Chapter Twenty-Eight – Forging a Trade
Jalingan’s just a few days turned into more than a week. Captain Mannarius spent most of it fussing and fuming, saying words that came through the translator as more and more static. He spent a lot of time on his own, some of it with Dhruv trying to follow him around various parts of Space Station Tanoora Prime, others with the faithful co-pilot giving him his space.
Citlally had no idea what his problem was. She’d thought for a while that Mannarius might have thought that Jalingan had taken the millefinluxium from her without permission, but then it occurred to her that the captain knew Jalingan would never steal from her. All she could do was accept the explanation that it had nothing to do with how he was helping, and everything to do with the fact that he was helping at all.
When Jalingan finally did get back to Space Station Tanoora Prime, he made sure to contact Citlally in private, and ensured that the way to his room was clear. She met him there, alone, since the other men had gone off somewhere together. He had a cloak on this time, a wide earth-toned garment that looked like its leather spent more time collecting dust than it did keeping him warm. She also figured that he wore it less for warmth and more for keeping himself hidden.
“What is it?” he asked as he pulled back the hood. “You look surprised to see me.”
“More surprised to see you looking like this!” she told him.
He gave her a half smile and glanced away. “Yeah… this is what happens when I see my father.”
“Your father?” she repeated. “But I thought that he…”
“That he abandoned me and my mother?” he finished for her. He shook his head. “He may not have stayed with her, but he made sure that I was safe and – And that I didn’t get any bad ideas in my head. He was never a bedtime story kind of dad, but it’s not like he doesn’t care. I mean, how could he care about the galaxy and not his own bloodline?”
“Does he have any other children?” Citlally blurted out. She couldn’t understand why she had asked it, why it was even relevant, but by the time she thought better of it, her words had already flown.
Jalingan smirked. “My mother is the only woman he’s ever gotten pregnant,” he told her. “I figure that’s just as far as he knows, but I guess he was more careful after her, too.”
“So you get your playboy side from your dad?” she asked him. Again she felt embarrassed for even asking.
“Wow, you’re bold!” he told her with a laugh. “What’s this about you thinking that I’m some sort of playboy?”
Citlally shrugged. “You don’t seem like the settling-down type is all,” she explained. “But let me get back to where this all started; does he really make you clean up like this?”
Jalingan gave her a sheepish grin. “You mean comb my hair, tie it back, put on a clean shirt, things like that?”
“Exactly,” she said. “I have never seen you looking so… formal before.”
“Does it really look that bad?” he asked. He headed over to the bathroom, the only place with a mirror in his room. “Man oh man, if I looked like this all the time, the K’zzyrch would never have hired me as a mercenary!”
“It’s not so bad,” Citlally reassured him, following him over to the doorway. “You look like you’re going to a gala, or some kind of royal ball.”
He frowned. “Now you’re talking about nobility? I guess I get that from my mother’s side.” He sighed and turned off the light, then walked back out to the main room to sit on his bed. As he unpinned his cloak, he put on a smile and told her, “Don’t worry about all that. I have a little something for you.”
“What is it?” she asked him.
Jalingan flung his cloak away from his shoulders, letting it fall back onto the bed like just another blanket. He had on his travel bag and his bandolier, but they were oddly juxtaposed with the silk shirt that he’d donned underneath. From the pocket just over his chest he pulled several plastic cards, all of which he held out towards Citlally. She accepted them with a wide smile.
“You get right down to business, don’t you?” she noted as she looked over the cards. “I suppose I might as well ask, then; how much did you get?”
“That’s somewhere between seven hundred and eight hundred thousand credits,” he told her.
Citlally felt her jaw drop open, and she stared at him in disbelief. “That much for those pebbles?!”
“Don’t worry,” he added. “There’s more.”
“More?” she asked, looking over the cards once again. “What do you mean more?”
Jalingan reached into another pocket on his bandolier, and pulled out two small bags, one her velvet bag, and the other a smaller plastic one. “I ran out of buyers,” he explained, “and it was getting late. I figured you were all freaking out here on Tanoora Prime, so I decided to head back with these.”
Citlally handed him the plastic cards to hold so that she could take the bags from him. The velvet one was loaded with glowing opal-like stones, milky and sparkling all at once. There were a few small pieces of millefinluxium at the bottom of it. The other held a variety of colorful jewels of various sizes.
“This is incredible,” she breathed, looking over the stones. “You traded the millefinluxium for these?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes,” he admitted. “It took a few trades to get the starstones, but they’re a lot easier to carry around than the titanium bars that I had at first.”
