Part 4: Discord

Mareva finished her last lap round the ship, heading to the Crystal Hall, paying close attention to her breathing. She had fallen into a steady rhythm of days. Wake up, meditate, run. After that, it depended. There was work, but after the two jumps through the Twisting Nether, there really wasn’t much to do. The mass reaction engines were purring along like kittens, and required no maintenance, just occasional monitoring, which she could do from her terminal in her cabin. The Trans-dimensional engines would not be used again until time came to leave Azeroth. So Mareva had called up every book and language course she could find, and started studying Common. Already, she thought she could ask Azerothians the way to the nearest inn. She smiled.

“Please sell me one of everything on the menu,” she said, in Common, to nobody in particular. By the time she got to Azeroth, she’d be able to discuss more complex things than ‘Give me all your food and nobody gets hurt’. It had to be said. With their near-inexhaustible supply of Emarree, they did not starve. On the other hand, even with the proliferation of clubs that sprung up everywhere, to start a cooking club here would be asking for trouble.

Mareva was still in the Deviants. The pages of her little black book slowly filled up with boys and girls she had sampled. She wasn’t doing too badly on points, either. If she got less than two points, she could usually figure out why not. She had sampled one man who only desired other men and wanted to find out what the fuss with women was all about. He still hadn’t known when he left. One girl had read something in one of the more specialised texts from the library and wanted to try it out with Mareva. Mareva had been sceptic from the start, but played along. It was a dismal failure, and the girl had fallen out of bed and knocked her head on the table. But apart from those, she usually enjoyed the samplings, and was fair when assigning points.

Viral was doing fine, too, but since he had no inclinations towards men, he had a smaller pond in which to fish. Given that, his score was impressive. Must be all that practice with his Engineer girlfriend. Mareva grinned to herself. Viral. She would give him full points simply for lying in bed with her. They’d agreed to be the final entries in each other’s little black book, once they knew all there was to know about the Art of Pleasure. Though they had, of course, discussed techniques, and in some cases demonstrated on each other. Purely for academic reasons.

Viral had set up shop in Exodar’s cavernous central hall. It got more people passing than the Traders’ Tier, and anyway, all the shops there were already taken. They didn’t mind him using their forge, but selling his craft goods was taking it a bit too far. So he sat in the middle of the hall and sold armour to Peacekeepers, adventurers and other interested folk.

Exodar was large. Normally, on ships, space was at a premium. The little runners were small, and for a Draenei male, they might more accurately be described as a spacesuit. But trans-dimensional engines work better the more mass they have to work with. Exodar’s engines could propel her half-way across the Galaxy. Bigger engines could propel a whole planet out of the Universe and into the next. Which left one with the small problem of where to store, oh, twenty inconvenient suns to power such an engine.

 

Mareva reached her cabin, opened the door, chucked her clothes in the wash and wrapped herself in a robe. Viral’s red “do not disturb” light was off, which meant that he was either out or not busy. These things were important to note. She walked into his cabin, showered, put on her work clothes and walked to the engine room. Grofal was sitting on the Command Chair, hooves up on the console, a mug of coffee in his hands.

“Alard would have your tail for that, you know,” said Mareva.

“Morning Gorgeous,” said Grofal. “Coffee?”

“Please.”

Because Grofal was obviously not making a move to get her any, she wandered over to the corner, scooped coffee into a mug and added boiling water.

“Anything exciting happen last night?”

“Power output fluctuated by zero-point-three percent. Probably some bugger on the bridge getting bored and playing with the helm. Apart from that, not a thing.” Grofal took a sip of coffee. “Boring. I like it.”

“Well, lots of excitement coming up in a few days.”

Grofal’s eyes lit up more brightly with the sheer excitement of it all. He practically bounced in his chair.

“Oh, yes yes yes! We get to turn the engines off, make sure the fine folk behind the mast have enough power to turn this thing around, and then… we turn it on again!”

“Hah. I’ve read the messages already. They have pictures. And animations. And still people are going to be surprised when gravity disappears for an hour or so. You mark my words. Who’s on shift for that happy event?”

“Allard and Inuuri. Though I may look in just to see what the console looks like when it’s actually doing something.”

Mareva grinned. “Good. Gives me the opportunity to try out what it’s like to do it in zero gravity.”

“Oh you girls with boyfriends,” said Grofal.

“Join the Deviants. Be quick though. Once I’d explained what was going to happen, everybody started making appointments like mad.”

“You can’t join just for the zero-gravity hour, can you?”

“That would be frowned upon,” said Mareva.

Grofal dropped his hooves onto the ground, and got up. “Some of the girls I’ve seen with Deviant badges on can frown on me as long as they like. But I don’t like being available to all and sundry.”

