Author: Crazed Attourney
The contradiction of a ship's bridge always fascinated him, how it could hum with frantic activity but at the same time remain absolutely still, he remembered the first moment he'd experienced it as a new midshipman nine years previously. And today as a Captain of one of the Royal Navy's Command Carriers it still enthralled him like a child discovering magic for the first time.
"Captain." A voice interrupted his quiet musings.
"Yes Commander." He quickly returned the older man's salute.
"Sir. We've arrived at the jump co-ordinates."
"Excellent." Alex congratulated, a warm smile spread his face highlighting his handsome youthful features. "Inform the Comm..."
A smooth voice, with a light Irish accent interrupted. "That won't be necessary Captain."
"Sir." He and older commander saluted crisply as the tall Commodore fully entered the bridge.
"At ease, gentlemen, at ease." The Commodore smiled warmly at the two younger officers, though with the scar that ran from his top lip through his right eye and into his hair, turned the gesture into a twisted, sardonic scowl. "Is the rest of the fleet ready?"
The Captain nodded for the Commander to answer. "Yes sir, it awaits your command."
"Wonderful. Alex is my flagship ready?" The Commodore asked lazily, fully expecting the standard question to be met by the standard answer.
Automatically Alex straightened before answering. "Sir, the Brilliant is fully at your disposal."
"Then you may proceed."
"Helm." Alex barked, "prepare to re-enter normal space on my mark."
"Aye aye sir!" Echoed around the bridge.
"Mark." And the maelstrom erupted around them.
The small Cabinet room was filled with low, annoyed voices. "Lord Wyndam-Price," with the Prime Minister Belayn's hard voice silence quickly descended, "you have something to tell us."
"T-thank you, Prime Minister." The Englishman stammered, as he nervously flipped through the file in front of him. Smiling weakly he continued, "first of all I must apologise f-for bringing you all here at short n-notice."
"Just get on with it." Jaron growled impatiently, scratching at the rough scales on his hands, in a Fowlitian gesture of annoyance.
"O-of course, Minister." Wesley nodded quickly. "T-there was a m-murder yesterday."
"You got me out of bed for that." Jyohavye Sinstrey snorted derisively; the once powerful Prefect of Fowlicia rubbed his alcohol-reddened eyes and adjusted his brightly coloured silken robe as if suddenly struck by the cold. "These brutes are always killing each other," he waved indicating the Fowlitian members of the Cabinet. "Let security deal with this." He began to rise, fully intending to depart.
"Sit down." Balayn growled; the rippling of his neck scales the only sign of his anger, though both Siran and Yaron were on there feet looking as if they would attack the Prefect.
"It was Lady Gathar who was murdered." Wesley blurted into the tension.
"P-pardon?" The Prefect stammered after a few moments of absolute silence, collapsing heavily back into his chair.
"I s-said it w-was Lady Treylinn Gathar who was murdered." Wesley repeated, his confidence faltered, as he became the centre of attention.
"How?" Jyohavye gulped.
Finnell watched the civil servant pale, and felt an immediate tug of sympathy; it was not news he'd have liked to deliver. "We're n-not sure, but i-i-i... but indications are that it was a resistance killing."
Wesley head dropped and he closed his eyes, as the silence descended once again.
"Are you sure?" Belayn asked softly, his voice suddenly high and tight.
"No... no we're not, but the way that the body was found and the presence of Kalika..." Wesley's sentence died on his lips.
"And what are you going to do about this?" Chancellor Jodazk growled in his awkward and heavily accented voice.
"Investigations are continuing." The Englishman answered evasively.
"What does that mean, investigations are continuing?" Jyohavye snarled.
"It means just that Prefect." Finnell's soft measured voice cut through the room for the first time. "Treylinn's body was discovered yesterday morning, the investigation is less than 28 hours old..."
"How by killing a hundred innocent Fowlicians?" Jaron barked hatefully.
The heavyset Si chuckled evilly. "Of course not, for someone like Gathar it would have been a thousand."
"That w-will not happen, the RSS w-will..." Wesley stammered weakly.
"...And that is why your weak little empire will fail..." Gretharl snorted derisively.
"Was it weakness that destroyed the garrison at Towlit? Or perhaps we were weak in ending nine millennia of Siza rule in nine days?" Finnell's voice taunted softly, enjoying the embarrassed scowl that crossed the other Si's features at his reference to the Empire's victory in the massive fleet and ground battle for Fowlicia's habitable second moon, and the complete rout of the Sizastian military that had followed.
"It is certainly not strength when someone of Lady Gathar's status can be simply assassinated, what of the rest of us." Jyohavye snapped.
"And the hundred Fowlicians have been killed in the same time, and countless others injured." Siran added, her tone apologetic at having the support Zhan's point.
"P'ar'nal-tellis." Jodazk rumbled, to Jyohavye and Gretharl amusement.
"Both are unfortunate." Finnell stated quickly forestalling any further comment, "the RSS has had remarkable success in shutting down cells, but..." He trailed off uncomfortably.
"But what?" Gretharl snarled.
"The RSS is stretched to limit - recent attacks on training centres have reduced already dangerously low recruitment levels to almost nothing. We simply do not have the manpower..."
