"The Mariri wishes us to return to the Yu Qi Homeworld," Quasit breathed each syllable with adagio, "but suffice that while we linger, the Queen will learn under its tutelage."
"Linger?" Pearl repeated, her beautiful face edged with distaste.
Quasit continued as if she hadn't spoken. "But the Mariri warns that the Queen learns fast, that further delay will be unacceptable." He raised a finger before Pearl could explode. "I told the Mariri that according to legend the current Queen might meet us with hostility. The Mariri wouldn't hear it. Saying impossible the Yu Qi Homeworld would rejoice with arrival."
Half way to Olis V, the Phengodidae passing through ghostly phosphorescence of the Candellion Cluster, Quasit joined Pearl on the bridge.
"You didn't bring me any tea," she quipped, though she desired none.
Quasit shrugged. "Chattsworth drank it all anyway. I left him to watch over our guests." He amended. "Well, the Mariri seems to do a good job of watching over the Queen, anyway. She's sleeping like a newborn."
"Is she a newborn?" Pearl said contumely, yet rhetorically. "And just what has the Mariri divulged to you, academe acquired through the aeons?"
Quasit's expression darkened in a conflicted scowl.
Pearl brought up the schematics to Olis V on her COM chair's consol, debating with herself.
She'd already changed headings, since it appeared to her Quasit hadn't wanted to interrupt his teetotaling to do it. Beginning with Olis V seemed a safe course of action to pursue in investigating the Mantidae Class ship.
She'd ordered the BQSBots to circumspectly query about the Yu Qi Homeworld, but without clearances, information gathered offered little more insight, and at this point, she didn't want to risk any reverse queries.
Doesn't mean I have to sit and wait for Quasit.
Studying Olis V, approaching.
"But that would mean the Mariri is thousands of years old," surmised Pearl in numinous marvel.
"In thousands of years you'd assume the Mariri would pick up a thing or two about Yu Qi culture. Because we need to understand if that Yu Qi Warship meant to salvage our cargo or obliterate the Phengodidae, because from what I know from legend, the current Yu Qi Queen regime mightn't take too kindly to succession. And just how the fike the Mantidae fits into this equation. I'm hoping the Mariri can clarify."
Pearl sighed. "Let's hope you find out between tea cups."
Quasit with aestuous kindle, "One Queen. Just one Queen. And I'm trying to ascertain just what sort of azazel kluge feculence we've stepped in." He pointed a hand in the general direction of his quarters. "The Queen is barely a babe, a newborn. She can't even communicate yet. From what I've learned so far, the Mariri is the only link she has to this existence or any other. The Mariri serves all Yu Qi Queens, from one to the next. But the Mariri's whole existence is serving the Queen, until she is ready to serve her people."
Pearl's head shook.
She continued as if he hadn't. "Inform me before you remove cargo out of the hold for any reason. Sometimes I think there is too much coprolithic torsional metal in your head." Pausing for a moment, she looked at the ductwork of the Phengodidae momentarily, then her eyes darted back downwards to his in alarm. "And change heading from Incaeria IV. We're not going there. Your beardsplitting pansexualistic drive won't take us there!"
Quasit looked genuinely wraw, an accusatory dark brow lifting. "Not my intention, and you know it."
"Not sure what I know while you're having tea with Queens!"
Pearl stood nearly a full head taller than Quasit, making an imposing figure in nearly ever circumstance, as if sculpted from xurtziteBZ, physique graven musculature, meliorated flesh, blood, nearly purebred human a source of immense pride for her.
She knew Quasit like the back of her hand, and although his actions infuriated her to no end, wasn't entirely unforeseen. She'd trusted him with her life on several occasions, and would do so again in a heartbeat. That being said, she wasn't about to give in.
"I'm the captain," she snarled through gritted teeth, "inform me before changing course."
Before Pearl got a word out edgewise, Chattsworth motioned for Quasit to pour her a cup of tea likewise. Demurely declined, asking Quasit, "Can I speak with you privately a moment?"
Quasit bowed in adulation to the Queen and her handmaidens before joining Pearl in the hall.
Steam rising from her burgundy hair nearly saporous. "What in Jupiter's cunnus are you doing?"
Quasit answered direct, imperturbably, to diffuse as much as possible. "I left orbit so as not to attract undue attraction from anyone on Thenorion with any plausible reverse loops. Brought them to Chattsworth. You're right, he was lonely."
Pearl stretched, yawned. At least once I got to sleep, I got some sleep!
Rising, dressed in standard functional clothing, strapped IZKD to inside thigh. Only then, cocked her head, listening. The hum of the Phengodidae's engine spoke of movement; no more Thenorion service adverts. No wonder I could sleep she thought briefly before squinting with opprobrium, asked the CC ships's heading. Heading Incaeria IV.
Quasit disembarked! While she slept.
Full of fury, she swept from her cabin, stormed to his quarters, demanded entry. Entered to find Quasit placidly serving tea to Chattsworth, the Mariri and the Yu Qi Queen.
Quasit sensed Pearl's approach behind her, but his attentions remained focused on the Mariri's ministrations of Queen. She sat next to him on the cargo hold's cold, sterile floor.
"Your monkey's getting lonely," Pearl tamely japed, though seeing such a pensive mood upon Quasit's face, truncated else.
As if speaking from a long chain of thought, Quasit iterated, "No more attempts to communicate. The Mariri are only tending, feeding the Queen through physical contact with buccal cavity. Mentally, she looks like a newborn."
Pearl stood. "I'm going back to sleep. The BQSBots can watch for you. Get back to Chattsworth."
