"And that's how we escaped," Tek finished, fists planted heroically at his hips as he thrust his chin in the air. Had a sculptor been seized by the urge to create a statue to honor the heroism of Tek Jansen of Alpha Squad 7, the pose would have been perfect for it.
"Wow, boss!" C.A.S.E.Y. * enthused. "You describe your adventures in such vivid detail! I've got chills just hearing that tale of daring-do. What about you, Miss Daily? Was it even more exciting to experience it first hand?"
Satiria just stared at him for a long moment. Finally, she mumbled, "Sure. Why not?"
"Oh, but boss, aren't you worried what Overseeress Braina will say when you show up at Alpha Squad headquarters with the political prisoner you were sent to kill?" C.A.S.E.Y. hunched his shoulders and smiled up at Satiria sheepishly. "No offense, miss."
Satiria flashed him a wry smile. "If I got mad at people just for telling the truth, I'd have to clone myself just to handle all the self-loathing."
"Don't do that," Tek advised. "Clones are notoriously sneaky and unreliable."
"Actually," Satiria said with a frown, "it's been my experience that clones are largely maligned, and bitter about the assumptions made about them just because they make some people uncomfortable."
"What's not to feel uncomfortable about?" Tek chuckled. "Without the injunctions and regulations regarding cloning, why, anyone could create a copy of me! For any nefarious purpose! Can you imagine?"
"It's hard to, you're one of a kind, Colonel," she grumbled.
Tek flashed her a smug, charming grin. She was obviously impressed by his masterful skills of debate. Namely, a strong, carrying voice. Calm, measured tones were no way to win an argument, she should know that. And yet, she seemed to use that strategy exclusively.
If he hadn't witnessed the power of her words with his own ears, he wouldn't have believed it.
She was truly an enigma. One he would like to wrap his mystery around.
Or was that wrap her enigma around his mystery? Not that it was really a mystery at this point. Most of Alphalon-7 had become privy to that mystery after his heroic defeat of the Optiklons, in fact.**
Tek stroked his chin thoughtfully as he puzzled out the metaphor.
"Uh, boss, incoming transmission from Zen Momentia's capital," C.A.S.E.Y. interrupted his thoughts.
"Is it war or surrender they want?" Tek demanded.
"Zen , my planet," Satiria reminded him, frowning. Coming to stand by the pilot's seat, she leaned over to look at the information on the screen, brow furrowing.
"The capital is Potamia," she remarked absently. "It was a mess last time I saw it. What could..." She trailed off, then suddenly her face lit up excitedly. "Baq!"
"We've already got a course set in for Alphalon-7," Tek argued.
Satiria glanced up in confusion, the realized the problem. "No, Baquin Blaq. He's an old friend of mine."
"I see," Tek murmured. "So the newly strengthened infrastructure of Zen Momentia hasn't spurred its people into a poorly planned and uninformed war against me and my allies."
"No, that was the previous government." Satiria turned her pleading blue eyes toward him and asked hesitantly, "Can I take this in the other room? It's been a while since I spoke to anyone besides monosyllabic, bottom-rung, pseudo-military fanatics."
"Tek's actually near the top rungs," C.A.S.E.Y. spoke up.
Satiria shot him a surprised look, then pressed a fist to her mouth to try to hold back a giggle.
"The toppest," Tek agreed proudly.
That just set Satiria off into gales of laughter, doubling over and covering her face as she tried to get herself under control. Tek eyed her uncertainly, while C.A.S.E.Y. smiled and busied himself with keeping the ship running.
*: Space-cronym for C omputerized A utomated S imianoid E ngineering Unit.
**: It was in the first published installment of Tek's adventures (graphic novel format): Stephen Colbert's Tek Jansen #1: Tek Jansen in "Invasion of the Optiklons!" —Cybrarian Information Transcoder Unit Eljay-Beta-D0CV0
"Baq, my friend!" Satiria greeted the man as soon as his face appeared on the screen.