Finnell was interrupted by a dismissive snort from Gretharl.
"Can't you use the military?" Jyohavye snapped.
Finnell and Wesley both shuddered involuntarily at the suggestion, before the civil servant snapped out his response. "Law enforcement is not the military's concern."
"Not even for our protection?" The Prefect pleaded.
"There ma..." Wesley began to concede, before a dark haired, pale skinned young man entered the room, passing him a neatly folded note. "Thank you John - if I may, the Brilliant has arrived."
The space above Fowlicia shuddered and rippled as if were a pond assaulted by heavy rain, the ever-increasing waves merged together they began to obscure the stars themselves. Then at the heart of each the ripples a golden orb throbbed like an evil eye as lightning pulsed outwards, it crackled and burst spreading forth and joining together to form a nightmarish spider web.
And from the twisted maul that ripped across space, the fleet emerged.
The ugly, black cigar-like shaped gunboats came first, surrounded by three huge waves of bi-wing fighters moving outwards like a huge protective curtain. Behind them came the mighty powerhouses of the Royal Navy, the frigates and destroyers, their mirror smooth hulls reflected the chaos around them and with their ship-like hulls and towering superstructures they echoed their ancient counterparts that had once graced earth's oceans. The fleet's large six carriers came next their multi-layered decks and sweeping command platforms joined together to form an elegant teardrop. Despite their size the huge boxy, awkward looking hulls of the transport ships that followed dwarfed the carriers, but the ship that then emerged eclipsed them all.
The Brilliant was huge, a massive leviathan that dominated the fleet like a spider at the heart of a web. Its black heart was surrounded a series of silver decks, like the bastard child of a carrier and a destroyer, its giant shadow obscured the small auxiliary fleet that followed and brought stillness back to the space above the glittering planet.
Rupert let a small groan of pain as he rolled his shoulders and neck; trying to jog free a knot at the centre of his back.
"Getting old Rupert?" A feminine voice teased gently.
"Good morning Anne." He greeted warmly as he turned towards the voice, his head cocked in question when he saw she was dressed in practise whites and carrying two lightweight class sabres. "Can I help you with something Anne?"
"I wish to train." She said simply, tossing him one of the weapons.
"Why has civilian life dulled your senses?" He mocked lightly. "'Cause if that's the case perhaps you should wear a mask."
"You haven't touched me in eight years, I doubt you'll do it today." She snorted derisively.
"Perhaps." He grinned, lashing out with a quick hard slash that caught the younger women off guard. "Perhaps not."
She disengaged smoothly moving into the classical en guarde position, while he moved quickly into the flowing, hacking attack of the newer tournament style of fencing. The hard, barely balanced attacked forced Anne back with every ringing blow, but she still remained in the classic stance, small balanced steps and simple quick parries, waiting the moment to attack.
As they neared the edge of the training mat, he over lunged and Rupert stumbled awkwardly; she parried lightly stepping forward and tapped his wrist causing his sword arm to flail madly.
She stepped in for the winning blow and her head rang as she found his fist instead. As she staggered back from the blow, he stepped away breathing heavily as he balanced himself.
"Is your mind somewhere else Anne, a few years ago you wouldn't have made such a simple mistake." He questioned, his tone lightly teasing.
"Two of your stormtroopers paid Tara and me a visit yesterday." She snapped as she dropped into the en guarde position again.
"It was just routine Anne, they are investigating the murder..." Rupert answered softly, waiting for the women to initiate any attack.
"Was it routine when one of them gave Tara flowers - I don't want them anywhere near my family." Anne snarled, she lunged forward clumsily a move he easily blocked but did not follow-up, rather stepping backwards.
"I didn't know about the flowers, but you know I can't tell them to back off." He paused wincing knowing that he could not find the right words. "It would be inappropriate."
"Inappropriate?" She snorted dismissively, as she circled the older man. "I'm so dreadfully sorry my dear fellow, forgive my ignorant ways." She sneered in a bad English accent.
"Anne." He admonished calmly. "You are fully aware how important a case like this is, what it could mean."
"For your precious Empire - don't give me that shit." She barked, in two small, quick steps she moved into the newer style of fencing and launched herself at the older man.
He parried the first few blows awkwardly, until he could hold her blade steady and slip into the classical defensive stance. He parried her attacks simply and efficiently, calmly stepping away from the attacks.
"It's your empire too." He replied as she finally broke away.
"It ceased to be my empire when it took my family." She snapped back.
"And yet you're in charge of building the very symbol of that Empire here on Fowlicia." He answered calmly.
"Well aren't you a loyal son." She snarled angrily.
His eyes darkened at the subtle insult. "I'm not a terrorist." He hissed, referring to the Republican fanatics who had twisted the phrase for their own purposes.
"Maybe not," She conceded sourly, "but when the Empire came calling you came crawling didn't you." She hissed back in a similar tone.
"I am but a humble servant Anne, and in that I have come to terms with my sins." He answered softly, forcing himself not to respond to the anger in her voice. "One day perhaps, it will helps with yours."
Her face darkened, and she launched herself at him with an uncontrolled scream, the dull ring of metal against metal echoed around the small training room.
