The lights dimmed across the ship.
"What happened?" Ulannajirak looks at the reddish light in his cell. Before that, Ulannajirak finally changed into his new clothes, and then tried to wash the old robe he had worn for days by himself. This may be the first time he seriously did so. After all, there are no slaves around now.
The cell doorbell chimes. A guard warns the guest, "Patrol sighted nearby, we switched to low emission mode, all non-essential staff need to gather away from the windows. Come with us to the mess hall."
Ulannajirak stands up. "Yes, sir." After thinking about it, he takes the little box, and walks out of the cell.
Escorted by guards, Ulannajirak arrives at the mess hall. Unexpectedly, there is a Kilrathi face on the big screen high there.
There is a giant smiling kilrathi noble greets everybody. “My fellow Kilrathi! It is I, Azran nar Kiranka, heir to the Rajinka system. I wish to inform you that I have ordered a full liberation of the system. Soon the apes will be relocated to Illudium mines in Varni space, and the planet shall be terraformed to meet our needs. This will be the gem of the sector. Prepare for a piece of heaven far from Kilrah, you will be able to hunt targ and laze under the ulanna trees. I expect our Qarg co-regents to join in with this new world!”
"Eh?" Ulannajirak is a little surprised. That's true. Humans really allow enemy propaganda videos to be shown in public.
That is a face Ulannajirak have seen often before, this Kiranka noble named Azran had been speaking on the broadcast a lot in recent times. Hearing the words of "I expect our Qarg co-regents to join in with this new world!", Ulannajirak secretly laughs, Qarg co-regents? Well, Ragitagha Season now?
He remembers the Bugs Bunny cartoon.
A large pungently odoriferous man laughs and snorts his beer out of his nose while watching this spectacle. "'Ey! O'er 'ere! ya seen the latest bile from k-tube? Just like that Jamisson air displacement device." Seelig waves over Ulannajirak.
"Oh, nice to see you here, Mr. Seelig." Ulannajirak is called back by the funny tone.
"Chek'em. We gots here a bonafried hit piece on da kat..." Seelig muses, "I guess he musta rubbed some peoples in da wrong derection."
Ulannajirak knows that the two clans Ragitaghah and Qarg are hostile to each other, and direct conflicts between the nobles have occurred from time to time over the years. And the emperor's family gains a lot from this. Not sure what would Mr. Seelig think if he knows such situation.
But surely, it might not be the correct place to talk about this here.
"Well, for me, it is weirdly surprise to watch... Imperial programs here." Ulannajirak shows an embarrassed expression. "Should I stay here with you? Or should I get away from this?"
"It's a free ship, who am I to stop ya?" Seelig nods. "Maybe I could get some outsight on the whosits and whatsits of the schituation. If you'd pardon my french. This is da first time the k-tube feed sent us a real life royal. Looks familiar if you know what I lean." He swigs his drink. "This is interesting.. .with a capital exclamation mark."
"About this Kal nar Kiranka," Ulannajirak hesitates, then continues, "he has been on the broadcast for a while, but this is the first time I see him on this channel."
"Ah... he... looks like the pleasant sort. I imagine if 'e were to get his meat hooks on ya he'd be takin' ya a-part real gentle like." Seelig grunts.
"Oh, Kal means noble lord." Ulannajirak adds, in case Seelig doesn't understand this word.
"Mostly we get adverts for Gar's slightly used sarthas and different, re-runs of bladelord, thankfully censored. and other kids stuff." Seelig continues, "Occasionally we gets the odd bio of an ace our boys in blue decomiserate real fast. Like a couple of min ago, Sigark "Bloodtiger" nar Qarg. No hair off my lower back how 'e goes."
"Eh, excuse me, Mr. Seelig, but..." Ulannajirak is a little embarrassed, "My Terran language is not good enough, what do you mean?"
