Timande Mei'Rhakarndi's Story: Chapter Two
The edges of Timande's hand-blade, wrist-blades, daggers, and Smart Disc are all gleaming and hair-splitting sharp. The leather-- and synthetic leather-like materials-- of his gloves, his hunter mask, and the grips on his blades are all soft, supple, treated, and well-oiled where appropriate. The electronics inside his hunter mask, plasma cannon, and shift suit controls are all dusted, cleaned, and in perfect working order. His plasma cannon itself has been polished to a gentle shine. Everything is in perfect readiness.
None of those things has Timande had any need to use in the past half a year.
Of course, he has used most of them, to keep himself in practice and, once, to help train a new recruit when someone took pity on him and gave him a task that didn't put him to sleep. Or threaten to put him to sleep, because he knew better than to actually fall asleep on any job, no matter how boring it was. No, he does the best job he can at any task he is given, there simply is not that much to do. Patrol hallways, man security desks, help train the occasional recruit... that is his job description as a low-level member of the security force-- not that high-level members do much different, with only organizing the ranks, keeping in touch with other security organizations, and seeing to training and form-maintenance the only real deviations. On rare occasions he gets the treat of covering for someone else in the hatching bay, babysitting and protecting eggs.
It isn't all bad, though, he reminds himself, staring grumpily at his immaculate and currently useless equipment, which he has just finished upkeep on. He needed something to do to keep from hovering over the D-strain xenodragon clutch like his higher-ranked siblings are doing. They are expressing their displeasure and mistrust in the new xenodragon queen and her brood, their annoyance and dismay at their grandfather consorting with the enemy. Timande is not there, even though the presence of a xenodragon queen, D-strain or not, grates on his own nerves and sensibilities just as much as theirs. He is not there because he is determined not to complain. He is enough of a burden-- failure and unbonded as he is, one more member to an already over-staffed crew and not even a very friendly one at that-- without being a whiny one, too.
But, he tells himself resolutely, refusing to sink into self pity, it is not all bad. He has his family, for one. Two brothers and a sister stayed behind, none of whom, for whatever reason, act like he is somehow lacking or incomplete, despite being the only one of the clutch minus a bond and a purpose. There is his grandfather, though the old man's lack of blame and reproach continues to confuse him, and worse, his pity-- his understanding-- still makes him uncomfortable. Even his "mother", the yautja who originally contributed her genes to the biosynth, is on board, though he is hardly going to approach her. Brave he might be, but he is also not stupid, and disappointing her, he expects, will be far more painful than disappointing his actual creator, size difference or no.
None of those are available now, however. Most of the ship-- well, all those there that he might actually consider spending time with of his own volition-- is turned out for the hatching. And he wants to be nowhere near the hatching, particularly not with his clutchmates in tempers of their own.
Perhaps getting out would be a good idea. He could use a good ale or liquor in his gut, and it's been a long time since he's indulged. All of his family-- brothers, sister, grandfather, mother-- are busy, and he has nothing, really, in the way of friends. So drinking alone is the way it will have to be... not that he honestly thinks any of his family would really approve of it, anyway. But while it had been one of the reasons he had drifted so aimlessly between mutual abandonment-- oh, be honest, Timan, he tells himself irritably, you did the abandoning, not him; you can hardly blame him for seeking more pleasant company-- it had also been something that got him through those purposeless months. He's missed a touch of alcohol in his system, and doesn't see the harm in a little, now. Not enough to be drunk, not with the threat hanging over his head of winding up in jail again if he lost his temper and disappointing his grandfather again, but he's found he likes the taste and likes the slight buzz of a little intoxication.
Besides, it seems fitting, today. Whether to drown away his disgusting self-pity or to lift his spirits, getting off the ship is definitely in order.
However, getting off the ship is also a trial and a half-- people coming and going for the hatching; his clutchmates pacing the main corridor's exit; a white, fluffy hydra loitering around; the presence of the xenodragons in the bay itself-- but now that he has a goal in mind, he can put up with it. His clutchmates will not think less of him for escaping the hatching, though they might hold his lack of solidarity against him-- or not. He has given up on trying to anticipate when and how Osende, Chetande, and Samurnde will disapprove of him, much less his grandfather, not after being so soundly reprimanded for a forgotten incident and then being so accepted and pitied after coming home a failure. The hydra he ignores, the xenodragons he wraps his mind away from as best he can, and the people he avoids as best as possible by leaving before the hatching is actually out. He drops a terse, silent nod at the three hovering yautjadragons, and then is gone.
