Part 8: Homecoming

“Power output steady at sixty-five percent. Helm neutral.”

Engineer Alard was sitting on the Throne, eyes fixed on the console. Mareva, Inuuri and Grofal were standing behind him in a triangle formation, watching the Master at work. As their new world of Azeroth came closer and closer, these tiny course corrections became more and more frequent. They would be aiming for the continent of Kalimdor, but for now, they were merely aiming for the right galaxy. Azeroth, at that moment, was no more than a tiny blotch in the telescopes, and casual onlookers had to be pointed out which of the specks of light it was. The bridge indicator light came on, and Captain Baqiir’s calm voice came out of the speakers.

“Egineer Alard? Course correction complete. That concludes this evening’s excitement. Thank you for your efforts, and good night.”

Alard pressed the button. “Thanks Sir. Engine room out.”

Grofal nodded. “There we are. Remember Inuuri, some beautiful day, you may even be allowed to do something as wild as this.”

“Oh, but you would always be ahead of me. Always take the exciting jobs away from me.” She bent over to Grofal, showing a generous amount of herself. “Would you like to come into the airlock with me? Airlocks turn me on.”

Alard gave Inuuri a stern look. “No blowing my personnel out of the airlock, Inuuri. It’s the first Company rule.”

Mareva laughed. “You know, that being the first rule of our happy gathering tells me much. How many engineers did we start with?”

“Well,” said Grofal. “Four obviously. It is against the rules to blow engineers out of the airlock.”

“There’s always the incinerator,” said Inuuri. “Incinerators make me hot.”

“Incinerators are for the zlotniks who turn off their heaters and then complain of the cold,” said Mareva. “Hooves first for preference.”

“It is very gratifying to see that homicidal tendencies are still at a healthy level,” said Alard, getting out of his chair. “Good evening all, I am going to the chess club to see if there’s any hapless fools to pound into the ground.”

Mareva grinned. “Say hello to Gazpaar for me.”

“Are you kidding? I hide when he shows up. He is very bad for my rating.”

“Wear something skimpy,” said Grofal. “That’s how Mareva does it.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

Alard walked out of the door. They looked at the clock. It was Grofal’s shift for another half hour, then Mareva’s.

“Get lost, you,” said Mareva. “I’ll take it from here.”

“Um, actually,” said Inuuri, “Can I swap with you?”

“Sure. Why?”

“Someone unspecified is off shift when your shift ends, and there are many things I would like to discuss with him.”

“My goodness,” said Mareva. “I thought I was the only one here with a sex life. You go, girl!”

Grofal sighed, and made for the door.

“You disgust me,” he said. “Taking your clothes off in front of third parties. I’m going to the Belltower and Rifle, and drown my jealousy in Qrovna.” With a wave, he was gone.

Inuuri shook her head. “Don’t know what his problem is. Why doesn’t he just find someone? He’s handsome enough.”

“Says he hasn’t found the right girl yet.”

“There’s about three thousand females on board. None of them meet Mr. Grofal’s specific requirements?”

“Apparently not. Well, have a good shift, see you later.”


Mareva handed her little black book over to the scorer, a long standing member of the style committee. He was grinning at her.

“Oh, recruiting a new member is always a good thing. Recruiting a mathematician is impressive, though. They’re not usually… open to our specific flavour of entertainment.”

“Poor frustrated souls. They have been chipping away at this formula for most of the trip now, and still they are no nearer to either proving or disproving Vremaat’s first theorem. I suggested that taking his mind off things for a moment might be good. He asked what I had in mind. I suggested we concentrate on Vibonaar instead. From there to rabbits was a simple step, and from rabbits, it was downhill running, really.”

The scorer chuckled. “I’ll give you three style points for that, Seduction by theorem. I like it. Mind you, he still has to get through the ballot, but mathematicians are normally not the ones who start illicit brothels.”

“You want the Engineers for that,” said Mareva. “For three more style points, I’ll tell you where it is.”

“Underneath the Belltower and Rifle,” said the scorer. “Someone beat you there.”

“Damn. Right. How many points does Debaar have?”

“Let me see… Twelve hundred seventy five. With these last few points, you’re at twelve hundred and eighty one.”

“Hmm. Still in the lead, but I don’t trust her.”

“Well, she’s not holding back any points, that I can tell you.”

