Wednesday, July 15, 2015

32: Negotiations (Part I)


Entry 032: Where Kla calls it.


                Two days later found Felix back in the conference room, fidgeting on the other side of the long table. "When you said you would get O'Dowell to stop chasing me, this is not what I thought you meant."
                Sitting next to him on the miniature throne, Rody slid him a look. "Hey, you have your gifts and I have mine. And, luckily for you, annoying people until I get my way is just my gift." He shifted down in his seat, a sharp look in his silver eyes that had Felix expecting trouble.
                "More like a supernatural curse," Magnil muttered darkly where he stood behind Rody's other shoulder. Felix hadn't seen him since they'd formally signed their agreement where, in return for granting him safe harbor from O'Dowell and the use of Persephone's equipment and personnel, Felix would let them shadow him as he made his discoveries.
                Rody had been less than thrilled. "That's it?" he'd exclaimed. "You're going to let us watch?"
                "Quiet Rod," Magnil had growled, understanding better. "He's saying we can have his information. When he has a working machine, so will we."
                Felix met the metal eyes fixed on him and nodded. "Every hypothesis, every success, every miserable dead end. It's all yours."
                The prince had been much more impressed after that and Felix and Cor had given their signatures as joint partners concerning the machine not much later.
                "He looks exactly the same as the other day," Felix thought to himself as he watched the Commander from the corner of his eye. Same steel-streaked temples, same sharply pressed uniform, same unhappy tilt to his mouth. "It's like he was carved that way."
                Felix turned his wrist over and checked the time on the chronometer someone had given him. He wasn't sure who exactly. He'd woken up this morning in the suite they'd stuck him in – bigger than the apartment he'd grown up in and easily three times as expensive given the posh furnishings and he hoped to get rid of it as soon as humanly possible – and found it sitting on top of the neatly pressed shirt and trousers he wore now. They were long-sleeved and loose in the Hybridian fashion with a high, stiff collar he had to fight not to mess with. He could understand why they wanted to protect their secondary skeletons during the day to day, but Felix just found it distracting.
                "And itchy," he thought as he ran a finger under the collar, but it was like trying to scratch under a cast after you broke your arm; it was hard to reach, you only made it worse, and if you were really unlucky you got your finger stuck under the plaster.
                "When is he going to get here? I'm dying in this getup!" Felix hissed.
                Rody casually eyed the groups of twos and threes clustered at different positions along the table when he answered. Mostly they were administrative aides but Felix noted there were a number of Commander Magnil's men in the mix as well. More than half now that he really looked.
                "Sensors picked up his shuttle when it hit the system's edge a couple of cycles ago. They should be escorting O'Dowell on board any moment now. And the itch is probably just the scratching powder I put on your shirt before Laundry sent it up."
                "You what?" Felix choked. He scratched harder, the collar starting to chafe his neck.
                Rody cackled and Felix glared at him before muttering words that would have made even Cor standing across the room change colors. "That's not funny," he snapped, finally managing to keep his hands on the table where he couldn't scratch, or throttle the only person willing to help him.
                Rody shrugged, but didn't agree. "In all seriousness, you're probably just having an allergic reaction to the metal plate sewed into the collar. Reli has already ordered you something..." he waggled a hand as he searched for the right word, "more organic friendly, but it'll take time for the shipment to reach us. You'll just have to have Hatch treat the rash in the meantime."
                Felix stared at him, waiting for the joke to end. "Where's the cackle, Rody? I'm still waiting for the cackle."
                Rody turned and gave him an apologetic smile.
                The human's face contorted in a mix of frustration and ferocious itchiness. He had to resist the impulse to bump his forehead on the table. He slumped in his chair instead. "Man..."
                Rody chuckled. He seemed to take great amusement at Felix's expense. Felix had the horrible feeling he thought they were friends.
                "Ask  him for the blue stuff," Rody kept talking. Felix had noticed he was predictable like that. "Relia used it the last time Laundry switched her uniform with some femme's in Navigation and it cleared up in half the time compared to when she used the yellow stuff."
                Felix rubbed the stiff collar against his skin. It worked better to let the metal strip scratch the very itch it created. At least until the burning started.
                "Wait, Au'relia's allergic to this stuff too?" Felix asked, slanting him a look as he drummed his fingers on the table to try and distract himself. "Why use it in your clothes if it's a common irritant?" It was like serving peanuts on a plane dedicated to flying attendees to a nut-allergy convention.
                Rody shrugged. "Not really. It's actually pretty rare on the continent, but I hear it's rampant among you humans."
                Something about the way he sad that made Felix pause. "You humans?" he mumbled. "You humans as in 'me and Relia' humans? Are you telling me she's not a Hybridian?"
                Rody went out of his way not to answer.