The constant barrage of blows drove Rupert to the wall and he winced as each shuddered along his arm robbing him of strength.
His feet tripped on the edge of the ring, and he stumbled to his knees with a cry Anne brought her sword down in a violent double-handed slash.
Her eyes widened as Rupert's sword caught her blade, he shoved it sideways causing her to flail wildly, spinning he tapped her ankle completing her fall.
She attempted to roll away, but the point of Rupert's blade kept her still.
Anne scowled angrily as he helped her to her feet, and moved to flee. "Anne." His soft voice stilled her. "My door is always open for you."
She shrugged off his words and snarled back, "I don't need your help and I don't want your goons around my family."
"Who wanted the other lo-café?" Willow asked as she tried to balance a heavily loaded tray with one hand. "There we go Fred." She grinned at the mousy scientist ramrod straight raised hand.
"Thanks." The other girl blushed furiously at the slightly amused looks the others were giving her. "Sorry."
"'S'okay - Michael, you're the large white full-café?" Patrolman Holmes nodded, equally nervous as the Forensics officer. The redhead looked at her eager looking partner, "and I suppose you want your full cream, triple shot, roasted moonbean concoction?"
"Uh-huh," Cordelia nodded happily, "and sweets?"
"And sweets." Willow rolled her eyes tolerantly, dumping the sweet laden tray on the offices desk, not surprised at her partner's aggressive lunge for nearest pastry. "So what have we got?" She moaned as she slumped into her chair, her muscles still aching from the previous days raid.
"Well," the Patrolman squeaked, before starting again in a more normal tone of voice "well as you suggested we carried out a finger tip search of the crime scene - we didn't find anything."
"No traces of blood or DNA outside of ten centimetres of the body, nor were there any signs of fulsome charges or Kalika splashes within five of the body." The Patrolman elaborated.
"Did the FSA teams find anything?" Willow asked hopefully.
"No." Fred sighed as she nibbled at a chocolate oozing pastry.
"So this wasn't the crime scene?"
"Definitely not, it was a clean site..." Fred gave an apologetic shrug as she trailed off.
"Yeah and to much debris and movement for us to find anything useful - what about the body, it tell you anything?" Willow huffed slightly.
"Oh yes - the Kalika and all the Fulsome damage was added post-mortem." Fred perked up.
"What all of them?" Cordy asked, interrupting the scientist before she could build up any steam.
"Yep - all of them."
"So she wasn't killed with a Fulsome weapon?" Cordy asked, exchanging a surprised look with her partner.
"No, the damage to her heart and lungs indicate she was killed by a projectile-based weapon, and then a Fulsome tube was used to mask the damage after her death." Fred grinned and looked away from the surprised looks that formed on the two detectives faces.
"S-She was killed with a gun?" Fred nodded in answer to Willow's stammered out question.
"I thought only the Empire used guns?" Michael asked through a frown.
"Pretty much, the Si use Fulsome disks or rifles not projectile weaponry, so that's all the resistance had, and they've got a lot of them." Willow answered quietly, not needing to add: 'until now'. "Could they have got them from an attack?"
Cordelia shook her head. "Unlikely, most of our armaments are kept in a few secure locations, not the centres that have been raided or attacked."
"Smugglers or the back market?" Willow asked, hoping to probe her partner's greater knowledge of that area.
"Possible - but why bother, Fulsome weapons are cheaper, hard to trace and real easy to get hold off."
"I so didn't want to hear that, any clues to the make or calibre?" Willow turned back to Fred.
"I'm afraid not, there was no trace of metals in the wound, so the bullet either went clean through or were removed before being burnt - it's only cause of surrounding damage you'd know what had really been used." Fred gave a weak grin before finishing.
"That may explain what she meant - that she didn't fear the resistance." Cordy exclaimed.
"Yeah well let's not count them out yet, all we got is questions and no fucking answers." Willow growled in annoyance.
"Did you finally get the warrants?" Willow asked her partner as she shifted in her formal uniform, trying to pull out the heavy travel creases and twisting in the hope she could somehow find a better fit on her slim body.
"Yep, we've finally sealed her home, apartment and three offices, I set Fred's FSD teams to work - you should really see a tailor." Cordy advised as she watched the redhead struggle in her uniform.
"I know, I know." Willow harrumphed, as she rolled her shoulders in the forlorn hope the jacket would suddenly fall into place.
"Look there's a good one off of the main bazaar, a bit militaristic but reasonably priced, and with the season abo..." A polite knocking forestalled any further comment.
"Captain, there's a Mr Collins to see you." Willow's face paled, she'd forgotten her appointment.
"Shit - send him in." She threw Cordy an apologetic look. "I'm sorry, I'll see you at the reception."
"Are you sure?" Her partner asked quickly, surprised by the defeated look that suddenly fell over her partner.
"Please." Willow pleaded.
"Okay." Cordelia agreed a little reluctantly, moving to leave she threw the man who entered an angry look.
Smiling slightly at her partner's actions, she took in the new arrival. He was tall and middle aged, his neatly cut hair lightly dusted with grey, his neat well-pressed suit looked as if it had could have come from London's Saville Row or LunaCol's Market Street, worst of all she could feel the contempt that shone in his pale blue eyes. "Good Afternoon Captain Rosenberg." He greeted coldly with a clipped English accent.