Pearl listened to the blathering from the COM systems, mindless adverts from source of Thenorion, letting her mind wander, trying to drift off to sleep. Try as she might, sleep wouldn't come. Still unable to disengage from Incaeria IV Moon because repairs were incomplete, she eagerly wanted to. A little risky to stay, with such unknown commodities aboard. Quasit's security measures will hold.
Finally giving up, she rose, dressed, wondering if Quasit could sleep. Even he needs to sleep sometime.
She found him still with the Yu Qi Queen and her handmaidens. He thinks they're more precious for his collections.
Quasit tendentiously accounted, "For Yu Qi psychobiology and physiology, her lifesigns are much contrasted. Looking at absolutely no systemic degradation, however, the Queen's vital indicators do show instability, especially in the neuropathways and haematic synapses. My opinion." He cleared his throat, expecting Pearl to interrupt. But she didn't. "The Mariri needs close physical interactions, perhaps in maternal and or paternal capacities."
Pearl continued to stand stalk still. Quasit watched, could see her breast rising, falling, each breath she took. Finally she turned to Quasit minimally, in syncretism, nodded for release.
Instantly the Queen toppled; the Mariri went to her swiftly.
Pearl faced the Mariri, the amphisbaena tail between the bodies pulsed with a life of its own, as if digesting nutrients or passing placenta. The faces of the Mariri appeared innocently infantile, belying intellect, sagacity.
"We will return you to stasis," Pearl announced resolutely, "You are our cargo and nothing more. You-"
The Mariri interrupted. "We implore you to act for our release. The Queen must be released. Our Queen is dying."
Pearl shot a look at Quasit to check lifesigns within chamber.
The Mariri expressed sadness, seraphic faces etched with sorrow. "We need to attend our Queen. Please."
Quasit solicited an umbrageous smirk, "As long as they're just harassing and not evaginating us with cannonfire we'd still be in the running for our prize money."
Pearl, deigning a reply, interrupted when the Mariri broke off, away from the Queen. Approached the stasis barrier. Upon closer inspection, the Mariri nearly shimmered in horizontal waves as it moved, as if here and there out of timephase with the Phengodidae. The two separate bodies opened their mouths to speak, voices spectrally pitched in both high and low modulations, wavering in mesial frequencies. "Release us and our Queen. Negotiate our freedom. Immediately."
Pearl turned sideways, one eye on the Mariri while they ran tactile diagnostics of the Queen with fingers, slowly, methodically, almost as if manually checking epidermis temperature.
"First signs of trouble," she icily instructed Quasit, "I want you to pull the plug. I want the CC and BQSBots to initiate cargo disposal by incineration."
Quasit sighed, visibly perturbed. "That would be a grave mistake, Pearl." He petitioned.. "Not only from a provenance standpoint, but think how much a Yu Qi Queen could be worth."
Pearl's eyebrow raised. "Worth? Not much if goatgouging Yu Qi Warships harass us at every turn!"
Pearl's concern and annoyance splashed across her supernal face. Her mouth twisted, stepping aside for Quasit to work adroitly on the CC. Try to reinstate the CC, override the safeguards.
Pearl watched the Mariri now. The handmaiden seemed to float unimpeded towards the Yu Qi Queen, as if immune to the effects of the Phengodidae's AG, wings seemingly more ornamental, at least aboard the ship. Affects of stasis apparently wearing off. The Mariri plausibly paid no mind to the surroundings, only concerned with the Queen.
"No good," Quasit reported succinctly. "Because of the hylopathism the CC won't recommit. Reinitiation impossible."
For some reason the CC held up cargo resecure procedure. Her brows lifted in vexation as she rerouted. Her voice tinged with rancour, she continued. "I am not about to have these two, these three, traipsing about my ship until we have more intelligence on the situation."
Quasit cocked his head, glancing at Pearl, wondering what the delay was. "What's wrong?" He moved to the CC consol next to her. Then from the corner of his eye, he caught movement.
Though improbable, through the PAH haze, unmistakable movement. "Look," Quasit signalled.
The Mariri moved, torpidly pedetentous towards the Queen, awakened.
Quasit's expression turned from shining triumph, watching the Mariri, Yu Qi Queen, to downright disappointed puzzlement. "Wait," he soaringly inveighed, "what are you doing?"
The PAH chemicals centralized, reinstating encasement procedures.
"We know little and less about this Queen," Pearl nearly spat the word in disdain. "We know little and less about just why the Yu Qi sent an Ecitoninae class Warship to try and quiff us backwards." She paused, hesitated; for a moment; the CC didn't respond immediately to her inputs. "And we know little and less about the crew of the Mantidae." Again she paused. This is odd...
Pearl scowled, stepping backwards as the beautiful Queen solidified before her. Combative, she glared incredulously at Quasit. "An Aeon is a long quimsouring time!"
Quasit didn't take the bait. He knew Pearl too well. With exaggerated meekness, he replied, "Hence the legendary status."
Staring at him icily, turned to the purported Yu Qi Queen.
She stood nearly as tall as Pearl, opalescent purple skin glistening. Thin legs, elegant arms, splayed hands and feet. Dual eyes burgundy embers in a thick-set skull, nearly no forehead gave way to spiralling cloistered orange hair. Like all Yu Qi, regal, even in stasis.
"Only live to serve." Quasit continued in a venerational timbre "They're handmaidens."
Pearl turned to him quizzically, the barely perceptible hum of the system dispersing PAH for the remaining contents. "Handmaidens? That's an archaic term. Handmaidens for what?" And she turned back to watch the chemical dispersion.
"Handmaidens for their Queen," Quasit explained. "The Yu Qi Queen. Their legends state that every Aeon their Queen passes. Replaced by a new Queen."
Pearl could barely believe what Quasit was telling her. Watched as the titanius haze was clearing, revealing a figure of a Yu Qi female, robed in golden etched finery.