As we dock with the ship, spirits are high. It was a successful mission and the peldaks have their own strange rituals when dealing with the dead, so they’re happy. The former slaves are saved from the gurant, so they’re happy. The former soldiers weren’t killed when the gurant blasted them into space, so they’re happy. We sayran know our comrades will be reincarnated sooner or later, so we’re happy.
Finally, and most importantly, I emerge from the airlock with Gogrundudel’s severed head raised high.
“Oh no…” Henryk’s ears droop.
“See? What’d I say? I said I’d do it,” I jump through the air and let the magnet suit bring me down in front of him, landing perfectly, “and I did it. Simple.”
“Y-yes. I suppose you did. Good work. Know that Captain Gogrundudel’s death is invaluable to the war effort. I’ll make sure estate Sehat fully understands your contribution and the honor you’ve brought upon not only yourself-“
I wave him off, “that’s cool and all, but that’s not why I did it.” I wiggle my eyebrows suggestively.
Henryk looks to the passing peldaks, but all they can do is jokingly shake their heads and offer prayers as they continue on. If they don’t get their ‘dead’ comrades’ bodies to the medbay in time, resuscitation will be impossible and they’ll die for good.
Meanwhile, the support staff on the ship help Mouse, the rescued slaves, and the rescued soldiers maneuver. None of them are wearing magnet suits, so they’re floating aimlessly, some are panicking.
“Very well.” Henryk straighten and steels himself. “I made the deal and I’ll see it through.”
I turn my head and tap my cheek, waiting expectantly.
Henryk needs a moment to calm himself, his ears flutter in distress. He affectionately rubs his iron wedding ring, then slowly leans forward. His eyes are closed and all the muscles in his face are tight, which is a mistake on his part as I take the opportunity and turn my head. He kisses me on the lips, just as I wanted. It’s perfect, my whole body shudders as years of expectantly waiting for this moment has finally paid off! A peldak, a real peldak, kisses me. It’s just as sweet as I had always hoped.
Henryk freezes for a second, then his eyes open. His pupils constrict and he backs away in shock and horror at what he’s done.
“Yay!” I bounce and spin and clap from the joy of it all. “I never thought it’d work! Ahh, it really is the simple things in life that make it all worthwhile. Hey Henryk, if you have a war that needs winning, I’d be more than happy to negotiate for a little something ~more~ next-“
I feel a crack, and everything goes dark.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
My hearing returns, then my vision. Everything hurts. I’m not using vaalige to dull the pain and I want to cry.
“Wha-t?” My voice is dry and raspy. “Hell-o?” My attempts to clear my throat only result in frail, weak coughs.
I see white curtains, medical equipment, and… aww, Mouse has a magnet suit on and he’s sleeping in a chair to my right. He’s waiting for me to wake up? That’s adorable.
Soon, a nurse comes by and slides the curtain aside. She’s wearing the tight magnet suit with a pure white scrub top over it. A little past her, I can see the doctor treating someone else. As my nurse talks, she’s constantly sticking her butt out and keeps glancing over to see if the doctor is looking, which he obviously never is. These peldak women, I swear. The lengths they’ll go to for male attention, it’s pathetic.
“Wakey-wakey,” she says softy, “you’ve been out of it for a few days, but don’t worry. The surgery was a complete success and you’ll be back on your feet in no time.”
She nods. “Officer Burza gave you one right in the nose, knocked you clean out. When we brought you in to treat your shoulder and hip wound, we also realized that your skull was fractured and there was quite a few bone fragments either stabbing into your brain, or stuck between the lobes.” She takes the chart from the side of my bed. “I’m not a surgeon, but it’s a miracle you’re even alive right now.” She moves the chart closer to me. “Wanna see?”
“No… thanks.” I try my best to wave her off, but I’ve no strength in my arms. “How long has… he been here?” It takes a lot of effort to turn my head to Mouse.
“Him? Since you got back from surgery, hasn’t left your side. He keeps talking, but he hasn’t been civilized yet, so I’ve got no idea what he’s been babbling about. Oh, and sorry about your hair. It’ll grow back, save for a few scar areas, but we had to cut it all off when we rooted around in your brain.”
I raise an eyebrow as she brings over a mirror. My head is wrapped in a fresh set of bandages and all my hair is gone. That’s… a bit of a shock. I really liked my hair. I’m hoping Mouse isn’t too picky, but saving his life more than makes up for being bald, right?
“Oh. I… see.”
The nurse nods. “Just press one of these buttons if you need anything, one of us is always just around the corner. With a polite smile, she draws the curtains to a close and walks away.
Looking closer at my situation, I’m tied to the bed so I don’t float off and there’s a dozen IV’s stuck in my veins. Tubes are everywhere, pumping me full of all kinds of liquids that are no doubt keeping me alive. Vaalige can’t repair wounds or heal organic tissue. It’s hard to explain and I’m tired. I’ll sit back and let the medical professionals work their magic.
As I think, Mouse slowly stirs awake. Finally time to receive my prize for a job well done! I don’t care about brain damage, I don’t care about my loss of hair, I don’t care about being hospitalized. I just need to play my cards right and we’re practically married already.
Mouse yawns and stretches his back, showing off a well-built body attained from years of manual labor and survival instincts. My heart monitor starts to beep as my heart rate quickens, and the nurse comes back over to check on me. One look at Mouse and she gets it. With a wink, she lowers the monitor’s sound so it won’t go off again.
Now it’s just Mouse and me.
He’s eager to communicate and puts his hand on my chest once more. I’m finally out of my armor, which is great, but he touches me with a little too much force, thus disturbing the gaping hole that’s just a few inches to the right. My face turns red, my cheeks puff up with air from a scream, and the veins in my forehead bulge out. But I successfully don’t cry.
After a few seconds to compose myself, I receive his thoughts. Gratitude, satisfaction from the revenge, confusion at this new ship, worship… an image of him wanting to give me a hug? Fri-… friendship?
Friendship?! What do you mean friendship? Not love? No images of hearts fluttering around us as we kiss?
I send that image to him and he… pulls back. An eyebrow raised and his lips pressed into two thin lines.
Wha? After all I did he… no, wait. Hearts have a very specific connotation in Protectorate culture. He was born and raised in a ship, he’s just raising issue with those strange symbols floating around us.
His hand is still on my chest, so I send one more image. Make it perfectly clear to defuse any confusion, I send him an image of exactly what I plan on doing to him once my injuries are healed.
His entire face goes a tomato red and he backs away from the bed entirely, nearly tipping over in his chair as he pushes away.
He doesn’t… so all this time… He only viewed me as a tool for revenge? He saw me as a warrior and not as a woman?
The realization hits me in the gut and I cough up blood that paints the curtain beyond my feet. This hurts far worse than anything Grogundai, or whatever his stupid name was, did to me. I float limp in the air as the heart monitor flatlines.
That’s it, I’m done. Even when I save a hot enslaved man from his fate I still screw it up and creep him out. Maybe that’s my real curse, or a way to balance it out. I may be strong, but I’ll never pass my strength onto children.
Not even the gurant wanted me. He squished my head the moment he had a chance.
As my senses fade, the nurses and doctors sprint over and rip off my blanket.
“What’s wrong with her?”
“I don’t know, she was doing fine a second ago!”
“Did she just loose her will to live?”
My senses begin to fade, the ship fades to darkness as my vision constricts.
“-sh- -eeds- -ou-h t- m-uth!”
What? ‘She needs mouth to mouth?’ My visions returns just long enough to see the nurse leaning over my bed and pressing her lips to mine.
…I’m fine with death, I think.