“Th… th… the fleet was destroyed,” he stammers. “I didn’t think filing a Transmission Protocol Status report would be terribly useful. The ship is offline and out of touch with…”
“You file reports so we have records. It is not your duty to decide if reports need to be filed. It is your duty to do as ordered, and to do your part to keep the Essence Empire running. We will not always be in this state of disarray. We will requisition new ships. We will forge new alliances. King Tyrant’s name still holds weight, and our war chest is full. You need to do your job, or you will find that you no longer have one, do you understand?”
“Whaddaryagonnado? Put him off the ship?” I pipe up with the question. "Seems like you need every soldier you’ve got if you’re low on men.”
It’s a good question. A really good question. He’s not happy I asked it. I just undercut his whole threat with logic.
Now the soldier is doing the mental math too. He’s standing a little straighter. The color is flowing back into his cells. There’s a brightness and dare I even say a little glee in his gaze now.
“I demand obedience in my soldiers and in my assistants. Either one can be whipped into shape if necessary. Physical punishment is always an option.”
That’s a threat for my benefit, but it has a noticeable effect on Angst as well. He goes pale again, pale as a sick goldfish.
“I’m sorry, sir. Won’t happen again, sir. I’ll fill them out right now, sir.”
That’s all Terrible wanted. The groveling. I think he gets off on exerting his will on those who are weaker and lower ranked than he is. I think he enjoys power, and the wielding of it.
We leave, but it is not over. Terrible is not pleased that I said words which undermined his general bullying.
“What was that?” He confronts me when we are somewhat alone.
“What was what?”
“Those comments about my soldiers not needing to obey me because they are limited in number at the present time. What were those? Are you trying to get yourself beaten?”
“Just a question. I’m trying to learn.”
“You are trying to undermine my authority in front of my men. That will never be tolerated. One more incident like that, and I will punish you as I would punish them.”
Well, that would be interesting. But I haven’t even got started yet. I plan to be the biggest pain in his ass possible, knowing full well that will make him a pain in mine. I want his attention. I want him to notice me. I don’t want to be some hot hole he can use and then ignore. I want there to be a consequence for having fucked me.
When he inspects the kitchens, I sense an even greater opportunity to fuck with him. I don’t even know why they have kitchens. They have those machines which make food appear out of nowhere. Seems unnecessary. I point that out.
“The king likes real food,” he explains.
“Isn’t all food real, by definition?”
“Not chicken soup for the soul.”
I am taken aback by his referencing a book that was popular in the early nineties on Earth. Again, his patchy but surprisingly specific human research is rearing its head.
The chef is a temperamental Essence alien. He is twice the width of any other alien on the ship, and he has probably the worst temperament of anybody. Even Terrible.
There’s something about the way I understand their language which must be wrong, but half their names just seem outright backwards.
“That stays outside.”
The that, the chef is talking about, is me. He’s looking at me with absolute disgust in his eyes. Maybe that’s where he got his name from. I know I’m taking offense immediately, but the next thing he says makes me extra certain I should take offense.
“The kitchen is no place for vermin!”
“I’m not a vermin. I’m a person.”
“Talking vermin,” he humphs.
“An entire fleet lost, but you made it,” I whisper under my breath. “The biggest shit is always the hardest to flush.”
That’s not a simile that should really offend an alien, but the comment is not lost on the cook, who picks up the nearest thing, which happens to be a big pan, and tries to hit me with it. Not in the fun way. In the actually going to brain me, way.
I scoot away, quickly. I know Terrible can protect me from many things, but he can’t protect me from the wrath of a chef. Chefs, in any realm, any world, any species, are completely unhinged. Or waiting to be.
“Chef Disgusting!” Terrible barks his name, bringing his rampage to an abrupt halt. “Lucky, outside!”
I go outside and I wait — and I listen. Terrible is having a real go at the chef.
“Humans have protected and exalted status on this ship! One is about to bear the king’s spawn! You will respect any humans you encounter, or you will find yourself baking bread in the heart of the nearest sun. Do I make myself clear!?”