Seelig sits up straight from his slouching posture, and smiles, "It takes a big man to have that kinda courage. I was saying that they advertise aces, I don't mind, our boys and girls always manage to return. I don't know if it's luck, or better teamwork, but that team really is something."
"Oh, that is it." Ulannajirak lower his head. He knows the name of Sigark. Is Julianna dog-fighting with him now? Are they both... alive now?
Seelig looks around and sees some other people he may recognize, he returns to a slouch and dull look he practiced for most of his life.
Thinking about it, Ulannajirak feels a little uneasy inside. Yes, now he is already on the human side, and if Sigark was now standing in front of him, Sigark's attitude could be imagined. But, although the decision of requesting protection from the humans was made more easily because of the pressure to survive while escaping back then, now, Ulannajirak suddenly finds himself hoping both sides of the hostile would return alive.
Then, Ulannajirak glances coldly at the Kiranka boasting on the screen. All those lost is because of you, Kiranka.
"Wouldn't mind playin' on the insides Glorified Shuttle Talon wannabe or a corvette in fighter's clothin'." Seelig's eyes gloss over, "They look so roomy to work in, I wouldn't need to get my 90 lb tripple jointed neo-manilan assistant to fetch the spanner outa the fuselage when the 10 mil socket pops off."
At this time, both of the two see a man is coming over here. Ulannajirak stands up as he finds Enforcer coming, "Oh, nice to meet you here, Mr. Enforcer." Seelig just simply nods to Enforcer.
"Well... Mr. Seelig and Mr. Enforcer," Ulannajirak pauses for a while, then continues, "May I ask you two a question?"
"Certainly, Ulannajirak. What would you like to know?" Enforcer shows his kindness.
"Sure, you scratch my butt, and I'll scratch yours." Seelig answers. His attitude is obviously much more casual.
"What are you really fighting for?" Ulannajirak looks at the two humans, "For being alive? For not being enslaved?"
Seelig pauses and thinks... an unusual sight. "Just like any other hot pissed person, I don't want to die. But I'm good at fixing thing. Things are better than people. They're much easier to fix. They don't talk back. And I grew up with some lousy people. If I didn't fight, I would be enslaved to debt, malice, and incompetence that surrounds me. I see the confederation as my ticket to actualization." He returns to his surly facade. "Also, this is a way to keep away from the exe wife. You think a kilra'hra's scary, you 'aven't met Tammy."
Ulannajirak struggles to extract fluent information from these words. He could probably understand what Seelig is talking about. But what slightly surprised him is that the human in front of him so casually lists very personal, even slightly selfish reasons to a kilrathi who had been an enemy just a few days before.
"Tammy?" Ulannajirka also wonders who has that name.
"Don't mention dat name. She's the devil distilled with a beautilful evil pair of... nevermind." Seelig shakes his head with eyes closed.
Ulannajirak suddenly knows the point. He realizes he should switch the topic. He turns to Enforcer, looking forward to his answer.
"I remember reading about the Iason
incident. I just can't understand why a greeting, a gesture of friendship, could be received so...inversely." Enforcer's tone is much more serious. "Do you happen to have any insight you can share?"
Ulannajirak remembers the phrase. A Terran ship was attacked and sunken by the Imperial fleet even before war started. A Caxki commander fired on the poor ship who was trying to send a friendly signal. That was a misunderstanding.
However, after thinking about it, he knows that even if there was no misunderstanding, what else would that blockhead Caxki commander do?
He doesn't know what to say for a moment.
"Now your turn, why'in the hell did you panic for that fooden box, what's in it?" Seelig speaks up, breaking the awkwardness.
"Well... Could I ask about..." Ulannajirak hesitates, "If there are some humans working in Kilrathi's worlds, being protected, and form with the masters a kind of... better relationship. Do you think this is more or less... acceptable?" saying this, Ulannajirak avoids contact with the humans' eyes.
He lowers his head, and sees the small case.