"Mr Collins - I take it you're my new vetting officer?" She whispered softly.
"That's correct - Captain please, there's no need to stand on ceremony." Indicating gently she should sit. "I've spoken to Mr Winehouse, and according to him you've been a model citizen."
"I always was." She contradicted without any real conviction.
"That's what I'm here to check." His pale eyes flashed briefly. "At the fall of the Republic, what was your role at Scotland Yard?"
"You know this." She growled mildly.
"Yes I do - what was your role at Scotland Yard?"
Willow closed her eyes and let out a deep shuddering breath. "I was Deputy Head of Investigations."
"Your responsibilities?" He marked something down on his pad.
"Serious crimes - robbery, homicide, fraud and the like." She all but whispered.
"Did you have much contact with Lieutenants Harper and Peters or Captain Travers?"
"Yes." She sighed.
"Could you elaborate please?"
She clenched her fist tightly; trying to fight the bile that suddenly burned the back of her throat. "I had daily contact with them. Harper, Kennedy and myself were in charge of the individual units, Captain Travers was our immediate superior..."
"Your relationship with Lieutenant Harper was a little more involved than that wasn't it?" He sneered.
"Do you mean that we were married? Then yes it was a little more involved than that." She snarled back.
"There's no need to take that tone with me Captain - do you wish me to report that you've been uncooperative?" He threatened calmly.
"No, no of course not. I'm sorry." She rushed out, fully aware that her continued employment rested on receiving positive reports from people such as Mr Collins.
"Excellent - In the last six months have you had any contact with any senior members of the Republic's security services?" He changed tack, though she was fully aware that he'd return to her and Elaine Harper's relationship.
"Most of them are dead." She snorted, though as she watched his pen still she moved to recover. "I have received a few death threats, even the occasional call to arms."
"Did y..." He scowled in annoyance as she slid an amber coloured computer mini-disk towards him. "Thank you - any names you recognise?"
"No, they're either anonymous or blanket drops from the 'Sons of the Empire'." She sighed; he shrugged as if not expecting anything more.
"Now your relationship with Lieutenant Harper..." Willow winced as his returned to his original topic.
"Willow!" Cordelia called, her voice relieved to see her partner, even if she looked tired and withdrawn.
"Hiya." The redhead greeted weakly.
"You okay?" The taller women gently squeezed her partner's shoulder.
"I guess, just a little tender that's all." She grinned feebly.
"Later okay - this is meant to be a Reception, with lots and lots of free drink." Willow interrupted absently. "I'm going to see an old friend and then I'm going to get very drunk." She shrugged off Cordelia's hand and headed off into the gathering crowd.
Willow enjoyed the burning trail of alcohol that tickled her throat, and gave into the numbing warmth it caused in the pit of her stomach. And with a slow, deliberateness she lowered her glass to the gleaming bar, and signalled for another.
She couldn't hold back the smirk at the speed which the barman silently refilled her glass. With the reception being held in the main hall, the elegant side bar only held the redhead and the barman.
The redhead nodding in appreciation at the man's professionalism, he poured the richly coloured liquid before stepping away without a word - close at hand for his customers needs, but with enough distance so that he did not disturb.
"Wha..." Willow jumped as hands tickled her sides, the anger in her eyes died quickly as she recognised the grinning man behind her. "Alex!" She squeaked happily, enveloping in a warm embrace.
"Hey you okay?" He asked softly as she held him tightly for longer than usual, before she could answer though he pulled her back into his chest, recognising the hollow look in his old friend's normally vibrant green eyes. "You had another visit?"
He felt her nod against his chest. "Bastards - can't they ever leave you alone." He sighed angrily. "Is there anything I can do?" He asked firmly, as he finally pulled away from the embrace.
"No... no you shouldn't get involved." She warned softly.
"What sort of a best friend would I be if didn't?" He asked lightly, though his eyes were deadly serious.
"Smart - I don't won't you getting hurt." She whispered.
"They can't touch me Will - let me do this." He growled softly.
"They can, they can do what the fuck they want." She snarled fatalistically.
"Trust me - they really can't." He whispered darkly, and for an instant Willow didn't recognise the shy boy she'd rescued from school bullies 20 years ago.
"When did you get so grown up Alex?" She asked softly.
Seeing that his friend was going to accept his help, he grinned widely before answering. "I think when she said yes."
Her eyes widened. "You're joking."
"Nope - it's not been formally announced, but she said yes." He grinned, as the redhead hugged him again.
"Oh my god!" Willow squeaked, stunned at his revelation.
"It's not been formally announced, but she said yes." He blushed happily, as if lost in a happy memory.
"Oh my god." She repeated again, a sly grin suddenly appeared on her face. "But doesn't that mean, most people marry she who must be obeyed - but you really are marrying she who must be obeyed."
"Oh ha ha." He mocked weakly, before matching her sly grin. "But that means you're gonna hav..."
A loud voice, filled with anger interrupted Alex, "... it's getting ridiculous, with the Brilliant's posting - the Fowlician Provinces are better protected than the Sol System."
