STILL PRE-PROOFREAD...lots of errors that will eventually be fixed... just sharing the progress...
“Sempre Dolcissimo Cantabile”
(Always Sweetly Singing)
Author: D. Sanders
---- continued... Go read these posts first
Over the next few weeks things seemed to settle into a routine of sorts. Everyone gathered for breakfast first thing in the morning. Mandy had gone so far as to have Tinks build her a make-shift chicken coop and pen about fifty paces from what everyone had taken to just calling “The Homestead” and she had bought a dozen or more fat, live chickens and a rooster and now had fresh eggs daily. She was a woman in her element and she seemed to glow with happiness, even if Tinks threatened to strangle a noisy rooster who liked to make too much noise for his liking.
When she wasn’t cooking up something new to fill up bellies, she was bent over a portable computer interface going over Beau’s extensive data. Beau had been correct the creatures had permeated the very cells of the host. Removal would be impossible. However a test with fire proved that the mites would burn with the body. It's a rather painful end but one possible choice.
The other was quicker and painless. She sighed, it wasn’t like she wasn’t going to tell Beau and Eran something they didn’t already know, but it still hurt to think about. “I’m afraid you really only have one option. You’re not ever going to age or change. But when you become too weary of life to go on, just turn off the life support on the ship. The mites will die in the absolute zero of space. You know bodies will explode almost instantly in the void of space, the internal pressure is too great and even the mites cannot adjust your body that quickly, the adrift cells will freeze. You can suicide with no pain. It’s your choice though.”
“I think it’s a long way off yet, but I’m sure Eran and I will one day want to stop and rest. At least one won’t have to live without the other and we can go together. That is a blessing.” Beau said and Eran smiled and nodded.
“I may not get to see you as an old man, but you won’t hear me complaining at what I do have. This is a huge universe, I’m sure will find many things to keep us entertained for a while yet.” Eran said kissing Beaus cheek, then taking the data disk out of the computer and tossing it in the fire. “No records of this. The less people know of these creatures the less tempted they will be to seek out a fountain of youth. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
“That’s probably very wise.” Mandy said watching all the data disintegrate and float away up the chimney.
“Believe me Mandy, I know people. There’s always somebody out there looking for a quick buck and who does not consider the consequences. Imagine if the Tsions had been immortal? None of us would be free now. All it would take is one ill-considered sale to the wrong person. There are people out there evil to the core, add being immortal into the equation? That is just a curse on the entire galaxy.”
“For now we’ll just keep them buried in the cave. When it’s time to leave, we’ll take them with us and let them go out in space.” Beau said as Tinks wandered in to grab a few cold drinks.
He had a rag tied around his head to help keep the sweat out of his eyes; he wore a pair of cut off pants and a tattered tank top.
“You look like absolute shit.” Eran muttered as Tinks drank almost his entire bottle of cold carbonated raspberry soda in one long gulp.
“Thanks for that assessment. You stay purdy in this heat. I’m baking up there.”
“What are you doing?”
“Working on the radar grid relays. I want a longer range scan function and faster jamming and encrypting capabilities. I have the whole matrix torn apart up there. It looks like a night crawler orgy after a thunderstorm up there. I just needed a break, no shade and shiny steel. I’m a Fag on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Everyone just burst out laughing as Mandy went to the cupboard she’d designated as first aide and came back with sunscreen. “Put that on, you’re burning.”
“I mean it Cris. I don’t want you getting sunstroke on me. Erect some shade.”
“With what? I’m taking breaks, don’t worry.”
Val chose that moment to walk in with Farin, both of them looking worn out too. “It’s too damn hot out there today. I thought you said Osteril was a cool month.” Farin said grabbing a drink and tossing one to Val.
“It normally is. Heat wave. Last ditch effort for summer before autumn bites us in the balls.” Val said running his drink over his forehead first before draining it down his throat. He looked at Cris who was getting dark in the sun.
“Nice tan, but you’re getting pink around the edges.” Val said going to look for the sunscreen.
“Mandy beat you to it. I’m smeared. I only have an hour or two left before I can call it quits. I’m almost done and that’s the last of my modifications up top. The rest I can tear apart inside.”
“You’d better hurry. Take a look towards the ocean. We have a storm rolling in, and it’s gonna be a good one, I can see the thunderheads from here.” Beau gestured toward the window and Tinks nodded and headed back outside.
“I’ll hurry.” He replied quickly and hurried back outside and up the ladder to finish his job before water ruined his grid work.
“Did he tell you what he’s done?” Farin asked as he took a break on an obliging stool.