Enforcer replies with confidence, "I'm not sure how Seelig feels about it, but it was apparently a part of my family's history. A far distant ancestor of mine fought to end that kind of servitude and was saved by someone named...I can't place the name, but his first name comes from Roman mythology."
However, Seelig's answer is definitely different.
"Slaves? we got'em 'ere. 900 creds and you can get a personal servant. My family's casino owned 40, 'ad to put down 3. It's 100% legal in Gemini, and these are sub-people. Unlike you" he nudges enforcer. "Never had one myself, never wanted one, but I know of them."
"So... I know about the situation of Ghorah Khar. They are now part of the Confederation." Ulannajirak looks at Seelig, "I heard that the Kilrathi here are being granted federal citizenship. Is that real? Do you really trust them?" He pauses, "Citizenship? An identity very close to the subjects, right?"
"I trust'em as much as I'd trust a human, a mopok or a firekkan... scratch that... I wouldn't trust a mopok." Seelig answers, "Humans are capable of real garbage, it's easy being a saint while angels lick yer ampits. But down in Jolson... it's kick the nuts or get yet nuts kicked in first." He continues.
"Slaves, as a form of Buyout low class subordination were once common in the history of humans as well, right? I mean..." But at this time, Ulannajirak suddenly noticed the discomfort on Enforcer's face.
"Ulannajirak, I sincerely apologize, but I'm going to depart before a regrettable incident occurs." Enforcer stands up.
"Eh, sorry, Mr. Enforcer, I am not deliberately offending you. Just..."
"Yes, though if you would like to, I can continue that discussion in private." Enforcer bows in respect of Ulannajirak's culture, then turns and angrily glares a la Randy Savage "Dallas, you have a point. We can discuss this later."
Ulannajirak scrambles to his feet to requite. He knows he might have screwed up something. Sure enough, it's still too early to discuss this.
"Commerce keeps all afloat. Proof, our politicians are all bought out. Menesch bad, but the difference in betwixt him and the udders, is 'e was caught." Dallas continues obliviously.
"Anyway, I have no such... subordination now, since I chose to be here." Looks at Enforcer's back, Ulannajirak shakes his head.
Seelig continues drinking. grabbing a second beer and being obliviously mirthful. It seems that he doen't care what Ulannajirak said.
"Mr. Seelig. Maybe you don’t know that since the age of interstellar travel, Kilrathi began to enslave other species, so that we no longer have to enslaved each other internally." Ulannajirak smiles bitterly, tries to let the conversation contiune, "It was considered an historical advancement. But..."
"Do ya really though? Look at that Kiranka... to my understanding all kilrathi are slaves to that family, and that family is slave to one indy-vidule." He replies.
Hearing these words, Ulannajirak frowned, but decides to continue his own topic, "Many clans insist that other species ,those not of the blood, should just be treated as prey and be squeezed at will... regardless of the fact that they are actually... somewhat..." Ulannajirak wonders how to express his idea.
"Low calory?" Seelig looks a little scared.
"Eh?" Ulannajirak is surprised. "No!!!!! I mean..."
Seelig stares into the kilrathi's eyes and waited for an explanation.
"Some of the races had fought honorably, some were obviously more intelligent but had lack the military prowess to stand against Kilrah." Ulannajirak speaks what White Maned Grand Master told him.
"They may have been intelligent, didn't mean they was smart" Seelig replies.
"There is something in some of us' mind, that is... pitied the conquered." Ulannajirak raises his head, says these words seriously.
"Pitied the conquered? The ways I fingers it, you have time to pity when ya feel safe." Seelig replies.
Ulannajirak has no idea what to reply. "Maybe... but..." He looks at the Kiranka's face on the screen again, then turns back, "Maybe there will be an answer..."
"The ways I sees it, we're all capable of being awful, evil what have you. The only way out is being mutually useful. You wouldn't kill someone if you know they'll kill ya back, same with commerce and cash."