"We've been through this before Robert." Another voice answered softly, though it contained almost as much anger. "The civil war left us thinly stretched, decisions must be made on necessity..."
The two newcomers were instantly recognisable; the first with a jagged scar marring the right side of his face identified the tall form of the Province's Royal Navy commander. The second younger looking man despite his white hair was more instantly familiar, unlike his taller companion his uniform lacked any mark of courage or rank, the colour alone was enough, the white of a Grand Admiral, to identify him as James Finnell.
"It's been two bloody years James, we should be at full strength." Rennick snapped back, causing Finnell's eyes to narrow dangerously.
"We may never fully recover." Finnell answered haltingly, as if trying to control himself.
"Bullshit! Bullshit!" Finnell's dark cat-like green eyes burned with a seething anger, and his voice was a barely controlled hiss. "We lost almost half our entire military, and only three Grand Admirals survived... Good evening Alex, Captain Rosenberg." Finnell suddenly greeted the watchers loudly, bringing the argument to an abrupt end.
Rennick brought himself under control to acknowledge the Commander of his flagship. "Alex, and..." He gestured towards the red-haired women, indicating that he didn't recognise her.
"Of course sir, please allow to introduce my friend Investigator-Captain Willow Rosenberg, she's head of investigators in Fowllinn City." Alex introduced quickly, stammering slightly. "Willow, this is Commodore Sir Robert Rennick, Commander of the Brilliant Squadron."
"Charmed." Rennick bowed awkwardly as he shook her hand.
"Likewise." Willow responded unconvincingly, an odd feeling of dread filling her stomach as she gripped the Irishman's hand. "We'll talk later Alex - Commodore, Grand Admiral." She nodding, leaving quickly.
"Shit - where the fuck is she?" Cordelia griped petulantly, her concern about her partner gone to be replaced by annoyed frustration. Ever since the redhead had disappeared into the crowd, Cordy had yet to even catch a glimpse of Willow.
Sighing she spun on her heel and collided with a small, solid body. "Sorry, I wasn't looking." She apologised absently, trying to move around the other person.
"Yeah and still not bloody looking either." A feminine voice growled angrily.
"Look I'm so... Hello Ms Summers-MaClay." A startled Cordy greeted, recognising the slim blonde in front of her. "Look I really am sorry, I'm trying to find my partner."
"Oh the redheaded stormtrooper." The smaller women sneered, turning her back on the other women. "I haven't seen her."
"Look what exactly is your fucking problem." Cordy snapped, letting some of her frustration leak out.
"I beg your pardon." Anne turned back, her hazel eyes widening with surprise.
"You heard me." Cordy answered back quickly.
"You're my fucking problem - why can't you leave us alone." Anne snarled.
"I wish I could - you seem to always be in my way."
"Well don't let me stop you!" The blonde moved sideways and gestured extravagantly, indicating for Cordy to move past.
"Oh no, it's not that easy." Cordy moved to confront the blonde. "Not to I find out why you're such a bitch."
"I doubt you're that good a cop." Anne spat.
"Maybe - Maybe not." Cordy agreed lightly, not rising to the insult. "But I've my ways."
"Torture, violence and bribery?" Anne asked hatefully.
"In a former life maybe, but there are better ways." Cordy whispered teasingly moving close to the smaller woman, enjoying the surprised look that spread across the blonde's features. "Well more fun at least."
"Yeah you and your IS..."
"Oh I'm not talking about the ISS, no I learned these when I was really bad girl." Cordy whispered huskily practically on top of the smaller women.
"Y-Your crazy." Anne stammered, suddenly and completely lost as to the direction where the confrontation was going.
"Why? You're attractive and passionate - maybe I want to see that passion in other... more satisfying way." She drawled huskily, taking her time to study Anne.
"You couldn't handle me." Anne purred back running her fingers up Cordelia's arm. "And I think you're bluffing."
"Don't think so." She drawled, moving even closer to the blonde, though up until that precise moment Cordy had been bluffing, wanting to tease the annoying women.
Anne also gave up at that moment. "Don't I get flowers first?"
"That's my partner's style, I'm far more direct." Cordelia whispered, brushing her lips lightly against the smaller woman's.
"Lucky me." Anne moaned.
"Not yet - but you will be." Cordelia teased, her fingers dancing along the blonde's back, their lips touched for longer this time.
"Hmm - promises, promises." Pulling the taller woman into a hard kiss.
Willow once again found herself back in the small bar, annoyed at herself for her reaction to the oddly familiar naval officer. The bar was busier than before, but still quiet and within moments another glass appeared in front of her.
The redhead barely noticed as another body slid onto the stool next to her. "Thank you." A soft, rough voice whispered suddenly in her ear.
"Wha... oh god... yeah I'm glad... I think... it was a happy thanks right?" She babbled as she instantly recognised the tall, blond women beside her. She was wearing black trouser suit, with a soft lilac shirt and matching throat scarf.
Tara nodded; a slightly amused smile touched the corner of her mouth. "Yes it was."
"Cool!" Willow squeaked happily, gesturing towards the barman. "C-can I get you a drink?"
"A Kessali desert brandy." Willow nodded, also indicating that she'd have another.