“Hmm…” Mareva licked her lips at the scorer, with intent. “Do I get style points for…”

The scorer shook his head. “You might have, if you were the first. But it’s been done before.”

“Let me guess…”

“Lorelei. And not just one scorer, but all of them. At the same time. On the scoring table.”

“Damn that woman,” said Mareva, without much heat. Lorelei was generally acknowledged to be so far ahead that you’d need a week-long orgy to overtake her. Which was a bit much even for Mareva.

“Have we had the pleasure? Just for normal points, you understand.”

“Don’t think so. Fair warning, though, I don’t get to hand out style points for my own samplings. Would be unethical. And the scoring table is bloody uncomfortable.”


Mareva walked through the central hall, where usually presentations were given about the various enemies that one might encounter on Draenor. However, the three-dimensional displays had been changed to lazily spinning globes of the planet, their intended landing site marked with a red dot. External monitors had been connected to Exodar’s powerful telescopes, and were constantly showing the actual surface of the planet. One of Grofal’s more inspired ideas. Five more days. Just five more days before they’d all be breathing real air again. There might even be… Voices had spoken of… real food. Gur’dan was selling recipes by the score. Prowler flank, Landstrider steak. Venison. Thinking on it, it worried her slightly. There were about six-thousand souls on board. The island they were heading for, Bloodmyst Isle, was barely large enough to land on. They could hardly descend on it and strip it of all wildlife, like a carnivorous plague of locusts. So it looked like there was more Emarree in their future. Still, there would be plenty of air. Mareva looked forward to it. To breathe the air of another planet was one of the most profound experiences for a spacefarer, and nobody ever became jaded to it.

“Excuse me?” Some woman wearing a Deviants’ badge tapped her shoulder. “Have we… oh. Yes, we have. Sorry.”

“No problem,” said Mareva. “Loved that thing you did.”

Actually, she didn’t recall her, but it was a safe bet. It was becoming quite hard to find people she hadn’t sampled yet. Helpful souls had drawn up a big table in the club house, to keep track. It was oddly similar to the one in the chess players’ clubhouse, and had the same function. Even Lorelei was having problems, and was re-sampling the very few people who hadn’t given her full points. It worked, too. “I’ll do whatever you want,” coming from this enchanting creature was enough to melt anyone’s brain. Mareva sighed. Five more days. And then all this silliness would end and people would be able to see how much of their sanity they’d been able to keep.

They’d need it. There were new homes to start, people to meet who’d probably never seen a blue face before. A few weeks ago, all official communication had switched to Common, the language spoken by most of the denizens of Azeroth. It was only the native language of the Humans, but all the Alliance forces could speak it. Mareva had been practicing. So had Viral. Mareva giggled. One of her samples had insisted on speaking Common in bed with her, which was a bit surreal, but useful if ever she fancied a Human. Yeah, right.

Engineer Alard had been briefing them on the procedures for landing on the mass reaction engines. He’d be doing most of the work, but Inuuri, Grofal and Mareva were expected to jump in when something went wrong. They all refused even to entertain the thought that nothing might. The Fuckup Fairy gatecrashed all parties, and the sign of quality for an Engineer was how well she dealt with her inevitable gifts.

Inevitably, Mareva’s thoughts returned to Viral. Try as she might, she could not keep the smile off her face. They still hadn’t officially sampled each other. They were saving that for the last day when scores would still be accepted. Once Exodar touched down, things would change between them. They both had things to do, places to go. It would be nice if at least the places would be the same for both of them. Mareva walked a bit faster. She was heading to his cabin, to shower and flaunt herself at him without a trace of shame. It would be bad for both their scores, but who cares?


They hardly ever spoke. It wasn’t safe to make too much noise, and there wasn’t anything to discuss anyway. There were only twelve of them, and they knew they were the last. They were the last word in the conflict, waiting, waiting for all others to fail. They had seen all others fail, and be slaughtered by these horned freaks of nature. For all they knew, there might be other groups on board this part of the sky-city, Good luck to them. If they didn’t have the sense to stay out of sight till the last, then they would fail, and die. For that matter, they themselves were under no illusions. They would never see their native lands again. And neither would any of this scum. One of them stirred, got up, noiselessly. He put a green eye to one of the peepholes they’d made in the side of the crates, and looked out. Blue-skinned animals crawled back and forth, breathing the air, useless. Nature never intended for this filth to survive, and soon, they would see to it that they didn’t.


