Episode 08: Desert Fox

Rhade’s eyes flew open. Jen had collapsed. “What just happened?” he asked weakly.

“You went beyond my instructions and wound up in a space my people call the Sanctuary. It’s a place senshi use to talk to other senshi at a distance, but it’s not easy and many don’t have the aptitude for it. Some have used to escape from pain.” Tenshi looked down at her friend. “Jen’s never shown much aptitude for that skill and I doubted that you possessed it. It would seem that I was wrong.”

“I saw her aura, if you were wondering.”

“I don’t doubt it. If you could get into the Sanctuary, then you saw her as she really is.”

“So that’s why she looked different,” he mused. “If that’s what she really looks like, she’s beautiful.”

“Don’t go telling her that,” Tenshi warned. “She’s not considered a great beauty on Nomaie. Her elder sister, Hihana, is the beautiful one. Dark hair is considered plain. The blonds, now, those are the beauties. She’s still considered to be desirable because of her rank and skills. She’s pretty, thankfully.”

“Her people must all be blind.”

Tenshi patted Rhade’s hand. “Just wait until we get there. You’ll understand what I’m getting at.” She bent and tapped Jen’s cheek. “Come on, Jen. Snap out of it.”

“This is a little worrying,” Rhade commented. “This is the second time she’s passed out.”

“The first time, I figured it was just her lack of control. With this, I’m afraid that it might be part of a deeper problem. Certainly, she lacks her former control, but that’s not enough to cause this. Come on Jen. Shikarishte o!”

Jen stirred, groaning.

“What did you just say, Tenshi?”

“One of the few useful things I know in her language. Oy na! Jen!” Tenshi shook her shoulder.

Jen’s eyes opened, but she squeezed them shut again with a squeal of pain. She rolled onto her side and got up onto her knees, curling up into a ball.

“What’s wrong?”

“My head,” she whispered hoarsely. “I feel sick.”

“Lovely,” Tenshi muttered. “Her entry into Sanctuary gave her a migraine.”

“Is there anything we can do for her?” Rhade asked, frowning in concern.

“Thankfully, yes. Stay here with her. I had Okami make something for this after she passed out the last time. I’d send you to get it, but it’s buried in some of my private things. I’d rather you not be going through those.”

“Understandable. Hurry back.” Tenshi nodded and left. Alone in the gym with Jen, Rhade simply sat and watched her, unsure what else he could do. She seemed unwilling to move, so he sat and watched her. After a time, he moved a little closer. “Jen?” He reached a hand out to touch her shoulder.

She flinched away. “Don’t touch me,” she whispered.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Lower your voice.”

“Anything else?” he said softer this time.

“If you could dim the lights my eyes wouldn’t hurt so much.”

“Andromeda, dim the lights in here, please.” The lights went down. Jen blinked and sat up. “Is that better?”

“It’s not perfect, but it’s less painful. Total darkness would be best.”

“Something tells me you’d rather not be alone in the dark with me.”

“That’s putting it mildly, yes.”

“I saw your aura, incidentally.”

“What of it?”

“It’s lovely.”

“It’s not supposed to be. It’s just a sign of power, nothing more than that.”

“I thought you looked very powerful surrounded in your aura like that,” he offered gently.

Jen gave him an odd look, but any reply she would have made was interrupted by Tenshi’s return. “I found it,” she said, holding up a vial of sickly green liquid.

Jen looked at it in dismay. “Oh not. Not another one of Okami’s concoctions.”

“Do you want to suffer through this migraine? I didn’t think so. Drink up.”

Jen took the vial from Tenshi’s hands and grimaced before downing it in one swallow. She looked like she was going to be sick. “I wasn’t aware that I’d pissed her off recently. That was worse than usual.”

Tenshi simply shrugged. “Who knows with her? You might want to go get something to eat. Or not,” she amended after seeing the look on Jen’s face at the mention of food. “I don’t suppose rest is appealing to you?”

“Not particularly. Even if I could see straight long enough to read, I don’t have any of my books and I know from experience that trying to fall asleep with one of these headaches is virtually impossible.”

“I have something that might interest you, then,” Miocci said, walking into the gym. “Tenshi told us what happened to you. We think we may have a solution.”

“We won’t need to go to Nomaie?” Jen asked hopefully.

