her feel somewhat better about the situation for the moment.

Calysta had fallen asleep at some point and rolled over on top of her pad pressing on half the buttons. The device began to buzz under her chest from the alarm she had put on it, but she was far too asleep to feel it. She was deep into a rare dream. Illya stood next to her holding her hand. He was wearing his helmet as they walked through the park and she couldn't figure out why. Weren't they going to a picnic or something? Why would be only half dressed for battle or wrongly dressed for a date? Frowning, she stopped walking and asked him, but the words only came out a terrible, buzzing sound that grew louder into a rumble. The whole world began to shake apart and Illya vanished in a flash of fire opening up from the split ground, leaving her to scramble around to find him. Her fingers clawed at the dirt, as she yelled his name, her voice turning ragged with the effort. There had to be a way to find him in the aftermath. She had to find him after the explosion. His arm was hurt and he couldn't dig himself out! What if she couldn't find him?

The digging became more desperate as flames from the ground licked at her hands until something reached out and grabbed her. A hand. Illya's hand in hers. She could hear his voice too. "Illya?" her muscles relaxed slightly, left shaking from the effort. Her eyes snapped open and she found herself entangled in the heated blanket next to her Chip who was looking at her with concern. Wiping at her eyes with her free hand she looked at Illya in the dimness of their room. "It was a dream," she mumbled, "Just a dream. But it was almost real yesterday. I was afraid." She was scared now too with her heart hammering against her chest and the panic left over from the nightmare running in her veins. It felt silly to admit it, but not near as dumb as it was to have gotten into a fight with her own blanket and lost.


Anonymous Me
Watching the way Priscilla was suffering and mourning over her husband again made Ehud feel sick. At the same time he knew that he had done the right thing. It wasn't necessarily a good feeling for the time. In fact, the right thing didn't always feel good. Sometimes it was the most difficult decision to make and he couldn't help wonder if this was the end of the relationship he had with the woman.

Even if Harry had been a coward in not telling his wife that he was alive it was only right that he should tell her now that he had the courage and accept the little comfort that she could offer. For himself, Ehud was an outsider. He was the general that protected Priscilla and watched over her while she tended to her dying husband. She was now an important diplomat and he was simply the man tasked with guarding her. Being put outside of the situation this way was difficult, but it was the only decent thing to be done for now.

During one of the many hours that Priscilla sat with her husband Ehud left the room to make arrangements for Sien to go home. The boy couldn't simply sit in the hotel room and watch Micky Martian episode after episode for unlimited times and be ready to send an emergency alert if needed. Ehud could only guard one person at a time when they were split up like this and he needed to get Sien home and out of danger. It was not particularly safe here for his boy to spend so much time alone. After he had arrangements for Sien to fly on a military transport back home he called up Ehvan to make sure he would be there to pick up Sien. Ehvan would be careful and the man would be there at the docks no matter the weather, or his personal health.

After Sien was safely on the transport Ehud went back to find that Priscilla was still there with Harry. Quietly the man took himself to the corner in the room and waited. All he could do was wait for Harry to die. This was supposed to have been a nice little taste of home for her. Something that she wouldn't feel so lonely over and instead he was here with her watching her husband die. It made him feel slightly guilty to.

The hours drug by and the breathing turned to labored gasps. Finally, they were ushered out of the room and Ehud waited quietly with Priscilla. It was going to be bad news. That much was clear. Harry had been expiring for some time. When the doctor emerged with the final news Ehud lowered his head slightly. The news wasn't unexpected, but it was still going to be difficult. Priscilla didn't seem to hesitate even a second before she asked if he would go be with her. Quietly he nodded. "I said that I would be here with you." However long she wanted him to be with her, he would be. This was not the first time that he stood by a friend in need. Entering the room with her again he moved his chair a little closer this time. If she wanted him to be here then he was going to make sure he was close enough to count as being present.


Something bumped into Illya's chest a few times and he slept through the first few, but then he noticed that it was becoming almost rhythmic. To make the whole thing worse Kalizda was starting to sound panicked and Illya jolted awake. Turning to his side he reached for her hands and collected both of them in his right hand. Holding her hands he started to speak to her gently. "Kalizda, yah fine. Yah here wit meh and I love yah." Repeating himself a few times he finally noticed that her eyes came open and she grumbled a bit about having a dream. Illya nodded slowly. "Yah jes get close to meh and snuggle for bit eh? I hold yah and we can go back tah sleep."

She could hear his voice but it wasn't quiet processing yet. It sounded calm as he held both of her small hands trapped in one of his. The grip was solid, but gentle and it slowly slackened as he invited her to get close so they could go back to sleep. She'd been digging and digging for him in the dream, trying to find him in all that hellish fire and the cacaphony of the world crumbling to ruin. Tears pricked at her eyes and she nodded, her body slowly sinking over to her Chip's side. He had to be sore and as much as she wanted to lay across his chest, she didn't want to hurt him either. Curling up to him, she rested her cheek on his shoulder and let out a little cry into the warm skin she was resting against. "You're okay?" she mumbled thickly. She could feel him there but she couldn't know for sure.

"Yes, Kalizda." Answering her question he craned his neck slightly and kissed her. "I'm glad dat meh Kalizda es safe wit meh in bed. Dis es good place tah be." Cautiously he moved his left arm off the extra pillows and set one pillow over her waist and then set his arm on top of the pillow he put on her. "Dere, we can still be close eh?"

She took in a deep breath and her body shuddered slightly as it came down from the adrenaline. He could probably feel it, but there wasn't anything she could do about the shaking till her system calmed. Another deep breath was met by Illya kissing her and she tried to relax against him. He was okay. They were okay and in bed. When he shifted, she moved slightly assuming that she was making in uncomfortable but instead, he laid a pillow over her waist and then rested his broken arm around her in a loose embrace. The weight of him felt nice. This was safe here and her little hand came up to his bare chest, her fingers starting a soothing, but almost absent stroking. She was still sniffling and sighting back the urge to cry before she could manage a mumbling reply. "I love you. Just don't let go for awhile...please," she croaked quietly. She tried to let the silence return to their room, but between her sniffles and the sound of the dream still ringing in her ears it was hard to focus on anything. "Does it always sound so loud?" She hardly knew what she said as she tried to focus on Illya. "It sounded real and it felt real."

It was good that Kalizda didn't move much with his arm over her. Illya could feel the tenderness from the blast starting to set in all over his body and his arm was feeling especially sore. He knew that he would have to wait till morning for the next sucker though. While he was holding Kalizda she continued to sniffle and after a while asked a question. At first it didn't seem to make sense at all and then he realized she was asking about the dreams. "Dreams like dat are hard. Dey feel real and et hurts in yah body and mind." At first Illya tried to get her closer by pulling with his left arm, but the slightest pressure reminded him that he'd rather move himself. Moving in a little closer he rested his chin on top of her head. "Yah fine now and yah here wit meh."

His answer made her hold against him a little tighter and she shifted her hand to wipe at her wet eyes. It didn't make any sense to her. She'd had nightmares like this before about Elian but those had faded with time and while they had been disturbing it was nothing compared to the terror she'd been trapped in. Nothing had happened to her! Illya was the soldier who had lived down more than she could imagine and just gotten blown up. So why was it she was so upset? Why was she having dreams like that? Was she going crazy like her mother? Her sense of reality beginning to warp? That thought made a little squeak of a cry eek out of her lips and she shook her head trying to dispel that horrible thought. What in the wilds was wrong with her?! Her hand settled back on to his chest and she found that she was safe where she was. Illya was there and trying to tell her he wasn't going anywhere, but she still didn't want to go back asleep. What if she had the dream again like she'd had a few times with Elian? Swallowing hard against the lump in her throat, she nodded against his shoulder. "I'm okay...but if it happens again...don't let me hurt you. I didn't know what was happening."

Whatever the dream had been was the worst she'd had yet. Illya could tell she was trying hard not to cry and her little squeak told him she wasn't going to be holding out for long. "Kalizda, I dun let yah hurt meh, but I still stay close to yah. Meh little bird always stays wit meh and now I can do dah same for her. Yah like meh tah tell yah Chip story?"

Her sideways view of his expansive chest in the dim moonlights began to blur as she full on started to cry. She was rattled beyond anything she had ever experienced before, no matter how many serious situations she faced. What did that say about her? It wasn't just the fear the made her start to cry, however, it was the fact that he wasn't going to let her go. She sobbed into his shoulder, her tiny shoulders lurching with the effort of it. "Talk to me," she cried, "I'm okay...I promise. Just talk to me."

Even if he thought he did everything right she cried more and harder. Illya was starting to wonder if he did the right thing at all. What could he have done different? Finally, Kalizda asked him to talk to her. A Chippequoti story was perhaps out of the question. Instead he was going to tell her some things that she maybe didn't know. "When I come back after meh brain injury I tink maybe dat yah would nut want meh. Ef yah meh agreed dat yah would leave because I was nut like I was before. Meh Kalizda always surprises meh and she was very gentle." Carefully capturing one of her tiny hands he curled it into a tiny fist and held it in his hand. "Her little hands are like rain on dah desert. Dey bring healing, dey are soft, and dey make tings dat everyone tinks are dead live again. Dese hands are very good." Carefully he lifted her wrist slightly and kissed it. "She has beautiful hands because dey do dah beautiful tings from meh Kalizda's mind."

He seemed to abandon the story idea and that was alright. She wanted to hear his voice because she could feel it all over. It was a vibration in his chest against the thump of his heart and a tickling sound in her hair as his chin rested on her head gentle. His right hand picked up hers and curled her fingers, covering them in warmth that she made herself focus on. He had been afraid that she would leave him? He held her close with his hand over hers then kissed her wrist. The gesture made her close her eyes, as she struggled to contain herself again and the feeling of the kiss lingered. He did love and was trying hard for her even if she was all tears in a moment of weakness. "I didn't know..." she mumbled, her voice still thick with her bout of crying, "I didn't know you were worried I would leave." Her fingers curled around two of his gently and she gave them a light squeeze. "You were was like you had died even though you'd come back. I thought you wouldn't want me anymore... but I wouldn't leave. I love you memories or not. And..." Her throat closed up entirely this time, not allowing to finish the statement. She had watched him die nearly half a dozen times over and each time it had hurt more than she thought she could bear. "In the dream you didn't come back this time."

Kalizda started to croak out a few words and Illya got quiet. If she wanted to talk and if she had something to say then he was going to let her get through it. Sometimes trying to talk through these things was difficult. When she finally finished what she had to say he nodded slightly, "Yah very worried dat I will die in dah war." He knew that it was a possibility and one that neither of them liked to think about. "Meh Kalizda yah tell meh dis and now I know dat we need tah talk about dese tings. We make plans tah be safe. I dun want yah tah get hurt, or die and yah want meh safe. We work trough dis togeter."

Another cry brought on from a combination of self loathing for having worried him and the small relief from having some sort of understanding came out and she nodded, her hair ruffling against his chin. He'd hit part of it and it was hard. It made her want to curl up and insist that she was fine, that there were no problems and she could handle it even if it might be a lie at the moment. Rather than being ashamed or sounding disappointed, he held her close and told her that they would work through it together. That she could do, couldn't she. It was hard and everything felt a bit exposed for a moment as she nodded. "Aye, promise?" Promises were a childish sounding sentiment when her nose was stuffy from crying and she was being held close, but this time she didn't quite care.

"I will do meh part. I'm nut leaving. Yah have meh promise tah work trough dis wit yah." Shifting a little bit in the bed again he moved his left arm to wrap around her slightly. He couldn't actually get a good cuddle going with his left arm being so sore and laying on his right side, but he was determined to make this more comfortable feeling somehow.

Calysta nodded into his shoulder and let her head relax finally against him. He shifted slightly, trying to hold her a little closer and she held his hand in the darkness, hoping he wasn't going to hurt his arm. Sighing with her stuffy nose she, cuddled a little closer and tried to hold him back as much as she could. "You're my best friend," she whispered, "I'm glad to have you close. I love you." She felt more tired now than she had felt in a very long time. It was a deadened sort of exhaustion that she had last experienced when he went to Terra after her blunder, except this one was warm instead of isolated and lost. Her eyes began to droop, and she kept forcing them open, still afraid she might dream again until the pull was too much.

Even if sleep was a terrifying idea, dreams were sometimes worse when you tried not to sleep. Illya held onto Kalizda and he shifted his left arm enough that he could rub her back with his swollen finger tips. "Yah jes sleep." Eventually she started to settle down more and her breathing got deeper and slower. Despite his attempts to stay awake in case she had another dream Illya fell asleep only a few minutes after she did. A few hours later he could feel her shifting again and his arm flared up with a new shot of pain. It wasn't her fault, but it woke him up in time to hear her mumbling. Illya mumbled back to her. "Et's fine, I'm here. Yah jes having dream and yah need dah rest. Shifting a little he grabbed her fingers with his right hand again and whispered, "Hold onto meh hand. Yah know ets meh." Illya could feel her little fingers squeeze his right hand and roam about the palm of his hand for a few moments.

While Kalizda seemed to study his hand in her sleep he spoke to her softly in Quoti. "She is a little bird. The one that called to the Chippequoti and led them over the mountains to a good place. Little bird was reborn in my Calysta Marie Monroe." He knew her full name and he knew he didn't use it often, but this was a good time. "My Calysta is a priceless woman. There is no other like her." Kissing the top of her head he waited for her breathing to calm again before he allowed himself to fall asleep once more.

By morning Illya's arm was even more tender feeling and he was starting to feel the bruises that were visible and invisible. Blasts sometimes left a man far more sore than he appeared. His liver hurt, kidneys hurt, stomach flipped, head ached, arm throbbed, and back raged with fury. On top of all this his right side was feeling a bit more tender because he'd been laying on it. Wincing a bit he moved his left arm off the pillow he'd propped on Kalizda's waist. His fingers had swollen badly overnight. He should have had his arm on a pillow by his head, but he thought it was more comfortable to try and hold Kalizda. That theory had proved itself to be wrong. Setting some pillows up by his head Illya moved his arm to a more appropriate position and he rubbed Kalizda's shoulders tenderly with his right hand. He probably should have let her sleep, but he knew neither of them would sleep in the evening if they didn't get up soon. "Hey, how about we go see dat garden? Yah also promise meh some custard and I tink dat would sound good for breakfast eh?"

It was going to be a good half hour before Illya could have his next sucker and he knew it. Instead of asking for the sucker he looked out toward the balcony with the hot tub. "Dat might be a nice way tah get cleaned up dis morning." Even if their date had ended a bit odd, Illya was glad that he took Edgar's advice. His grandfather told him if he wanted to truly please a woman he would let her set the pace for her celebration day. He had been warned that Kalizda may like being intimate without the hard work and it proved to be true, but she had such a glow to her face that night. It was a smile that Illya wanted to see again. A sort of favor he'd never had from a woman. Perhaps he would try for these nights once a week. Times when he would not suggest the hard work, but simply give her all his affection. That was a difficult thing, but Edgar was right. There was something about that, it made her somehow closer.

Once Illya was in the tub he let out a groan of satisfaction. Even if the jets hurt a little at first they soothed some of the ache in his back. "I tink we should use dah bat at home more often. Ets good. Like sitting in a big bucket." Beckoning for Kalizda to join him Illya kept his left arm on the top of the tub, but he wrapped his right arm around her. "I like dis." Kissing her gently he grinned. "What yah say after we look at dah gardens dat we go get a sword for Cypher and den we have nice dinner?" He had to admit that he was thinking a little more about food because he liked to eat when he didn't feel good.


When they reached the gardens Illya was only a few bites into his custard and cream. There was a little custard stand almost right outside the gardens. Kalizda still seemed to have an air of worry about her. Holding the cold custard in his left hand Illya reached out for Kalizda's hand with his right. "Here, yah hold meh hand share dah custard eh? Yah take a bite and den yah have tah feed meh one." He wanted to comfort her and still eat. That was going to take a little arrangement, but he figured she wouldn't mind his suggestion.

Every now and then Kalizda would give Illya a bite of his custard and he missed it once because he got distracted by a beautiful plant. Instead of getting the the bite he turned to look at the unusual looking plant and smeared the custard across his cheek. "Dat es very tall sort of bush. Does dah berries make good food?" Whatever the plant was it grew amazing looking fruit and he started to wonder if it would make a good pie with cream on it. Shrugging one shoulder he brought it up high enough to wipe his cheek off on it and then took the bite of custard from Kalizda. "I tink we need tah make garden somewhere in dah yard and we have fruit for good pies. Cypher likes pies and crem." Illya liked pies and cream too, but he knew his argument might go further if it included the kids.


Kent stared at the little report. There was an attempt on the Council woman's life, but it failed. However, there was some interesting news with it. Apparently her husband, Illya Blackwolf had been there in her stead. He wasn't dead, but it gave birth to a new idea. If more assassination attempts could be staged on the Council Woman's life her agreed would do his best to prevent them. It was natural for an Elite to take that position, but it was also their most vulnerable point. It could make killing the Chippequoti leader far easier and with him out of the way it was doubtful that the Chippequoti could continue to foster the mutual understanding that they had with the Alliance.

However, that was a good fallback plan if this one failed. Zkree was on the cusp of war and all it would take was a nudge. By now they were probably going to be fighting among themselves on their own planet. A portion of them would condemn the attempted assassination and others would view it as a good thing. Those that viewed it as good would gladly commit their ships to a raid on the Alliance. It was time to start an invasion. One that would outnumber the Alliance ships and now was a time to gather supporters from all over. Typing in a quick message Kent sent a mass message through the Federation territories and border areas. "Now is the time to gather forces." They would know what it meant. They would be staging an attack focused on Pytra.


Curious Adventurer
Agent Bryant stepped into the room after a long while, the sliver of light marking his entrance and he slid silent as a shadow along the wall. "Mrs. Kai, they will be wanting to move him now." Priscilla wiped at her eyes and her grip tightened over Harry's hand. She didn't want to let go. It felt so hard to move...almost impossible. "We also need to have a conversation." Priscilla's eyes shifted to the agent, red and irritated as they were. "Does it have to be now?" Her voice cracked some as she spoke and she sniffed though she knew it wasn't particularly lady like. "Yes, I'm afraid so Mrs. Kai. If you will come with me, we can speak in private and they can take Mr. Kai out with all due dignity. You don't need to see that." Priscilla's mouth opened and closed for a moment and she shook her head. " right now...please." Bryant sighed. "I'm sorry, but we need to speak in private. One way or the other. Either you can stay here and the General can leave or you can come with me."

Ehud stood up when the agent stepped into the room. The man seemed insistent on speaking with Priscilla alone and Ehud couldn't help feeling it wasn't right. It was easy enough to sense that the woman was not at ease either. Standing at her side he stared at the agent. "Sir, I was asked to protect her and I'm here to do my job. There is no reason to separate her from her protection at this point. Whatever must be said can be said here. I can be discrete as required."

Agent Bryant looked at Ehud, his eyes studying the man in a calculating but not necessarily cold way. He measured for another long moment and then he nodded. "The nature of your duty to Mrs. Kai is appreciated but its the nature of your relationship that I have to consider, General. It's not an issue of trust so much as it is that I want this to be a private conversation for her sake." Priscilla drew herself up, a look of anger in her tear laden eyes and she nearly growled. "I dont want to talk to you unless Ehud is there. Either you stay and so does Ehud or we all go." Agent Bryant folded his hands in front of himself and met her in the eyes, waiting to see if the general had anything to say.

With the statement from Priscilla Ehud figured that was all that needed to be said. The agent was going to have to deal with what she said. After a long moment he decided to speak. "You will have to abide by the lady's statement. I will be here as long as she desires."

Agent Bryant gazed at the two of them and took a breath. On this subject, it wasn't something he wanted to bring up in front of Ehud, but the man wasn't going to budge without her say and the woman was clearly not wanting to be alone with him. He didn't blame her. "Alright then," he said, "With Mr. Kai gone, I will be taking his position as leader of the colony underground. Our organization will feel his loss throughout all of our facets. He was as much a figure as a founder here under the name Yuri and the people have great respect for him. He spoke of you privately, only among us, but you have that same reputation among the civilians on the topside. I am here to ask you to say and support the work your husband started. You could do alot of good here and this is where you belong." Priscilla wrapped her arms around her waist and glared at Bryant. "He's not even in his grave yet and you''re what? Trying to recruit me?" Bryant looked no less deterred. "No, paying my respects and telling you that you have a home among your people here. Stay and do some good rather than having to stay on Kaereal hidden away."

The discussion was hardly anything for Ehud to say. He was going to do whatever Priscilla asked of him at this point. She stood up for herself quite well and the man seemed to be a bit put off by it. Somehow by the end of the short conversation it looked like the man was staring at Ehud as if he should have something to say. Ehud kept his mouth shut and simply stared at him. He was silent support for now. He'd said his peace and if the man pushed much more he was going to step in and say something, but for now he would wait to see if Bryant would actually respect Priscilla so much as he said he did.

About that time, the nurse poked her head in along with two men in jumpsuits to remove the body and Priscilla stiffened. She was angry and she wanted to tell the man off for his poor timing. Couldnt this have waited? Probably not. He was in charge now and had duties she didnt know. Running a shaking hand through her hair, she glanced to Ehud and her chin trembled slightly. This wasnt his fault. None of it was. "Ehud, I'm sorry. W-will you wait in the hallway for a moment?" She wanted to talk to Bryant on her own for only a moment and she didnt like having her poor boyfriend having to stand around and listen to it all.

It seemed that the man in charge wasn't about wasting any time and Ehud clenched his jaw. This wasn't his place to speak, but he could see that Priscilla was near saying something. The last thing that Ehud expected was for Priscilla to excuse him, but since she wanted that he was going to leave. Nodding to her, Ehud started toward the doorway, but he intended to stay near the door so that he could hear if she needed help. There was no telling what this man would do. It wasn't as though Ehud knew him well enough to trust him.

After nearly 30 minutes, Priscilla emerged looking bedraggled and gaunt followed closely by Bryant who patted her shoulder and then took off down the hall with his even, long strides. On the directors coattails came Harry's body wrapped in a opaque bag and flanked by two nurses. On of them stopped and whispered to Priscilla before dropping something into her palm and continuing their trek to the morgue. When every one had emptied the room, Priscilla glanced up to Ehud looking more tentative than usual. "They''re going to cremate him." A sniffle broke her statement and she wiped at her face. "And then we can go home. If you want to."

It seemed like a long time before Priscilla emerged again. Ehud's eyes darted about her face as he studied her. She looked worn out. Possibly more exhausted than he'd ever witnessed before and he waited until she spoke to say anything. "They're going to cremate him and then what will you do?" He could go home if he liked, but he wanted to know what she planned to do with herself.

Priscilla blinked at Ehud in confusion. Had she said something wrong? It was possible, considering everything was in a whirl right now. Or maybe he was angry she asked him to leave the room. Was Bryant right after all? "I thought..." she shook her head trying to clear it, "I thought you would want to go home. I mean, I understand if you don't want me with you. This was more than you really should have had to deal with and I would understand." It hurt to think he might not want her after all of this, even if the idea of it was ridiculous. Still, he might not want her around Sien with this mess and he didnt have time to deal with this on top of everything else. Her eyes met his and she gazed at him carefully. "I want to go home and that's not here. It's with you and Sien."

There was a strange mix of expressions on Priscilla's face and for a moment Ehud thought she was going to cry. Surely she hadn't let the man bully her into staying here. Momentarily he glanced behind himself to see Bryant's figure swagging along and it made him wanna go give a piece of his mind to that Terran. Instead he calmed himself for a moment and looked to Priscilla and let her finish what she was going to say. "Good, then you're coming home with me as soon as you're ready. I didn't want that Bryant making trouble and convincing you to stay here. I don't care what he says. He doesn't respect you like he says he does."

She couldnt tell if he was saying this because he wanted her or out of some obligation that Harry bound him to. She felt very far from Ehud and it added to the pit of lonliness she felt in her chest. "I know." She mumbled back. An odd silence passed between them and she wanted to reach out for him, to be held and to hold, but she hesitated. She loved him, and she knew that now. How he felt in return, she couldnt tell at the moment. Maybe it was just too soon. "I didn't want to stay. I.. " Her voice trailed of and she stepped a little closer the man. "You and Sien.'re my family."

Ehud studied Priscilla as she gave her carefully measured answer and he nodded. "Yes, I want you to come home." He wasn't sure why she was repeating herself. He had already confirmed that it was good she had decided to return with him. What else was there to say? "I would be very disappointed if you chose to stay and I know the others would be too."

Again, she was met with a carefully crafted answer and tears welled in her eyes and she nodded. "I'm glad that I'm welcome then. Thank you for staying with me when you didn't have to. We should be ready to go tonight when they finish...finish...what they need to with Harry." Gripped tightly in her hand was Harry's replacement wedding ring. The same she had picked out on Terra when he had lost his first one. "I should probably go clean up. Probably look terrible...I need to pack too..and we can go." Squaring her shoulders, she nodded to Ehud and began to try wobbling her way down the hallway in the wrong direction.

What was she supposed to do now? She felt exhausted and uncertain, reminding her of when she stepped on the transport for the last time on Terra. Only this time she wasn't sure where to go from there. At least when she had left Terra, Harry was alive and she had some hope they might be reunited but now she felt very much adrift. Stuck in some weird place with Ehud where he was still acting stiff and dutiful, even if she didn't blame him, and not feeling at home in the colony quite either. Priscilla nearly jumped when a hand settled over her shoulder and brought her to a stop in the middle of the hallway. A guiding nudge had her turning around and pointed in the opposite direction, urging her to go that way. "Right." She sighed, closing her eyes for just a moment and then continued walking. Ehud's hand fell away from her shoulder, taking away the temporary warmth his palm provided, and she kept walking eager to leave the accursed bunker.

It was late in the evening when Director Bryant came calling. He knocked on her hotel room door and she answered it, her hair still damp from the 40 minute long shower she'd taken. "I brought these for you Mrs. Kai," he said, offering over a small white box with a red ribbon sealing it shut. Priscilla took the box with trembling fingers and held it to her chest protectively. "Did you think about what I said, Mrs. Kai?" She hadn't quite looked the man in the eye yet as they stood in the door way but his question prompted her gaze to lift up his chest and settle onto his face. "I did and my answer remains the same. I love my people, but this isn't my place anymore. I wish you luck, Marvin Bryant and I encourage you to continue reaching out to the council woman." With that said, she nodded and closed the door on the new colony director.

Even as they packed up the small rented ship and lifted from the docking bay from the thriving Terran colony, people would stop and acknowledge her or nod in recognition. They packed away the bags into the ship and left without a word between them. Priscilla sat in the rented living space of their ship with the box of Harry's ashes in her hand, her thumb quietly stroking the red ribbon. She felt like throwing the box and holding it close all at once which resulted in her head hanging low over the item for a long time. What did she do now? Ehud was still in the cock pit staying quiet and for once it was infuriating. Why wouldn't he just say something?! The silence was unbearable and her grip tightened over the memorial box as the man walked past her going somewhere. "Ehud." At the sound of his name, he paused and looked back at her. "Will you stop the ship? Please." He seemed confused but returned to the cockpit nonetheless, putting them to a halt in open space. Priscilla marched herself to the little loading bay and went to the hatch. She had been around Kalizda enough to know how that worked. She kissed the white box, leaving a faint lipstick print on the top before placing in the hatch along with the owner-less wedding ring. Without giving herself time to rethink the idea, she slammed the hatch closed and hit the eject button. As soon as the hatch opened the box was sucked out into space and floating down the starboard side where it would stay until the end of time or it burned up in some atmosphere far from there. She couldn't bear to look at the box the rest of her life at at least this way he was at peace. A peace that was hard won.

Later in evening, she shuffled up to the living space in her pajamas and her hair piled in to puffy blonde bun on top of her head. Between her palms was a cup of coffee that she made more out of habit than actual want. The smell was comforting at least. Ehud was sitting on the couch still in his day clothes and she wondered when the man had any time to sleep. Somewhere between the respectful silence or the gentle but remote contact he'd made. Maybe he thought she was in mourning. She was in mourning but she felt conflicted and it hurt not being able to be close to someone, especially Ehud. He had been so kind and was probably just as confused as she was. There was all this uncertainty roaming around in her head and she hated it. Her fingers tightened around the coffee mug and her shoulders trembled until she worked herself up. What did she have to lose? Putting down the coffee mug with a solid clunk on the coffee table, Priscilla crossed the room, slipped a soft hand around the nape of his neck, and kissed him square on the lips without any hesitation. If he had any doubts or objections to her, then now was his time to reject her altogether. There was an inward fear that he might, and it made tears slip down her cheeks, but talking was hard right now between them. Kissing seemed the next best choice to get her point across.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Calysta slept off and on, her dreams filled with strange things. Drifting in and out of conscious reality where she could feel Illya's arm around her and the heat of his skin pressed hers was a comfort and at one point the feeling ripped her from a desperate dream where she couldn't find him in the darkness. His hand wrapped around hers and she felt it over to make sure it was really him before nuzzling down further into his shoulder. She could hear him talking though the words were lost most of the time. At he was there and safe with her. When morning came the sound of his voice accompanied it along with the touch of his hand gently rubbing her back. "Hmmm?" He mentioned something about custard for breakfast and she nodded. "Mmmm..." It wasn't her most graceful way to wake up, her hair and stuck to her tear stained cheeks in the middle of the night and dried there. Batting at the sticky hairs, she took in a deep breath and mustered some sort of watery smile. "Aye, I did promise didn't I?" They could still make a day of it and she was determined they would have some fun on the last of their vacation if Illya was feeling up to it. "Custard for breakfast in the gardens it is. " Returning his kiss in sweet measure, her tiny fingers stroked at his cheek with light caresses until he suggested they clean up in the hot tub. One didn't normally do that, but she didn't care. It would feel good and relaxing to both of them. "Mmm...lets do it." Illya's movements were stiff and she could see his swollen fingers poking out from under the breakaway cast. He had held her all night with that arm instead of having it in the proper position and hadn't said a word about it. He didn't even mention it or ask for his morphine sucker when he slipped into the hot tub beside her. She dunked her head under the water a few times to get rid of the gritty feeling the crying had left behind and emerged to her Chip offering an invitation to sit with him. She floated over and he pulled her close with a bear paw sized hand, tucking her to himself against the jets. It was a good feeling to be held, and a few flashes of the night before came to mind. He let her cry and stayed with her, even if it was just a terrible dream. It had seemed so real and she kissed on his neck here and there, trying to express some of the affection she felt that words simply didn't seem to cover.

He seemed to like her nibbled and swapped to a real kiss before smiling at her. "If you're up for the gardens then we should go. Everything will be in bloom because the rainy season is ended and the sun has come out. There are a few shops on the continent we can finds swords at too." Illya may have been sore, but she knew he didn't like being idle and if an easy walk through the gardens was what he felt up to, then she would go with him gladly. "I think I could go for using our bath a little more at home. I can get some nice soaking oils and we can use it a few nights a week, yeah?" Her eyes took in his face and she could see some light bruising here and there under he tan tones of his skin. Even feeling so bad he had managed to take care of her last night when it should have been the other way around. Sure, she felt sheepish, but she also felt a small relief. He was there and he wasn't going to give up. They had a promise to work through this together and it was a promise she trusted with him and only him.

She kissed on him a little while longer, simply enjoying his company in the quiet and then dunked her head into the water one last time. When she resurfaced, her skin was pink and she took in a deep breath before noting Illya's look of concern. "I can hold my breath for a long time," she smiled a bit shyly, "It's kind of an ability Kaereleans developed over time in high altitudes." Shrugging a bit, she floated closer to him and helped him out of the hot tub by climbing out first and helping him unfold the towel before wrapping it around his waist for him. Dressing was along the same lines and she attended to the task with patience. He could pull on his own shirt well enough, and she let him do that, but the pants and shoes were a different story. She helped him but while trying to get his belt on him, she tightened it a bit too tight and it caused him to let out a heavy grunt. For all she knew, she was pinching some important bits and she winced. "Ooh hang on...let me fix that."

Once the task of actual clothing was done they hit the streets and picked up a cone of custard to share as they went into the gardens. It made her smile when he opted to hold her hand in his rather than the custard cone, allowing her to feed him bites between her own. There wasn't any worry about spit between them. Hell, they kissed so it wasn't like a few shared licks on cream cone were going to do much damage. She walked along the garden path holding his hand and offering up the next lick of the slowly melting custard, feeling much better than the night before. Their night seemed almost like a dream itself now. As she predicted, many of the plants had begun to bloom because of the rain and now the sun coming out. They stopped beside a singular stemmed plant whose fluffy petals had zebra stripe patterns of bold white and black. "These are lovers flowers," she told Illya, "They only grow on rare places on the equator continents. The two colors combined symbolize a harmonious relationship. Kind of the Kaerelean equivalent of the Terran rose, I suppose." Chuckling to herself, she remembered the last time she'd really seen one. "Aryn tried to give me one for Christmas long before we moved to Nuen and I told him we were engaged...then I told him I was engaged while I had a kitchen knife in my hand."

They walked further into the gardens and with each passing step Calysta felt more at ease. She was simply a woman out with her husband enjoying the day. They came to a stop and she reached up with the cone in order to use the moment to offer him a bite of the custard. Instead, the cream mashed against his cheek because he was looking at one of the plants instead. Before she could offer him the napkin, he used the shoulder of his shirt to wipe off the smudge of creamy treat. Of course his first instinct was to wipe it on his clothes. Cypher had to get that little habit from somewhere and here she was seeing it first hand. Shaking her head, she rolled her eyes a bit and looked a the plant he was referring to. He was always thought of their children when he saw something that they might like and it made her smile. "Aye, I think a little garden would be great. The kids would really like it and the produce would be even better. These plants are a bit harder to raise. Fire Berry plants make sweet berries but don't always do well in certain places, but Pyrta's soil is good. Maybe we can give it a try, yeah?"

The gardens were still beautiful as the last time she had come over ten years ago and they talked about what sort of plants they might like to have in their own garden on Pyrta when they could plant them. By the time they were done walking all the paths, the ice cream was gone and she offered to take them into the different blacksmithing stalls. It took more than one visit to a vendor but eventually they found a nice sword for Cypher. It had blunted fighting edges and was made for someone around his size with with a golden cross guard and pommel. It was a handsome blade and she was sure he would love it. At dinner, they ate on the patio of a little bistro near the restaurant and she enjoyed talking with her Chip, holding his hand across the table. He was getting tired and probably more sore, but he wasn't letting it stop him from having some fun and she wasn't going to let it stop him either. Despite that, she knew he wouldn't be up for serious hard work even if he wanted it, so she came up with a different idea. She slid behind him in the bed and propped his arm up on her chest where his fingers could play with her hair as he leaned back between her knees. It was better on his arm and his side if she cuddled him like this for awhile, letting her fingers massage his scalp and his body rest with hers.

"I'm glad your curls have finally come back," she mused, "I missed them after that silly goat incident." She kissed the top of his head with a little peck and then sighed with smile into his mess of wild curls that she had helped tease up further. "Thank you, love. For my new year ball, and for being with me." If there was another way to say it that didn't sound so cheesy she didn't know it. They fell asleep talking and curled up with one another in a fairly peaceful start to the night until she found herself trapped in the same field and watching Illya being swallowed up by the ground. She yelled his name and he fell into the fiery chaos below anyways, making her scramble after him with no regard for her own safety. It took her a moment of sweaty, heart pounding panic to hear her Chip talking. He whispered her name and held against the dark. Why wasn't she able to get it out of her mind? The thought that nothing had happened to her and yet she was the one having dreams bothered her more so when she woke crying into his shoulder from fear and the relief that he was there. "I'm sorry," she mumbled to him. He just held her all the tighter and kept talking so she could calm herself down enough to sleep.

Morning came around for their last day of vacation together and Calysta intended on making the night up to him by showing him around of the older parts of Kinte and they even took a small flight in her flyer around the continent where it was quiet and relaxing. Flying always had that effect on her and she took through a nice and gentle lap around the area, enjoying the fact that lllya could come with her. The sunset was a spectacular array of pinks and golds on the horizon while they finished their small tour. They topped off the night in the hot tub where she was feeling all the more playful after a nice cruise through the skies and sat in the warm water with him. At one point, she clasped her hands together and squeezed her palms causing a spout of water to jet up and tinkle against Illya's broad chest. "My dad used to do that with the dish water," she chuckled, "He'd ask me to look and see what he had found and then get me." She squeezed her palms again, forcing out another tiny fountain. "Of course, right now this isn't exactly a fair water match," she added, "So I might just stick with kisses instead." Smiling, she lifted up from the water and started a slow little kissing session with nothing in mind by the pleasure of his company.

When it came time for him to go back to Skycorp, Calysta didn't want to leave him at the gate. He was already a day late for the start of that weeks classes, but his hand wasn't looking much better and she knew he was sore. "The morphine suckers are in the clinic if you need them on the regular schedule," she told him, "I'll be going to Pryta to check on the children but I will be back soon." Holding his good hand up, her fingers slid up his arm and hugged him lightly. She wanted to be careful not to bump his bad arm. "Be safe and I'll message you when I land, yeah?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Well look what the Udinain Slog dragged in." Rezna crowed from across the PT field. There was a wide grin on her face that reminded Tiberius of a cat who had gotten into the cream, altogether too pleased with itself. The tall, muscular woman wandered over with a very quiet Yurian teammate and Sam in tow. The Pithian boy looked exhausted, and the Yurian man even more so. All of them but Rezna whose stringy blond locks hung lose out of her half cornrowed pony tail. "And here I was thinking you dropped out, Blackwolf. Or is it Illya? Or General? I've heard so many things." Her piercing yellow eyes looked him over and smirked. "You don't look so hot. What happened to your arm, huh? Some braun break it in a fight?"

Wynry scowled and waved her hand in a stopping gesture. "Just go and do your PT like the others." In truth, she had no idea how her teammates arm had been broken, but he looked like he was hurting and Rezna was being a pain on purpose. The Udine woman raised a brow and scoffed. "And what're you going to do about anything, you can't even hear half the insults sent your way. I'm not even sure if I should pity you or laugh at you trying to make your way through this training. As for you Terran-" She rounded on Tiberius a look of mean spirited mirth gleaming in her smile. "Why you're just one step away from being Alliance cannon fodder, isn't that right." Her attention turned to Illya who was by far the most worthy and strong opponent among any of their class and she grinned. If she could beat him with or with out a broken arm that would make her the best. She would be atop of the chain around here and there would be no worry of failure. "Now, are you going to tell me what happened to that arm or do I have to find out for myself?"


Anonymous Me
It was hard to see Priscilla like this. The woman was usually much more careful of her appearance. Silently he watched her muddle her way through the hall after he corrected her direction. Ehud was glad that Sien wasn't here for now, but he wasn't entirely sure how to approach Priscilla. He was here and she knew that. It was the best that anyone had done for him after Haza died.

Wandering down the hall after her he made sure that Priscilla got into her room alright before he stepped into his own room. They had a few hours until they would be headed home. She wanted to go back with him and he was glad. Losing her to this insane little colony would be tragic. The woman was far too gentle to be lost to this sort of thing. If they really wanted her to be a face of the Terran resistance to the Federation than it would be better done from Pytra where she would safe. When the time came for them to fly home Ehud gathered up the bags and silently took her back to the ship with him.

Once he was in the cab to get the ship going he winced. It had been a good long couple of days and he hadn't much chance to rest. His insides were aching horribly and he had not packed any of the medicine to help soothe the pain. While he was in the cabin alone he got the ship in the air and then sat inside for about an hour extra to try and nap. Eventually he gave up. The bit of vibration from the ship was just enough to make it feel like his guts were about to be shaken to bits inside of him. While he was up he decided to go find a more comfortable spot, only to be asked by Priscilla if he could stop the ship. Without a word he turned around and went back to the cabin to stop the ship.

Later that evening Ehud found himself sitting on the couch. He was tired out, almost entirely dazed and not really keeping track of things anymore. They only had a few days till they got back to Pytra and then he'd run the men hard around the track. Ehud wanted to watch them and make an analysis. It was in part to spare himself the running and jarring activities. While he was sitting on the couch with his hazy brain he was interrupted suddenly by a messy bun head and strange sort of kiss. This wasn't a passionate sort of kiss and he'd never had anything like this happen before.

When Priscilla pulled away he saw that little tear and he blinked dumbly a few times. What was he supposed to do with this? There was nothing that immediately came to his mind. Haza had never done that and he certainly would never have done that when he was mourning. After a few more seconds he held one arm out. "I think its better not to get involved like that right now. You just sit with me and we'll be close. In time we'll work toward that again, when you're ready and you want me because you love me. Right now I think you're hurt." Right now getting physical wasn't the answer at all. It was far from it, but he could understand if she simply needed someone to be there. He hoped that in time she would love him and they could move forward. If she couldn't see him that way ever again he would be hurt, but he did the right thing.

With a deep breath he looked out the gazing window at the stars and the foamy looking gasses around them. It was a pretty little belt of stars to move through and he was content to sit here for the time. Hopefully she would be alright with that. Ehud wasn't awake long enough to know if she was ok with the decision to just be close for the time. Within a few minutes his chin dropped to his chest and he slumped slightly.


At the end of the garden visit Illya walked with Kalizda into the gift store to see if he could find books on gardening. If they could have a little garden it might be nice. She seemed to like the idea. The more he thought about it the more Illya liked the idea too. Having a berry tree and then getting some fresh vegetables would be good. He could learn about it and then teach the children. These were all skills that would be helpful for them to know. The more his children knew about living from the earth the better off they would be. It was too simple to go to a store and simply collect whatever they needed from a shelf, but to know how to grow and produce these goods was even better. One day they could need those skills.

