"They built me a statue."
Tek and C.A.S.E.Y. glanced up in surprise as Satiria quietly entered the bridge again. She seemed almost dazed as she took a seat.
"Baquin said there was almost a riot when that old runingagium mine blew and they thought I was still trapped there. I-I just don't get how—"
"Wait just a nano, there," Tek interrupted, leaning forward. "Did you say 'runingagium'?"
Satiria gave him a bewildered frown, brow furrowing. "It's one of the chief exports of the Jooziast System," she said slowly. "Nambla, the moon you, uh, blew up rescuing me, was all but mined out, but there's still plenty coming from Inwendo." At his confused look, she added, "Another moon. Bigger than Nambla. Longer, thicker veins of runingagium plunging straight through to the moon's core."
For some reason, Tek felt a little hot under the collar at her description. He hadn't realized he felt so strongly about system exports. Or maybe Satiria was just using the mysterious and alluring power of her words to once again make him care about things he normally wouldn't.
That he was even listening to those words spoke volumes about their power, despite their lack of volume.
But that wasn't the point right now. "So you're telling me that the people who supply most of the universe's runingagium, a rare and precious material highly prized by nearly every civilized planet.... You're telling me those people almost rioted when they thought you died in that explosion?"
"Um...yes?" Shrugging with embarrassment, Satiria flashed a sheepish smile.
"How do you think they would react if you were, say, killed on purpose?"
"I... You know, they're probably just still hyped up from the revolution," she said, relieved understanding stealing over her features. "Everyone probably went out celebrating afterward; I think I remember talk of a party. And you know," she grinned as if sharing a joke, "that Baquonaiz ale can get you drunk for a week. " She chuckled, a look of fond remembrance on her face.
Tek wondered if she was naked in those remembrances.
She was in his version.
Tek opened his mouth to suggest making a few fond memories of their own. "Why—"
"Incoming!" C.A.S.E.Y. shouted suddenly.
"Incoming what?" Tek demanded, just before the ship abruptly lurched.
Satiria was thrown from her seat and landed squarely on Tek's lap. Yelping in surprise, she threw her arms over Tek's broad, solid shoulders. Instinctively, Tek placed a firm, steadying hand on Satiria's hip, his arm supporting her lower back.
It was...oddly reassuring, in a way Satiria hadn't experienced in years. When she glanced up at Tek, he was gazing at her intensely and she felt herself flush all over. "Oh, Te—"
"Brace yourselves!" C.A.S.E.Y. called just as the ship lurched again.
"Who is attacking us and why haven't we blown them up yet?!" Tek demanded, pulling Satiria close and holding her protectively against his firm, well-muscled chest.
"Phase-shifted inter-dimensional meteor storm, boss!"
"Well where's it coming from?"
"Er..." C.A.S.E.Y. checked one of the screens in front of him, then turned back to Tek with a bewildered look on his simianoid face. "Everywhere!"
Tek narrowed his eyes with gritty determination. "Then we'll just have to shoot everywhere."
With all the dignity capable of being mustered by a tiny woman in the lap of a strong, virile man, Satiria met his determined gaze with one of her own and asked, "You got a spare blaster?"
"This is a set-up," Tek growled as meteors disintegrated under his photonic assault. "It has to be!"
Not looking up from her own viewscreen, Satiria lined up another target and hit the spot with pin-point accuracy that caused it to crumble apart into harmless fragments. "Phase-shifted interdimensional meteors aren't common in this region?"
"Of course not! We're nowhere near a causality breach!"
"I don't know this area," Satiria said defensively. "I don't leave Zen very often."
"All you need to know is that this all stinks of someone softening us up before they move in for the kill." Another explosion reflected off Tek's glasses. "I just don't recognize whose stench it is. ...Yet. "
"Well I'm sure you'll sniff them out in due time."
The ship suddenly shuddered again.
"C.A.S.E.Y.!" Tek shouted. "There's too many! Find where they're coming from!"