“You had pure titanium bars?” Citlally asked him.
“Quite a lot, yes,” he told her. “I still have a couple left in my cargo, actually. Right next to the case of Lixfelian mead and the ship’s computer cards… and a few other things.”
Citlally gave him a curious look. “Did all of that come from you selling – or trading off – what I gave you?”
“You see,” he said with the amusement that she’d gotten used to hearingin his voice – a jovial tone that he was exceedingly good at hiding while he was working as a mercenary – “I keep trying to impress upon you the value of this mineral. This is why some aliens species are willing to kill and enslave for it. Just those pebbles are worth more than I could even get credits for. I ran out of buyers for all of this stuff. I ended up trading for the mead because I heard that the mechanic on this station really likes it.”
“Is he Lixfelian?” Citlally was curious to know.
“He is,” Jalingan admitted, “but that’s besides the point. The Lixfelians make the best mead in this arm of the Milky Way. Anyhow, usually when I’m negotiating trades, I like to ask the person I’m selling for what they’d like to do. This time, I didn’t have that luxury, but I knew what your end goal was.”
“So you got some things just for the mechanic?” she asked him.
Jalingan nodded. “Maybe he’ll take some of it as his payment.”
“Do you really think we need to trade?” Citlally worried. “Is it going to cost more than all of the credits that we have?”
“Not unless Mannarius ordered a composite one-four-two drive,” he told her. “The only thing worth more than millefinluxium is a starship drive that runs on it.”
“Are you telling me that there are ships that run on it, that uses it as fuel?” She could hardly believe what she was asking.
He nodded. “They’re pretty rare. There are only a few known class X ships in this galaxy, and we do not even know whether millefinluxium formed outside of the Milky Way.”
“Who runs the class X ships?” Citlally asked him.
“Most of them belong to the K’zzyrch,” Jalingan told her with a frown. “They sold a few of them to their allies, species who’ve helped them in their conquests. But listen, I don’t want to talk about that right now. We need to get these upgrades started. My father was able to look up what upgrades Mannarius wanted, and the hull plating alone takes over a week to change out.”
“Can’t they work on multiple parts of the same time?” Citlally suggested
“As much as that would make sense,” he explained, “the high-speed drive that he wants uses very delicate equipment. It takes a lot of precision to install it, and you can’t get that kind of precision when the hull is being drilled apart. It will probably be need to be installed last, so that nothing upsets it. My point is, I want to get this started, and I don’t want to waste time arguing with my cousin and trying to get convince him to accept all of this.”
Citlally looked down at the bags of jewels in her hand, and at the stack of plastic cards in his. She thought about what he said he had in his cargo hold for a moment, and then said to him, “Let me go to the mechanic, then.”
“Don’t you try to go,” Citlally insisted. “The way you two talk about each other, he would sooner cancel the work than let you get it started. Let me take everything to the mechanic and let him know that he can begin.”
“Are you sure about that?” Jalingan asked her.
“Would I really say if I was not sure?” she pointed out.
He shrugged. “Maybe you wouldn’t. Can I at least walk you down to Finneryl’s shop?” he asked her. “It would save you the trouble of trying to look for it yourself.
She thought for a moment, and then nodded. “That much I can let you do. Do you need to change first?” she asked him.
He shook his head and grinned. “It might be funny to have people see me like this,” he replied. Then he held the plastic cards out to her. “Did you want to hold on to these?”
“You are the one with the fancy pockets,” she told him. She pointed to the pocket directly over his heart. “They’ve been safe in there so far.”
He chuckled and slid the cards into his bandolier pocket. Citlally reached over and put the jewels back into the other pocket, snapping it shut and giving it the gentle pat.
“You want me to hold on to those, too?” he asked.
“Sure, why not?” She winked at him.
Jalingan pulled his cloak back on and walked out into the hall with her. He looked relieved that there was still no sign of Mannarius as they headed to the nearest lift. Once they were headed down, Citlally found herself glad to have him with her, because she realized that she had no idea which level the mechanic was on. She would have wandered around lost until somebody had been kind enough to point her in the right direction – assuming that they didn’t altogether take advantage of her.
“The mechanic is near the docking bays on most space stations,” Jalingan explained.
“I guess that makes sense,” she replied. “It seems like it would be more convenient to get the ship from the docking bay over to the mechanic.”
“It’s pretty handy,” he agreed, “especially if your ship is very badly damaged.”