                "B-but she has to be a Hybridian!" Felix cried. "She has a static field! She uses vambraces! She-she-” Felix reeled, eyes widening as he tried to process. He thought for sure smoke was coming out his ears.
                The other man waited for the smoke to clear. "And we've reached the point where I've said too much."
                Green eyes glared at him. "You've never reached that point in your life!" Felix yelled as quietly as he could.
                Before Rody could respond, the double doors swung open and the woman herself walked in, stern-eyed and smartly dressed as always. And she wasn't alone.
                Three people followed her. Two wore the highly visible red, white, and yellow uniforms Felix had learned meant they were part of the Persephone's security team, but the one in the middle...
                Felix felt his blood go cold before it fled his face and went to hide somewhere in his stomach. Standing in the middle, her hands bound by three inch wide cuffs connecting her wrists, was Kla.
                She looked very different from the battle-eager psychopath he'd last seen on Terrace. The ferocity had simmered in her spice-flecked eyes and she had replaced her calm veneer. The cracks in her head spines had been cleaned and dressed and her expensive clothes had been replaced with a solid tea green prisoner's jumpsuit.
                Kla gave him a lazy smile when she saw him. "Hello Felix, darling," she murmured, her words once again smooth and cultured. "Long time no see. You're looking much better since I saw you last."
                "I'm glad I can't say the same." Felix heard the words like someone else spoke them.
                Kla laughed low as Au'relia turned her around and sat her down in a vacant chair with force. "I see they're teaching you their electric wit. How charming."
                She made no move to resist as Au'relia's security boys undid her wrist cuffs and fastened one hand to each of the chair's arms. She didn't even look at them; she just kept her eyes pinned on Felix sitting at a diagonal from her.
                Felix lifted his chin, trying to hold her gaze, but in the end he caved first. Looking into those eyes made him remember how close they'd been when she'd kissed him without warning. He cringed at the memory. "I wonder how long it'll take for that nightmare to fade."
                Kla's low chuckle cleared the table and Felix caught the slow stretch of her smile when he looked up to scowl at her.
                "He's not going to come, you know," she told them.
                "Who?" Magnil asked before Felix could.
                Kla's eyes finally flicked to the Hybridians respectively lounging and standing stiff-backed next to the human. "O'Dowell. He's not so thick headed as to walk straight into a trap when he knows it's there."
                Rody gave her a small shrug and what was supposed to be a winning smile. "Who says it's a trap?"
                The Moraloran laughed and tilted her head to the side as she swiveled her chair from side to side. "You're trying to lure him here so you can rob him of a valuable asset I worked very hard to find. I would call that a trap, wouldn't you?"
                "I prefer to call it an exchange," Rody answered as he leaned back in his chair. "Especially given your presence here, Nia Ahklapamnetra."
                Felix's brain refused to recognize the fluid sounds as words and it took him a hesitant moment to realize Rody must be addressing Kla in her native tongue.
                Kla's green eye ridges rose. "Someone has a liquid tongue. Many cannot get that last lift just right."
                Rody grinned. "I have a lot of practice at tongue lifting."
                The violet-skinned woman smiled, watching Rody now instead of Felix, much to the human's relief. Her eyes narrowed and she chuckled low in her throat. "I bet you have." She dipped her head ever so slightly, eyes flashing. "Your highness."
                Felix wasn't surprised that Kla had an easier time knocking the red-head off his game, but he recovered quickly.
                "I suppose you want me to be impressed," he said as he leaned back in his chair to study her, that same annoying, impish expression on his face never even twitching. "Most people don't get it even with the big fancy chair." He jerked his chin at Felix. "Including him. He's rather clueless for a so-called genius."
                Kla hummed, low and pleasant. "I know. That's why I like him."
                Felix watched the two of them with a flat expression. "I'm right here. Obviously you two already know that, but I thought a friendly reminder might be nice," he bit out.
                Kla only laughed, leaning back so she could cross one long leg over the other. "That's part of the fun, brainiac," Rody told him before looking over at one of the administrative aides murmuring near the opposite wall. Felix noticed even then he kept Kla in the corner of his eye. "What's with the delay, Whitt? My friends and I are getting antsy."
                The aide smiled and for the first time, Felix noticed it was a woman behind the fancy tablet, tall and athletic with a nice smile.
                "Well we can't have that," she murmured as she checked her holo-tab with sharp eyes. "Baliare said the shuttle docked in the hanger five cycles ago. He's showing her up as we speak."
                Felix frowned. "Her?" he repeated.
                Whitt double checked, then nodded.
                Across the table, Kla chuckled and idly swung her legs so the other leg was on top. She dangled her foot in the air leisurely. Her expression didn't change, but a sharp gleam had risen in her eyes. Felix thought she looked rather smug, even by her usual standards.
                "I told you," she murmured.



< Entry 31                                                                                                                                          Entry 32.5 >

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