“Sorry Jen. We still need to go back, but if Captain Hunt doesn’t mind an extra passenger, one who also happens to be en route to Nomaie, then we have a means to keep you from passing out like that again.”

“You have a theory, Miocci?” Tenshi asked, surprised.

The grey cat coughed. “Until Jen tells us what really happened, this is pure speculation, but the Dragos must have done something to her to knock her off balance.”

“This mysterious passenger can help restore her balance?”

“Not restore it, no. Going home is the only permanent fix to that problem, but this person will be able to keep her stable until then.”

“Let’s go talk to Dylan, then,” Tenshi told him, heading out of the gym.

“Don’t I get a say in this?” Jen asked them.

“I guess not, Jen,” Rhade told her. She gave him a dirty look and followed Tenshi out.

“Well, we’re here,” Beka told the expectant crew three days later. “Wherever here is. You’re sure that this person lives here?”

“This is just a place he comes to on occasion,” Tenshi told her. “That’s his shuttle heading towards us.”

Andromeda appeared on the screen. “The pilot of the Desert Fox is requesting permission to come aboard.”

Dylan sighed tiredly. “Permission granted. Let’s go meet this friend of yours, Tenshi.”

“My thanks for this detour,” she said on the way down to the hangar. “I know this is all very confusing to you, and we must seem to be very demanding.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” he agreed.

They walked in silence the rest of the way. Rhade, Trance, Okami and Yumeko were already there. The shuttle landed smoothly. The door opened. A lone hooded figure walked out and looked around. Yumeko squealed in delight and ran forward, throwing her arms around the figure.

“Jason!” she squealed happily. “I missed you!”

The figure chuckled and pried her off in order to pull back his hood. He was tall, standing even with Rhade, with shaggy black hair, piercing black eyes, and a ready smile. Part of his hair was pulled into a short pony tail at the back of his head, tied with long strips of leather decorated with beads and feathers. Around his neck was a black cord decorated with beads and a clear white crystal pendant in the center.

He came over to stand in front of Dylan. “My thanks for allowing me on board, Captain Hunt. You may call me Jason.”

“You have another name?”

“Yes, but I’ve been warned not to mention it for some reason.” He looked over at Tenshi. “I’m sure that will be explained to me in more detail later.”

“Perhaps,” Tenshi said teasingly.

“These are some of my crew. Trance Gemini and Telemachus Rhade.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” Jason said politely, smiling.

“Well, nice to see that you’ve acquired some manners,” Okami said smirking.

“If you don’t mind my asking, Tenshi, where is Jen?” he asked looking around, blatantly ignoring Okami’s statement.

“In her quarters last time I checked, recovering from her latest sparring session with Rhade.”

Jason looked over at Rhade skeptically. “I’ve seen her take on bigger guys than that.”

“Rhade is one of the senshi I told you about in my message.”

“Ah.” Jason peered at him appraisingly. “And a Nietzschean to boot. That’s interesting. I’ve never heard of a Nietzschean senshi before.”

“Why is that, exactly?” Dylan asked.

“Nietzscheans are genetically engineered, yes? They aren’t a natural species. Don’t get me wrong, I find them to be quite interesting, really, but being what they are, they don’t have any ties to a planet where they would have evolved naturally. I wonder why one has the skills all of a sudden.” He shrugged. “Ah well. I’ll ponder that later.”

“Are you wanting to go see Jen right away?” Yumeko asked.

“No hurry. If she’s recovering from a fight, the last thing she’ll want is company.” He looked around him again. “Fascinating ship. Would it be alright if I looked around?”

“I’m not busy at the moment if you’d like someone to show you around,” Rhade offered. “It’s a big ship, so it’s easy to get lost your first time on board.”

Jason’s eyes lit up. “That would be great, thank you.”

“This way, then.” Rhade led him out into the hallway as the others went back to their previous activities.

“So, if you don’t mind my asking, which senshi are you?”

“How do you know about these things anyways?”

“My sister and I are both senshi.”

“Ah. Terazed Kamen.”

“As I said earlier, a pleasure to meet you. I hope your awakening wasn’t nearly as traumatic as mine was.”

“A blue talking cat told me to put this bracelet on and say strange words,” Rhade replied. “I wouldn’t call that normal by any stretch.

“That’s pretty standard, really. I was twelve at the time. There was an earthquake. My powers woke up. I was pretty messed up for the next year. I was just lucky that there are so many senshi where I’m from.”

