Chapter 8

A few weeks later in the dark shadows of the room, the eerie noises from the walls and the prospect of the upcoming battle all comforted Scalice. He was relaxing in his opulent suite on board the Xenica II ignoring the silence he considered his punishment for attaining the rank of general. His com barked and he picked up the portable device and saw Jorja on the screen. She smiled tiredly at him. She had seemed stressed after her cell stay. He quizzed Zeft who was unusually taciturn. Her slick brown hair was tied back, and he could see she wore her white coat and so was still at work. Her skin was shiny from perspiration, and underneath her coat she was probably wearing shorts and a tank top. Jorja had a good solid body, muscular, but she was endowed with decent sized breasts. It was a combination the orux liked which is why, unlike their visits to the doc or the psyche, they always turned up on time when Jorja called them for a fitting. Scalice suspected they dented their armour on purpose sometimes but unlike many women Jorja took it in good humour and would joke with his men. He was sure it was why Zeft was getting so taciturn.

‘I can’t come, Scalice. Three marines came in with damage to their armour and they need to go back out in the morning. It’s only training but you know what they’re like. Fortunately, they’re weenas…’ he chuckled at her calling the small warriors the orux nickname, ‘…so it shouldn’t take long.’

Scalice showed his disappointment, and the words came out grudgingly, ‘How long will you be?’

Jorja looked down at something, ‘A couple of hours. I can let Deven finish off.’ Scalice heard a male groaning from behind her, ‘You’ll be fine, Deven. If you’re worried sign off on my name.’ Jorja rolled her eyes at Scalice. Weenas could be a pain in the arse about their armour not fitting perfectly.

‘I’ll record it, come later.’

Jorja gave him a knowing smile, ‘Sure, save me a Guiness though, and chocko cake…I’ve know you’ve got some!’

‘You’re on.’

 

When Jorja clicked off she sighed. For Scalice to wait to watch Tila was a big concession on his part. She’d been avoiding Zeft for reasons she couldn’t explain but found her thoughts strayed to him often. She desired him and was concerned over any other growing feelings.

Jorja sighed again and went back to work. Pretty Max told her the Marquis de Sadi hadn’t stayed long but had asked after her knowing that even with a ship population of twenty thousand that she would be known. Pretty Max left out the details when he saw her fidgeting. The ‘exquisite gentlemen’ had been told she was on one of the other warships. And many of the pandering women who managed to be in his entourage wondered why the Marquis had been so interested in the ‘armoury’ woman.

The planet being disputed was an ocean world and a war had started raging between two normally amicable systems. Needless to say a lot of blood was being spilled, with little skill, and the marines were needed to show them what pain was really about. Jorja estimated it would take less than a week to end the squabbling and subsequent squabbling. She hadn’t been told about the Marquis’ race who had been quietly inflaming the hatred. Some long discussions had ensued and the Marquis promised to put an end to their little delights so long as the planet was left to them.

A weena walked in and nodded at Jorja. He smiled and looked at his armour still waiting final adjustments. Deven quickly disappeared into the store room. For a moment everything vibrated. The vessel was compensating for something, she heard the com. They had made the transfer from one Waystation to another and now they were accelerating.

‘What do you want, Tya?’

‘Dinner and dancing tomorrow night.’

She glanced up after adding some calculations to the program. ‘No long legs left?’

He grinned showing off his perfect white teeth and shook his head.

‘Ok, but that’s all, no sex, no foreplay.’

‘No sweat.’ He grinned as if he’d been extremely witty. ‘I’ve got plans after the dance. I miss your pithy comments when there are enough long legs to go around. Is Scalice going? He’s managed to miss all dance functions. He can’t miss the Grand Promenade though, at the end of the year.’

Jorja pressed enter on the keyboard and the machine to her left started whirling. ‘No, Mary couldn’t convince him to go.’

‘What does he see in her? She’s dog ugly…’

Before Tya could get to his punch line how Scalice made the couple complete, Jorja punched him in the gut. He doubled over with a grunt. She’d heard the lousy comment before.

Jorja continued with the computer as the marine recovered. Tya tried to straighten up, it was a good thing he hadn’t commented about Sal’s ‘creative’ arrangement. Sal was a long time friend of Jorja’s. The marines weren’t afraid of anything but Jorja was friends with the two people they were very wary of, Sal and one of the orux. Pretty Max would have made three but he was one of them so it wasn’t as bad.

‘Sorry about that, forgot you’re a little antsy about your friends. Hope you stand up for me like that.’

‘Of course I do.’

His natural confidence took a little dive in thinking they talked about him that way and he grinned at her sudden laugh. ‘You had me worried there.’

Yes, everyone loves you Tya. Jorja thought snidely.

