Original Content Transcripts 2: Chapter 6

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Previous: https://arkmuse.org/threads/transcripts-2-chapter-5.339/

Written by Squiggle Story Studios (Michelle Hodgson), edited by Steeveeo (Steve Green)




Jasmine watched the purple lizard lady scuttle away from the observation window. A flood of emotions filled the room, even in her dulled state the human could still produce such a distinct cocktail. Pure disdain, righteous fury, underlying pity, and lingering guilt all wrapped up in a strange yearning the Doctor could not place.

“What a bitch,” Jasmine cursed as she buried her face in her hands. “(<Oh my god, that was painful!>)” Her mind echoed the sentiment.

Xant snorted in agreement. “Jess is unfocused at the best of times, but she seemed to be even more erratic than usual.”

Laandi could only chuckle, letting a lanky hand rest on her shoulder. “Not everyone can handle the responsibilities of being Director,” she replied smugly, “While this is concerning for the company in the long term, it does give us the upper hand. If Jess is unable to handle a simple disagreement with Miss Howe behind a Freq protected screen, she will most certainly crumble in the Lieutenant Commander’s presence.”

Xant’s ears bobbed above his head pleasantly. “That is good news! We should begin to plan our approach carefully, Jasmine-”

Xant trailed off as the human had already wandered from her place between them, pacing in circles before letting out a huge exasperated sigh. Staring at the ceiling, saying nothing, the emotional freq contracting around her.

“Jasmine?” Xant inquired for her attention again, he was worried about his charge.

“Mmm-hmmm?” she replied absently, yet the air was growing tense.

“I think that it is prudent that we go over the rules of etiquette once more, to truly prepare you for the Lieutenant's arrival.”

“Right…” Jasmine nodded, folding her arms, deep in thought. “Xant?” she asked hesitantly. “Is it a guarantee that we’ll be separated? What if I asked the Lieutenant if you could be my liaison? Or a consultant?”

Xant’s ears twitched from side to side, folding his own hands behind his back, pondering that scenario. “It’s… possible,” he acknowledged, glancing over at Laandi. “Not to contradict the Director, but perhaps if you could appeal to the Lieutenant, then he may be more lenient to your requests?” Xant knew how strict and controlling Commander units could be, but then Jasmine could be very convincing when she needed to be. It wasn't as if she was asking for a lot either. “It may all come down to the Lieutenant personally. Laandi, do you think the Commander would be especially resistant to Jasmine’s request?”

“He was exceptionally excited to find out you were conversational,” Laandi rolled her wrists, eager to dispense more of her own voice, “Even more so that you were civilised and female.” It was though a light bulb had gone off in her head as she recalled more of the details from their last meeting. “He showed me a very intriguing visual dataslate, proposing it to be of Creator origin. He wanted to ask you about it’s significance.”

“Umm, alright. I’m not sure what I’ll be able to tell him though.” The human was unconvinced.

“But despite his interests, he is still bound by protocol and honour, ignoring the rules that define him as a Ranger may prove difficult. Sympathetic though he may be, Nako might listen to your requests or he could simply want answers to his questions and nothing more.”

Jasmine took Laandi and Xant’s advice to hear and began to pace in circles as she pondered. “So you’re saying, if I want there to be any chance of us staying together, I’ll need to really impress the Lieutenant?”

“To put it so succinctly, yes,” Laandi answered.

“And how long do I have to prepare before he shows up?”

“If I recall correctly, [36 hours].”

“[36 hours]?” Jasmine blinked. “[36 hours] stuck in here…”

The security training room was white, huge, and bare. Since Rynard was the size of a mountain, it made sense that his track and field room would be similarly large to compensate. Jasmine guessed the place was at least the size of a football stadium, maybe bigger. Her voice echoed when she spoke loudly enough.

They had mostly congregated by the entry door. The only odd one out was the other guard, Arc, who has somehow become the point of interest for both Sieglinde and Kimiko. Every time he tried to distance himself from the dogs, they simply bounded after him.

“Do you think he needs to be rescued?” Jasmine asked with sad sarcasm.

“I do believe Private Arc may be out of his depth.” Xant concurred. Arc began fluttering out of the Dogs reach, which in turn, only encouraged them to continue their pursuit.

“I think they might be bored.” Jasmine mused, looking over her shoulder. “[36 hours] will be plenty of time to prepare. Some physical activity would be good to clear my head.”