Mareva sat at her table, looking in the tiny mirror she’d borrowed from Oraya. She was never one to use make-up, and she reasoned that if she’d start now, she’d only make a mess of it, which would be counter-productive. She did brush out her hair, which she normally kept in tight rolled-up plaits just underneath her back-swept horns. Regulations. You don’t want long hair to get caught in the machinery. For a moment, she considered showing up on Viral’s doorstep fully naked, but decided against it. Her purple silk robe would do, and her instincts told her that having nothing on underneath a robe would work even better. She glanced at the clock. Four. Wait ten more minutes, then go.

 

“Well? Can I come in?”

“Wait a few seconds. I want a few more people to see you entering my cabin, and tear out their hair in envy.”

Mareva raised an eyebrow, put a hand on her hip and with studied nonchalance let the front of her robes fall open, promising, though not revealing. She shook her hair back over her shoulders. Well?

Viral stepped back, and let her in. The lights were low. The teapot was sitting on the heating element of an Emarree, the contents of which he’d thrown away. The bed was out, the blanket pulled up, inviting.

“Tea?”

“Please.”

Mareva sat down on the bed, and watched Viral pour out tea for them both, adding almost the last of his honey. He was wearing a white shirt, loose-fitting trousers. As he handed her a warm cup, she ran a finger over the back of his hand.

He sat down on the bed next to her, and they sipped warm tea, looking into each other’s eyes. The tea was a dark Nagrand mint variety, and one of Old Mhaari’s favourites. Mareva drained her cup, handed it back to Viral. She looked at him, waiting for him to ask. Viral put away the cups, sat back down, and took Mareva’s hand in his.

“Will you be my partner tonight, to sample the height and width of pleasure? To leave no kindness ungiven, no caress withheld, no joy untasted?”

“Yes,” said Mareva. “I consent to do this.”

Viral reached out, pulled the rope that held Mareva’s robes closed. Mareva shrugged, and let it fall down her shoulders. Viral looked into her eyes first, smiling, and then let his gaze slide over her body. He moved a bit closer. Mareva unbuttoned Viral’s shirt, not hurrying, not waiting, and took it off. Viral’s eyes glinted at her.

“More tea?”

“No.”

She reached out to his belt buckle. Viral stood up in front of the bed, so she could undo it, and let his trousers fall to the floor. Her eyes never left his, even as she hopped back onto the bed, so he could join her. Mareva closed her eyes and sighed, as Viral’s hand slid from her knee all the way up to her neck. She pressed her back into his chest. Draenei men were so much larger than the women, and still. Their bodies fit together perfectly. Officially, they were sampling, but Mareva would have given Viral all the points he wanted, simply for lying with her like this. She thought back on all the mad things she’d done this last year. Swing by her tail from the ceiling. Dress up in chainmail. Chase her partner round the room blindfolded. Pillow fights. Instant poetry. Strange and exotic positions that never worked, but gave them both the giggles. Even plain, simple companionship, touching your partner where they enjoyed it most, watching them sigh with pleasure. Just like she was doing with Viral now. Nothing special. Nothing strange. The very best. Viral pulled her closer, if that was possible.

“I want you,” he whispered.

“I’m yours,” said Mareva.

 

Mareva lay in a warm bed, her lover cuddled up tight behind her. They’d only done one round. If you do it right, there’s no need to do another. His fingers were playing with her hair. His breath brushed her cheek.

“Hey. We have a little writing to do, before we sleep.”

“True,” said Mareva, not moving an inch.

“Come on,” said Viral. “I want to know how many points you’ll give me.”

“Shutup. Too comfy.”

“I can fix that,” said Viral, and she could hear the grin on his face.

“Oh alright. Gimme your book.”

Viral handed it over, and a pen. Mareva opened it on the last written page, started on a blank page.
 

Engineer Mareva. Three points. Three thousand would not be
enough. Nobody else even comes near.

 

Mareva handed back the little black book. Viral read and smiled. Suddenly, Mareva was afraid. The day after tomorrow, this would all end. She would follow Viral to all the corners of this new world, but what if he didn’t want her to? Her fingers trembled as she handed him her own book. She couldn’t help noticing hers had more written pages than Viral’s. Did he truly not mind? She looked away as Viral made his entry into her notebook. He closed it, handed it back to her. She opened the book, turned to the last page, tried to see in his face if he’d written something good. Then, her eyes turned to the final entry. There was only his name, three points, four words. Mareva breathed in as much as she could, closed her eyes a moment. When she opened them, the words were still there. She closed the book and carefully laid it on the table. Then, she turned to Viral.

