Part 5 Chapter 04-Relay Station

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"Do you like it?" Tyee touched his chin.

"It looks unkempt, like a fisherman."

"It's trimmed and neat." Tyee dismissed the subject. "Commodore Alop called me in for a special assignment. Crew aboard the royal yacht."

"I know, but I didn't expect you to arrive so quickly."

"What do you know about this post?" Mother was often getting him assignments, career opportunities that Tyee didn't truly want.

"Space Transit has returned." Mother nodded. "We've been receiving messages from their relay satellite for almost a fortnight."

"Space Transit! We should send them packing."

"We don't know for sure they were the source of the epidemic."

"We don't know for sure they weren't. As soon as the epidemic killed the Seaguard, they left. That timing seems a bit suspicious. So now Space Transit is back—"

"They're only back temporarily. Alop is taking the royal yacht to pick up their delegation in Kold Strait. They'll parley."

"About what? Finishing us off?"

Mother patted her tambour as if it held a legal brief. "Here to find out if we're civilized enough for access to space. Fennako council has been debating the issue. If Fenria meets Space Transit's criteria, they will have to reopen the spaceport."

"Who are they to judge? We don't need them."

Mother tossed her hand, jettisoning Space Transit as rubbish. "If we pass their criteria, we can choose access to space, or we can send them packing. The choice will be ours."

"So, I'm along to look like Royal Guard, to make it appear that Fennako still acts as a federal government?"

"It's the truth."

"Mother, did you get me on this assignment?"

"Alop requested you. He knows you're the right man for the job. You can be levelheaded and diplomatic, when you want."

"And it's not because of welts on my head?"

"They help," Mother said. "But it's because of the way you are. The day you were born I knew I'd given birth to a king. So, I named you Tyee. Oh, I tried to give you other names, but that was the only one that fit. Now let's get you looking like a king. We need to do something about your hair. You haven't been shaving."

He rubbed the smooth skin around his beard. "I have been shaving."

"I mean your scars, so they're visible."

"I'm keeping the beard."

"Okay, keep the beard. Come into the bathroom."

Mother set to work barbering Tyee's hair with clippers and a razor, removing hair from his welts but, as she'd promised, leaving his beard and mustache. She swept away the trimmings then brought out a comb. Mother braided the remainder of his hair in tiny rows, finishing each braid with a platinum coil.

She sat back and surveyed her handiwork, then held a mirror for Tyee. "Civilized?"

"I like the beard."

"Oh, go on," Mother said.

#

After our last drop, the one to bring me home, I closed my eyes, watching the cosmos, trying to identify constellations, bright stars piercing the black sphere of the heavens. With the engines online, acceleration pressed us deep into our seats. Mama had taught me to always look to Danna, our north star, to pray to Danna for guidance and protection. But I couldn't even find my planet in the vast darkness.

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