“Laandi,” Jasmine addressed the former Director, “How about you review what I’ll need to know about the Lieutenant? Anything you think that might help me gain his trust.”

The Director bowed her head in that delicate manner, her hand crossing her body to rest on her shoulder. “And review I shall, Miss Howe.”

“Xant,” Jasmine looked at him with a small smile,“I’ll teach you how to play fetch.”

“Play Fetch...?” Xant repeated, wondering once again if the translator was doing its job correctly. So many times, the same words came out of her mouth with a completely different context.

The human coaxed him gently over. Xant swallowed his hesitation, walking by her side. Jasmine then drew in a deep breath before spitting out a high pitched whistle.

“Spades!” She shouted across the giant hall for good measure. The military hound bolted to her side with purpose and conviction, his presence immediately acknowledged and rewarded with a good ruffling of his fur. Xant almost envied the creature.

Jasmine walked over to Arc, with Xant following close behind. Soon, both Sieglinde and Kimiko abandoned their curious sniffs of the insectoid guard and pranced over to their Namegiver.

“Your Grace!” Arc plucked up as much as the dogs did when he saw her approach. “You- er, I mean,” he saluted, an arm across his chest, Jasmine waved him at ease.

“Its alright Arc, no need to salute.” She looked over his armour, hoping for some sort of accessory. “This is going to be an odd question, but do you guys have anything on you that could be thrown and retrieved?”

Arc’s antennae twitched.

“What about a baton? Or a ball or…(<yeah like they'd have a ball on a spaceship->) something about this big,” Jasmine gave a rough description with her hands, “And weighs about, I don't know… a [quarter kilo]?”

Arc looked hard in concentration before his wings fluttered with an answer. “We have bar weights!” The guardsman announced proudly before tapping the comm’s link on his collar. “Capt’n!”

“Yeah, Arc?” Rynard's voice echoed over the speaker.

“Her Grace would like to use the bar weights.”

“Is that so? Heh, well, don’t snap any tendons!” He laughed before disconnecting. Jasmine blinked at the odd euphemism while Xant shuddered in the background.

Arc took a step back and stomped his foot twice on one of the many white tiles below them. A deep rumble later, the tile lifted from the floor rising up past both their heads, proceeding up to what Jasmine estimated to be Rynard’s head height. Underneath the tile were several shelves, each one with a set of black similar sized rods. The larger and heavier sets at the top, the smaller more reasonable ones at the bottom.

“You guys keep equipment in the floor?” Jasmine asked.

Xant nodded his head. “Any and all equipment that is not in constant use is kept within the walls and floor for storage. It is easier to keep things clean that way.”

“Huh, is space dust really that much of a problem?” The human muttered.

Arc, oblivious to the conversation around him, thrust four hands towards the shelving and picked up eight rods for Jasmine to choose from.

“Will any of these work?” he asked innocently.

Jasmine, having craned her neck to look at the contraption, smiled warmly at the guard, taking a suitably sized weight from his bottom left hand. “This will be perfect!”

The rod couldn't have been more than [200g], but surprisingly wasn't the lightest weight offered to her. She weighed it in her right hand, then her left before tossing it effortlessly between the two.

“Alright, everyone!” she called to her User companions. “Who wants to play fetch?”

It was as if Jasmine had issued a royal command, all three dogs light up with an uproarious enthusiasm, bounding with new-found energy as Jasmine waggled the weight around in her hand.

“PLAY! FETCH! PLAY!!!!”

“PLAY! FETCH! PLAY!!!!”

“PLAY! FETCH! PLAY!!!!”

“PLAY! FETCH! PLAY!!!!”

“PLAY! FETCH! PLAY!!!!”

“PLAY! FETCH! PLAY!!!!”

“PLAY! FETCH! PLAY!!!!”

A great cacophony of barking and translated excitement resounded throughout the hall. Even the usually sombre Spades perked up and was watching the Namegiver with intent. And then, to everyone's surprise but the earthlings, Jasmine hurled the rod as hard and as far as she could away from herself.

All three dogs shot after the weight, a dynamic race to reach the object before the rest. Kimiko was the uncontested winner and ran to return the rod without even so much as a pause.

“So,” Xant tried to understand this new game, “You throw the object and they retrieve it… for fun?”

“And exercise- oof!” Jasmine added, hefting the rod in the air again. “I should have stretched first.”