‘I’ll pick you up on the second hour of second shift. I’ll even shout you a new dress.’

‘Bye,’ Jorja said absently although she cheered a little at the thought of a new and very expensive dress. He could be a pain but Tya was always generous.

Tya held his stomach as he walked out; one thing about Jorja was that she never held a grudge because she sorted things out quick. Not that she got physical that often. She would have made a good marine sergeant but she was too reticent and had unusual hobbies, like mining.

Jorja grinned wickedly and decided to leave a little dent in Tya’s helmet; it would rub just near the left ear. Not enough to distract him but enough to irritate. She grinned. Most thought she forgave quickly; how little they knew her. In fact, out of all the people she knew only seven really understood her – Sal and his band of mining colleagues, who were once hers. She looked forward to seeing Doia, Parker, Steven and Hack. The other person was Pretty Max, and Zeft, but she didn’t want to think about him right now. It was Mary’s words that she’d wondered at, ‘Scalice is strong and brave and thinks I’m pretty. And that’s enough for me.’ Jorja wasn’t vain but she didn’t like the thought that Zeft might think her ugly. She knew she was considered good looking by many. Pithy comments or not, Tya’s invitation confirmed that fact. Tya was tall, blond and blue eyed with thick lashes so he was popular with most of the women on board.

 

When Scalice put his com down he noticed he was getting used to the sounds of silence, but he usually had the entertainment module on when he was alone. He continued his activity. Only the sound of tiny missiles ricocheting off his furnishings broke the slight thrum from the engines of the massive warship. He and his boys had been excited at the thought of travelling in space in a warship, until they saw it. The Xenica II looked like some crazy sea turtle clawing its way through space. Sometimes it rested on the rocky ledge of an asteroid when being serviced by other similar looking ships. He and his men found it hard to keep a straight face when the warship had to undergo any repairs or maintenance.

Scalice’s brown eyes surveyed his toenails. Only one long, pointed grey nail was left. He applied some force and grinned in satisfaction when the nail flew off into the far reaches of the room. The cleaner would come in the morning. He left his cutters on the blue lounge and picked up his tankard of ale, then let out a long raucous burp. Scalice turned on his large wall screen, put his huge feet up on the coffee table and waited for his favourite show, ‘Tila, the Warrior Princess’ to  start. This week’s screening was ‘The Slaying of the Puritanical Prick’. The new episodes were starting again for the season and his men were happy having caught the last couple of episodes. He still hadn’t worked out how to time the recording so he would record as soon as it begun and then turn off the screen. It was more enjoyable with company.

He muted the sound and yawned broadly through the updates of the war. He had fought in enough of them; he didn’t need this reminder. The action on the screen just didn’t have the same appeal as the slashing and hacking of a real-life battle! With a grunt he took another swig from his tankard. Scalice’s face softened as his mind wandered back to the early days when life was carefree.

 

Drax yelled for everyone to be quiet, ‘Shut up you petunia’s. Tila’s starting.’ The orux pushed and shoved their way onto couches, chairs and form bags. One of the Skellum’s, Skink, sniffed at the lean orux.

‘You stink.’

Drax smiled and puffed up, ‘I had a date…’ he paused dramatically, ‘with Jorja’.

Those close enough slapped him on the back.

He realized Zeft was there, ‘Not a real date of course, just need a little dent taken out of me helmet…but I’m working on it.’

Zeft gave him the human eye.

The orux nodded and grunted in encouragement and then bedlam followed when someone threw a knife into the viewer screen. They all groaned and headed out.

 

A loud bang on his door brought Scalice’s thoughts back to the present. It was the orux complaining that they had broken their viewer again and wanted to watch the show on his screen.

He yelled out, ‘Rack off.’

It was met with grumbling and then silence. He could hear them thump down in the direction of Krud’s rooms. Scalice displayed his sharp teeth in a grin.

There were still ten minutes before Tila, the voluptuous, big breasted, tiny waisted heroine made her appearance. Scalice had every episode, every magazine, every article and every cartoon. He was a fan, and so surprisingly was Jorja. Her collection was even more extensive than his and he’d been trying to get an old comic from her. He’d recently written to the creator in his great scrawly handwriting, hating computers, and was waiting for a reply.

Pretty Max, who had become a good friend, had laughed at his letter and clumsy words. ‘Do you really think she’s going to respond?’

Scalice had tucked it away in a messenger envelope, told Pretty Max to piss off, but not before confiscating some fragrance Pretty Max always kept on his person, and sent the letter. Jorja had been watching an episode with them and encouraged Scalice with a funny grin on her face. He was old fashioned, so what? Back in the good old days, on planet, it had been good enough. But he had been responsible for many changes on his home planet. Jorja reminded him recently that he and his orux hadn’t been onboard for that long but to him it felt like forever.

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