“Yes. Yes! Yes I will! Yes!”


Wildoor, Chairman of the deviants for another few hours, raised his hands. The doors were left open. Anyone who wanted to know what they’d missed, could walk in. As usual, the lights were dim. About three hundred people had shown up, most of the active members. Mareva sat somewhere near the back, cuddled up close to her fiancee. Her eyes were closed. Her face glowed. She was prepared to cheer at anything.

“My fellow Deviants,” started Wildoor. “Welcome to the last meeting of the Deviants of Exodar, and what a strange long trip it’s been. Now to ask the most important question first: Did everyone enjoy themselves?”

The gathering cheered.

“I thought you might, you bunch of perverts. Well then. On with the results.”

“I wonder who’s won,” said Viral.

Mareva grinned, not even opening her eyes. “Really?”

“No.”

“Did you…”

“Of course. Three and three. You?”

“Same. That’s the nice thing. Nobody loses.”

Wildoor continued. “You will be pleased to know that the Deviants are at this time the largest social club on Exodar, with nearly twelve hundred members. I have applied to add an ‘S’ to Exodar’s name, but sadly, my request was turned down by reason of it being too silly for words. Obviously, if we were to call out all of your names, we would not have time for the stories, so all the final scores are on the club page.”

Mareva stirred, almost tempted to get up.

“Stay down, my lovely wife-to-be,” said Viral. “You can see if you’ve beaten Debaar after the ceremony.”

“Haven’t seen her yet. Maybe she’s afraid to turn up, but I don’t think so. The problem with Helmsman Debaar is not that she lacks confidence.”

A member of the style committee walked up carrying a pink envelope with a golden trim. He handed it to Wildoor, nodded and walked off. Wildoor opened the envelope.

“In third place, with a very respectable eighteen-hundred, onehundred and five, Mr. Drenin! Are you present? Ah.”

A man wearing a blue shirt over crimson trousers stood up, held out his arms and bowed, to thunderous applause.

Viral laughed. “Ah. I remember him. He tried to get me to sample him. I must say he made a brave attempt, but it really is not for me.”

“I think I did,” said Mareva. “Gave me only one point. I gave him two.”

“Want me to beat him up for spurning my girlfriend?”

“Girlfriend? Does your fiancee know?”

Wildoor waited politely for the noise to die down. “Right. Well done Mr. Drenin, for saving the men’s honour, if we may call it that. In second place, with nineteen hundred and three points, we have the lovely miss Kudrii. Please, reveal yourself!”

A woman wearing an outfit obviously borrowed from the Cult of Hut, stood up. Viral sneered.

“I tried asking her. Wouldn’t. Thought she could get more points elsewhere.”

“I got her,” said Mareva. “Two for her, three for me. She’s a bit up herself. Still, pretty good.” She grinned. “She asked me for a re-sample last night. Sorry dear. Busy.”

“And finally,” said Wildoor, “Our surprise winner… With a massive twenty-five hundred and three, Yeoman Lorelei!”

The applause and shouts nearly blew out the walls as Lorelei stood up. She was smiling like mad, and her cheeks were wet with tears. At a gesture from Wildoor, Lorelei came up to the stage. She hugged Wildoor, who pointed her at the audience.

“By the Light,” said Mareva. “I know the girl has been in the bed of everybody in this room, and still I think she looks too young to be here.”

Lorelei took a deep breath, blinked and steadied herself.

“I love you all,” she said.

“Bucket, please,” said Viral.

“Aww shush. I think the girl means it.”

“The boys and girls I tricked into sampling me as soon as they joined. I love you all. The people who taught me things I didn’t know would feel so good. I love you. The nasty bitches who held me down and changed the colour of my cheeks for me…” Lorelei grinned. “And who didn’t believe I’d do the same to them. I love you all.” Lorelei waited a few moments for the laughter to die down. “The young boy who took three days to work up the courage to ask me, and made me see stars when he finally did…” Her eyes turned to a very specific spot in the room. “I love you.”

Lorelei reached into her pocket, and held up her little black book.