After about the third time, Jasmine turned to the aliens and offered Arc one of the rods. “Do you want to give it a try?”

The young insect looked confused but waved the rod in Sieglinde’s direction. The golden took up the challenge immediately, charging after the rod the moment it left Arc’s hand and rolled roughly to where the human had thrown it.

“Hey, not bad!” Jasmine approved.

“We can record the rate at which you propel the rod if you wish, your Grace.” Suk, having had enough of watching from the sidelines, approached the pair in their fun.

“Really? That’d be cool!” Jasmine replied and Xant agreed.

“I can add the results to the physical examination tests-” Xant stopped short as he realised that he didn’t have his dataslate on him. Any collected data would have to be stored on the security terminal before he could move them to his own workspace.

When he was allowed to return to his office, that is. If he was still able to work on Jasmine’s project files.

Jasmine picked up another, heavier rod and wound her arm back, ready to propel it into the air on Suk’s mark.

“Ready?” Jasmine asked.

Suk nodded. “Yes, Your Grace.”

“Oof!” The human launched the weight in the air, it landed with a loud ‘clunk’ and rolled further into the barren white space.

“Ughhh” Jasmine groaned, “That was an awful throw…”

“[40 metres]” Suk announced flatly, clearly as unimpressed as the human was.

Jasmine sighed, and then began to pose and stretch her arms and legs in rather strenuous looking positions.

“It's a warm-up,” she explained before either Suk or Xant could ask the question. “If I try to throw again without stretching I’ll pull a muscle and then I won't be able to move my arm properly for a while.”

The Doctor turned to the Guard and inquired, “...is this common practice for military units?”

Suk shook his head, “It is not necessary for most of us. However, I would highly recommend it for yourself, Doctor.”

Suk looked knowingly at Xant, who was once again reminded of his own fragility when it came to the limits of his own body. Should he move too much while in the power armour, his very tendons would be ripped from his skeletal frame.

Hence the Captain's cheerful warning.

“Oof!” Jasmine hurled the second rod into the air, happier with the second attempt.

“There!” She pointed proudly, “That’s better!”

“[65 metres].” Suk announced, again, as unimpressed as before.

“Oh come on!” Jasmine huffed, “It’s not that bad!”

“Perhaps her Grace would like a comparison?” Suk offered.

“Yeah okay,” the human folded her arms defensively.

Suk turned to his twin, Arc, who was completely engrossed in this new game of ‘Fetch’ and began throwing multiple rods for the dogs to chase, who in turn were overjoyed at the sudden burst of activities available to them.

“Throw, throw!!” Sieglinde barked loudly, “Throw stick!”

“Arc,” Suk asked his brother, before he could give into the golden’s demands, “Could you throw the weight as far as you are able?”

Arc spread his wings and jumped up in the air, high above everyone’s heads before launching the rod as far as he could.

“Whoa…” Jasmine breathed as the black weight almost disappeared from sight.

The distant clunk echoed around the training room.

“[184 metres].” Suk replied, his chest puffed out ever so slightly.

“Fine, you win.” Jasmine held her hands up in mock defeat. “But using wings is cheating!”

“That wasn't a specified parameter,” Suk retorted, “One must always push themselves to the limits of their capability.”

“Uh-huh,” the human dismissed, looking over that the weight in the distance. The dogs had ignored Arc’s impossible throw and had returned with the human’s own rod for him to throw again. “We’ll I’ll go get that one then,” Jasmine stated as she began to stretch her legs.

“Another warm up?” Xant asked curiously.

“Yeah, it’s been a while since I've gone for a jog, I might take up working out as a hobby if you guys don't have any good TV.”

“That last sentence may need further explanation.”

Jasmine shook her head and let out an uncomfortable chuckle.

“Xant, everything needs further explanation. On both our ends.” A small smirk crossed her lips. “Tell you what, I’ll explain further if you race me to the weight.”

Xant’s ears stood on end. “I... I’m not sure I can do such a thing in my current condition. I’ve not yet grown accustomed to the armour-”

“A test such as this is perfect training, Doctor,” Suk encouraged. “Pace yourself.”

“It’s alright, you don't have to if you don't want to,” Jasmine replied, shifting positions to stretch the other leg.

Xant’s ears flattened on his head in shame.

He wanted to.

He wanted to follow after her.