Holding his left arm close to his body Illya wandered through the rows of shelves and he looked at the book titles. They were a haze of Kaerelean words and he figured that there must not have been too many of these books sold to foreigners. Even if he wanted to look into gardening his head hurt, and he was getting sore enough that he wasn't sure he cared to try and read the titles.

Illya wandered around the book shelf and found Kalizda one aisle over. "Yah find good garden book?" If she hadn't found one yet he was sure she wouldn't mind helping him find one. After they found a good book Illya went to get a fast lunch with Kalizda. Something that they could walk with. There little food stands everywhere and it was on their walk to the other side of town to get a sword for Cyher. He hadn't expected to find a good sword selection, but to Illya's surprise there was a considerable collection of little swords for boys to learn with. There was one that caught his eye and though it wasn't the same that caught Kalizda's eye they found a compromise. She wanted one a little shorter and Illya figured he wanted something his son could grow with a little more. However, her thought wasn't entirely wrong. There were two thoughts when it came to some of the familiarity with blades and Kalizda's idea wasn't bad. The two of them settled on a sword that fell between their expectations and it would be a good sturdy blade for their son to handle. "I like dah balance in et." Illya tested the blade with his right hand and held it out from himself and then tilted his wrist one way and another to see what shifting the weight of it felt like. Once he determined it was a good blade he gave it to Kalizda to try. She tested it in her own fashion and agreed before they had the shop keeper wrap it up and Kalizda paid for it. Even if Illya had his wallet with he didn't like fumbling with it with only one hand.

Once they had the sword it was going to be a bit of a walk home and then they could have dinner. It was a lot of food packed into a small time, but she ate small meals and he always wanted to eat more when he was hurt. All through dinner Illya let his left hand rest on the table and Kalizda played with his swollen fingers gently and even held his hand for a bit while they talked. Most of the chatter was about the garden and the kids. Talking about normal things actually felt good for a change.

With an early evening in bed Illya laid down in the bed and propped his arm up on Kalizda and let her play with his hair. A few minutes before he fell asleep she gave him his sucker and he put it into the side of his cheek. His fingers were terribly swollen at the end of the day and his arm hurt badly enough he was exhausted even after the minimal effort of the day. He didn't wake till Kalizda started having dreams again and he mumbled her back to sleep.

The last day around the continent was more relaxing and Illya kept his arm propped up in the little flyer. From the back seat he watched the bits of floating land go by. Part way through the longer portion of the flight he rested his helmet against the window of the flyer and dozed off. When Illya woke up he saw Kalizda was getting out of the flyer in front of him. Her legs looked quite shapely from his point of view. With a rummy grin he lazily started to get himself out of the flyer. This was thankfully larger and he wasn't quite as cramped as he was in the smaller flyers.

With more dreams that night Illya was getting worried about Kalizda. Would she do alright if she had to go home without him? In part Illya was starting to wonder if he could possibly step out of Skycorp and re-join the next year. There was that little nagging feeling that told him he should stay in because he didn't want to take that horrible test all over again. When it was time for Illya to head back to the classes he stood at the gate and reluctantly swiped his badge to get back in. Glancing over his shoulder he saw Kalizda was still watching. With a little wave he sent her off and then went into the compound. He had a few minutes to get his things into the building and get himself set up for the rest of the week.

By the time role call was done and they were into the first class Illya was tired out. His arm was throbbing, he didn't want to stand anymore and he could feel the familiar ache from the blast was settling into his bones. Halfway through the class Illya grabbed his pad and laid out on the classroom floor in the back. Resting his elbow on the floor Illya tilted his broken arm up and let it rest against the wall. The wall was cool and it felt somewhat good against the back of his swollen hand. Illya had almost fallen asleep when the class was dismissed and he sat up and collected his pack before taking himself down the hall to the clinic to get one of the morphine suckers.

The second class Illya didn't even try standing for it and instead he immediately flopped out on the floor. It was math class and he wasn't worried about any of the equations. Shutting his pad down he rested it across his chest and decided to take a nap. "Cadet Blackwolf!" A sharp tone woke him and he sat up to see the entire class staring at him expectantly. "Can you solve this problem for the class? I noticed you don't seem to think you can learn anything here." With a bit of a snoot the professor pointed to the board. "This problem encompasses all the factors of the lesson we just completed. Students have already begun to work on their own problems, but I thought I'd give you a chance to do something more complex." If the cadet thought he was so smart that he didn't need to listen then here was his chance to prove it.

Illya rubbed his face and nodded. "Aye." Getting himself up he walked his pad over to his standing desk and set it there before he wandered to the front and took up the marker. Looking at the board for a moment he sighed and then began to scribble out a series of numbers. Pausing only once he looked over his shoulder because he was sure he heard someone snickering. "Ef yah keep dat up I make yah face little fun for dah clinic tah fex." With a little flourish he finished off the equation and then set the marker down before he went back to his spot on the floor. The professor could be dumbfounded all they liked, but he was going to finish his nap.

The rest of the day Illya slogged his way through. He had a moderate lunch with only a few questionable looking items in it. Then he had to go out to the PT fields. None of it sounded good and if they were racing for early relief on the bunks he doubted he was going to get it. Unfortunately his classmates were not as quick, or as able bodied and that meant they would just have to play nicely until his arm was healed. There was apparently no such thing as playing nice though.

Rezna seemed to drone on and on as she tried to belittle Illya's classmates and then act as if that was supposed to be intimidating to him. She was making a fuss and out to prove something if he had to judge by her actions. People with that sort of attitude were only looking for trouble. As she made her way over she gestured to his arm and gave a sort of threat. Illya shrugged at her and answered as plainly as he could, "I broke et." If she thought she was going to play smart he could make her look dumb. That was the fun part about talking with hot headed people, they usually said stupid things and when you made it obvious they had a few options and none of the choices would make them look good.

Reza shot the man an annoyed look and rolled her eyes. "No don't who was strong enough to break an almighty Chip arm like that? Or maybe you did it in a slip and fall, huh? Old timer? Are the hip the next to go?" At this point she leaned forward and flicked one of Illya's bits of covered hand. "I bet its not even real."

The woman only got closer and she glowered down at him as if he were a child. Having someone treat him like that was beyond annoying and Illya clenched his jaw. Slip and fall was one way to put it, but he wasn't about to tell her that it was fairly close. When she flicked his hand Illya felt a surge of pain run through his left arm, but he kept his face straight. He didn't need her knowing how bad it actually hurt. "Ets real enough. Now go mind yah own business. Yah jes as bad as a little school gossip."

"Gossip am, I? You think I'm some frightened chickant who gossips?" She sounded highly offended and her voice grew louder, her chest drawing up in righteous fury. Did they not see a challenge? Why wouldnt he assert himself like a top male should? She knew Kaereal was different but by the old gods and new she didnt know why he wouldnt step up to stake his claim if he was so tough. Maybe it was the arm? She wanted to fight him. To win over him and secure her position and had egged him on before being slighted with the mere indifference of a soldier. "It's 'hens' by the way," Tiberius gestured vaguely, " Gossiping hens. Hens are female chickens....not chickants. If you're to be using cannon fodder Terran insults at least use them properly when you gossip." He corrected her casually, and with almost a tone of amusement while Wynry bit her lip in what amounted to an attempt not to laugh. Rezna glared at the three of them before deciding what she would do. She knew the carrot stick to get him to move. Stepping up, she kept her gaze steady on Illya for a long moment. .then promptly turned with a fist whirling in at Tiberius instead. The Terran yelped and jumped back just in time for her fist to stop where his head had been. "Someone's feeling clucky," he blinked as another fist came whizzing past.

Seeing the woman get so offended over being called a gossip was funny. Illya just smirked as he watched her puff up and get indignant. They didn't have to fight. He could just harass her for fun and watch her get more angry all the time. Unfortunately the Udine woman didn't seem to have a temper long enough for the hazing to turn out to be fun. Instead she made eye contact with him and then started swinging at his team mates. Illya watched the first swing miss and then when she drew back for the second hit Illya kicked at the front of her knee to hyper extend it. Without waiting for further action he body slammed her and aimed to take her to the ground. Once they got to the ground he knew he could take her and probably keep his arm away from her.

Tiberius side stepped the second blow and moved further back just in time to see a flicker launch out at his assailant. The movement was followed by a pained screech and he realized the blur had been Blackwolf. How in the hell did a man move so fast for his size? The terran blinked as the tall Udine woman dropped to her opposite knee only to be tackled by Blackwolf like a skinny highschool freshmen facing down the varsity line backer. The ground let out a solid thud as Illya leapt on top of the woman. For whatever pain she was in, Rezna growled ferociously, half in true anger and half as if she were having a bit of fun with the fight in general, then with a war cry she followed through with his tackle and allowed him to roll her until she was able to drive the flat of her fist toward the Chip's injured hand. If he was going to play dirty, so would she.

The Udine fought about the same as Illya had thought she would. Her kind were never the type to play nicely. They played to win and so did he. To save his arm Illya moved it to the side and instead took the hit to his ribs. However, it left her open and he slammed his right forearm toward her throat. She might have tough skin, but he remembered that the last Udine he fought had a little trouble when he went for the throat. Most did and that was just a little fact in life.

Renza's hit landed in the man's ribs with, her fist popping against his torso in a solid blow before he decided to return one on his own. This time his forearm barred into throat with a hard slam, forcing her back into the ground. Her throat closed from the trauma and she drew in a wheezing breath of surprise, eyes wide with shock as her back smacked against the ground. Air forced from her lungs and her eyes watered as she sank her nails into Illya's forearm, gripping in an attempt to pull his arm back. Her feet lashed out and she drew up her knees, kicking viciously at any sensitive part she could connected with. With her squirming under the Chip's weight, a few of the class mates had stopped in their PT and started running over. A whistle sounded before Swyft's voice barked out the order to stop. "Break it up! Or you're both out! You have three seconds!"

The harder the woman pulled at Illya's arm the more he pushed forward and bared his weight down on her. Her feet kicked wildly and he felt one of them come close to his manhood and decided to move out of the way of her feet. While he was still scrambling to find a way to knock her out a whistle sounded and Illya pushed away from Rezna and got up. Holding out his right hand he offered to help her up. He wouldn't have normally tried to be nice, but this was Skycorp.

Rezna didn't take the hand immediately as she was too busy gaining her breath for a moment after the whistle blew. Sywft looked between the two of them, his grey eyes sharp and his jaw set. "Blackwolf, Kernach," he said in clipped tones, " Get up, Kernach." Rezna rolled to her side and then clambered to her feet, her injured knee unwilling to hold all over her weight. She leaned heavily to the side as she rubbed her throat, but rather than a look of anger, there was a pained smile on her face. She had gotten what she wanted and now she knew what she had to compete with. "Is there are particular reason you two are fighting in the middle of drills or are we able to continue?" Sywft said. "Yessir." Rezna wheezed with her strange smile. Swyft's jaw tightened and he pointed toward the buildings across the field. He knew exactly what the Udinian woman had been at, and letting her go on the field would only serve her purpose in showing how tough she was. Plus, if she had been injured in the fight he was obligated to see that she did get proper care. "Stop showboating then and get to the infirmary for the knee. Go on." Rezna's demeanor changed instantly and she opened her mouth to argue before Sywft cut her off. "Now." Grumbling curses under her breath, she limped off toward the infirmary and the commander turned his attention to the Chip who was still standing. He looked fine, but the same would apply to the Chip. "You too, Blackwolf."

It was a welcome reprieve. Illya had been a little nervous that the Udine woman would get a hold of his arm. Instinctively he cradled his left arm while Swyft went about barking at them. Blaming the event on Rezna would be accurate, but Illya didn't like the way it would sound, so he chose to stay quiet and let her say what she wanted. Silently Illya watched Rezna limp away as she was ordered and then he was sent to the infirmary too. In a way it wasn't such a bad deal. His arm hurt and it would be a good chance to lay back on one of the beds and prop his arm up. "Yes sir." Lowering his arms to his side he gave a slight bow in salute and then turned to take himself away from the field.

At Rezna's slower pace, she was quickly over taken by Illya and as the Chip passed her she let out a garbled chuckle. "You fight well." Her knee was probably damaged and she was lucky he hadn't crushed her throat under the weight of his arm. He fought like an Udine and that made this ladder climbing within the ranks of Skycorp all the more enjoyable. She had thought it would be too easy to make herself top brass here, given the Kaerelean welps didn't like fighting amongst themselves terribly much, but this had turned out to be interesting.

Illya cast a glance at Rezna and he growled. "Hmm...Chippequoti believe dat dah weak start fights tah try and prove dere strengt. Et only was fight because yah demand dat I prove yah weakness." If she was going to be so miserable, he was going to let her know how unacceptable the behavior was.

Rezna's smirk turned to a scowl. "You proved that I was right," she coughed, "You're the strongest here. Might have lost this time, but it wont happen again." She would make sure that this loss wasn't wasted. It would be learned from until she got ready to challenge him again and if it took poking his teammates to spur him into it, she wouldn't hesitate.

"Dun get in such a hurry tah fight everyone. Someday dere will be someone dat beats meh, but I dun want tah meet dat person. Better tah wait tah fight. Yah kind make too much trouble for demselves tinking dey are so strong. I killed Udine bigger dan yah wit a rag." Illya shot right back at the Udine woman. She was determined to fight and he was determined not to.

"Bullshit," she growled, hobbling all the faster to keep up with the Chip. "You didn't kill a clansmen with a rag and even if you did, what would you know about my people? If you arent the top and in control you risk someone else controlling you or worse." Her knee wobbled a little and she grunted, trying to keep up what had become a grueling pace.

"Being on top and en control es sometimes more easy, but dere es trouble being dere. Trouble yah dun want. I would rater jes lurk and hold meh little piece of ground. Yah stay dah hell out of meh way and yah leave meh alone." She could be whatever she wanted, but he wasn't going to fight her to be the top. "Yah be dah best and say et all yah want. I dun argue."

"Anyone can say something, but I put my hide where my mouth is, Blackwolf," she spat back, "Nothing is good until proven." With a determined glare she let the conversation end and hobbled onward.

Illya kept on going and he reached the main building first. If he was going to go sit in the clinic to get checked out then he was going to at least make his time useful and check in on a few things. He wanted to talk with Edgar and ask him about a few more helpful things and let him know how the date went. Once Illya had his pad he opened it up to get the news before he got checked out. Stopping part way in the hall he saw that his father actually submitted an extensive report Forwarding it to Kirit he sent a request for the facts to be checked. If anything came up questionable Illya was going to leave the man in that prison to rot. As for himself, he was going to start looking into that report too. Illya wanted to know what his father had been up to all those years.

Slowly walking through the halls Illya almost ran into a fellow cadet and he turned a few moments too early for the clinic door and managed to catch his right shoulder on the door frame. The entire wall near it shuddered and he noticed a few of those sitting in the clinic looked up at him. Without much care he wandered in the rest of the way and glanced at the lady behind the front desk briefly as he made his statement, "Swyft send meh tah get checked out. Got in a fight wit dah Udine."

That seemed to have the clinic staff in a rush and he was in a bed before he had time to really think about protesting to their over the top reaction. They were running full scans and gave him a morphine sucker half an hour early and he had pillows to prop his arm up and decided it wasn't worth telling them he won the fight. When Rezna came in they'd figure that out. Once they were done with the scans Illya resumed reading the report from his father. Most of it was exploration and mapping out some of the wilds. What was unclear was how long Markus had been down in the wilds. Apparently from the writing it seemed that Markus had lost track of the time too because sometimes it seemed like years and other times the writing only reflected months.


It was the end of the week and Illya stood near the gate with a few of the others. Weekends were a popular time to leave. While Illya was standing at the gate he checked his pad for the time. It wouldn't open for another five minutes, but Kalizda said she would be there to pick him up. "Meh agreed es coming tah get meh." It was impossible not to grin even if he saw Tiberius. "I bet dere aren't too many dat can say dere woman comes tah get dem. I bet she has good food ready too. Much better den what we eat here."

Tiberius waited at the gate along side Illya and a few others, including the Yurian who kept staring at them when they werent looking. He was surprised when the big man leaned over with a big grin and mentioned his wife was coming to get him personally, bragging a bit on the food he would get when she came too. If he was honest, he was curious to see this woman he was always snickering to and making face with over the video screen. He'd never seen a Chip female and he had to wonder how much different they could be. "Not often, no," Tiberius replied, "She must be coming all the way from Pyrta huh? Lucky. My woman is all the way at the colonies. She wont get her card to travel here for another few weeks." The gates began to creak open and Tiberius stood up a little straighter to see who was waiting on the otherside. A few folks milled around, but it was the little flash of black and and swoosh of wind that left him blinking in surprise. A tiny scrap of a woman had wrapped her arms around the Chip beside him and was kissing his cheek already. Hardly 5ft tall and bare bones with pale skin...pretty...but not Chip. In fact, she looked familiar and Tiberius paled a bit. "That's...that's.. your wife?"

There was barely time to catch site of Kalizda before she rushed forward and wrapped her arms around him. Illya returned the hug and he rubbed her back slightly with his left hand. It was a bit wimpy considering how sore his arm was still. Catching the look on Tiberius' face Illya grinned again. "She es meh Chip wife. Chippequoti adopt her. She es meh agreed and meh people."

Calysta's arms barely wrapped to her man's back and held him close as he rubbed her back. Her cheeks were all pink and a smile was set on her lips that clearly expressed her joy. Still, Tiberius stared wide eyed at the woman. "You're not a're the bloody councilwoman," he said bluntly. Calysta planted another happy peck on Illya's broad cheek and glanced to Tiberius her head tilting her head. "Aye," she said good naturedly, "And you must be Tiberius. It's a pleasure to meet you." Tiberius nodded and then looked up to the Chip...the actual Chip...and saw his broad grin. "She's your wife and the Chips just adopted her...uh..Ms. Monroe...does it always work like that?"

The little kisses from Kalizda were persistent and Illya decided to return one of them. With his right arm he wrapped it around Kalizda and picked her up off the ground a little. It was sometimes easier to pick her up than it was to bend down so she could kiss him. Looking to Tiberius after the question Illya answered for Kalizda. "No et doesn't always work like dat. She es only one of two dat ever adopted by Chippequoti like dis. She es Chippequoti now."

Tiberius nodded slowly and rubbed then back of his head a bit sheepishly. "I uh....didnt know your wife was adopted by the Chippeqouti or the councilwoman for that matter." Did Wynry know? Now he felt a bit nervous for having expressed his opinion on the council woman. He'd said he thought she was a screwup and the Chips had cleaned up after her. This was something totally different. "Don't worry," Calysta smiled, "Not many people know at first. I certainly don't look like a Chip." Tiberius offered out his hand for her to shake. "Well, uh, its nice to meet you." The woman didnt take his hand, leaving it in the open air for a moment. Instead she let go of Illya and gave him a bow with her black locks swirling around her shoulders. "A pleasure. If you are on Kinte and in need, I know what it is to be far from home and Skycorp is a good place." Straightening, she took up her Chip's good hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Take care and I will likely see you when I come to teach a seminar or two on the compound."

Despite the fact that it was nice to just see Kalizda and have his moment of bragging shown to be true, he was ready to go. Illya wanted to be getting home and having some of the food he knew would be waiting for him. Best of all was that Kalizda seemed to be just as anxious to get home and get him to herself. With a wink Illya started off with Kalizda. "Dun worry about trying tah be her favorite student. Dat will always be meh!"

Tiberius watched the two start walking away still processing what had just happened for a moment before Illya called back about not trying to be her favorite. At that point, he started to laugh and waved his hand at them. "Oh go on, teachers pet!" It was true, the man looked all melty for his wife and it seemed as good a response as any. Calysta brought Illya along, smiling to whole way. It was hard not to blab about the little garden she had tilled while he was gone and she couldn't wait for him to see the work she and the kids had done just for him. Berry pies and whipped cream would be the summers fare.

With a grin Illya pulled Kalizda a little tighter to himself. Did yah bring dah kids tah pick meh up, or es dis a flight jes for us? Nodding to her answer he grinned, "Dats good." There was one thing he had to talk with her about and that was the fact that Markus was going to be scheduled for release. There wasn't anything that appeared to be enough to keep him where he was. Even if Illya didn't like what Markus did, he understood why Markus had done it.

Once they were to the air field Illya saw their little flyer and he climbed into the back and put on his helmet. Once the helmet was on Illya checked the coms like they usually did to start. "Testing...testing." Within a few repeats of the word he heard Kalizda's voice crackle through to his headset and he answered, "Alright we got connection." Now that they were connected he decided to tell her the news. It wasn't entirely bad, but he was a little concerned. "Markus made his report and et checked out. I decide tah give him chance. He es getting escort tah Pytra and den he's gonna live by himself in dah house dat Yvonne had. Dere are still some tings dere dat nobody boter, or touch." It made Illya nervous to have his father there, but he wasn't going to break his word either. "Yah jes remember dat ets nut good for him tah see dah kids witout meh dere." In a way Illya thought she would be glad to know that he had worked things out well enough that his father was going to get free and at the same time he wondered if he should have said something to her before now. He'd find out when he got home.

The kids were all waiting and Ilya was drug into the backyard before he got to taste the dinner that had been planned. In the backyard he could see neat little rows of ground that had been fenced off and he grinned. "Oh, we have garden now." Each of the kids were looking at him expectantly and Illya walked a bit closer. "Tell meh what part yah did." With each pointed finger he would nod and then smile and kiss them on the forehead. "Et looks very nice. Soon we eat good food from dis garden eh?" Finally it was Kalizda's turn and he grinned. "And what part did yah do?"


By the next afternoon Illya was settling into a lazy life with his Kalizda and the kids. He was enjoying the quiet and the rest. There wasn't the constant discomfort of being surrounded by strangers and foreigners. Being here was good and it was safe. Illya even took himself to the front porch to read a book to the twins and Cypher while Lohgan played dress up and came out periodically to show him her many clothes. Several times she only put on a different color of socks and then pulled up the skirt to show them off and sometimes she just put another layer over the top of an older outfit. She liked to think that she had enough clothing to make a fashion show all of her own.

While Illya was busy with the kids outside there was a small meeting of imperialists. Ehvan and many others refused to attend the invitation for a meeting. There wasn't any point. However, the few hardcore imperialists left liked to have their little meetings. It was different this time. They were fueled and encouraged by the return of Markus. Markus had always been a staunch imperialist and there was only one way to make sure they had that empire. Markus had to take the lead.

"Should we go get Markus?" One of the men looked at the others and then glanced hopefully at the two Chippequoti council members in the group. "He would want to be part of this."

The one council member shook his head. "No...It would violate his conduct and his deferral if we included him on the plans. We do this and he'll thank us in his own way at the end."

"What about the Elite? You know there won't be any successful overthrow without the Elite."

"The Elite follow the General and once Markus is back in his rightful place they won't have any choice, but to follow him." That wasn't really the concern they had to consider right now. "What we should worry about is the fact that our entire culture is at risk and it has been deteriorating under the command of Illya and we have to do something about it. He's becoming more foreign, abandoning the Elite and the military and joining the Alliance Skycorp. He still governs by extension of his popularity and success with previous encounters with foreigners. We can manage from here. No need to see further deterioration." The other men in the group nodded and they made a silent sort of agreement before heading out toward the house. It was near the edge of Chip village, but that also meant it was near one of the big fields and the edge.

Illya saw a group of Chips approaching the house. It was possible they had a small issue that arose while he was gone. Sometimes the Chippequoti were still shy about approaching Kalizda and he set the twins down and moved Cypher over to make room for the twins to sit with their older brother. Walking out to the sidewalk he looked at the first man and frowned. "Someting es wrong?"

It was disgusting to hear him talking to them in Trader's Tongue. He should have addressed them in Quoti. With a brief nod they beckoned for Illya to step further away from the house and two men stepped on either side and each grabbed an arm and twisted it behind his back. "You twist our people and our customs. You're no longer fit to lead." Another kicked Illya in the back of his knees and a few others joined the two holding him to keep Illya still, at least still enough to do what they came to do. Most of the able bodied men were out training and they didn't expect much response.

Cypher yelled and ran out to help Illya. "Stop et!!!" Lohgan paused in the doorway and then started to cry. The twins cried from the bench on the porch and Illya struggled against the men. His arm was throbbing and even with all his training he couldn't break free from this many men that were of equal size and together surpassed him in strength. The first kick to his back made Illya howl and he fought all the harder to get up. He knew exactly what they were going to do. Over the rush of blood running past his ears Illya heard Cypher running toward them screaming and waving a branch at the men. One of them took the branch from his boys hands and then shoved Cypher over. Each time Cypher went in for the fight one of the men would push him over while Illya kept trying to tell Cypher to go back to the house between his screams of pain. The other Chip continued to kick at Illya's back until the sickening crack sounded.

Suddenly all the power in Illya's legs seemed to go out with a searing blast of pain. He could feel himself slumping bit by bit and he moaned as the men began to run with him between them. They were taking him to the edge and he didn't have enough fight left to do anything about it. In the haze Illya felt himself drop suddenly and it wasn't over the edge. Instead he fell face first in a field of mud and dirt with a few rocks. Pushing up on his arms he winced and tried to pull himself somewhere, anywhere.

Markus heard the screaming and he knew the sound well. There was a Chip execution taking place. Marching toward the sound he finally heard it die out and then he followed the general direction until he spotted the men responsible for the execution. It was an execution of his son. He was more than aware of what Illya had done and while he didn't agree with it the man didn't want to have his son executed for his choices. Charging forward he drew a knife from the inside pocket on his shirt and he killed the first one before he grabbed one of the council men. "I always thought you'd be more reasonable. Taking the last of my family isn't going to get you an empire." He knew very well what this group of men wanted. They were once friends.

With the bodies of six men laying in the field Markus knelt next to Illya and he turned him onto his back. He could at least get his son's face out of the mud. "I'm not leaving the rest of my family to die alone. You should have built the empire, but I'll make sure you see the end of this war one way or another. You got that?"

Nodding a little Illya winced. "Yeah, I need to walk to get to the end of the war." A sweat broke out on his brow and he lifted a muddy hand off the ground. "Help me up."

Markus shook his head. "Your agreed will be here soon. I saw her on my way here. We'll get you to the Ehaui." A shaky breath left Markus and he gazed down at his son. Had he been so hard hearted that he hadn't seen this the first time his son returned from the war? Illya was just as driven to win the war, but the difference was that he took the clearest path to victory no matter how unconventional. It would have been more conventional to create an empire, but what he had done was strange and yet it made perfect sense. This was the best chance they would have at freedom from the Federation and they were living free of the Federation even now. Looking up he saw Kalizda approaching and he clenched his jaw. Markus pointed to the men on the ground. "Dun worry dey're dead. Ah killed dem all."
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Curious Adventurer
Calysta reluctantly left Illya the gate and made her way to the flyer. There were several stops she had to make and one was going to take a bit longer than the others. First, she jumped into her little flyer and could automatically tell the difference on take off. Illya's weight wasn't in the back requiring extra thrust to send the flyer skyward. There were things that had to be done and if she did them on the way home then she could go home to her babies without issues or taking so much work home. Illya would be gone the entire week and she would have all four children to keep after. In a way, it wasn't so much because Rose and her father would be there, but sometimes they could be a handful on their own. There was an idea forming in her mind that would give them a nice family project to work on out in the sunshine and that would be good for their energy even if she was running a little low on sleep herself.

Her first stop was the base on Kinte. Something had to be done with the Zkree man that had been taken in to custody and she wanted to check on Bahn while she was there. The first thing she did was stop by his room to find occupied by one of the tallest and prettiest dark Chip women she had seen. Nirah was over 7ft tall and she was folded into the bed next to Bahn while the man was sleeping. Her legs were so long her feet extended far off the end of the bed. When Calysta poked her head into the room, Nira nodded to her and made a move to stand but Calysta merely smiled then motioned for her to stay laying down. "I just wanted to stop by for a moment. He seems to be doing much better," Calysta whispered, "If you need anything, let me know, yeah?" Judging by the way she was cuddled up to her husband, it appeared the two had everything they needed though. When had Chip women begun cuddling their men rather than demanding of them? Who knew, but the though of the entire Elite snuggling secretly with their wives now brought a smile to her lips. Skittering out of the room, she left Bahn to the capable hands of the Ehaui doctors on Kinte and his wife.

The containment wing was far less entertaining. Extra guards had been posted at the entrances and around the corners as she made her way down. This time she passed by Markus' cell and did not stop to say hello. He knew what his task was and Illya had advised her not to come see him again. While she normally would have done so anyways, there were other things she needed to attend to. Walking up to the two guards by another cell window, she nodded. "Unfrost the glass, please. I want to see him." It took only a second for her order to be followed and the cell along with it's inmate was revealed.

He was younger than she would have guessed. His clean shaven face still held the look of almost boyhood, but she knew that on Zkree looks could be deceiving. His hair was shaggy, unkempt and flipped outward at his ears and the nape of his neck as he sat with this head in his hands on the bed. When the glass defrosted, he looked up greeting her with one startling green eye and the other a blazing blue. Definitely a Zkreen trait. For a moment, she had a flash of Elian's face come to her mind but she ignored it, opting to simply gaze at him for a long time before speaking. "You wanted the councilwoman. Well, here I am. You have my attention," she said bluntly.

The young man stumbled to his feet and dusted off his yellow jumpsuit before coming close to the glass. "You really are her," he said, "Then you have to help me. Please. I didn't know what was going to happen. None of us did. Heron...he blew us killed the man you were supposed to meet with...I swear. I'm just the engineer and the pilot."

"I can't do anything unless you tell me what happened," Calysta replied evenly.

His shoulders slacked a little and he sat back on his bed before running a hand through his hair. "I'm Six. I fly for the MHGR...that's the-"

"Mutant, Halfbreed, Genetically Imperfect Resistance," Calysta nodded, "Aye, I know."

"Right," Six said, looking a bit sheepish, " And we were coming here for your help. Zero thought you would help us on Zkree, or well, he hoped you would give us Alliance help."

"You have a hell of a way of asking for it," she said, "Blowing up the people you want help from isn't exactly the best way to start." She knew she was being a bit unfair, but it came out that way anyways. The kid, which he was clearly either a good actor or truly very young, didn't need to know her husband was one of the men who nearly died.

"It wasn't Zero," he said in a firmer tone, "It was one of his lieutenants. Heron. Some how the government must have gotten to him. I don't know but he had it strapped to was over fast. But it doesn't change why I came. I knew I had to talk with you. Even if you execute me. You'd understand because you're a half breed too. You know what Zkree they...uh.. fumigate?"

"I think you mean propagate," Calysta said patiently, "And yes, I've been to Zkree before. Babies are made in womb-pods, their genetics are altered to supply the population with what they deem a perfect variety for their needs. Diseases are coded out and perceived strengths are coded into each subsequent generation."

Six looked up at her, meeting her eyes and capturing her gaze. "And do you ever hear about what happens to failed experiments?"

Calysta's hands clenched and unclenched with the thought of it. She had almost fallen into one of those little traps herself her last brief visit to Zkree. "They are never released into the population and are forced into manual labor or if the results are interesting enough they are taken for experimentation in the hopes of better the next generation."

His eyes stayed steady as he stood up and walked over to the glass. Without a word, he unzipped his jumpsuit and displayed his chest which looked normal until you saw the seam. It was a deep scar running from his sternum down to his belly button. "They do what they want with you and they've been making extra generations with so many of us I don't even know what I'm made of. I call myself Six because that was the number on my door. But there are finally enough of us who have escaped to make a difference. Please Councilwoman. We live in the underground and some of them even have families. The ones who aren't sterile even have kids, but if we don't do something this will just keep happening. Especially with the Federation around."

Calysta stared at the young man's chest and swallowed hard. These were people who needed help and if anyone would understand what it was like to be what you were and hated for it, it was her. It was no wonder they hadn't reached out before. They likely didn't trust anyone else and they hadn't even had the numbers until Zkree started mass generation production. "Who would be in charge if Zero died?" It was a plain question and he could either answer it outright or not.

"Essod," Six replied, "If you want to contact him, there's a code. I can write it for you."

Calysta stepped closer to the glass and gave the Zkreen man a searching look. "You give that code to me and if I can get in contact with this Essod I will go from there. Until I can verify a few things, I cannot let you leave."

His gaze never wavered once as he looked back at her. "I don't care how long I have to sit here. I volunteered to escape Zkree and I knew what it might do to me. I came here to help the resistance and that's what I'm here to do."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * *

Calysta left the base with the code in hand and feeling heavy. She believed the young Zkreen named Six. It made her sick to think of the things he had gone through. The man didn't even seem to have a name beyond what letters and numbers he knew. From her pad, she sent the encrypted message, not saying who she was outright, but simply that she was in the Alliance who had found Six after catastrophic mission failure. Then she jumped in her flyer and headed home. The message system was older and would take a few hours to register on the fringe planet.

On the way home, she changed course to a Juya. It was a good place to go shopping and she would find exactly what she needed there. Docking at the base of the mountain, she jumped into the wired trolly and rode it in the open air top all the way through the streets. People didn't notice her as much when she wasn't with her Chip who drew attention like no other. A few folks gave her a sideways glance but otherwise she was left to go shopping undisturbed. There had been a time where shopping unnoticed had been a luxury and yet now there was a vague feeling of lonliness. She would see things the children would like and that Illya would enjoy. No one was there to share it with though. How had she gone so long without someone to talk to? Wind whipped through her hair as they zipped up the mountain and came to a stop at the shopping district.

It didn't take long for her to find the gardening store but shopping for what she wanted did take awhile. She called the children on her pad and walked around the entire store letting them pick out things they wanted in their garden. "What about these Cypher? Hmm? Fire flower berries are good. Nice and sweet. You can help Dah take care of them." And probably pluck them dry. Everyone picked something except for the twins, who she picked things out for and Rose who refused to even speak in the background. It probably had alot to do with their last conversation and Calysta sighed before picking up a Terran variety rose bush. "A rose for Rose," she sighed.

Making it home with everything was an affair all its own but eventually she did make it with all the things and tools they needed for a garden. Cypher was ecstatic over the idea and walked half on her heels as she brought in starter plant after starter plant from the skimmer, her arms full of things they could use in the garden. "Did yah get dah berry plants, Mam? And the other things too? Can I see? Please?" He stood on his toes and followed her through the gate right to the back yard with every step. "Oh yes, I got them all," she chuckled, "And tomorrow we'll start work on it, yeah?" A pout came to her son's lip and he gave her his saddest look of dissapointment. "I taught we could do et today? I missed yah while we come home." Calysta looked at her son like any dutiful and slightly exhausted mother would do and broke. "Oh alright...alright...go get your sister and we'll start. But it will be a surprise for Dah."

As Cypher stayed by her side helping with the supplies, and Lohgan toddled around 'helping' by throwing all the stones out of the way, Calysta organized the plants. By the time they had all they needed out and ready, she was dragging a bit and took one of the protein energy shakes from the fridge. It wasn't something she did often because they tasted more or less disgusting but they would give her a boost before she began tilling a patch in their back yard. Cypher cheered her on and was running around trying to see if he could help while Lohgan had lost interest for the time and took a nap on Illya chair by the porch. As she toiled Rose poked her head out of the door and then started to go back in.

"Hey!" Cypher called, "Rose! Yah want tah see the flowers Mam got yah?"

Rose gave him a hard look. "I don't want to see anything. I don't care."

That little comment struck a nerve with Calysta and she put down the hand tiller, her eye swiveling on to Rose with surprise. Why was she acting this way still? She told Cypher to keep moving rocks and then followed Rose into the house all the way up to her daughters bedroom where she found the door open and the girl sitting over her desk. "Rose, we need to talk. What you said to Cypher was not fair or good. If there is a problem, just talk to me about it."

Rose shot her a mean look and jerked her chin away. "You made me come all the way back here when I could have been with Sam all weekend at Kinte. I don't want to be here and you wouldn't even give me the choice! I'm almost seventeen!"

Calysta bit at her lip and sighed before giving her daughter a nod. "You're right. I didn't and that's because it wasn't safe. You couldn't be on Kinte this weekend with somethings happening. I didn't want to send you away from me or from Sam, but you know what it's like sometimes."

"That's just it, isn't it?" she smarted back, "I've always had to be shipped away or not told things because it's for my safety. Sam doesn't treat me like a child but you and Wolf still do! I should have been able to stay and go to the party like everyone else. You got to go! And I got stuck being the liability again. I wish you'd just let me grow up so I can get out of your way. You can stop treating me like I'm a kid and do all the council position stuff you need to do."

The words were scathing and Calysta had no idea this attitude was running so deep. Had she not given Rose enough attention? Had she missed something along the way and Rose had some how gotten hurt? Or was this just something that was unavoidable about growing up? She remembered wanting to shed the shelter of her father at an early age and chafing under it as a young teen.

"Rose I haven't shipped you away or tried to hold you back. It just wasn't safe to let you stay on Kinte this time," Calysta replied, trying to just listen to her daughter, "And you are growing up, almost entirely grown and you can make your own decisions, but I had to send you home. You can be angry at me and that's okay. I still made a good decision. That being said, if you are angry at me, don't take it out on Cypher or your siblings."

"You made the best decision for yourself," she harrumphed, "You and Wolf had a good time and sent me back here so we wouldn't be in the way. Wolf doesn't even like Sam and I wanted to do the midnight tradition with him!"

Rose raised her voice and Calysta winced before her jaw set, her patience running low. "Let's get one thing clear, Rose. You are my daughter and I sent you home to keep you safe. It had nothing to do with you and Sam. Be angry if you want but Wolf got hurt trying to protect me from the reason I asked you to come home where it was safer. So don't tell me my decision was a selfish one."

Finally, Rose's eyes snapped open wide and she clammed up. All traces of the attitude left her and she sat there staring at Calysta who was visibly shaking. Now that she thought about it, her mother looked tired. There were bags under her eyes and she seemed strained. Before she could say anything or think of anything useful, Calysta walked toward the door. "Dinner will be soon," she said quietly, " It's macaroni and cheese. Your favorite." With that, her mother left the room, but the feeling shame over having yelled at her lingered.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The rest of the week went by in a slow parade of usual tasks. The only differences were that Illya wasn't there and she found herself gravitating toward his side of the bed where the smell of his oils wafted and the mattress some how seemed more comfortable. Especially, when she had nightmares. They were harder when he wasn't there. The entire dreamscape would play out like some sickening production and leave her yelling with her nails sunk into the mattress like deadly claws. The protein energy shakes helped her when she was dragging in the morning along with a stout cup of tea before she made the children's breakfast. Rose had stayed quiet for the past few days, neither apologizing or having overt amounts of attitude. She simply did her work and helped around the house when asked. The twins were beginning to roll over and attempt crawling around which lead her to bringing out Lohgan's older rocket push along and letting them take turns.

What was the highlight of the week was helping Lohgan and Cypher make the garden. Lohgan put each seed or plant in a precise spot and covered them with just the right amount of soil while Cypher was more messy and exuberant. His seeds and plants were done in haphazard rows and she had to tell him to space out a few of them a bit more. "They like having their own space. We want them to be able to drink plenty of water, yeah?" It was dirty, sunshine filled fun and at the end of the day she would let the kids dash through the sprinkler while they stripped off their muddy clothes. Calysta joined them for a jump or two through the hose and laughed while Cypher cycled through again and again.

Later in the evenings when the sleepless drag crept in, she checked her correspondence with with resistance on Zkree. There seemed to be a few issues they were coming across. A lack of resources being the biggest and her new spy on the planet was cross confirming what Essod sent her. Six, so far, had been truthful and he would be released next week.

When if came time to pick up Illya she was waiting early at the gate and she briefly met one of his teammates before they departed. They both were glad to be going home together for awhile even if Illya's news of Markus coming to Pyrta bothered her some. She didn't trust him at all, but if he had done what Illya asked, she trusted her Chip to make the call thought was best. He knew Markus better than she did and if she was honest, at least he sounded less angry. Markus, as much of a jerk as he could be, was still Illya's father and she knew he loved the man despite what happened. "I would like a copy of the report he made," she replied simply, " You know him better than I would and I don't trust him, really but if that's your decision with him then I will stand by it. He can stay at Yvonne's little house and he wont be alone with the kids for sure. We'll just have to keep and eye on him."

They were greeted to a fanfare of squeals and shouts of delight as Cypher dragged them all into the backyard to show off the garden. It made Calysta smile when she saw how pleased he was that they had the little garden now and he asked about each portion. "Dah berry plants there are mine. I planted those by mehself. Mam made the dirt soft and she showed me where to plant dem and den she watered them. And I taste tested dah berries on them. They are good!" Lohgan stood at Illya's feet and offered up her hands, asking to be held to which her Chip leaned down and scooped her up. "I made dem there." There was a pretty bunch of flowers along with a vine sort of plant that barely had a tendril poking from the ground. "Mam says dey are called pamkin."

"Pumpkin," Calysta chuckled, "It's a big squash sort of. Tomas and Edgar picked the beans and the sweet potatoes. And picked Terran strawberries. They'll be good in puddings and in chocolate." Just the thought of being able to dip sweet chocolate made her grin and she held kissed her Chip on the cheek. "I'm glad you're home," she told him brightly, "We missed you. I hope you like the garden. It was just something we put together for a surprise."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Sleeping was easier with Illya in the bed with her and she managed to get a few solid hours before getting up to feed the twins. Illya seemed interested in taking on the task of watching after all four of them while she cleaned up a bit. The house had gotten into a somewhat dissaray and he knew she liked to keep things in relative order. It was an old captain's habit from Skycorp. Everything had a place and in it's place it should stay until needed. While she was collecting laundry, she kept finding discarded clothing strewn along the hall from Lohgan's room. Everytime she passed by with another handful there was a sock or a skirt or a headband littering the stairs or the hall. Her best guess was that Lohgan was putting on one of her many fashion shows and trying to engage her father as he sat on the back porch with the boys. "Silly goose," she chuckled as she picked up a wayward sock. Suddenly, she could hear Cypher yelling at someone to stop. It was probably just Lohgan fussing with him and Illya could handle that. Of course, the yelling was accompanied by Lohgan crying, in all likelihood because her bother had told her 'no' or her father had. One of the two. It wasn't until she heard something she knew the sound of very well and it send a shock into her spine.