He glanced around the halls as they exited the lift and hurried her over to an entrance with a sign that said Finneryl’s Upgrades and Repairs over it.
“Have you been here before?” Citlally wondered out loud.
He shook his head. “No, but I know this is the place where Mannarius wanted to get his upgrades done.” He strolled up to the counter.
There was a lizard-like man sitting on the chair at the other side, so low that he could hardly be seen over the height of the counter. Citlally gasped when she saw him, and hid behind Jalingan’s back.
“It’s okay,” he assured her, “He’s not what you think he is.”
Citlally peered over the half-lion’s shoulder as the other alien stood up and laid his hands on the counter.
“Don’t worry about apologizing,” the lizard told her. “I get that a lot. Jogar Miqyo, at your service. What kind of work do you need done?”
“It won’t be for my own ship,” Jalingan told him. “My cousin was in here a few days ago to talk about a quote for some work that he wanted to get done.”
“And?” the alien asked him. “You are not here to petition for a discount for him, are you?”
“No, I don’t think that will be necessary,” Jalingan replied. “We’re here to put down a deposit on the work and get it started.”
“You want to pay for his work order?” Jogar asked, curious, as though nobody had never done such a thing before.
“Right, exactly,” Citlally said with a nod. “Can I talk to Finneryl about it?”
Jogar peered across the counter at the human and her half-lion companion for a moment, and then glanced around. “For a request like this, you should talk to him anyway.”
“Is he here?” Jalingan asked.
“Let me find out for you,” Jogar replied. He slipped down from the counter and disappeared into the back room. He came back within a few minutes with the Lixfelian mechanic at his side. Citlally peered up at him, trying not to look to surprised to see how tall he was. Jalingan seemed much less intimidated.
“Hello,” Finneryl greeted the half-lion, his voice deep and rich. “My assistant tells me that you have a rather unusual request.”
“I didn’t think it would be that strange,” Jalingan replied.
“Perhaps not strange,” Finneryl clarified, “but not very common.”
Finneryl took a look at Citlally and added. “Perhaps this is strange after all, now that I can see that humans are now involved.” He seemed very curious about the whole matter, and spoke carefully, as though he were thinking as much as he was talking.
Jalingan glanced down at Citlally, then back to the mechanic. “Can we discuss this in your office?”
A cunning smile crossed the mechanic’s face. “But of course,” he told them. He held his arm out towards the door to the work bays. “Please, right this way.”
Just as he had with Mannarius and Dhruv, Finneryl led his guests through to his office. Citlally was impressed with how it looked, even if her companion didn’t seem equally moved. Jalingan tried to decline the mechanic’s offer of mead, but ended up accepting it on the grounds that it would be rude to do otherwise.
“Now then,” Finneryl began as he sat down to his computer, “whose order was it that your were interested in?”
“My cousin’s,” Jalingan told him. “Mannarius Klavernning III.”
“I see,” Finneryl replied as he typed into his console. “And you are?”
“Jalingan Klavernning,” he told him. Then he paused and added, “The first. And this is our friend, Citlally Winterhawk.”
“Well, in that case,” Finneryl replied with a grin, “our negotiations should be very interesting indeed.”
* ** *** ** *
Within a couple hours of Finneryl settling on a price and how he would accept his payment, the Lionstar was brought up to the mechanic bays. This meant calling Mannarius down to the shop. Jalingan was long gone by the time he got there, leaving Citlally to deal with the Lion on her own. Dhruv was not with him this time, and Endan was off in some other part of the station. He seemed upset that he’d been called down like this, especially with being surprised about the finances. In the end, he felt too put on the spot to decline, and decided that he would talk to her about it elsewhere.
And talk to her he did, in loud and angry tones, once he had walked with her back to his room.
“You let him sell your millefinluxium, didn’t you?” he barked as soon as the doors whooshed shut.
Citlally stared at him for a long moment, worried about the way he was confronting her. “What if I did?” she asked him, more timidly than she usually spoke – but it was her only option if she didn’t want to come back with a disrespectful tone.
“You were there, Citlally,” he groaned. “You were there when I told him that I didn’t want him involved.”
“Of course I was,” Citlally replied. “That was when I told you that if you can’t explain what the problem is, then I’m not going to stop being his friend. I needed his help, Mannarius. And if you think about it, he was helping me long before I knew that I needed his help, before I was even able to ask for it. He was helping me long before you were sent to look for me, just out of the goodness of his heart.”
“His heart doesn’t have the goodness in it that you think it does,” he told her.
