Aboard the S.U.M. Halberd, Quil lifted the plating from the deck and readied to put it over the vines they’d grown. He felt the pressure differential as the door to the flight deck opened, a waft of wind pushing against the folds of his robes. He made the final notes on the HICSlate and rose to face what he could hear was the Captain. He smiled to himself, bemused at the depth of his newfound senses.
“Captain, to what do I owe the visit?” He smiled all the stronger at seeing her surprise when he greeted her.
“I wanted to see first hand the different vines that you propose to infest my ship with.” She crossed her arms over her chest. “That, and I’d like to know how you could tell it was me coming.”
He gestured at the deck plating. “I’ll have to pull it up for you to inspect them personally – but I know that Doctor Rasmussen has been working on growing some in his lab, speeding up the growth so that we can implement them across the whole ship.”
“I don’t mind doing some work.” She grasped the deck grapples and knelt down, removing the bolts that Quil had just attached the plate with. She looked at him as she set the tools to cranking away. “You didn’t answer how you knew it was me that was coming.”
Quil smiled and set to removing one of the other installations while he explained. “I can’t really explain. I know that I can hear a difference in the way that you walk across the deck than other people. I’m also more and more sensitized to the smells around me – things you don’t even notice. The taste of pheromones, perfumes.”
Captain Spitzer set down the grapples and looked at Quil. “So, what you’re saying is that I smell.”
Quil looked at the Captain, and swallowed heavily, knowing that he’d stepped in it this time, but Captain Spitzer laughed heartily.
“That’s a joke, Quil.” She reached into the open area and saw that the vines had grown to cover the electrical and phlogiston lines. “Amazing. How has the interface worked out between the atmospheric systems and the waste systems?”
Quil gestured at the HICSlate. “I was just going to test that, Captain.”
She smiled and waved her hand. “Proceed – better yet. Let me do it. I have some questions, and I’d like you to focus on answering me.”
Quil nodded, and fought back the obeisance gesture that he would normally have given an Empress. He realized then that the Locus was taking keen interest in not only his situation, but in the reactions of the Captain. “I’d like to mention, Captain, that anything we talk about is heard by the Locus of the Queliqot.”
Captain Spitzer smiled. “I’m glad to hear it. I wouldn’t want you keeping anything from your adoptive family.” She removed the handheld scanner and began sweeping it carefully over the atmospheric machinery, taking note of the level of carbon dioxide in the ambient air and the work that the scrubbers were putting out. “Tell me, Quil, do you know where the Queliqot are and what sort of timeframe we can look to for their help?”
Quil sat still for a moment, feeling the human hormones receding from his systems as the Quoliqu began filtering the hormones that skewed his thinking from the binary clarity of the Queliqot. Quil stiffened a bit, and spoke quietly calmly. “Captain, as a King among Queliqot, I can tell you that our ships are not yet ready to Transit to the aid of the Humans, but that time is soon upon us.”
Captain Spitzer smiled and began scanning the waste systems. “I would ask for an estimation of the time it would take, but I’m guessing that this isn’t something you’d like to discuss with me, in case we are captured by the Plasmoids before the Queliqot can arrive.”
Quil nodded. “Simple strategy, Queen-mother.”
Captain Spitzer returned the scanner to the slot on the side of the HICSlate and tapped through several screens to get to the results of the analysis. While she waited for the screen to refresh, she looked at Quil. “I wish I could tell you that we’ll all make it through this situation in one piece. I don’t know that we will.” She stepped forward and looked Quil firmly in the eyes. “I’m not telling you this so that you’ll share it with the crew of the Vanguard.”
Quil nodded, his face limp. “You’re telling me because you are speaking to the Locus.”
Captain Spitzer nodded, and gestured nearly perfectly the complicated gesture of obeisance to the Locus. “And I am most honored to address the Locus through the duly appointed representative.”
Quil felt a surge of emotion from the Locus, of approval. He reciprocated the gesture to the Captain. “The Locus is most pleased with the honor you present, and returns it.” Quil reached suddenly to his side as the Locus withdrew and he was left to stand on his own, as his own.
Captain Sptizer stood still for a moment, clearly unsure of how to handle the situation. When Quil didn’t move for a moment, she dropped her hands to her sides. Quil managed to whisper. “Captain. Thank you for your patience. I’m a little weak. I’ve never had the Locus with me so strongly. I’m not used to the mental strain.”
Captain Sptizer held out her hand. “Can I help you?”
Quil smiled, and shook his head. “I’m fine, now. What did your scans tell you?”
Captain Spitzer offered the slate to Quil. “From all that I can see, the growth of all of the vines is nearly the same, all of them covering the conduits, and interfaced correctly with the atmospheric and waste systems of the Halberd. I think that it is time to let your sister have her way with the Graviton Bombardier.”
Quil scrolled through the pages of results, looking carefully at the results from the different cultivars of the QuiSissriqa. He looked to the Captain. “I would like to recommend this fourth Varietal. It would seem to be the best at integrating to the human systems.” He handed her the HICSlate. “This is now a matter for Birgit and the Graviton Bombardiers.” Captain Spitzer took the slate, and stepped out of the Halberd, gesturing to Lieutenant DeCuervins far above to launch the ship for testing. She looked at Quil. “Will you join me in telling Birgit that she gets to play with her new toys?”
Quil smiled. “I wouldn’t miss it.”