Half jogging through the house she came out to the back porch where he had been sitting and found the twins alone, Lohgan crying in the door way and Cypher yelling from the side of the house. Something was horribly wrong. Had Illya fallen? Was something else happening? There had been enough going on that she wasn't about to take chances. She dashed through the house and picked up her pistol on the way. She paused only to look at Rose who was sitting on the couch. "Get Lohgan and the twins off the back porch. Now." Her daughter didn't question or hesitate after seeing the pistol come out. Calysta went to the front of the house and began running down the street toward the fields where the sound was coming from. There was a group of Chip men being attacked by someone she recognized immediately. Markus. She kept both hands on her gun and ran toward them until she got close enough for a clear shot but by then the ex-general had dispatched them all.

Calysta faced Markus with her hand gun facing the scene, steadied and ready to fire until Markus turned toward her saying what he had done. There was a moment of hesitation before she lowered the weapon slowly and clicked on the safety before jamming it in the waist band of her pants. Her eyes traveled over the tall Chip and then over the bodies before settling on her Chip and she walked forward as she dug into her front pocket. With a quick whip of her hand, a rag was offered to Markus. "Thank you. If you don't mind putting the knife away..please.." Cypher was already trying to grab at her leg and there were tears in his eyes. Kneeling down, she kissed the top of his head and smoothed his hair. "It's okay. Dah is going to be alright." Cypher refused to let go of her leg and people were beginning to wander over and gasping in horror at the bloody scene and some even yelling for help. Everything felt like it was in a state of surreal motion as she wobbled over with Cypher clinging to her because there was simply no one she trusted alone with him right now. "Cypher...sweet heart...I need you to help me with something. If you want to help Dah, go get Papa. Can you do it? Close your eyes and walk through and then run right home. Tell Papa you need his help okay?" He shook his head and started to cry, refusing to leave and it took all of her patience not to scream. There were flecks of blood on his face somehow and she wiped at them with her shirt sleeve. "Please? Lohgan needs you too." Finally, he let go and ran in the direction of home as fast as his legs could carry him. Sometimes it was just best to give them something to focus on. Her pad was out of her pockets in seconds and she called the Ehaui as she sank to her knees beside her Chip. "Yes...please bring an skimmer. You'll need the backboards too. Aye..." Her voice was cracking until she looked over her Chip, her long hair brushing at the mud underneath him and she began wiping his face with her shirt sleeve. "Illya? Can you here me?"

People, civilians, they all acted like it was chaos. This was something fairly minor on a catastrophic level. That is if you considered they were in a war. However, on a home level it would be far more messy. Illya still had to figure out how he was going to take care of Kalizda with her nightmares. She was still having them and he was hurt now even worse than a broken arm. What made it somehow even more difficult was that it happened at home where he should have been safe. It just went to show that they weren't safe anywhere. Illya kept his eyes closed and he just listened rather than speaking. At this point he was pretty sure he'd snap if he had to talk to anyone and he could hear Cypher wailing. The crying was about enough to break his ear drums even if it wasn't that loud. These things somehow seemed louder when he was already upset. Suddenly someone was rubbing at his face and Illya pulled the arm away only to find himself looking at Kalizda. "Yes, meh ears aren't broke."

“That’s good to know,” she said quietly over the growing crowd. It was a relief to hear him speak even if it was some smart ass remark about his hearing. “Because It’d be a shame if you couldn’t hear my singing anymore.” They both knew she had a terrible voice, and in any other time it might have been funny, but she couldn’t muster any sort of smile along with it. Picking up a clod of mud from his hair, she tossed it to the side and cleared his forehead. “Stay awake with me for a bit. Can you feel anything?”

Kalizda was cracking jokes and Illya narrowed his eyes slightly. He didn't feel like joking, but he did it to her all the time. It was only fair. After a few moments she started into her own version of an assessment and he winced. "I can feel meh face, can feel meh arms and hands and I can breat. Dats important stuff. I can sure as hell feel meh legs. Feels like dey're on fire, but I can't move dem."

"Alright,” she nodded, ignoring the flat toned face he was giving her, “The Ehaui will be here soon and I’m going to get these people away.” Her fingers brushed in a tender motion over his brow and she wobbled to her feet. If he could feel his legs then that was good. Good? Her hands turned to clenched fists and she swallowed the last bit of her patience down like a bitter horse pill. His back was broken by his own people. The crowd was beginning to fill with Alliance military officers who immediately started to go over to Markus. With the bodies strewn around and Illya on the ground it looked like he was one of the perpetrators. Nobody knew Markus, but they knew his son and they had a fair amount of respect for him. The officers began marching toward the former Generals and getting the crowd to fall back, clearing a path for the Ehaui at the same time. If she hadn’t been in shock she might have appreciated the swift efficiency. Striding forward she held up a hand at the officer’s looking to arrest Markus. “No, he didn’t do this. He prevented it. Take his statement, but he should not be arrested.”

The rest of the crowd forming didn’t want to leave. “Is he alright?...What happened? Why are there dead Chips? Was there another attack?” All the questions over the crowd were maddening and her heart had crawled up into her throat. “Please go…go! There’s been an incident and the authorities are looking at it. Please leave and them work.” Finally, the Ehaui arrived along with the coroner’s skimmer. They were smart and used the skimmer to block most of the view of the scene. She started jogging over to Illya’s side again but the coroner stopped her. “Ma’am, what do we do with the bodies?” She gave them Edgar’s contact using her pad which was ringing nonstop in her pocket. “Contact Elder Edgar,” she said trying to move around him, “They’ll want the bodies returned. Take a note of the wind direction while you’re at it. Give it as a notation on the toe tag.” He gave her a wild look and she stepped around him. “Just do it.” She got closer to Illya but she was stopped again, this time by Alliance police. “Your statement, can we have a moment?” Gritting her teeth, she pushed past them. “No! Move!” Jogging over, she passed by Markus. “If you’re coming to the hospital, then now’s the chance to ride along.” That was all the more offer he would get because she didn’t have the patience or the time to baby sit him too. The Ehaui were getting ready to move Illya and she needed to be there. Watching them prepare the back board was one thing, but seeing them team roll her Chip onto it was another and the sound of it made her sick. “I’m here,” she told him. Her little fingers snaked under his bound up hand once they were inside the skimmer.

Illya sighed and nodded when Kalizda said she would be sending the people away. He would rather that people didn't see him like this. Of course it didn't stop the murmuring, or questions and he grit his teeth. It was fairly public and everyone on Pytra if they hadn't seen it, would likely hear of it. A mix of Alliance men and Chips started to form in the area and it was slightly comforting to see a familiar face, or two. Among them was Ehvan. The man hadn't stopped by, but Illya saw Ehvan helping push people back and keeping them away. Though Ehvan was usually quiet about these sorts of things he knew to keep it private if possible. Even having the Alliance men there was a good thing. While the Ehaui were packing out their gear and preparing to backboard Illya he relaxed a little more. The adrenaline was starting to run lower in his system and he felt exhausted. It was just fine to sleep now if he wanted and then he heard Kalizda come over to his side and hold onto his left hand. "Et will be fine." Grunting some with the slight jostle as they pushed his gurney into the ship Illya saw his father pile in after him. There was a hint of worry in his eyes and it had been a long time since Illya had seen that. Still he wasn't sure he liked having his dad be the one that came to his rescue. However, he was going to let that be for now.

“It will be alright,” she echoed, “You’re still here and that’s all that matters.” The ride to the hospital seemed to be a blur and so did the initial scans. They would be taking him in for surgery and this time she couldn’t go. While they prepped him, all she could do was stand by and watch before they wheeled him away. “I’ll be here when you come out,” she told him. All the while Markus seemed to be standing around in his quiet way and she was both grateful for the silence and angry. She had seen that Markus saved Illya, but she couldn’t trust him enough to know that he wasn’t the one who had put the others up to it in the first place. She wanted him there to keep an eye on him rather than sending him off where he could slink away as he was prone to do. They were going to do the surgery in the observation suite and Calysta had opted to watch. If something happened, she wanted to know about it and not be left pacing the tile floors like a scared hen in a coop. Before she went into the little theatre, she stopped by Markus’ side. “Why did they do this.” She wanted to hear what he had to say.

Before the surgery prep the doctors had a nurse help get Illya cleaned up and then get him started on a drip that would have him in a mostly unconscious state before they wheeled him toward the surgery room. This wasn't the time to try and keep a Chip fully alert and they knew it. Markus stood by and watched silently until Kalizda turned on him and asked why it was done. The man stared at her for a long moment before answering in Quoti. "They thought I would want to build the empire myself. They were friends once and strong supporters. I didn't know about the attack until I heard the screams and so I decided to go see who was being executed. You know the screams of execution if you witness a few. I can only guess that they knew I had come back to Pytra and they thought I would be satisfied to take the place of General again if my son was dead." Lowering his gaze some he clenched his jaw. "The Kalizda woman was right. If I give this position to my son then I should respect his decisions. If he built an empire this wouldn't have happened, but I can't change that now."

He gave his explanations and while she was apt to believe him, what he said came with a grain of salt. He was blaming the attack on lack of an empire and the assertion made her want to smack him. Her patience was worn thin enough from a deficit of decent sleep among other things and she looked up to Markus with a storm in her grey eyes. “There are so many things you don’t know and can’t see,” she said in fluent Qouti. “We’ve been living in relative peace, imperialists or not, until now. This was not caused by lack of an empire. It was caused men who decided murder and anger were the only options. But we can agree on one thing. What is done is done and there is no going back for any of us, Markus.” About that time there was a yell at the end of the hallway and Cypher came running with his grandfather carrying Lohgan and his eldest sister pushing the twins along. All of them looked worried and her father looked outright frazzled. “They wouldn’t calm down. They wanted you, Caly.” In fact, Cypher had flat out tried to run to the hospital, causing Thomas to chase him down the street. The blue-eyed boy stopped 10 feet of his mother, his eyes traveling up the length of the stranger beside her and immediately he began to glare. “Go away! Get away from meh Mam!”

Markus expected just as much out of Kalizda. She had always been more of the peaceful sort and that was how they ended up in the Alliance to start with. Staring at her for a long moment he let her say what she wanted. There wasn't any going back and he didn't like it any better than she did though he suspected she knew it was for different reasons. Just about time he decided that it was time to leave there was a yell and a small troop of children. The Kalizda woman's father stood there with many children. Were they all his son's children? He knew about the little boy and the adopted girl, but there were more than that. Looking down at Cypher he spoke to him in Quoti. "Little man already. What will you do about me standing here? Tell me." In many ways Cypher reminded him of Illya when he was a boy and he badly wanted to pick the child up, but he knew that wouldn't happen.

Lohgan stared at Markus until she saw him looking back and then ducked her head into Papa’s shoulder, hiding her face as if that would make the big man go away. Unlike his sister, Cypher’s brow furrowed and he looked like he was summoning all of his ferocity. It was a look Calysta knew well enough and when the man invited her son to do something about it, he did. Cypher scampered up to him and stomped right on Markus’ foot before sending a flurry of strong, but ultimately ineffective punches to the man’s leg. “Ahg! I told you to leave her alone!” he bellowed back in Qouti. Cypher knew enough of the language to understand it and reply easily. “Cypher Markus!” Calysta dropped down and hauled her son off of Markus, biding her arms around his to calm him down. “Cypher…stop…stop…I’m okay. It’s okay.” Nothing about it was okay. The boy still had flecks of blood on his clothes and over the tops of his shoes and Calysta tried to ignore it as she held him against her. His weight threatened to topple her over at one point, but she held firm. “Shhh…” Finally, he started to relax and stopped fighting her and he glared up at Markus. “I dun like yah. Don’t go near meh Dah or meh sister or my broters!”

That same wiley look came to Cypher's face as it had Illya's as a boy. The man waited patiently as Cypher charged him and tried to do as much damage as he could. Those little fists didn't do much, but if he kept hitting in the same spot long enough Markus was sure he would start to bruise. Kalizda captured the boy up in her arms calling out both their names. Markus stared at her briefly before it struck him that the boy's name was Cypher Markus. Once the boy was calmed down he gave another assertive sort of warning and Markus nodded. "Oh I think you'll change your mind. Your dad is my little boy. I was helping him today."

”Dah’s Papa es dead,” Cypher said, his eyes narrowing, “Yah lie!” Calysta turned him around in her arms and cupped his cheeks, making him look at her. There were tears threatening to brim over his already wet eyelashes and she wiped at his face. “No, we thought he was. He went away for a long time and he can tell you all about that later. Now, just calm down. He’s not going to hurt me or you or any one else, hm?” That point, she glanced up to Markus, making sure he understood her clearly. If he hurt her children, there would be no going back for him. “Now can you turn around and say hello?” Cypher turned in her arms and looked back up to Markus with the same fierce gaze. “Yah help helped meh Dah, but I still dun like yah. Papa.” He tacked on the last word like he was being forced to eat something terrible and then held on to his mother as if her life depended on it.

Calysta let her son go and only kept a hand rested on his shoulder, holding him in place. “If that’s the case, you should know the rest of the children’s names.” Maybe he wouldn’t be so mortally terrifying to them if he called them by name. “That’s Lohgan. Edgar and Tomas. And of course you remember Rose.” Lohgan kept her head buried in her Papa’s neck and the twins cooed from their strollers blissfully unaware for the current moment. Rose wouldn’t dare look at Markus save to send him a hateful gaze and then cross her arms. “Yeah, I remember.” Her perfect Qouti bleed with attitude and she turned on her heels before marching off. “Welcome home,” Calysta said, “If you’re staying for the surgery, you might as well settle in.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

It seemed Markus would stay, but whether he was doing so out of concern for his son or simply to garner more information on his family, she didn't know. At the moment, she didn't care. Her Chip was having back surgery because some rogues decided to murder him. They had done it right in front of their children. These were men who she had known and worked with, two of them being Elders! Illya hadnt deserved this and it made her chest ache till the point she could hardly stand it as she sat in the waiting room with her babies, her father, and her estranged father in law. Cypher kept giving him suspicious looks while Lohgan refused to move from her Papa's arms. Calysta took rounds holding the twins and letting Cypher sit in her lap as the minutes passed into hours until finally the Ehaui doctor came out to give his report. "Thank you doctor," Calysta replied, her voice barely a whisper, "I'll wait with him so he doesn't wake up alone."

Her announcement was then doubled by Cypher and Lohgan too. They wanted their Dah and for that there was no substitute. "I guess we're all going," she said, picking up Tomas, "But that means you have to be extra careful. Dah's back won't feel good and we don't want to hurt him. Promise?"

Calysta walked down the hall with her little troupe following along or being carried like a line of gosling to a mother goose and then the real wait at Illya's beside began. She let Lohgan sit on the end of his bed while the twins dozed in their stroller and Cypher took up residence in her lap, cuddling up to her as if she might disappear altogether. She tried to sleep too, but it wouldn't come. There were too many things running around her head and instead she stared blankly at Illya until he began to stir. Without a single thought, she shuffled her sleeping boy into the chair beside her with the grace of a practiced mother and leaned over to put a hand over her Chip's. "Hey there." He would know that he wasn't alone. His family was there no matter what happened. In all of this time, she had put on a good face for her children and particularly in front of Markus who viewed her only as a tool, but slowly her forehead sank to his shoulder, her hair turning to an inky back curtain, and she sniffled against him.

* * * * * * ** * * * * * * *

Ehud looked confused when she pulled back, maybe even offended, and really she knew it was her fault. What had she been thinking? Kissing him? Why would he want to do that right now? She had just been bawling over another man. Of course she was hurt, and it wasn't want for him that had fueled the kiss but more of a need to say things she didn't dare at the moment. The kiss had done absolutely nothing but confuse him and make her hurt worse for being rebuffed. As it was, she was too tired and heartsore to argue with him. In an awkward melting, she somewhat collapsed into the offered arm and cried. Harry had run away from her for years and she had to watch him die all over again and she had done something stupid with Ehud. Now, he did even particularly want her on what was a basic level. Why did he have to be so damned polite?! Priscilla was embarrassed and hurt even more so now and it was her own fault. For a long while, she hid her face as she sat tucked under his arm until she couldn't muster the energy to cry anymore. Her mind was exhausted along with the effort of so much stress. Eventually, she began to drift off into the deadened sort of sleep that only came with grief.

It wasn't until something cold tickled at her neck that she began to stir. She felt stiff in a few places from having fallen asleep curled up against Ehud who wasn't exactly the most comfortable thing to sleep on. He was all muscle and hard bone as far as she had felt. Grumbling to herself, she swatted at whatever the cold sensation was and tried to roll over in the Chips lap. He was warm and she wasnt about to give it up yet, but whatever it had been gave her a sharp poke back. "Ow." Her eyes shot open and she found herself blinking away sleep as a man standing over them came into view. He was strange looking. His delicate, perfectly symmetrical features were framed by stark blonde ringlets and his skin was entirely flawless as he stared down at them with two mismatched eyes, one green and the other pale blue. What was more important was that he had knife held to her neck while a boarding portal stood open behind him.

"Oh god," she squeaked, "Ehud.....Ehud!" She rubbed his knee with the palm of her hand but didn't dare move more. "Wake up!" The man tilted his head her in cold curiosity before snatching her wrist and hauling her up as his hostage. "Move and I will slit your throat." The words were passionless and she knew without a doubt if she struggled he would do just that.


Anonymous Me
The second doctor rushed through the wash room to make sure she was ready for the emergency surgery. Illya's specialist was already cleaned up and he was in the surgery room with the nurse preparing the proper tools. They would need a few things set out and then they had 2 additional aids. There was no telling what they would have to do. What was critical was time. As soon as Illya arrived they would be taking scans and creating a plan on how to try and put his back in the right position again. They had seen plenty of back injuries, but a break like this was guaranteed to be ugly.

A nurse had wheeled Illya into a wash room. One nurse gave him a sponge bath and another nurse helped move him so that his head was over the end of the bed. While one got him stripped and scrubbed the other washed his face and hair. If he was going to have a major surgery they didn't want any chances of an infection. An infection was a fairly common side effect of back surgeries, and they wanted to make the chance of an infection as low as possible. As soon as they had him finished they got a ding on the medical monitor indicating that the surgery room would be prepared in 2 minutes. It was enough time for them to get him hooked up with the anesthesiologist and then wheel him down the corridors to the surgery room.

Only 5 minutes after the surgery room was officially ready the nurses rolled the bed in with the patient. The team of doctors and nurses moved Illya from the bed onto the surgical table. A technician took the bed that Illya had been laying on and wheeled it out of the room. Those that were part of the surgical team immediately started scans and technicians began whipping out sterilized tools and setting them aside as the doctors stated that the item would be needed for surgery.

After several hours the doctor took one last scan and then had the senior nurse start the sewing the patient up. It was a tough surgery. Stepping out to speak with Kalizda he peeled his gloves off, surgical gown, hair net and face mask. He would at least look like his usual self. The little woman liked tired out. She was probably exhausted with everything that had been happening. He was more than aware of the attacks on her person that had been avoided, but now this was different because it was a successful attack on her husband. "Miss Monroe?" When she looked at him he nodded, "Surgery is done. The nurse is sewing him up right now." She could see that from the observatory, but he wanted to give her the report himself.

"It was a messy break. The surgery seemed to go well and so far as I can tell he'll walk again, but you know that with every back surgery there is a risk. One of the more serious and rare risks even if everything looks fine is that he could be crippled. There were several disks that had been displaced during the trauma to the back and I did my best to clean those up. Often slipped disks won't bother the spinal column as much because his spinal cord is sheathed in a thin bone barrier. The only serious side effect of the slipped disks is if they press on nerves that extend out from the spinal cord. Some of those nerves were being pressed on and if they were permanently damaged he could lose some strength in certain muscle groups. I replaced some disks entirely because they were worn down and his vertebrae were grinding. I imagine that was causing some significant pain and especially when he was sitting. Overall, I've done everything that I can for him. We need to keep him here for the next three days. The surgery was long and difficult and I would like to monitor him. Another reason to keep him here is that he is going to need significant help getting in and out of bed for the first couple of days. I doubt that you would have the strength to get him up and help him down again. He will have two male nurses help him with those things." Without waiting much more than the length of time it took him to take two breaths he ended his conversation. "If you don't have any questions I'll be in my office writing out some prescriptions." The doctor didn't wait for any questions and he nodded to Kalizda before he started back down the hall to his office.

Markus silently stood by as the report was given by the doctor and then Kalizda mentioned going to see Illya. Even if he wanted to go see Illya he knew that he would not be welcome. Not now. Markus couldn't help feeling somewhat afraid of going into the hospital room only for his son to reject him. There was no point in going inside if all Illya was going to do was curse and tell him to get out. His son had made it very clear that he didn't want anything to do with him for quite some time. Somehow it was more difficult now that Yvonne was gone and Asha didn't care to see him much either. Neither of his children could appreciate what he had done for them, but he would wait. In time Illya would come around. His son had always come around and he knew that Illya wanted him to be a father and he would be ready when the time came. Nodding toward Kaliza he bowed slightly and then started out of the hospital.

The Ehaui put Illya in a large room. It was a given that whenever he was hospitalized for any amount of time that the agreed would stay with him and the kids would come in frequently. After the surgery Illya had been moved to a large Chip bed with room for Kalizda on it. There was a large couch in the room too that could be made into an extra bed and a few extra blankets. In addition to the regular blankets the Ehaui started to carry more heated blankets in their collection. They had increased their budget to purchase some new equipment and that was on the list.

A nurse stepped in while Illya was still sleeping and she presented some warm blankets for the children. "If they want to stay with you here the clinics have all started to carry the hot blankets for patients and their families." She noticed a curious expression on Kalizda's face and she grinned. "You have no idea what you've started do you?" Since Kalizda looked baffled she decided to explain. "You've set a new standard for the Chippequoti and they are much easier to treat now. They actually come in more frequently, they have demanded larger beds so they can share when they recover and they like the heated blankets. We spend less time and money on treatments to work with conditions that should have been taken care of long ago and so we have been able to divert more funds to updating equipment, getting new large beds and heated blankets. It hasn't been nearly as difficult to treat them when they come in willingly and they accept little comforts. Makes my job better." With a grin she set the six heated blankets on the couch. "Whoever needs them and whenever will be fine. Just make sure to leave them at the hospital when you leave to go home." Stopping to look at the twins she grinned even more broadly. "You two have gotten big. I'm gonna bet you'll be wanting one of those blankets tonight if you stay here with your mom and dad." Glancing to Kalizda again she smiled and then skittered out of the room.

Illya woke to a small hand laying over his. He could feel the one of the kids sitting on his left leg and he groaned a little as he tried to lift his head to see which one it was. Lohgan was crawling up his leg with wide eyes. She looked worried and so did Kalizda. Before he could say anything Kalizda laid her head on his shoulder and Lohgan paused and stared at Illya intently. With his left hand Illya beckoned Lohgan to come closer and the girl half rolled off his legs and then crawled the rest of the way to snuggle in next to his chest. The wild red curls mingled with her mother's black hair and Lohgan stuck a thumb in her mouth. She hadn't done that in a long while, but she felt scared and she wanted to be close to her dah and know he was alright.

"Hey, et's alright. Dun stand dere, get in dah bed with meh." Illya knew Kalizda would rather snuggle and he was laying on his side to keep from putting too much pressure on his incisions in his back. Once Kalizda was in the bed with him he felt Lohgan squirm a little and he froze until she was done moving. "Ok, we jes all get cozy." A little tug on the blanket made Illya look over to see that Cypher wanted in the bed too. "Ok, yah get up here, but be careful eh? Meh back es sore."

The boy nodded and he crawled his way up to snuggle in and get sandwiched next to his sister. Lohgan had the prime real estate next to her dad and Cypher had to settle with being crunched between his mom and sister. Reaching out he stroked at his dad's chest. "Dah, doctors make yah better?"

Illya nodded a little. He was exhausted and he didn't really want to be talking a lot, but he knew the kids needed comfort. They'd seen a good portion of it and Cypher saw it all. "Mmhmm dah doctors make meh better. Meh back hurt for a little bit, but soon I can pick yah up and we can go tah garden and pick dose berries yah help plant." A little grin came to his son's face and he winked. "We jes rest a little now and when dah nurse comes in tah ask about dinner we get some cream. Maybe we order lots of et." At that Cypher nodded even more. It sounded like his dah felt better and he wanted cream badly. Nestling in he decided to content himself with just being able to keep a hand on Illya as if to make sure his dah didn't get hurt, or go missing. As long as he could touch him his dah would be ok.

Part way through the nap Illya felt Lohgan shuffle, Cypher whimpered and Kalizda's grip on his shoulder tightened. Illya's back was starting to ache and he made a pathetic attempt at searching for the button to give him a little extra boost of medication, but he couldn't find it in the mass of little bodies in his bed. As a final attempt he pushed the nurse button.

When the nurse stepped in Illya gave her a sheepish grin. "I can't find meh medicine button." The woman walked over and plucked the button from the rail on the bed. It was hard to miss, but when someone was in a lot of pain it was easy to miss things. "Right here." Handing it to the patient she glanced at the monitor to check on a few other things. She could see on the monitor that as soon as she'd turned her back he was pressing the button. Like any Chip he had a sense of pride and he apparently thought she wouldn't know that he was waiting for the opportunity to press the button. Before she had even turned around to ask him about dinner he was carefully draping it back over the rail. Pretending not to notice she smiled, "You want something to eat?"

Cypher had finally begun to stir and he sat up almost abruptly. "Yeah, lots of cream and custard and we need meat and stew for dah and lots of cream and custard for dah too. He's hungry. Dah needs tah eat tah get better and I'm gonna help."

Gradually a broad smile came to the woman's face and she nodded. "Sounds like something I can do." Patiently she waited while the others woke and asked for their choice of food too. Within half an hour the nurse returned with large servings of custard and cream along with meat stew for Illya and Cypher. She knew that Cypher would probably eat a good amount. Chip children seemed to eat incredible volumes of food as did injured Chips.


There was little to be done the next day in the hospital. Illya laid in the bed and only got up when the nurses insisted, or he had to use the bathroom. Getting up was so much effort that he literally had to push the nurse button if he needed the bathroom. Sitting up was impossible without some help. Walking was almost as bad since he was shuffling about like an old man. Cypher laughed some and Illya just shook his head. It was better to let his son think he was being funny rather than saying that this was his best walk for now.

Worst of all the two nurses accompanied him to the bathroom and advised that he sit down to use the toilet. That meant that they had to help him sit down and help him get up. It was a little embarrassing and slightly irritating at the same time. After brief walks about the hallway Illya was allowed to go lay down again.

By Monday it was a little more work. Illya had to get classes set up and he was given a hologram coin. It was supposed to be able to follow him as long as he had his pin on for audio and the coin was in the same room. Waking up early for the class was hard and Illya got breakfast as the class was sitting down. The big bowl of oatmeal and fruit was nice, but he found himself forgetting that he was supposed to listen to the class lecture. When Illya finished breakfast he laid his head on the pillow and pulled his blankets up further. Within a few minutes he started to drift off while listening to the instructor. Instead of getting sleep his pad started to buzz and then he got some nasty feedback in the earbuds he was wearing. The sound made him growl and he stared at the screen with bleary, tired eyes.

Since going to sleep wasn't an option for the time, he decided to take some notes and scribbled out a few things dutifully until his back started hurting. Grabbing the medication button Illya pressed it once and then waited about five seconds before he pushed it again and repeated in another five seconds. "Piece of garbage. Dey give yah dese tings because dey dun work." It got very quiet on the other side and he glowered at the hologram. for a moment and then the instructor resumed their lecture.

When Kalizda came into the room she was carrying the twins. They were not at school. Lohgan had just started some little children's school and Cypher was in class. However, the twins wanted Illya and he held the two of them for a while until the kids fell asleep and then he stole a kiss from Kalizda when she came to collect them. With the class finally over Illya had another small break for food and he got his next dose of medicine. He'd been feeling like the medicine was wearing thin and he'd been wincing with almost every breath for the last half hour of the class. Unfortunately back surgery made it painful to breath too. Everything felt like it was somehow connected, or touching his back.

Illya relaxed a little more and the muscles in his jaw slacked some as the pain faded with the new dose of medication. He was almost done eating his snack when the hologram came up and the classes started again. Despite his efforts to stay awake and take notes he fell asleep again and this time he was starting to drool by the time the constant buzzing woke him up. Nearly 15 minutes had passed and he woke up with a groan. Even though he'd had the medication his back was still hurting and he didn't want to be awake. Every hour he was awake was another hour he could feel the pain. Half way through the class he was starting to shift frequently to try and keep the pain at bay. By the time he was starting to get comfortable it was only natural that the nurse came in with a cup that had nasty little floaties in it. Illya took it from her and frowned. "Oh dah shet juice."

"Laxative." The woman corrected him.

Rolling his eyes he drank et. "I know." The medication had him all plugged up and he hated that feeling too. Chugging the drink down in one solid gulp he turned his attention back to class and listened as the instructor talked about the moons. He had them all memorized and they decided to direct the question to him. At last there was something he could do. Quickly answering the question he waited for the instructor to say something more and the instructor instead turned to another student and posed another question. He wasn't sure if he answered it right, but at least he tried.

With the third class Illya was tired out and miserable feeling. He'd spent far too long in the bed. However, that wasn't going to last for too long since he could feel his guts rumbling and he knew that meant he needed to get up and go to the bathroom. Pushing the covers back he rolled the hologram coin a few times and then slid out of the bed. One of the students snickered and he heard them joke about the 'shet juice.' With a little less than his usual filter Illya yelled to the hologram, "Yes, dat's et and yah can't do anyting about et except kiss meh arse!" Reaching behind himself he flicked the hospital gown up enough to show off his brown butt as he walked the rest of the way to the bathroom and then tore off the hologram speaker stuck to his shirt and tossed it out the door. They would lose connection with him for the time and that was alright. He only had a little left today and then most of Tuesday he'd get to be in classes from home that would make it more comfortable.


Ehvan stood outside the door with Ahvah. They had found out that Illya would be home today and it was late afternoon. It was hopefully a good time to visit and be sure that Illya was alright. Since no one answered right away Ehvan hit the door again, this time more firmly with his fist. "Hey!" He knew doors were supposed to be knocked on, but he still found the tradition obnoxious. "Yah let meh in tah check on yah."

When the door swung open, Cypher stood there with a combative look etched on his tan brow until his eyes traveled up the length of Ehvan's leg to his torso and then his face. The boy gazed at Ehvan in a way the was clearly an inspection as Lohgan toddled in behind him. She took one look at the two dark skinned Chips and burst into tears before running away into her mother's study. "Yah come to see dah?" Cypher said as if he were in charge, "Yah not bad." He'd had a talk with his Mam about the Dark Chips and he understood, but Lohgan was still scared of anyone who wasnt Mam and Dah for now. He stepped to the side as Calysta came in the room carrying Lohgan. It had been the fierce knock on the door, the stern voice, and her daughterd crying that had alerted her to put down Tomas and come inspect who had come. Her dark encircled eyes settled on the two Chips as Lohgam wailed and buried her face into her chest. "It's okay Cypher," she said before offering the two of them a seat in the living room, "Come in and sit. Illya is asleep, but you're welcome to visit all the same. It's good to see you."

Rolling his eyes some Ehvan fluffed Cypher's hair. "Of course I'm nut bad." Beckoning to Ahvah he had her step in behind him and he took one of the large buckets from her. About time he was ready to start helping himself around the house Kalizda came out to meet them and she offered for them to sit. "First we put food in yah kitchen. I help Ahvah make sweet bread and snake stew. Dere es plenty and we make some desert fruit cake." Ehvan took the basket from Ahvan and then helped himself to the kitchen while Ahvah took a seat in the living room. Within a few minutes Ehvan was back and he sat next to Ahvah. "Now I sit and we talk. I get Elite togeter and dere some tings dat we need tah talk wit yah about."

Lohgan refused to leave her arms and Cypher scuttled into the kitchen on Ehvan and Ahvah's heels, his hair a frizzed up mess from the ruffling. Every now and then, he would glance at his mother who would give him an encouraging nod. They could trust Ehvan and Ahvah, though she was surprised they had come and brought food. "Oh, thank you. Illya and the kids will like that." Once they placed the food in the kitchen, she sat across from them with Lohgan propped in her lap. They wanted to talk with her? Tilting her head and adjusting her daughter in her arms, she nodded to them. What they could want to talk about she had no idea. There were no elite men involved in the attack. "The Elite? Alright. What did you need to talk about?"

Hesitantly Ehvan glanced at his agreed and then he looked to Kalizda. "Tings are changing and dah Elite still consider Illya dere General." Clenching his jaw some he looked toward the stairs and then back to Kalizda. "We all know dat he has many injuries and dat dey are painful. We need Illya and yah tah bot help us. Elite are afraid dat news of dis gets out and Chippequoti will become trouble in oters view. I was invited tah meeting wit imperialists, but I dun go tah meetings for long time. Elite refuse all dese meetings for long time. We know what yah do for us now. Illya made et clear when dah school es going tah have room tah teach our ways. He told meh about dah plans dat yah make for our people and all dah Elite tankful for dis. Den we know dat yah give orders for Bahn and Asher's family tah see dem and yah take care of dem. We know dat Illya would make order soon as he could, but yah take care of us too. Dah Elite want tah offer yah protection. We will protect yah, set secret guard tah watch yah home all dah time. Yah dun see us, but we always see yah house and we travel where yah travel and yah orders good as Illya's unless he contradict yah order. Yah children always our children too. Kalizda, yah accept dis. I will talk tah Illya. He learns dat he will nut fight anymore unless dere es no oter option. We will take care of him. Elite recognize dat he es one of us, but he too injured tah continue as soldier. He will be our General because he knows war and he has plans tah save dah Elite and our people."

What Ehvan had to say was no small matter and she rubbed her daughter's back gently while the man spoke in his heavy accented traders tongue. Tears pricked at her eyes when he said flat out how hurt Illya had been. How his body couldnt take much more. Then there was the idea that the Elite finally seemed to understand that they had been trying to help them, both physically and culturally. She didnt want the Chippeqouti and their culture forgotten. She wanted her children and the children of others to know where they came from. That was their right as Alliance citizens and human beings in general. It had been so long since anyone had treated them like people, that they didnt even expect her to call the families of the injured herself either. That was a heartbreaking thought and her shoulders relaxed slightly, her eyes meeting Ehvan's. She gazed at him for a long moment. "Ehvan. You should know that I dont like it when others are hurt protecting me. Especially my husband. But I would be grateful for your help." Her voice sounded hoarse and she cleared it before continuing. "I want to protect the Chippeqouti and the Elite and I will keep doing that. Anything you can do to help Illya, watch and keep guard...I would be grateful."

Quietly Ehvan and Ahvah exchanged glances. They didn't say anything, but they both knew what needed to be done. Ahvah pulled out a pad from one of the large, deep, hidden pockets in the many folds of her garments and began to type away. "I will tell dah Elite and yah house will be guarded starting en half hour. Ef dere es any distress we shoot intruder wit dart tah put dem asleep." Within a few moments Ahvah passed the pad to Ehvan and he tapped a few things in and then pressed the send button. Then he smiled. "Ahvah arrange wit oter Elite agreeds tah make foods like Kaerelean tradition and bring et to yah family long as Illya recovers. Even when he es nut here, we know yah busy and we make foods. All foods healty for Chippequoti."

Somehow they knew that would be her answer and they seemed well prepared to answer the call. Swift, elite efficiency. They would be there within 30 minutes and Illya would be well taken care of if she couldn't deal with the threat. Given the last one was done by Chippeqouti, there would have been little she could have done. At least this way her family would be protected and the Elite could guard the man they considered important. They would be in safe hands if it came down to it. Not to mention there wouldn't be any real guns involved. It would all be done by darts and they could question people afterward. The prospect of dinners being made for them actually sounded incredibly kind. Whenever things happened like this she fed the kids first and they all loved Chippeqouti foods as well as the little snacks and especially desserts. It took some of the pressure off of her to cook constantly between everyone. Calysta mustered a small, but sincere smile mostly borne of relief and she nodded. "The kids will certainly be glad for it as will Illya and I. Is there anything I can do?" She didnt want to make them feel like they needed to do all of this and if she could make it easier she would.

The fact that Kalizda seemed pleased with the offer was good. Ehvan listened to Kalizda and he nodded, "Yes, yah do someting." Holding out the pad that Ahvah had brought with he showed her a number. "Yah put dis number as emergency number in yah pad ef Illya dun already put et dere. Yah push dat button and dah Elite know yah need help. Even ef Illya es sick we know yah nut big like oter Chip women and yah have hard time helping him. We come help."

Calysta sat forward a little, glad to hear she might be able to do something to help Illya and the Elite keep an eye on things and then she heard what he needed. "Oh..alright." That little bubble of hope popped and she sank slightly as she reached for her pad, trying to balance Lohgan in the process. She typed in the number with a single finger and nodded as she did so. "Aye I'll make sure it's in his pad and he knows what the number is as well." Once that was done, she glanced up to Ehvan and took in a small breath. "I know I'm...smaller...than other women and Illya does need help that I can't give without someone here. Anything you can do would be helpful. I wonder if you would mind if I joined a few of the training sessions on the field for the Elite or it doesn't have to be that way. I could try learning more one on one bits at a time. I want to know more to help him and protect him too Ehvan." She wanted to go into training again to be better prepared for anything that might come at them and if he was down and hurt she had to be able to protect the children too. It wasn't fair to put that all on the Elite or her husband.

Studying her for a long moment Ehvan sighed. "Yes, yah train, but not wit group. Yah train tah learn defense more. Some agreed of Elite like tah train for same reason. Et es better ef yah train wit dem and Elite still teach yah dis training. Yah tell Illya yah want dis training and et will be fine. Et es someting we start soon. Dis war we like tah be prepared better. Oh and eh, Illya already has dis number. Et es common emergency number dat Elite use."

It was kind of relieving that he didn't tell her no or that she was too small, and a burden to have around. She hated feeling like she couldn't stand up on her own two feet and prevent things from hurt her Chip or her family. At least this way she could be of some use and it might make Illya feel better too. He wouldn't have to worry so much about protecting her. "Then I will train with the Elite who can teach me defense. Just send me the times they meet and I will be there to learn everything I can," she told them sounded a bit more confident, "And if Illya already has the number then I'll make sure he knows to use it if he has to." She checked her watch and looked up the stairs with a steady gaze before turning her attention back to Ehvan along with his pretty wife. "Illya should be waking up in a little while, would you and Ahvah like to stay for dinner? We'd like the company and honestly, I think it would be a good thing."

With the business taken care of Ehvan was about ready to ask if he could talk with Illya, but instead there was an offer to stay for dinner and he glanced at Ahah. This was more her department and he knew she had him help her fix enough to feed Kalizda's family nearly 3 times, but they didn't want them to be hungry and if Illya had gone into a Chip coma they knew he would be hungry. Ahvah nodded shyly. "Yes, dat would be nice. We will stay."

"Good. We'll eat soon and then you're more than welcome to stay as long as you like." One of the twins began chortling from his bouncy seat. More than likely it was Edgar who knew his meal schedule like clockwork. At least he was predictable on that account. Calysta's smile turned a little more relaxed and she tried to pry Lohgan from herself and disentangle the girl's fists from her hair. "'s okay. Uncle Ehvan and Aunt Ahvah are nice." With more than a few hairs lost, she managed to get Lohgan turned around and her feet on the floor so she could see their two guests. The girl's red hair was a curly mess and her green eyes were reddened from crying over their appearance. "You not hurt, Dah?" Calysta smoothed down her daughter's hair and gave her friends an apologetic look. "No, they're not going to hurt him. It's okay." If Mam said it was okay, then it would be, even if these two people were big and tan like those mean ones. As Calysta rose to her feet, she nudged Lohgan a little closer. "Go say hello." The normally fiesty little girl stood where she was but gave them a small wave before pointing to Ahvah. "Pretty dress." Calysta walked across the room and scooped up her chunkier twin and put him over her shoulder, bouncing him slightly to give him a grin. About that time, she heard a shuffle from upstairs and she knew it had to be Illya waking up, possibly using the bathroom. "He sounds awake now. If you want to go up you're welcome too, both of you if you like. I can get the plates out for dinner."

Ehvan went upstairs as soon as he had permission and he pushed the bedroom door open. Illya wasn't in the bed so he just flopped out on the side that looked like it was a little more neat. When Illya stepped out of the bathroom he saw Ehvan on Kalizda's side of the bed and he shuffled to his side. It took a good couple of minutes to get into the bed and get comfortable. "What are you here for?" The two of them usually spoke in Quoti.

"Elite still have you as their general, but we've voted to move you under the protective order. You're not active unless required. We all know you've had bad pain for a long while and with your back this time, you won't make it through the war with many more hits. You and Kalizda are what's keeping us safe and preserving our way of life as best you can. We want to defeat the Federation, but you can't be active and get killed before the end." Ehvan met Illya's gaze and he waited for a long moment. He knew Illya wouldn't want to hear it, but it was necessary. There wasn't an Elite that liked to be retired in a sense and he was now officially retired from the Elite and the military. Retired as an active soldier that is. "C'mon time to eat." Rolling off the bed again Ehvan found a nice cane and he walked over to Illya's side of the bed and then hit the cane on Illya's prosthetic. A gong sounded and Illya jumped slightly.

"Ehvan, you ass!" Scrambling out of the bed Illya hobbled as quickly as he could behind the laughing Ehvan. The two of them made it down the stairs though Illya was a long ways behind. As soon as Ehvan caught the odd looks from the women he shrugged. "I wanted tah know ef he could feel dat fake leg yet."