“HA! Not just faster the little fucking genius. He’s hooked the cannon and laser tracking systems into the radar. All sensory relays are on one interconnected matrix. They all talk to each other now, no mistakes. That boy thinks way outside of the box. He can control everything right from his station, or yours, or Val’s even down in engineering. If he locks onto you with one system, he’s got you targeted on all systems. From Navigation to trajectory to targeting, he’s made you one very smart ship.” Farin said impressed.
“Holy shit. Why on earth did he do that?”
“He wanted you to have the power of veto if needed. All command consoles are interconnected. You can see what he, Val and Enjoe are doing at all times and you can cancel orders with a push of a button.”
“He noticed huh?”
“Yeah. He did, Enjoe’s been a little too free with the cannons lately. He wanted you to be able to lock him down faster I suspect.”
“Remind me to give Tinks a raise.” Eran said quite relieved that Tinks had taken it upon himself to find a way to keep the first officer in line without making it LOOK like he’d done it to keep Enjoe monitored.
“Anyone heard from Enjoe at all?” Mandy asked and Eran shook his head.
“Nope. I sent a message to his communicator, letting him know our coordinates and intentions to stay until the New Year. All I got in reply was ‘message received and acknowledged’. What an Asshole.”
“You finally noticed? Enjoe has always been an asshole.” Farin barked setting his empty bottle on the counter. “Sour kid, mean teenager, foul adult. That boy isn’t right in the head I think sometimes.”
“He’s modified. They’re all a little different.” Mandy sighed.
Eran’s eyes went wide. “Modified? And you were gonna tell me that when?”
“Christ Eran I thought you KNEW.” Mandy answered back just as much in shock.
“What’s modified?” Val asked, knowing of the elusive Enjoe from conversations with Cris.
“Military alteration. They stick a chip in your head, makes you really smart with strategic brilliance and deadly. If those chips go bad you can have a psychotic killer on your hands.” Farin supplied the answer and Mandy continued.
“Not in Enjoe’s case. He’s new issue, if the chip goes bad, it’ll release a corrosive. It’ll kill him. Too many older versions did the mass murderer thing. New issues just have a meltdown, literally.”
“Fuck. I wish I had known that before. Remind me to TRIPLE Cris’ salary. He just gave me a huge piece of mind giving me control of Enjoe’s movements.”
“Why do you think he did it Eran? Even with a brain chip modification, you can’t out wit Cris. He’s too smart, he’s lived outside the box his whole life, it’s second nature to him to find a way when there is no way conceivable. Did Mandy ever show you his IQ test? 202, fucking 202 at age twelve. I’d wonder what he is today.” Farin said and Val just smiled, he’d quickly made that observation on his own watching Cris work day to day.
Val was so far gone there was no return. He was totally in love and in awe. All those brains, all those fabulous good looks, all that gorgeous hair, all that insane energy and all of it tempered with huge amounts of genuine humility. A perfect package if ever he saw one.
It helped that over the past few weeks they’d had a lot of time to just sit and talk. Even after six weeks, it had not gone past simple old-fashioned kissing petting in private corners, long walks just holding hands. They had grown to truly know the other; it was a solid friendship first and foremost. Sometimes taking things slow was the best way to grow into a solid relationship. The love was strong and growing stronger every day. Val could quite easily now envision spending the rest of his natural life with Cris. He didn’t need to look anywhere else. Cris was everything he’d ever wished for and more.
Cris hadn’t had a nightmare since that night they’d kissed for the first time and his confidence in himself was growing by leaps and bounds, it was nice to see Cris finally had a little self-esteem returning. It made everyone happy to see, not just Val. The change in Cris was palpable, he was a joy to be around, he was infectious and Val and everyone else were gratefully infected.
The storm rolled in just as Tinks managed to securely fasten the access hatch closed atop the “Infinity” the skies opened up in torrents as he screwed the last bolt home.
“Get off the ship you lunatic! Do you want to be electrocuted?” Val hollered through the wind as he emerged from within the ship, just finished himself with his days work.
“I’m coming now!” Tinks hollered back as he slipped and slid on the wet surface and down the ladder just as the thunder crashed. Val was waiting for him at the foot of the ladder.
“So are you!” Tinks laughed holding his arms wide to the storm. “I love the rain!”
“Nut job. Come on.” Val grinned but Tinks just shook his head and went running through the muddy field laughing like a boy possessed. Val naturally let Cris sweep him away into the spontaneous moment of frivolity and chased him.