She shrugged. “As far as I’m concerned, it does.”
“Why did you need to sell it so badly?” he asked her, giving up on the idea that she would ever understand how much he hated his cousin. “Why couldn’t you have waited until we found someone else to do it for us?”
She gave him a puzzled look, as though he had no reason to not understand. “What do you think?”
He shook his head and gave an exasperated sigh. “It doesn’t make sense,” he told her. “Why do you think that you need to pay for the upgrades on my ship?”
Citlally pursed her lips and thought carefully about how she was going to word her answer. “Because I wanted to,” she said. “There’s no reason that you should have to do this on your own. Besides, I’m the only reason you’re going out to the Heart Nebula, and it doesn’t need to be all at your expense.”
Mannarius gave an uncomfortable shrug. “I’ve been wanting to get these upgrades on the Lionstar for a long time anyway,” he insisted. “I can take care of my own ship. You don’t have to worry about that.”
“I believe you,” Citlally replied. “But listen, there’s no use in refusing my help, especially if it’s just because of your cousin. Think about it, Mannarius. I’ve been through hell ever since Regulus Station II was attacked. The sooner I get peace and can head back home, the better.”
He gave her a sidelong glance, as though he worried that she knew something she shouldn’t have. “What has Jalingan been telling you?” he asked her.
She shook her head. “Nothing. Do I need to remind you that I only had those stones by chance? It’s not like I sold off an heirloom or anything special. Like I said, I didn’t want to hold onto the mineral, knowing how everyone else regards it. Once Jalingan brought me the money, I figured that we might as well get the work on your ship started. It just sort of happened like that. Anyway, you got me off of Sardonia, and those stones with me.”
Mannarius didn’t look satisfied with her explanation, but also didn’t want to draw out the argument along those lines. “He’s been putting ideas into your head, hasn’t he?”
She shook her head with the sort of feigned ignorance that humans were so well known for. “I have plenty of ideas of my own,” she told him, her tone starting to become irritated. “It is just that Jalingan is more willing to discuss them with me.”
“Maybe you two have more in common than I thought,” he snapped. He grabbed his coat and headed for the door. “and maybe I’ll discuss a few things with him myself.”
Citlally grabbed his arm. “Don’t,” she urged him. “Please. Just leave him alone for once.”
Mannarius pulled his arm away. “No,” he said, trying not to yell. “No, Citlally, you can’t ask me to do that. He’s meddling again, and nothing good comes of it when he meddles. I know you don’t understand the whole story, so I’m not going to be too mad at you. All I ask is that you listen to me for once, that you trust me about him.”
“You mean you want me to trust you and not him?” she quipped, her frown obvious.
“Disapprove all you want, but I’ve asked for what I’ve asked. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see that cousin of mine and deal with him in person.”
* ** *** ** *
Citlally found out later what Mannarius had meant by dealing with his cousin. He spent a lot of time looking specifically for Jalingan, and when he finally found him, things were not pretty.
“So you thought that hiding out in the observatory would keep you safe?” The Lion asked him as he stepped into that wing of the science center.
Jalingan was sitting at one of the telescopes, staring out into the stars as though he had plans to head back out into them. He stood up and gave a weary sigh, as though trying to mentally prepare himself for the argument they were about to have.
“With a temper like yours, who can ever be safe?” Jalingan said, his voice heavy, weighed down by how tired he was of arguing with his cousin every time their path crossed.
“What do you mean, ‘with a temper like mine?’ I’m one of the most easy-going captains in the Orion Arm of the galaxy.”
“You think so?” Jalingan replied, obviously unimpressed with the other man’s attitude. “Then why do you hold grudges for so long?”
“Probably because you’re just another careless fool!” Mannarius snapped at him.
“Can’t you see the harm you do to those around you? Do you even remember what you did?!”
Jalingan gave him an even look, his eyes watching him, following him, but his body still and unmoving. It was not that he didn’t care; he was completely serious. “I will never forget about it,” he told his cousin. “I’ve told you time and again how much I regret everything that happened back then.”
“I don’t think you care at all!” Mannarius told him. His voice was getting louder, and people were starting to look over at them. “Here you are, sitting around, happy as can be as you stare through a telescope. As though you had that sort of luxury!”
“Now is not the time for anything else,” Jalingan reminded him.
“Now is the time for you to just leave! Get out of here, leave the station, just get away from me! I wanted you out of my life, and if I had known that helping Doctor Sendrick find that human would mean having to see you again – that you wouldn’t just tell me where she was and leave it at that – I would have given the job to somebody else!”