The angle at which Ehud had fallen asleep left his head feeling a little kinked up and he groaned a little when he first heard Priscilla. Then he realized there was an urgency to her voice and he woke up just in time to see her being pulled away by a stranger. How the man got on board was a mystery. This ship was supposed to have good security on it and he had activated the security before they even left Pytra.

Staring at the man for a long moment he decided to assess the situation. First of all, the man would have cut her throat if he wanted to and that meant he had something else in mind. She was supposed to be collateral. However, if he took collateral that he intended to keep alive it also meant that whatever he wanted depended upon cooperation of sorts. Ehud figured the man likely wanted the cooperation from him. Cooperation and negotiations went two ways and he was pretty sure he could get around this situation without any serious harm. If he had to take action he would, but for now he sat very calmly and stared at the man. Remaining almost entirely still he avoided any quick movements. In the event that the man was the jumpy sort he might slit her throat out of fear.

"How about you let her go and we'll talk about making an arrangement. I'm guessing you'd like something from me and I want something from you. So we're even." Staring at the man he waited for a few moments before going further. "I want her alive and not harmed. You hurt her, or kill her and I can guarantee that you won't get what you want from me. I'm a reasonable man, but I don't like threats and it's better not to go there."


Curious Adventurer
Calysta slid into bed with Illya when he asked her to and it wasn't long before Cypher and Lohgan wedged between them where it was safe. She could feel her little girl's tiny breaths as she fell asleep nestled against her father's chest and she could smell Cypher's hair. It didn't have the same sweet scent that it used to when he was a baby. Mostly it carried the distinct smell of dirt and outdoors, but that was her son without question and she loved him. Tucking her head down a little further, she breathed in his curls and tried to hold onto both Illya's shoulder and surround her babies at the same time, as if she could somehow encompass them and protect them with herself alone. She loved them dearly and the horror of the day had yet to sink into her until that moment. She simply hadn't allowed herself to process it until she knew her husband would be alright, and the sickening memory of what had been done surfaced. Why was a question she used to ask herself all the time when she was beaten or chased or ridiculed, and it was no less an important question now despite the fact she knew the answer. Holding her family all the tighter, she closed her eyes and took comfort in knowing they were all there. Safe for now.

Eventually, the nurse came around and Cypher didn't hesitate to order his father and himself a nice plate of food. If it's one thing she was glad for, it was their nurse. She had no idea that what she had started doing had helped change of the the Ehaui treatments for the better. Their nurse had informed her all about that little trend and as she wrapped up her still snoozing girl in a nice heated blanket, she couldn't help be grateful that the Ehaui thought of those things. It did bring a little smile to her when she thought about the Chips being much easier for the Ehaui to handle. Was she really the cause of all that? Perhaps it was a conglomeration of events that had brought them around. Still, it was funny to think that she might have been a slight influence.

The nurse came around to help Illya with his pain med lead and at the offer of food, Cypher practically sat up as if the bed were electrified and his elbow landed squarely on his sister's head, making her squeak in indignation. Quiet time was over it seemed. Cypher's insistence over food to help his father feel better made the nurse smile as she took food orders for the rest of them. "I'll have the stew," Calysta said, managing a tired but grateful nod. She wasn't hungry in the slightest but between Lohgan and Cypher the food wouldn't go to waste.

Hours turned to a day in the same cycle. Calysta would get up when the children needed to use the bathroom or when the twins needed feeding. She would pick up Tomas and then Edgar, holding them close. They were the easiest to comfort out of all her babies. A few pats to their back and a nice little massage on their heavier Chippeqouti influenced bones made them relax for the most part. Edgar was intent to eat and then sleep while Tomas would squirm around, hoping to crawl his way toward his Dah. Calysta would catch snatches of sleep here and there, but she would jerk away before allowing herself to go too deeply into dreams. This was not the time or the place to allow herself to do that.

At one point Cypher wandered over before inviting himself to sit in her lap. His tan brow was furrowed as if he had been considering something very serious. "What're you thinking about, hm?" she yawned as she tucked his wild hair behind his ears. "I am tinking about dose men who hurt Dah." That caught Calysta's attention a little more and she shifted so she could see her son better. "What about them?" He took in a precursory sigh and looked at her with a conflicted gaze. "Dey hurt Dah for noting. Dah's Papa killed dem back but I am still angry at dem for hurting Dah. Et was bad, Mam. Very, very bad even ef deh doctor fixed et. I hate dose men who shoved meh down and hurt him. I dun want et to happen again because I couldn't do anything tah help. I am angry, Mam."

Calysta stared at her son trying to gather some sort of understanding of how Cypher must have felt. She knew it was an awful scene and that her son was fiercely protective of his family, just like his father. His father was the one he looked up to the most too. He was growing up fast and it was unfair for him to have seen what he had. Where had he even learned the word hate? Maybe this was just his way of actually processing things. Taking in a small breath, she gazed at her son and thought of what to say. "I'm angry too," she admitted to her son quietly, "Your Dah was hurt and those men did it because they thought they could gain something from it. It does make me angry and it makes me sad. But I want you to know something." His blue eyes gazed at her intently as he listened with care. "There is a difference between anger and hate," she said quietly.

Cypher looked confused, his right eyebrow cocking upward in a look that could have been the spitting image of his father. "That duns't make sense."

She held up hand, and Cypher matched his up to hers. It was something she did when she tried to get her him listen. Her boy was in constant motion sometimes and having something to do with his hands seemed to focus him a bit more. His fingers were coming close to matching hers in length now. "Sure it does," she replied, "Think about it this way. Did you ever get into a fight with Sien? Yeah? Were you angry?" Her son nodded as his fingers tugged at her own. "But you didn't hate him, hm? You made up and then went back to play. Sometimes people are angry at one another and they don't go back to play. Sometimes their anger keeps them from doing that. But hate is something different. It means you want to hurt those people you hate. It means you want to call them names, and beat them up. Call them out. Maybe even kill them. And even if you do those things, it doesn't make you feel better. It hurts you back instead. What happened that made you hate them doesn't change, but hating them back changes you. It makes you forget things you shouldn't and before you know it this bad feeling you have now is all you will know forever."

There were tears welling up in her sons eyes and he drew his hand back, wiping at them angrily with the heel of his hand. "I dun want tah hate dem. Et was bad, Mam. Et was bad."

Calysta pulled Cypher forward and held him in a tight hug while he sniffled. "I know, sweet heart. I know. It's alright. Dah is going to be alright."

It took awhile for her son to stop crying into her shoulder and she held him for a long time still until the nurse came in with lunch. He wiped his nose on his mother's shoulder without thought and then went to eat lunch on the end of his father's bed. His feet kicked back and forth while he ate and by the way he was helping Lohgan beside him no one would have been the wiser that he was upset. Calysta watched her two children as they ate and marveled at them. She had some amazing children. They were kind and brave, much like their father and she counted herself lucky. Rose had even come around between working hours and home with the animals to sit with her father for awhile. Their eldest daughter was quiet for the most part while she sat with Illya, but her pinched look of concern betrayed her worry.

The next day, Calysta set Illya up to watch his classes through a two way video feed at Swyft's insistence. She didn't like Illya having to attend class at such a time. He was in a near constant feed of pain medication and he likely wouldn't remember any of what was said. That wasn't really the point though. Illya couldn't miss a certain amount of days and stay in the program. Swyft was doing this to keep up his part in letting Illya continue as a cadet without issue and the effort was appreciated. She stayed in the back of the room while Illya sat up for his classes, all of which she had been to before. It would be better if she took notes for him in Qouti for later on when he could actually read them properly.

Wynry, his tiny, blonde teammate, was his view of class and wore a pin camera on the side of her head so Illya could see the board properly. He was relatively attentive for the first class, but the trouble began when their nurse came in to offer up what was probably a much needed laxative. Straining to hard with any kind of back soreness was a concern. The comment was made in full hearing range of his class though, and she could hear snickering through the audio feed. "Shet juice, what a pain in the ass," Tiberius commented. The joke got another round of giggles before Illya snatched up his microphone and tossed it to the floor with an unceremonious flash of his bare buttocks. The he shuffled across the floor toward the bathroom. At that moment, the entire classroom exploded in a cacophony of laughter and catcalls. "Ow....ow!" one of their classmates whistled, "Does he do a whole show!? Lucky wife! Good Goddess at those Glutes!"

Despite the instructor's attempts to calm the class down, Calysta's face turned hot with all of the calling and she hauled herself out of the chair to grab the microphone which was still exploding with laughter. As soon as her face appeared on the screen the instructor cleared his throat. "Councilwoman Monroe, I didn't realize you were there." Immediately, the entire room dropped from laughter, to shocked whispers, to stone cold silence, Calysta smirked a little and sat back in her chair with her notes for Illya in hand. "Oh yes," she said, hoping her face wasn't too red for the camera, "My husband's rear has made an exit and I'm going to take notes for him. I think you were on question six."

"Uh...yes...yes..." the instructor stuttered, "Six...six...ah...What does code 100-00-06 require under Alliance law. Do you mind answering this one? Cad-Councilwoman?"

Calysta didn't hesitate in the reply as she wrote down the question number. "Aye, 100-00-006 sets the protocol for first contact on non-Alliance planets....the first assessment includes whether or not the planet has been previously contacted by other forms of life...."

* * ** * * * * * * * *
After dinner with Ahvah and Ehvan, they decided to stay for a little while longer. Mostly it was Ahvah who took them up on the offer to stay and chat for a while. "How have things been at the pleasure house? Business is picking up? Good. I've heard some of the Pyrtan's are enjoying coming by too." They drank some tea and chatted for awhile, though Calysta felt as if she hadn't slept in a year. The feeling was further compounded when Edgar began to fuss about his after dinner snack. She went over to pick him up which prompted Tomas to fuss about his brother getting a bit of attention. "Shhh...shhh none of that now." Glancing up to the Chip woman she nodded to her. "Would you like to hold Tomas?" She had never known a Chip woman to turn down the chance to hold a baby. Tomas clung to the Chip woman's hair and nuzzled into her neck with his bright grey eyes trained on her necklace. "Oh he likes sparkling things," Calysta warned her, "Best not-" Too late. Tomas snatched up the charm on the end of Ahvah's necklace and gave it a fierce tug along with a handful of hair. He squealed in delight at having captured the dangling pretty thing and his mother winced. "Oh, sorry. At least it didn't break, he's broken at least two of Rose's." The reason her own necklace hadn't been snapped yet was probably because it was a Chip sized chain. It was too sturdy for his little arms to break.

The next few days were filled with copious amounts of work activity, food and Chippeqouti Elite wandering around the house. They came and went as they pleased but some of the younger ones had learned to knock, even if it was a graceless demand for entrance at times. She didn't have the energy to track them all between dealing with work and the children, however, she didn't need to. Whoever was there for lunch always got a bowl to share, whoever was there for movie time and gardening with the kids got the pleasure of watching. At once point, during nap time for the kids, the house grew strangely quiet. Still enough to catch her attention and make her wonder where the trouble would start up. That was one thing about being the councilwoman and a mother. When the house was full of children and Chip men something was afoot. Putting down her pad, she went upstairs to check on Illya only to find him attending his remote classes at Skycorp. This time all the other visiting Chips were piled across the bed. One sat up by the head board while another was on the end by Illya's feet. A third lay on his belly, his head propped up by his hands as he gazed intently at the screen. They all looked entirely fascinated at the class being conducted. Bending her neck around, she caught a glimpse and recognized the course. Flight and Galactic Travel 101. They were showing holograms of Super Novas and various nebula with their swirling patterns taking up the whole room while the instructor talked about safe distances. Calysta stood there for a long moment unnoticed by the pile of Chip men as she observed them. Given what she knew about their limited schooling, she wondered if some of the adults would be interested in classes. They could certainly use the new school class rooms for that purpose at night. All of them looked to fascinated by the course it made her smile some and she went immediately down stairs to offer the idea up to Edgar for an opinion.

Nights were harder to handle. When the house settled down and there were no Chips or children running around it gave too much opportunity to think. She hadn't slept more than a few hours since the attempted execution and sleep simply wouldn't come. Her body would snap itself awake whenever she came too close to letting go completely. It was partially because she couldn't sleep and because she was afraid to hurt Illya that she laid a little further away from him than she normally would. Her slender hand rested on his shoulder for what little time she slept and then she would roll to her opposite side to stare out the window till the morning came. By that point it would be time for Illya's first round of medicine. The next day Priscilla was deposited home looking upset, but the woman wouldn't say why really. She merely claimed that she hoped Illya was alright and that Ehud would write a report about their trip before retreating to her room. Calysta let her go, understanding all too well the need for rest.

Eventually the report from Ehud did come and it was disturbing at best. This man claiming to be Essod surely couldn't be. She had been corresponding with the rebel from his location on Zkree even as late as the day before. This man had to be lying or the person she was corresponding with was. Or Six and the man she was corresponding with was. The truth was that to get to the bottom of things she would have to visit their detained guest and discern that for herself. He was refusing to make any sort of report and wanted to speak with her just as Six had done.

Calysta spend the day making arrangements to see this man, talking to an otherwise reclusive Priscilla, helping her children with their chores along with homework and taking care to give Illya his medicines on time with regular intevals of pain tea. By the time evening crawled around she felt terrible. Her body hurt and she just wanted to sleep next to her Chip. In a desperate attempt to get some sort of rest, she had purchased sleeping pills and took the regular amount prescribed on the bottle before inching into the bed gingerly along side him. She put a hand on his shoulder and kissed his cheek. "Goodnight love." That was all the more conversation she managed before her head went slack against the pillow and she truly fell asleep for the first time in five days.

Near 2am, Calysta peeled back the covers and placed her two bare feet on the hard wood floor before walking toward the door. In her hands there seemed to be something like a cup clutched between her pale fingers, but there was no such vessel in her hands. "Illya...Illya...I brought you a drink...nooo it's not's a milkshake...hmmm I had the midgets make it for had to promise not to paddle them with the fish" Whispering to the dark, Calysta wobbled forward and accidentally stepped on something fuzzy. As soon as her foot mashed down on Aymos' tail he let out a sharp yelp and jumped up, knocking his mistress backwards into the door frame. Her head knocked against the wooden frame with a solid thump, however she didn't seem to notice as she stumbled against the wall and rubbed at the spot.

His name was repeated and Illya moaned in his sleep. Was she having another dream? There was also a draft in the bed and he couldn't feel her near him anymore. Cautiously peeling his eyes open he felt along the bed and then heard the dog yelp and saw a little white figure fall into the wall. "Kalizda, what are yah doing? Come back tah bed."

Blood trickled from the scrape on her scalp and she tried to get up off the wall. "You don't have to shove...rude...I'm looking for my" She toddled closer to the door having not heard Illya at all and continuing to talk as if she had something in her hand. "Cant find....Illya..." It was a scared sort of sound and she began scuttling faster through the door and toward the stairs.

With a grunt Illya tried to start pushing himself up. She was definitely having that dream and he needed to stop her. "Kalizda!" Despite his call for her she scurried away and started to run down the stairs. Illya wasn't even sitting up in bed yet. It took him far too long to actually get up with the back surgery. In a final moment of desperation he decided to yell for her dad. "Tomas! Help Kalizda."

Calysta was making her way towards the stairs and disappeared out of View before a crashing sound that goes down the hall. A door slammed open and Thomas's shout to be heard over the entire house. "Caly? Caly?! What the hell are you doing?!"

A screech of anger on her part made it clear he was in for a fight. "Caly stop! Stop! It's okay!" Finally the inevitable Outburst of Tears followed.

Still struggling to get up Illya pushed himself a little harder and he winced with the effort. Finally, he got himself sitting up and he grabbed his pad before he started toward the doorway in his slow, careful walk. There was no telling if she'd fallen and hurt herself, or if she was ok. It sounded terrible and he felt completely useless in his ability to help her. "Kalizda, yah ok?" Stepping out of the room Illya could see Kalizda and her father there. For the moment he forgot that he hadn't been wearing any clothes and then he stepped back into the room for a brief moment and grabbed his robe. Once he had the robe on Illya stepped out again. Walking very slowly over to Kalizda he pulled her into a gentle hug. "Yah jes come back tah bed wit meh and yah stay close eh?"

Thomas was holding his nose as he cornered Calysta on the second landing, hoping to corale her from falling further down the stairs. She had a bump to her head that had welled up with blood but didn’t seem to care or register it. What she had registered was her father grabbing her and hauling her away from the edge of the steps. That had set off a flurry of little, but well-aimed fists as she shouted about Illya. She had fought him off until her eyes snapped open and immediately began to cry as if someone had hurt her. Was it shock? A bad dream? She hadn’t even known it was him! Thomas didn’t know but his little girl looked absolutely horror struck until Illya came down the stairs with his shuffling steps and brought her into his embrace. Calysta woke with no idea how she had gotten where she was. Illya had been ripped away in her dream again and someone had attacked her. The kids were screaming in her mind and she fought back, desperate to save her family. When she heard Illya’s voice a feeling of guilt combined with a dose of embarrassment and absolute relief washed over her like a flood. She turned her face into the fluffy robe wrapped around her Chip and sobbed. “I’ve never seen her sleep walk before,” Thomas admitted to Illya with wide eyes, “She’s been upset, but...this is something else.” Calysta didn’t reply and probably did even hear him speak as her muffled cries came from Illya’s chest. Finally, after a minute or two her shoulders stopped heaving and she took in a few deep breaths. “I’m sorry...are you okay Dad? Illya?” Thomas nodded with worry etched clearly on his face and then looked to Illya. “Why don’t you two go back upstairs, huh?” About that time Cypher came out of his room holding up his little sword that they had given him. “What es it, Dah?”

The crying was enough to shake Kalizda's entire body and Illya didn't know what he could do. It wasn't like he could simply fight off whatever was in her dreams. Something emotional was far more difficult to deal with than the physical. Thomas looked worried and Illya was worried, they all made a fine group together. Nodding silently to Thomas he gave what acknowledgement that he could and he rubbed Kalizda's back carefully. As the sobs got more quiet he slowed the rubbing on her back to almost a stop. "Yeah, we jes fine." Thomas was trying to rush them off to the upstairs again, but Illya knew she wouldn't want to sleep right away. Those sorts of dreams were difficult. There was one thing he liked to do and he would more often if he didn't think it would worry her, but if he suggested it for her, she may find it peaceful and a little more relaxing. Just as he opened his mouth to make the suggestion Cypher came running in with his sword. Illya smiled at his son, "Et es alright. Yah go back tah bed. I take care of et." Cypher gave him a skeptical look, but he listened and went back to his room. With everything quiet again Illya shifted to hold one of Kalizda's hands. "Why dun yah sit wit meh on dah couch for little bit. We wrap up in dah warm blankets and I make some hot chocolate for us? We jes be quiet for a little bit and relax before we go back tah bed eh?"

Calysta nodded to their son, but tried not to show too much of her face. He didn’t need to know what was happening and clearly this was starting to affect more than just Illya.Her Chip offered to sit with her on the couch. Maybe that would be better than going upstairs and trying to sleep. She was certain she wouldn’t be sleeping at all despite the sleeping aids she had taken the night before in the hopes it would actually make her rest. The feeling of being lost still lingered in her mind but her father was staring at her as if she had grown three-heads and one of them turned out a psychopath. “Alright,” she mumbled, as her fingers gripped his, “I’m sorry dad...I’m okay...we’ll just go down stairs for awhile.” Thomas sighed a little and stepped to the side so the two of them could traverse the stairs. Illya was moving slow, but this was something he was sure the man would want to do himself. Rather than crowding them, Thomas slipped back into his own room even if he wouldn’t be sleeping anymore that night. Calysta took each step with Illya down the stairs in a daze and before she could process what was happening he had her wrapped up in a blanket on their couch. When he returned with mugs of hotchocolate she cupped hers between her palms and stared blankly into the liquid before taking a vacant sip. Illya settled beside her and her eyes traveled from the mug up to her Chip’s face. “I didn’t hurt you did I?”

Getting down the stairs was a very long and somewhat painful process. Illya was determined to help Kalizda though. Once they were down stairs he motioned for her to sit down and he grabbed one of the heated blankets and wrapped it around her. She would be nice and snug while he made the cocoa. Once the hot chocolate was made Illya snatched the first aid kit from under the sink too. Setting the kit down by the coffee table Illya set his cup of cocoa on the coffee table and then gave Kalizda's to her. For the first bit he let her sit quietly. She would decide when she wanted to talk. The first words out of her mouth were in concern for him and Illya answered quietly. "No, yah dun hurt meh, but I tink yah smash yah head plenty hard. Yah let meh look at et and clean yah up a little. Yah got some scrapes and little bleeding." Retrieving the kit from the floor he set it on the the coffee table and moved his cup to the end table and then grabbed a few swabs and got started on cleaning her up. "Yah know dat et will take more den dis tah scare meh away from yah? I'm still here." With a smirk he met her gaze. "We jes work trough dis togeter too."

Calysta was relieved that she hadn’t done anything to hurt him. She was sure she had hit her father by accident, thinking he was part of the dream. That was what scared her more. What if it had been Cypher or Lohgan trying to wake her up? When Illya mentioned about her head, she blinked at him and her fingers crept up to the side of her scalp where she could feel a sharp stinging. Her fingers came away with a smear of red and she nodded. He pulled out their little first aid kit and began cleaning the spot with a tenderness that always managed to surprise her. His joke about her scaring him off made a small, half smile curl to her lips some how before she winced slightly at the alcohol burning on the cut. “I’m glad you are,” she replied quietly. After a moment, her eyes opened and she looked at him, trying to muster any sort of humor. “If anything had scared you off I thought it might have been my cooking when we met.” He held a gauze to her hair to absorb the blood and encourage the spot to clot up while she leaned into his hand to make it easier. His hand was warm and she almost savored the touch. “This time the kids were there too,” she admitted quietly, “I know it’s only a dream and I thought maybe some sleep aids would help. I think they only made it worse.”

Calmly Illya continued to work on the little cut and he let Kalizda lean into his hand. Meeting her gaze he chuckled at her joke. "Yah cooking was nut so good. I never have snake stew wit clumps before." He remembered that one for sure. It was when he first thought she was a dud of a woman. Even if it seemed they had moved past the worst of it Kalizda's next comment made it clear that she was still dwelling on what had happened in her dream and she admitted to taking sleeping aids. "Oh, dah sleeping aids dun do good tings for meh eiter. Jes cause meh back es sore dun mean dat yah can't be close to meh chest. Dat es far away from meh back." Adjusting how he sat on the couch he pulled Kalizda forward into his chest. "Yah sleep closer at night eh? Let meh hold yah gentle and den I know ef yah have trouble. Kalizda, yah stay wit meh trough many tings and dis es nut difficult ting for meh tah stay wit yah trough. I know dat et es small compared tah what yah do for meh."

He was being kind to her when she had been the cause of such a mess and even if she wasn't hurt at all by the events of the last week. He brought her in close to his chest as they leaned back against the plush couch, wrapped snuggly in the heated blanket. Her cheek lay against his chest and she nestled into it him slightly before looking up to him. "I did go through many things but I would do it all again without a single doubt." She reached up and cupped his cheek, her thumb stroking at his prominent cheek bone gently. "Because I love you, Illya and that means I'm here no matter what." This was his way of saying that too and she kissed him with softly pecks before settling against him once more. After a minute, she chuckled to herself. Out of all the things he did and did not remember he couldn't recall the disgusting snake stew she had made on her first try. The thought was funny and held him a little closer to herself. "Thank you, love..." They probably should have gone upstairs to bed but her eyes felt too heavy and the suggestion never made it out of her lips.

Sometime in the morning she felt Illya grunt and shift underneath her. Groaning some, she burrowed further into the blanket and sought out his warmth. Did she have to get up so soon? It felt like she had just gone to sleep. What time was it? She had no idea. It was then she noticed a few other things. The smell of fresh food was wafting through the air. smelled like a decent breakfast and she could hear someone shuffling around at the kitchen bar while a few people murmured to themselves. Someone was in their house cooking breakfast. Forcing her eyes up, she sat up slightly and looked around to see who their kitchen wise intruder could be.

* * * * * * * * * * *

There was no point in arguing further. Once they landed they would all be separated to walk through the scanners and Priscilla would be safe. Ehud nodded. "You can sit with her, but you better take thst knife awsy from her throat. How about all three of us get into the cabin and you can tell me how you want to have your name appear on the manifest? Then you can watch me land the ship propper and I can ppint out the areas we'll be walking through when we get off the ship."

The Zkreen flicked the knife away and shoved Priscilla forward into Ehud, causing her to half collapse against him with the sudden, forceful shove. At the same moment, the man reached out drew his pistol from the back of his shirt and the portal zipped closed behind him. It would be easier that way. One man need only be lost on this mission if it was to be completed. With expert hands, he flicked off the safety and clicked a round into the chamber before aiming toward his newly commandeered crew. "Cross me, and I'll put a bullet through her head after I put two through her knees, then I'll be coming for you," he said flatly, "Let's go put the name on the manifest and then when we arrive I'll be making sure you put us down exactly where you should." Priscilla managed to disentangle herself from Ehud, rolling to the couch on her bottom and holding her neck in the hopes it would stop bleeding. "If we are to land, may I please at least put on some clothing?" she asked. It was very clear she was still in her sleeping clothes and it was a reasonable enough request but the question was met with a cold stare back. "Do you want to change clothes in front of me?" he replied. She frowned and shook her head. "Then shut up and follow into the cabin, woman. You're clothed and that's good enough." Turning to Ehud he gestured for him to enter the cabin the walked them both there at gunpoint. "The estimated time is 5 hours to landing," he said, "I'll know if you delay us and I'll know if there are any detours. You are to put the name Essod on the manifest."

Normally Ehud would have said something about the way the man was treating Priscilla, but he didn't have much room to play around. The first shot to a knee would be painful and he could probably take the man from there, but the real problem was that Priscilla would still be hurt. He could otherwise get her out of this almost completely unscathed. Ironically the man somehow thought Ehud wouldn't carry out his word and he was more than anxious to do as he said. "No tricks. I've already told you how it works. Now just let me do my job." Tapping in the name he waited for the man to approve of the name. Anyone would know that a sudden addition of a name on a log could be lazy, or an indication of trouble. On this ship it would mean trouble and he didn't need to say anything more. The closer they got to the port Ehud pointed out different points they were passing for scans. "First scan for the ship. This next spot we'll be directed over there to the port. I'll be given directions for a bay and they'll bring out scanners and the usual military presence. Ships from the Terran colonies are monitored carefully." When he brought them into docking bay 18 as directed on his screen he turned the engines off with the prompt. "Now we're getting orders to exit one at a time. You got to follow the instructions. Who goes first?" There wasn't any ideal order for this if you were Essod, but Ehud figured he'd give the man a choice.

Priscilla followed and remained quiet for the rest of the trip. Luckily, she hadn't drank any of the coffee she had fixed before falling asleep and had no urgent need to use the bathroom. She doubted this Essod person would let her go at all or might force her to something more embarrassing like piss in a bucket of some kind. As they pulled into port, it was obvious that Essod was taking careful note of what Ehud was saying. Each checkpoint was noted, and each step was carefully monitored until it was time to disembark. "You first," Essod said as he grabbed up Priscilla's arm. She yelped a little against the vicious grip that pulled her out of the bucket seat and to Essod's side. "She and I will exit together."

Calmly Ehud sighed. "The instructions are to exit one at a time. It's a better choice to let her get out first and take me out with you if you insist on breaking the rules. I can at least give the order not to shoot you in Quoti. She doesn't know the language and she isn't an officer. You step out of this ship with her as a hostage and you're a dead man." Holding his gaze steady Ehud decided to plug one more little idea in there. "So far I've held up my end of the deal. You're the only one showing violence. I agreed to your terms. You'll see the council woman. I haven't lied to you about anything."

"Fine, but you will give the order in traders tongue for everyone to understand," the Zkreen man said. With that he let go of Priscilla who inched away from him carefully and stood closer to Ehud until barked at to move through the opening hatch. She stepped up to the disembarkation point and stepped through, giving a last look at Ehud before he disappeared from view. Then he looked the the light Chip, gesturing to him to exit ahead of him. He could always retreat into the ship if he absolutely had to. "Follow her, but only in trader's tongue. I know these Chippeqouti can at least understand that and so can I. You will walk out and declare me as a friendly." Motioning toward the door, he waited for the officer to do as he said.

Nodding to the man Ehud agreed to the terms and he gave Priscilla a little nod of encouragement too. She'd be fine. Once she was off it was up to Ehud and the man. "If I'm going to declare you friendly, you'd better act it. Put your damn weapons down when they give the order. From here on you better listen to me. Going around half cocked like that around here won't do you any good. Chippequoti don't like it and that's a good number of the men out there." Ehud stared at Essod and waited for the man to comply, or at least agree before they stepped out. While he was waiting for a reply from Essod he heard the familiar and loud clunk of a boot on the platform below. "Hey, yah coming out, or do we have tah come en?" Ehud raised an eyebrow at Essod. "Right now I'm the only shot you have at making it through this alive. Better make up you're mind."

The Zkreen man looked at Ehud carefully, his perfectly sculpted jaw working slightly before he put away the pistol in the back of his waist band before he gestured toward the door. He would play nice for now, so long as they did. "Answer him, friend," he told Ehud quietly, "In trader's tongue."

Since the man decided to play along Ehud made the first step to go outside. "Coming out. We're friendly. Coming out as a pair. Don't shoot. Making exception 207. I will accompany incoming through procedure and review." Ehud knew that likely Essod wouldn't know everything he just said actually was a good thing, but he'd figure it out. When he reached the outdoors there were several Dark Chippequoti standing by with guns and they raised them. "Drop all weapons. We check yah when yah reach bottom of ramp!" Ehud kept his hands up. He didn't have any weapons on himself. He knew Essod would and he hoped the guy was smart enough to do what the Chippequoti said.

The man Zkreen walked out along side Ehud and things were going nearly as he expected. The Chippeqouti were there, tall and tan for the most part. They were well-armed too and all the weapons were trained on him. He had agreed to play along and he would do it for now. Anything it took to complete his mission, he would do, and already he was cursing himself for having chosen that particular ship. It had been perfect outwardly for their needs to get on Pyrta to see the council woman, but he hadn't anticipated an officer and his imperfect looking female on board the ship. Tourists would have been much easier to deal with and yet it, if this man came through, he knew he might still get what he needed. Perhaps things weren't so unlucky after all. The golden haired ZKreen held up his hands and reached inside his waist band before slowly removing his pistol, then his knife, tossing them both down the ramp. "I want that knife back eventually," he said, "It was a gift.

Often confiscated goods were set in a box for whomever was taken for the statement. If the person ended up staying incarcerated the goods were bid for and the money was put to use for the Alliance territory. Ehud smirked. "That all depends on you. From here on out I can only advise based on our findings and your actions." Stepping through a scanner he came up as himself and he was promptly saluted. Catching a look from the Zkreen he chuckled. One of Dark Chippequoti pushed Essod into the scanner and waited for the results before another stepped in and pulled him out. "Yah sure are a dumb arse. Jump on a Chip general's furlough ship. At least yah run into one dat actually likes outsiders for dah most part."

He didn't like being pushed into the scanner nor being pulled out of it and shot both of the tall soldiers and warning look as he dusted off his hands. He couldn't exactly disagree with them. "Well, it still may work in my favor. Any other bleating, sheep of a tourist would not be nearly as entertaining. If you plan on arresting me, detaining me, chopping me up for spare parts you might as well do it now, Get it over with." He smiled inwardly to himself and waited for them to take him into custody as he glanced to Ehud. "Remember what you said, General."

The Dark Chip looked at him with a frown and then to Ehud. "Who dah hell does he tink we are? Dah fuckin Federation? Yah full of shet." Some of the Dark Chip men didn't care how their language came across and this one said as he pleased. "We dun chop yah tah bits unless yah give us reason tah, but we dun want yah parts. Yah ugly son of a bitch and we dun want yah for dat."

"The feeling is mutual," he replied in his passionless tone, "but good to know my innards wont be of any use to you. I'll be keeping them where they belong. I do have an urgent need to see the council woman, however, and I highly doubt you'll be so accommodating on that point." Priscilla stood in the back of the dock along side of the Kaerelean men and gazed at Ehud. She had just been told what had happened to the council woman and her family and shook her head at Ehud. Now was not the time for Calysta to be dealing with something like that.

Looking toward the Dark Chippequoti Ehud sighed. He was going to have to deal with this one a little more than he cared to and to top it off the man was claiming it was urgent while Priscilla was shaking her head no. "We'll go get your statement of intentions and I'll send it to the General for review and then when he's had a chance to look at it and make his assessment I'll take that message and and your statement to the Council Woman as promised. She'll likely meet with you. I can't force her, but I can guarantee that she'll personally look over your case."

* * * * * * * * * * *

After having been allowed to put on clothes and the cut on her neck attended to. Ehud fed her then left her at Illya and Calysta's with an awkward hug along with the promise to message. "Alright," she said as he pulled away, "You know where I'll be." And just like that he was gone. It had been a rough trip to say the least, but she'd had worse if only marginally so. She went to her room, passing Calysta who was expressing concern, and went to sleep. All she wanted to do was sleep for awhile in her cozy pajamas and forget about things for awhile. Yuji joined her in the bed and kept his long snout propped up on her hip with a careful gaze. He was guarding her and had he not been trapped in the bay on the boat, the Zkreen intruder might have been bitten or worse. "What do I do, Yuji?" she said, scratching him behind the ears, "He wont act the same around me anymore....its not his fault but it's not mine either." He had just left her there after all of that and she wasn't sure how she felt about it. The only thing she could do was get out bed, prepare her class room in the day, and help Calysta with the the kids in the evening.

The first thing she noticed about the house when she returned was that it was full of an ever circulating set of tall Chip men. One morning she even woke up to one of them coming out of the second floor bathroom, nearly slamming into her. "Oh eh..yah batroom es all free. Verah nice in dere," he said before trying to inch around her. His shoulder knocked half the books off the shelf in the hallway. He put them back on the shelf, or attempted to at least. Priscilla went back behind the effort and fixed a few of the titles which had been put in upside down.

A few messages came in from Ehud and she answered them promptly, but neutrally. I'm alright. I've been mugged before, so it's nothing new....Everything is fine. Alot of people here is all. She replied to his questions, but everything stayed fairly bland between them. She wanted to see him and Sien but given how he seemed to feel about their current status as couple kept her from going to see them herself. It wouldn't be fair to Sien if she kept coming around and Ehud had decided not to pursue her further. In restrospect, she understood why he would be so cautious. He had probably gotten more than he wanted when he chose her to date. Jumping head long back into things would be a bad idea.

Mostly she just felt lonely, even though the house was full and she found herself wondering if Ehud and Sien had plenty to eat, and if their laundry was needed washing, or if Ehud missed her. She had fallen asleep in his arms on their flight back but she didn't know if that was courtesy or nor. He wanted to wait until she loved him and she did. Perhaps not in the same way as Harry, but she did love him in a certain sense with the capacity to expound upon that feeling. Every now and then she would find herself crying here and there, between knowing she had messed up with Ehud and the hard reality of having lost Harry again. Both situations hurt and she kept to herself when she wasn't working. A few days after her last less than great goodbye from Ehud he asked if he could visit. Sure, if you want to. I'm not going to push things. Was her reply. He had left her there, perhaps out of propriety or out of a loss of what to do with her but all she really wanted was to wade through the twilight zone between them.
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Anonymous Me
Ahvah took Tomas into her arms and she smiled a little at the boy. He seemed to be a happy baby and he had beautiful grey eyes. "Oh," feigning shock she watched the boy's face as he pulled on her necklace. It was too sturdy for him to hurt it and she knew that. Kalizda seemed more upset by the pulling than was necessary and the woman smiled. "Oh, it is fine. He can't hurt anyting." With a little bounce of her hip the boy popped up and fell to her hip again. His eyes went wide and he giggled before she did it again. "Yah like dat eh?" Speaking to him softly she smiled, "How about if I talk to you in Quoti? You like this?" Of course he kept right on grinning at her and she gave her hip a few more bounces to keep the boy entertained.

Soon Tomas was giggling with anticipation and still clutching tightly to her necklace. Without thinking much of who was in the house Ahvah twirled with the baby on her hip and she sang to him softly in Quoti. "The North Wind pulls at your right hand, the South Wind at your left hand, the West Wind at your right foot and the East wind at your right foot." With each of the winds she'd tug at his little arms and legs. Taking another twirl she started into the next verse and again tugged at each of his little limbs. The boy squealed loudly and began to kick with glee. He may have been a bit more quiet most days, but this woman was exciting and he seemed to like the way she spoke to him in Quoti like his dad did. Naturally, all the children liked Quoti and the accent was comforting. Tomas hadn't understood the attack and he found the dark woman to be comfortable and he liked it when she sang to him. After a bit of the singing and dancing he started to fall asleep.

Taking herself back into the kitchen Ahvah sat across from Kalizda and she held onto the boy as he bobbed about tiredly in her arms. Eventually he ended up face planting on her breasts and she chuckled a little. There wasn't a baby that didn't like face planting like that. Holding a baby was wonderful and at the same time it was a sad reminder. Since the attack when the Chippequoti left she couldn't have anymore children. The baby she lost was the last one she would ever have. Part of her desperately wanted another baby and she held Tomas close to herself while he slept.


Usually the second class of the day was the most interesting. Illya hadn't expected that Rumi would stay with him during the second the class, but he did. By the next day Rumi had brought Asher, and Ehvan to watch the class. Rumi was a few years younger than Illya and Illya didn't remember much about him as a kid, but apparently Rumi thought an awful lot about space. The three Elite piled onto the bed carefully. No one wanted to hurt Illya's back more, but they all wanted to see this class Illya was taking.

"Now look at this?" Murmuring in Quoti one of the men poked at the hologram. "How do they know all that about it?"

Another one piped in, "Yeah, I want to know how they measure it."

Illya felt compelled to answer how it was measured because he knew how to do it. "I'll show you how to measure it." Pointing to a few different spots on the Nova Illya drew a small point diagram and began to write in the numbers. Within a few minutes he'd missed most of the class discussion, but he had the measurements. None of the men heard, or noticed Kalizda poke her head into the room. Instead they continued to watch the class now that the wonder of the measurement was solved.


Shuffling over to his pad Edgar picked it up to see that Kalizda was trying to make a hologram call. "Yes?" Answering the call he waited for her to start speaking. Apparently there was some garnered interest in the classes that Illya was taking. With a thoughtful look Edgar gave a slow answer, "I think that it could work." Evening classes would be a lot to ask of the men. After they finished a hard day of training and they went home for dinner and then instead of relaxing, or having family time they would go to the classes. Training wasn't going to be set aside for this new endeavor. "Perhaps it will take a little bit of arranging."

It seemed that Kalizda was trying to consistently find ways to improve their lives and that was good. However, Edgar didn't want her to be disappointed if the class didn't start off as a success. "Perhaps we would aim for only 1 hour sessions and offer a maximum of two classes. It would give the people a chance to still have time with their families. Hours of study would be too much for the Chippequoti to devote after their work day." School was always a very lengthy thing and Edgar didn't want to overwhelm his people. Somehow the idea of one hour only a few times during the week seemed quite appealing. "Oooh..." Nodding with more understanding a broad grin came to Edgar's wrinkled brown face. "I see. This would be very good."

Whenever possible Edgar spoke in Quoti because it was easier for him. "Yes, I think that we may start with that. Many of the Chippequoti would like to learn in the Chippequoti class room to start with, but you may try moving the classes to other rooms occasionally, or even offer a second class in another room." That would be a change for the Chippequoti and they may not like it at first, but if they really wanted to learn they would have to be willing to have a different environment. "Let's speak about the classes that would be most helpful for them to start learning other things. Then we will need to know who can teach them these classes." Even if he thought Kalizda would be a good teacher for them, it was doubtful she had that much time. She was already a busy woman and Edgar wasn't quite well enough versed in these subjects to teach them for himself.


Regardless of his attempts to check in on Priscilla, it seemed to Ehud that she was not very responsive. Many of her answers were short and he didn't know why she wasn't contacting him at all. Finally, he'd dug his way out of the hole at work and he had a day off. It was the best time to see if he could at least come to visit her. Perhaps she was upset because she thought that he didn't care and he'd offered her up like a sacrifice to that man, Essod. Truly, he was quite miserable as a an excuse for a man and Ehud wished in some ways he had the training to have killed the fellow. No reason to have even let him land here, but he wasn't an Elite and he didn't quite have the same level of training. His expertise was more in the way of persuasion and spy work.

The response from Priscilla was about as pathetic as they came and he sighed. It was time he had a serious talk with her. He didn't know how she felt about all this, but he wasn't going to be letting Sien come this time. His son didn't need to be hurt if this turned out badly. With a confident, but reluctant stride Ehud marched his way to the house and he knocked before he heard Illya yell for him to come in. Stepping into the house he smelled the wonderful scent of cooking bacon and he heard Asher singing away as he cooked the breakfast. "Priscilla?" Pausing slightly at the sofa he waited for Illya to tell him that Priscilla was in her room still.

Brushing past Ehud went right to her doorway and knocked. "Priscilla, it's me, Ehud." He couldn't even force a smile because he was so nervous about what she might say to him. "Can we talk about something in private?"