"On it, boss!" Agile simianoid fingers flew over the controls as Tek and Satiria tried to keep meteors at bay. "Found it! Coordinates 101705."
"I see it!" Satiria cried. "It looks like...um...." She trailed off awkwardly.
Stretching, Tek peered over her shoulder. He could see straight down her top and it was quite a sight. Then he glanced up at her viewscreen and his eyes widened. "Venus flytrap!"
"Sure, let's go with that."
"It's a rip in the very fabric of reality!"
"Oh. I thought you meant it looked like—Nevermind."
Returning to his seat, Tek narrowed his eyes at his own viewscreen and said grimly, "Let's plug that gash."
Satiria abruptly snickered and ducked her head. Clearing her throat, she said, "Couldn't have put it better myself."
Together they double-teamed the anomaly, relentlessly pounding at it, but they might as well have been shooting blanks.
"It's not working!" Satiria said, turning her attention to an incoming meteor. "We're just not scoring a hit." A startled look crossed her face and she bit her lip. She was clearly terrified, if the shaking of her shoulders was any indication. A giggle suddenly escaped her.
...Terrified and hysterical. He would need to comfort her later. Tek frowned. But first there had to be a later.
"C.A.S.E.Y!" he shouted. "Recalibrate something!"
"Anything that'll let us cream that slit!"
Covering her face with both hands, Satiria choked, her entire body trembling. Tek manfully resisted the urge to pull her into his lap and start comforting early; they still needed her working a photon cannon. The way her delicate hands teased over the controls spoke of experience. He liked a woman with a little experience.
"On it, Boss!"
"Who could be behind this nefarious attack?" Tek mused as he lined up another shot.
"Maybe it's an angry ex-girlfriend," Satiria suggested, voice still hoarse with emotion.
"Why do you say that?"
Satiria stared at him, surprised. "You really don't recognize that? Zarn, I thought you were just being professional."
Arching an eyebrow, Tek asked, "Recognize w—"
"Brace yourselves!" C.A.S.E.Y. shouted.
The ship lurched violently and Satiria was thrown from the photon cannon controls just before they exploded in a shower of sparks. Almost in slow motion, Tek saw the woman's fragile, unprotected head fly toward a hard, sharp bulkhead. Leaping from his seat, he caught her right before she would have hit the bulkhead, twisting in mid-air and cushioning her with his own far more rugged and impact-ready body.
Satiria gasped and clung to him, cringing as they hit the floor. Then she lifted her head and looked down at him. "Tek! Are you alright?"
"Ow. I mean — A little tumble is nothing to an intrepid space-hero such as myself!"
Affection stealing onto her face, Satiria reached up to brush back Tek's hair. "Fair enough," she said. "But are you hurt?"
Tek stared at her, unfamiliar emotions suddenly swirling beneath his roguishly mussed coif. Then, to his own surprise, he admitted quietly, "A little bruised, maybe."
Straddling his waist, Satiria opened her mouth to reply when the ship abruptly lurched again, shuddering violently as the warning lights flipped on. "Thrice-cursed tetra-hells ! That's not a good thing, is it?"
"Only if that was the anomaly's death throes."
"Boss, we're losing power!" C.A.S.E.Y. yelped. "And I've recalibrated everything I can from this console!"
"Is there anything else you can recalibrate?" Tek demanded, pushing himself to his feet with Satiria clutched protectively to his chest.
"Out with it, C.A.S.E.Y!"
"There's a work station in the back, but it's flooded with radiation from the leaking core right now."
"Good thing you're already radioactive, then."
"Wait, what?" Satiria asked, eyes widening. "He's what-now?"
"Oh yeah, that's right." Saluting, C.A.S.E.Y. reached up and swung away from his console and toward the door. "I'm on it, Boss!"
"That's why he's glowing?"
Will Tek finally get to comfort Satiria with some sweet, sweet Tek-lovin'? Will Tek and Satiria defeat the giant space vagina? (Yeah I said it.) All this and more in the next installment of..."Tek Jansen and the Daily Girl!: A Tek Jansen Adventure"!