Author : Jae Miles, Staff Writer

The bridge is quiet. That special kind of quiet when everyone is busily engaged in not paying attention to something. In this case, it’s the trio who stand in a tight group to the left of the command chair.

“I didn’t mean it like that!” Ensign Kurth Reynolds is standing on tip-toe. Which places Her Highness’ horn in line with his right eye. But he’s in too much pain to worry about being blinded.

“My Cahn, really, he didn’t. There’s a confusing multiplicity of meanings between colloquial and formal Humanish.” Captain Elonna Blaze rubs her muzzle slowly, her ears back. Both are a sign that this Wolfyn is reaching the limits of her patience – a place she visits frequently when her highness is interacting with humans.

“He insulted my butt. Which is why I’m crush testing his undercarriage.” Gemra Cahn, heiress to a title so long they just use her family name instead, is not in the mood for diplomacy. Braided queues of ruby-red hair flex of their own accord, scratching lightly at her demi-cloak and leggings. Eyes the colour of snow clouds glare from a freckled, high-cheekboned face. She even has freckles on the horn protruding from her forehead, a mark of exceptional beauty amongst the Tarraphym.

Elonna yips quietly before replying: “Gemra. He actually complimented your butt. If you translate what he said, he was highly complimentary of your – um – flanks. Let me run his exact words through the core translator so you can appreciate the real meaning.”

Reynolds pales. There is a moment’s silence on the bridge. Nothing and no-one dares move.

“Oh.” Elonna’s ears flick, then stand upright. She looks from the screen to Reynolds. Her eyebrows meet in the middle as her muzzle wrinkles. She growls.

Gemra looks down at the infobracer on her forearm, which mirrors what Elonna has just received. Her eyes widen. Her lower hand clenches into a fist. Reynolds emits a high-pitched squeal, his eyes rolling back to show only whites. Then he collapses – as far as her unrelenting grip allows.

Gemra looks at Elonna and nods toward the display: “I didn’t know they could do that.”

Elonna shrugs: “Every race has its quirks.” She looks down: “My Cahn, he will suffer permanent impairment if you don’t let go.”

“That could be a favour for females in his proximity.”

“Possibly. But it would cause a diplomatic incident. Which means reams of affidavits and interviews with functionaries from the consulate.”

“Bureaucracy would be a small price to pay.”

Ensign Karen Warratah waves her hand: “Your highness?”

“Yes?”

“We’ve got the measure of Reynolds, ma’am. You’re not the first lady to crush test his undercarriage and you won’t be the last. But we thank you for the furlough this particularly rigorous test will give us.”

Gemra singlehandedly straight-arms Reynolds and gives him a shake – he moans, even though unconscious, and Ensign Charles Wirth faints.

She chuckles, then drops him.

“I bow to your experience of dealing with the local pests, Ensign Warratah.”

Elonna relaxes her snarl and glances sideways at Gemra: “Your altitudeness is enjoying this a little too much.”

Gemra grins: “I enjoy harassing harassers. Set the bureaucrats on me if you dare.”

Elonna sighs and rubs her muzzle. It’s going to be a very long day with Gemra in such high spirits. She’d better warn the rest of the Honour Guard that their Cahn is in the mood for mayhem.

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