Xant watched as Jasmine completed her final leg pull and took off from the spot at a surprising speed, jogging to retrieve the weight. She was light on her feet, running in her citizen armour as easily as, if not more so, than if she were unrestrained. While she was not as fast as either the Arvas twins or any Ranger Xant had seen, she was still leagues ahead of his citizen self.

“A steady pace?” He reaffirmed with Suk.

“One foot at a time,” the private replied.

Xant copied Jasmine’s ‘warm-up’ as closely as he could, looking to Suk for further direction. While the motions for the arms was roughly the same, Xant and Jasmine’s legs were completely different. Stretching them out, he could feel a warmth tingling his muscles before the suit activated. Sensing the impending activity the power armour flushed his system with the appropriate amount of chems.

It had been a long time since Xant had felt the rush of adrenaline. It was a welcome encouragement.

Jasmine could run at a steady pace, with little to no divergence from either side, it seemed a natural course of action for her. Xant would have to ‘bound’ from one leg to another, right to left, and then bounce back again. Essentially almost jumping with every step, the doctor took a deep breath and readied himself to follow after the human, literally and in a way, metaphorically as well.

If only he had calculated exactly how much extra thrust the suit would give him before he started his endeavour. Where once his step would have taken him a [foot] he was now taking nearly a [metre] with every charge.

He just about gave himself whiplash. The sudden and powerful boost from the armour was enough for the citizen to think twice about moving again, the speed began to dislodge the more troublesome memories of his time in the field. The adrenaline, however, was fueling his ambition to keep up. Within moments he had caught up to Jasmine, who looked on with wide, shocked eyes

“That was quick,” She exclaimed, now that he was less than [a foot] away.

Xant felt his body pulsing inside the steel, itching to continue, but his nerves were thoroughly shot. The suit then flooded him with more chems, to cool and soothe him as he rested. No wonder Rangers never unplugged themselves from these things.

“You need a minute?” Jasmine asked, her own body panting slightly from the exercise. “I could race you back?” she offered, twirling the baton in her hand.

“I don't believe I'm ready to return to such speeds,” Xant declined. “I have not travelled that fast since my time on Jothram.”

“Oh, where you got the red plants right?”

“Yes.”

There was a slight pause between them as they walked back, Jasmine slowed her pace. “Why don't you tell me about it?” she asked softly. “I’d like to know what other planets are like.” It was a gentle question, reminding him that she had never stood on another world.

“I was part of a research team,” Xant recalled fondly. “Jothram was a newly recovered planet. It had been abandoned by its citizens many years beforehand and had been missed by Rajavan colonisation. It was common practice to delete planet locations from the database in order to protect as many worlds as possible from their repurposing.” A twinge of emotional pain struck Xant, he decided to keep mention of the Rajava to a minimum. “It had mostly been completely ruined by the remaining elements and flora. Without anyone to maintain the facilities many structures had failed and the vegetation had grown rampant destroying vital systems. But, over the many cycles, new strains of flora had developed.”

“So it was like a forest had taken over a city?” Jasmine asked.

Xant deliberated. “I suppose that is an apt description.” he folded his arms behind him “But it was far more humid than was common, that's where I collected the rain recording from.”

That brought a warm glow to the human's presence. “It must have been beautiful,” Jasmine muttered.

“It was fascinating. I’d never seen a fallen facility in the physical before, and to investigate a planet that had atmosphere conditions good enough to support hydroponic engineered flora. Investigating the growing patterns and colour combinations was engrossing.” Xant wistfully lingered in the memory, “I was very happy there.”

“I liked that recording,” she replied, almost as if she shared his sentiment. “Do you think I would be able to feel it again before…?” She let her voice trail off. The knot in Xant’s stomach returned, Jasmine was hiding more of her worry. Trying to keep calm for his sake. She was getting better at it, but that didn’t mean he wouldn't try all that he could to ease her burden.

“I can ask Captain Rynard to deliver us the recording for you, Jasmine,” he reassured her.

“Yeah,” she replied thankfully, “That would be nice.”

When they returned, Suk was waiting for them at attention, the comms link on his collar bright blue as he finished a conversation.

“Your Grace,” Suk addressed the pair as they approached, “The Captain has been watching your activities and has approved the use of all training equipment for us.”

“All training equipment?” Jasmine asked curiously.

“Yes,” Suk affirmed, relaxing his stance. “The Captain asked if you could, ‘Give the Doc some lessons,’ and, ‘Show off your construction’ for us.”