Priscilla had just begun Gathering herself for her morning routine which included combing out her wavy blonde hair and weaving it into a pretty braid down her back along with putting on her makeup. She had already put on her flowing skirt and tank top that she had picked out the night before. It was supposed to be a nice day outside and she planned on doing a little bit in her classroom before working on gardening out front of the house. Gliding on some pink lipstick she gave her lips a small kiss to even out the color and then turned to retrieve her hat. As she reached out, a solid knock came from her door and she froze at the sound of a familiar voice on the other side. "Ehud?" She had told him that if he wanted to come over he could but she wasn't expecting him in the mid morning when half the house was still asleep. And he wanted to speak in private? Abandoning her hat, Priscilla shooed away her dog he was waiting eagerly by the door and opened it to see a very grim looking Ehud standing there. Even if she hadnt seen him for days, her heart fluttered a little and she swallowed down that feeling. He was likely here to break it off. They could be friends and that was understandable. He had a son to think of first and foremost and it wasnt fair to tease the boy when his father felt like his girlfriend was someone elses wife and wanted to be respectful. She felt heartbroken over Harry, but she also cared for the man and his boy too, in a strange sort of mix of conflicting feelings. "Ehud..." she managed to say, "You came by..." Shaking her head slightly, she got ahold of herself and stepped aside. "You're here earlier than I thought. I was just getting ready.... You can come in if you want to." She gestured to her room which was neat save for a bit of laundry poking from the hamper and her make up dresser which had obviously just been in use. "I think I might know what you want to say," she said, giving him a soft sort of look. He looked so grim and nervous, maybe she could make it easier for him.

When Priscilla opened the door she looked like she was dressed to go out. Was she trying to avoid him? Race to get out of the house before he could get here to talk to her? None of it looked good and he felt even worse. Swallowing hard Ehud stepped into the room. Since they were alone it was probably the best time to say what he had to. "Priscilla, I love you and Sien does too. What I don't know is if you feel the same. The whole thing with Harry was very hard for me. I couldn't pursue you if you belonged to another man and I still want you, but if you don't want me then you need to say something. Sien is very attached and it would be easier for him if I could tell him that we'll get married, or that we won't." How she could know what he was going to say he didn't know. Maybe Sien didn't listen and told her in advance. Pulling a small box out of his jacket pocket Ehud presented it to her. "Priscilla, I bought this for you. I'd hoped to propose when we were at the colonies. Well, I'm proposing now. If you accept we can wait as long as we need for the engagement since...well since I want to be respectful of your feelings and Harry." Gulping he waited for her to take the box, or tell him to keep it.

"That...that is not what I thought you were going to say..." The comment left her mouth as she stared at what was clearly a ring box. She knew the trip to the colonies had been his idea and this had been his plan all along. A small pang went through her and her brow creased as she gazed at the box and then glanced up at his face. He had gone from placing her neatly back at Calysta and Illya's after a vacation from hell, maybe because it was easier, and then says he loved her. Then again he didnt know how to react either. A long moment passed and she stared at him. "Ehud." His name came out a little quiet and she cleared her throat before taking a step toward him. "I do love you and what happened with hurt...and it wasnt right. I know it would be easier for Sien to have a solid answer. But what about you, Ehud?" Her eyes met his and she slid a soft hand under his that held the box up. "Is it what's easier for you too? Do you love me because of Sien, or because I'm what you want? I love you Ehud, and I know you didnt take the easy route on the colony. Am I really who you want now, even after all of that hell?" She didnt want him to make some flash decision about this and she did love him, but she also wanted him to make this choice for himself too and not just for Sien.

Wordlessly Ehud nodded at her. His son didn't get those helpless silent moments from nobody. They tended to come naturally from him and for the moment he couldn't quite put his thoughts into words. After a long pause he answered. "I love you because I want you and because you're a good mother for my son." Maybe it wasn't entirely romantic, but it was the truth and that was just the best way to proceed because he wasn't nearly as bold, or ready to make the kinds of gestures that Illya did.

She stared at him for a moment more. He had to consider his son and that was fair but she didn't know how far that love extended. Both of them knew it couldn't be like it was with their former spouse and she loved little Sien as well as his father. Marriage was such a big leap though. After Harry and this happening so fast, was it a Chip thing? At least he was being honest and that's what she wanted. "If I say yes, will you smile just a little?" She said, a small smile coming to her lips. "Yes, Ehud, I want to marry you."

"Uh...." Ehud stared at her with a half scared expression. He didn't know if she was going to say yes, or not even if she asked if would smile. When she finally said yes he let out a nervous chuckle. "That's good. I was worried you'd say no. Umm..since it's a day off do you you want to go get some frozen custard with me?"


Illya was awake long before Kalizda. His back was throbbing, it burned and ached from sleeping on the couch at such an odd angle. When she moved he grunted a little purely because of the discomfort. Resting a hand on her back he rubbed gently and tried to even out his breathing. This was going to be a long day and he only had a few days till he was supposed to be back at Skycorp. How he was going to remember the classes and discussions he didn't know. He would still have his medications and he couldn't walk for as long as they would want him to if he had to go back to Skycorp and walk to all his classes and go to PT. As much as he hated it, the Ehaui had already gotten him a wheelchair to get around Skycorp with for his first half of the day and then PT would be modified for a few weeks. At least until his back was sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of a typical day of training. Then there was a concern that Rezna would want to fight again.

There were a lot of things to worry about. Kalizda was having nightmares still and she'd had them before, but never like this. He wasn't in good enough shape to actually help her. If things couldn't be worse, she was going to be alone at least 2-3 nights of the week and there was no telling how that would turn out. Something needed to happen and he wasn't sure that he would be able to do it all.

Through the haze of his worry he smelled the food that was cooking and it made him feel a bit hungry despite the fact that he was feeling like puking. Then there was a knock on the door and Illya didn't feel like moving so he yelled, "C'mon in." Ehud stepped in and it looked like his friend had something pretty serious going on. Ehud wasn't usually so glum looking. Shortly after Ehud passed by Illya leaned his head back over the edge of the sofa and he tried to see the clock hanging in the living room. Maybe it was close to the next dose. He desperately wanted one. It was over an hour past his next dose and Illya felt somewhat accomplished for making it this long, but he did need his medicine. Kalizda needed to sleep though.

After a few more seconds of debate Illya decided to wait for whoever it was in the kitchen to come into the living room and then he'd ask for the medicine. The wait was nearly unbearably long and finally Asher appeared with a plate full of little bits of meat. They smelled good, but Illya knew it probably was a mystery meat instead of bacon. "Tanks." Pointing to the coffee table he directed Asher where to put the food for himself and Kalizda. "Asher, yah go upstairs to meh room and yah look in Kalizda's nightstand drawer. Dere es medicine for meh. I need some eh."

Asher knew that Illya wouldn't ask for medicine unless the pain was bad, or unless he was having cravings. All the guys knew it, but with the recent incident he was inclined to believe it was more for the pain than craving. Wandering up the stairs he started to look around in the first nightstand he found, but the one closest to the door must have been Illya's. Moving over to the other side he pulled open the drawer and found a note pad with the times and colors. There were matching colors on the tops of lids and he figured that he'd just go with what the directions on the paper said. For morning he'd get one tablet from the bottle with a red cap and then he'd get two tablets from the bottle with the blue lid. That was easy enough. Grabbing the bottles Asher double checked the directions before he finished collecting the tablets.

Trotting back down the stairs Asher offered the tablets to Illya and then went to the kitchen to get a bottle of water. "Dere yah go. Dat's what dah little chart Kalizda make says dat yah get in dah morning. Yah late getting et."

Nodding some Illya took the tablets and when Asher returned with the bottle he took the medicine all in one gulp. Glancing to Asher he narrowed his eyes slightly. "Yah dun say anyting to her about et. I get meh medicine in dah morning and I'm fine."

Asher knew the look well enough and he nodded. Seemed that his commanding officer didn't want his agreed to know that the medicine had been late and as far as he could tell it was primarily related to the fact that he was not feeling well. "Well, yah have good food tah eat dis morning. I make yah some seasoned liver bits, scorpion legs, flattened slugs and den some ham bits dipped en beetle juice and fried nice and tasty. Mmm." They were favorites of Asher's and most other folk thought they sounded a bit nasty, but they did taste good.

"Again, yah dun say anyting. I dun tink dat Tomas, or Kalizda would have good appetite ef dey know what yah make. Cypher dun care, he eats I what eat." Illya didn't care for what Asher cooked when he first met him, but it might have been an acquired taste after Asher had been the designated cook for a few years. Picking up an oddly shaped piece of meat Illya popped it in his mouth and chewed it. There was a satisfying crunch here and there and then he'd get the rare squish of juice every now and then. It really did almost taste like bacon. Perhaps it was the ham bits that had fried with the rest of the food that gave it that deceptively good taste and aroma. "Ets good. Tank yah."

Within a few minutes of Asher cleaning the kitchen up and setting the food out on plates Cypher could be heard wandering through the upstairs looking for his mom and dad. "Mam, Dah?" There was a slight panic in the boy's voice when he repeated himself as he pushed open the bedroom door. Within seconds there was a hurried sound of feet running through their room and then down the stairs. Wild eyed the boy charged into the living room and saw Illya with Kalizda. Tears stung the corners of his eyes and he trotted over to them and found a spot he could curl up with them on the couch. Without saying anything he pulled at Illya's left hand that was only a little tender and set it over his little shoulders. He just wanted to be close and then he smelled the food.

Turning over on the couch Cypher reached for the meat on the plate and he took a nibble of it. The food tasted good and he took a few more bites. "Es dere more?" Shoving a few morsels into his mouth at once he turned toward his Dah as he asked the question.

"Dere's more in dah kitchen. Yah go get one of dah plates eh?" Illya answered his son with a slow sort of drawl brought on by the medications.

Cypher nodded and he jumped off the couch. All traces of his worry were momentarily erased as he rushed about trying to gather a plate and the jug of juice on the table. Asher had to help him get some cups of juice poured and then Cypher carried 1 cup at a time until he had a cup for himself, his Dah and his Mam.

Shortly after Cypher had the breakfast set on the coffee table Lohgan woke up and came into the living room rubbing at her bright green eyes. The blanket dragging across the floor and the silence was enough of a give away that Illya knew it was Lohgan. "Lohgan," Illya called her name, "Yah come en here and yah jes be wit meh and yah mum for bit eh?" The invitation was all the more Lohgan needed and her little feet slapped their way over to the couch and she crawled up on the couch where Cypher had been only a few minutes before. She wasn't as likely to want to eat right away and Illya knew they were going to have a long morning of cuddling. It was Saturday and he didn't have classes. For that he was grateful. The kids were still upset and he knew they would be for a while. By now it was only one week since his back was broke in front of them. All he could do was try comfort them and do his best to make sure they didn't know how badly his back hurt. The more he hurt the more he knew they would worry. Setting a hand on Lohgans head he stroked her reddish colored ringlets. "Meh little Lohgan. Yah very special to yah Dah, yah know dat." The girl tilted her head up and she stared at him for a long while. Eventually a little grin spread over her face and she nodded her head. That was all he needed from her. Just to know that he could still reassure his daughter and she could still smile. After some time Kalizda woke. Illya dropped his chin to his chest so he could meet her gaze and he winked at her. "How's meh beautiful tahday?"


Curious Adventurer
Calysta curled further into the blanket and her little fingers inching their way into the gap of Illya's robe out of instinct. Her cool fingers found the warm skin of his chest and she inched over, absorbing all the warmth she could. Her mind drifted in and out of sleep with the smells of cooking bacon and eggs reminding her some where out there it was morning. Someone was singing mildly off key and she knew it wasn't Illya because it lacked he distinct, but attractive rasp his singing voice carried. Whoever it was warbled on over the sounds of sizzling on the stove. At one point she heard Illya bark out to someone but she more or less ignored it. There was probably another Elite, possibly Rumi, at the door and they had just learned to knock as of recently. She was clothed in her fuzzy pajama bottoms and a tank top, which was good enough for now. Calysta let out a contented sigh in her sleep and stayed right where she was before she started dozing again. It felt good to sleep for just a little while with no dreams. She was worried that she was in that strange twilight area of sleep and wakefulness that those dreams might come back, but so far she was snoozing decently enough. Mumbling to herself, she slipped out of unconsciousness again and her breath became slow, even puffs.

A dip in the cushion of the couch alerted her to what she suspected was one of the children waking up and coming over to snuggle. In a lazy sort of way her free hand inched out till she found the tiny, but solidly built form of a child. Definitely Cypher. Her and draped over his shoulder and her fingers played with the wild mass of curls at the nape of his neck as she dozed until he finally squirmed out of her grasp in favor of whatever food had presented. She could hear voices having a conversation around her but her eyes stayed closed in a last ditch effort to gain a last bit of sleep. That ended when Lohgan thumped her way over and crawled over her to get to a good snuggling position. Calysta stretched a little and nuzzled into her Chip some before giving up on sleep for good in the morning.

Finally, her eyes fluttered open and she yawned before realizing Illya was gazing down at her. He shot her a little wink and the gesture along caused her to smile sleepily up at him. It was nice to see him looking down at her with such an expression and for a moment she forgot the night before. "Good morning, love," she said. Her fingers left the inside of his robe and brushed at his cheek with gentle sweeps. "Mmm...she's warm and with her agreed and her family. Best way to wake up." Sitting up slowly, she tried to smooth down her hair with no luck and smacked her tongue over lips. Her mouth was a little dry, but food and drink had already been presented on the table for them. It looked like eggs, a bit rubbery, and ham of some kind. Cypher seemed to like it as evidenced by his half empty plate and Lohgan was cuddling up to her Dah, happy to pass on the meal for a minute with him.

Calysta reached for the cup of juice first and took several long gulps before her eyes wandered over to the clock. "Shit." The words slipped out before she could really stop it and she clamped a hand over her mouth, realizing she'd said it aloud. "It's nearly 10," she mumbled as she started throwing off the blanket, "You were supposed to have your medicine an hour ago." As she started to get up from the couch to go upstairs, Illya stopped her and told her Asher had already gotten for him.

Sure enough, Asher was the one in the kitchen singing away in the kitchen as he served up another bowl of sponge-like eggs and ham. She relaxed some and then settled back on the couch next to Illya feeling a bit relieved that he had been taken care of. Selecting a plate, she took the first bite of the food that had been supplied and nodded some. The eggs were a bit on the chewy side and the ham was strangely juicy in some places and crunchy in others, as if Asher had cooked some longer than others. Overall, it was a good meal and she thanked him. "It was good," she said to him, "Thank you for breakfast, Asher." She would do the dishes in a little while, but beyond regular household items she planned on doing nothing but spending time with her family and whoever else decided to come around that day. "Would you want to join us for a movie day?" When the kids were feeling tired or everyone needed a break, movie days seemed to do think and it sounded like a good use of the time they had today. They could all lounge and watch at their leisure.

Asher seemed to like the idea of a movie day and Cypher insisted on showing him how to build a proper blanket fort. Calysta lounged back on the couch with Illya as Cypher crafted a fort and looked at his Dah with hopeful eyes. "Go ahead and guard the fort for us, yeah?" she said. He wanted her and Illya to climb down into the fort with him like Asher had done, but that wasn't an option right now for Illya and she wasn't going to leave him by himself to watch the hologram. Cypher gave her a determined nod and dove into the covers with a little whoop as the hologram movie began to play. The first one was a Terran western that Cypher had picked out. It was one of his favorites where "Bad" Bob Hartem called out the brave Sheriff of Ponderosa for a shoot out after a gallant get away on the behalf of the villain after a robbery. Calysta watched quietly with Illya who was sleeping on and off. That was to be expected if he had his medicine. At one point he was sleeping really well and started to snore. Lohgan took it upon herself to lay a finger over her lips and 'shoosh' him before turning back to their second movie of the day. It was her choice and she picked White Christmas. It wasn't seasonally correct in the slightest, but she toddled around trying to imitate the dancers and sang along for nearly all the 2 1/2 hour running time before crashing out for a nap beside her snoring father. Asher took the down time to work on the dishes and Calysta covered a blanket over her Chip and her daughter so they would stay warm while she helped. "Thank you for breakfast today," she said with a small smile, "I'm not sure what you did to the ham but Cypher really liked it. I might have to ask you for the recipe of you time."

After the dishes were done, she and Cypher fed the animals. The chickens followed her son around like he was a mother hen of his own making and he fed them as he giggled. The bear was more than happy to receive his food for the day, but Keysha stayed in her cozy little den when her food was served up. "C'mon and get it Keysha before Cin gets it or the dogs do." The cat yawned at her with a flare of white whiskers and ignored the call. "Alright then." Rather than leaving out for the animals to get, she stepped into the den and put the bowl in the corner so the cat could at least guard it better. Giving her pet a gentle scratch behind the ears, Calysta finished up by watering the garden and returning inside for another movie. On the way inside, her father had come out onto the porch to smoke his pipe and read in his chair for a bit. He had a distinct bruise on his nose and she grimaced when he stopped her from going inside for a moment. "Caly?"

Pausing at the door, her shoulders sank and she came over to him with an apologetic look. "I'm sorry for last night, Dad."

He swapped the pipe to his other hand and took up hers with a soft squeeze. "I know. It's not your fault, but Caly I do think you need to see someone. Before it gets worse. It's not good for you to keep going like this."

She tried to think of some argument she could make to insist that she was fine, but the bruise on her fathers cheek was more than enough evidence to the contrary. "Alright. I'll see about it tomorrow. I promise." Even if she didn't like it, she would do it.

Later that night Ehvan had come over and with a bit of effort they got Illya upstairs and she washed him off using a soft cloth and a half full bathtub. With his incision, she couldn't get in the shower with him or get the stiches wet yet and while he could wash off most of himself he couldn't clean his legs very well or his hair. She used cedar oil mixed with tea tree oil to clean his black curls into soft ringlets. It didn't take much to use her step stool to wash his shoulders and then sink to a knee to make sure his mechanical leg was clean too. She took her time and talked with him while she worked. "I asked Edgar about starting up some classes in the evenings for Chip who wanted to learn a few subjects. Just one or two a week at the new school. I thought the Chippeqouti might like it and some of the Pyrtan's might even come too." The bump on her head was starting to hurt now, but she ignored it in favor of finishing her task.

She took her own shower once Illya was settled into bed and emerged from the steaming bathroom wearing on of his tshirts and her hair wrapped in a long towel. This was the best she had felt in nearly a week and she crawled into bed along side her Chip. The prospect of trying to sleep felt daunting at best. She couldn't simply keep Illya up all night because of her issues. Rather than trying to immediately go to sleep, Calysta gazed at her Chip and decided to try relaxing them both in a different way. Ignoring the fact that she was going to to sound super cheesy she inched up to the head board and curled around Illya's shoulder before planting a kiss on his forehead. "Did I tell you how much I love you today? I'm not sure I did," she mused. Petting at his hair, she kissed on him a little more and smiled into the pecks. "I love my Chip because he is kind...and smart...he is a good father too." Her fingers drifted down to his chest where they played over his skin. "I love him because he has a good heart and it shows." Giggling some, she lay her head gingerly on shoulder and tucked in close. "I love my Chip because he didn't run away from my lumpy snake stew either."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Ehud's proposal was not the most romantic one she had ever witnessed, but over all, in the span of human history it wasn't the worst one either. He seemed nervous but eager to take her out for celebratory ice cream and that was something at least. She glanced down at the box cradled in both of their hands and then back to the sheepish looking Chip general. "Did you want to show me the ring? I'm sure it's beautiful." That seemed to spur him into action and he quickly went to fumbling around with the box before he managed to get it open, revealing a yellow gold run with a singular diamond in the middle. It was a simple ring and it suited the occasion nicely. She helped him get the ring onto her slender finger then gave it an admiring glance before pulling Ehud into a tight hug around the neck. She hadn't worn a ring there in so long that the new engagement ring felt strange. It wasn't unpleasant, so much as foreign feeling and would take time to get used to it. She thought about kissing him, but the memory of how that had gone over on the ship chimed through and she kept things to a simple hug. "I think you're right. This calls for custard." Grabbing her sun hat, she flopped it onto her head and lead him out of the house. Luckily, the rest of the family was deep into watching a western and didn't even notice them slip out the door.

The day was sunny and the air was warm on their walk into town. She held his hand, but loosely so his palms wouldn't sweat to bad. "We can go get Sien and bring him some custard too," she offered. She missed the boy too and was happy that she would get to see him soon too. Every now and then she would glance at Ehud who seemed willing to be content that she had said yes. What was he thinking though?

They ordered their icecream without a word passed between them and the awkwardness still felt like it was over. "I'll have vanilla, with sprinkles," she told the server. The woman have her a weird look and Priscilla nodded. "Sorry, they're rainbow drops here. One vanilla with rainbow drops, please."

When Ehud's order was taken she sat back and gazed at him for a moment from under the brim of her sun hat. "I did have fun in the colony," she told him, "Before Harry, I mean. I would like to try it again some time." Their icecream was delivered and she took a small bite of runny rainbow sprinkles. "Would you like to see my class room when we pick Sien up?" He seemed to like the idea and she nodded, going in for another bite. As she scooped it up, she thought he might like to try it and offered her spoon out. "This is one cliche I won't mind supporting. Want to try a bite?"

* * * * * *
Calysta settled into the comfy arm chair next to Illya and across from the same Ehaui counselor her Chip had been to before. The rings around her eyes were still evident and she knew the man would probably notice. Already, a pinkness was coming to her cheeks from having to come here at all, but if she didn't try then she would be burdening her family with her problems. Her kids would see it and so would Illya. Something had to be done and she didn't know what else to try. The man sat across from them and stared for a long awhile, prompting Calysta to reach over slowly and grasp Illya's hand with a gentle squeeze. "It's not exactly standard for someone to be here on a Sunday, and I realize that, but I'm glad you were alright with letting us come in for a visit." Another awkward silence ensued and she felt like wiggling in her seat a little. She had read up on these things but never actually attended one. What was she supposed to say? "I've been having some trouble sleeping."
Going to the counselor was the last thing that Illya wanted to do, but for Kalizda he would do it. She was under a lot of stress and if this would help her, then he was going to be here for her. The man sat there like usual and waited for her to speak. With a silent nod the Ehaui listened as Kalizda described why she was there. "Mmhmmm...that's what it says here on the chart. Anything else?" He figured there was, but he wasn't about to ask. There wasn't any telling if the problem sleeping was her, or if it was Illya.

Anything else? What else was there? She bit at her lip and her heart hammered at her ribcage with a heavy thump. Why was this hard? "I've been having dreams. I know that nothing happened to me. I'm not hurt physically and by all rights I shouldn't be having dreams, but I am. I've been having nightmares recently, enough that it disturbs my family and my agreed. The last one I started walking around the house while I was asleep with night terrors." She knew her hand was shaking in Illya's hand now but she swallowed and kept talking. "I don't know what to do. I've had dreams off and on all my life, but not like this."

There was a lot more than just the dreams to work through with Kalizda and the doctor waited for her to finish before he decided to tackle the first issue. "It sounds like you think you should be hurt before you have these kinds of dreams. What do you think would make it reasonable for you to have these kinds of dreams?"

"I don't know," she said earnestly, "I've had them after being attacked when I was teen on some occasions...and a few after I was attacked on Kinte too. But those make sense. I was attacked and it actually happened to me. This is different, I'm not hurt. My agreed is hurt and my children after what happened a week ago. I shouldn't be having them. If anything, my husband's should have been worse." Her fingers squeezed his and she sighed. "I've been through it before and I've dealt with it several times but this time is different. and I don't know why. It would be reasonable if I were the one hurt or having had the experience."

It sounded like she already had a past of dreams and that made her susceptible. The doctor thought for a moment before he said anything further. "Tell me about your dreams then. What makes these dreams bad enough to disturb your family?" He had a feeling it would be something about the attack, but he had no way of telling until she started to talk.

She was beginning to see why Illya didn't like coming to these things, even if was supposed to help. Did she really want to tell him about all of that? Even Illya didn't know details. She didn't want to cry in front of this Ehaui man and her throat closed up for a long moment while she wrestled with making any sound at all. "In the dream I can see Illya and he falls into this sort of fiery pit, like there is some sort of attack and he's gone. I try to reach for him but I can't get him back. The last one included my children and I..." Her voice cracked and a rogue tear leaked down her face. Turning her head away she wiped with no small amount of anger at her face with a quiet sniffle and sighed. "And I wake up trying to find them. I've already disturbed my agreed at least every other night and our children once when I was sleep walking.

"Mmhmm.." The Ehaui took a few notes. "Is there anything that relieves the symptoms?" Illya knew she would hate it here. Even he hated these meetings with her. It was uncomfortable to think that he might be put on the spot at any second and it made him nervous. With his thumb Illya rubbed the back of Kalizda's hand. It was doubtful she'd like the homework.

Her cheeks turned red at the the thought of what seemed to make things better and she felt Illya's thumb rubbing at the back of her hand, some of his callous tickling at her pale skin. "When I'm with Illya things are better," she admitted, "If I hear his voice or can feel his hand, it sort of breaks the logic of the dream and it helps. I know that probably sounds odd and I'm not the attention seeking type of person really. I spent alot of my life trying not to draw attention to myself, but having my agreed close helps. And I know he wont be there some nights. I can't disturb my kids on those nights. I want to get this fixed so they are alright and my agreed too.

It sounded like there were some good things happening and a few things that would need some help. "Does going to sleep at night make you nervous?" That question was enough to make Illya stop rubbing his thumb across the back of Kalizda's hand. He'd never answered that question no matter how many times they asked him. Depending on the night the idea of going to be was terrifying.

Calysta looked at the Ehaui man even though her grey eyes were reddened from having let a few tears escape. She hated admitting it. More than anything it made her feel weak and unable to control herself. Not something she wanted her agreed to see, especially when she knew he was trying so hard to make her feel better. "Aye," she finally replied, "I know that I'm safe. My agreed is with me and our children. I am trained too deal with emergencies too, but falling asleep is hard. I don't want to miss anything and I don't want those dreams. I'm concerned I might hurt my family by accident." It was embarrassing and troubling to admit she was afraid that her children or her agreed might get her and it made her appear to be a terrible mother, she was sure. Calysta glanced to Illya and her fingers have his an encouraging squeeze.

There were silent signs that people gave and the doctor could see that both of them were uncomfortable. He was fairly certain that Illya was uncomfortable for several reasons, but he kept himself focused at the task on hand. "Is there anyone that makes you feel inadequate as a mother and agreed?" He needed to know what kind of support she had at home and if there was anything he should instruct Illya to do differently to help her.

Her eyes went wide when he asked his next question. What sort of a question was that? "No," she said firmly, "The children are good and my agreed is more than good to me. No one says I'm inadequate, despite the fact that there are some things I'm not entirely able to help with. Illya even agreed to come here with me so we could work on this together. " She was almost looking at the counselor angrily now, but she was knew this was part of his work. With a deep breath, her jaw slowly relaxed down and she looked to him. "Do you think you can help both of us?" It was better just to see what this would entail so she could tackle the issues better with both her and Illya combined.

"Most of it depends on you and your agreed." The counselor answered evenly. "I can't make anyone change, or become better. The best I can do is make some suggestions that could help you improve. Not every suggestion will work, but that is why it will be important for you to try things until you find what helps you. Now, the next question..." Looking at Illya he posed it in a straightforward manner. "Are you willing to go through this too?" Illya almost cringed when Kalizda volunteered him for this and then the doctor put him on the spot. "No..." It was the first thing to come out of his mouth and then he groaned, "Yes."

Illya didn't sound thrilled at all and his first answer was no until he managed a reluctant, almost petulant 'yes.' She knew he hated coming here, but if it was going to help them both then they could endure it. He was doing this for her and that was obvious. Still she was hopeful that he might get some benefit from it even if that was the case. Her other hand settled over his and she gave him a grateful look as her hands held his gently. He really was a good man and it actually made her feel relieved that he was willing to do this with her. With a long breath of relief and relaxed a little more and then glanced back to the counselor. "I understand, what is the first thing that we need to do then?"

The idea of doing this again was pure torture, but Illya managed a weak smile for Kalizda. It was for her and he would endure it if he had to. It was not the ideal position to be in, but the counselor knew that a willingness to work at it even if it was for another person was better than nothing. "One of the first things I recommend is getting a mentor that is not your agreed. Then you both need to sit down and have a very honest chat about your problems. Now, if you can't think of someone that could be your mentor maybe you should ask your agreed about someone and you can both figure out who you trust." Illya got a sheepish expression and he let out a long breath. "I already have mentor. Edgar has been helping meh learn tah be better man for meh family for a while." The counselor smiled. "Good."

Calysta tilted her head when the counselor mentioned a mentor that wasn't her agreed. Wasn't she supposed to be able to talk to her agreed? Apparently, Illya had already done this and had been talking to Edgar for some time about the family. She blinked at him in surprise before the inevitable panic of the task at hand set in. When had he started up that? Who would she pick to do something like that with? Her father would just worry if she chose him. Priscilla clearly had her own problems going on right now. Tabit? She thought of the woman's wild suggestions and while some had been helpful, she wasn't sure that was the best choice either. The woman had three kids and while they were friends, they rarely saw one another. She didn't have a mother or grandparents like Illya did. Surely, she had someone? A sinking feeling was already taking over at having some how botched this first task and she glanced to the counselor. "I'll give it some thought and see what I come up with," she said lamely. Despite her embarrassment, she was glad Illya was there and that he had some how reconnected with his grandfather. He'd done if for her and for their family but he seemed to like it too in someways. She gave a tentative smile to her Chip and nodded. "Anything else?"

There seemed to be some panic and the counselor waited for it to settle in and then he spoke again. "You don't have to do it alone. You and Illya will still talk with each other and I'm sure he knows a few people that could help and you'll be able to decide if you could trust that person, or not. In time I'll ask you two to start sharing what is going on in your individual mentor sessions, unless you want to start sooner rather than later on that part. It is all based on what your individual pace is." Illya looked at Kalizda and he nodded reassuringly, "I tink I know some ladies dat would be good mentors ef yah like dem."

: Illya seemed to think he might know someone but she still felt slightly awkward when she thought about not having someone like that. She had never really had that to begin with and she didn't know how that was really supposed to work, but if that's what he recommended then she would figure it out with some help if she needed to. She did trust her Chip, if anything and that would be a start. After a moment, she glanced back to the counselor. "I'll try some of Illya's suggestions," she said, "And I think I'm alright with sooner rather than later, but I will have to find someone first." She bit a her lip a little and held Illya's hand tightly. She was nervous about finding some sort of mentor and it drummed up a whole host of things she didn't particularly like feeling at the moment. If it was supposed to help, then she would do it, but she doubted she would be much good at it. "How often are we supposed to meet?"

It sounded like the little woman was terrified of the prospect. Perhaps it would be helpful for her to learn to lean on her community a little more. That was one thing that the Dark Chippequoti were good at. Many of them had a tight knit group of friends and people that they trusted. The question from Kalizda was a normal one for someone that would be trying this for the first time. "Usually that's something you and your mentor decide. I would recommend at least 2 times a week. You'll see them about as often as you'd like to see a friend."

"Alright," she said, "Two times a week...mentor..." She noted them down and took another deep breath before looking to her Chip. He was trying to be encouraging and she knew that. He was being more than a good agreed for coming with her and if this it what it took for her to be a better mother and wife, then she would figure it out. "Then we come see you once a week or so? I will be traveling alot back and forth but once a week is manageable if that's the case. And is there anything I need to do about...the dreams in the mean time?" She wanted to make sure that she was doing everything she could. If Illya was going to put in the effort, so would she.

The first session was in some ways the easiest and most difficult, but it was good to see that they were going to work through it together. "I think once a week would be fine. My single recommendation for now is that if you have a dream, try talking it out. Sometimes just saying it helps get it out of your mind and you may have an easier time sleeping. That is something I would like both of you to do."

That part would be hard. Usually she was a bit lost on herself when she had the dreams, but when she calmed down maybe she would try if Illya was alright with listening. Of course, the same rules that applied to her were going to apply to Illya and she knew he didn't like talking about the dreams. "I will try," she nodded, before looking to her Chip. The session ended with a few more tips and having made an appointment for next Saturday. It wasn't how she wanted so spend her time off with her Chip, but if it was needed for them to come here then they would at least be together. She thanked the counselor for his time and assured him they would see him next week before leaving the office. As they walked down the hallway, she kept her hand in his and opened up the double doors at the end for the both of them. "Thank you, Illya. For doing this." She leaned up high on her toes but he wasn't able to lean down to meet her so she kissed the only part of him she could reach and that was his shoulder.


The rest of the afternoon passed on in short order. She helped Illya catch up on a little bit of his school notes that she had made for him in Qouti. Going over the broader themes seemed to help even if you didn't even if you didn't even if he didn't have all the details down. Still it wasn't a bad way to spend the afternoon on the back deck with Tomas and Edgar planted between them. Edgar gnawed on Illya's good hand and laughed until he got the hiccups which made Tomas laugh. When the both ended up with alternating hiccups between the two of them Calysta laughed and took a small hologram of them squeaking together.

At the end of the day she tucked the kids into bed and looked to Illya. "They're good kids. Brave ones." She wanted to rub Illya's back but she knew it would hurt so she settle for holding his hand until they made it upstairs to bed. They spoke a little about the counseling meeting and Illya suggested she try Helena as her mentor. she never would have thought of Helena on her own. The closest she had come was Asha and she didn't want to disturb the woman while she was deep into a pregnancy. She tossed and turned most of the night and was up an hour before they needed to be to get Illya to Kinte. She had already packed everything he needed the night before and leaving him at the gates was difficult. the medical staff would have his medicine and he was on an exception to leave class to receive his medicine when it was time. He would be using the wheelchair to get around classes for the most part and seeing him in one after watching the Hologram some time ago still unsettled her. Kissing him gently, she went back to the ship to do some of her own work. She would spend at least one night on the continent before leaving to go home to be with their older children. After she made arrangements to see this Essod, Calysta stared at her pad for a long time then sent a call request to Edgar. When the elderly chip answered she gave him a simple and gentle smile. "Hi Edgar," she said in Qouti, "May I talk to Helena." She was a bit nervous about the whole idea of having a mentor but if this is what it took to resolve her issues then she would be more than willing to do it.


Anonymous Me
Ehud walked slowly with Priscilla toward the ice cream shop. He'd built up so much momentum simply getting to the point of asking her that he didn't know what else to do anymore. She said yes and now he had to keep on wooing her. Women liked to be pursued as long as they lived. It was an odd little thing, but he knew that he needed to do it. Besides, the more time he spent pursuing her, the more he liked her.

By the time they reached the ice cream shop Ehud realized he'd been quiet almost the entire walk. Inside he ordered vanilla with a strawberry sauce and banana slices. Those were good little go togethers and great fruits that seemed to be hardy enough to live in space on other planets besides Terra. Ehud waited with Priscilla at their little table for the server to bring their ice cream treats to their table and take away the number 38 that they had. Once he got his ice cream Ehud eagerly dug into it with a spoon. Momentarily he thought of his son and then he figured it was a date and he didn't need to have his son here. The boy liked ice cream, but he seemed to enjoy the little bread shop better and he would take Sien there later.

Suddenly Priscilla was asking him about the school and Ehud nodded. "I'd like to go. Heard a few things about it from the men." The Chippequoti spoke about that school quite a bit and he was privy to many of the conversations that went on throughout the camp. "Sounds like there's a classroom designated for Terran culture and studies and a few other cultures too. You ever try venturing into some of the other class rooms?" Ehud couldn't help being a little curious. She lived in Chip village and with Illya, so she was bound to know something about the Chippequoti culture and yet she didn't strike him as the type to have actually done any digging for herself. Some people were much more driven to understand those around them than others. Ehud had learned to be out of necessity and he still kept quiet when he could. It was better to listen and know those around you than to allow them to have all the information by blabbing.

No sooner had he finished his little set of questions and Priscilla was offering him a bite of her ice cream. Opening his mouth Ehud took the bite and he savored it for several moments. "Mmm...I like the little rainbow drops. They're good." Taking a small spoonful of ice cream from his own dish he made sure to get bits of the fruit and syrup too. "Here, you try this." For a brief moment he thought of Haza. Sometimes she would share little bites with him. The memory was barely more than a flash and he quickly moved on again.

Sometimes it was hard knowing what to say, but Ehud decided to just try something. There was no way of knowing what was good to say and what wasn't until he tried. "Priscilla, you ever think about uh...well, where you'd want to be in five years?" It was a question he always thought had a nice way of revealing a few things about a person and it let him know what kinds of things he could expect her to want.


After the counseling session there wasn't a lot of the day left. At least not for Illya. He was barely keeping his eyes open by the time they reached the house. Dozing in and out was his activity till dinner and he barely made it through dinner before he was ready for another nap. It didn't take much activity to get him worn out. Back pain and surgeries were great for wearing a man out. When it was time for bed it didn't feel too much different than the rest of the day for his level of energy. However, there was one thing that made it much better. Kalizda being close was a good thing. As she settled into the bed he struggled to lay on his side and he winked at her. "I tink yah might like tah talk wit Helena as mentor. She es very good woman and she was wise when she chose Edgar. Nut all of Edgar's counsel es only from his mind. She es his agreed and she has shared his work of counsel for long time now." Everyone knew that Edgar and Helena worked as a team for many things. "I trust Helena and Edgar." Meeting Kalizda's gaze he smiled gently. "I want good tings for yah. Meh little agreed should be a happy bird again. Et will come en time and I will be here for all of et. Maybe now she lets her wolf carry her. She rests on his shoulders and he carries her trough dah dark woods."

Calysta let Illya wiggle himself into some sort of tolerable position on his side before she inched in closer and settled her hands against his chest where it was warm. He gave her a wink and spoke a little bit about his suggestion on a mentor. It surprised her when he suggested Helena. She had been thinking Asha but the woman was very pregnant right now and it didn't seem like the best time. The concern over a mentor had plagued her through the rest of the afternoon and with it brought on the feelings she'd already some how gotten behind. Illya didn't seem nearly as stressed about it and insisted she would like Helena. The elderly grand parents were people she had known for years now, though admitttedly, she knew Edgar better than Helena. She started to ask a question about the woman when he stated he trusted them and that stalled the query on the tip of her tongue. Gazing at his gentle smile, Calysta nodded slowly and brushed the curls on his forehead to the side with a tender touch. He was a good man and he wasn't going to leave simply because she was having trouble, even it was hard for her to tamp down the worry that some how he might get tired sometime. "If you trust them, then I will ask Helena if she would be my mentor. I couldn't think of anyone and i like visiting with them when I can. Maybe she wont mind being a mentor, hm?" She leaned closer and kissed him on the lips before pulling back to looking into his eyes. "Your little bird is happy, she's just having a little trouble. She's glad to have her wolf in the dark woods though. He is the best she knows."

"Dis es nut such big trouble for dah wolf." Answering her he held her gaze. "Yah dun worry dat I leave yah. Maybe yah dun know, but even when yah tink yah so much trouble yah dun know dat yah still make great comfort for meh. When yah close I can feel yah next to meh and et es good." Moving his arm to drape lazily over her waist he kissed her carefully. "Yah always gentle wit meh and yah sleep close when I dun deserve et. Dis es comfort to meh. Et es better when yah sleep close even ef yah have trouble. Yah trouble es nut problem for meh. Et es meh honor tah take care of meh little bird in her trouble."

He pulled her closer with a somewhat lazy flop of his arm, insisting that she wasn't all that much trouble and she snuggled in without hesitation. There was something about just being held that she had started to like. Sure, sex was nice but the feeling she got when she let herself be held and it was alright to let it happen felt good. Calysta relaxed against him and her toes began seeking out his real leg to bury under. What struck her as odd was the fact he said he felt he didn't deserve it. How could he feel like that? He was in this state partially because of her. "Of course I sleep close. You're my agreed," she said as her fingers played in his hair, "I'm gentle if for no other reason than I love you. Why wouldn't you deserve that? I get to be close and I'm glad for it, love."

Illya looked at her for a long moment, "I dun know." He couldn't really explain why he felt that way, but he was having trouble trying to say what he wanted and perhaps he hadn't said it clearly enough. After a long moment he sighed. "Kalizda, I dun like tah sleep some nights. I know when I have bad toughts and I know dat I will have dreams. Sharing dah bed wit yah es good. I know dat yah dere wit meh and can feel yah close and meh dreams sometimes better. When dey are nut yah dere and I have comfort every night. Even when I dun have bad taughts et es good tah know dat I'm nut alone. Do yah understand now?"

She couldn't tell if he avoided the question a first when he went quiet but his gaze told her that he was struggling to say something. Maybe he just didn't know how and that was understandable. She'd had moments like that too. After a long moment he admitted to something that both surprised her and didn't at the same time. "I think I do." Her brow furrowed a little and she studied his face intently. "It's comforting not to be alone. To know someone is there and that they care about you. When you struggle. You aren't by yourself. I used to think that I might not be worth that trouble," she whispered, "Sharing a bed is good because we're not alone, yeah? It's warm and we're there together. You're absolutely worth laying beside." She didn't want him thinking otherwise. There was that strange Chip tradition that made it a bit taboo for the spouse of someone injured to lay with them wthout demanding they do something. Illya had always been a bit of a rebel and they had never really prescribed to the idea but she wanted him to know just in case he was having any doubts about that.

It was impossible to stay totally serious the whole time and Illya smirked. "Good, I jes wanted yah tah know dat I'm little bit selfish. I like having yah in bed for comfort. Et's nut all because yah need meh. Dah wolf needs his bird too." Chuckling a little he moved in closer to her. "Jes little bit selfish." Walking his fingers like spiders up her back he watched her face to see if she would even squirm an inkling.

He was grinning at her now and she knew he was getting playful now. It was good to see after the week of surgery and nightmares. She smiled back a bit more broadly as he explained he was being selfish too. A few of his calloused fingers walked their way up her bare back and she bit her lips fighting the urge to laugh until he strummed across her spine in a ticklish spot. Her back bowed and she wiggled away as she burst into a fit of giggled. "Hey....hey! Aaah!"She squirmed trying to escape, but she was very well trapped between his chest and his arm, leaving her at his mercy. "You sure that's all you like me for is cuddling?" she teased with breathless laughter.

