Right now the group was staring out at the planetary system that sported a planet covered in a purple atmosphere and sparkly rings around it.
"Beautiful!" Lera spoke up as the others were dumbfounded by the sight.
Even if she tried to stay quiet, her group didn't after she started. She turned to see Ayanni wearing his elven ears out in the open proudly. Most people have cybernetic enhancements and enjoy transforming their bodies to their desire. So he wasn't too out of place, but elven ears were nothing compared to the non-humanoids around them staring out the window… with their eyes? Lera wasn't even sure if they had any.
"I've never seen rings before. I know they have pictures of planets, but something like that, as close as we are… I can't believe I don't have words for it." Byyuan gave a small chuckle as the others joined in as well.
The sight was something. The entire side of the ship was open to space. At least it looked like glass was the only thing keeping them safe. It was a digital screen and considering the war raging in this universe, glass would absolutely be a no go. So the camera's were actually directing what it saw to the sapient life on this ship.
Later that evening, the group sat around a dinner table. Food was being delivered to their table.
"What is this?" Jev who thankfully wasn't allowed to wear his mask on the trip, instead wore a horrified face. "Is this The Captain?"
While it does look like and act like pasta, the fact it looks like tentacles is what he found disturbing.
"Don't say that." Ayanni swirled the noodles around him for a big bite.
Before they got on board, Lera did make sure that all the food they would eat wouldn't be able to hurt them from poison or their bodies being unable to handle it. She made sure to get their consent and they agreed. They can still have spicy food, but they won't die from it.
The music playing in the background was from a live band. The instruments were not all familiar, Lera did see a piano, but other than that everything else was new. The tune included.
"The music matches what I imagine when I see the outside." Lera commented between bites.
"Me too." Paroppe agreed with her as she took a drink of her… wine? It was green, but was sweet and had an alcoholic taste too it. Perhaps a bit too much of it. "The… whatever this is tastes weird, but good enough for me."
It was a circular table they sat at. Something that seemed a little out of place on a space ship and yet it was just like the table in Ayanni's home they used to sit at. Sure it had a white, soft, fabric on top, but that didn't change the nostalgic feeling Lera had. She smiled as the memories came back. When she first was able to talk to them, to eat with them. Spending an entire week trying magic that her previous self… selves used, but she couldn't figure it out. Of course until that one event happened. That drove her smile away and she took a bite to cover that up.
'The food is good', she thought. For the others, even Jev, they did find it to be a nice dish.
"Do you guys want to try that one game on the window deck?" Byyuan asked the group.
There were lines on the ground and you needed to slide pucks over to the areas that are defined. Some are worth more.
"I'll stay off to the side. I've had enough of heights for one life." Paroppe commented.
The floor, walls and ceiling had those screens and the entire room showed what was outside. That black void of space on the floor did seem like you could fall any moment the invisible floor gave out.
"Talking about the time you went to that dwarven city?" Jev asked. Not out of curiosity, but more of concern.
"Yea, when we were going along the mountain pass… it was a long way down." Paroppe stopped there and didn't elaborate on it anymore. She burped to diffuse the tension and finished her drink.
Lera noticed the frown on Jev and Ayanni's face when Paroppe talked. She didn't think it was because of the burp. Most likely it was that she was still keeping some of the things from that time from them.
"They should be serving the next course shortly." Ayanni butted in and indeed another serving was on the way.
While the others were playing and Paroppe was berating Jev, Ayanni was talking to Lera.
"How have you been doing?" He asked her. Mostly because he hadn't really talked to her alone or very much in general.
"I've been so busy lately that I haven't had enough time to spend with Paroppe. I'm actually thankful that I was able to come with you all here. I needed a break, Jev too… Can I ask you a question?"
"Go ahead." It was surprising for him to ask if he could ask a question. What had Paroppe done to him?
"Why did you bring Byyuan along? In general, didn't you say you didn't want to tell others about who you were and what you could do?"
Lera didn't know how to answer. Byyuan had a secret that he shared with Lera, but it wasn't her secret to share. At least there was one thing she could say.
"He's trustworthy." That was something she believed. Ayanni made a complicated face and she wasn't sure what it meant. Possibly confusion? If anything, the most confusing part was that he waited this long to ask her.
The third day started with an event. Since they still had another day to reach the next star system, The Captain called everyone in the big auditorium part of the ship. It was used for the meals they have been having for dinner since yesterday. The rest of the food has been a more buffet style for everyone to eat when they need to.
On the large screen The Captain showed up.
"Today we will be starting a team like game that has been sent to your SPINE."
During their first conversation about the trip…
"So what is SPINE?" Byyuan had asked that towards the group, Lera in particular, but Ayanni answered instead. From his lack of attention during some of the earlier parts, that was probably what he was reading about.
"It is amazing!" He looked around to the group. "It is, but essentially these people fused technology in their bodies. Not necessarily the spine, but they call it that as it will inhabit the bodies of the people who take it. Essentially from what I can understand it is like our tech pads or your cell phones," Ayanni nodded towards Byyuan, "and it allows for all of that stuff you consider normal, to exist on there. No external device, you think about what you want and you can take a picture with your eyes."