“Show off my construction?” She turned a suspicious eye to the observation window. The behemoth was standing there grinning smugly, or, as smugly as you could with that many teeth. For a moment she thought he may have meant constitution, but it was probably her ‘build’ he wanted to see. She had a feeling the Captain was going to be let down however.

“Are there other kinds of physical activities human enjoy,” Xant inquired further, “Besides ‘Fetch’ and running?”

“Well, there’s loads really,” Jasmine replied, cracking her neck from side to side, loosening up more muscles, “But a lot of them require specialised equipment or like multiple people, or to be good at them.” She shrugged and turned to Xant, “I could give you enough material to write an entire encyclopedia on human sports alone.”

“Are they that prevalent in human society?”

Jasmine chuckled. “More prevalent than religion. It might be easier to tell me what you guys do for fun and then I can compare, since you guys have the equipment.”

Xant turned to Suk. “Do you have any input on the matter, Private?”

Suk’s antenna twitched thoughtfully. “Perhaps Her Grace would be interested in Sparring?”

“Sparring? I know a couple of moves…” Jasmine shifted to a decidedly intimidating stance, hands clenched into fists raised to her face, standing on the balls of her feet as she bounced her weight from one leg to the other. “But you’ve kinda got me outnumbered with four arms there.”

Xant noted how easily she changed from a relaxed stance to a ‘fighting’ position. Unarmed, no less. Once again confirming her military grade build and citizen temperament that worried him so much.

Suk held up a hand in protest. “I’m afraid neither Arc nor myself are trained in unarmed combat, but I can offer myself as a duel partner.” Suk reached for the weapon at his hip. The standard across the known galaxy, a black handle with a large intricate dial on the hilt. With practiced ease, he flicked his index finger and a long tapered blade shot out of the hilt. A deadly black needle, sharp and oiled.

“Whoa…” Jasmine breathed in awe. The guardsman then tapped a command on his arm-slate, before tapping another tile on the floor (Jasmine noticed that it didn't seem to matter which one), and it revealed a rack of handles, the same that both Arc and Suk had on their possession.

“Training Segmenter swords,” Suk explained, “They are useless outside the training room, and do not have the heat or electrify modes, only stun.” He lifted one from storage and offered it to Jasmine with his two lower hands. The human was mesmerised by the weapon, but did not immediately reach for it like others would, instead holding her hands out to accept the gift.

It was a short handle for the Arvas, but had enough room for both of Jasmine’s hands. It had a smooth, simple black plastic grip. The dial made it a bit top-heavy though.

“Its heavier than it looks…” she muttered, testing her grip on the device.

“Hold the blade end away from you before shifting the dial.” Suk demonstrated once more, this time flicking it so the blade returned inside the hilt.

Jasmine tried the same motion as Suk, flicking the dial with her thumb, the blade shot out with a surprising force, its recoil launching the thing right out of her hands.

“Uh... sorry.” Jasmine apologized as she meekly went to retrieve the weapon.

“I’m assuming human citizens are not versed in the matter of swords,” Suk stated.

“Well, we have swords, but most of them don't have moving parts. You’ve essentially given me a giant switchblade.”

Jasmine picked up the training sword and appraised the weapon in her hand. Something she did notice was the sudden distribution of the weight. The handle was heavy when the blade was tucked inside of itself, but was more balanced once the edge was out. It reminded her of the old plastic lightsaber toys she had as a kid, or the scary batons riot cops used. She turned the dial, slowly this time, until the blade had reached a height she was more comfortable with. Holding the sword in both hands, she gave it a playful swing to get a feel for how the sword handled.

“Interesting form,” Suk commented, and Xant nodded in agreement.

“Well I’m not an expert!” Jasmine defensively clarified, “It takes years for humans to be able to do anything really cool or practical with swords.” She rolled the weapon in her wrists, practicing the few forms she knew from movies. Mostly flashy poses, if she was being honest with herself. “So, I’m not going to be much of a partner, but I’m guessing you guys use these more than guns, right?”

“Segmenter swords are used primarily for peace keeping inside the citizen areas of the GC,” Xant explained. “Larger projectile weapons are more common in contested reclaimed space, or against the council’s enemies.”

Suk nodded in confirmation, unleashing his blade in preparation. “Segmenter swords have a stun capability, so it can be used in pirate confrontations or individual rogue incidents.”