“You don’t have to. You just don’t get the points if you aren’t.”

Mareva sat down on the Throne, in front of the engine consoles. Her eyes quickly scanned the readouts. All in the green. She looked up at Grofal, who was looking down on her. He shook his head.

“I don’t know how Viral puts up with it. Or you for that matter.”

Mareva smiled. “See it as a sports club. You wouldn’t mind your girlfriend playing, oh, sail-board with another guy, no?”

Grofal stroked his barbels, thinking. “I suppose not. And you save on having to buy a board, too!”

“There! No disadvantages, then.”

“Hm. Well, have a good shift. See you tomorrow.”

 

Mareva let her gaze slide over the readouts. Grofal was probably right to worry. She could definitely see why a club like the Deviants could be potentially disastrous to a relationship. A few members had left because their boyfriends or girlfriends couldn’t accept that their love was, well, having sex with lots of people. Sadly, some Deviants had lost their partners of years, more or less for the same reason. She thought of Viral in the arms of some other girl. No need to imagine it, even. She’d seen him at a distance, working his magic on a very cute redhead. They’d walked off together. She’d felt strangely proud, not jealous. Oh well. She shook her head, pulled up her language course.

“Good Morning. My name is Mareva. Long life, good health.”


Mareva, having handed over the controls to Inuuri, was walking from the engine room to her cabin. Her Deviants’ badge was swinging on a piece of cord round her neck. Someone tapped her shoulder, and she stopped and looked round. A man was looking at her, with a winning smile on his face.

“Could it be possible that a beautiful woman like you and a handsome man like myself have not sampled each other yet?”

Mareva smiled. Well, walking around the place wearing the badge more or less made you fair game for being propositioned by anyone with a similar badge, or in some cases even without one. And she carried her little black book with her at all times, because you never knew when opportunity knocked. To be honest, the man wasn’t much to look at, but most of her less-than-perfect experiences had been with drop-dead gorgeous people.

“If we had, I am certain I would have remembered. You have the look of one well-versed in depravity. Yours or mine?”

“Oh, mine. Definitely mine. It is only a short way away, and I cannot wait.”

Mareva bowed her head, and followed the man to his cabin, noting that before she turfed Viral out of his nice cabin, hers had been the same model. Bunk bed. No sitting up suddenly, then. She wondered idly what the man had in mind, as he opened the door.

She looked round. Hmm. The Deviants must have been a blessing for this man. The place was not clean. Empty bags of Emarree littered the table, and some of the less accessible places of the floor. She looked at the bed, noting that, at least, it had been changed recently. The man might have had some polite feedback about that. He turned round to her, reached out, and stroked the barbels hanging from her face.

“Welcome to my humble cabin. You are still wearing clothes.”

Mareva raised an eyebrow. Eagerness and enthusiasm were to be praised, but so were finesse and subtlety. Not a three-pointer then, if she was any judge.

“My name is Mareva. What is yours?”

“Mareva. What a beautiful name. It suits you.”

The man gently tugged at her barbel, pulling her closer. His other hand slowly ran from her tail up her back, to her neck.

“Imagine how much better this would feel if you weren’t wearing that blouse.”

Mareva gave a little laugh, and started to undo buttons. There were about twenty of them. She’d bought this blouse specially so she could slowly undo them all. By the time she undid the last, the lucky boy or girl would be all ready to go. It’s details like that, that get you the points. By the time she got to button seven or eight, the lucky boy grabbed the hem of her blouse, and started to pull it over her head. Mareva slapped his wrist.

“Hey. Hands off. Take off your own clothes.”

“Hurry up, will you? Please?”

Mareva sneered. “Would the gentleman please give a girl a bit of room? How am I supposed to be alluring like this?”

“You’ll be very alluring when we can see some more of that gorgeous skin of yours.”

Mareva put her fist on her hip. “Well, share and share alike. She jerked her head at the guy, whose name she still didn’t know. “Off with that shirt.”

In one move, he pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it into a corner.

“That’s the way to do it. Your turn.”

Mareva took a breath. That was the thing about clubs like these. You had to take the sub-optimal with the sublime. She pulled her blouse up. Let’s get this over with. Just as she started to pull it over her head, the door-chime rang. Mareva froze. What in the name… Her guest-giver opened the door and two more men and one young girl stepped in. The girl was clearly under the influence of something stronger than tea.

“Hey, what’s the problem, Areeq? You said you’d have her eating out of your hand by now. I don’t see her chewing.”

“Oh, she will,” said Areeq. “Just you wait.”

The girl looked round at Mareva, a smile on her face.