"It does say 'fused with the body', so can we un-fuse it?" Jev asked this since he wasn't sure why Byyuan was here, but as an outsider he could throw it out there so Byyuan knows it can be undone. He doesn't know how much Lera has shared with him, so he wants to make sure he has the full picture to understand her.
Yes, Jev already knew the answer.
"As Lera is, she can remove it, but if you guys read it, there is more to it. The ship we will be on has an AI. If you don't know, essentially a golem or robot that will do what it is told. The AI will be able to track us, listen in, and watch us everywhere."
"What?" Byyuan, Jev, and Paroppe asked at the same time. At this point Lera had a vague idea about this in general, but it would be fine from what she found out.
"Give me a second I'm reading…" It was longer than a second, so the group just let Ayanni figure it out until then. The information, Lera had gone through it herself, but she skimmed through to at least understand the main points where in it.
"I don't think it will be as bad as you might think." Lera voiced her opinion. There were going to be others going on this vacation, so it couldn't be all bad.
"I don't really care if others see me without clothing all that much, but I don't stand on a mantle and show it all either. Though having known where I am at all times… yea, that AI thing ain't going to have a good time. I've had to take care of a few people who followed me before and they got a good beating."
"Here I thought your world was peaceful."
This was not Jev's first meeting with Byyuan, but he never really got to know the man. From everything he has seen and heard about Byyuan's world, either through his friends or being there himself, that place looked peaceful. Sure he had heard of wars from Ayanni from his research, but seeing how the people acted… It was like combat and death were as foreign as himself.
So it was an honest opinion, but he also wanted to get to know him more. Byyuan now seemed to know where they came from, since he was sitting in Ayanni's house with them. His calmness seems to stem from knowledge that either Lera had told him or something he accepted quite quickly. When he first learned what Lera could do, he acted calm himself, but he wanted to know her limits. Sure he found it amazing at first, but the more he thought about it, his thoughts turned morbid and that led him to the way he feels about her. Jev can tell that Byyuan was genuine by being here and accepting what Lera can do.
"Nothing is peaceful. It never has been. Regardless of people, there is a balance. My dad always told me that if there is evil, there must be true good as well. I believed him. But if something evil walks towards me, I will give it a good smacking."
Jev knew that Byyuan liked to talk, but his words seemed much different than what he asked. What was he really saying? Even the way Byyuan talked it sounded like he had a different meaning than what was said aloud. Jev took a moment to think it through…
Could Byyuan understand his feelings towards Lera? He was open with his feelings, but during events with others, he would suppress them. So right now, he wasn't all too thrilled to be in Lera's company. Is that what he was talking about? He should find out.
"I'm sure your father taught you what true good was like?"
"No. I've never seen true evil or good. I can't say I'm altruistic myself, but I think I have a good idea about the intentions others have and can tell what kind of person they are. Most people want things for themselves, I'm no different and neither was my father. What about yourself, Jev? Do you think you are truly good or evil?"
"I don't disagree with you. Nothing is simple. I'm neither. I do what I can for those I care about and if that makes me good or evil, I don't care. Like you say, there is a balance. Sometimes people do good things and bad things in their life."
From what Jev was hearing, his guess was right. So he needed to make his point clear. So he continued.
"Let's say a shop owner," Jev's eyes turned towards Lera as he said that, "has good working employees. They work and do their job. The owner gives them a pay raise for all their hard work. That is good right? What if later customers stop coming? The owner takes their money that they would earn away from them. Of course the employees know that their owner can't give them money so he isn't bad. Now let's say that the shop hasn't made enough money, in a while. Nothing is working, they are just losing money, so the owner goes into a fit of rage. Throwing objects at his employees and they leave him. Then the owner was just a bad guy as he let his emotions get the better of him. He lashed out at the people who worked with him and now they are gone."
He took a deep breath and turned his eyes once again towards Lera, before returning to the one he was talking to.
"The owner of that shop has some money left over. He has the potential to do good and fix up his shop. Get customers back and restart his life. Or he goes take what he has and throw it all away. Attack those around him for the pain he feels and the loss of all the work. He has shown himself to be emotional and attack others before so he could take that route. The owner might strive for peace, but in the end he is just a broken man. Yes he has the potential to do real good, but there is a fear for those around the man that he could just as easily, when something doesn't go his way, for him to lash out at those closest to him. To hurt them and delve deeper into that kind of pain losing everything and everyone around them. Do you think I should comfort that man or should I be harsh with him, making sure he doesn't make those mistakes?"
For Jev, this was important. What he felt about Lera was that she could just snap and kill them all. He knows her power, he knows what she is capable of. He needs to take precautions and teach her. Sure he hates her, but he needs to make sure she knows the consequences if her actions take a darker route. Paroppe won't leave Lera. He knows that, so just like the initially felt when they first met her, he will take care of her like he does the others. But while his family gets the carrot, she gets the stick. She is an outsider to him and always will be, no matter how many times Paroppe says Lera is her sister.