Rhade gave him an odd look. “You’re quite open about all of this. Why?”

“We’re on a ship surrounded by five female senshi. We men need to stick together. Besides, I can teach you things they can’t. Tenshi is a wonderful teacher, but she knows little about the powers we have. They’re similar to theirs, but not quite.”

“I would appreciate your help.”

“Not quite comfortable with all of this yet, are you? Didn’t think so. I can’t imagine that dealing with that hell cat Jen is helping much.”

“Hell cat? Just how well do you know her?”

“I’ve known her my entire life. We grew up together.”

Startled, Rhade stopped dead in his tracks. “You’re Nomaien as well?”

Jason turned to face him. “Didn’t they tell you anything about me?”

“We didn’t even know your name until today.”

He sighed and shook his head. “Typical. Well, I guess they didn’t want to get Jen’s hopes up too much. If this doesn’t work, it will only make it worse. If she’s nervous, it stands a higher chance of failure.”

Rhade licked his lips. “Since you know her so well, would you mind telling me about her? She’s not very communicative. I’m told that Nomaiens are very private people. You don’t seem to have that problem.”

“I’m a bit of an anomaly among my people. I’m a senshi, so I don’t fit into the traditional male roles back home. I’ve been scolded my whole life for being too curious. With Jen and the girls away from home, I got bored and went exploring, hence why I’m out here.” He nodded. “I’ll tell you as much as I can without intruding too much into her private life. Problem is, so much of her private life is also my private life.”

“Anything you can tell me will be greatly appreciated.”

“Could we talk about this over something to eat?” Jason asked hopefully. “It’s been ages since I’ve shared bread with anyone.”

“That sounds fine with me. The mess hall is this way.”

“Excellent!” he said, rubbing his gloved hands together.

“Do all of your people dress as you do?” Rhade asked on the way.

“Oh this? No, not really.” He was wearing sand colored leggings and a long sleeved vest of a slightly darker color. “My people very rarely wear sleeves. Nomaie is a desert world, so it gets very hot there. Space, however, is very cold, so I’ve had to adapt my clothing accordingly.”

“Jen’s never complained about the temperature.”

“She’s also been on Earth and has had time to adjust to lower temperatures. The question is how well will she readjust to being home again.”

“She’s not looking forward to going back.”

“I’m not surprised. That means she’ll have to face her parents, elder sister, and the Queen.”

“You have a queen?” They walked into the mess hall.

“We’re a very strict matriarchy.” He looked around. “So, what is there to eat in here?”

“I think there are still some things left over from breakfast. Ah, here we go.” Rhade handed him a plate of food and headed for the nearest table. “So what was she like, growing up?”

Jason swallowed a mouthful of food. “She’s always been the strange one. When other girls were out playing whatever games girls play, she preferred to play at being a senshi or reenacting the adventures of the great warrior Jennavrie, her idol.”

“Is that where Jen comes from?”

“Yes. We always told the people on Earth that is was just short for Jennifer. It was quite convenient, really. Anyways, she memorized all of the stories about her that she could find and acted many of them out around the home. Beyond that, she was always wild, even for a Nomaien woman. She preferred to be out sand skimming rather than be indoors paying attention to her tutors. Not that I blamed her, but it drove her parents and tutors crazy trying to keep her indoors. I think it came as a relief when her senshi powers came out.”

Rhade let this information sink in while Jason polished off the food in front of him. I’m not sure if this was helpful at all. I think I’m actually more confused, yet intrigued at the same time. Why doesn’t she want to see her parents and sister? That doesn’t make any sense to me.

“So anyways, when her powers showed up, she was sent away to a remote village out of the edge of the Sea of Fire to train with senshi from other worlds.”

“That must have been hard on her.”

Jason stopped, looking thoughtful. “You’d think that, but no. Her mother tried to prevent it, but the Queen overruled her. We needed her senshi gifts. Still do. Incidentally, that’s where she met Tenshi and the others.”

“So they’ve been friends a long time?”

“Yes.” Jason sighed. “I’m not really sure what else I can tell you. I should probably mention, if it hasn’t been brought to your attention, that’s she’s a bit of a man hater.”

Rhade stared at him. “No one’s mentioned that.”

Jason winced. “That’s not good. It’s one of her fundamental personality traits.”

“It explains a lot.”

“It’s also a main pillar of our society. As I mentioned, we’re a strict matriarchy.”

