Life continues as normal while the crew members take it in turns to watch over the Aslan.
Maria Chan continues to remain in her room, drinking like a fish. Agent Carter and the Aki Naval Attache are becoming good friends and spend most of their time chatting with one another. The IMoJ man does or says nothing to betray his role.
Autumn manages to get a little more information about the King and Queen from Faldor. She discovers that they are heading to Glisten for diplomatic reasons. With Faldor being at the coreward edge of District 268 and most Faldorians being originally descended from Swordies and showing strong support for the Sword Worlders, King Karel is hoping to gain Imperial support in the hope that it will increase his power base on the world. He basically wants to become an Imperial puppet in return for getting full control of the world.
It’s 14.00 and it’s Taeva’s watch over the sleeping Aslan. She’s reading from her handcomp when she looks up, alerted by a low growl. The Aslan’s eyes slowly open and he turns his head. There is a moment of confusion as he sees Taeva sat in the opposite corner of the room.
Immediately, he leaps off the bed, extending his dew claws as he crouches, looking as if he is ready to pounce in a split-second. He lets out an almighty ROOOOAAAAAARRRRRRRR which can be heard by all of the crew on the lower deck of the Princess.
Taeva clicks on the translator:
“Welcome. I didn’t think Aslan Warriors attacked females who’d rescued them from certain death?”
The Aslan remains in position for a long few seconds. Then, upon seeing Taeva’s calm and non-hostile response, he relaxes a little. He retracts his dew claws and slowly stands up until he gets to his full height, his head nearly touching the ceiling, dwarfing Taeva.
He studies the female human for a long moment.
The door to the Med Bay opens as the other party members come running in response to the Aslan’s roar. This puts the Aslan on the defensive again and he backs into the corner and tenses once more.
Taeva gestures to the others that all is fine and that they shouldn’t make any rapid movements.
“Friends,” she says through the translator.
The others conceal their weapons and slowly move into the stateroom, keeping to the opposite side of the wall from where the Aslan is standing. He observes them all for a long moment, and then starts to speak, his voice booming out as he speaks in heavily-accented Galanglic:
“We recieved your GK signal," Taeva replies. "Your engines and part of the hull were destroyed. You were unconscious in your vacc suit-suffering from carbon dioxide inhalation: your air was virtually all used up. You have been unconscious for several days. We are now in jump. I am Taeva. You are on board the ship Unguin’s Princess. You are….?”
The Aslan remains still for a moment. His eyes looking up at the ceiling in concentration. It seems to take ages while he remembers exactly what happened, but then it seems that the memories come flooding back to him.
He lets out another mighty roar, but it doesn’t take the translator to realize that this is not a roar of challenge – it is a roar of remorse.
“Me is Yatealri’oeaaw,” the Aslan replies in faltering Galanglic once more. “In your mouth it say ‘Brightness of the Noon Sun’. Humaniti calling me ‘Sunny’.”
“Fine." replies Taeva, "If it does not cause offence we will call you Sunny.”
“Is good,” Sunny replies, obviously happy to be done so.
Taeva allows the rest of the crew to introduce themselves.
“Greetings Yatealri’oeaaw, er, ‘Sunny’.” says Grim slowly, enunciating each word carefully. “I am the engineer of the Princess. Can you tell us what damaged your ship so badly?”
“You is engineer?” Sunny replies with a look of puzzlement.
“Bah! Is job for woman only.”
Sunny proceeds to ignore Grim, but addresses the answer to Taeva instead. The description is beyond his meagre skills in Galanglic, so he gives it in Trokh, which Taeva translates. It is a very brief description, however. As Grim predicted, it would appear that the Aslan ship was hit by a micro-meteorite. Sunny doesn’t seem to want to go into too many details.
“Your equipment that we managed to rescue is over there." continues Taeva, "Your weapons we are guarding for you, and of course you will recover them at our destination. May we assist in any other way?”
Sunny rushes over to investigate the salvaged items. He is relieved that some of the items were recovered, but shows sadness that others were not.
“Shrine all gone,” he growls softly with remorse.
He doesn’t seem too bothered by the fact that he can’t have his weapons right now.
He opens up the large pouch of coins at thrusts them at Taeva.
“Take what you need for you help. I no understand ‘money’ of which you women speak.”