A couple moments of silence pass.
"Since you guys are done now… So the AI will track us, but it keeps everything to itself. Unless the Captain or some high ranking person looks through it, then we have nothing to worry about. It says there are strict regulations for anyone to open up the AI… Lera it doesn't have any more than that. Can you let me see more details about it?"
"Yea, of course."
Lera didn't hesitate to let him have that information.
Jev looked at Byyuan who was still silent. It wasn't about winning that conversation. He wanted him to understand what he was getting into while not explicitly saying it out loud. He knew everyone heard him, probably understood what he meant, but the fact that Paroppe didn't get angry at him was enough. Either she wasn't paying attention or she just let him say what he needed to say.
He turned his head to look at Lera, who was talking quietly with Ayanni as he asked more questions. He turned back towards Byyuan who was just looking at him. A stare down?
"Alright, well guys we won't have to worry about it and our privacy. Actually it will help keep others away from us. If you turn to page fifteen, there is a list of things not to do otherwise Lera will have to step in…"
"That was fun! I never imagined playing through a story like that." Byyuan fell back onto the chair in the bar-like room.
There were different people around them involved in different conversations. Their group sat around a small table with food they bought.
"It was just gambling in a story that we each played out." Ayanni pointed out the obvious.
"Doesn't change the fact it was a good time right?" Paroppe spoke up. It was a question and yet it was stated as a fact towards Ayanni who didn't have fun and lost a bit of his money.
"I thought it was great!" Jev's smile was plastered for everyone to see.
"You won all that money. Of course you would think that." Paroppe smiled while running her hands through her hair. Then she turned to Lera.
Lera had participated in the event and she had laughed. The whole time they have been on this ship, Lera has interacted with the group, but it seems like she is distancing herself more and more. Maybe…
"I'm heading off to bed now!" Byyuan waved back towards the group as he entered his room. Jev and Ayanni followed suit and went into their respected rooms. Well Ayanni did give Paroppe a strong stare before doing so. She nodded off for him to go to bed.
"Lera can we talk?" Paroppe asked her.
"Sure." She answered quickly, probably caught off guard by the question. Paroppe didn't want her to be uncomfortable. At least the awkward silence that followed was.
"Want to talk in my room?"
Lera just nodded and followed Paroppe in her room. They both sat down at the table that was in the room. There were cups for liquid in each room. When Lera had signed them all up for the cruise, she made sure to select the human room accommodations.
"Is everything alright?" Paroppe asked after seeing Lera taking a sip of water. She saw that her eyes were focused on the walls rather than herself.
"Everything is fine. We had a lot of fun today, I'm just a little tired." She knew that Lera couldn't really be exhausted. It usually happens when something mentally or emotionally taxing takes place. So that would be a lie.
"You can tell me anything." Maybe she should have said more, but Paroppe didn't. Lera started fidgeting with her hands. Paroppe realized that whatever was bothering her was much more than she thought.
She didn't say anything. Just opened her mouth a few times before looking away. Guilty and ashamed. What could she have done wrong?
"Please tell me." Paroppe carefully grabbed Lera's hands to steady them.
"Uhm… Well… I thought this trip would be fun for everyone… ah uh uhmm… I mean I'm having fun… I guess…" It was like Lera was going to jump out of her seat at a moment's notice and flee. Paroppe gripped her hands tighter with care. She didn't want Lera to feel whatever she was feeling. "I guess I just don't want to be here."
Paroppe wanted to ask why, but it seemed that Lera saw her and continued along.
"I feel cramped. Like this place is too small. It feels hard to breathe at times. I know there is a lot of room, but like everywhere I go… I feel trapped. I didn't want to say anything to worry anyone, but… I'm sorry Paroppe."
She remembered Ayanni talking about the research he had given to the doctors in the empire. There were many different phobias written down about things people were irrationally afraid of. One of them sounded like one of those things. She tried to remember it, but found that she didn't need to know what it was. Just being there for Lera was all she needed to do.
"It's alright. A lot of people feel that way too." While she knew that was true, she did wonder why it was happening now. After all Ayanni's home, their apartment, even Lera's home was close to the same size as this place. Was it because it was in space? "Lera do you remember the apartment we lived in Hapho?"
"How do you feel now, when we lived there?"
She shook her head.
"This place is a bit bigger than there… Actually try to imagine looking up to the stars. Close your eyes for me."
At first she was going to help Lera relate the size of all those places to these rooms, but then thought of a better idea. The stars were something she knew Lera cared about the most. It was looking at them, watching them from under the sky. "Follow me." She led Lera over to the wall.
"Show us the outside." She said that aloud and then told her to open her eyes.
For a little while longer, she stayed like that with Lera. Just watching the stars. Since Lera was feeling vulnerable tonight, she suggested she stay the night, like they used to. Sleeping side by side. Lera agreed and while she watched the stars, Paroppe was on the other side of the bed, being there if she needed it.
Also before bed, she sent a message to Ayanni telling him that he wasn't allowed to come over to her room tonight.
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