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The Rogue Planet – by Jessi
The muggy heat of Chibbink’s jungle permeated the bar, but I fought the urge to rip off my shirt. Going shirtless would make me look like a wild beast. Even with my ruffs trimmed and a shirt on, I still towered over the tallest Humans Skallan in the bar.
As I approached the bar, I flattened my ears to avoid getting splinters from the wooden ceiling beams. I sat on a stool near Nakkal, who spoke to another captain who wore a black uniform, standard issue for anyone on the Chibbink Armada. Everything about him fit regulations perfectly, down to his short hair and perfectly groomed beard, one that had to take more upkeep than a clean shave.
“Mark my words, the war’s going to pick up,” the black clad Human said. “You should be going to Lokostwa, not picking at petty criminals here.”
Nakkal’s green-scaled hand squeezed his wooden wine cup. “The pirates we hunt are far from petty criminals.”
“They’re thieves. My crew will be hunting those Free Kin radicals.” The Human captain’s eyes narrowed and his voice gained a dangerous edge. “Some people don’t understand what it means to be loyal to God’s Ordained. We’re here to serve them, to fight wars against those primitive savages.” He glanced at me as he spoke, and I knew he was referring to my species.
Nakkal took a sip of his wine, pretending to ignore the barb. “We follow God, Zave.” My ears picked up the tension in his voice.
Zave sipped his own wine.
Across the room, Jorron stood. My ears flicked in his direction. “Disloyal? I’ll tell you what. We chose to be mercenaries. You’re nothing but a bunch of slaves.” His scales, normally a dull green, were turning brownish with rage.
I looked around the bar. From what I saw, the majority of the people were my crewmates or part of Captain Zave’s crew.
The bartender, a young blonde girl, stopped scrubbing tables to watch Jorron.
“At least I’m fighting for something besides coin,” a red-headed Human shot back. He stood too, his hands balled into fists.
Likkil sat at Jorron’s table, watching, not doing anything. I tried to catch her eye, get her to defuse the situation, but my cousin just watched. I caught a spark in her green eyes and interest in the way her long black ears perked toward the confrontation. Maybe she wouldn’t start something, but she wanted to get involved. I’d never seen an Elba woman who liked to fight more than my cousin.
“You’re fighting because you’d get a red tattoo if you didn’t. There’s no courage in that,” Jorron snapped.
I stood and strode toward the pair. At my approach, Zave’s crew stood, a few resting their hands on their pistols. Others scrambled out of my way. All of them knew that I could kill them with a single blow, and they knew better than to get in my way.
“You calling me a coward?” The redhead lifted his fists.
I stepped between the redhead and Jorron. “Enough,” I said softly.
The bar went still. The redhead took a few steps back, his eyes on my claws. He might’ve been ready to fight a Skallan his size, but he was far from willing to fight an Elba who stood two heads taller than any Human.
“Go sit down and order your food,” I told Jorron.
“Enough,” I snapped. “We don’t need to waste energy fighting each other.”
The redhead slunk away as Jorran sat at his table.
“Your body guard’s something else,” Zave told Nakkal.
“He’s not my body guard, he’s the third in command,” Nakkal said. “Only second to my wife.” There was a hardness to Nakkal’s voice.
Zave laughed. “You can put a shirt on a kark, but it’s still a kark.”
“He’s an Elba, not an animal.”
“Only difference is a kark knows how to be loyal,” Zave said.
My fur stood on end, but I sat next to Nakkal and stayed quiet. It didn’t matter if Zave thought I was a monster. He wasn’t my captain.
I looked over Zave’s crew. There were a couple women, but the majority of them were Human men with blond or red hair. There were a pair of Chix too, but no species from outside the two Ordained planets, not much surprise considering Zave’s reaction to me. Rather than having a sense of individuality, they all wore uniforms, making it obvious they were from the same crew. My crewmates wore whatever they felt like, making it harder for them to be identified as part of the crew, especially when we had everything from Humans, Chix, and Skallan to Torfs and three Elbas, counting me.
A few of them were drinking too much, though Zave hadn’t had more than one glass of wine. I kept an eye on my crewmates. Most of them knew their limits, though Jorron tended to be the one who liked to drink and fight, a bad combination, so I kept one ear tuned to his voice.
I ordered some roast targan, which the waitress put in front of me. The meat had a sweat flavor to it, one that our ship’s cook didn’t have the skill to reproduce. Once we resupplied, we’d get back in space and away from the heat of Chibbink.
Zave’s crew ate and drank too, many gulping down alcoholic beverages that they likely didn’t have access to on their ship. A few of the boys were young, barely able to grow stubble. Had they volunteered to join his crew, or were they draftees who hadn’t been given a choice? They were young, probably under twenty years old, but the Chibbink nobility had this crazy idea that eighteen was old enough to join the military. If the war got worse, would they reduce the age to even younger? The thought made my fur bristle.
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