The Same Difference

Stein Willard © 2015

Disclaimer

The characters in the story are a product of my own imagination and hopefully have no resemblance to any living persons. But if it does it is entirely coincidental. Some of the places

Archiving : This work is copy written and should not be posted anywhere else without the writer's expressed permission.

Acknowledgement: Many thanks as always to my beta, Rose.

Feedback: Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated, so feel free to drop a line or two at steinwillard80@gmail.com or sent me a friend request on Facebook .

 


 

Prologue

 

The ground tasted like a humiliation probably should taste like, Yonne thought as she tried to rid her mouth of the gritty substance. She didn't have to look up to know that her tormentors had formed a circle around her, waiting…no…wishing for her to retaliate. A smarter person would've stayed down, taking the disgrace for what it was. But not her. She was skinny, but at least she had a few inches on most of them, thanks to her father's genes. Apart from that, they were evenly matched. They were all Borquois . They, too, possessed the preternatural speed of their species. But that didn't deter her from surging to her feet and ploughing into the nearest body. She felt a small smile tuck at her lips when she felt a few ribs shift and a loud exhalation following. She wasn't going down without taking one of them with her. Her mother would be so proud of her.

Or not.

“What were you thinking taking on Director Vivon's daughter?” Elina hissed as she poked at a particular sore spot on Yonne's hip, causing the teenager to screech in pain. How could she have been so stupid as to think her mother would applaud her bravery and tenacity? She winced again when her mother rubbed a foul-smelling ointment on the growing bump on her hip. “What did you say to her anyway?”

Yonne frowned and looked away. If her mother reaction to her act of bravery was anything to judge by, she doubted very much her mother would appreciate the reason she had thumped Osnol.

A surprisingly gentle hand touched her chin and lifted it until she made contact with her mother's eyes. “Tell me.” When she hesitated, her mother's eyes turned sad. “Please.”

Yonne inhaled deeply. “We were talking about our future.”

Elina's eyebrow rose slowly. “I doubt that was all.”

For a brief moment, Yonne relived that instant when she'd spoken her mind and her heart's desire. The group of girls all had frozen in their steps and turned to gape at her. Then the laughter and taunting had followed, spurning her into a rash, violent decision. Feeling anger and helplessness surging in her, her mouth pulled into a sneer.

“I told them that one day, I would find happiness.”

A soft gasp sounded from her mother as she pulled away and stared at Yonne. “You didn't?

“I did, mother, and I meant it.”

“Oh, you silly, silly girl. The stories I've told you were just that, stories. Do you realize that if this comes out you might be branded a rebel by the Council?”

Yonne stubbornly pushed out her chin. “Then so be it, mother.”

“No, Yonne. With talk like this, you could jeopardize our life here on the planet. We could both be exiled to the Astro-belt and I know you wouldn't want that.” Ice blue eyes filled with tears. “We only have each other and we've only have each other to protect. Please.”

A sense of profound shame engulfed Yonne for being the cause of her mother's distress. She leaned forward and leaned her head against her mother's chest. “I'm sorry, mother. I wasn't thinking. Tomorrow I'll visit the Director's home and apologize.” She sighed softly as her mother's arms surrounded her, pulling her against her, but for once in life, she didn't feel the warmth and security she had always experienced in the familiar embrace.

She felt betrayed.

****************************

 

Chapter 1

 

Yonne simply loved the feeling of triumph as she watched her opponent trying to rise, but finally giving up and falling back down on the mat. She slowly lowered her bellaçs , as she slowly released the tension in her shoulders until she took up a more relaxed posture. The room burst into applause and she gracefully bowed to their audience before she walked over to help the fallen soldier to her feet. She grinned when she noted the exasperated look her friend threw at her.

“Would it hurt to hand me a victory now and then,” Cilla muttered as she rolled her shoulders to ease the stiffness caused by a well-placed strike.

Yonne shrugged. “You need to earn it, my friend, and until then, you'll have to grow used to defeat.” A group of young women shyly stepped forward to congratulate Yonne on yet another victory and she gracefully accepted their praise. When they were alone again, she turned back to her friend. “Do you need me to accompany you to the medical bay?”

Cilla gave her a poisonous look. “And suffer more humiliation. No, thanks. I think a warm bath and a large drink will fix me up.”