"Satiria, you death-cheating Camera-3 whore!" Baquin Blaq replied, grinning.
"How in the thrice-cursed tetra-hells did you escape Nambla?"
"You know how unstable that moon was from over-mining of runingagium," Satiria explained. "After Tek blew up the prison, the whole thing started a series of smaller explosions leading up to a climax that wiped out the entire satellite."
Baq raised an eyebrow and said dryly, "How titillating. And I notice you're on a first name basis with Alpha Squad's own loose photon-cannon."
"Well he did rescue me from imprisonment and execution."
"Yeah, that's how it starts," Baq growled. "Look, I've been reading up on your new hero. This Jansen guy sounds like exactly the kind of smizbag we overthrew!"
"I... He means well?" she protested weakly.
The growl that came from the screen suggested Baq didn't intend to accept that excuse. Satiria couldn't blame him, really.
"Satiria, listen to yourself!" he raged. "That's exactly the kind of monglen-dung thinking we fought against! And now some thrice-cursed prettyboy Alpha Squader in tight spaceweave comes along and sweeps you off your feet and you're swooning and making excuses for him! Zarn! I thought you had more sense than that!"
"Why Baq, are you jealous?" she teased, grinning.
"Tetra- Suns, Satiria, you're practically my sister! And last I checked, the Holy Order of Sanctity was still flipping their collective dung over what is and isn't an unholy Union of Body and Belongings in the eyes of their thrice-cursed deity!"
"Ooh, thaaat's it, talk activism to me," Satiria purred.
Baq snorted. "Look, I'm just saying...take care of yourself. I'm not there to keep an eye out for you and it's driving me zarnin' bonkers."
Blushing as she ducked her head, Satiria murmured, "I can take care of myself, Baq. I'm a big girl."
"Yeah, you are," Baq replied gravely. "And Prettyboy Alpha Squad has a reputation. Do the words 'hundreds of girlfriends ' mean anything to you?"
"You kind of get that impression just by looking at him," Satiria mumbled.
"Oh-ho , what've you been getting up to that you can tell 'just by looking' that he has nano-herpes?"
Satiria covered her mouth with one fist while ducking her head, embarrassed giggles escaping her. "I...left myself...wide open...for that one...didn't I?" she managed.
"Let's hope that's all you've left yourself open for."
Leaning against the wall for support, Satiria wrapped her arms around her stomach as she laughed. Baq sat back with a smug look on his face.
When Satiria calmed down, laughter trailing off into soft chuckles, she wiped at her eyes and grinned at the screen. "Thank you, my friend. I needed that."
"We've all been in need of a good laugh since they locked you up on Nambla," Baq replied, then leaned forward with an almost concerned expression. "Speaking of, why aren't you on the first transport back here?"
"It's...a little complicated," Satiria hedged, glancing away nervously.
Satiria stared at him, face draining of emotion save for her eyes. Her eyes grew sad, a tiny line of worry forming between her eyebrows. "Tek was sent to kill me," she said softly, then winced in anticipation.
Baq didn't disappoint. "WHAT?! "
"Alpha Squad sent Tek to assassinate me because they somehow thought I was a threat." Satiria's expression became momentarily perplexed before she shrugged. "Tek...didn't. I think he decided I was no longer a threat. He explained it, but honestly the logic was so tortured I had trouble following it."
"So not only are you making excuses for a brainless government puppet with a reputation for womanizing, you're making excuses for a brainless government puppet with a reputation for womanizing who tried to zarning KILL you! Do I have that just about right?!"
"Baq, if he'd tried to kill me, I wouldn't be talking to you now!" Satiria snapped. "He took on an entire prison complex to get to me, and then destroyed the thrice-cursed moon it was on getting me out! I'm not a child, Baq. I know why he was there to begin with, but excuse me for being a little grateful that he was willing to listen to reason and disobey his orders!"
"Or he thought you'd be grateful enough to put out."