Timande has not actually been out in Star City much since his return. He has made a dutiful trip a week to the flight deck to stretch his wings and run through a rigorous air-based exercise routine. He has made two forays into the commercial decks in an attempt to do what he is attempting to do now, find a decent place to drink in peace without getting into trouble; hopefully this time he will fare better. He has made one restless, midnight visit to one of the dragon-sized gyms on the outermost deck, and fled shortly after arriving when he realized it was one he and Joqout frequented before his testing almost a year ago, now. Since then, he has kept to the Destiny decks for exercise that doesn't require space to fly.
Finding somewhere to drink in peace turns out to be remarkably easy. Timande has little use for his regular salary, as he stays mostly on the ship and cares little for luxuries, so he has the funds to put into choosing a more upscale, regulated, and generally old-fashioned place to sample alcohol quietly for a while. Old-fashioned in that it has no flashing lights-- no lights of any color other than white and yellow, in fact-- no crowded dance floors, no pounding music, and halfway comfortable chairs.
It also has a few other customers, one of which-- a brazenly metallic yellow and red dragoness with copious amounts of fur and a not-quite-done-growing look to her-- buys him a drink when he comes in. He squints at her briefly, trying to decide if she really is under-age, but the offer of free alcohol is enough to convince him to holds off on telling the bartender of his suspicions. For now, anyway.
::Someone with a face as ugly as yours deserves free drinks,:: she says without preamble. Since he has no illusions about his ability to win beauty contests, he is not offended.
::Someone as rude as you deserves to be buying them,:: he replies gruffly, and takes the "Ercatian fire wine" or whatever it is that the bartender offers at her nod.
::Someone as ungrateful as you deserves rudeness,:: she snorts back, sounding just as unoffended as he does.
::Someone as bad-tempered as you deserves ungratefulness,:: he counters, tasting the beverage, mandibles pulled delicately away from the warmed glass, and subsequently scowling at it. It is actually pretty good.
::Someone as... as... bah, I'm out of insults. Too much booze. Is it really that bad?:: she adds at his continued scowl.
::It's good, actually,:: he says.
::Then why the long face?::
Look at her suspiciously, he says, mandibles spread wide to illustrate his point, ::My face is not in the least bit long.::
::It's an expression, moron,:: she snickers. ::Means you look mad 'bout something. Or maybe sad. Probably from humans frowning; their faces look longer when they frown.::
Timande blinks then, still frowning himself, turns back to his drink. ::It is a long and rather dull story,:: he tells her sourly.
::So? I'm drunk enough not to care.:: She reaches over with one forepaw and prods his shoulder. He swats her away absently with a wing.
::I am bored, useless, and bondless,:: he growls, quietly enough and "close" enough to be nearly "under his breath", but she watches him with glowing red eyes, surprisingly alert for someone who has professed to be drunk. ::I failed at the only task I set myself and returned home in disgrace, without the one I wasted my childhood and then some on, and now I have no purpose. There. Boring enough for you?::
The furry dragoness barks out a laugh, and he refrains from glaring. ::Quite. Bonds aren't worth it, Ugly,:: she says, though not without sympathy, which does make him glare again. ::Not worth it, at all. Believe me, I know. I've got two.::
Eying her curiously, despite himself, he says, ::My entire family is bonded, besides myself, though to my knowledge none of them have two.::
::It was a mistake,:: the dragoness grumbles, hunching over her own drink now. ::Shouldn't've tried to get into a bond hoping to change 'er.::
Stung, seeing as that was exactly what he had done, Timande glowers more darkly. ::Sometimes a person needs a push to become what they have the ability to be.::
::Think like that, and you'll be disappointed,:: the dragoness growls back at him. ::Because most of the time people don't want to change, and you'll just beat your head against a wall trying. Or worse,:: she adds, sounding somewhere between defiant and ill, ::find a way to really change them, and then see how wrong you were all along.::
She is wrong. She has to be wrong. Joqout did change, a little... he did learn some control, learn how to face his demons, improve as a warrior. He just... didn't make it all the way. That is Timande's own fault as much as Joqout's, he knows that, but it doesn't make it any less true that Joqout would certainly be better off-- happier, more complete, more effective-- if he had finally come into his own. ::And your basis for such a statement?:: he asks stiffly.
