Terence backed into Mom’s cabin, making small beckoning motions with his hands and Hara, Werfas and Kyrus staggered in and, barely inside, sagged down onto the floor. “Ancestors, Ancestors,” Werfas was saying, even as Ky said “Sacred Light and Sacred Dark!”
Hara pulled her face veil off, rolled over flat on her back, arms flung wide. “That little girl wiped us all out more than stopping Prime’s bombardment!”
“Not quite,” Werfas said also lying flat. He rolled onto his stomach and propped himself up on his elbows. “We’re still, mostly, on our feet. Nobody is bleeding from eyes or ears as far as we know.”
“And as far as we know,” Ky chimed in, sitting cross-legged, “nobody’s died.”
“Yet,” Hara growled. “She’s a monster. Why didn’t was just… well…”
“We don’t go killing our own. Every Earthan person on this continent is descended from people fighting Prime…”
“That’s a spurious argument, Wingbrother,” Werfas said.
Mom inserted an interruption with a chime. “Gentlemen, Miss. I suggest you imbibe the energy drink I have just produced. It is slightly sweetened to attempt to offset the bitterness.”
Her food production panel slid open and four cups stood there, condensation on their sides hinting that the contents might be cold.
Terry handed out three cups and took the last one himself as he sat down in the pilot’s chair, though he did say “Mom, I wasn’t part of the coding, I don’t need---“
“—You most certainly were, young man.” Mom interrupted him. “If you didn’t think I noticed you having Agador assist Miss Hara and Misters Kyrus and Werfas, you have another think coming!”
“I’ll drink it, I’ll drink it!” He turned away but couldn’t help blushing.
“You threw in your coding with us?” Kyrus’s eyes narrowed. “How did we not feel that?”
Terry sniffed. “I’m a Tech Second Class. I might not be a First Class but I have a better touch for harmonizing code sequences than that!” He tossed back the contents of the cup and shuddered. “Ick.”
“I don’t like that I can’t tell if you’re helping me,” Kyrus insisted stubbornly. He made to get up, realized how tired he still was and settled down again. “Don’t do it again without permission!”
Terry blinked at him. “You’re really upset? Oh, Page and Pen! I didn’t think it would hurt anything, dash it!”
“Naser,” Werfas broke in. “Both Lainz and Milari consider coding very intimate. To join with someone in code without their permission is very like unthinking violation. Rudeness past rude.”
“Oh.” Terry slumped back in his chair. “My apologies to all.” He determinedly did not look at Haraklez. “I meant no harm, I only wanted to help.”
“You’re starting to sound like Archibald, Tech Second Class,” Kyrus said with a bit of snap in his voice. “Apology accepted.”
“Another round of energy drinks?” Mom chimed in.
“Siwion,” Mariush, looking impossibly tall and alien, her Trovi paleness standing out surrounded by the dark Lainz, her cloth of gold veil and gown, as Homa’s mother, making her shine like a candle. “Be welcome in Lainz. Let her Radiance…” she dandled Homa on her arm. “… and I show you your Loggia and we shall sit and eat with you.”
Mariush and her entourage swept Alissa away and Amardad nodded to her significantly and stood, statuesquely until the whole crowd had swept out of sight, chattering excitedly. Werfas lunged to catch her as she fell. “Zon?” he asked worriedly. “Are you all right?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “Just tired.”