Satiria glared at him, her mouth a thin line of anger.
"Oh Tetra-Suns, don't get so indignant," Baq growled. "That's my shtick. And anyway, I know what your libido's like. If you haven't so much as planted a 'gratitude' smooch on him I'm amazed and zarning impressed by your restraint."
"I'm getting a little too old for casual flings," Satiria sighed, her anger draining away.
"If you're old, I'm zarning ancient."
"Well I didn't want to say anything...."
Baq growled at her and she grinned in response. Then, unexpectedly, he gave her a sad smile.
"Your people miss you," he said quietly. "I miss you. You have no idea how devastated everyone was when you were captured by those thrice-cursed smizbags."
Satiria stared at the screen, reaching out to touch an edge of it as she whispered, "I miss you too. All of you. Are...you okay? Is everyone okay?"
"There was nearly a riot when people heard Nambla had exploded. Would've been, too, if word hadn't come when it did that you'd been sprung before it blew."
Shaking her head in amusement, Satiria chided, "Five or six people and you hardly constitutes a riot, Baq."
"Try five or six thousand."
Satiria's eyes widened almost comically. "You're exaggerat—"
"They built you a statue, Satiria!" Baq shouted, exasperated. "When are you going to get it through that self-deprecating head of yours that people zarning like you? They zarning look up to you!"
"They shouldn't," Satiria protested.
"Monglen-dung! Like it or not, you're a huge zarning influence. Allow me to demonstrate. Hang on...." Baq disappeared and the image on the screen jolted suddenly, wobbling as the scenery changed. It looked like it was being moved toward and then pointed out a window at....
"Tetra- Suns," Satiria whispered.
When Baquin said the people of Zen Momentia had built her a statue, he had left out important details like it being two stories tall. A small, serene smile on her lips, the statue stared upward and outward with determination. If Satiria hadn't known who it had been modeled after, she might've been tempted to follow whoever had inspired such a statue.
The image wobbled again and then settled before Baq appeared in the screen once again.
"There. You see?" When all he got in response from Satiria was a dazed, bewildered expression, Baq sighed. "Apparently not. Look, just keep in mind that there are people here who would miss you if you died or never visited again. Stay safe."
"I don't really go looking for trouble," Satiria murmured.
"Satiria, you're with Tek Jansen," Baq said wryly, shaking his head. "Trouble will find you. Keep in touch."
With that, he ended the connection and the screen went blank. Satiria stared at it for a while, processing her old friend's words.
"Our new guest confuses me, C.A.S.E.Y," Tek admitted musingly, chiseled chin cupped in one hand.
"She does seem to like big words," C.A.S.E.Y. agreed cheerfully.
Ignoring him, Tek continued. "I've known her for..." he glanced at the time on the navigational console, "...nearly an entire solar revolution now! And yet, somehow I haven't had sex with her yet! I would've expected her to at least throw herself at me after that daring rescue, but instead it's all been... talking."
"But boss! You're great at talking."
"Yes, but she talks back," Tek said with a bewildered grimace. "And not about how great or manly or heroic or handsome or brave or sexy I am! It's all...politics and making fun of stuff with her." Lacing his fingers together in front of his face, he leaned forward in the captain's seat, lifting a regal eyebrow. "It's confusing...and strangely fascinating."
C.A.S.E.Y. recognized that look. Something was churning deep behind the bottomless chocolate pools of Tek's eyes, and that gaze was pointed squarely at the former political prisoner chatting unsuspectingly in the other room. Satiria Daily might not be Tek's target of assassination anymore, but it looked like she was now the target of his intense interest.
What the — WHY IS TEK CLOTHED AGAIN?! WHY AREN'T TEK AND SATIRIA MAKING SWEET, SWEET SPACE-LOVE?! Does Tek have nano-herpes? All this and more in the next installment of..."Tek Jansen and the Daily Girl!: A Tek Jansen Adventure"!