Having Kalizda squirm about was fun to watch and Illya chuckled a little, but he moved his waist a bit further away from her knees. "Mmm...I like yah for lots of oter tings." Pausing with his tickling he decided to go rogue and see what kind of reaction he could get. "Yah cook, clean, and yah fly. Dose are good tings." He wanted to try and name the more mundane things first and he was sure she'd be raising an eyebrow soon. "Yes, very good agreed." Chuckling a little he finally couldn't hold it in any longer. "Dat fire, I see et in yah eyes. Yah know I like more den dat, but I like tah see yah reaction."

He started to tell her the other things he liked her for and between her giggling she started to shoot him a challenging look. She didn't know if he was kidding or not, but she was surprised that sex wasn't in that list either. He started to laugh when he caught her look. "Oh I know," she claimed, rolling over to rest atop his chest some, "As it happens I like you more than for getting things off the top shelf, opening the pickle jar and giving the cat a bath." She shot him a playful smile and leaned in close, her lips barely brushing his ear. "You happen to be a good cook too."

Since she was trying so hard to be coy Illya decided to see if he could turn this one around. "Good cook eh? I tink yah help wit dat. I put a few buns in dah oven and yah finish dah cooking. Dey turned out nice. Might be squeaky sometimes, but dey're pretty good. Got a nice tan to dem." Smiling a little he tried to lean up to kiss her, but he couldn't with her laying partly on his chest. "Yah making trouble for meh. Give meh kiss eh?"

He turned her attempt at being playful right back around on her and this time her cheeks lit up like a flame with out much help for it. She gave him a playful smile but it was somewhat affected by her glowing cheeks. "I think those buns came out just right," she mumbled, "No better baker out there for this one." When he tried to steal a kiss, she grinned and stayed where she was for just a moment. "Where's the fun if your little bird can't give you some trouble from time to time?" With a quick move, she gave him a little peck and slid off to the side to snuggle back into her nook. From here she could give him a real kissed and chuckled when she did so. "Mmm...trouble it is. We can get through it, yeah? I'll fly and you keep pulling those things from the top shelf."

Illya slowly began to drift off even if he intended on retorting. "Mmmhmmm." Agreeing with her instead he let his arm drape lazily over her. If there was one thing he didn't like about the medicine he had, it was that the night time dose was usually strong enough he would feel awake one minute and then he'd suddenly be horribly drowsy. It wasn't such a bad thing though. Sometimes it was the only way he could get to sleep.

Part way through the night Illya felt Kalizda pawing at his chest and she was starting to get that frantic tone to her voice. Illya grunted as he tried to adjust himself in the bed well enough to be able to find her fingers and grab them. Gently holding her hands he spoke to her, "Kalizda, ets meh. Yah have meh right here wit yah. We're at home and we're jes fine. Feel dah sheets, yah soft pillow" taking her hand he rested it on his chest for a moment. "Et's meh." It took a little bit for her to become more aware and when she was finally awake he pulled on her gently with his arm, "Move close to meh. We sleep togeter. Yah jes fine and we go back tah sleep." It seemed since the little session with the doctor that she wasn't quite as shy about sleeping close to him. Perhaps it wasn't the doctor so much as it was the fact that he told her it was more comforting to have her close than it was for her not to be there at all.


Having to get up for classes felt tough. Illya let Kalizda help him with some of the washing because he was still moving very slowly and stiffly. His head was hurting and he didn't feel good, but it probably had more to do with the fact that his back was hurting and he felt a little stressed. Even if he needed the wheelchair Illya despised it. His brow pulled down and lip curled as he got himself seated. The single good thing about the entire Skycorp uniform was now evident. He didn't have to wear boxers and he could keep pressure off the incision for the most part. There was still the wheel chair pressing his back, but it had special built in pads for his back and it didn't hurt too much. With his back pack on his lap Illya gave Kalizda a quick kiss on the lips before he slowly rolled his wheel chair down the ramps and to the gate at Skycorp.

The medications were already set up at the clinic and he'd get his first dose at Skycorp a few minutes before the end of his first class and about halfway through the third one. Once Illya was through the gate he heard the ship's engines start to rev up again. His left arm was a little tender feeling since he'd been having to use his hand more than he would have liked. However, it was healed enough that he could get himself around in the wheelchair without too much trouble. There was just the occasional clank of his cast against the metal frame used to turn the wheel.

There were a lot of students that stopped and stared when he wheeled himself into the building, but he decided to ignore them for now. What made it worse was the hushed whispers and he wanted to think they weren't about him, but it also felt like they were. One week he returns to class with a broken arm and then he's at home for classes one week and he returns in a wheelchair, it was all enough to talk about. There was a twinge of pain between Illya's shoulder blades and he winced some as he drew closer to the hall leading to the classroom where he would be starting. Even with the medicine he was sore. Ahead of him he could see Rezna wandering about on crutches. Illya cautiously wheeled himself closer to the door and then he felt a push. Someone had started to push him around like he was a cripple! "Meh arms aren't broke, dey work jes fine."

Whoever it was behind him stated that in fact one of his arms were broke. Illya grumbled. "Fine, yah smart arse. I let yah push meh in dah room, but ef yah do anyting stupid I will get out of dis chair and bust yah head." He could still get up even if no one had witnessed it yet. Inside the classroom Illya sat near the back with his standing desk set a bit lower to the ground. In the back of the class he didn't normally have trouble hearing, but his hearing was a bit fuzzy. Perhaps the blast had actually messed up his right ear. All through the class Illya could feel his headache staying at a steady throb and by the time lunch came around he had to force himself to eat a full meal. It had been much easier at home when he could spend most of the day lying down in bed.

Classes were near torture with the constant droning of the teachers and when PT cam around Illya didn't even feel active enough for that. Wheeling himself out to the field Illya looked over the obstacle course. He was far from being able to even climb a pathetic brick wall. At this point it was a struggle to tie his boots on and it was harder to buckle his boot on his prosthetic.

Even if Rezna was on crutches and barely getting around with her leg in a brace she was sent to go around the track a few times and Illya slowly got out of his wheelchair. Somehow he felt worse standing. It wasn't entirely his back, it was the overall nausea that was getting him. By the time he finished one round on the track Illya went back to the wheelchair and quietly took himself off the field. No one expected much of him yet and he was given early dismissal. That was good for now. Back inside the Skycorp main building Illya went to the clinic and picked up his next round of medicine and then sent Kalizda a hologram message. If she was staying one more night then he was going to go stay with her on the ship. It was far more comfortable there and he had permission from Swyft to do so. As far as Illya knew his pass was still good.

Heading out to the gate Illya waited for Kalizda to come pick him up again. He wasn't really up to walking, or wheeling himself everywhere and he could get into the smaller cruiser that she rented. It was slightly bigger than the small flyer they had and it had the storage large enough for him to pack the wheelchair into the back. Even if they had agreed that Kalizda needed to spend time with the children Illya was glad that this was one night she was staying here. He dreaded having to sleep on the bunks at Skycorp and he knew the rest of the week was going to be a long one.


A neat, white, braided head of hair appeared in the hologram and Helena smiled. The woman's tan face full of wrinkles, but eyes still lively. Like Edgar, she spoke primarily in Quoti. "Kalizda, I'm very glad to see you." Smiling some she took the hologram coin with her to the kitchen while she made tea. "Don't mind me going about the day. I'm just glad to have a lady to talk with. Had too much male company lately. About time someone came calling for me. What would you like to chat about?"

Calysta was glad to see Helena appear on the hologram. Her white hair stood in stark contrast to her tan, Sun wrinkled skin. When she smiled creases folded at the corner of her eyes in a way that bespoke her over 400 years of making the same expression. She smiled in return and almost chuckled when the older woman mentioned needing more female companionship. When the woman mentioned having a chat about something specific the immediate in almost knee-jerk reaction was to claim that there was nothing in particular and a slight feeling of guilt swept over I'd having Disturbed woman throughout her day. A moment of silence passed between them, too long to really be blamed on a glitch in the hologram, as she struggled to figure out what to say to Helena. After a moment she shifted awkwardly in her seat and gave the woman a small shrug, hoping that it looked casual. "Well, be honest..." why was this so hard? "I have been having some difficulty with a few things and it was mentioned that you might be willing to talk wish me about them. I thought maybe we could chat from time to time. If that's okay."

It seemed that perhaps she'd said something wrong and Helena waited. She couldn't be sure what she'd said that was so horrible. Gradually a frown came to her face. It sounded as if things were not well at home and she couldn't help wondering if Illya was having more trouble than what he was letting on. "Certainly, you can talk with me about anything you like. I don't mind if you want to talk about other things too. You're my grand daughter. I want to help you and I want to be someone you talk to about the good things and bad things. You can call me, or come over whenever you like." If Kalizda wanted to say more Helena was going to give her room. She could take this at her own pace, but she needed to know she was welcomed no matter.

Helena began to frown and calysta could not help but think that she had infringed on the woman's time until she finally spoke. It was a strange sort to her sometimes when someone called her a granddaughter. She had felt like a daughter to Yvonne and Marcus, but with that feeling also came with a sense of betrayal on Marcus's part. She did not get that same sense of betrayal when Helena called her granddaughter however. Not only that but the woman seemed entirely fine with chatting with her and even inviting her over. Maybe that would make her a good Mentor. She was easier to talk to and then someone her own age. Smiling more genuinely she relaxed back into her chair and watched has Helena fixed her tea. "Thank you. I would love to come see you when I come home tomorrow. Maybe I can even bring the kids over for you and Edgar to see as well. Did you know that Edgar had been talking to Illya? I didn't know they had been talking so much but I think it's a good thing and I'm glad that we have the two of you." Another awkward pause past and she took a little breath before rubbing her eyes slightly. Her eyes felt gritty from lack of sleep and it was becoming a problem when she stared at the Hologram or screen too long "I've never been called granddaughter before."

A pleased sort of grin came to Helena's face at the mention of a visit. "It would be good to see you and the children. We need a little life and I like to see my agreed jump every now and then." With a chuckle she left it be for the moment and it was quiet again until Kalizda started off once more. "Yes, I know that Edgar has been talking with Illya. There are many problems. He is very concerned that he will be a good agreed." With a few more minutes of quiet Kalizda suddenly said that she had never been called a granddaughter before. "You are my granddaughter and I say it with pride when people ask what your relation is."

Illya's grandmother-or should she say her grandmother as well- seemed entirely pleased by the idea of seeing more of them and that was a relief. It would give her a good excuse to come over for the mentoring times. In fact, she actually seemed quite proud to claim the title of her grandmother and that was a wonderful change from what Calysta knew of her own family. "I'm honored to call you my grandmother. I never met my father's parents and my mothers's better not to. I am proud your want to claim me like that." Talking about what she had found about her mother's parents made her uncomfortable and she shifted in her seat before changing the subject. "I didn't know he was so worried about being a good agreed," Calysta said, a slight blush coming to her cheeks, "Illya is a good agreed and I know he is working hard on some things...he tries but I didn't know he was having trouble. I want to be a good agreed for him too and right now I feel like I have been more of a hindrance than a help in that. I haven't been sleeping well at all."

It seemed that after all this time the quiet little woman was at last making an effort to be part of the family and it was pleasing. Helena had wanted to get to know her better and she was finally getting her chance. For the moment she let Kalizda speak and the little woman seemed to be surprised to hear that her agreed had concerns and problems. It was a fault of her grandson. He didn't do well with communicating things clearly when it came to how he felt. However, that was slowly changing. After the brief moment of her granddaughter's shock the little lady mentioned her own trouble and Helena nodded slowly. "Bad sleep does not mean you're a bad agreed. Being agreed is far more. Illya tells me often that you're very gentle. That is something much greater than a problem sleeping. Why does the trouble sleeping make you feel like a bad agreed? Is it because you know he has trouble sleeping too and you don't like waking him up?" She could understand it a bit from her own experience.

Her blush compounded two fold when Helena mentioned that Illya liked it when she was gentle and then further at the thought of just how bad her sleep had been. She was gentle with Illya because she loved him and being tender with him was part of that as it should be. Her sleep on the other hand had been anything but good for him and she wished that it hadn't been so bad for him while his back was injured. "Something like that," Calysta admitted, "I've been disturbing him with my dreams some nights and a bit of sleep walking. His back is hurt and he seems determined to help me when I can't sleep, even if it is uncomfortable for his back." Her fingers pulled on one another the more she spoke about his injuries, and she let out a somewhat unsteady sigh. "It always makes me hurt when he's injured and I know that sounds strange. But I've seen him nearly killed twice within the week. I'm perfectly fine and shouldn't be having any issues, but I'm still having trouble with it I suppose. I worry and I keep waking him up. It should be me taking care of him, really."

The woman listened and she waited until after Kalizda finished and then let it remain quiet for a little while more. Finally, Helen spoke, "What your experiencing isn't bad." Perhaps it sounded strange and Helena knew that, but she wanted to make sure Kalizda knew there were somethings that were normal. "To me it sounds like a very normal response. You're worried about him and it sounds like you love him. When we are agreed we take care of each other. He is doing his part the best he can and you still do your part. Being agreed doesn't mean you have to be perfect." Helena pulled her homemade tea bag out of her cup and squeezed it gently with her gnarled fingers. "I've had this talk with Edgar. He gets worried because I don't sleep well at night anymore and when his arthritis gets bad he moves around a lot and he feels bad because he thinks he wakes me up. I would rather be there for him even if I get a little less sleep. It is very important not to let your agreed be alone in any trouble, or suffering if you can help them." After a long moment she looked directly at Kalizda in the hologram. "You have not made him suffer alone and so you should not expect to suffer alone."

For as little experience as she had being an agreed, Helena had much longer and Calysta trusted her when she said it was normal. The woman had even had a similar talk with her agreed about sleeping and getting rest. When Helena's gaze turned from her tea to looking directly into the hologram, Calysta met the woman's bright eyes. "I think its something I got used to for a long time before I met him," Calysta replied, "And Illya is so good to me and is there for me, even if I am stubborn sometimes. It's good to know that it's normal though."

Calysta had no doubt that Markus might have been less hardened before the war. And while it made some of his moves understandable it didn't make them right. "Oh, he makes trouble, but never of that sort. He is very sweet to me and not angry even though he's been through so much." She got quiet again for a moment and then smiled a little. "If I have problems though, I know I can come to you, Deyen. Between the two of us I'm willing to that we can straighten everything out. It's something that I've started to discover recently." The woman looked like she might have been confused for a moment and it dawned on Calysta.that she.had used the Kaerelean term for grandmother instead. "Oh, apologies. Deyen is the term for grandparent respectively in Kaerelean. It technically translates to 'one whose hair shines with the moons' ...meaning you have seen many moons pass and are wise or revered."

The word Deyen was strange and Helen chose to ignore it for the time, but the confusion was still clear on her face as she frowned slightly. At the end of everything Kalizda explained the term and Helen nodded. "Ah, it is a good name. You may call me Deyen as we call you Kalizda. I know Kalizda is not how to say your name, but it is the Chip name given to you. Deyen will be my Kaerelean name." With a soft smile she nodded. "There, now I have earned my name among your people too."

"I like my Chip name," she admitted with a smile, "Illya gave it too me. And Deyen is a good name among my people. There's no one better for that honor." One of the babies was beginning to snort a little in his sleep and she knew that it wouldn't be long before they woke up. "That sounds like Edgar, my Edgar that. It won't be long before he wakes up. Before he does, is there anything that I can do that might help Illya with what trouble he's having?"

For a first conversation it had gone well and it was mostly relaxed. Helen wasn't surprised that Kalizda was about to become busy again. The woman was always busy. However, there was the small surprise question and Helen thought for a moment before answering slowly, "Yes. Try to ask him more how he feels about things personally. He is good at logic, but he working on communicating his feelings better. I don't think he'll ever be overtly expressive with all his feelings, but it is good to learn how to be more than a soldier."

Helena's answer surprised her and it made sense. It was something she had asked before, but not had much luck with. She speculated this was due in part to the fact that she was not good with expressing her own feelings either. Still, she nodded to the woman gratefully. "I'm not very good at it either, but you're right. I will try for him. Thank you for talking to me for a bit. I'll bring the kids by tomorrow, yeah?"

"None of us are good at it naturally. At least not good at the best way to express our feelings. Children express themselves very well, but we train them to know how to do it properly and we learn more as get older." Helena smiled a bit. Kalizda was very much a young woman still and worried about many things that simply came with time and practice. "Yes, I will be ready for the children. Do they like Chip sweet bread if I make some for them?"

Calysta smiled and nodded to the elderly Chip woman. "Aye, they love it. Especially, Cypher. He would probably help you make it, given the chance. He's quite the cook when he's wanting a snack."


The second day at Skycorp felt even longer and Illya made his walk for about half an hour. All he was required for PT was to walk as tolerated. Even if he'd broke his back less than 2 weeks ago he felt pathetic walking so little and still being tired so often. Over the weekend he was scheduled to get weaned off his medication and onto lower doses. In a way he felt a bit worried and irritated about it. Maybe the headaches and nausea were related to the medicine and he needed to cut back, but he always wanted the medicine when it was time. He rarely had to look at the clock to know it was time for the medication.

However, there was definitely something wrong the third day at classes. Illya had tossed and turned in his bed the last two nights. There wasn't a comfortable position and he felt miserable. By the third morning he was feeling dizzy on top of everything else and his head felt like it had an incredible amount of pressure in it. To make it worse he was sure he was going to puke, but he felt hungry because he hadn't eaten much the last few meals.

At breakfast Illya picked at his food and he had a consistent frown on his face. When he finished eating a few bites off his plate he went and scooped the rest off in the garbage and then started to wheel himself toward the classroom. Instead of getting to the class early he had to stop at the janitor's closet and puke in a bucket. He didn't want to leave a random bucket of vomit though and so he took it down the hall to one of the bathrooms and got it washed out. Instead of returning the bucket to the closet Illya just hooked it to his wheelchair and decided to adopt the bucket for the time. He was sure he would need it more than once. Taking his place at his desk Illya dropped his head into his hands and tried not to feel sicker. As the day went he felt progressively worse and decided to go into the clinic at lunch.

One of the doctors thought at first he'd come early for medicine, but instead it seemed that he was horribly sick and he shouldn't be. Additionally they found his back to be far more tender than it should have been. At last in a moment of concern they called the Ehaui back home and spoke with Illya's specialist. The specialist listened to the symptoms and then sighed. "Alright, do a scan and make sure you get a look at his back. I might have to make trip if he has a Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak. Happens every now and then. I'll stay on until you've finished the scan." Within a few minutes the images came through and the Ehaui grumbled. "I'll be there in a few hours. Don't give him anything in the meantime. I'll have some stuff."


When the Ehaui arrived he saw that Kalizda was already there and she looked worried as usual. "You have a small, clean procedure room? Don't need much, just some privacy and a little space." Once they got Illya moved the doctor washed his arms and put on fresh gloves. "Don't worry, this happens sometimes and it isn't anything you did wrong. Just a little problem. I think what I'll do is a simple blood clot treatment. Inserting one needle into Illya's right arm he drew out a little blood and then hooked the needle into a long tube and pushed the blood into it. Having Illya lay on his side the doctor untied the small hospital gown and wiped Illya's back down with a disinfectant before he pushed the needle in along Illya's spine. "Gonna find that little sweet spot." There was the one space without the bone sheath around the spinal column and he was going to insert the blood in there.

After a few moments of running the needle along side Illya's spine the doctor nodded with contentment. "There." Turning on the scanner he looked at the image. "Just a little to the right and..." The needle slipped in and he could hear Illya take a sharp breath. "Forgot to say there would be a little poke." With a monotone voice the doctor slowly pressed the blood into the spot and then he gradually withdrew the needle. The entire procedure completed by needle left only a small spot of blood and the doctor quickly wiped it down with a sterile cloth and then put a bandaid over it. "All done and we'll get you a small boost in medication just this once. Tomorrow you'll have no PT and for the rest of the week no PT. Just do your classes, go sit outside for about an hour so you get some good fresh air and that's it. Back to bed with you." Rest was what the Chip needed and he was determined that his patient would get it. The Ehuai wrote a note out for the doctors at the clinic. "You make sure to check him every afternoon when he comes in and do whatever you have to so he doesn't have to walk for PT for a few days. He should be fine to go for walks more next week."

With the procedure over that fast Illya felt badly that the Skycorp clinic had called Kalizda back. She was always worried about these things and Illya had thought it was somehow his fault, but it wasn't this time. It still felt like he had done something wrong though. "Kalizda, I'm sorry dat yah fly all dis way. Et's good dat I'm alright, but yah tired and I can see et. Why dun we jes go to dah ship tahnight and we have quiet dinner and den jes rest little eh?"


Curious Adventurer
Ehud was suddenly talkative and that was pleasing"Yes, I helped Thomas when they were being built and I teach there a few days a week. Mostly history, social science. Some times I do venture into the other portions of the building. They're all unique and quite beautiful, not to mention if the kids compare something to their own culture, I like to be able to answer questions. It's difficult sometimes though. I'm not proficient in Kaerelean, Qouti, Pithian, or any of the Tannas languages. I only know a few dialects of Terran and Traders tongue." She took another dainty spoonful of icecream and smooth down the yellow ascot around her neck. She knew the bandage she had around her neck probably wasn't the most attractive but having a small ascot tied there helped cover the cut from their assailants knife. It was better looking than some crusty scab showing. "Ask me to join you for tea and I have no problems replying in perfect Japanese. Watashi wa yorokonde ocha ni anata ni sanka surudeshou. But I learned from Harry and it's not likely I'll be speaking much of that language again." That little thought made her smile face some before she took the offered bite from Ehud in exchange for another of hers. "Mmm....banana and strawberry is wonderful."

Priscilla spooned the bite of custard into Ehud's mouth while using her other hand to shield him from any drips that might occur. He seemed to like the sprinkles and she smiled. "On Terra, I used to love them. Even when I was a kid. There was this donut shop in my home town and they would make donuts with bright pink icing with rainbow sprinkles. My dad would stop by there on his way home sometimes and bring me one." A smile blossomed on her face when she thought of her father and when Ehud mentioned the school, she glanced up at him with a fond sort of look still lingering in her eyes. Silence fell between them for a moment or two and she put her spoon into her half empty bowl with a small clink of the metal on the glass. He was still quite in some ways, and part of her knew that was simply him, but she also wondered if it was because he still didn't know what to do with her. After a minute or two, he managed another question and this one surprised her. It almost sounded like a question someone would use when trying to hire someone for work.

Taking a moment to think on how to answer, Priscilla scraped her spoon into the custard, making into little ribbons on the utensil. "Well, at one point I had hoped that I would be able to continue my philanthropies and start a family with Harry," she said, her spoon digging ever deeper into the cream, "I wanted to travel with him and raise our children, even if they had to be adopted. I thought of seeking out a secondary degree as well. When I had to leave Terra and Harry was kill- ah...went missing...all of those plans weren't possible anymore and I feel as if I've been afloat without a plan for awhile. I started teaching because I wanted to begin contributing to my new community, such as it was. My parents are passed away, my brothers are scattered and don't make contact. There was nothing really holding me back from going anywhere or doing what I wanted save for the fact that I have a fondness for Calysta, Illya and their family." Her eyes slowly lifted from the melting icecream to meet Ehud's gaze. "And the fact that I have grown to love you and Sien too." Her fingers fumbled with the spoon and she put it down as her look didn't waiver from her newly established fiance's face. "So, you ask me where I see myself in five years? Where I want to be? I don't know what's going to happen in the future. Never in a million years did I think I would be sitting across from another man with his engagement ring on my finger and I don't know what life will look like in 5 years. I do know that I still want the same things as I did before. I still want a family. A man who loves me and children of my own whether they are from me or adopted. I want to keep helping people in the ways that I can. Five years from now, I know that's what I will want and I would want to do it with you."

She stopped talking for a moment and bit at her lip before turning the question back on him. "What it is you want now? Five years from now?" she asked unabashedly for once, "I know this is not where you ever expected to be."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Rumors abound as Cadet Blackwolf wheeled himself around the Skycorp compound. His classmates were quiet but the division as a whole was churning out rumors at top capacity. What happened? A broken hand one week? A bad back the next? Of course, there were some who said he was faking it. There's no way his back was really broken or that he'd had surgery on it, right? Others thought he really had been beaten up. "I heard he met a bigger Udine than Rezna and killed him....It's not the first time either.....oh yeah....his wife is the council you know how many threats that woman gets a day? Something had to have happened. I mean look at him...he even did his classes from the hospital room and she was there." Everyone whispered as he wheeled down the hallway looking nearly as drug bound as he had from the hospital. Tiberius and Wynry hadn't been aware of when he would return and had already started walking toward the class when he rolled up behind them. It was obvious he was struggling to work his way down the hallway. Wynry started to shove her books into Tiberius' hands to go help their team member. "He shouldn't be pushing himself around," she insisted, "Come on and-" Her words cut off mid sentence when another one of their classmates appeared. The yurian man clasped the two handles of Illya's chair and gave a mighty push forward along with a heavy grunt. Ever since Orian found out who Illya was, he had been doing weird things like making the man's bed, fluffing his pillow, cleaning around his bunk and had left a number of presents in his storage locker. Apparently, this was something to do with the man's religion and they weren't exactly sure how the Chip man fell into that, but at least it was better than him being a pain in the ass.

At the mention of his arms not being broke, Tiberius piped up from behind them. "Yeah, yeah. You arm is actually kind of broken, so just sit down and enjoy the ride for a minute." Orian pushed Illya along in silent service until they reached the classroom. Once Illya was in a comfortable spot near the front, the Yurian man slipped out from behind and gave a low, respectful bow with his sharp nose nearly touch his knee. "If you need any other assistance, I'll be able to help." Then without further ado, he took his own seat. Tiberius slid in beside Illya and on the other side with Wynry. "You think that guy is sweet on him? Are you sure it's a religion thing?" he whispered to Wynry. The woman didn't hear him however and the class began, cutting off any other ability to talk.

Classes passed in the usual humdrum way first day and they were given the dates for their first simulation training on the second. Within the next two weeks they would be attending their first simulation to train them on reacting to different situations in the field. Most of the class was excited about this news, but Wynry knew it would take alot of hard work to catch their team mate up on his studies, "We are graded as a team," she said as she sat down with her lunch tray, "And we will just have to knuckle down to help you catch up more." PT went the same as usual, though without both Illya and Rezna on the field with full mobility the course was much more peaceful. Other teams actually had the opportunity to win early rest time.

If anyone looked like they needed early rest time, it was Sam. The boy looked tired and frazzled as ever with his blonde hair a wild mess and a distant look to his eyes. When it came to classes he was sharp as anyone, but when obligated to work with his team, he went quiet and simply tried to survive the experience. Tiberius and Wynry finished their own PT and joined Illya on their way inside. "Rezna is healing really fast," Tiberius said, "I don't think it will be long before she starts up trouble again. She might wait till you're out of the wheel chair though." Wynry shot Tiberius a look and the man shrugged. "Hey, if my back was broken and I had surgery I wouldn't even be around here in a wheel chair, so it's like I'm insulting him when I say it. Sheesh."

They wandered into the bunk room and Tiberius went to shower first before climbing up to his bunk. Illya had already settled onto his bed and dozed off with his pad over his chest. Wynry simply stood up and plucked the pad from his hand with a gentle nudge so the device wouldn't shatter if he rolled over. "You think he's going to make it through?" Tiberius asked his partner, concern etched into his brow. Illya had tossed and turned all night in what he imagined was very little sleep. The movements made the entire bed rock or sway with precarious squeaking sounds. He had gotten as much sleep as the Chip had allowed him to, which was a solitary uninterrupted hour sometime after midnight. If the guy kept it up much longer, Tiberius had considered making an appeal to the Council woman to come back simply so her husband could sleep elsewhere with her instead. The blonde shrugged her shoulders in response. "I think he will do what he has to. That does not mean we can't make it a little easier for him."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Calysta had gone home for the next 48 hours and things passed more or less in the same routine. Cypher was attending the new school and Lohgan was happy to sit around the house with her while she worked on her own tasks. The girl was the curious sort and if she believed something, then she was insistent that she was right. Her younger brothers were beginning crawl around and that made them all the more interesting play mates. Calysta had to keep a constant eye on Lohgan when the twins were in the floor to move around. Her daughter understood the concept of sharing quite well, but unfortunately that willingness to share included things like safety scissors and one very blue marker. The offered blue marker had turned to a pacifier and Tomas' entire mouth along with his singular cut tooth had been died a bright blue along with his hands and face. The event prompted a call the poison control who was glad to tell her the markers were non-toxic but that he would likely have some "pretty poop" for awhile. Later in the evening, she discovered the poison control hotline was correct and all of the children were delighted to see their brother's diaper change was a vivid display. Cypher laughed as he peered over her shoulder on the couch. "Yah tink if I eat deh purple one I will get purple poop, Mam?" Calysta sighed and shook her head. Those markers were going to suddenly vanish for awhile. "I think if you eat a purple marker it might turn all of your insides purple and you'll like like a plump little omne fruit." Cypher got a good laugh at that one and continued eyeing the markers as if he was sorely tempted.

Later in the afternoon, Calysta gave Rose another flying lesson which went marginally better than the first few. "When do you think I will be able to fly over the Wilds?" she asked as she landed the classic flyer in the docking bay, "I've almost gotten all my hours." Her daughter was no where near ready for flying over the Wilds on a skill level and Calysta shook her head. "Flying over the Wilds is dangerous. If you crash your chances of living are practically zero. It's better to take these things slow and learn over land where the air can't kill you if you mess up. You're not ready yet, even if you have the hours. " That little statement made Rose give her a sour look, but it did little to change her mother's mind.

Nights were harder without Illya there and she hated admitting it. At one point on the first night, she flew out of bed covered in sweat as her heart hammered against her rib cage. All the dreams swirled in her mind and it took everything she could muster to calm down from the horrors. She forced herself to focus on what was real. The bed was solid beneath her, the blanket soft in her grip, and the pad beside her was smooth and bright. Calysta brought the children to see Edgar and Helena in their home and had a nice, but not particularly in depth conversation with the woman who claimed her as granddaughter. During the visit, Tomas needed a diaper change and his grandmother discovered the wonderful blue that had invaded his digestive system. "Don't worry," Calysta said sheepishly, "He just ate one of Lohgan's markers. They said it will fade out in a day or two."

Cypher had a good time sitting with his grandfather and showing off his little sword. "Ets not sharp as Dah's big sword," he informed his grandfather, "Mam says one day, Dah will teach meh to use it like I'm supposed to and I only use et if I have to." Lohgan, on the other hand stayed shy. Her daughter stuck close to her feet and hid her face any time Helena or Edgar looked at her, even going so far as to whine in protest a little. "I'm sorry," Calysta said to them both, "She saw what happened and she's been shy around some of the Chips since then. The Elite come in and out of the house regularly, and that's helped, but she's been scared I think." Calysta knelt next to her daughter and whispered gently for a moment. "You know Deyen and Deye. Grandpa and Grandma. They are good, yeah?" After a little cajoling, she managed to get Lohgan settled enough to sit by Helena and help make sweet Chip bread at their counter.

"I remember Yvonne showed me how to make sweet Chip bread," Calysta said in Qouti as she helped stir the dough, "She showed me how in her little house on Nuen before I married Illya. I was...less than a good cook. I think she was kind enough to show me a few things." Chuckling to herself, she worked the sweet smelling dough and glanced up to Helena. "She was a good mother, I think. I see Illya and Asha and I can tell."

It was while she was helping Cypher butter a freshly baked sweet roll that a message came through on her pad. Illya was sick. The issue seemed to be a complication in his back and that knowledge evaporated any sort of relaxation she had in an instant. The flight to Kinte was a long one and she came to the Sky Corp Clinic without delay. She had Edgar strapped to her back and Tomas tucked in to her front as she marched down the streets to the compound and was escorted without question to see her husband. Everyone one knew if she had that look in her eye, it was best not to get in her way.

She entered the room to find Illya with pale skin and glistening a bit with a cold sweat. The image reminded her briefly of what he had looked like when his bone infection some years ago and she swallowed down the nausea that came crashing in with the memory. "Hey," she smiled as she walk over. Bending over to kiss him wasn't an option with the boys strapped to her, so she reached out smoothed down his damp hair with a gentle touch. About that time the Ehaui doctor came in and asked the techs for a clean room. They had one ready simply by virtue of the injuries that could possibly be sustained while at work in Sky Corp and everyone shuffled. Calysta left her sleeping boys with a willing Kinte woman who was more than happy to cuddle them for just a few minutes while the doctor worked at drawing some of Illya's blood.

Apparently there was a leak in his spinal fluid somewhere and this technique was meant to stop that from happening. At least it seemed fairly simple to fix even if the message had scared her some. In truth, she felt like she should have insisted he stay home a few days more or this might not have happened. Illya rolled to his side and she stayed close so he could see her, keeping her eyes trained on his bright green ones. They were already feeding the needle deep into the muscle toward his spine. It was a sensation she had experienced before and sh eknew how painful it could be in the wrong spot. "I'm right here, yeah? I think this will be fast," she whispered to him. Of course, when he hissed in pain she nearly jumped in response for him. "Almost done...almost...done."

After a long minute of the doctor humming and glancing up at the needle's position on the screen, he announced that the procedure was done. She let out a relieved sigh of her own and her fingers continued there ministrations to Illya's curls. The doctor spoke about his medicine, stating he would arrange the proper doses with the clinic and Calysta nodded. "Thank you for coming out doctor," she said sincerely. To her surprise, Illya looked up at her with an almost apologetic gaze. He was apologizing to her? Her brow crinkled slightly and she cupped his cheek before giving him a sweet kiss on the lips. "There's nothing to be sorry for, love. We don't face these things alone, yeah? Let's go home to the ship and I'll order us some food."

** * * * ** * * * * *

Calysta took her Chip home, pushing him along in the wheel chair until the made it to the ramp of the ship. There was no possible way she would have the strength to haul him up the ramp, even if it was an easy incline, so he ended up walking his way up to the bedroom. Making him comfortable was another affair and she stole a few extra pillows from her father's room to help him get support in the right places on his back before calling one of the numerous take out places on Kinte. Their food arrived, heralded by a little message on her pad, and Calysta scurried down the ramp to collect the to go containers. Kinte had experienced an influx of Terrans and with that came new food and Terran experiences, including a nice japanese restaurant.

They ate a big dinner of rice, vegetables, stir fried meats, and fried rolls of all kinds. Calysta sat on the bed beside him with her legs crossed and her food tucked into her lap while the twins crawled around them both. Her chopsticks plucked at her food without much success and she was glad she had simply given Illya a fork. "I never was any good at these things," she chuckled. Without having much of her dinner down, she surrendered and waited for Illya to finish before relaxing back with him. He was doing all of this for her. Pushing so hard at Skycorp and trying to do more than he should so he could have work that was close to her. The thought brought a warmth to her eyes as she gazed at him. "I love you," she whispered, "More than enough to come any time you need me, yeah?" Leaning up, she gave him a gentle kiss and then contented herself to playing with his hair for a long time before managing to drift off.

* * * * * * * *

Calysta felt the pad ring once and she twitched on Illya's chest before letting out a groggy moan of protest. "Hmm?" The pad buzzed again and she grumbled before her hand began to search over the bed. Her pad was on the table and she was held against Illya's chest by his uncasted arm. "Illya?...Mmm...there's a call..." She hated waking him up but his arm was on her hair slightly and she couldnt move to get to the pad.

There was a bit of shifting around and Illya planned on sleeping through it, but Kalizda was making a fuss. She wanted him to answer the call? It wasn't entirely clear and most things were far from clear when he didn't feel well anyway. "I dun care ef dere es a call. Ignore et." Keeping his eyes closed he let out a little groan and shifted his legs a little. Sometimes it still hurt to move, but he didn't like sleeping in the same position either because that hurt too.

Calysta tried not to move too much and agreed with Illya for the time. Whatever it was, the issue could surely wait, right? But what if it was one of the kids? She had left Cypher and Lohgan at home along with Rose, Priscilla and her father looking out for them. The twin were with her in their little room on the ship, sleeping soundly according to the monitor. She wouldn't be able to sleep if she thought it was one of her children. "Will you just check to make sure it's not my dad calling?" she replied, her eyes not opening, "He would only call if something was wrong with the kids."

Despite his opinion on the matter, Kalizda seemed to be rather insistent that the call be answered. There wasn't really a point in checking if you didn't intend on answering. However, when he was the General he had to answer no matter the time of night, or day. She was the council woman and likely had the same responsibility. Stretching out his left arm he fumbled with the pad a little. There were a few awkward clunking sounds and he finally got it answered. "Et es yah dad." Handing the pad to Kalizda he closed his eyes again. Illya wasn't really sleeping anymore, but he could listen and pretend that as long as his eyes were closed he didn't have to do anything.

Calysta to the pad and half laid it over her cheek as she stayed cuddled up to her Chip. It was probably something small that they could easily deal with and her father was just panicking or worried. "Hmm? Dad?" Suddenly, stiffened under Illya and patted his chest, a clear indication that she needed to get up. "Okay...okay...back up some. When was the last time you saw her? This morning? And no one has seen her since? Priscilla? No?" Muttering a few curses under her breath, Calysta rubbed her face and managed to free herself from Illya's hold. Her feet flicked to the floor and she started making to get dressed as she was on the call. "Aye, is her pad gone? Anything else missing? I'm going to get up and look. Just call me if you find her." Calysta swept the pad away from her face and reached for her the tunic laid across their dresser. "They can't find Rose," Calysta said to Illya, her voice tired sounding, "My flyer is gone but it wasn't checked out or registered with a flight plan."

There was a sudden urgency and Illya moved enough that Kalizda could get up, but he opened his eyes this time and watched her hurry around. When she looked to him she said that they couldn't find Rose. The circumstances under which she went missing were strange and Illya forced himself to sit up. "Ugh....Ok, I get up and help yah look for her eh?"

Calysta glanced up to Illya first. "Let me see what I can do first that doesn't involve us getting out and about first, yeah? If she too my flyer and didn't file a plan before landing somewhere, it should be documented in the records that she landed without a plan along with my licensing. I'm going to check those first. If we don't see my flyer number then..." her voice tapered off for a moment and she shook her head, "Then we can assume the flyer never made it to it's destination or left the planet." Grabbing her pad, she shuffled over to Illya and sat beside him as she began ordering the ship log lists for Kinte. "I'll check here first." Her voice was strained with a little worry. "Kinte is the only place I would think she would go with my flyer....she's not even certified to fly over the Wilds yet, Illya..."

It sounded like there were a few other options of finding their daughter before they had to get up and look for her. Still, it was concerning. What if someone had kidnapped her and took her out somewhere and they were going to get a ransom note. Normally he would be able to solve that kind of problem, but right now he was about as vulnerable as they came and he couldn't really do anything. Kalizda sounded like she was panicking too even if she was trying not to. "Kalizda, we will find her eh? We dun worry about her falling in dah wilds until we know ef dah ship es here somewhere, or in anoter Alliance port."

Calysta's hand took a brief pause in their scrolling and she glanced up to Illya as her hand settled over his for a brief moment. Someone could have forced her to take the flyer or she could have taken it herself. Either way, they needed to find her before someone else did and took it upon themselves to use her. Nodding slowly, she gave Illya's hand a squeeze and dropped her eyes back to the manifests. It only took a quick search of her flyer numbers to find it on the list. "It landed 4 hours ago on Kinte," Calysta sighed in relief, "South port. Rose signed for it," Her frown deepened at that little detail and Calysta swapped the page to see what Rose's credit information looked like. "I'm an authorized guardian on her bank account, she's still too young to have one on her own...she signed for a hotel room using my credentials."

"She what?" It was sounding less like a kidnapping and more like a trouble of sorts. In fact, Illya was starting to wonder if a pass had been issued to the filthy little Pithian boy. If that boy was not at Skycorp he was going to have a few things to say. Grabbing his own pad he dialed Tiberius and Wynry. "Hey, yah see dah Pitian anywhere? Little guy wit blonde hair and Rezna always annoyed dat he's behind?"

Illya was greeted by the bleary eyed face of Tiberius who had managed to hear the pad first. "Huh? Whaat?" It took a minute for the order to sink in and then the pad dropped away to a view of the darkened cieling. A groan and a squeak echoed from somewhere followed but another grunt as the video screen rocked some and tiberius face appeared. "The blonde kid isnt here. I think he got a pass, why?"

The answer from Tiberius was enough that Illya tossed the blankets off the bed. "Dat little bastard. Yah tell meh what I need tah know. Tanks." Shutting the pad off he growled at Kalizda. "I tink dat boy es playing bad games wit Rose. She es nut even 17." Grabbing a pair of boxers Illya put them on even if it hurt to wear them. "Ef he's been having sex wit her I'll chop es balls off."

Calysta listened to the exchange and Illya started grabbing at his boxers, pulling them on with a ferocity that would probably reinjure himself if he continued. "I can go," Calysta volunteered, "If they are they are likely to have done so by now." She really didnt want him out with his back and feeling so bad nor did she want him tussling with Sam if it came down to it. "I'll just go and bring her home. I dont want him to hurt her either and I can make sure she's okay." Already she was tugging on her boots and grabbing a hand full of her hair to tie back into a pony tail.

"I'm going wit. Dere es nut going tah be boys tinking dat she es cheap woman." Illya was barely getting to his pants when Kalizda was already getting her shoes on. "Rose es getting herself en big trouble like dis. Boys are nut interested in girl as much as dey are oter tings. I would know because I was boy once. He maybe decide dat she es nut wort working for now because he knows she jes make et too easy."