"Kavara." Tara grinned slightly, surprising them both with her choice. "Cheers." She mocked toasted before swallowing the clear sparkling liquid in one.
"Another?" Willow asked with wide eyes, watching the blonde lower the glass with a warm, slightly satisfied grin.
"Thanks." This time, though she sipped at the potent liquor. "The flowers were lovely."
"ReallyIdidn'tknowifyouknowyou'dlike... erm... them." The redhead blushed, knowing her sentence had made little sense.
"Oh yes, my sister didn't but I did very much."
The pleased little centre of Willow shattered almost before it had begun. "I'msorry... I didn't mean..."
"Oh don't worry." The little half grin appeared again. "My sister's far too over protective, well either that or she just doesn't like Confederacy Roses."
"Are you sure?" Willow gulped.
"That she doesn't like Confederacy Roses - no I'm but I wouldn't put it past her." Tara teased gently. "But yes, I'm sure - and I guess I should say sorry as well."
"Nonono - we surprised you and there's me with the flowers and the babble, it's all my fault." Willow pleaded quickly.
"I was surprised, but it wasn't your fault, and I thought it was very sweet." Tara answered with a kind smile.
"The flowers or the babble?" Willow asked softly.
"Both." Tara answered just as gently, enjoying the broad smile that spread across the redhead attractive features. "Though if you're going to start giving me flowers, I think I should know your name?"
Willow blushed furiously under the blonde teasing admonishment. "W-w-willow Rosenberg." She offered through a mumble.
"Tara Summers-Maclay - pleased to met you." She bowed slightly with mock formality. "And while I liked the roses, I really like Luna Fool's Bloom, preferably bl..."
"Excuse me, did you say your name was Tara Summers-Maclay?" A greying woman interrupted softly.
"Yes." Tara answered quickly, but not unkindly - a sad, resigned look touched the corners of her blue eyes.
"Oh my god!" The older woman giggled in shock. "I thought it was! Barry, see I told you it was." She turned to her companion, admonishing him sharply.
"Yes dear." He agreed quickly.
Assured that he now agreed with her, the women turned back to Tara. "Could I have your autograph - I'm a huge fan, I saw you at the Royal Savannah Theatre in '65 - you were amazing."
Willow watched with a growing sense of dread as an odd smile appeared on the other woman's face, it was both happy but at the same time very sad. She felt almost physically sick as the next obvious question was asked. "Will you perform again?"
Tara absently touched the scarf at her neck. "No I'm afraid not."
"Oh that's sad - why?" The women asked obliviously.
Her companion however caught the immense sadness that suddenly touched Tara's face. "I think that's none of our business Ger."
"Yes you're right." She huffed, gripping her autograph firmly.
"We'll let you and your friend get back to your evening - it was lovely to meet you." He gently led his still excited companion away from the two women.
"You to." She whispered gratefully, before turning to a very pale looking redhead. "Will..."
"I've got to go." Willow blurted weakly, loosing the battle against the storm that raged in her stomach.
Anne purred happily as she stretched in the warm bed, luxuriating in the feel of well used muscles. A small unconscious frown marred her relaxed features, as her body expecting a tall warm body and finding only a cooling empty space.
The bed rocking slightly and a muffled 'fuck,' brought the blonde closer to consciousness.
"Whats'up?" She moaned, stretching more aggressively this time as if trying to wake her body up.
"Shit - sorry, Wills gonna be here soon - I gotta go to work." Cordy whispered, mentally kicking herself for waking the other woman.
"Don't stay." Anne purred, tickling Cordy's lower back with the tips of her toes.
"Can't wo... ow... shit!" Cordy moaned with pain.
"What's wrong?" Anne asked as she sat up slightly, a sly smile spreading across her face as she took in Cordy's semi-naked form.
"I can't - can you." Cordy harrumphed with embarrassment, gesturing to dark straps hugging her shoulders, back and hips.
"Course." Anne moved quickly, the last vestiges of sleep disappearing quickly. Gently Anne pulled the straps closed. "How tight do you want them?"
"Not to tight, I want to be able to move." She hissed as warm lips tickled her neck.
"There we go." The blonde said gently as she finished tying the last strap down.
"Thanks." Cordy answered gratefully. As she moved into a full body stretch she could feel that the gravity supports that lined her body were snug against her skin. She hated the latticework of traps and supports that lined her muscles and joints, the constant reminder of her Luna heritage.
"It's okay." Anne whispered huskily, her fingers now danced along the bronze skin of the taller woman.
"Stop... please." Cordy hissed, as those fingers found a particularly sensitive spot.
"You like huh?"
"Hmmm..." She twisted her head, moving to kiss the small blonde.
"Anne - there's someone at the door for you." Tara's husky voice poured cold water over the two women.
"Fuck!" Anne harrumphed petulantly.
"Are you okay?" Tara asked the pale looking redhead in front of her.
"Yes." Willow answered, and Tara frowned since entering the home the redhead had not her eyes, barely acknowledging apart from short monosyllabic answers.
"A little hangover though?" She tried gentle teasing.
"That's good, I was a little worried."
"Really?" Willow squeaked suddenly.
"Of course." Tara grinned as the redhead warm green eyes met hers, even if it was just a fleeting glimpse.