Val caught up to Tinks as he paused to splash in a large puddle. “You’re crazy you know that. You don’t play in thunderstorms.” A large boom and a flash across the sky punctuated Val's warning.
“I know. We just don’t get many of these in space.” Tinks replied raking back his hair that was plastered to his face. His braid half undone and hanging like a drenched rope behind him.
“I’ll show you how to enjoy a rainstorm.” Val insinuated with a waggling of eyebrows.
“Oh really? Do show me Don Juan.” Tinks slipped into Val’s arms tilting his head back offering, and Val took the invitation and kissed him slowly as rain fell on them in hard heavy drops.
Val and Cris tracked in water in their wake as they returned to their rooms, shedding soaked shirts on the floor near the door to be hung up to dry.
Val stoked a fire in their small hearth and set up a chair near it to drape their clothes over. “Alright you, strip and get in something DRY.” Val ordered and Tinks obliged giving Val a nice view of his backside as he walked back across the room to wrap up only in his blanket.
“Dear God, don’t tease me gorgeous.”
“I like to tease.”
“Why thank you for noticing.”
Val just smiled and stripped to his own bare skin, Cris whistled low. “One of these days I’m going to be absolutely wicked and play connect the dots with all those beautiful spots.”
“My Freckles? Curse of the Redhead, and don’t you dare.” Val shook a warning finger at Tinks as he wrapped in his own blanket and joined Tinks on his bunk.
“Oh see now, you told me not to. Big Mistake.”
“You don’t do what you’re told?”
“Not if I can help it.” Cris chuckled and Val smirked.
“Don’t kiss me.”
Cris laughed and gleefully pounced. Cris was flat on his back being kissed within an inch of his senses on his bunk and was breathless when Val sat up. “Such a wonderful temptation you are.”
“So agonizingly slow you are. What do I have to do to get you to forget about being a gentleman? You’re driving me crazy.”
“Patience is a virtue.”
Val smiled and sat up “Believe me Cris it’s hard not to. I want this to be special when it happens, I have… plans.”
Cris cocked an eyebrow. “Plans? Such as?”
“Such as I am not telling you. It’ll spoil it.”
“You are so sickeningly romantic, even if you have me so wound up I feel like a wrist watch with a striped screw.”
“Where do you come up with your analogies?” Val chuckled Cris just shrugged.
A bright flash of light and deafening crash of thunder shook the dwelling and all the lights went out and both men flew to the door. “That was fucking close.” Cris said his eyes straying to the “Infinity” but it wasn’t the ship that had been struck by the lightening, the generators however weren’t so lucky.
“Fuck. I know what my job is tonight. No sleep for me.” Cris grumbled hoping he could salvage the wiring without having to ‘borrow’ from the “Infinity”. Cris went to get dressed and Val laid a hand to his arm.
“You’re not going out there in this weather.”
“We sorta need power. Mandy went shopping earlier, the cooling units at least need power A.S.A.P.”
“And risk getting electrocuted over milk?”
“I can at least get a trickle of power out of them I can direct to the kitchen in a few minutes if it’s not fried totally. And lightening never strikes twice right?”
“I do believe we are having our first argument.” Cris grinned and Val just frowned and crossed his arms.
“Do I have to tie you up?”
“Oh, now there’s a thought. Sounds like fun, but later handsome and I’m all yours, I’ll bring the rope.”
“Cris I’m serious. The storms here are notorious bastards. Milk can be replaced, you can’t.”
“At least let me LOOK then so I can see what I’ll need to fix it. Okay?”
Val knew a losing argument when he saw one and sighed. “LOOK. Do not touch metal when you’re not grounded.”
“Duh.” Cris said pulling on thick rubber gloves from his toolbox as he headed toward the door.
Five minutes, turned into ten and then fifteen. “Fucking idiot.” Val grumbled getting dressed to go grab the fool who was NOT supposed to be working but looking.
Just as he hit the door, the lights came back on. Val threw his hands up in defeat.
Tinks waltzed back inside, drenched again looking pleased. “Simple. Just the circuit board.”
“What part of LOOK is such a hard concept to grasp?”
“Val. I didn’t work it outside. Took it off, brought it in, changed the board, put it back. Can you trust me not to be a fool? Please? I do know electricity and water don’t mix for goodness sakes.”
“I was just worried.”
“I know, I’m touched, really. But last I looked I’m a big boy and this is my job.”
“Point taken. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I really am touched you care.” Cris said once more stripping down to bare skin to place more clothes by the fire and then dripped across the room naked to the bathroom for a towel. One wrapped around his middle and one around his head and hair he came back out to see Val sitting at the little card table they had set up, looking upset.