“Hiya! You’re cute! Ready to party?”

Mareva slowly turned round to Areeq, shaking with rage.

“This is the point at which I leave.” She took a step towards the door. Areeq grabbed her round the middle, and threw her back into the cabin. Mareva slipped on an empty Emarree bag and narrowly avoided cracking her skull on the table.

“Hey!” said the girl. “That’s not nice! If you’re going to play like that, I’m out of here!”

She turned on her hooves and walked out of the door. The man she’d come in with looked over his shoulder, then at Mareva. Finally, at Areeq.

“Me too. Next time, deliver the goods.”

He left without another word. Areeq looked at Mareva, who had got back to her hooves. He growled.

“You just cost me ten gold, bitch.” He looked at the last man. “You still in?”

Mareva didn’t wait for an answer. She raised her fists into the air, and magic flowed. There was a crackling sound, and lightning ran up and down her body.

“Try to entertain him yourself. I am leaving. Now.”

“No, you are not.”

The unknown man took one look at Mareva, and raised his hands.

“No deal, Areeq. Did you not bother to inform the lady we would be arriving? Stupid zlotnik. I’m up for as much fun as the next guy, but I stop short of having to answer awkward questions to the Peacekeepers.”

He left. Areeq slowly turned round to Mareva.

“Well then. That’s twenty gold you’ve just cost me. Now what am I going to do to recoup the fun I could have had with that?”

Mareva bared her fangs.

“Play with yourself. Now let me go, or else.”

“Or else what?”

Mareva stepped forward. Areeq aimed a punch at Mareva’s stomach. There was the crackling of lightning, and Areeq cried out. Mareva shouted, and her magic flowed again. Areeq was picked up and smashed into the wall. He slowly slid down, and looked up at Mareva. She bent over him.

“You will not mess with a Shaman. Not if you like to stay in one piece.” She tilted her head. “Now can I leave? I think I can. Thank you. No points for you.”

She stepped out of the door, slammed her hand on the ‘Close’ button. Then she leant against the door, took a deep breath and stomped off.

 

“Chairman Wildoor?”

Wildoor looked round at Mareva, and smiled. “Good evening. Have we had the pleasure?”

“I am not in the mood. Somebody badly needs kicking out of the Deviants.”


Prophet Velen opened his door, and saw Wildoor, wearing an unhappy expression on his face.

“Ah. Wildoor. Please come in. May I offer you some tea?”

Wildoor swallowed.

“Yes, thank you, Prophet.”

“Please sit down.”

Velen turned his back, and turned on the kettle, waiting patiently for it to come to the boil. Then, he poured the water over the tea powder. He picked up the cup and put it down in front of Wildoor.

“Well then, Wildoor. I am not in the habit of expecting the men under my command never to mess up.” He looked at Wildoor, who didn’t dare touch his tea. “But I do judge them on how they deal with the falling debris once they do mess up. I have heard of the unfortuate events involving Engineer Mareva. She seems to have come out of the experience without irrepairable damage, which is fortunate. That one of the members of your club of friends was under the misapprehension that he could sell her services to third parties, is… less so. I have spoken with Yeoman Lorelei, who is a prominent member of the Deviants, and she tells me that she has never had a negative experience since she joined, and informs me that she will probably start the replacement social club, should I dare to forbid yours. This speaks in your favour.” Prophet Velen paused, until Wildoor looked up. “How do you intend to prevent similar events from happening again?”

Wildoor tried to swallow with a dry throat.

“Well…”

“Have some tea, Chairman Wildoor. It will ease your throat and allow you to think carefully before answering my question.”

 

“If you tell me who it is, I will gladly adjust his attitudes for you. I have not tested out a new model of one-handed mace yet.”

Mareva smiled, pressing her cheek to Viral’s broad chest. His arms felt so nice round her. His hand on her back.

“That is already taken care of. He is enjoying the hospitality of the Peacekeepers. We have many members among them, and they have a stressful job. They do not appreciate their entertainment being interfered with.” She gave a happy sigh. “Your present activity is more important.”

“I just feel so angry. I want to punch his face in.”

“Shut up and move your left hand a bit lower. Hmm. I meant your other left, but this is good.”

Viral squeezed her a bit tighter.

“Are you alright?”

Mareva nodded. “Yes. Though I shudder to think how many others have been in this situation.”

“By the Light. If this has been going on, Velen will never allow us to continue.”

Mareva rubbed her cheek into Velen’s chest.

“I would have to concentrate on you alone.”

She felt his chest move as he laughed.

“I would never survive.”