"We don't know that they did anything," Calysta offered, "Its not like Rose to entirely rebel like this. I know she was upset with me and angry because I made her go back to Pyrta when Six arrived. But maybe I did the wrong thing." He was struggling with his pants and she finished her boots before reaching over and sliding the waist band just below his incision. "I'm not sure Sam would do that, but Ive had it done to me once. As long as she isnt hurt...we'll deal with it.".

Somehow Kalizda seemed to think that it was all going to be fine, but Illya felt far more skeptical. "Well, I want tah go wit." He'd lost a little weight over the last few days of not feeling well and hardly eating anything and it was a bit surprising to see his pants sit that low, but it also meant they weren't on his incision. "I get meh shirt on and yah help meh wit meh boots eh?"

She knew there was no talking him down or out of going, so she might as well make it less painful on him. "Aye". Grabbing up his boots, she knelt at his feet and guided one foot into the boot, then the other before lacing them up with a well practiced hand. "I'm arranging for a skimmer. Its 3am and you're not supposed to be walking." Grabbing up her pad, she called for transport, then stole a look at Illya. "When we get there, if they are together, I think we should just stay calm, yeah?"

Illya stared at Kalizda for a long moment. "I can walk jes fine. Doctor jes dun want meh walking much dats all." He was about to get up and then he saw Kalizda was buckling his shoe over the prosthetic leg. Last thing he needed was to fall over because his shoe came loose and he didn't know it. "When we get dere I'm sure dey are togeter and den I will decide what tah say."

* * * * * * * * *

Calysta insisted that they take a skimmer to the small hotel on the outskirts of the continent. Illya didn't need to be walking that far and it would be faster than running through the streets. The skimmer pilot seemed to think that they weren't in a particular hurry though, and took his sweet time obeying every single land travel law that could have possibly existed. His diligence was probably due to the fact he was transporting the council woman and her very large looking husband, but his pace put her teeth on edge. All she wanted was to get to the hotel. Her knee was bouncing at a frantic pace by the time they came to a halt outside the lobby, she practically forced open the hatch before Illya could get out. It took him longer and she waited for him to join her before marching into the lobby.

"Can I...oh...council woman..." the concierge's eyes went wide as they realized who had just marched up to their counter. His mouth opened and closed a few times at the sight of the little woman as he shook the shock from his head. " can I help you?"

"I want the key to the room that is rented in my name," she said quickly.

"You had a room...but I haven't seen you...and..."

"Oh I am very much aware," she replied, "I need into that room, right now."

The poor concierge grabbed up his pad and cycled through the names until he found the right room number, then waved them down the hallway. "I'll show you."

They walked down the hall to the end then turned to face the door for room A111. She could hear whispering from inside the room, making it clear there were two people in there. "Open it and please wait for us at the desk," Calysta said to the attendant, "Don't worry. We wont break anything."

He didn't seem to want details, or to cross the council woman, so he waved his pad over the door's digital lock and it fell open with a solid click. Without hesitation, Calysta slipped inside the darkened space. There was soft candle light burning from the mainroom where the beds were and the bathroom had a small pink duffel on the counter she recognized as Rose's go bag. "Rose?"

A squeak of surprise came from the bedroom as Calysta rounded the corner in two easy steps. "Rose?"

She found her daughter sitting in nothing but a lacy night gown along side Sam who was more or less clothed besides the lack of a shirt. He wasn't touching her from what Calysta could see, but as soon as she rounded the corner, Rose's expression turned to absolute horror in the sharp contrast of the candle light. "What are you doing here?!"


Anonymous Me
So far Ehud couldn't say that he had expected the date to go so splendidly. Priscilla answered his question and it seemed to be a nice solid sort of answer. One that was carefully thought out and he liked the way it sounded. What made it fantastic was the fact that her solid plan included him. However, there was on little detail that Ehud hadn't thought would be part of this conversation. Priscilla turned the question around and now he had to say something to her. He had to actually think about what he would do, or say about his next five years of life.

"Well..." A hint of red came to his cheeks and he looked at her briefly before turning his eyes down toward his ice cream. "Might sound bad, but I uh...well....haven't had much time to plan. Last couple of years have been one day at a time trying to raise Sien and just make it through some days." Hastily taking a bite of ice cream after his small statement he gave himself a little more time. There was going to be a need for some strategy in this little conversation. Compared to her he sounded embarrassingly ill prepared. After he swallowed the bite of ice cream Ehud let out a long breath. "I've uh, I've had a little more time to think about what I want in the last few months. Asked Illya about you for a few things. He's been living with you for a while." As soon as he said it Ehud knew it sounded bad and his cheeks turned an even brighter red. "You know what I mean. It's just that he knows you better so I'd ask him about you and stuff and...I liked you for a long time. You sure looked pretty that day out there with your garden gloves and uh...yeah."

No matter how hard he tried to stay on track Ehud could tell it wasn't working. His brain was all over the place while he tried to collect his stray thoughts. "So uh...I thought you were pretty and I wanted to get to know you better. Good thing you were single. Um...I guess in the next five years I'd like to think that we'd be married and I want only about one, or two kids. I don't know if I could have as many as Illya and Kalizda. Thinking it would be nice to move a little more toward the center of town and get closer to some of the markets."

Even if it was an honest statement Ehud almost cringed as he wrapped it up. All of it sounded somewhat horrible. At least he thought it would sound bad if he was the girl. In a moment to try and salvage the situation he blurted, "I really do want more, but I need more time to plan and I'd like you to do that with me. We should try to keep some Chippequoti tradition. I think the part with sharing our lives and planning them together would be good. Uh...what you think about that?"


Illya felt a tinge of pain for his pride when Kalizda pushed him out of Skycorp in the wheelchair. He didn't like looking as if he were crippled and in truth he was at this point. If he had to be honest with himself he was crippled. Probably a good gust of wind would be able to blow him over. His back wasn't taking much and that meant the rest of him wasn't taking much either. With the broken arm on top of it he took a very long time to get himself anywhere. The entire time at Skycorp felt humiliating in its own way. Though no one said much, he knew they were all aware of the fact that he was on heavy medications, he wasn't sleeping well and he wasn't getting around all that well. Then the rat faced man kept trying to push him everywhere and it was starting to get frustrating.

Once they were outside of the gates Illya felt even more self conscious. It was good that the ship was near. Even if Kalizda was the one pushing him it felt like everyone was staring. When they reached the ramp of the ship Illya gingerly pulled himself out of the seat and he started walking up the ramp. Silently he wished that somehow the wheelchair would just get folded up and hidden somewhere.

Within a few moments Kalizda was on board the ship with him and they both went back to the room. It was nice to get to sleep on a more comfortable bed. Illya started to fall asleep before their meal arrived, but Kalizda woke him up so he could eat. After dinner she carefully moved in close and played with his hair. Her gentle little fingers tickled his scalp and every now and then a tender tug on his curls. With a little groan he nuzzled into his pillow and flopped one heavy arm over her hips. It was hard to get comfortable even with the various pillows tucked around him, but he could enjoy the massage on his scalp.

Sleep didn't seem to last nearly long enough and especially not when the call came in from Thomas. Despite the fatigue from the day and the small procedure Illya was determined to check on his little girl. There was no telling what mischief the filthy little Pithian rat would have inflicted on her.


The indignant squeak from Rose was barely warranted given the circumstances and Illya was about to make sure she knew that. Swaying slightly on his feet he walked over to the bed and sat on the end. "I tink yah ask bad question. Dat es question yah need tah answer for yah moter. She es worried, Tomas es worried and I am worried until I know where yah are. I see act low and despicable. Dis es nut what yah learn from yah moter, or meh."

Rose's chin trembled not only from being caught but also from the double embarrassment she had incurred on herself that night. Sam stood up slowly and held his hands up slightly, showing he wasnt trying to cause trouble. His cheeks were pink but he had a look of determination not seen on his face usually before he offered his jacket to cover her shoulders. "What were you thinking, Rose?" Calysta said, shaking her head, "You could have fallen into the wilds, been kidnapped, hurt, someone might have seen you alone and killed you, for all I know." Their young teen daughter had tears in her eyes, threatening to spill over her cheeks. "I wanted to be with Sam. I'm safe with Sam too and you wouldnt let me go, so I came anyways. You're always leaving or going places and I wanted to come too. I'm old enough to handle that on my own."

"Yah dun prove what yah tink. All yah prove es dat yah dun learn tah control yahself. Nut even one year till yah 17 and I would nut be here, but yah show yah child, yah dishonor yahself and now any boy, or man dat knows about tahnight tink yah cheap woman. He makes good impression and yah share a bed." Beckoning with his hand Illya pointed toward the door. Yah get up, yah get dressed and yah going home." Turning toward Sam he snarled, "Yah jes prove to meh dat yah nut a man I want tah ever see near meh daughter again. Yah like filt. Nut honor tah tell her tah wait. Yah bot didsapoint meh and now I treat yah bot as little children."

Rose wiped at her eyes and moved to get up until Illya turned on Sam with a vicious growl and her jaw tightened. Stopping in her tracks she crossed her arms. “Don’t call him that, Wolf. I told him to meet me and he didn’t know. He stopped me and tried to tell me to go home. You always assume the worst and you can’t stop me from seeing him if I want.” Calysta’s eyes flicked from Sam to Rose and back again. “We’ll sort it out when we get home. Sam, go back to the compound.” The Pithian boy gave his girlfriend a long sort of glance before turning to Illya. “Rose came because she wanted to and nobody has done her a dishonor.”

The retort from Rose only caused a single eyebrow to raise and Illya rolled his eyes. "I will have quarantine bracelet on yah. Easy enough tah stop et from happening again." Glancing at Sam he didn't soften his gaze even for a monent, "Yah case would be better ef I dun find yah en her bed dat she pay for by stealing from her moter. Get out and ef yah want anoter chance yah wait till she es 18 tah see her face tah face again. She prove dat she needs anoter year tah grow. Talk on hologram only 1 time en a week. Ef yah still want each oter den yah can have her."

Rose burst out into tears. What was meant to be a good night no one needed to know about had been turned into a nightmare. Her boyfriend had come thinking it was a date and she had a surprise for him. He had told her no and now, in the middle of the conversation her parents had come busting into what was already an embarrasing moment. "That's not fair. You can't just do that! I'll be of age in 6 months! Sam didnt do anything!" Calysta held out a hand, trying to keep her daughter from shouting. "We're going home, Rose. C'mon." They werent going to let her out of the room without going with them and she snatched up her bag from the bathroom. "You arent even my real mom, so I dont even know why you care what I do!" She said it and the look on her mothers face clearly showed the intended effect. The words had stung and she had meant them to, if only in the heat of the moment. Calysta gazed at Rose for a moment before pointing to the door. "Skimmer. Now."

It wasn't terribly unexpected to hear the fit that Rose was throwing and Illya was fine with it. Another 18 months wasn't that long in the scheme of things, but it would help her grow up a bit and he would be at home more to be sure of that. She needed a father as much as she needed a mother and he was going to make sure he was there for her. "As a matter of fact I can do dat and I will. Chippequoti will nut acknowledge dat yah of age until yah 18 and I will make changes for yah Alliance paperwork. As yah fater I can do dat. Yah learn tah be woman. Now listen to yah fake mum and dah and et will all work out." There was no holding back the hint of sarcasm in his voice when he referred to himself and Kalizda as her fake parents.

Their daughter cried and fumed as she roughly shouldered her bag and padded out of the room barefoot. "I am a woman," she snapped back through tears, "Not like you're around to see otherwise anyways!" She marched down the hallway with Sam's jacket wrapped around her snuggly and Calysta followed behind her daughter as she made sure the girl got into the waiting skimmer outside. Sam picked up his shirt from the bed where Rose and skinned it off of him, and pulled it over his head before following them dutifully. He was at a loss of what to day over the entire situation. Rose had wanted to be with him and he hadn't known she had planned all of this. Only that she had wanted to go out on a date and he should get a pass for the evening. "Rose, it's okay. Just go with them and it will be fine." Then he looked at Illya finally. "I'm not going anywhere."

Of all the annoying things that Sam could say at the end of the entire event it was the fact that he didn't plan on going anywhere. However, Illya wasn't going to encourage, or completely discourage him. If he hadn't actually done anything then it would be fine in the end. Slowly standing up from the bed Illya tried not to wince. "I guess we find out ef yah can wait anoter 18 mont."

Sam didn't reply so much as give a look of bolstering determination. He understood why they were angry, but he also thought it was a gross over reaction on their part too. If he was going to be a man worthy of Rose, he couldn't be constantly afraid to speak his mind, could he? Summoning his courage, he nodded slowly. "I guess we will, Sir. Rose is worth it." That was all the more he said before ruffling his hair and walking out of the room with his shoulders squared. Hopefully, that would disguise his shaking knees over having confronted a decorated war general more than twice his weight and a foot taller than himself.

After the boy walked out of the room Illya did a quick sweep to make sure nothing serious was being left behind. However, there was a shadow of a smirk on his face. No matter how this turned out it would be in Rose's favor. If the boy wasn't actually worthy of her, he would leave with 18 months of only a once a week hologram call and no other attention. In the event that Sam was actually a decent man he would still be waiting for her in 18 months and Rose would be a better woman for it. After Illya was content that the room was cleared he slowly made his way out of the room and shuffled along down the hall.

Calysta managed to shuffle a despondent and angry Rose into the back of the skimmer before waiting for her Chip to emerge from the hotel. She would simply foot the bill for this one and had slipped the concierge a few credits along with a small warning that this was to stay between them. He had rejected the credits however on the principle that he would 'rather not mess with the Hero of Kinte's daughter' and then went back to his work pretending nothing had happened. When Illya came out of the hotel on Sam's coat tails the boy looked unharmed and her husband had a ghost of a smirk on his lips. She waited for him to get into the skimmer then joined them. It only took a quick order to send them toward the Silver Mountain where...where she had left the twins entirely unattended. Her jaw snapped tight and she glanced over at Illya with wide eyes. "The twins...I forgot about the twins." Guilt washed over her as Rose, who had her arms crossed and was wiping at her eyes, managed a derisive snort.

It wasn't until they were all settled into the skimmer that Kalizda suddenly looked panicked and it was about the twins. Illya shrugged, "Dey were sleeping, I'm sure dey're fine. Ef noting else dey are in dah crib and dey can't get out of et yet."

He shrugged at her without worry and that somewhat annoyed her. She was their mother and shouldn't have forgotten them at all. Until that point, she had thought she was a pretty good mom, but this was the icing on the proverbial cake for the night and she lapsed into silence until they reached the ship. After paying the skimmer pilot, she ushered her daughter up the ramp and punched in the code. "Go to bed, and we'll talk in the morning." Rose shot her a look and went inside. "Whatever." Calysta's jaw worked angrily and she knew her face was turning pink from her anger now. What in the Wilds had she done to make Rose do such a thing as this? "Bed and you'd better stay there until we can discuss how grounded you are in detail." Their daughter stomped down the hall and slammed her door shut on them both. "And do not slam another door on this ship!" Calysta barked after her. Once their daughter was fully contained, she looked to her agreed and rubbed her temple. "And we only have four more to go at this age," she said tiredly.

Somehow Kalizda seemed to be much more worried about all this. By now it was what it was and at least she hadn't tried to back him down on what he'd said because Illya was going to take her to the Elite for a quarantine bracelet when he got home for the weekend and she'd be monitored very easily. He meant every word and he was sure Rose knew that, but if she didn't she would find out. "Dat's alright. Dah boys are easy. Ef dey make trouble like dis I take dem out tah have little talk about what makes real man and ef dey are still trouble den I beat dere arse until dey are sure dat I'm right."

"I'd prefer it not to get to that point," she said earnestly, "We can technically delay her emancipation and maybe we should, but I have a feeling this wont be the end of the issue. If she wants to do this, she may just sneak off and try it again."

Eh dun worry about dat. Dah monitor will make et easy tah find her." Illya sighed and left it there for now. He wasn't sure what else they could do, but he was going to do what he could.

"What was it you called it? A quarantine bracelet? What sort of restrictions? She should be grounded, obviously, but I don't want her tagged like some petty thief. She's not...she just made a bad decision," Calysta reasoned, "Maybe we should give the option of allowing her to work back on her trust. If she maintains it, then we could lighten up on her a bit earlier. I think we should educate her a bit more too." Calysta walked back to their room along with Illya. She paused briefly to check on the twins by cracking open the door.

Illya stared at Kalizda for a few moments as it seemed that his dear little bird was shocked at the idea of the bracelet. "We can decide how much we want et tah monitor." Laying down on the bed Illya grunted. "How about we sleep now and figure out dah rest later eh?"

She couldnt tell if he was brushing her off or truly just wanting to rest so that they could address it in the morning. Probably a combination of the two, if she had to guess, but she was tired too. Sleep sounded like the better action and she nodded. Slowly she stripped her tunic off then her boots before crawling in beside him with very careful steps until she was curling up to his side. "I just want Rose to be safe, no matter what we do."

"Mmhmm." Groaning a little Illya turned on his side. He hadn't bothered taking any of his clothes off because it was only a few hours before he had to go back to class and getting dressed again sounded too exhausting.

Calysta inched closer till her lips aligned with his and she graced him with a sweet peck. Even though her eyes were threatening to close, she mumbled out a few words. "Are you alright?" He had a long day and a long night, making her decide that she might just call Swyft and wynry in the morning to set up a video class instead.

The little kiss was welcome. Any kiss, or caress was welcome when it was Kalizda and Illya grinned slightly afterword. Of course she was going to ask if he was ok and Illya grunted, "Yeah, I'm fine."

He smiled at first but then gave her a bit of a Gruff reply. She's been trying to follow his grandparents advice but it seemed she wasn't doing something quite right. She knew he wasn't fine because he was in pain and he had been giving her shorter answers. How was she supposed to do this? With a small breath, she caught a little closer to him, seeking out his warm chest. "Okay."

When Kalizda moved in closer and nestled into his chest Illya gingerly moved an arm over her waist. "Maybe yah put little cream on meh back in dah morning? I tink et will be sore."

His arm draped over her waist and she took comfort in the weight of it holding her close. When he asked for her to put cream on his back in the morning, she nodded. "Aye, I'll put some on for you and I can set up a video class for you too if you want. You can rest your back and you wont be going to PT anyways. Just classes, yeah?"

Illya sighed a little at the mention of the video classes. He felt like he'd pushed things pretty far. "Yah tink dat Swyft would let meh have class from bed again? I would like dat better, but I tink he es already give meh lots of days off like dat. Maybe we jes see what he says."

"I think he might if I asked him," she said, "He was kind to me when I was sick a lot of the time. He worked with me, even if he was tough. He helped me get through it and I think he will for you too." Her little fingers slid up his chest, though he was still wearing his shirt, and stroked gently just over his heart. "We'll see what he says tomorrow, yeah?"

"Uh huh." Illya grunted at Kalizda again and he closed his eyes. His back was sore now and he wanted more medicine, but he knew it wasn't time yet. Just getting to sleep would be good enough for the time. "We jes sleep now eh?"

She nodded into his chest and let him fall asleep as he wanted. Tired as she was, she didn't drift off entirely until his breathing was slow and rhythmic. Then her fingers came to a halt and she fell asleep tucked up to him, with every intent of making sure he could rest more the next day.

Bleep! Bleep! Bleep! Illya moaned and he turned a little to far on his side before he flopped on the bed and pillows on his back. "Ugh...." Hiding his face in he crook of his elbow he felt Kalizda get out of the bed. He could feel the vibrations of her tiny feet moving along the floor all the way into the mattress while she got up to collect his pad and turn off the alarm instead of reaching over him. Within a few moments the alarm was off and he felt her cool fingers rest on his shoulder. Moving his arm away from his face he stared at the small pile of pills. He wanted them so badly and he hated them at the same time.

With a partly glazed look in his eyes Illya took the pills from Kalizda and swallowed them without any water. By the time she got the water for him it was just a nice way to wet his throat. He was thinking about getting up and getting to class, but Kalizda had already called and got him the day with classes only from his bed here on the ship. Lowering his gaze some Illya stared intently at her side of the bed while she settled back in next to him. The twins would be awake soon, but he knew he had to tell her something.

"Kalizda?" Waiting for her to respond he met her gaze. "I need tah tell yah someting." She'd been so good to him and very gentle and then came back after an exhausting week just for this ridiculous complication with his back surgery. "Yah remember when I get addicted to dah medicine when meh leg was bad?" Blinking a few times he almost seemed to try and hide his shame. "Dat's nut only time dat I want tings I should nut. I tink about using meh pass tah leave for little bit at Skycorp some nights tah go get drunk and I want strong medicines." Clenching his jaw he determined that he was going to get it all out. "Kalizda, I try nut tah be addict, but I know dat meh body still wants et. I'm sorreh. I dun want tah get hurt because et makes et very hard for meh nut tah be addict."

Somehow telling her was harder than he'd imagined it would have been and he stopped there for the time. It was enough that she should know what he was trying to say to her. Perhaps she would be angry, but she had to know that he felt like he was slipping and he wasn't going to last very long with all the medications he was on. Illya thought she was quiet for far too long and he gazed into her eyes. "Are yah mad at meh?"


Curious Adventurer
Ehud stammered through some sort of explanation and it became clear he hadn't any sort of clue she was going to turn the question back around on him as was fair. His cheeks were turning red and he wouldn't meet her eyes for a moment as he confessed school near school-boy style crush. He'd even gone so far as to ask Illya about her and that brought a little blush to her own delicate cheeks. That explained a few things more. She almost had the urge to giggle when he mentioned she looked pretty in her gardening gloves. At this point he had seen her looking far more glamorous in beautiful dresses and in her worst moments when she was with Harry over the last weeks. Seeing her in her gardening gloves was what he remembered her as the prettiest? He managed to come to some sort of conclusions, if it could be called that, about what he wanted.

The whole thing was entirely disorganized and a mess. Ehud himself was a mess of a man and she had known that the minute she walked into his household. That sight coupled with the many conversations she'd had with his son revealed how much he was just throwing things together at times. She wondered vaguely if he was so scattered in his military work and the image of his file scattered office came to mind. No, this was just him no matter where he was. The man who had a stayed with her on the colony when he didn't have to and the same who had tried to learn more about her rather than jumping into her bed. The same that had enough respect for her not to use her weakness to his advantage.

Priscilla tilted her head at him slightly, trying to think about how to reply to such harum-scarum answer. She wasn't there to babysit him or to simply raise his child and he seemed to understand that. She wanted a partner. Accepting the ring on her hand meant accepting him as he was. It meant partnering with him and his idea of moving and having only one child with him more than likely. She did care for him and knew he was a man of quality. One who said he loved her, even if that comment was a basic understanding at this point. "I think that it sounds like a start," she said finally. It wasn't going to be easy at times and she knew that in some ways she might be tempted to compare him to Harry who was very different in almost every way. That was a habit she would try to avoid. "I think before we start talking wedding bells and nuptials though, maybe we can enjoy the time and maybe find a house closer to town for us. I can help clean out a few things we can spend some time together."

The word us felt weird on her tongue and her heart skipped and uncomfortable beat. She wanted Ehud, even if he was a mess, but after everything on the colony it felt strange too. He was here trying to fix that gap and she would try to do the same. "We can talk about the traditions. I know some of mine aren't...Chippeqouti approved..." The thought of him getting attacked and his back broken as Illya's had been simply because she wanted to celebrate Christmas or Easter made her want to cringe. "You should know though, that planning out a life together isn't solely a Chippeqouti thing. It's fairly expected and appreciated in Terran culture, despite what some around the galaxy might suggest. That's what I would want. Though that doesn't mean you have to know all the answers. It doesn't all have to be some big contract." That's what 'agreement' always sounded like to her when the Chippeqouti said it and she didn't want some contract for the exchange of goods and services, as it would sound on Terra. "I do like...I mean its okay to be...romantic." She had stammered on long enough and now she felt a bit odd flat out telling someone she wanted romance. She never had to say that with Harry, he just understood it, but this was not Harry and his culture was very different.

Her next sentence was cut short when the waitress came around and offered to take the melted soup that was now their icecream. Priscilla nodded and offered over her bowl quietly before looking to Ehud. "I don't know if that's something that you like though." In fact, she didn't know what he would like at all other than he enjoyed food, movies, and some playing around.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Calysta kept her head relaxed against the pillow and gazed at Illya for what seemed like ages. Her stark grey eyes studied his face framed by dark, long lashes. They swept over his tan brow and solid jaw, his slightly pink cheeks brought by meds and replacing the usually natural robust glow. Her gaze studied the curves of his lips and the sleek black curl resting at his temple, the small pock mark scars on his side. Then she stopped her journey at his bright green eyes which were normally sharp and alert, sometimes jovial and sometimes fiercer than any she had ever seen, to find they were glazed. His vivid gaze was dulled, and almost slack. And whose fault was that? Her throat tightened some as her hand reached up slowly to him, and settled onto his chest where she could feel his heart thumping under warm skin. "No, love. I'm not angry with you." She sat up some but kept her hand over his chest. "I remember what it was like after Kinte and I knew the second I saw what they had done to you what it would mean." Her eyes flicked to the bottles of pills and back again. "You want the alcohol when you don't have access to the pills, yeah?"

Suddenly it struck Illya what he had told her and in a split second he wished he hadn't. This was all too risky and he didn't want to do this. Instead, he was stuck now with the mess he'd made of things. Kalizda put one of her little hands over his chest and he glanced at the hand before he looked at her again. She finally spoke and she wasn't angry. That was a relief, but he was worried about her question. She was asking about the alcohol and he nodded silently in guilt. Alcohol was an easy route to go and he wanted it so badly.

It made sense when she thought about it. He had become addicted more than once. That was something she figured given his past injuries and his detox after Kinte. The alcohol both surprised her and didnt at the same time. His father had been an alcoholic and while Illya drank to excess once or twice a year at the most he had never done so consistently. This was his way of telling her he was in trouble and she wasnt entirely sure how to help but she wanted to. If anything she understood being so torn. Her thumb stroked gently at her chest and she gazed at him for a minute more. "I know what it's like to want something like that. Cmere." She took up one of his hands and guided it to the back of her head. Hidden in her thick black locks was a divot into her scalp. "Feel that?" Her fingers wove with his and ran them over the spot. "It was something they tried at the hospital when I was sick. When I was around 10 or so...I got an infection in my blood and my immune couldnt keep up, so they put me on this medication and it worked, boosted me far beyond anything I has ever felt. I was stronger...and faster...once I got better. It took nearly 2 years to fully recover but by the time I was feeling so much better I couldn't function without them. They made me feel so good and I could keep up with everything, but I needed increasingly higher doses. Impossibly high doses. The doctors began to take me off of them because it would kill me just as fast as any infection I might have gotten when my immune system collapsed again. I got really desperate one night and snuck into my dads room. I took as many as I could to feel better and they worked until I passed out." She swallowed some and pulled his hand back down cradling it her own gently as she blushed. "I don't remember that part, but I hit my head and it left that spot behind. It hurt to give up those pills, and of course, my immune system crashed again but I still remember that medicine and the feeling it gave me." Her eyes has grown distant for a moment and finally they focused on Illya again. " I know its hard and it hurts, but will you let me help? We can work on it together. Alcohol or medicine. Both."

Illya let Kalizda guide his hand to the back of her head and his brow pulled down in concentration and concern as she told her story. He'd had plenty of overdoses and mixes he shouldn't have. However, what she was talking about sounded more like a steroid, or something mixed with a steroid. He hadn't really taken the steroid mixes as much. At the end of it all Kalizda offered to help and Illya slowly pulled his hand away from the dent in her head. His fingers played with the ends of her hair and he twisted a lock around his index finger. "I won't want dah help, but I need et." If he was going to do this right he was going to be honest with her. "Kalizda, I dun take dah medicine tah feel stronger. I take et when I'm addicted because I want et, et makes et hard for meh tah feel pain and I dun remember tings wit feelings. Tings were jes what dey were and I dun feel anyting about dem. Et makes meh memories dull. Dat es why I take more den I should. I dun want meh time wit yah and dah kids tah be dim like dat. Meh little bird and dah kids deserve more den dat. I jes worry because I want dis medicine too much, but I need et and I want more and I want drinks too."

She let him play with her hair, feeling increasingly embarrassed that she had told him about what happened to her. How could that compare? Of course it couldn't. He'd face things far worse than she could ever imagine and there was little wonder why he wanted to dull those pains along with the memories that created. Even after all of that he was more worried about her and the children than anything else. "Aye," she said quietly, "I don't want your good memories clouded over because of the bad ones in the past, Illya. It wont make anything better, it just keeps everything away for a little longer." Leaning forward, she gave him better access to play with her hair and reached over to hold him. Whenever she attempted to hold him, it was probably a little ridiculous looking. He was so big and she could hardly wrap her arms around him properly. Still, she tried as if she could protect him from all the world. "I love my Chip and I want to help him, even if I know he wont like it," she whispered, "He is the most amazing man I know, and he has a good heart." Her tiny, cold nose buried into his chest and kissed him there before retreating just enough to look up at him. "His little bird wants his life to be a good one, not a numb one. It's not going to be easy though. I think its okay to be worried because of what you're feeling. I know that there are going to be times where you want those pills or something to drink more than me or anything else." It was blunt, but it was true, and she would rather be truthful now so they could tackle it together. "It's not your fault, Illya. Alright? What happened and what you've needed is not your fault."

Kalizda was surprisingly gentle about the whole thing and Illya took a deep breath. "Kalizda I tink yah good to meh. Better den I deserve. Yah know dah feeling for medicine, but yah nut upset wit meh. Den yah still here wit meh after yah know dat I will be fine. I tink yah better woman den I deserve." For a brief moment he felt the sting of a tear attempting to escape and he quickly blinked it back. Sometimes he was more emotional when he felt like he was getting more than he should. "As long as meh little bird wants meh, I will work tah be meh best for her."

Calysta slid a hand up his chest, gently rubbing her and there and cupped his cheek before tilting his head to kiss him. "You have as much right to be loved as I do. It took me a long time to understand that it was okay for me to be loved, and you deserve that feeling too, yeah?" She planted another little kiss on him, though he didn't quite have the same fervor as he normally would, and she figured that it was his medicine kicking in. "Just remember that when it gets hard, alright? Remember that I love you and I want you, even when it's hard."

The little kisses were nice and it felt like Kalizda meant every word she said. Illya lazily planted a kiss on her lips in return and he moved a little closer to rub her back while they had a few minutes of close time. "I will remember dat. Et es someting I learn over dah years." It made her safe and he knew he could trust her, but there were still times that was tough. Today he'd tested one of those things and she proved again that she wasn't going to leave him for his past, or struggles.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The next day Illya insisted on going to classes rather than attending from bed. Calysta could hardly argue against him on the point and she knew he would be wanting to go out like normal. She wheeled him in the wheel chair from the ship to the gate for his last day before the weekend. His bag hung from the back of the chair packed with everything he might need, but nothing that he might actually want, and Tiberius met them at the gate. "Look what the cat dragged in," he chuckled, "Wynry is inside waiting. I'm sure you'll be happy to know she has every single piece of homework organized for you." Of course he meant that with all do sarcasm. Who looked forward to homework? He gave the council woman a small nodded, telling her it was alright to relinquish the chair over to him. She let go slowly, as if she were reluctant to do so, then leaned forward, kissing the man gently before allowing them to roll through the gates. Tiberius flashed his ID badge to the man at the guard shack and Illya did the same before they rolled down the path toward the farthest building for their first class. He could tell the man wasn't happy about any of this and he couldn't say he didn't blame him. Being wheel chair bound, sore, hopped up on pain meds with every sort of rumor rolling around about you wasn't exactly the best school day.

"Yeah I know," he said, commenting on the surly look Illya was no doubt making, "I'm not a fan of pushing you around either, but if that's what it takes to get the team going again, then that's what we do. You're everything and the first tests are coming up. If you can make it through those, well, then we've got practicals. According to Wynry that is. She can read that Kaerelean schedule better than I can in traders tongue." The bottom line was that they needed the third member of their team to make it through practicals and if he dropped out and couldn't perform, they were all screwed.

With a heavy grunt, Tiberius hauled Illya up into the building and was never more grateful for the automatic sliding doors into the entrance. He pushed their teammates heavy frame down the cool, tiled hallways to the first class of the day. The entire class had already assembled and were waiting in their seats and chattering with one another until the door cracked open before swinging wide to reveal to the two men. Everyone's head turned in a singular moment as the chatter died down to deadened silence. "What?" Tiberius smirked, "Haven't you seen a good looking Terran like me before? Go on and mind your own damn business." Wynry hid a small smirk at her partner's jibe and the rest of the class went back to chatting save for the smaller Pyrtan boy in the back. His eyes were diverted to the floor and he refused to even acknowledge that anyone had come in at all.

Classes passed in the same way as usual and PT had become a more intense affair. Rather than going to the usual training course, today they were going to a large, 30ft deep pool on the compound. The entire pool area was outfitted in a equipment to mimic various portions of star ship hulls as well as interior set ups. This was the first day of PT that would not only build their bodies but help them adjust to using them in no gravity. Wynry and Tiberius changed into oxygen supplied suits and joined Illya at the pool side. "I'll try to take good audio notes for you," Wynry said loudly over the splashing. Tiberius winced at the volume and shook his head. "You can always tell when she turns her hearing aids down," he commented to the wheelchair bound Chip.

The Karelean woman stopped putting on her helmet and glanced at Tiberius with a knowing look. "What?"

He grinned widely, "Oh, I said you can always tell when she's going to do well!"

Wynry's eyes narrowed and she shook her head before pulling on her helmet, then pushing Tiberius into the water, ready or not. The Terran dissapeared in a foamy splash before bobbing to the surface cursing. "God, that's cold! I didn't even have my helmet on. You think I can swim like a Kaerelean?" His tone was more playful than anything and he splashed up at their blonde comrade as she dove down feet first into the water. "You had best learn!"

While the rest of the class broke into their teams and performed various exercises underwater, Swyft entered the poolside in his uniform. The man's boot heels clicked quietly over the wet tiles as he settled onto the bench beside Illya's chair. "This was the fun part of PT," he said simply to the Chip, "You'll be joining them down there soon enough, I assume?" It wasn't that he wanted the Chip to push himself to further injury, but there was a need to catch him up so he could have even a chance at making it to promotion. He knew that this sort of injury usually put a man out for awhile among other things and they needed to have a discussion. Normally, he would do such things in his office but there was no one around to hear them at the current moment and he didn't want to make the cadet more more than he had to.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Calysta started in the kitchen cabinets. There were all sort of spices stowed away but what she was really looking for was hidden in the top shelf. Balancing on her toes, she used her step stool to unload all of her father's cooking wine down from the cabinet. Several bottles of red and white wine came down and she popped the corks one after the other before draining them down the sink. At one point, Rose came wandering in, refusing to meet her mother's gaze and began making coffee. "What's with all the wine? Am I so bad that you're turning to booze?" Calysta's eyes swiveled on her nearly grown daughter with a storm brewing behind them. "No, I'm cleaning the kitchen and getting rid of all the old things. Today, you're going to go get my flyer from the bay you docked it in and then you will come immediately back here to study."

Rose grabbed her mug and looked to her mother curiously. "You mean you're going to let me fly it back? I can do that."

"I didn't say you were going alone," Calysta replied, "You will be escorted by one of the men from base and he will fly back with you."

A whole waterfall of indignant sputtering came out of her daughter's mouth and she met it back with only the same patient, but firm answer. "What you did is technically theft, Rose and if you had been caught, you would have been arrested just like any other criminal. So, I suggest you make this right and don't give you escort problems. He'll be here at 13:00 galactic time."

Calysta let Rose get ready on her own after that and continued her work in silence. Every room was scoured for anything that might be used for alcohol. She dumped her father's 40 year old bourbon down the drain along side the alcohol heavy medications. Anything and everything that could be used as a temptation went. By the time she was done there wasn't a single scrap of alcohol derived items in the ship. She even tossed out the rubbing alcohol, though that was corn based and he likely wouldn't touch it. Once that was done, she worked on her bedside table. It only took a little mother board and some programming with her work computer to set up a thumb print scanner on her beside table drawer. It wasn't the sleekest rig she had ever made, but the thumb scanner would only allow the lock to open with her right thumb print. Illya wouldn't be able to open in unless he unbolted the whole unit from the floor and tossed it from a great height.

Next on her agenda was reading as much as she could about addiction. With her pad propped against her knee, she read article after article on the subject until she swapped to watching videos. It wasn't until she was into the 4th hour of her study on Illya's struggles that she sighed and dropped her head back into the chair back. Aymos' tail thumped against the carpeted floor as she moved around and he rose up to settle his nose on the arm of her chair. "I'm in way over my head, Aymos," she sighed as she reached over to scratch between the canine's tall ears, "There's not much of a choice on this."

Eventually, it came time to pick Illya up and she packed up her study materials feeling a bit like a woman about face a tough mission to pick up her Chip for the weekend. On way back to Pyrta, Calysta sat in the captain's chair and flew them manually. It was good to have something familiar and comfortable to do while she was thinking. While their Silver Mountain slipped easily through the air she looked out the the forward screens, then stole a glance at Illya in the chair beside her. "I was thinking...and doing some reading....on what you told me yesterday morning. I think it would be good to get some outside suggestions. I know it wouldn't be easy but I would go with you if you wanted."
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Anonymous Me
Romance.....That was a word that Ehud knew and he thought he'd been romantic at times already. Perhaps her idea of romance was different. Blinking a few times Ehud stared at her before he said anything. "Well uh... if you want romance it might be a good idea to tell me what romantic is for you. I..well uh...for uh...Chippequoti think of romance differently than Terrans and I don't know how accurate all the Terran books are when they talk about romance. I have tried reading some of them, but it is a difficult subject to understand. Many different things are called romance and some of them are..." Ehud's cheeks turned red. He didn't really want to say it in public, but he was going to try and make it safe to say. "Some of the romantic things in books are quite uh...they're indecent."


It was quiet on the deck after all the students went under the water. There was a lot of work to catch up on and Illya knew it. He would have almost rather that he was busy doing some of the old homework sheets, but he knew that he would need to know what they were doing under the water too. While he was studying the other students he almost missed hearing Swyft come over to sit next to him. Glancing at Swyft he grimaced. "I would nut call dis part fun. I dun swim, I sink." However, it seemed that the instructor wanted him to get in the water so he started to unbutton the top of his uniform. "Ef I should be in dah water, I will, but I dun wear boxers lately. Dey are uncomfortable on dah incision in meh back."

Some how or another the man had translated his comment into an order to strip and Swyft quickly held up a hand to stall him. "Cadet....keep your clothes on," he said, "You should be in the water but not when you have a newly healed incision in your back and spinal cord damage." He said it as if that were a given and then braced his elbows on his knees slightly. "I meant that you need to heal properly so you can join them. Clothed would be preferable." He didn't need the man making anymore rumors about himself. They ranged anywhere from the women thinking he was a attractive and available to worshipers calling him the Goddesses chosen. "I know you've been present at everything you can be, Cadet, but I've had the quarterly review done and you're behind."

Illya hadn't even got his uniform unbuttoned to his belly button and Swyft was suddenly changing his mind. It sounded more like he didn't want anyone jumping in the pool buck naked. For the most part it was alright, but Illya figured he would have to start wearing boxers next week. Of course the more serious part came up and Illya sighed. "Yes, I'm behind. I have stacks of homework, but all dah mat assignments will be done before next week starts and I will have all dah oter assignments caught up by end of next week and den I will be training hard tah get back in shape by middle of next week. Yah dun worry. I heal fast and meh back es broke before. Dis time et was nut so bad as first time."

"That is fast," Swyft admitted. In truth, he wondered how a man could still be standing and here after having his back broken twice, but he had read about the bones of the Chippeqouti in part. They were incredibly resilient and healed quickly, some growing as old as 500 years old or more. "That may be. I don't like ejecting cadets in this sort of situation. You work hard and things happened that you couldn't control. I still can't put an untrained cadet on a ship. If you get me the work, and I'm sure your team will help you catch up in the rest, you'll be in a better position to continue." His eyes shifted from the Chip and settled on the blue tinted waters of the pool where occasional bubbles would burp up from below. "We you going to jump in that water, Cadet?"

If there was a way to be confusing Swyft had accomplished it. Illya figured the man would be pleased if he worked to meet him half way and got caught up on his work. He should be able to be considered eligible to move on if he completed the work. After all the fuss about not getting in the the water the instructor changed his mind and Illya gingerly moved to stand up out of the wheelchair. "Aye, I get in dah water. Jes make up yah damn mind and I can do whatever needs tah be done. I will pass dis academy and I will get commission for meh Kalizda's shep."

How anyone could miss a suggestion to do the make up work and have your team help was beyond Swyft but the grumbling he got in response to question made him pause for a moment before he gave a truly rare reaction. Swyft chuckled and allowed himself a smile. "I didn't say do it, just asked if you were about to try." He had asked because he wanted to see the man's determination and wanted to hear what he would say. He got the answer he needed. "No, you wont be doing PT until you're cleared. I do have to say, you're nearly as stubborn as your wife." It was said as a compliment and Swyft rose to his feet.

By the time Swyft spoke up Illya was already about half way to the pool and he jerked slightly as he stopped himself mid step. Turning toward Swyft he smirked. "I know she's stubborn. I live wit her. Yah tell meh about her training days eh?"

Swyft had been ready to leave the man to it, but rather than making a another gruff reply, he smirked and asked about his wife. Swyft looked at the man and chuckled. "I can tell you there wasn't a day that went by, whether she was ill or not, that she didn't show up and work hard. She wasn't the strongest. Nearly failed out of the PT portions actually, but she knew her ship backwards and forwards. Inventive and one hell of a pilot. She holds a few records in the hall here, not just because of her heritage and you'll be learning something in class coming up soon called the Monroe Manuever."