“So it’s a taser sword, got it.” Jasmine was suddenly even more wary about handling the weapon against a pro like Suk. “Go easy on me, I’ve literally never held a sword in combat.” Jasmine shifted her stance to the same one she held when she was unarmed, feet apart, ready to move.

Suk chittered. “A [Worker Princess], who would have guessed?” The guard moved to his own stance, ducked down, three hands behind to balance, the one with the sword held out in front. “When you are ready, your Grace.” Jasmine rolled her fingers around the handle, and stared her opponent down.

“Right,” she breathed, before taking her first swing. Jasmine quickly learned that these segmented swords were stabbing blades, not slashing.

Suk didn’t even need to take step forward, simply flicking his index finger on the dial as the sword’s mechanism darted in and out of the hilt. His attacks were quick and precise, tapping the top of her knee cap, her right elbow, and left wrist in rapid succession.

Jasmine yelped and dropped her sword in shock. “What the hell!” She stumbled back from Suk and lashed out a little. “I told you to take it easy! Ouch…”

“As you wish,” Suk relaxed his stance for her benefit.

Jasmine reached for the sword again, and readied her stance. “Go a little slower this time,” she pleaded, nodding her head to let him know she was ready.

Suk once again held out his sword, flicking the blade slower so it was at least visible to the human eye. Jasmine was even able to dodge one or two blows! It was not long, however, until he knocked the blade out of her hands again with a combination of thigh, chest and wrist stabs. She breathed in through gritted teeth. Even through the armour the strikes were painful, but somehow it only spurred her on to learn.

“Okay, one more time,” she ordered, rubbing her wrist.

Suk nodded in acknowledgment, waiting for her Grace to attack. She came at him with a focused look in her eyes. She swung low, aiming for his left thigh. Suk easily dodged the attack, lifting his blade for a jab to her right shoulder. . The shot connected perfectly, but to his surprise, the human rolled into the strike, using the momentum to twirl on the spot to bring her sword swooping down on him. As impressive as the strange technique was, it was still the attack of an amature, she had left herself wide open.

Suk landed his last attack squarely in the back of her knee, and watched the human crumple almost immediately with a loud shriek. Everyone was jolted by the Freq shock that came with it, more with surprise than pain. Jasmine landed on the floor face down, defeated.

“Right, I’m done.” She surrendered, hands up in the air before peeling herself off the tiles. “Clearly, it’s going to take a long time before I get the hang of this thing,” she rubbed the back of her leg and wrist tenderly, sitting down to ease the tension. Suk put away his blade and Xant hurried over to ensure Jasmine was not injured from the duel.

“That was an interesting maneuver, Jasmine.” Xant crouched down beside her, asking, “Is that a common human maneuver?”

“No,” she shook her head, “That kinda stuff only works in movies, really.”

“But, if it was captured on video, then surely it must work in a physical demonstration!” Xant concluded.

“I think we’re both lost in translation again,” Jasmine sighed. “I mean it’s just for show, it’s for looking good to an audience, not any practical combat use.”

By now Arc and the dogs had given up on their game of fetch, summoned to Jasmine from her yelp they too, rushed over to see if the Namegiver was alright. “For an audience?” Arc tilted his head as his antennae twitched, inserting himself into the conversation.

“Her Grace was explaining that her people use sword duels for entertainment.” Suk explained to his brother, in a tone that suggested he didn’t approve.

“Did we not just spar to entertain ourselves?” Jasmine asked cheekily.

“The Arvas treat Segmented Swords very seriously,” Xant explained before Suk could become more offended. “An ancient tradition that dates back to the foundations of Arvas society.”

“It is the standing of strength and power,” Suk continued, speaking with pride for his culture, “It symbolises the Calling[destiny] of a Prince. By holding a sword even a freeman worker such as myself could attain such honour.”

“Just like The Worker Prince!Arc piped up.

Worker Prince?” Jasmine frowned, “You called me a ‘Worker Princess’ before. I’m guessing that’s more alien stuff like ‘Your Grace’ and ‘Entourage’?” More strange idioms they would need contextualised for her, along with that tendon comment from earlier.

“Yes,” Xant’s ears bobbed up and down, happy that she was recognising the significance. “It is the title of a folktale that describes the Arvas society’s ascension from a reproductive plutocracy to a more rounded meritocracy.”

“Suk tells the story really well!” Arc replied, giving his brother a glowing recommendation, practically shaking Suk’s shoulders in excitement.