"So..." Ulannajirak knows the point. Maybe Julianna is dogfighting. Maybe she is in danger now, maybe she is safe now. It is only suitable to think more when you are safe.
Ulannajirak puts his small case on the table, opens it.
"So, the sooner Kilrah wants to buy terran wares, and sell their crafts and services back, the sooner we can all get rich and buy our own moons." Seelig tries to continue, just noticing the box.
Enforcer returns as Ulannajarik grabs the item out of the box. He stares Seelig's eyes, as if he finds something about him just now.
Ulannajirak takes out an instrument in the case. "Excuse me, Mr. Seelig and..." Ulannajirak sees Enforcer is back again, "Mr. Enforcer, but do you mind I perform a melody?"
"Sure!" Enforcer shows his curiosity.
"let's hear it." Seelig replies.
"Sorry, I am still a beginner, if I had more time to practice in my homeworld, I could play better now." Ulannajirak picks up the instrument, closes her eyes and starts playing.
After the performance, Ulannajirak says secretly in his mind, Leonard, are you okay now? Are you getting well with Nala these days? Be well, and I will be too. I will learn this piece of music in its entirety.
This piece clearly dilutes the tension between Enforcer and Seelig. "You are quite the accomplished flautist. What is the source of the melancholy in your melody?"
"Thanks so much for your encouragement." Ulannajirak hesitates a while, then continues, "I think it is a melody from a Terran place called Ireland."
"I haven't been there in years. The gentle rolling hills and forests can inspire and warm even the coldest of hearts." Enforcer replies kindly.
"But the instrument came from another Terran place. The instrument is called DongXiao, they calls it an eastern Asian instrument." Ulannajirak notices Enforcer's attitude changing.
Seelig is still amazed with the flute being held so delicately... it's like a body builder making origami. He is figuring out the mechanics of it. How come the kilrathi is holding it like a drinking straw? He grease stained hands are not going near that flute. He'd get Molybdenum disulfide all over it.
"Bamboo, right? Would you mind if I took a closer look at it?" Enforcer shows his interest.
"Sure!" Ulannajirak hand his instrument carefully to Enforcer.
"Thank you!" Enforcer gently accepts the instrument and marvels at the delicate and intricate craftsmanship. "If you don't mind my asking, how old is this particular instrument?"
"I am not sure... but..." Ulannajirak heard that this Instrument was made before the war started, and it is back to a human ship now. "Maybe several decades, it is hand made." Ulannajirak looks at the instrument.
"Intriguing." Enforcer examines more closely, "Do you happen to know if the maker left a mark somewhere?"
"Never been a fan of that anistropic organic foam. Can't weld it, when working it, the chips go everywhere, and are a pure fire hazard. The only safe plant matter I see are in liquid form." Seelig continues to drink his beer.
Enfocer takes a few pictures before gently returning the instrument. "I'll see if I can find out something about its history and maker."
"Uh..." Ulannajirak suddenly realizes that these two people might probably see this instrument as a looted item by the Kilrathi. "I should say, I got it legally, even in human's rule." Ulannajirak says.
"Well, I think I should practice more." Ulannajirak looks at the clock on the wall. "Oh, sorry, maybe it is time to go to work in the med-bay."
"Ah, send my regards to Meiko ifin you sees her." Seelig raises his eyebrows and nods as he comments. He's still amused of a kilrathi playing a flute like a straw... maybe he could charm a snake?
"I understand. However, I have found that the story behind someone or something's history can open one's eyes to a wealth of knowledge undreamed of by most. I look forward to hearing more of your ongoing musical journey!" Enforcer bows to Ulannajirak, proactively.
"Thank you!" Ulannajirak carefully puts the instrument back to the case. "Please expect even more music from Ulannajirak." Ulannajirak bows to the two, and other humans surprised around.
Looking at the Kiranka's face on the big screen once again, Ulannajirak shakes his head, and leaves the mess hall under escort.