Normally, the meeting room was dimly lit when they met. Today, the lights were on, and no drinks were served. Wildoor pointed at the door and one of the Style Committee members closed it. Wildoor coughed.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Today, I have had to do something, for the first time in the ninety years I have run clubs like this.” He took a deep breath. “I have had to revoke somebody’s membership, and turn him in to the Peacekeepers. I will not mention his name. We are in full attendance. See who is missing and draw your conclusions. Then, do not mention his name again in these chambers.”

There was a murmur as people looked around, looking for familiar faces. Nobody seemed to have known Areeq. Those who had, said nothing.

“The person I speak of, has attempted to sell the favours of one of our number, to persons outside of the Deviants. I will not mention her name, but I am very very glad that she is present at this time, and as your chairman, I offer my sincerest apologies to that person. To offer points to her, would be merely to add insult to injury. I mention only that if there is anything I, or my staff, can do for her, she has but to ask.”

Viral scowled. “Bloody nice of him.”

“Shh,” said Mareva. “No harm done to me, remember?”

“Hmm.”

Wildoor took a deep breath.

“To avoid events such as these, I will regrettably have to revoke the rules about sampling people outside the Deviants. Samplings will from this moment forward be restricted to members only. Furthermore, aspirant members will be vetted by myself and the Style Commitee before they are admitted as members. They will no longer be admited simply by sponsorship of a member. While you are, of course, still free to invite into your bed whoever you like, you will no longer be able to claim points for the achievement.”

Wildoor closed his eyes a moment, visibly shaken. “Please, my friends. Take care. Not all the people out there share our values.”

Wildoor paused a moment, waiting for the murmurs to die down. A slender hand was raised.

“Can you still earn style points for sampling the Captain? I undertake not to, because I have an unfair advantage, but enterprising souls…”

The room burst out in laughter, Wildoor with them.

“Thank you for that question, Yeoman Lorelei. If anyone here wishes to die at the hands of Lady Foori, then they will still be awarded twenty style points. Posthumously.”

Wildoor raised a hand and the laughter died down.

“Also, there is one exception to the rule. Rules always start out simple and straightforward, and then grow subclauses and other tentacles as time goes on. But I digress.” He coughed. “I have had a visit from Aqaar, Supreme High Priest of Hut.”

“Praise be to Hut,” murmured several members of the audience.

Wildoor raised his eyebrows. “We have Huttites among us? What about Gor?”

“Praise be to Gor!”

“Thank you. Now. Aqaar asked me for a favour. It appears that many Huttites and Gorrites commit atrocities in the face of their respective deities.”

“Praise be to our respective deities,” shouted someone.

Wildoor laughed. “Can we leave the praise for a bit? Thank you. Anyway, Huttites, Gorrites and I think even the Followers of Null…” Wildoor waited a moment for the Followers of Null-who-does-not-exist to raise their voices, but none came. Naturally. Praising a deity who does not exist would be silly. Wildoor shook his head.

“Zealots, in short, can atone for their transgressions by throwing themselves at our mercy. We receive the penitents, commit our special tortures upon them, and report their suffering to one of the High Priests. This will net you three points.”

The company turned into a sea of grins, and variations on “This could be fun!” Wildoor raised a hand.

“Now please keep in mind our most important rule.” His face became serious. “Especially now. Consent must, must still be given, and can be revoked at a moment’s notice. There will be no need to reflect that in the report. Make up something that mothers will tell in hushed voices, to scare their young. I have explained this to Aqaar, and he understands. He regrets to say that as Supreme High Priest, he is incapable of transgressions and therefore will not need our attentions.” Wildoor grinned like a wolf. “Thirty style points to the man or woman who trips him up. If it is a group effort, thirty each. Get the smug git!”

 

Mareva walked along the corridor, to her cabin, hand in hand with Viral. A smile was on her face. She was with him, his hand was warm in hers. What could be wrong? She looked up at his face.

“I am glad that the unfortunate events were not the only thing to be discussed today. I would not like to think that people could not enjoy each other anymore because of something that happened to me.”

“Praise be to Hut,” said Viral.

“Hmm. Yes. Some of these religious fanatics look tasty.”

“They do. Robes cut down to their navels, and all the way up to their hips. Sacrilegious. One wonders how their clothes stay attached to their bodies.”

“They will not,” said Mareva. “Not if I have anything to do with it.”

They walked on in silence for a while. They came to Mareva’s cabin. Viral turned towards her, put his big, strong, capable hands on her shoulders and looked deep into her eyes.

“I think you should not sleep alone tonight,” he said seriously.

Mareva gave him a wicked smile. “I think I should not sleep at all, if I can help it,” she said.


Copyright: © 2008,2009,2010 Menno Willemse. All rights reserved.

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