“Go on then, it might help me connect with the Lieutenant if I can understand you guys a bit more.” Jasmine made herself comfortable on the floor, which was easy with three tired dogs eager to snuggle into her sides. Suk had tried to be humble about it, but his chest swelled with pride when Jasmine asked him to tell the story.

Suk ruffled his wings and folded both pairs of arms behind his back, ready to tell the tale of the Worker Prince to one who had never heard its grandeur.

_*_

Before our wings reached the stars…

Before our feet touched the red sands of sacred Akira…

Taritchva(Home Sand) was a land of Queens and war.

Kovakika was a great Queen, by the time of her second brood, she had claimed the entire west continent. She had many Princes at her feet, Her daughters and husbands commanded armies of millions. It was said she could command the presence of anyone in her shadow.

Of all her princes, Mas Tova was her favourite. He was her voice when she cared not to speak. He was her blade when she wished her wrath dealt. His chitin ran as green as the blood he had spilled.

As Kovakika grew older, and Akira reached her Zenith, it was time for her to pass on the last of her favours. She divided the lands amongst her favourite Princesses, and divided the Maidens amongst her favourite Princes. Lastly, she granted the favour of her last brood.

Many thought the favour would go to Mas Tova, but she chose a younger, more humble Prince: Kal Ceno.

While Tova was green as blood, Ceno was green like the Malachite Mountains, and he was beautiful and a poet at heart. Mas Tova was furious, but he could not defy the word of his Queen, so he drew the most insidious of plans to balance this slight against him.

A warrior of old, he waited for his time to strike. Weeks after the union, the eggs were laid and placed in their royal chambers. Mas Tova and his most loyal of men invaded during the heat of noon and snatched the precious pearls. They slathered the snatch of eggs in poisons and then, in the greatest insult of all, threw them into the drone hatching room. There they would be left mostly unattended, to shrivel, dry and become forgotten. Many of the eggs cracked and perished.

All, save for one.

His egg shimmered that malachite green in the red moonlight and caught the attention of one of the poor workers left to attend a million eggs. The worker was able to wash the egg in time, and it was left to grow with the others.

Without royal jelly, he grew no wings, nor stinger. The drone larvae were fed only scraps, but because of his colourful shell, he was always given food. As he grew with his brethren, he couldn't help but notice how he was different and how poorly the drones were treated. They were beaten by the workers, killed for the slightest mistake by the nobility, treated so poorly that half the eggs laid did not survive. Those that did live in pain and fear.

It was not fair, the drones and he did as the royals commanded, often beyond what was possible.

One day, as they were scrubbing the hive floors, a Prince brought his wrath down upon a drone who failed to dry the floor fast enough. Unable to bear watching his brothers beaten so, he stood up and challenged the Prince.

Startled and shocked, the weak Prince fled, dropping his sword as he called for aid.

A sword should never be touched by unworthy hands, but he felt compelled to reach out for it, a burning desire deep within his thorax. The blade fit perfectly in his hands and he was overcome with comfort.

The other drones all looked to him, and he told them to return underground. More Princes would be coming, and he knew they would all perish upon their return. They obeyed his orders as though he were a Prince himself and scuttled away before the Princes returned.

The weak Prince did not return with his brothers, however, but with a Primarch. The proud lord looked over his inferior, who simply bowed, presenting the sword to him.

“His lord dropped this…” he answered the Lord, who chuckled amusedly. The Primarch scolded the Prince for letting a drone defile his blade, and spared the lower caste on a whim. The Prince snatched back his sword and swung at the drone in a rage.

The drone dodged, and the Primarch roared in laughter. “Clearly, this blade was not meant for you!” The Primarch ripped the sword from the Prince’s hand, and smashed it against a stone pillar, shattering it to pieces.

The Lord left the Prince in shame, and the drone and the blade forgotten.

Once again, while the bright star burned in its zenith, the malachite worker collected the pieces of the sword and took them into the depths of his hovel. Piece by piece, he mended the blade. Over weeks and months he stole vials of sap to glue it back together, binding it in bandages to ensure the cure. The other drones were attentive to his task, bringing him more food and hiding him from the weak Prince's sight.

Soon the blade had been repaired, and it was in his hands.

He watched the noble Princes train under the light of Akira’s glow, and copied their moves unseen in the castle’s shadow.

He danced with the blade as gracefully as they could, if only he had the wings to fly as they could.