“Do you really feel that way about Citlally?” Jalingan asked him, much more in control of his own voice than his cousin was. He spoke calmly, evenly, as though Mannarius wasn’t able to rile him up.
“This isn’t about her!” The Lion was screaming by now. “This is about you, you being an idiot, you being the biggest fool I’ve ever met!
Jalingan blinked, shifted in his seat, and gave another sigh. “Are you angry that Citlally trusted me with something? Perhaps I should tell you that she wanted to trust you with it, wanted you to accept it. All she wanted to do was help, and you outright rejected her.”
“Who do you think you are, talking to me like that?!” Mannarius grabbed Jalingan by the scruff of his silk shirt, screaming in his face, jostling him with every word, making his cloak wave behind him.
“I’m your cousin,” Jalingan reminded him. “I’m part of your family.”
“You have no place in my family!” He shoved Jalingan backwards, forcing him onto the floor. He stared over him, breathing hard as he glared down at him.
People started leaving the observatory, afraid to get caught up in what looked like a fight that was about to start. Staff from the observatory – scientists, because there was no need to keep security guards in a science center – were approaching him nervously, no doubt hoping that they would be able to ask him to leave and take their argument elsewhere.
“Hate me all you want,” Jalingan told him, “but I’ve already made all the peace I can with what happened.”
“You really think that?” Mannarius shouted, his boot meeting was Jalingan’s leg. “You really think that we have peace with each other so long as you come anywhere near me? How do you even have the right to be at peace with anything?!”
Jalingan stared up at him stoically and said nothing.
“Say something!” Mannarius ordered him, screaming, ready to kick him again.
“Did you at least let Citlally help you?” Jalingan finally asked him. “She’s been worried sick that you would tell her no.”
Mannarius narrowed his eyes and shook his head. Jalingan could see the way that his rage was boiling inside of him.
“Is this what you had planned all along? This isn’t just her wanting to be nice, is it? She knew something. You knew something!”
“I know a lot of things,” Jalingan replied. “Most of all, I know when you’re upset.”
This time, Mannarius did kick him, right on his side, where it was soft and fleshy. Jalingan curled up, clutching his abdomen as his cousin went on shouting. “You’re damn right I’m upset!”
“There’s no reason to let your pride make you do this,” Jalingan groaned. “Everyone knows how precious that ship is to you, but you don’t need to take anything out on us.”
One of the scientists, worried that one of his guests was going to be badly hurt, stepped forward. He asked Mannarius to leave, or to at least take whatever was going on between them somewhere else.
”Just back off!” The Lion yelled at him.
“This is not a place for violence,” the scientist told him, adjusting his glasses. “I cannot let you hurt him.”
Jalingan was starting to roll over onto his knees and push himself up. Regardless of the pain in his side, he forced himself to stand.
Mannarius turned to him and snarled, “What do you know about my ship? And why is Citlally trying to pay for my upgrades? Did you tell her something about the pricing?”
“I didn’t tell her anything,” Jalingan insisted. “She figured that out on her own. She’s a smart girl, and she knows that you didn’t get the work started the first time you went to see Finneryl. She knows how to put two and two together.”
“Yet she thought that I needed so much money that she had to sell –” Mannarius paused, remembering that he could not say the name of the mineral that she’d had, that it was highly restricted.
“She lost everything else,” Jalingan reminded him. “What else did she have to sell?”
“You know more than you’re letting on! You lying –” This time, the Lion pounced. He leaped onto Jalingan, thrusting his body back on to one of the telescopes. The scientist cringed as he heard the metal creaking, and again when he heard the way Jalingan groaned in pain.
“It’s time for you to leave!” another scientist came over and shouted. “You’re damaging our equipment, and if you don’t leave right now, security will be called.”
Mannarius ignored them. He had grabbed Jalingan’s collar and was shaking him violently. “You think that you can come back here, loaded up with money, happy-go-lucky as always, and not have any consequences?!” His fist flew into Jalingan’s jaw.
“You think getting yourself cleaned up makes a difference to me? You think it makes a difference that you see your father every now and then?” His other fist this time. “It is the only time you ever get yourself cleaned up like this, and it doesn’t make a bit of difference! You’re still scum! You’re still worth way less than your father ever treated you! And that’s saying a lot, considering the way he abandoned you and your mother!”
The scientists heard the hard sounds of fists repeatedly meeting flesh, and started hurrying about, telling each other what needed to be done. There was a cracking sound, followed by a dull groan, and the scientists moved even faster. There were several minutes of Mannarius yelling, his words unintelligible, interrupted by despaired sobs, before the heavy footsteps of the security guards could be heard.