It sounded like Kalizda was somewhat famous at Skycorp and it wasn't entirely surprising. Illya nodded some and he slowly made his way back to the wheelchair. Getting into the chair was a little difficult because he was still having some balance problems and the right leg was difficult to deal with because he didn't know now much weight he had on it most of the time. Once he was seated Illya winced a little and he tried not to show the discomfort."I will have her show meh dah hall. Et's good tah have her brag some and I know she es good pilot. Dun tink dat means I'm good pilot. Meh flying es nut good."

Swyft nodded in approval and let the man do as he needed to get settled back into the chair. That was something he was sure Illya would want to do on his own. "I think she would like that very much. She has a fair amount of accomplishments beyond what others might think," he said, before letting out another rich chuckle, "Aye, I know you're a shit pilot. I've seen your license scores. You still made it here on your own merit same as your wife. Albeit for different strengths. I will tell you about one day that I wont forget. She was far behind in PT and I thought I would have to let her go from the course. Sick for nearly three weeks and still trying to run the course out there. Scaling the wall was nearly impossible to do for her, she just didn't have the strength. One day, she hits the course and she's falling behind again...she falls off the wall once and then a second time...everyone else has long passed her at this she pulls something out of her pocket and puts it on her hand. Suddenly, she's scaling up the wall. Her grip stays solid on the over head bars. When she's finished, of course, she was last...the only her eyes were visible under all that mud. I asked her what she had done differently that had improved her time. Ms. Monroe held up hand and showed me, of all things, a pair of home made tactical bond gloves. When I asked if she thought that was cheating, she shook her head at me with the fiercest look I'd ever seen on a Cadet. 'No sir,' she said to me, 'You told me to find out what my strength was and use it. So, that's what I did." He had been a young commander at that point and it had taken him a few cadets to realize that he sometimes learned more from them in return than they did from him. Calysta had been stubborn and thought in different ways, though she was shy and not nearly so bold as her husband.

The story from Swyft brought a grin to Illya's face and he nodded. It was not surprising to hear that his little wife had decided to make something for herself. She was pretty good and putting things like that together. Swyft seemed to recognize that they both had different strengths though and that was fine. Illya wasn't here to compete with anyone, or his wife's record. All he wanted was to pass and get a commission for his Kalizda's ship. "Dere es no such ting as cheating when yah faced wit obstacle. Yah have two choices, yah succeed, or fail. I liked dat about her when we meet. She had fire in her. I dun tink I like her at first because she shot meh, but now I tink maybe I deserve tah get shot when we first meet."

Swyft thought about few Cadets with fondness, but the little half breed woman was one that he did, even if he wouldn't admit it. Illya's reply made him more confident that the man would be able to catch up to his work, and he started to nod, only to do a double take when shooting him was mentioned. "Aye, that sounds like something would do. She is tougher than she appears. if she shot you and you lived, well, she probably didn't hate you all that much. Marksman ship was the only physical course she excelled at. She still has that strength, I think, though I'm pleased to see she is doing well." He tugged down his tunic him and stepped back from the pools edge some. "You will be a good man to have aboard your...ah....Kalizda's ship. See to it I can fill that commission properly, Cadet, eh?"

With a salute as best he could make it Illya smirked some. "Yah dun worry. I will make commission on her shep. Only one time I fail meh mission and et will nut happen again. Ef I fail dis course et will be because I died."

Swyft chuckled some, though he suspected the Chip General was deadly serious about his mission success or death, and started to turn toward the door. Before he turned entirely, he remembered something he wanted to say and paused to turn back. "Oh and, don't think this back of yours gets you out of the foot race next New Year. I fully expect decent competition now that I have a replacement pair of boots." Tossing the Chip a knowing smirk, he nodded then turned his expression back to his usually stoic demeanor as he swept out of the room.

Sitting out on the deck for the remainder of the exercise Illya tried to take notes of what he could see. Some of it was harder to see with the distortion of the water and other times students got in the way. For being a first day back to class it felt rough. Illya's back was hurting all over again and he would have taken himself to the clinic for more medicine except that he couldn't haphazardly roll himself anywhere without the strange little rat faced man insisting on pushing him in some sort of strange, reverent silence. At the clinic Illya got a morphine sucker and he shoved it into the side of his cheek.

It was still an hour before he'd told Kalizda to come pick him up and he didn't think he'd last a lot longer sitting in his wheelchair. Glancing to the pinch faced of the Yurian he mumbled, "I jes go study from meh bunk for little bit eh?" The man pushed him along and Illya let him. When they reached the bunk he saw his bed was made, but there were little boxes and small wrapped gifts on his bed. Immediately he clenched his jaw and stared at them with a severe gaze. A part of him wondered if these little presents were booby trapped, perhaps one was a bomb, or others were poisoned. Cautiously Illya grabbed the first box and he opened it up with a deep frown on his face. Inside there were various little candies and such. A mysterious gift of candy was not something he wanted and he wasn't going to give it to anyone either. If it was poison he didn't want to be responsible for someone's death.

The other boxes had small things in them and Illya carefully piled them all into a small bag and saved it for now. He was going to let it out in space to ensure that even if there was a little bomb to be activated it would freeze up in space and never do harm. He had piles of homework that his classmates had collected for him and Illya tried to work through a few of the math sheets, but he didn't get far before he dozed off.

Illya's pad buzzed and he woke up with a groan. He still had a remnant of the sucker in his mouth. It was only there because he had not been sucking on it as furiously as he would have been if he had been awake. Pulling the sucker from the side of his cheek he bit the rest of it off the stick and finished it while he grabbed what he would need to take home with himself for the weekend.


Settling into the chair beside Kalizda in the Silver Mountain he sighed. Illya was a bit tired and he knew this coming week was going to be a long one. His back hurt a little more just thinking about it. Staring at the stars he didn't say anything until Kalizda started to talk. It sounded like she wanted him to say something to someone and he wasn't sure what she expected with all this. "Why? Yah read and yah decide dat I should talk wit someone about dis. Why yah tink dat?"

Calysta kept one eye on the screen which displayed the night sky in perfect clarity and stole another look at Illya's tan face. This wasn't the first time that he had cringed, or balked at the idea of a counselor and she tilted her head at him. "I read so I could understand what you were going through better," she said earnestly, "I did the same when you had bad dreams years ago too, but this time, I want to help and I know I'm limited on how I can do that. A lot of the articles I read suggested counselors who can help work through things with you. What's happening is difficult on you, not just physically, and I think it will help. A lot of the journals say that talking is good because it helps work through some of the problems and....memories that center in the issue. I'll always listen and be there Illya, but I know I don't have the expertise to help as someone else could." It was hard admitting that this was something that she couldn't handle on her own and her brow creased in a half worried and half hopeful sort of look that she couldn't help.

With deep frown he turned his head and looked out the window. She said she wanted to help, but she was telling him that now he had to see the counselor. At first he wanted to yell about it and just refuse to go home, but he knew that would hurt the kids and her. The kids wanted to see him and he knew that. When he was little he used to think his dad liked to come home and see him and it hurt when his dad chose to go get drunk instead. After a few moments Illya looked at her again. "Yah tink dis es dah best, den I will do et. I go wit yah to yah meetings wit dah counselor and yah come wit meh. We work trough all tings togeter eh?"

He was angry and no more look was so telling as when he turned his gaze from her with that deep frown on his face and his jaw set tightly. A few minutes of tense silence passed as she let him simply process what she was asking until finally he glanced in her direction again. There was still not a happy look on his face, and she didn't expect one. However, he looked a bit more gently at her and then said somthing that surprised her. Her eyes widened some as she sat up a little straighter in an expression of pure relief. "You will?" she said, "I would go with you every step if you wanted me to, Illya." He wanted to work through this as a team and without thinking she flicked the auto pilot on and reached out to settle a hand over his. "I think we can do it together. Thank you, love."

"Yes, we do dis togeter. Meh Kalizda knows what et feels tah use medicine for dah wrong reason. I tink maybe yah show meh what yah read and I know more about dis problem too." Illya wanted to know what she read that made her think he should get outside help. He probably did need it if there were ways to work past these sort of phases without falling apart. "I dun want tah hurt yah or dah kids. I want tah be good fater and agreed. Et's good dat I see meh family instead of getting drunk, or buying medicines I should nut have."

With the ship on a steady course on it's own, she squeezed his hand gently and rose from her seat to grab her pad. She had expected him to be angry and to yell or outright refused to hear her out on this. That the suggestion would be met with a huge fight or at least some sort of blow back. Instead, he actually seemed like he wanted to know more. Carefully, she handed over her pad and the accompanying ear pods so he could listen to the informational videos she had been watching. He was worried about her and the children and she loved them dearly. Whatever it took to help him she would do. "Craving what you do is affected by so many different things," she said honestly, "Family history, physical need and injury, emotional and suppression needs. It stems from so many things. It doesn't make you bad or broken, just more apt to want what you shouldn't and the counselors have a lot of ways they can help. They can show you techniques to use to help keep you sober, if you want it." She gave his hand another little squeeze and smiled a little. "I did read about some of the recommendations and the reviews too. Some of those who stated counseling worked are even young half breeds like me. Some are soldiers too. You're not alone, yeah? " Turning, she looked deep into his eyes and smiled gently up at him. "I love my agreed and his children love him too. We want you to have a good life, Illya. It's good that you want to see us and not want to get drunk or turn to medicine." Her cheeks turned pink and she smiled a little more. "Some counselors even recommend a lot of social time with family, walks outside, and being with friends, or going on stress free dates." The last little part she tried a little cheeky wink and smiled. There would be no partying or alcohol on these dates, but they would be fun all the same.

If he could hear what sort of things she had been talking about Illya was sure he would be better equipped to respond, or refute the kinds of therapy she was suggesting. These were not things he was eager to turn toward and he wanted to say no and show her why it wouldn't work. However, when the video played and it gave the history of issues that people had and were contributing factors it was difficult to say he was not one of those people even worse was the fact that there were a lot of people that had some of the same problems. After getting through the first small video Illya had to admit that he was in over his head from these descriptions and he could feel he was anyway. He hadn't made it far enough to get to some of the cures, he couldn't find enough to refute it and so he was going to have to suffer through whatever it was that they were going to tell him to do. Kalizda was already repeating some of the things he listened to in the pamphlet and then she mentioned a few of the coping skills they used. "Den we will ask dah doctor tah prescribe lots of family time and dates eh?"

She let him listen, hoping he would come to at least acquiescing to the counseling of his own accord if she gave him the information. His expression didn't change but he did look up to her finally and told her that they should ask the doctor to prescribe family time and lots of dates. She smiled and nodded to him, more and more relieved to see he wasn't going to refused to go or even consider it. "Aye, I think that would be a good thing. You enjoy being with us and they say that helps. It's something to look forward to," she encouraged. Her grey eyes studied his face for a minute more as she leaned over the chair. "How do you feel about it after the videos?"

At first Illya just nodded along. He wasn't liking the fact that he would have to talk to a counselor, or that he would have to admit to these problems to someone besides Kalizda. It was hard enough telling her. Then she got close to his face and asked a very strange question. "How do I feel?" Scrunching his brow he shrugged. "I dun like et, but ef dis es what needs tah be done, den I will do et. I know dat I'm nut dah only one, but et es like shame tah say dat dis es problem."

He grimaced at her as if that were the worst question in the world then...actually answered. She blinked at him a few times in pure surprise that he didn't brush her off, change the subject or say what he thought rather than what he felt. He didn't like it, which was expected and natural even. Not only that but he felt ashamed. Calysta gazed into his slightly glossy green eyes for a moment then nodded. If anyone understood what it was like to feel shame over needing help it was her. Her fingers stroked at his calloused knuckles. "If it feels that way, its okay. Just know, that I'm not ashamed of you. Not for a moment. It's okay. I'm just glad you told me." Leaning down she kissed his cheek and then gave him a hopeful smile.

Since she asked how he felt about it Illya decided he might as well ask her the same question. She wasn't ashamed of him, but she had to feel something about this. "Since yah ask meh how I feel den I want tah know how yah feel about dis." He didn't know how she felt about all this and he thought for a moment longer before adding his own question. "Kalizda, how do yah feel about meh problem wit dis?"

The last thing she expected was for him to turn the question on her and it caught her off guard. What did she feel? It was all tamped down deep in her chest, making her ache there whenever she settled on what she felt beyond the general moment. It was such a loaded question and the answer couldn't possibly make any sense to him. It wouldn't be helpful right now. She bit at her lip, begging herself not to show it all and squeezed his hand. "I feel...I feel...relieved that you told me," she said honestly, "It was something I noticed and I was afraid I would lose my best friend to it eventually. When you told me there was a problem and you wanted to work on it I felt better. I felt relieved that you'd let me try with you." Her hands were shaking and she ducked her head a little as a pinkness came to her cheeks. She knew she probably looked ridiculous confessing something like that, yet here she was.

What Kalizda said was a bit sad. Illya hadn't known that she was worried about this for so long. "Are yah still worried?"

Tears stung slightly at her eyes and she blinked them back before shaking her head slowly. "No, not like I was," she replied, "I know things won't be easy. I know that. But I also know you and I trust you, Illya."

"I guess dat's good. I dun trust meh and I'm still worried." Illya wasn't going to hide that from Kalizda. Perhaps it was the reason that he should be going to the counselor, but he was still just about as lost as he was before. Part of him was starting to feel desperate for help and the other part still wanted to run. "Kalizda, I tink we go to dah counselor tomorrow because ef I dun go soon, I tink I will nut have courage tah go."

He was still worried and that felt fair. It wasn't as if she was without worry, but it wasn't like it was before. She trusted him with alot and she would have to help him with this. Wiping quickly at her eyes with the heel of her palm she nodded to him. "I will set us up for the morning," she said, "It will be the first thing we do, yeah? Then we can come home to the kids for a bit and the hardest part will be over."

Illya took a deep breath and he nodded. "Aye, we will get et done first and den et will be done." He wasn't terribly excited about it, but he knew that it would help Kalizda and it might help him too. "Tank yah." Carefully he met her gaze with his dulled green eyes. "We will do dis togeter and I will be better man for et."

He wasn't overly thrilled and she didn't blame him, yet he seemed to agree and thanked her for staying with him. "Aye, we'll do this together and no matter if it gets hard, Illya. Please remember I love you." She could see the glaze in his eyes and it worried her that would forget things. It was a constant concern every since his brain injury and the addition of pills made her all the more nervous about it. Yet, she did feel relieved that he'd actually told her. Now, they could work together on it and there was hope that things would be better for him. That was all that mattered.

Even thinking about having to give up the medicine was nearly torturous. Illya took his nightly dose from Kalizda, but he was already sore enough that he wasn't sure he'd sleep well even with the medication. The urge to have a little Chip Cider to wash it down was almost overwhelming. Illya waited until the light was out and then he rolled over in the bed to face Kalizda. He was grimacing with the discomfort, but at least she couldn't see it. "Yah come closer eh?" If he invited her, he knew she would be willing to lay close and it would keep him from getting up and trying to find something to drink on top of his medication.

The night seemed to be longer than most. Every half hour Illya woke to see that barely any time had passed. Finally, at 5:14 a.m. Illya decided to send a message to the Ehaui and set the appointment up for himself. He was tired out, wanted to be done with the drug problem and Kalizda already had enough problems. There wasn't any reason for him to put more on her. Setting the pad down he laid back in the bed again with a soft whimper. It was still another hour and a half till he could have the next dose and he could feel his back still. Since, he was going to be wide awake Illya worked through the rest of the math sheets he had from left over homework and waited for Kalizda to wake up. When she finally peeled her eyes open he gave her a weak grin. "Morning meh little bird." Before she could say much of anything he decided to tell her what he'd done. "I make appointment for mehself already. Yah dun need tah worry about dat. Yah come wit meh ef yah can yeah?"


It was new to have a Chippequoti come and actually bring themselves in voluntarily for a meeting like this. The Ehaui sat behind his desk and watched while Illya shifted uncomfortably. "Well, you said you wanted to get clean. You've got some bad addiction problems." The only response was a nod and the doctor sighed. "I can't cut out all the drugs right now. You do need some of them to help manage the pain, but I'm going to cut the doses and we'll cut the extra morphine sucker allowance in half. I also see in the note from this morning that you wanted to have a family based plan. Typically we call that family intervention. It is one of the more effective methods if you're willing to do this. If you were unwilling family intervention would be only the first step and often you would need to go to a detox facility."

Just the idea of possibly having to go to a facility was terrible. Illya couldn't help but think of something like that as a prison of sorts. "I make dah appointment. I want dis."

Nodding the Ehaui looked at Kalizda and it seemed that she didn't have any protest. "If you're going to have a family intervention you will need to have more than just Kalizda aware that you're getting treatment for this. You'll need a few people to help you. Who else would you have help?"

It only took a few seconds of thought for Illya and he took a deep breath. "I like tah have Edgar and Helena help."

The Ehaui nodded. He was their counselor too and he knew that so far Edgar and Helena had done well in being models and support for both of them. "Ok, that's good. Remember, that Edgar, Helena and Kalizda are helping you with this and remember that you need to try and support Kalizda when you can and Edgar and Helena are helping her too. They're not taking sides against you, they're helping you by helping her when you don't like that she had to tell you no about something."

Of course it all sounded fine now, but Illya knew that he would hate this arrangement at some point. Sadly that was likely to be in the near future. "I understand dis." Wincing a little he shifted in his chair again and stared out the window. "What do I do wit dah kids?" He wasn't sure if he should even spend time with them when he was like this.

"Just make sure you've got Kalizda, or someone else with you to help, but I'd recommend taking some walks and seeing what there is around the area. Think of the things you wanted to do when you were little. Perhaps try to make this a good time in their life. It'll get some focus off your cravings." It was likely going to be difficult at home, but treatment where a patient was willing was easier than submitting them to a facility.

As the meeting drew to a close Illya felt a little worried and excited at the same time. Inside the skimmer with Kalizda he waited until the door was closed to say anything. "Tank yah for coming. Et makes meh nervous for dis, but I feel little bit of hope dat I will nut have anymore medicines and drinking. Et would be first time en more den 114 years dat I dun use any of dose tings for problems." Part of him wondered if he could do it. He'd functioned knowing he could have medicine, or alcohol anytime if he needed it over the last several years and now that was all getting taken away. It was on record and he wouldn't get it without some extra screenings and tests and they would severely limit it too.


Curious Adventurer
Priscilla studied Ehud carefully has he sputtered and blushed the color of prize winning rose while he divulged his research attempts and....exactly what he had been researching. He had been taking his cues from fantasy books? No wonder he was so confused. And yet, he had been trying to understand it for her. Then he went on to say how some of those books were indecent. She could only assume he meant sexual or erotic scenes, the thought of which combined with Ehud in an capacity made her feel sheepish. Since when did she become so shy? Squaring her shoulders, Priscilla studied the man a little longer. He was cute when he blushed like that. "I think those books are meant to be fantasy," she mused. Letting out a small sigh, she slid her hands over the table and placed them over his. Her fingers were long, delicate with the grace of a dancers though she had never taken up the practice and his hands were rough under hers. Mentally, she added moisturizer to her list of things to bring to his cabin when she came. "You've done thoughtful things for me and I like those very much," she admitted, "I just didn't want...well....I didn't want what happened on the colonies to make you feel like you couldn't be close or not keep doing those things. Spending time with you is good for me, and I enjoy surprises like the trip to the colonies. Surprises were always something I enjoyed...except the know...dead chicks for Christmas. That one I wouldn't have enjoyed as much. " She couldn't help but tease him over that escapade. However, despite her smile, in reality, she felt a strange ache of loneliness when it came to this topic. Harry had been good to her and Ehud was too, but she was starting over again in many ways and that intimacy simply didn't grow over night. Expecting that from him was wrong, no matter how she felt, and she dropped the subject for the moment. Her fingers stayed over his hands until she heard the hour bell chime. "Maybe we could just take a walk?"

Her hand stayed in his as they walked around the continent. The fields were red with the quickly growing harvest and the sun was golden over head. It made her glad she had kept on her sun hat. They talked for awhile. She told him about what she had studied in college when they passed the school house where classes were still in session. "I studied programming and social work mainly," she admitted, "I was into my first semester of law school when Harry was diagnosed with cancer and I stopped to take care of him. Of course, that was before I knew how deeply in the pockets of the federation most of the lawmakers on Terra were." She picked up her skirts a little and smiled up to Ehud in the sun light. "Perhaps I'll study it here. Would that be possible, you think? I expect not just to be a mother, well, most Terran women expect to be breadwinners too." Nodding to his answer, she kept walking with him to the edge were a deadened tree was hanging on by mere threaded roots. They came to a stop and she turned around to inspect the town beyond the fields. "A house would look handsome in that spot right there, see where the road splits toward the Chippeqouti quarter?" Briefly she wondered how long it had been since Ehud had made a permanent home somewhere, given his line of work. Perhaps it had been far too long and he was just as lonely as she was. "Sien would have a nice yard to play in there...and there would be room for a garden." It struck her for the first time as she imagined a family there that Ehud would inevitably live longer than she would. She wondered if that bothered him less because he wanted a mother for Sien and she would be young and alive for those purposes or if it was something he hadn't thought of. Her eyes traveled to the ring on her finger, a symbol of the permanent vows they would eventually take. That would be something she brought up later, there was no point in ruining the moment. Instead, she would work on what would hopefully be a life together. "Tell me about what it's like on Qouti, how you grew up?"

She listened to what he told her until the final bell rang and any minute Sien would come bounding over the hilltop headed for home accompanied by a troupe of boys. Cypher would be leading the pack with his chubby belly bounding with every step and the boys would shout and tussle until it was time to part ways for their separate homes. Sure enough, they came tumbling over the hill with yells of excitement and it was only when Sien saw his father that he froze in place and quickly shoved his shirt tail back into his pocket before running over completely unaware that he would be getting something he had desired for so long. If Ehud was going to deliver the news, now was the time.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Calysta felt Illya toss and turn all night. She knew he was anxious and in pain of top of everything else. It wasn't until the early hours of the morning he seemed to settle down just a little and she tucked up close to his side, fading in and our of unconsciousness. After about her 3rd solid hour of sleep she heard the sound of papers shuffling. "Mmm?" Smacking her tongue to the roof of her mouth, Calysta rubbed her eyes and looked up blearily to her Chip who was sitting up in bed. By the looks of it, he was working on his home work. He told her good morning and she inched a little closer to him. His smile was lackluster at best and she knew he had to be hurting. Still, he didn't ask for his medicine first thing as he was apt to do when she got up. In fact, she stared at him in surprise when he stated that he had made his own counseling appointment me. He had made his own appointment? Illya never did that unless she prompted him to. A sleepy, but genuine smile came to her lips and she nodded before leaning up to kiss him gently. "Aye, I promised I would be there every step. I wouldn't miss it."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The counseling session wasn't terrible and Illya almost seemed excited when they got into the skimmer. Almost. He was still facing the tougher part and that was having his medicine reduced. It would be on her to be firm with him and then go to Edgar or Helena for help if need be. At least the counselor seemed to think that Illya would be fine around the kids. She would have insisted that the children be with their father anyways. They loved him and simply telling them they couldn't be with him would upset their entire household. Not to mention all 5 children on her own were hard to manage. She had done it, sure, but it was stressful and they were both happier when he was home with his babies.

"Tank yah..." Her eyes met his when he thanked her for being there for him. It was a sentiment he rarely expressed like that and she reached out to take his hand in hers. Not only that, but it was amazing to think he hadn't been entirely clean in so long. The images of him shaking from withdrawals in the holograms came back to her for a brief moment and her grip on his hand tightened some. They would make it through this. They would. "It's okay to be nervous," she told him, "We'll get through it together and things will get better. I'm proud to have you as my agreed, Illya." Calysta kissed him again, this time for a little longer just because she could and then took them home.

The house had been entirel cleansed of alcohol and his medicine had been put into her beside drawer with the same sort of thumbprint key she used on the ship. For the first few hours everything was more or less business as usual. Cypher came home from school and had to be warned not to tackle his Dah out of sheer delight that his father and mother had come home. "Dah! I got all good marks! And meh reports are good! Oh and yah come out to see the fair tomorrow?" He was glad his Dah had come home to see him. Illya looked a little confused about the idea of a fair, but Calysta merely leaned into him and nodded. "It's the science fair," she smiled, "Students make their own inventions or things to bring and then they give prizes to the ones the judges find the best. Want to tell Dah what you made?" She had been informed of his schooling all week long at least by message and her father had helped him put together the thing he had wanted to make with a bit of secret help on the design from his Mam.

Cypher pulled out his battered school pad and thrust the screen under his father's nose with a tiny dance of excitement. On the pad was a picture of a strange little tube with a button on the end and a canvas pouch at the bottom. "I made a berry picker! Yah push dah button dere and it starts dah sucker and takes deh berries of deh branch for yah." Absolute pride was written all over the boy's face and he looked to his Dah with hope. "Yah come tah the fair and see meh win?" How could he not win with such a fine and useful invention? It would be great for his father to be there to see it too. Calysta knew Illya had terrible amounts of paper work and he would be hitting the worst of withdrawals within the next day or so too. "If we have to, we'll set up the pad and follow you all the way to through the fair. We won't miss it," she told him.


Anonymous Me
The little comment from Priscilla was funny and strange. It was hard to tell if she was wanting him to be intimate with her before they were married, or if she was saying that she wanted him to be more cuddly with her. This was somehow a jumbled mess and he had to figure it out. Women seemed to be very disappointed when men didn't get what they were supposed to out of these cryptic little conversations. Smiling he nodded slightly. "Yes, I like that too." He didn't know what else to say and so he put on his best smile and practiced face of approval. It all came out naturally even though he was panicking.

Outside it became even more strange while they walked around. It wasn't a normal walk. She was already pointing out the land that she wanted to have a house on. Wasn't the little cabin he had nice enough? One day he thought they'd move after they had one, or two more children and the cabin was too small, but he liked his cabin. The cabin wasn't in the best of shape, but it felt like home and it was where Sien had spent all his life. While he was staring helplessly at the empty lot that Priscilla had already chosen she leaned in a little closer to ask about how he grew up. Blinking at her dumbly he tried desperately to process what she said. Internally he was feeling that growing sense of doom. She'd asked him something and his brain went blank, so blank he couldn't even think of what it was that he was meant to say.

After what felt like nearly an eternity of blank moments he nodded. "Quoti was a nice place before the war. We used to live in larger stone houses instead of the huts. I remember the bead curtain that hung in the doorway of my parent's room and the red curtain for the doorway. Had to let some air move through the house or it would get stifling hot. Lived for a while out in the wooded areas too. That was the first home I remembered. I was younger there and it wasn't Quoti, so I don't know as much about it. Quoti had a few things I think I'll miss about it. The red sands hid all kinds of caverns and secret hiding places if you went out into the desert and then dropped into the valley. We weren't allowed out there much as kids. I think there were probably a few accidents where kids went missing and more than likely some adults. Good chance that some of them were never found, but they were neat. "

Ehud got a far off look in his eyes as he recalled the days that were peaceful, at least peaceful as far as he knew. "Mom had a red silk blanket on her and dad's bed with a golden dragon. I used to go trace it with my fingers. She had the lower floor for the cooking and family room, but we slept in the upstairs because she thought it was easier to keep clean. Wasn't until the war started to get bad and then my parents packed up most of the valuable items in the home, put them in chests and moved them to somewhere. It's possible the stuff went into the caverns in the valley, but the war lasted so long that no one bothered to go back to get anything like that. We weren't living in luxury anymore, it was about survival and if we had something to steal the Federation would take it. I think like a lot of the Chippequoti they wanted to save a few things in hopes that they could have something left to barter with if they needed." Pausing there he realized he'd said a bit more than she probably wanted to know and there was the war hoop from Illya's son.

Close behind Cypher was the smaller blonde figure of his son, Sien. The boy quickly righted himself before coming to stop in front of Priscilla and him. Ehud held his hand out and waited for the report from the day's school work. "Good." Looking over the numbers he nodded. "Good, looks like you'll be a smart man after all. Brains win the fight, not muscle." Handing the report card back to Sien he took a deep breath. "Priscilla said she'd like to be your mom. I'm going to see her more and I will talk with her about when she will want to come live with us."

The news was almost more than Sien could bare and he started to skip on one foot and then the other. "I'm gonna have a mom." Almost chanting the words over and over Sien skipped most of the way home a few feet ahead of Ehud and Priscilla. At first Ehud hadn't even realized he was headed back home and then he saw his humble little cabin. Glancing toward Priscilla he smiled, "How about you make some dinner with us tonight?"


When they got home Illya set himself up at the couch. He turned the heated portion of it on and flopped a blanket over himself while he finished working through the math. Most of the equations were almost so easy that they were boring, but the bonus questions were fun. After the first hour Illya started to pull the book closer and closer to his face and then he'd push it away from himself before he finally decided to have the book propped up on his stomach while he read it. Scribbling a few notes here and there he got through the first 3 modules and then decided to work ahead for fun. If he got ahead in math he could probably spend more time during the week putting the rest of his work together for Swyft. Considering how easy going they had been with the whole series of problems he wasn't going to push his luck.

The math was done and Illya was working his way through the science book when he heard the front door fly open and hit the door stop with a thud. At first the sound made his heart jump and his head snap up, but he quickly realized it was Cypher. There was no mistaking the excitement in his son's eyes and it was enough to bring a smile to Illya's face. Moving over on the couch he made some space for Cypher to sit down.

Illya had barely moved over and Cypher had pounced on the sofa. The report from his school was thrust forward and Illya took it from his son. "I see yah get good marks. Very good marks. Dis makes meh proud. Yah good son and yah work hard." There was even more news it seemed and Cypher was already babbling about some school project and fair. Illya met his son's blue eyes and he could see the pleading look in them. It was a look that he remembered giving his father and momentarily he felt indignant. Of course he'd be a better father, but he was still concerned that maybe he hadn't been a good father with how often he'd been hurt. Was it really something he could say wasn't his fault? No matter, he was here now and he had to make a difference. "Yes, I come and I see yah win." Even if his son didn't win Illya was going to do his best to show his pride for his son. Looking over the drawing for the invention he nodded. "Dis es very good idea. I tink yah do well when yah show et."


Early the next morning Illya got up because his back was hurting, but he could at least do something. Going downstairs he got some breakfast ready and some tea. When the kids got up he served them and then looked at the way Cypher was dressed. "Before yah go to dah fair today tah show yah invention I'm gonna help yah dress like a man." Momentarily Cypher gave him a confused look, but it disappeared after the words sunk into his tired little morning brain. Nodding furiously Cypher smiled and pushed another bite of the breakfast bread into his mouth.

Illya served Kalizda when she came into the kitchen and he ate with her while the kids finished up their breakfast. "I help Cypher get ready for dah fair and presentation tahday." These were all things he had wished his father did for him. It seemed like time took extra long when his back hurt, but he was going to do this. Finally, Cypher was ready to have some help and Illya went to the boy's room with him to help pick out some clothes. "Yah take nice pants and shirt wit buttons. Yah make business and yah need tah dress like yah business man." A little grin came to Illya's face when his boy pulled out an older button up shirt, but it would do. After his son was dressed Illya took Cypher to his and Kalizda's room. "Now, yah gonna use meh oil and brush for yah hair." Carefully pouring a little oil in Cypher's cupped hands Illya nodded. "Rub yah hands togeter and den brush yah hair wit fingers before yah use meh brush." The whole while the boy grinned from ear to ear as he used his father's special hair oil and then got to brush his hair. Once Cypher was done Illya smirked, "Yah look like real business man. Now we go to dah fair."


Curious Adventurer
Ehud didn't say anything about the spot she pointed out. It wasn't like she was trying to force him into anything. He seemed more comfortable having a plan and had asked for her input. She was giving it. His silence on the matter quickly turned to a lot about how he grew up. Mostly what he remembered was the war. He remembered his possessions, where he lived, and his mother and father. It didn't sound like he had many memories, or at least fond ones, of his childhood. Maybe that was because of the war or maybe he was just too uncomfortable to talk about them. Priscilla couldn't tell.

Sien approached his father like a soldier giving a report and it was still something that bothered Priscilla from time to time. What was more, was that he delivered the news about their engagement like another report. She was to be Sien's mother and they would talk about moving in. Right. It made her feel odd hearing it phrased like that. He had assured her that he did care for her. Loved her even. But there was no real sign of that in his deliverance to what was to be her stepson who was practically radiating joy all the way home. She held his hand feeling awkward rather than joyous over this sort of occasion and her smile fell a little flat. Was he just bad at any sort of emotion or had he lied? It wouldn't have been the first time he had. He had bothered to stay with her on the colonies, but was that because she would make a good mother for Sien and felt obligated to or because he wanted to? Did it matter? Yes. It did to her. Hiding her thoughts, Priscilla kept up her veneer of a smile for Sien's sake and nodded in agreement. "I can help cook dinner."

When they got into the house and into the kitchen, she helped Sien take off his back back and hung it on the hook by the door. "Did Mr. Monroe give you more the history homework?" she asked curiously. Apparently so, because Sien made a face and his shoulders dropped some. "Homework first." While the boy dutifully grabbed his pad and shuffled over to the kitchen table, Priscilla opened the fridge and her eyes widened. It was nearly empty. She had filled it once or twice before, but that had been before they left to the colonies and several days had passed since their return. What on earth had Ehud planned on them cooking exactly? "I have an idea," she said, "Lets order out."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next day, Priscilla returned to the cabin while Ehud was at work. The little house wasn't terrible. In fact, she liked it very much as it felt like home most days now, even things had been strange since their return. However, it was a home in need of a deep, deep cleaning. She had brought an arsenal of cleaning supplies which included rubber gloves, bleach, rags, a mop, broom, air fresheners for every room, and a cleaner for the rugs and worn little sofa. If she was going to be staying here at some point, it was going to be put into some sort of order. With her long, blonde locks tied up in a bandanna, Priscilla puffed slightly before looking down at the ring on her finger. It glimmered in the mid morning light and she wondered if she was meant to be feeling excitement or feeling like she really was...uncertain. Pushing that little thought from her mind, she pressed onward into the house. First came the living room which was easy enough. She cleaned all the wooden surfaces with sweet smelling waxes till they gleamed, organized the books and toys scattered about. She even brought out the little pillows and soft throw blanket they had gotten on the colony onto the couch. She washed windows and mopped floors, cleaned carpets and the sitting areas. Try as she might, she couldn't get glitter stain out of the couch, so she covered it with another throw blanket and then went to put up the curtains. Candles went on to the mantle alongside one of the holographic photo coins which was set to a picture of Sien and Ehud while they were eating pizza on their short lived vacation. She smiled at the scene of Sien chasing stringy cheese and Ehud grinning beside him.

That was only the living room and the bathroom proved far worse. She cleaned the toilet of a few stains on the seat and cleared the stubble from the sink before setting to work on the bathtub which needed it's own bleach bath. By the time she left it, however, it was clean and smelling of flowers from the new air freshener she had put in the power outlet. Sien would be responsible for his own room when he came home, but there was one space she was eager to fix. Ehud's bedroom. It wasn't that she wanted to be nosy. She just wanted it clean. He might even feel better once it was cleaned up. The first thing she did was pick all the dirty laundry off the floor. Well, she assumed it was dirty. For all she knew it could have been clean, but rather than subjecting herself to "the sniff test" as Sien called it, she tossed it all into the dirty pile. She cleaned the floors, the windows, polished the bed side tables and found several books of erotic nature scattered around. Romancing the Boulder...Pretty Lady...The Notebook....Twilight...This is what he had been reading? It was kind of sweet that he had been trying to read these and at the same time it was funny. It also sealed her decision to strip the bed while she was doing laundry and clean the sheets too. It took hours, but the room slowly began to shape up. Priscilla made his bed with new blanket they had gotten on the colonies and sheets. A few candles went into the bedroom too and she organized the closet too. There was a little hesitation when she opened it up to find it was still full of his former wife's clothing. The woman had been taller and a bustier than she was. Probably very pretty and classy if her clothes were any indication. Priscilla ran her fingers over the fine materials and sighed. All of Harry's things were gone. Setting her jaw, she left the woman's clothes where they were and organized Ehud's half carefully.

All that was left was grocery shopping, and she did that quickly in town before dashing back to the cabin to stock the fridge. Ehud seemed to do better when he had things planned out, so there was a meal plan and grocery list on the fridge. After all the house work, she graded papers for her work for awhile. Terran children on Pyrta were doing nicely on their alphabet but the Kaerelean children consistently confused the letter Q with another in their own alphabet which was wreaking havoc in all of their sentences. One paper after the other was graded until slowly her head drooped back and she fell asleep on the couch.

* * * * * * *

Calysta was glad to see Illya was determined to see his son at the science fair. They had been gone all week and even if Cypher didn't show it too much, he had missed them terribly. The fair was a chance to bond with them and to show his father all the wonderful things he could do with the things he learned. She slept that night off and on, shifting when Illya did or waking up to check on him. Sometimes he would make noises in what little sleep he was getting and she wondered if it was because he was hurting. Finally, she managed to fall asleep around 4am and woke feeling tired and realizing she was alone. Only Illya's small dent in the mattress and the scent of his oils was left behind which mixed with the smell of fresh baked bread. The smell alone made her stomach growl and she wandered down stairs to find her Chip already awake and having cooked breakfast.

She kissed his cheek and helped feed the rest of the children as they started to wake up or wander in. It wouldn't be long before they would be heading towards the school. Illya had taken up a special interest in getting Cypher ready and she let him do it. There were few times when they got to spend quality time together and far be it from her to interrupt when they did have it. While Illya helped their son with clothing, she got herself ready in a simply black tunic with silver trim and belt then put Lohgan in a fiery orange one that made her hair stand out brightly against her tan skin. The twins were put into tiny green tunics, though Edgar's was a bit snug around the middle.

By the time she was wiggling Tomas into his shoes, Cypher came upstairs followed by Illya who brought him over to the bathroom. She watched as Cypher learned from his father how to oil his hair properly and comb it on his own, turning him into a handsome, near carbon copy of Illya. He was grinning ear to ear as he tamed the wild bunch of curls on his head and when he was done, he scuttled into the bedroom with an even bigger grin. "I look like a business man now, Mam? Dah showed meh how to look like a good one."

Calysta smiled and put her hands on his shoulders, giving him a good inspection. "Aye, I think you look great. My man the inventor, yeah?" Shooting a little wink at Illya, her smile grew wider with a look of adoration and no small amount of pride. "I think we're ready to go."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The fair was teeming with kids and parents all over the central courtyard of the new school. Luckily, the paved stone center with flowers and well kept patches of red grass were meant to hold hundreds of people and provide a central meeting location for school functions as well as community ones. The two story building of white stone was striking against the rest of Pyrta and Calysta knew the interior was just as stunning. Cypher tugged on his father's hand, leading him through hallways built for Chip height, and pointed to each of the wings in turn. "Dere is were we learn about dah Kaereleans," he pointed toward a hallway fashioned to look like the jungle grown Wilds. Another tug took Illya further into the school and he pointed again. "Dere is where I learn about yah and deh Chippeqouti too." This side of the hallway was painted and built to look like the red deserts and tall, cliffside temples of Qouti and Cypher looked at the scene as if it were just as natural to him as the Kaerelean one. Next he showed his father the Terran one which was a mix of all sorts of scenes from big cities to crisp country sides and vast oceans painted over the walls. He had to show him all of it because that was where Papa Thomas gave his lessons.

Eventually, they made it to the courtyard where dozens of tables had been lined around the open air courtyard. Cypher guided them right along to his assigned table and began putting up his hand made display written in fairly decent traders tongue for all to read. The board said "BERRY PICKER!" In bold blue and purple letters. It was no fancy title, but it worked nonetheless and her son put his new invention up for display along with a few berry branches they had brought along for showing how the device worked.

A few of his class mates passed by, giving him friendly waves and Cypher grinned back, particularly at the tiny Pyrtan girl who walked by and said hello. Calysta held onto Tomas while Edgar slept in the stroller and Rose pushed him a long in relative quiet. She was quieter these days without her pad for company. Finally, the judging began and she watched as her little man with his hair all smoothed down grow more and more excited. He rocked on his heels and kept poking his head around the corner to see how close the judges were coming to his table. When it was his turn he picked up the device and held it out so they could see it. "Dis is meh invention, dah Berry Picker. I made et so I could take the berries off deh tree faster. Et works well." They invited him to demonstrate, and Cypher did so without hesitation. He held the nose of the tube up to the berry branches he had brought and pressed the button. A quiet whirring sound began and the machine began sucking up berries between the leaves with ease. Cypher was so proud his invention worked, he even reached into the catcher bag and offered some of the collected berries to the judge. "See et works and I made et easy to pick dah berries with dah motor and the tube to get dem with."

The judged walked away looking fairly impressed as they snacked on berries and the hardest part was coming up soon. Waiting was the worst part and he could hardly stand it. "I think I will win dis one," Cypher said as he fidgeted next to his father. A few more of the students who had already been judged came by, including a few Pithians and Tannas too. It was easy to tell them apart, given nobody wanted to approach them really. Despite this, Calysta gave them friendly nods and Cypher acted as if seeing them were more or less normal. He waved to a few Pithian girls but also gave the wary eye to the one who had threatened Lohgan. He kept close to Lohgan for a few minutes, just in case, and they passed by without issue.

After what seemed like ages, the judges finally made their announcement. "Third place goes to, Byron for his Wilds plant project! Second place goes to, Fallon for her pancake flipping machine! And first place goes to....Cypher for his automatic Berry Picker! Let's give these kids a round of applause!" Cypher beamed with pride and his chest puffed out as he walked up to the podium to receive his silver ribbon signifying he had won the fair. He stood along side the Pyrtan boy and the Tannas girl who had won the second and third prizes while Kalizda took the moment to snap a few hologram shots of him. As soon as he was released, Cypher bounded off the podium and went right to his father, offering up the ribbon like a badge of honor. "I won, Dah! Look!"
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