"Then maybe I have a little one." Willow murmured.
"I have just the thing then." Tara moved quickly, pouring a murky blue-green liquid into a glass and presenting it to the redhead. "It will help."
"Your sure." Willow was unconvinced.
"Absolutely, now drink." Tara grinned firmly.
Willow was pleasantly surprised as she sipped at the thick drink, it was cold and tasty a fruity taste that was sweet and a little salty at the same time.
"Good eh?" Willow nodded whilst gulping down the rest of the glass. "It's Rasha - very good for hangovers."
"I'm sold." Willow agreed quickly, while her hangover wasn't completely gone it was quickly receding into the background.
"It was nice of you to bring your partner's uniform." Tara sat opposite the redhead, cradling a warm cup of tea.
"Well I didn't want her to walk in to the office in yesterday's formal wear - big giveaway." Willow grinned slightly, already planning to tease Cordy relentlessly. "But I hellauva surprised by the call - I didn't think she'd be your sisters type."
Tara snorted slightly. "Oh she's just my sisters type - tall, great body, energetic."
"How do you kn..." The blush that suddenly appeared on the blonde's face answered the question before it was asked. "I don't want to know - anyway what's your type?" The redhead asked suddenly feeling brave.
"I don't think that's any of your business." A cold voice answered suddenly. "And I think you'd both should go now."
Tara's head snapped up throwing her sister an angry look.
"Of course." Willow answered guiltily, while shock spread across Cordelia's features, in a few moments the blonde had turned from a bundle of flirtatious teasing to a ball of seething hatred.
"Wait." Tara ordered firmly, and still throwing daggers at her sisters she whispered into Willow's ears causing the redhead to stiffen immediately.
"So that was a surprise." Willow teased happily, all but skipping towards her car.
"I have no idea what you mean?" Cordy replied aloofly.
"You and a small blonde who hates cops." Willow answered eagerly.
"Ah well you see I have my ways." She winked.
"Yeah I can see those, but hello she hates us - we've just been thrown out of her home." Willow cried extravagantly as she unlocked her sleek, racing green car. "So how did you do it?"
"I challenged her that I could get to the reason why she didn't like me." The taller women answered casually, calmly working out her next answer hoping to stop her partner in her tracks.
"And did you."
Cordelia face split into a wide grin as Willow predictably fell into line. "Well no - but after last night I'd have confessed anything." She crowed happily at the wide-eyed blush that exploded onto her partner's pale features. "So anyway why are you so happy?"
"Well she answered my question." Willow answered after a few moments, her normal colour returning slowly.
"And?" Cordy pressed.
"Slim, babbling, redheads." The dull roar of the cars engine cut off any reply Cordelia had.
A group of fish-like Meteshi labourers ran forward to grab the swaying heavy marble slab, their webbed arms strained against its weight. "pr"a'k - pr"a'k." Anne continued to scream.
"Temper, temper Elizabeth." A lightly Irish accented voice teased.
The small woman turned slightly towards the voice but dismissed the newcomer with a frustrated growl. "q-o - q-o - q-o." She barked as the slab slipped free from the labourers. "q-o - pr''a'k - gr'''o-t."
Slowly the great slab steadied. "q-a - q-a - im'ii''s - im'ii''s - q-a - p'a'op - gr'''o-t - d'amo'is." Anne let out a sigh of relief as finally with the cold scrap of stone against stone, the slab slid into place.
A slow clapping met the occasion.
"What do you want Liam?" With a tired sigh, Anne finally acknowledged the newcomer.
"What no warm greeting for an old friend?" Liam pouted slightly as he moved towards the blonde.
Anne's hazel eyes flashed dangerously at his approach. "I really don't have time for your games."
"But you certainly played cops and robbers last night didn't you." He drawled wickedly as he moved behind her.
"Jealous Liam - how so... well you." She smirked evilly.
He gripped his heart melodramatically. "You wound me my dear Elizabeth - I'm just concerned."
"I'm deeply touched," she drew her hand up his chest. "But not as much as last night." A knowing, amused smile grew as she saw his eyes darken in anger. "I was deeply touched... tasted... tamed... do you remember those nights Liam?"
She let a small bark of taunting laughter as he spun away, his body trembling with anger. "Oh well perhaps you can't."
"She was a smuggler Elizabeth." He choked out angrily.
"So you're a reformed assassin - I've always been one for the dark side." She sniped back. "Now did you want something Liam, or did you just come to brighten my day." She snarled sarcastically.
"I have been asked to look into Lady Gathar's death." He whispered softly.
"Isn't that the RSS's job?" Anne asked softly, the malicious playfulness suddenly gone from her voice overtaken by a cold shudder along her spine.
"The Grand Admiral asked me to look into it personally." He answered coolly.
Anne stiffened and paled at his reply. "With your usual diligence and methods of course."
"Of course." He shrugged casually.
"And you'd like me to help?"
"You were very good Elizabeth, and I'm sure the Grand Admiral would be very grateful." He whispered into her ear.
"Did he ask you to come?" She felt his shrug, he didn't need to answer - if Finnell wanted something he'd ask himself. "Then you know my answer Liam."