“It goes a long way to explain this irrational hatred of me she has going.”

“Male and Nietzschean. That’s about the long and short of it, yes. Two strikes. This may sound weird to you coming from another man, but you’re also rather attractive, which also doesn’t help your case.”

“How does my appearance not help?”

“You Nietzscheans are all a good looking bunch. Under no circumstances are you ever to tell her I’ve told you this. Got that? Jen has a thing for attractive men. It’s a weakness that afflicts the majority of Nomaien women. None of us men have ever really figured out what it is.”

“Okami told me the same thing three days ago.”

“She’s helping you out? Despite the fact that, knowing Okami, she’s attracted to you? Weird. Jen must have done something to piss her off.”

“That’s the second time that’s come up.”

“Must be true then. Well, what has Okami told you so far?”

“Stop trying to be nice to her.”

“Good advice.”

“Why is that? It’s not easy to follow.”

Jason smirked. “You’ll see.”

The next day, Jason wandered into the gym towards the end of Jen and Rhade’s training session. He stood and watched them, taking note of the flaws in Jen’s performance, wincing at one very clear misstep. Now the urgency of Miocci’s message made sense. She needed help. Badly.

Tenshi met his eyes but gave no other indication of his presence, not wanting to distract her students. She waited for them to finish their last exercise before acknowledging his presence. “Well Jason? Your opinion?”

“You should have gotten a hold of me sooner,” he said, walking towards them.

Jen spun around at the sound of his voice. “Jason?”

He grinned down at the slightly shorter woman. “Hello Jen. Long time no see.”

They clasped forearms and embraced fiercely. “I missed you.”

“It’ll be ok now,” he said, stroking the back of her head gently.

“So you’re who they sent for. They made me leave the room before they’d tell Dylan who we were going to be picking up.”

“Surprise!”

“I hate surprises, you know that.”

“Oh? But I have some things on my shuttle that you’ll like to see.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, you know, clothes, books, assorted oddments.”

“Clothes, not so much, but books?”

“Yes, books, silly Fox.” He ruffled her hair, earning him a shot in the shoulder. He laughed. “Haven’t changed a bit.”

“I find it hard to believe that she’s always been this psychotic,” Rhade muttered.

“Only as far as men and Nietzscheans are concerned,” she replied stiffly.

“Oh, I do have one other thing for you, the thing Miocci and Tenshi asked me to bring.” He pulled a small red silk pouch out from under his shirt and handed it to her. “I hope it helps.”

Jen opened the pouch and pulled out a necklace identical to the one Jason was wearing. She held the crystal up to the light. “Is this what I think it is?” He nodded and she slid the cord around her neck, adjusting the length of the string so that the top of the crystal sat just beneath her collarbones. It glowed briefly with a dark red light. The light faded quickly, leaving only a small speck of red at the core of the crystal.

“What is that?” Rhade asked.

“It’s a piece of Nomaie’s core,” Jason replied. “Until we can get her back home and in contact with the planet’s energy fields, this should keep her stable. It shouldn’t be used as a long term solution.”

Jen sighed, fingering the crystal. “That feels better.”

“That was quick,” Rhade observed, surprised.

“It doesn’t take long. On Ancient Earth they had ionized bracelets that did something to improve your health. They worked almost instantly after putting them on. This is the same basic principle; only it improves her health as a senshi. If she were to never transform again, she would be able to just get by with wearing the necklace, but we know that’s not an option.”

“No, it’s not,” Jen growled. “I have no intention of retiring.”

“So we have to take you home to realign your senshi self.”

“I thought the training was supposed to do that.” Rhade was getting really confused.

Jason shook his head. “That will help with controlling her powers, but her internal balance has been thrown way off. I was watching the two of you train. Don’t take this the wrong way, Jen, even though I know you will, but as things stand, Rhade has more control and balance than you do. Granted, he’s new at this and doesn’t have any old skills to relearn.”

“You sure know how to make a girl feel good about herself.”

“Come on Jen,” Jason laughed. “You know what I’m getting at.”

She sighed. “I know, I know.”

“Say, why don’t we go look at the stuff I’ve got on my shuttle while you tell me about what’s happened with you lately? I hear things have been interesting in the style of that old curse ‘may your life be interesting’.”

“You don’t know the half of it.” The two Nomaiens walked out of the gym, switching from Common to their native tongue.