The dragoness looks him up and down, obviously unconcerned at his affront. ::You really wanna know, Ugly?:: At his nod, she shrugs. ::Well, I suppose it won't hurt to share-- but if you go spreading it around, believe me, I'll find out and make you wish you hadn't.:: Timande growls warningly, but to his disgruntlement she just laughs. ::My first bond is a little girl, and I spent a long time trying to corrupt her. Then I found out about this clutch... and idiot that I was, I went. My second bond, from that clutch, corrupted her in a way I never expected him to, but it did the trick. She's no longer innocent, and I am no longer welcome at home.::
Something tickles at the back of Timande's mind. Corruption. Clutch. Corruption. She can't be talking about what he thinks she's talking about... but "little girl"? Corruptive clutch? What else could she be talking about?
::I spent most of my life trying to change Kalaia,:: the dragoness said bitterly. ::Now I'd give anything to change her back. She was just fine how she was, and I was too stupid to realize it.::
Kalaia. She is--! Timande surges to his feet with a snarl. ::You're the one! With the Balespawn who corrupted that little girl!::
The dragoness-- Netahiln is her name, he knows from the reports-- doesn't bother getting up, though the bartender, who has been listening with half his attention, suddenly is paying quite a bit more attention. Probably sensing danger. Netahiln just glares balefully at him. ::What of it?::
Sputtering, Timande manages to get out, ::You-- you-- it's your fault! There are Balespawn on this station, and you brought one here! Yours even did all that damage!::
::I'd prefer you stopped calling him "mine",:: Netahiln mutters. ::I already said it was a mistake, didn't I? What else you want?:: She looks him up and down again. ::A fight?:: Showing teeth-- the bartender ducks behind the bar with more resignation than actual alarm-- Netahiln adds darkly, ::I can give you a fight.::
Though he is shaking with suppressed rage, and wishing he could tear that bloody smirk right off her face, Timande reins in his temper with effort. He will not disgrace his creator-- and employer-- again by causing trouble and winding up in jail. ::You can leave this bar,:: he sends to her tightly. ::I know who you are, and you're too young to be in here, so get out and go home.::
Looking disappointed, Netahiln bares her teeth again, but at the glare from the half-hidden bartender, she picks up her glass to insolently toss back the last mouthful of her drink and, after throwing it with a smash against the wall behind the bar, saunters towards the exit. Timande shadows her, making sure she leaves, glaring all the while. She pauses at the doorway to look over her shoulder at him, and though there are still teeth showing in that infernal smirk that is almost a snarl, her mindvoice is surprisingly, gruffly sympathetic.
::Bonds are more trouble than they're worth, Ugly,:: she says. ::Believe me on that. And believe me when I say that if I could take back what I did, I would. Maybe you oughta think about that, yourself.::
And with a flip of her stubby, bottle-brush tail, she lopes off, leaving Timande mantled and growling in her wake, feeling defensive, guilty, and furious.
It isn't until he is back on the ship that he can even think straight enough to sort out any of his reactions to the creature who had a paw in inciting Doctor Schroeder's rare but obvious rage against the Balespawn. First and foremost in his mind, however, is his renewed belief that bonds are part of what makes life worth living. Before he impulsively left his behind, he at least had a partner, no matter how disappointing he might have been.
Not far behind that, he realizes, is the certainty that there is still evil in the Nexus, and that he is doing nothing to stop it. Whether it is a Balespawn, an Ignius, or a creature who would bring home a monster to viciously mutate a little girl. He wants to be doing something. And to be doing something, he needs a bond, because he cannot work alone and be effective. He cannot work alone and be happy.
Thank whatever god existed that the perfect clutch is a mere three months away. He would bond again, to someone who was guaranteed to be good and true and fierce, and maybe this time things would go better. He can put his shame and grief behind him, start anew, maybe take another stab at making a difference against the evils of the universe with someone better suited to him... someone to whom he would be better suited. A partner, once he or she had grown up. Someone he can work with, get along with, share hunts and values with.... That is what he wants... more, even, than doing away with evil-- though not much more.
Even with that resolution in mind, and the further resolution to not think about that creature who did such terrible things to her bond, her final words still hover around the back of his thoughts. And believe me when I say that if I could take back what I did, I would. Maybe you oughta think about that, yourself.
Even as he makes plans to sign up the very next morning, it whispers around the bottom of his thoughts that perhaps she might be right.