"You may not have a choice Elizabeth - you can't escape this." He gently caressed her shoulders, and he could feel her begin to relax - begin to give into his words. "We used to be so good together - the hunt, the kill, you can remember those can't you?"
"And what of the price Liam - I'll not loose what little remains of my family, not for you or any damn white uniformed sailor." She suddenly snapped, breaking free of his light grip.
"Just go Liam." She whispered, her body trembled with barely controlled emotions. "Just go Liam, I have a new life now and my family. If you come back - I'll show just how good I really was." She threatened softly, not bothering to watch if the Irishman left or not.
"What an odd human?" Belayn frowned.
"You mean our esteemed Consul-General from the Indian Federation?" Finnell yawned.
"Yes - it was like watching a Prefect meet a lesser race." The Prime Minister's confusion was evident, and his frown deepened at Finnell's dry chuckle.
"You have just witnessed a great human irony." Finnell shifted in his ceremonial uniform, adjusting the long purple sash that enveloped his chest and waist, the only adornment to his bare white uniform and the symbol of the Imperial Navy. "Here I stand, despite a civil, war the Commander of the third most powerful fleet in this part of the Galaxy, at this precise moment the second most powerful fleet fights under the same flag as I, the flag of the richest human empire ever - but..." He chuckled deeply, "... but I'm not part of the most powerful human nation."
"I do not understand." Belayn's frowned deepened, as if the Grand Admiral had suddenly gone mad.
"Nor should, but you have just met the representative of the most powerful human nation." Finnell hiccupped lightly.
With a wave, Belayn dismissed the thought as a bad joke. "Do we have anymore of these ceremonies?" He growled, rubbing neck scales firmly.
"Not this week at least - the Americans and the Russians were delayed again, they maybe here next week, or for all the god's know next month." Finnell snorted derisively, remembering a time when the two nations had been leviathans dominating humanity, now mere shadows of their former selves they were pawns for India, the Empire, and even the unstable African Alliance.
"Hopefully as late as possible." Belayn snorted, haphazardly throwing his flowing black ceremonial robes onto his desk. "I wished to discuss something with you." He began awkwardly.
"Of course Prime Minister - but I'm afraid I don't have long I must catch a shuttle for my inspection of the Brilliant." Finnell answered apologetically.
"It can wait..."
"No, no, we'll discuss it in the car, Peter can bring you back - I'll not need him 'til tomorrow." He insisted.
"Thank-you, I wished to discuss the Resistance. I find myself agr..."
"Grand Admiral! Grand Admiral!" A loud out of breath voice interrupted, a thin very pale young man jogged up to him.
"Mr Dallas." Finnell greeted with an annoyed frustration.
"...Thank-y-you... Mr Prime Minister, Grand Admiral... I have a telegram that Lord Wyndam-Price thought you should see." He panted heavily, trying to catch his breath.
"Can't this wait..."
"I'm a... afraid not, it's a flash from Lo..." The panting young man never finished his sentence as with a bright flash and a dull roar the corridor disintegrated into flame.
1: Gorn Belayn - Gorn Balan
2: Yyohavye Sinstrey - Yo-haa-ve Sin-is-tray
3: Jodazk - Yo-zak
4: Danois spit - Da-noose, the Si equivalent of Bullshit. Danois are a large beast of burden on the Si Homeworld; their spit is extremely odious and mildly corrosive.
5: Gretharl Intezak - Geth-ale Int-e-zak
6: Towlit - Tal-li
7: Zhan - Zarn (to rhyme with yarn). The spider-like co-rulers of the Sizastian Empire, their planet Zha (tsar) orbits the Si homeworld.
8: Half-cycle - a half a Fowlician month (roughly 19½ earth days), a cycle is divided into four parts (first quarter, half cycle, second quarter, full cycle - each approximately 8¾ earth days in length).
9: P’ar’nal-tellis - Par (rolling r)-nal-tee, no direct translation, it is very similar to natural waste, but is a specific reference to the body wastes (i.e. skin and faeces) from Zhan nests.
10: Sarpa - Sarrr-par - sweet and/or mild
11: Kvara - K-vay-rar (to rhyme with par) - strong and/or spicey
12: Confederacy Roses - a small, deceptively delicate looking rose, normally white - the symbol of the CSAP. Also known as Rebel Roses, as they were given to CSA soldiers during the War of Succession/Second Anglo-American War (2024 - 2026).
13: Rasha - Vey-shi - Pimrv word for ‘clear breeze’
14: pr”a’ki - Pra-kee - Meteshi word meaning carefully
15: t’chi-m’I - tea-kie-me - Meteshi word meaning idiots
16: gr”’o-t - grow-at - Meteshi word meaning slowly
17: hi - hav - Meteshi word meaning stop
18: k’n’al - Nail - Meteshi verb for hold it
19: fal’k - folk - Meteshi word for steady
20: pr”a’ki - Pra-ch - Meteshi word for careful
21: q-o - cho - Meteshi word for no
22: q-a - cha - Meteshi word for yes
23: im’ii’’s - im-air-st - Meteshi word for left
24: p’a’op - pay-op - down
25: d’amo’is - day-moss - excellent, well done.