A/N: Unfortunately this installment of The Whisper of Damkina is once again unedited. I’ve done my best to catch any errors but self-editing is difficult. Apologies if there are more errors than usual. If anyone would like to volunteer to help out with betaing drop me a line. I’d be really grateful.Â
“What am I going to tell Umi?” Midori had her hands pressed to her mouth in horror as she stared at the screen.
“I don’t think you’ll need to tell her anything, Administrator Midori,” Amanpreet said. “She will have been watching so all we need do is offer support. My crew and I will go and tow in the crippled ship. There may be survivors.” She frowned at the screen. “You know from where the damage on the Whisper was the Fish that attacked us was targeting our dome as well. Why the domes?” She shook her head. “No it’s not the domes, is it?”
Midori stared at her for a moment then slapped her forehead. “Of course! They’re targeting navigators? But why is still the question… and since the backed off once they realized you weren’t a Fish why are they only targeting them?”
â€œI don’t know why they need navigators.â€ Umi must have entered the command hub while they were talking. Inside her environment suit the Mez administrator’s tentacles were curled extremely tight with stress and swirls of bioluminesence shimmered through her skin, testament to her distress. â€œBut their attacking us â€¦ how do you humans put it? Blown up by our own bomb?â€
â€œUmi?â€ Midori said.
â€œI’ll explain, Midori, really I will. My government won’t like it but we can’t keep hiding this,â€ Umi said. â€œNow after this. But first please rescue that Fish.â€ She gestured stiffly to the disabled ship on screen. â€œIt’s communicating â€“ the automated systems anyway – and some of the crew are alive.â€
â€œWe’re on it,â€ Amanpreet reassured her and hurried out to gather her crew before it was too late.
Towing in the crippled ship passed without incident and fortunately for the survivors did not take long. Once Amanpreet and her crew had helped nudge it into the Mez sections dock they circled around the station and redocked the Whisper in the human sector. When they disembarked they found Midori and Umi waiting.
â€œThank you, Captain Amanpreet,â€ Umi said. â€œMy government will pay you a salvage fee for this favour of course. And now I owe you and Midori the explanation I promised.â€
â€œYou do,â€ Midori agreed. â€œBut it’s nearly lunchtime and I’m sure Amanpreet is hungry as well. Will you object if I prepare food for the two of us while you explain to us.â€
â€œI will not,â€ Umi said. â€œIt will be a cycle or so before I need to eat but I know how often humans need food.â€
â€œThank you,â€ Midori said. â€œWill you both accept an invitation to my suite then?â€
â€œI will,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œAnd thank you.â€
â€œI also,â€ Umi said.
“Are you vegetarian, Amanpreet?” Midori asked as she rifled around in the cupboards in her suite. “I know Sangat is but that’s religious and I think he mentioned that you don’t practice?”
“Hmm?” Amanpreet looked around from where she had been watching the fish swimming in a large tank against one wall. “Oh, no I’m not Sikh. I have my own beliefs. But yes, I’m vegetarian. My family never ate meat or fish – even biotank grown – when I was growing up and I’ve never got used to the texture or taste of it.” She looked back at the fish tank. “Are these pets?”
Midori laughed. “Yes. I know some people keep fish to eat because they don’t like biotank clone meat but I don’t think I could do that.” She started dumping things onto the counter and muttering to herself in Japanese before looking up at Amanpreet again. “I’m low on rice and nori but I’ve got enough, so let’s make sushi while Umi explains. I need to use up this avocado anyway.”
â€œOf course,â€ Umi said. â€œThis is going to get us in trouble, but it’s a story that needs to be told now.â€
â€œGet you in trouble?â€ Midori looked up from where she was putting the rice onto boil. â€œThat sounds ominous.â€
â€œYes, we’ve hidden it since we first encountered your species and the Ishtari fifty of your years ago because of your laws, the laws we agreed to when we joined the Council.â€ She made a hissing sound that Amanpreet interpreted as anxiety. â€œHow do I explain this without making us sound like monsters to you?â€
Midori gave an exasperated sigh. â€œJust tell us, Umi. We’re humans not Ishtari we have just as much crap in our past.â€
â€œThe Ishtari have historical crap too,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œIt’s just very different crap.â€
â€œYes,â€ Umi said. â€œYou’re right. I just need to tell you. The Fish that are behind these attacks are the descendants of the first generation prototypes that escaped the cull when we couldn’t control them properly.â€
â€œOkay,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œNot too happy with that cull thing but I can see it. But how can they traverse hyperspace without…â€ She trailed off as the answer hit her and looked across at Midori who’s pale gold skin had taken on an ashen undertone that suggested she’d worked it out as well.
â€œYou’re saying that your species engineered a level four consciousness species?â€ Midori said levelly. â€œThen tried to wipe it out when it didn’t take well to be enslaved?â€
â€œYes,â€ Umi said. â€œYou must understand that this was long before we met your kind and we wouldn’t try such a thing now. What we don’t understand is why they have started attacking us after all this time.â€