“I feel like an ass. I didn’t mean to treat you like that, I know you’re not stupid and I should have never treated you like you were.”
Cris smiled, he suddenly felt overwhelming affection for Val wash over his senses. “Val, look at me.” Val turned and faced Cris as Cris sat in the chair across the small table. “I know what you meant. I can tell concern when I see it, you treated me like you loved me and were worried. I would hope you meant that.”
Val smiled and took Cris’ hand. “I do love you. Very much.”
“I love you too. So please don’t beat yourself up over something so silly. Okay?”
Val nodded and leaned across the table and met Cris halfway for a kiss. Cris’ large almond shaped eyes were full of affection. His long dark eyelashes framed pale hazel almost golden eyes and with the fire reflected in them, they seemed like living flame. “You are mesmerizing.”
“You are mushy. But you won’t hear me complaining that you like to flatter me to the point I’m blushing like a girl. You spoil me.”
“You deserve it.”
“There you go again.” Cris said taking the towel from his hair and dropping it on top of Val’s head as he stood up to get dressed. The storm had made the very hot temperatures to plummet and on top of everything else Cris did not want a cold.
Val smiled and watched Cris raid his footlocker. “I gotta do laundry soon.” Cris chuckled pulling out a t-shirt and his ever-present gray boxer shorts.
“Cris? DO you own anything that isn’t colorless and doesn’t have at least one hole in it?” Val asked noticing that Cris’ wardrobe was something a pauper would turn down.
“Nope. All of these are pretty much all hand-me-downs. Except my underwear.”
“You’re not broke, don’t you spend money on yourself?”
“I buy disks.”
“Not enough to go broke. I meant clothes, mementos?”
“I’ve never even been in a clothes store. Most of my stuff is fine for the ship.”
“You’re gonna freeze. It gets cold here. Do you even own a coat?”
Cris shook his head and Val sighed and walked over to the trunk by his bead and pulled out a sweater and tossed it to Cris. “Too big for you I know, but it’s warmer than that sorry rag you call a shirt. When the rain lets up I am dragging you into town to buy some decent clothes.”
“I don’t wanna waste money. I may need it someday.”
“True, but you need clothes too.”
Cris just shrugged and pulled on Val’s sweater. There were some things that Cris still had problems with, he never treated himself to anything other than the occasional music disk and sweets. He owned nothing even remotely personal, no pictures, no games, no jewelry, no luxuries of any kind, no cheap trinkets, the only thing he had was an old faded credit bill in a cheap Lucite frame. Val had learned that was the credit he had taken out of Eran’s pocket the day Eran changed his life. And that he kept buried in his footlocker. Only Val knew he had it.
He did however notice in spite of Cris’ denial to cater to his own whims, if anyone he cared about expressed an interest in something, Tinks usually bought it for them. He was beyond generous to others, and denied himself even necessities.
“You’re worrying about me again. Quit frowning Val.”
“Can’t help it.”
“Look. Growing up I didn’t have anything, I’m used to making due with what I do have. Its just habit, I’m frugal.”
“I won’t argue Cris. I will however take you shopping for warm clothes and clothes that fit you properly.”
“Whatever.” Cris said pulling on a pair of socks and grabbing the deck of cards. “Play with me?”
“You’re a shark, but deal.” Val said sitting at the table as Cris shuffled the cards. Val’s back was towards the door and Cris was facing it as the storm raged outside and the wind hammered at the door.
Cris was in mid shuffle when the door blew open and he froze solid and the cards went flying. Val turned around, about to get up to secure the door and halted. A man built about the same height and weight as Val stood in the doorway, his hair sodden and his steel blue eyes hard.
“Enjoe…” Cris’ voice was shock and disbelief. “What are you?”
“Doing here? Am I not a apart of this crew?” Enjoe barked tossing his wet bag on the floor. “Who the fuck are you?”
“Valerian. Your new engineer. You must be Enjoe.”
Enjoe just snorted. “Which is my bunk?”
“Hold on a minute here. We weren’t expecting you, you just can’t waltz in with no warning…” Cris began and melted when Enjoe locked him in a stare that defied description.
“You’re out of line. Answer my Question Tinks.”
Tinks like a scared child just collected a single pillow off his bunk. “You can have that one. I’ll move to the Main room.”
