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CHAPTER NINE: TO THE PALACE

 

Zarbon straightened out the shoulderpads on his new uniform. New suits always felt strange on their first fitting. "Damn! No earrings!"

"Zarbon, dear, when you landed one of your earrings was gone, and the other had half melted to your face. Don't even ask me about the circlet."

Zarbon looked at Salad with an inquisitive look. If a question mark could have appeared above his head, it would have been there already.

"They gave me your personal effects earlier this morning when I arrived. All I had to do was give them your soldier's ID number."

Zarbon put his hands on his hips. "And just where did you get my ID number? Civilians aren't supposed to know that!"

"Oh, you mean 19726924? It's amazing what people will say when intoxicated."

"You used me?" Zarbon stammered.

"No, I used Jeice. You were drunk, too, but I felt guilty asking you. Remember how depressed he was last breakup and he needed our help?"

Zarbon lowered his head a bit.

"Zarbon, are you okay?" Salad asked, genuinely concerned.

"Zarbon shook his head. "It's nothing. It's just... Jeice died in the battle, Salad. He died saving my life."

"Oh." Salad paused while it hit her. "Oh. I'm... I'm sorry."

"It's nothing." Zarbon shook his head, but his eyes told the truth.

"Come on, let's go. We have to set up an appointment with Lord Cold."

"Already done." Both Zarbon and Salad looked back at her. "Well, I had to do something while you were recovering!"

Zarbon turned his head back. "For a captive of the empire, you've certainly gotten cozy with everybody here."

"Who said I'm a captive?"

"I-" Zarbon cut himself off. He had meant to tell them that she was a prisoner of war, but it hadn't actually come out of his mouth before he was put in the tank. "I hope you enjoyed your freedom."

"Sitting in a hospital room watching you recover isn't freedom."

"And exactly why did you stay there?"

"Because I can't bear to live without you." She fluttered her eyes. "Naked healing men are such a turn-on. You're lucky, dear Salad."

Zarbon tripped on Salad's foot. Salad nearly swung around to kill Zangya, but saw the expression on her face and realized that it was simply another joke of hers. Salad smiled back, and decided that Zangya's sense of humour was getting just a little bit dangerous. Of course, every female who was around Zarbon made those types of comments. It was something about their race and trans-species pheremones.

Zarbon got up and scowled at Zangya. Salad tended to go off like a firecracker when women did so much as look at him sideways. The fact that she was so friendly with Zangya meant that she didn't think she really meant any harm. Neither did Zarbon. He was, after all, probably going to have to dispose of her in the end, anyway. "Hey, Salad," he said, "We need to make a stop somewhere so I can buy some earrings."

Salad put a hand on his shoulder. "Oh, come on, darling. You can live without them for one day."

"Not if I'm going to see Lord Cold! I have to look pristine."

"Here, then. Wear mine." Salad took her earrings and circlet off and handed them to Zarbon.

"But... but they're women's earrings!" Zarbon protested, "People would notice!"

"I wouldn't notice," Zangya said, "And I pay attention to what people are wearing. Believe me, you're fine."

"Oh, all right. I can't fight off both of you." Zarbon said, as he took the jewelry. He fastened the earrings, and put on the circlet, taking the time to unbind his braid first so he could weave it through his hair properly. Salad smiled. This was her man, and no one else's!

"So, Zangya," he said, re-tying his hair, "When are we supposed to be there?"

"In ten minutes."

They ran the rest of the way to Cold's palace.

***