Chuckling, Yonne walked away, feeling Cilla's eyes on her as she left the training hall. As she made her way through the ship's hallways to her room, she was met with respectful nods and a muttered ‘Director'. It was only once she was in her room that the smile fell from her face. She glanced around her quarters. The two bedroomed quarters, were the biggest and the most luxurious on the Mercer , but its size did little to make her feel appreciative at the moment. She hated being here, on this ship. Had her mission been less of an exile, she probably would've enjoyed the chance to leave Barques . After spending most of her seventy years planet-side, she would admit that a chance to venture beyond the stifling atmosphere of her homeland couldn't have come soon enough. If only there hadn't been a hidden agenda behind her fortune.

She threw her bellaçs on a nearby lounger and made her way to the bigger of the two bedrooms. The room was opulent, just like the rest of the quarters, with an enormous bed to accommodate her size. She shrugged out of her tunic and unzipped her leather pants as she made for the bathing room. A small smile touched her lips at the sight of the large sunken bath. This was one of the few things she loved about her quarters. Absolutely nothing compared to the relief she found when submerged in the warm fragrant depths of the bath. Not wasting time, she opened the taps and returned to the lounge to where the food processor was located. Her fingers flitted over the keys and she sighed with satisfaction when a large glass with a wicked looking green liquid materialized. She took a long pull from the drink and smacked her lips in pleasure. Due to her size, she was one of very few Borquois who could handle the strong mead. She took another drink and was about the return to the bathing room, when she caught her reflection in the gleaming surface of the food processor. With almost detached indifference, she studied the image. She was large, towering over almost seventy percent of the Borquois . Her father, the one time, she'd seen him, was even larger than her. Except for his size, he also imparted a strong squared-jawed face which held a sharp, narrow nose and icy blue eyes. The latter, complete with a startlingly pale completion was the only other features she inherited from her Borquois heritage. A soft ping sounded and she hastily made her way to the bathing room, just in time to prevent flooding the room. She lowered her body into the tub and sighed as the water accepted her bulk into its liquid embrace. She reached for her glass and took a sip.

This was probably the closest to happiness she'd experienced thus far.

oOo

“Adjutant?”

Cilla grimaced as she heard the musical tones of the doctor even before she had spotted her. She bit down hard on her teeth, an act that made her look hard and cold. But she had no choice. For whatever reason, she simply became guarded around the woman. She gave the woman a curt nod and walked over to a bed and took a seat. The doctor, a petite woman with the same pale complexion and icy blue eyes like herself, came to stand before her. The blue eyes were uncertain as they studied her and Cilla inhaled deeply. She was well-aware of the fact that she scared the woman, and she wanted to keep it that way. The doctor had transferred from the north-eastern region of Barques a scant two days before they had to ship out. Not much was known about her and until she had her security interview which was scheduled in three days' time, Cilla wanted to steer clear of her as much as she can. The population of the north-eastern hemisphere were renowned for their mysterious and sheer hedonistic customs, alienating them from the rest of the Borquois. If only the pain in her shoulder hadn't intensified once she'd entered her quarters, she wouldn't have had to see the woman.

“I think I've injured my shoulder,” she said curtly.

The doctor nodded, her bearing suddenly less fearful and very professional. “I'll have a quick look.” She stepped closer, entering Cilla's personal space and the security officer stiffened slightly. “To examine your shoulder, I'll be expected to touch you. Could you remove your tunic, please?”

Cilla stared at the woman for a long moment before she nodded. “Do what you must.” Removing her tunic, she was only dressed in a short-sleeved vest and inwardly, she steeled herself in anticipation of the touch. When it came, however, she had to supress a gasp as the feather light touch made her insides quiver. Knowing that she would not be able to sit through another minute with the woman's hands on her body, she surged to her feet, causing the doctor to retreat with a shriek. Startled, they stared at each other, the doctor's hand across her chest and Cilla caught between apologising and cursing.

“If you could get me something for the pain, I'll be out of your hair so you can get to your real patients,” she snapped.

The doctor nodded quickly, her gaze darting nervously to the medication tray behind Cilla. Following the woman's gaze, Cilla grinded her teeth. To get to the tray, the doctor will have to brush past her. She purposefully took a step away from the bed and watched almost dispassionately as the doctor moved cautiously to the tray and retrieved a medijector. She held it up and Cilla could see her hands shaking.

“If you would sit on the cot, I'll administer the pain reliever, Adjutant.” Her voice was thin with distress. When Cilla hesitated, she added quickly. “It'll only take a second.”