Station security walked into a scene that required their immediate action. Mannarius was crouched over his half-blooded cousin, hitting his chest as he wailed and shouted. The first one in radioed for a team of medics to meet them in the observatory, and then she ordered her guards to surround the Leomian man and pull him away. It took four of them to move Mannarius, and he struggled under their grip the whole time, cursing them with every step.
“He has no right to live!” he screamed as they bound his arms. “He’s completely worthless!”
“Shackle his feet,” the lead guard told them. “The scientists say he’s been kicking his victim. Where is that medical team?”
Mannarius struggled against the restraints, but in the end they got them on him, and the guards were warning him to calm down before he had to be sedated.
“You’re no better than the K’zzyrch!” he snarled.
“You have quite a mouth on you, do not you?” the lead guard noted. She glanced over at the nearest scientist. “Any idea what set him off?”
“He came in here angry,” he told her.
“Looking for a fight?” she asked Mannarius. “You can spend some time in a security cell until you calm down and we decide what to do with you.”
* ** *** ** *
Citlally didn’t find out that Jalingan had been taken to the medical center until a nurse came by his room to collect some of his things. She followed her all the way back to Jalingan’s medical room and sat by his side until he woke up, clutching his hand and watching him worriedly.
“Uuurghh…” he groaned as he opened his eyes. “Why do they keep it so bright in here?”
Citlally hurried to turn down the lights, and then took his hand again.
“Is it all that bad?” he asked her when he saw the look on her face.
“You… you’re so bruised right now,” she told him. “Jalingan, they won’t tell me what happened to you. How in the world were you attacked?”
“How do you think?” He was finding it hard to talk – not only that, but hard to breathe.
“It couldn’t be,” she breathed. “I mean, I tried to – but I had no idea that he was going to go this far!”
Jalingan groaned, tried to roll over on his side, and then moaned even louder. “You couldn’t have known,” he told her between gritted teeth. “By the way, where is Dhruv? He usually keeps Mannarius – ”
“Stop trying to talk so much,” she urged him. “Dhruv has been spending a lot of time with his new girlfriend.”
He turned and tried to grin at her, although it came out strangely because of all his bruises. “Is she cute?”
“Ummmm… She’s Leomian,” Citlally told him with a raised brow, knowing that he wouldn’t drop it even if she told him that he shouldn’t be worrying about that just then.
“Must be the one from decon,” Jalingan chuckled. “Listen, if he comes looking for Mannarius, will you tell him what happened?”
“That his captain put you is the hospital?” she asked him.
Jalingan nodded, and regretted it right away. He moaned through the pain and waited for it to dull before speaking. “Tell him that a security team had to come get him off of me. Hes still with them.”
“Wait,” Citlally gasped, “You mean Mannarius was arrested?!”
“Basically, yes,” he told her, trying to shift his body into a more comfortable position.
Within a couple of minutes, the nurse came in and helped Jalingan onto his back, reminding him to try to no move around. She checked his chart, added something to it, and then pulled a syringe from her pocket.
“I brought you something else for the pain,” she told him. “The doctor prescribed you something stronger.”
“I don’t know whether to be relieved or decline it,” Jalingan groaned.
“Enough with you saying that you deserve the pain,” the nurse insisted. She looked over at Citlally. “It will probably put him to sleep, so you may not be staying long.”
“I understand,” she told the nurse.
Jalingan sighed as he received the medicine, waited for the nurse to leave, and looked up at his human friend. “I keep forgetting that I avoid Mannarius more for my own safety than because he told me to.”
“He has done this before?” she asked him, her eyes widening.
“Once or twice,” Jalingan admitted.
“What happened between you two?” Citlally begged of him. “Why is he this bitter?”
“I’ll have to tell you…” he began with a yawn, “when I wake up.”
“That’s some strong medicine,” she noted.
“Mmm-hmmm,” he intoned, a goofy grin peeking through the bruises on his face. “It’s the best.”
Citlally waited for a few minutes, just to make sure Jalingan was completely asleep, then got up from her seat and headed out of the medical center. Thoughts and emotions raced through her mind, worry about Jalingan’s injuries, disappointment that Mannarius had turned out to be so violent, and even relief that at least the upgrades on the Lionstar were underway. She hoped that once it was ready, everyone would be able to get along long enough for her and Endan to make it to the Heart Nebula.