‘Two months in the Brig.’
‘You’re bloody kidding!’ Jorja exploded with Pretty Max trying to sooth her before they could extend her incarceration. After two weeks on board she’d thought she’d gotten away without heavier punishment. But then they sent her to the finks.
‘We can extend it if you like.’ The snide remark came. ‘You’re lucky that you were able to clean the Xenica II before the Jimble lost interest.’
Jorja shut up and took herself to the well guarded cells. She’d been there before. The captain of Xenica II had been able to make the connection to the Jimble and they were on their way to planet Esan. An announcement came over the com, ‘Prepare for flight. Destination, Esan.’
Pretty Max visited everyday and Mary filled her in with amusing tales at how the orux were settling in. Scalice came to visit her twice. ‘We need to talk,’ and proceeded to tell her a little of what was going on.
‘When I get out I’ll come and see you. For now just tell them you’re under advisement.’
A few boring weeks into her stay she saw Zeft being shown to the cell next to hers. He grinned at her.
A few days later, Pretty Max leaned in close, ‘Just between you and me I think he deliberately pissed Scalice off to come down and see you.’
She frowned at her handsome friend, his looks almost aristocratic. ‘He could have just visited.’
‘Ah, but when?’
She tried not to laugh. The orux had been very busy since arriving. A good number of civilians and support personnel had been moved. As it was, the Xenica II wasn’t full up. The Aldrea mix couldn’t believe they got a room each, dinner cooked, a big recreation room and a bar shared by other marines. ‘How many joined the orux?’
‘Around one thousand five hundred. Quite a compliment to the orux.’
‘Hmmm. They’ll form around three battalions. No doubt they’re keeping them together.’
‘Smart cookie. I thought they would disperse them throughout the ranks.’
Jorja humphed. ‘They’ll be easier to get rid of in one group.’
‘You astound me sometimes with your cynicism. And yet,’ Pretty Max said with a laugh, ‘you’ve never been wrong. They’ve got the instructors, trainers and teachers working round the clock. They’ve shipped in one instructor for each squad, an instructor for each platoon, and company etc. They’ll be busy for awhile but they are saving a few special jobs for you.’
‘I’m sure they are.’ Jorja suspected she had gotten off too lightly.
‘Are you ok now?’
‘Yeh, thanks. I wish Zeft hadn’t been here for it. How much did you tell him?’
After Pretty Max filled her in with more housekeeping issues he left. Zeft nodded to get her attention. ‘I’ve missed you, Babe.’
She wandered over to the adjoining bars from her sitting position after talking to Pretty Max. Just to her left the walls were sealed for some privacy. She smiled, ‘I know exactly what you’ve missed.’
He grasped her cold hands. ‘I won’t lie, I’ve missed that too.’ He frowned, ‘Now that the excitement of being in the Brig has worn off…why are you in here?’
‘Have you met the finks yet?’
‘Finks? Those prissy looking mind readers that call themselves morale officers?’
‘Yep. I hear they can’t read your minds?’
He grinned and studied her face. ‘Don’t think they’d like what they read in my mind, but some of the other orux would probably put them to sleep.’
Jorja gave a short bark of laughter. ‘Well, let’s just say they read my mind and the captain, whose ship this is, overruled some of the generals making sure I felt the full justice of his displeasure at ur…my little redecorating job of his ship.’
They chatted for a while and laughed often. When their meals had first been wheeled in Zeft noticed Jorja didn’t give off any displeasure signals when he ate his large meal with a ferocious appetite. He’d thought about being careful and eating more like them but then thought against it. He and Jorja hadn’t had sex again since they boarded but he was hoping it wasn’t because she lacked interest.
During the night Jorja sat leaning against the wall waiting for snores to fill the quiet. She had awoken one night and listened to his sounds remembering the many complaints she’d heard from both men and women in the past but she found it oddly comforting. Tonight though, instead of his snores his voice found its way to her ears, ‘You asleep, Babe?’
‘No.’ And she knew he was leaning on the wall behind her.
‘What happened today?’
She felt her skin creep and grow cold. Her stomach turned over at the thought.
‘It’s a long story and I don’t want to talk about it.’ Jorja hated the bite in her voice so added softly, ‘Not here anyway.’
Zeft looked down at his large hands remembering holding her cold ones earlier after Pretty Max had finally left. Max had said something to her within minutes of arriving and she had grown pale and thrown up. Zeft had smelt the fear from his cell. He had felt anger grow and while Jorja had been directed to the shower Pretty Max had explained.
‘We’ve been contacted by a race of aliens known as the Marquis de Sadi, and two of the generals have invited one on board. It’s best if Jorja tells you but don’t push it. Briefly, when we originally met the race we thought they’d make good allies but we were wrong. They turned on us and some were left behind in the confusion. Jorja was one of them and they did something to her. It was only for a short time but she never fully recovered. I had to tell her now because someone is bound to mention it at some stage. It is highly unusual that they let one of them on board and she will have the same reaction but only in public.’
Zeft nodded in understanding. She was proud and it would humiliate her if she puked in front of people. He wanted to know what caused such a reaction. Orux were not afraid of anything and considering all those who Jorja was friends with he didn’t understand how she could be so fearful. He didn’t resent her weakness but found himself protective of her. Did she hang out with them because they could protect her? Would that make him an acceptable mate considering his abilities? He decided to work harder to learn about the new world he found himself in. He gave Pretty Max an astute look, ‘If they’re so bad why the invitation?’
‘They announced they have some knowledge of the planet we are going to claiming they have some prior rights to it. Apparently, there are a few Marquis already there. We aren’t exactly at war with the bastards and the generals are now worried there are more of them on the planet than they’re telling us. They are arrogant, amoral and have unusual…appetites…’
Pretty Max had stopped there as Jorja returned clean and was put back in her cell.
They spoke for a while and she seemed to recover. Pretty Max left.
A little later, Zeft heard her again at her basin. He got up and tried to see her from their adjoining cell bars but she was washing the vomit from her mouth and the guard had come over to ask if she needed assistance.
The next day she was released.
She went over to Zeft and put her cool hands on his gripping the bars. ‘Thanks.’
‘Will you be ok?’
‘Yeh, I’ll be confined to my work quarters. I’ll be safe there…’ She stopped herself, suddenly embarrassed. Jorja could see that he was worried. ‘Thanks, for the…laughs.’
He grinned, ‘No problems. Do me a favour, Babe?’
‘Tell Scalice to get me out of here.’
She laughed and left with Pretty Max. Zeft scowled at the tall marine’s arm around her shoulders, as if it had been there before. If it wasn’t for the fact that Pretty Max was as fearsome, in a cold calculated way, as an orux and showed an amazing patience with the whining orux, Zeft might have had to kill him.