Cilla moved closer, noticing how she towered over the petite woman, before she took a seat. She bared her throat and closed her eyes, not wanting see the woman stepping into her personal space. She felt the soft pressure of the tool against her neck and heard the soft hiss as the medication was injected. She inhaled deeply as she felt the mediation entering her blood stream. She knew it'll take a few moments before it would work, but it was more the soft breathing of the woman so close by that made her antsy. She heard the doctor step away and when she opened her eyes it was to find the other woman looking at her with a peculiar look in her eyes.

“I believe the pain should dissipate in a few moments, Adjutant. Since I couldn't determine the origins of the pain, I would suggest you take a medijector with you in case the current dosage works out.” She tried to smile, but it came out as a grimace and she quickly turned away. “The nurse should be back on duty tomorrow morning; maybe you could stop by and have her examine your shoulder.”

Cilla studied the woman as she walked over to a cabinet and began to prepare what she assumed was the medijector. What was it about the woman that put her in such a state? Over the past three months she had deducted from the ship records that the woman was well-respected and was even better at her job than she'd expected from a ‘heathen' from the north-eastern hemisphere. Her eyes trailed down the doctor's slender back and lower.

“Adjutant.”

Cilla almost fell from the cot at the sudden intrusion. Her eyes jerked to the newcomer and she frowned at the operations officer. “Yes.”

“We've been trying to hail you. We have a situation.”

Without a backward glance at the doctor she jumped from the cot. At that exact moment the klaxon went off. She'd forgotten her earpiece in her quarters. A rookie mistake and one she hoped wasn't going to cost the ship. She had to write herself up for misconduct too. That's if they survived whatever it was that awaited her on the bridge.

“The director?” she asked curtly.

“She'd already on the bridge, Adjutant.”

Cilla cursed under her breath. Yonne will have her hide for this. “If you knew where I was why didn't you hail me on the doctor's earpiece?”

The female officer looked at her quizzically. “As per your orders, the doctor has not been cleared yet to receive ship wide communications, sir.”

How could she have forgotten that, Cilla thought. The doctor had an interview scheduled later in the week and only then, depending on the outcome, would she receive clearance to access other parts of the ship and be issued with a communications and security package.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 2

 

The bridge was bathed in a haze of red with the bridge crew tapping away furiously at the work stations. Yonne turned her attention back to the view screen and the small cylindrical object floating a few hundred metres off starboard. She inhaled deeply before she turned to the operations officer.

“I doubt this warrants a red alert, Officer Peels. I would say a yellow alert, at most.”

The woman blushed under her pale complexion. “My apologies, director.” The next moment the red haze gave way to a yellow hue.

“Report.”

Officer Peels didn't look up from her console when she spoke. “A foreign object was expelled through a wormhole before it closed up again, director.”

Yonne nodded as she stepped closer to the large view screen. “What do we know about it? Any contact made?”

“No, director. It all happened so fast. We are scanning the pod as we speak.”

The lift opened and Yonne frowned when Cilla rushed through to join her. Her second in command didn't meet her eyes as she too studied the pod.

“Good of you to join us, Adjutant,” Yonne noted dryly. “Get a security team ready to incept the pod in the Landing Bay 1. After a thorough scan, beam the pod to the quarantine section of the brig.”

“Yes, director.” Cilla left the bridge briskly.

“Do we know anything else, Officer Peels?”

“There is one life sign, but the bio-readings as very weak, director. I detect no weapons.”

“Initiate the tractor beam.” They were on an humanitarian mission, so to speak. Meeting new races and cultures falls directly under their mission goals. After a lull in their journey so far, she was excited to see what this new development could bring. She watched as the light blue coloured beam enveloped the pod and slowly pulled it towards their ship.

“The pod is on board, director.”

“Good. I'll be in the brig. Officer Peels, you have the bridge.” She briskly made her way over to the lift.

oOo

Cilla frowned as she studied the pod. It was quite big. Bigger than the ones they have on board. She used her hand scanner and slowly walked around the pod. The readings were insignificant. One lifesign, weak. An on-board processor seemed to regulate all the functions of the pod, including the life support. The air inside seemed be breathable, which meant that the origins of the alien could be M-class specified. She stepped back. “Beam it to the brig. Ask the doctor to meet us there.” Just the thought of having to be in the same space as the mysterious doctor made Cilla want to scream. She hated the fact that she couldn't read the woman. At least she didn't have to work closely with the woman. To make sure that their working relationship stay as is, Cilla promised herself to practice caution at all times so she didn't wind up in the medical centre again.

