Hi’Hemide – Another part!

Engrem stepped through the airlock from the small hangar bay of the corporate mining ship Boseras Etha and immediately encountered the ship’s medic.   He slung the strap of his bag over his shoulder and said, “Gwith, Hanerra. It’s good to see you.”  She was about ten years his senior and one of the few friends he had on the ship. She was in fact more than a friend.

“Welcome back, Engrem. You look well, but company regs say you need an examination.”

Engrem smiled at her brusqueness. “I was expecting that,” he said beginning to walk down the corridor towards the medical bay.  “Was I missed?”

She chuckled quietly.  “Well, only when something needed cleaning up.  How was it?”

“A success, I suppose. They’re setting up to mine the mountain.”

“You were only there a little over two weeks.  Did you learn their language that soon?” Hanerra sounded incredulous.

“You know, it’s odd.  The natives managed to teach me enough to get along in only a week.  I hardly had to use my computer after that.”

“Or maybe you truly have the gift of gab,” she said as they reached the medical bay and entered.

As the ship’s medic, Hanerra examined Engrem and found nothing amiss.  He was fit and healthy as when he left. “I’m putting you down as ready to return to duty, well, not until tomorrow,” she stated. “If anything, the fresh air and time outdoors has helped your complection.  What did they feed you?”

Engrem inhaled, remembering. “Real food.  And some kind of cookie with nuts!” He smacked his lips and Hanerra chucked.

“Tired of the ship-board alge bank?” she said.

Engrem nodded. “Hey, are we still on for a game of gyvyk in the evening, like usual?”

“Of course!” she laughed.  “It’s one of the things I missed. And I don’t mind losing to you.”

“As I recall, you don’t always lose.” He gave her a peck on the cheek. “At least not afterwards.”

A grin  appeared on her face. “Not until you shower!”

“I’ll even use soap!” he said, smiling and picking up his bag as he left the medical bay.

 

The next day Engrem returned to his duties. He had missed the running water and hot showers in the head, the comfort of his sleep cubicle, and the casual games of gyvyk with Hanerra almost every evening.  On the ship full of rough miners and spacers, she was really the only intellectual friend he had. It was one of the things that had drawn them together at the beginning of this job.

On the fourth evening after his return the troubling news came. He had just won at gyvyk again when Hanerra said,“I heard some news from the planet today. Sounds like the natives don’t like the mining after all.”

“What do you mean?” asked Engrem. “How do you know?”

She shrugged.  “Well, one of the men broke his leg and came up with the ore ship.  He said a bunch of them approached the mine site. No one could understand them, naturally, but they were yelling and dumped out pails of dirty water and dead fish on the ground.  The crew there thinks it has to do with the river that runs down the mountain.”

“I think that one was called Puror’lemai. Hmm. Maybe I should go back down and talk to them.”

“Well, somehow I doubt that’s going to happen.  You know how much that ore is worth and how much Koplushia needs it?  Besides,” she smiled sarcastically, “who would wipe our tables and mop the floors?”

“But if they need a voice…” he trailed off quietly.

As if to distract him, Hanerra covered a yawn and said, “Feels like it’s been a long day. First that broken leg. Then several of the crew needed their fertility blockers renewed.”

Engrem glanced at his right arm, as if that would tell him anything.  “I know mine’s still good. How’s yours?”

“Mine was getting old, so I renewed it while I was in the cabinet.” She gave him that look. “Maybe we should test it?”

Engrem smiled,  clasped her hand below the table and kissed her gently on the lips. “Always open to experiments,” he whispered.

“My cabin in an hour?”

“As usual.”

 

A few days later, worse news came.  The ore ship arrived only half filled and carrying two wounded.  It was an emergency run. Broskot and his brother Kethrem had been wounded in an attack at the mine site.  Broskot had an arrow protruding from his shoulder while his brother had one in his chest.

Kethrem could only moan in pain while Broskot spoke in a delirium as he was carried down the hall.  “They came at us at night with bows, arrows and spears… Dozens of them… We only had rocks to throw… We need weapons…  Shot us up with arrows…”

Hanerra medicated them both upon entering the medical bay and began working on Kethrem as his wound was more serious.