“You will not! I don’t know just who the hell you think you are! But you can’t run a man out of his bed because you feel like it. Had you informed us you were coming we’d have made arrangements for you. Common courtesy would dictate you take the fucking couch until we can get you a bunk.”
Enjoe flopped down on the bed and lay down his back to Val and Tinks. Soaking the bed with his wet clothes, he didn’t even respond.
By the time Val turned around Tinks was gone. Eran however was livid and flying into the door. “Enjoe Moira get on your feet!”
“I don’t give a shit. What the hell did you do to Cris?”
“TINKS you idiot.”
“So why is he silent and bunking on the COUCH?”
“I need a bed.”
“So you took HIS? You heartless bastard!”
“You did give mine to him” Enjoe hooked a thumb over his shoulder blindly indicating Val.
“Val is part of this crew! I am not talking to your backside Enjoe. Get the fuck up or I’ll drag your ass up.”
Enjoe deigned to roll over. “Tinks is smaller, the couch is fine for the likes of him.”
Eran was pissed off, and his fist was about to connect Enjoe’s face when another did it for him. Val was flushed and angry red, and his eyes were burning with rage. “How dare you. You pompous bastard! The likes of him? THE LIKES OF HIM? Let me tell you, you son of a bitch if you insult him again in my presence I’ll kick in your fucking teeth.”
Enjoe rubbed his cheekbone and glared daggers at Val. “its just Tinks, What the fuck was that for?”
Suddenly Tinks was there, stopping Val from diving in for a brawl. “Stop Val. He’s right, I’m not worth it. Don’t fight, please.”
“Cris…” Val was deflated, all the progress made shattered in five minutes.
“Get me towel Tinks.” Enjoe ordered and to Val’s and Eran’s utter dismay, Tink’s obeyed.
“Stop right there Cris.” Eran growled by this time everyone else had arrived to witness the ruckus of Enjoe’s return.
“I am Captain here, I am the ONLY person giving orders is that perfectly understood? Good. Enjoe get the fuck up off that bed immediately. Cris I don’t care if he tells you to get him TOILET PAPER you do not take orders from him that shit stops now. Val, okay I can’t yell at you, he deserved that punch. Enjoe you are not moving. GET UP.” Eran grabbed hold of Enjoe’s shirtfront and pulled him bodily to his feet.
“I fought Tsions twice your size. Don’t fuck with me Enjoe. Do not even TRY. Until we can set you up somewhere to stay on NO NOTICE you sleep in the main room. This is THEIR ROOM and you leave them alone.”
Enjoe shook free and stormed out pushing past Mandy and Farin who stood there in shock.
“Eran, really it’s no trouble I…” Cris began and Eran held up his hand for silence.
“No Cris. I will not let you be bullied by him. He treats you like shit and I’m not going to stand by and let him do it anymore. Val, I trust you won’t allow it either?”
“Eran I think we need to talk about this.” Beau looked worried and Farin stepped into the room and shut the door.
“He’s right. He’s worse. Eran you do not want him with you in deep space. I recommend a severance package and walking papers.” Farin said and Eran sighed torn.
“This was his last chance. If he’s does not get better before the New Year I’ll take your advice.”
Everyone nodded solemnly and shut the door behind them as they left Cris and Val alone.
Cris crawled into Val’s arms and cried quietly. “Ssssh. Did he always treat you like that?” Val asked trying to contain his anger, Cris nodded.
“No more Cris. You’re better than that.”
“I thought I loved him for a long time.” Cris whispered and Val’s blood ran cold at the thought.
“Now?” Val desperately needed to hear Cris say he loved him.
“Now? I know what I felt wasn’t love. I know what that feel like now. I love you Val.”
Val was relieved and Clutched Cris to his chest. “I love you too. I do not let people treat those I love like that either. No more Cris, I won’t allow him to treat you like that any more.”
“I feel sick.”
“I know. I know.” Val just held Cris close and let him slump against him for comfort.
Mandy and Beau came back with Hot Chocolate and cookies. Those seemed to lift Cris’ spirits a little, but he begged fatigue and was going to go to bed until he realized his was wet. Val wasted no time in tucking Cris into his bed for the night, crawling in beside him to just hold while he slept.
The nightmare Cris was having woke Val up several minutes before Val could wake Cris up from it. It was a long night; everything was back to square one. Cris had crawled back into his shell, faked smiles that never reached his eyes and for the first time in six weeks, he was looking for alcohol and escape.
Val just held him and let him cry it out until he could go back to sleep, exhausted emotionally.
Val for the first time knew what hate was, he hated Enjoe with every fiber of his being for doing this to the man he loved.