He had heard whispers of a calling, this was too strong to be wrong.

He had always been drawn to the blade, it was always meant to be his.

He could no longer live in the dirt with the other drones.

He went against all codes and decrees, walking through the castles caverns to the highest rooms, to speak to the Queen herself.

So bold was his actions few dared to stop him, he walked with such purpose none dared question him.

As the court did squabble amongst themselves about matters of state, the drone stepped before the queen and suddenly all eyes were on him.

The queen was old and frail now. Her abdomen so swollen and large she could no longer move, her legs broken beneath her, and eyes weak even in the moonlight.

The drone knelt before her, waiting for permission to speak. The Primarchs and princes were in an uproar. How dare such filth enter the sacred chamber of the queen!

The drone held up his sword and spoke before the male’s blades could silence him.

“Oh great Mother, I know I am unworthy to be in your presence, but I humbly ask a question.”

It had been years since the Queen had seen a drone. She had been attended by her maidens for so many years she had almost forgotten that they even existed.

“Speak,” she croaked, and all the Princes did bow to her whims, putting their blades away so the blasphemous drone could ask his question.

“Akira blesses us all with a calling,.You to give life, oh Queen, the Princesses to protect the hive, the Princes to protect you, and we the drones to build your castles and tend your food. But oh great and powerful Queen, can a Drone hear the call of a Prince?”

He lifted his broken blade before the Queen. The screech of outrage of her court was deafening.

With one fell swoop, the weak Prince lashed out at the drone, knocking him from his knees into a golden bowl of wine. The wine washed away the years of dust and grime that collected in his chitin, revealing the brilliant green underneath.

The Primarch Mas Tova then saw his mistake, the green lineage of his rival, the broken blade he had discarded. Had he allowed the weak Prince to slay the drone, such a travesty would never have befallen his court. He vowed to correct this mistake immediately.

He summoned his speed and strength, bringing his blade down upon the usurper.

But the drone had learned the ways of the blade, rolling and dodging the Primarch’s advances. Mas Tova was far beyond his prime, and in his rage had left himself open for attack.

The drone spotted his one and only opportunity, striking under the Lord’s shoulder and tearing his wings beyond repair.

Stricken with shock, the Lord retaliated and cleaved an arm from the drone. But before he could land the final blow, the Queen demanded they stop.

A silence fell over her court.

She ordered the drone be brought before her. Under her gaze she recognised the brilliant malachite green, and held the drone protectively in her arms.

“You are no drone,” the Queen proclaimed, “You are my son! My lost, last son!”

Her eyes burned with rage at her once beloved Primarch, demanding to know why he would be so eager to kill this drone.

“They kill us without thought,” the drone replied to his Queen. “We are nothing to them.”

The Queen was horrified. Sheltered for so long, she had not known. With righteous fury, she banished her Primarch to exile from the hive.

But the court still struggled with a once-truth now questioned.

A drone could hold the calling of a Prince. Could all drones hold such a calling?

The great Queen Kovakika decreed that no longer would drones be raised in filth, no longer would they be starved or beaten. If they were cared for, they could hold a greater calling, just like her Worker Prince.

_*_

Suk finished the tale and was humbled to feel a radiantly warm feeling of approval from the human. She stared at him, fascinated.

“And that is a popular tale?” She asked.

“Very popular,” Suk replied. “I've heard countless renditions over the Cit-Net,”

“I think…” Jasmine smiled as the warmth enveloped all of them, “I might have a way to win over the Commander with a story of my own.” The captive audience now turned to her as she recited from memory, an old poem she studied at school..

She goes ten thousand miles on the business of war,

She crosses passes and mountains like she’s flying…

Generals die in a hundred battles,

Stout soldiers return after ten years.

On her return she sees the Son of Heaven,

The Son of Heaven sits in the Splendid Hall.

He gives out promotions in twelve ranks

And prizes of a hundred thousand and more.

The Khan asks her what she desires.”

The Human looked to the tiled sky, to her friends, and to the dogs in her arms. The warm glow turned into a spark of determination burning in her chest.

Mulan has no use for a minister’s post.

I wish to ride a swift mount,

To take me back to my home.

She finished the poem, a plan of action forming firmly in her mind.

If they kept insisting that she was a ‘Princess’, she was going to step up and be a damned Princess.

-*-

Next: https://arkmuse.org/threads/transcripts-2-chapter-7.377/#post-774
 
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