oOo

Closing her medical bag with a soft click, Espert sighed deeply. She was a healer and it was her obligation to go where she was needed. At that very moment she was expected in the brig, where, if her presence was requested, an injured party awaited her help. But she would be there too. Not once in her 126 years of existence had she been this affected by another being. And such and infuriating one, at that. She knew that not many people on this ship trusted her and that it had to do with her more liberal upbringing. But to have it thrown in her face so blatantly, as was the case with the Adjutant, grated on her nerves. It wasn't her fault that her ancestors migrated to the far north-eastern hemisphere as soon they landed on the M-class planet which would become their safe haven. Nor was she at fault that after the First Rebellion, that the self-proclaimed Basques broke away and discarded the rigid doctrines imposed by the Director's Council. How was it even possible that twelve people could dictate the existence of a whole population?

The doors to the medical centre slid open and an officer appeared. “I am to accompany you to the brig, doctor,” she said curtly.

She produced a small smile. “Of course. I'm ready.” Since she wasn't issued with a ship wide clearance, she was limited to her quarters and the medical centre. Any other places she wanted to visit, she had to make due with a guard. Why the Adjutant didn't just lock her up in the brig until she'd been issued her clearance, was surprising. The woman would surely sleep better at night, knowing that the hedonistic Basque was safely in the brig behind a type 7 force field.

Espert didn't pay attention as the officer led her down the long gleaming hallways, one lift ride and another stretch of hallways. They would probably be back on Basques before she received her clearance, so there was no reason for her to know the layout of the ship. If the gods willing, and she eventually got her clearance she'll have to ask for a ship wide orientation session. But if the Adjutant's reaction to her was anything to go by, that possibility was incredibly slim. They reached a door and the officer held her palm against the panel to admit them into a large, rather depressing looking space. A long narrow corridor divided rows of white, sterile cells and looking at the cold cells, Espert suppressed a shudder. She was a free spirit and the idea of being locked up in such a small depressing space frightened her. She decided then and there that she would not give anyone, especially the Adjutant, any reason to want to lock her up here. Dragging her eyes away from the cells, she had to rush to catch up to the officer who was a few paces ahead of her and almost having reached the door at the end of the corridor. The door needed another palm reading before it allowed them entry.

Espert swallowed when she took in the room. This part of the brig looked even gloomier than the first part. It had a small medical bay attached to it and the rest of the cavernous room was divided with large glass cubicles. It was in one such cubicle that she noticed the Adjutant and what she assumed to be the Director. They were easy to spot because of their great height. Not many Bourgeois grew to that height. Both women turned when Espert and her guard entered and Espert blinked in surprise. She'd never met the Director face to face, having been transferred at the last minute to the ship. Nor had she seen the woman in the past three months of their journey. What she saw caused a slight fluttering in her stomach as intense blue eyes studied her approach from across the room. The woman was exquisite, a prime specimen of womanhood. Had she been based in Basque , Espert was sure that the woman would have started a civil war amongst the women there. She smiled at the Director and was surprised when the woman smiled back, holding out her hand.

“Doctor, my apologies that we're only meeting now. ”

Espert swallowed at the sound of the husky notes. The woman was becoming more interesting as the seconds passed. She clamped her jaw when she felt the large hand envelope hers and squeezed gently. She hadn't had sex in almost six months and this woman was wreaking havoc on her libido. She reluctantly let the director's hand go, when she realized that she was only courting heartache by having such thoughts about the other woman. The Borquois were a highly moral and principled race. They treated sex like an affliction and considered sex with the same sex the worse of atrocities. That was one of many reasons why the Basque separated from the Borquois all those years ago.

“The pleasure is mine, director,” she managed to say in a controlled voice and turned her attention to the silent presence next to the director. The adjutant was staring at her, her distrust, or was that distain, evident on her pale face. “Adjutant”, she greeted the woman coolly and received a curt nod in return.

When she looked at the director, it was to find the woman looking at her second in command with a slight frown. The look was gone almost immediately as the director pointed at th e pod.

“We've decided to wait for you before we opened the pod. Our readings detect one life sign, but very weak.” She stepped back and the adjutant reached over and pressing a few buttons, a loud hissing sound filled the room as the air inside the pod was violently expelled. The adjutant stepped back to allow the air and gas to escape, her hand already on her laser gun. When the hissing stopped and the cloud of gas evaporated, they all stepped forward to peer into the pod.

oOo

Yonne blinked at the sight before.

