“It is rancid.”
Sa’sheer had never been one to mince his words; he was always straight to the point and utterly blunt, to say the least. Nafar had known this fact for some time, and it was the driving reason behind his meeting with Sa’sheer—sheer, uninhibited bluntness.
And Nafar was not disappointed.
The two of them were seated in the mess hall of the newly christened Toraxis, the vessel Xi'Yor had been given command of following the destruction of the Inkhezi. It was of the same design as their former vessel, perhaps a bit more streamlined and functional, but at its core, it was the Inkehzi with a different name.
Consequently, the mess hall on both vessels looked exactly the same: a claustrophobic little box with steely gray walls, no windows, and an assortment of steely gray tables and steely gray chairs scattered throughout. Décor was certainly not a priority on Elorg vessels. Not that Nafar really cared—it was most likely that the Toraxis would eventually suffer the same fate as the Inkhezi, so adding a personal touch was certainly a frivolous activity.
Lunch, on the other hand, and hearing Sa’sheer’s comment, gave Nafar reason to frown. “Rancid?” he repeated. “What is wrong with it?”
Sa’sheer looked down at the plate of leafy greens before him and cringed. “It is a watery plant,” he scoffed. “I see little to no nutritional value in it; the same could be said about the taste—little to none.”
Nafar’s eyes widened, and he expelled a collected sigh of relief. “Then it was not just me,” he said amidst the sigh. “I, too, found this… lettuce rancid.”
“Then why are we ingesting it?” Sa’sheer inquired, pushing the half-emptied plate aside.
“At Talyere’s suggestion,” said Nafar quietly, so that his words did not travel beyond their small table. It was generally believed that Talyere had died at the hand of Xi'Yor in the Inkhezi’s final moments—and that he was buried under tons of dirt and sand on Gildebron III. Of course, in all reality, Talyere lived, and Nafar exchanged clandestine messages with him frequently.
It was news to Sa’sheer. “You spoke with him?”
Nafar smiled enigmatically. “We have had a considerable dialogue since leaving Inferno’s Citadel.”
“Fascinating,” said Sa’sheer with obvious interest. “What has the Overseer to say?”
Tingling with excitement, Nafar was quick to recall the numerous pieces of information Talyere had shared with him. “Since the end of his incarceration, the Overseer has done much…and he is writing down his thoughts and meditations to share with us at a later time.”
Immediately, a curious look fell upon Sa’sheer’s face. “Thoughts and meditations,” he said softly. “Most interesting. I look forward to reading it. The Overseer’s words are always wise.”
“Indeed,” said Nafar softly. “But perhaps his culinary views should be taken not as wisdom, but as…” He paused to think of a term, and then smiled when it finally came to him, “mere suggestions.”
“Agreed,” said Sa’sheer, again looking at the unpalatable dish before him.
Nafar was about to continue speaking of Talyere and his great deeds, when he suddenly caught a faint indication of movement out of the corner of his eye. Candidly, he craned his neck to see two Protectors slowly meandering to a table in the far corner, and a third approaching from the opposite direction. The first two moved along without consequence, but it was this third one that concerned Nafar. Instead of joining his friends, the Protector seemed to be heading for Nafar and company—and sure enough, he was upon them a moment later.
“Underling,” said the Protector in his deep, stern voice. He knelt down at the table. “I could not help but overhear your conversation. Are these allegations true? Does Talyere live?”
Nafar gulped. The Protector was only recently posted to Xi'Yor’s command, and Nafar was not familiar with him, or his affiliations. Consequently, a wrong word now would certainly spell trouble later. But the Protector had already heard the conversation… so creating a lie was certainly out of the question. The truth was all that remained. “Yes,” said Nafar softly. “Talyere lives. We liberated him shortly before the Inkhezi’s destruction.”
The Protector smiled. “I am humbled by this news, Underling; I am called Kaylen—I served with Talyere several years ago, and found his views to be most enlightening. I would enjoy seeing his tome when you receive it.”
Without another word, the Protector rose to his feet and moved to join his two friends in the corner table, leaving Nafar and Sa’sheer to their thoughts. “Perhaps our resistance still has a fighting chance,” said Sa’sheer quietly.
Frowning, Nafar shook his head. “We accomplished our goal,” he said, matching Sa’sheer’s hushed tone. “Xi'Yor is at an unfortunate disposition, and Talyere is free. We have no use for further insurrections.”
Suddenly, Nafar did not like the fire that burned in Sa’sheer’s eyes. “Talyere believes the Elorg Bloc a decadent, dying species; perhaps we should work to rectify that error by working to bring his writings to light.”
Perhaps the idea was not such a foul one after all. There was certainly a desire for change in the Bloc; Talyere just might be the answer. “I suppose it would not hurt to try.”
Clearing his throat, Sa’sheer shook his head. “It could prove most painful should the Cerebrate discover us… We would most likely be begging for her to terminate us.”
That was not something Nafar had considered, and the more he thought about it, the stagnant ways of The Tome of Na’zar grew more appealing—which was exactly what the Cerebrate wanted. If Nafar backed down, nothing would be accomplished… “We must risk it,” he decided. “No matter the cost.”
Breat IV loomed ominously on the viewscreen. It was a large, yellowish-green planet and numerous blue oceans. Surrounding it were a series of paper-thin rings, composed primarily of ice and small asteroids. To some, such a sight would be considered beautiful. To Xi'Yor, it was a simple planet, with a simple population, ripe for a simple conquest.
But a simple conquest was not what the Cerebrate had in mind for the denizens of Breat IV. In her infinite, divine wisdom, the Cerebrate deemed it necessary to preserve the population in its entirety, and entice them to become allies of the Elorg. Xi'Yor had his doubts, however.
The denizens were, by Elorg standards, a primitive society. Though they were certainly aware of their galactic neighbors, the Breats did not have space-faring technology. In fact, they had very little technology to begin with, and should have been of no interest to the Elorg. It seemed to Xi'Yor that he was on a “busy-mission” to keep him occupied… and out of the way.
And he knew exactly why: High Overseer Cree’dan. The new High Overseer was selected by the Cerebrate, for the Cerebrate, with the clear, but unspoken mission to spite Xi'Yor for his incompetence at Gildebron III. And Cree’dan, being a former Underling of Xi'Yor’s, was the perfect candidate…
But he intended to show Z’danorax that he would not be rid of so easily. “Standard orbit,” he called out to the helmsman before added quietly, “Prepare to show the Cerebrate she was in error for appointing Cree’dan to his position…”