“Damn it!” she said under her breath. “We’re not set up for things like this!”

Her two aides were there assisting.  They successfully removed the arrow and stabilized the wounds of both men.  Broskot responded well to treatment, but his brother remained in shock and unstable.  During the night Kethrem died.

The next day when Hanerra told Broskot, he had to be pinned to the bed to keep him from jumping up in rage.  “I’ll kill them!” he yelled. “I’ll get those dogs for killing my brother!” Finally Broskot had to be sedated because he remained so upset.

The company ceased operations on the planet immediately and brought the remaining crew back up to the ship. The idea was to let the situation cool down on the planet.

That evening after the usual game of gyvyk, they retrired to Hanerra’s cabin. As they lay in each others arms before sleeping, Engrem whispered, “Do you think anyone’s noticed us?”

She replied, “Do you think it even matters what people think? As long as we do our jobs on the ship, who cares? We’re both adults.”

“I was thinking about our families. You’re a Niwosh, I’m a Barinium.”

Hanera was silent for a few moments, then turned onto her side to face him. “You’re worried someone will think one of us is an opportunist?  Ridiculous!”

“It could be said…”

“Oh, nonsense,” she whispered gently. “Both our family names are of equal rank.  They both belong to founding families dating clear back to Kidana, let alone Koplushia!”

“We should join forces and start a dynasty!” Then he chuckled.

“The blockers would have to wear off first,” she said, joking.

Engrem was quiet. She snuggled back under the bed cover. Then he said, “Hanerra?”

“Mmm?” she replied.

“After this job, I want to leave the ship. Leave the company.”

“To go where?”

“There’s talk of starting a colony, an offshoot from Koplushia.”
Silence.

“It will be on a planet, not another space settlement.”

Silence.

“Hanerra, when I go, I want you to go with me.”

Silence.

“I’m asking you to marry me,” he said. “I want you with me always.”

Hanerra’s face was pensive.  She was looking at him and smiling, but her eyes were filled with… what?   Worry? Engrem reached out and caressed her cheek and found a tear.

“What’s wrong?” he whispered.

She pulled him down to her with her free arm.  “Engrem,” she said. “I love you! I love you and I want to be with you forever…but… I need to think about this first. I need to think about this in the light of day.” She began quietly weeping, but Engrem knew they were tears of joy.

 

 

The next evening, after eating the evening meal, Engrem and Hanerra had just finished their game. He avoided mentioning the previous night and what he had asked her.

“I think you’re starting to understand gyvyk,” Engrem said. “You gave me a challenge this time.

“Maybe I just need to be more aggressive,” she said. “This whole thing with the planet has me upset.  I’m used to doing first aid, broken bones at worst. Scratches and cuts, not arrows. Now I’ve lost my first patient!”

“It’s a terrible thing, Hanerra.  I can’t believe things got that bad down there.  The breehah I met were so gentle and, well… civilized.”

“I asked the returning crew.  They were just dumping anything they didn’t want right in the river, trash, mining sludge, everything.”

“If I had been there…” whispered Engrem.

A powerful hum had become evident and was now rising in intensity.  Suddenly an alert klaxon went off.

“What the skut is that?” asked Hanerra.

“Are they powering up the mining beam.  That’s what it sounds like.”

“That just for breaking up asteroids!” she said.

They both stood up, looking helpless.  Neither had any business anywhere having to do with mining. “The port!” said Hanerra.  She set off for the doorway.

“The one on the planet-side is this way!” Engrem quickly led the way.  In the corridor Hanerra was met by one of her assistants. “He got out!” he said. “Broskot isn’t in the medical bay.  Have you seen him?”

“No! Who’s firing the mining beam?”

But the announcement over the shipwide intercom prevent any other communication, “Attention! Stand down the mining beam. Unauthorized persons  attempting to fire mining beam.”

The pitch of the humming rose and the whole ship vibrated.  Engrem beat Hanerra to the port and looked. He saw the planet below them.

“I’m going down!” said Engrem.

“How?” said Hanerra, but he was already down the corridor opening the hatch to an escape pod.” A new alarm sounded indicating what he had done.

“No! Engrem don’t!”

But he had already climbed in and closed the hatch.

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