Three months of travelling had brought them far from Basque space. It would take another month or two before they reached the outer rim of known space and made the jump into another quadrant. What she was looking at now, was a clear indication of what they could expect once they left their quadrant. A mixture of fear and excitement stirred as she stared at the interior of the pod. She wasn't entirely sure what she was looking at nor what she expected. Except for a small, but efficient looking processor, the pod was filled with a rather dull brown mass, which resembled feathers. The only other impressive discovery was the size of the brown mass. It filled out the large space of the pod, leaving very little room for anything else. It would almost seem as if the pod was custom-made for the alien.

“Director?” She looked up to find Cilla looking at her, the security officer looking thoroughly spooked. “We might have to consider placing the alien in a bigger enclosure.”

Yonne nodded, her eyes immediately drawn back the pod. “Do that. Once you've transferred the alien, get the science section to study the pod.” Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Cilla move away, leaving her standing at the pod with the doctor. “What do you make of this, Doctor?” When a few heartbeats passed without any response from the doctor, she looked up to find the woman also staring at the pod. She had a strange look on her face. “Doctor?”

The woman's head snapped up and she blushed lightly under her skin. “I...My apologies, director. I'm aware of the fact that our mission would take us to a new quadrant and foreign galaxies, but this…” She swallowed. “This is almost unbelievable.” She looked at the pod again. “I'm not sure if I should be scared or excited.”

Yonne grinned at hearing that. “I'd suggest you settle for both…for now. We still know so little about this alien and their technology.” She heard footsteps approaching and watched as Cilla leaned into the pod and placed a silver medallion on feathery mass they assumed was the alien. Within seconds, the alien's body was engulfed in bright sparkles. They followed Cilla to the back to the room. Where, stretched out on a cot, Yonne was again struck by the size of the alien. It was difficult to make out anything else as the alien was wrapped tightly in some kind of a feathery cocoon.

“I need to regulate the alien's life signs, in case it's not compatible with the ship's atmosphere,” the doctor said next to her and moved towards the bed. To Yonne's surprise, Cilla reached out quickly and placed a heavy hand on the petite woman's shoulder. She found that she was not the only surprised party when the doctor turned slowly to look at Cilla, her face a mask of utter astonishment.

Noticing the reactions her action has generated, Cilla quickly dropped her hand.

“Be careful,” she said quietly. “It would be unfortunate for us to lose our Chief Medical Officer so early on in the mission.”

Yonne agreed. It made sense, but what didn't make sense was the almost tangible tension between the two women. She could swear that earlier when the doctor joined them, that Cilla had not seemed happy with the woman's presence. She'll have to ask Cilla about that.

“I will practice the utmost caution, adjutant,” the doctor said in a slightly strangled tone.

Yonne looked at Cilla and found her friend staring at the woman with an almost resentful look on her face. Before she could react to this uncharacteristic behaviour from her friend, the doors slid open to reveal two officers from the science department. She waved them over. She was extremely curious about this alien and the only answers they would find was inside that pod.

“Download everything you can from the on-board processor and disperse copies to my work station as well as the doctor's and the adjutant's.” She turned to Cilla. “Call me the minute the alien is conscious. In the meantime, I'll be on the bridge. I want to know where that wormhole moved to and where it leads to.”

oOo

Cilla felt like kicking herself.

Yonne was not a fool and she was sure that her friend noticed something. She muttered a soft curse and inhaled deeply. There had been a moment earlier when she could swear the doctor was looking at the director too intently. She also held onto the director's hand a few moments longer than was necessary. That moment had justified her mistrust of the woman. Basques were immoral and allowed their physical needs to rule common sense. She didn't buy their lame pretexts that three hundred men for a whole female population was not enough and thus they had to turn on to their own sex to satisfy their needs. That excuse is almost five hundred years old and it sounds just as farfetched now as it did back then. The Borquois have made do with what was on offer and was still thriving. The doctor being on this ship was evidence enough to the Borquois ingenuity. They were the ones who developed space travel two hundred years ago and were the custodians of almost all of the technology that the planet enjoyed. The Basques on the other hand were renowned for their love for entertainment, which primarily included sex and other indulgences. She frowned as she looked at the doctor where she was bent over the alien.

If the doctor thought she could turn this ship into her personal harem, she was completely mistaken.

She would see the heathen locked up in the brig first before she'd allow that to…

A sharp cry pulled Cilla from her morose thoughts and she only had enough time to draw her laser before a small bundle ploughed into her.

 

To be continued...

 

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