“Let’s not rip this guy off- goodwill may be a better return,” Taeva says. “We don’t need payment for answering a GK or, if no payment would give offence, let’s just take a token amount.”
“Males have so little understanding of money that they wouldn’t be offended if we don’t take anything,” Autumn replies. “I agree that it just doesn’t seem right to take anything from him. He’ll probably need all those coins to get himself home now.”
“So the big, ‘airy lump’s awake now is it?” he says out of earshot of Sunny. “So what the fack are we goin’ to do wiv it? It’ll scare the passengers. Agent Carter might want to stick ‘is oar into the ’ole thing as well as the MoJ probably ain’t so keen on ihatei scoutin’ around the Imperium for land. Good job all the passengers were asleep when the ‘ole thing was goin’ on so they’re none the wiser.”
“We still have 45 dtons of empty space in the cargo hold, right?” asks Autumn.
“Yup – we just got the 15 tons of grav modules in there and a lot of empty air,” Max replies.
“OK, leave this to me then,” Autumn says.
She flicks on the translation program on her handcomp and goes to Sunny bowing before him.
“Your most esteemed greatness,” she starts. “It brings us great dishonor that we have no stateroom large enough to accommodate your physical and mental greatness. We wish to offer you all of the comfort and hospitality that the Unguin’s Princess’s meagre resources can provide and so will make the cargo hold your personal domain for the duration of this voyage, where you may roam free rather than being restricted by the insufficient confines of a mere stateroom.”
“The full facilities of the ship are at your disposal and I will remain your humble servant willing to devote myself to satisfying your every whim and urge.”
Sunny likes this. Sunny likes this a lot.
Autumn tells Max to run off and try and make the cargo hold as comfortable as possible while Autumn continues to stroke the Aslan’s vast ego.
‘As comfortable as possible’ doesn’t really go very far with the limited resources of the Princess, but at least Max is able to put a few spare mattresses on the floor to serve as a bed.
Sunny accompanies Autumn to see his new ‘domain’ and plays up the vast amount of space that he has to himself, which seems to satisfy the Aslan.
She then cooks up the biggest hunk of meat that they have in the fridge which she delivers to the Aslan. The Aslan puts it on the small, robotic item which speeds around the hold quickly and erratically. Sunny runs after it until he manages to pounce upon it, then feasts upon the meat. His hunger satisfied now, he retires to the mattresses and promptly falls asleep.
As they watch the sleeping Aslan, Taeva speaks to Autumn:
“I don’t get it. If these Itahei act solo for periods of years, and they don’t understand engineering or money, how do they get along? They’ll need supplies, repairs etc, and presumably there won’t be a friendly Clan Base for many jumps away. Is there some sort of backup network in Imperial Space? Trading bases maybe?”
“I’m no expert on ihatei,” Autumn replies. “They don’t trade and they don’t usually travel so there’s nothing about them on the syllabus at Merchant Academy.”
“From what I’ve heard though ihatei do receive some training in female roles such as engineering and astrography. The ihatei keep quiet about this though and will pretend to others that they know nothing so as to keep their egos intact.”
“As for money, I think they have some very basic idea that fuel costs a few silver, major repairs cost a lot of platinum, etc. Starports know that it is technically simple to screw over a lone male Aslan. The Aslan talk to one another though – even if they are from different clans – you’ll find plenty of Aslan traders passing through major ports here like Glisten and Mora. And woe betide anyone who has screwed over a male Aslan with money because females will be sure to tell him that the guy at the spaceport has dishonored him and be back for revenge.”
“Well, good job you three,” says Will to Taeva, Autumn, and Max. “Our new passenger seems quite satisfied with his new digs. But Grim, is it possible that a micrometeorite could do that much damage? Probably not a big deal now we’re in jump space. Autumn, you mentioned he lacks concern, or understanding may be better, for money. It might be fair to recoup our expenses. He just ate Cr325 worth of roast beef!”
“Yes, micro-meteorites can make a mess of any ship that’s travelling after a few G of acceleration. His sensors should have picked it up automatically and alerted him so that he could change course in plenty of time. We’ll never know why he didn’t.”
“That’s true about the money,” Autumn adds. “I’d forgotten how much they eat. But it’s a bit late to ask him now. If you want some money off him, you ask. I’m not going to do it.”
“It’s peanuts, Will. Forget it," agrees Taeva. "Best not to piss him off.”
And so the decision is made to leave the matter of payment alone.