“I spent last night alone…” Laughter from the crowd. “Well, believe it or not. Reading back all the names, all the numbers, all the sweet comments. I remember each and every one of your faces, and as long as I live, I will not forget you. I love you all. Thank you.”

The applause lasted for minutes, until Wildoor finally managed to make himself heard over the din.

“My fellow Deviants, we now proceed to the honourable mentions. For females who have only sampled males, the highest-ranking woman… Miss Altaa.”

A woman with long black hair tied in plaits stood up, beaming. She looked gorgeous in a white shirt, green waistcoat and dark, tight-fitting trousers. Viral grinned.

“Oh, she’s good. She’s really good. Remember that thing that you liked so much, with you sitting on my lap?”

Mareva blushed. “Yes, I do.”

Viral nodded. “She showed me.”

“Hmm. Must remember to thank her.”

“Next,” said Wildoor, “Men who have only sampled women. With a respectable eight-hundred and thirteen points, Armoursmith Viral!”

Mareva’s jaw dropped. “That’s you!”

Viral stood up, arms spread out, and took a bow. He winked at Mareva.

“Don’t be so surprised! You of all people should know how good I am.” He sat down and put his arm round Mareva. “And if you don’t, you’ll have years to find out.”

“Next, the person with the most style points,” Wildoor rolled his eyes. “Oh get the girl a chair on stage, someone! Lorelei!” Wildoor leaned on the small table. “The entire style committee?”

Lorelei giggled, and said nothing.

“Next, The fastest scorer in points per hour. No, it is not who you think! This person is a recent joiner. An extremely recent joiner, I might add. She and her partner joined six minutes before closing of the scores. She then proceeded to score a massive twenty-three points, which she handed in one minute before closing. This put her score at one hundred and sixty eight points per hour, which not even our energetic young yeoman could match. She, by the way, is also the only one who can claim actually to have sampled our Captain! Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you… Lady Foori!”

Everyone cheered as Lady Foori and Captain Baqiir rose, embraced and bowed to their audience. They sat down, the captain with Lady Foori in his arms.

“And now, may I please call to the stage, the following people. Miss Lanii. Lady Emony, Miss Audrid, and Miss Mareva!”

Mareva’s jaw dropped. She looked at Viral.

“That’s you,” said Viral.

“I know. What’s going on?”

“Get up there and find out,” said Viral.

With a face the colour of ripe skethyl-berries, Mareva stepped up on the stage, and joined the others.

“My friends, when I first proposed to found this club, people warned me, saying nothing good would come of it. It would all end in tears. These beautiful young ladies will make them eat those words. They have all found, on the last page of their little black books, a proposal to marriage, and they have accepted! I’m sure I speak for all of you, when I wish them the very best!”

The applause eventually died down, and Mareva with the other brides-to-be sat down. Wildoor suddenly looked up at something moving by the door. The biggest grin appeared on his face, as he waved for silence.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. You will no doubt remember our most enjoyable and profitable arrangement with the Zealots of Exodar, and the massive number of style points that might be earned. My friends…” Wildoor pointed at the door. “We got him! Give your finest welcome to… Novice Aqaar of the Zealots of Exodar!”

Flanked by two very, very large Huttite priests, Aqaar strode into the room, and up to the stage. Gone were his violently coloured clothes, and the dark hat of his office. He wore only a Novice’s white robe. He raised his hands, and bowed his head.

“Brothers and Sisters,” said Aqaar. “I have transgressed. I have transgressed so extensively, that I have fallen from the highest of the High, to the lowest of the Low. My transgressions were heinous and severe. I have worn the wrong colours for each and every day. I have visited the chess players, and cheated. I visited the Mathematicians, walked up to a board marked DNE, and… erased it. I have visited the Musicians, and sang out of tune… on purpose! I have fallen to the temptation of one of your number. To protect her honour, I will not mention her name.”

Lorelei beamed at him, gave him a dazzling smile and wiggled her fingers. “Loved every moment,” she shouted.

“Thus,” said Aqaar, “I have transgressed, but wise and just is Great Hut, for he has taken from me my office, my points and my ranks, and I now stand before you as a man changed, and humbled.”

Aqaar rose to his full height, reached into his pocket, and pulled out his dark blue sunglasses. He put them on, and adjusted them so they were perfectly straight.

“Almost as long as I’ve been Supreme High Priest of Hut, people have been plotting my downfall, without success. Bunch of zlotniks. Did you really think that I would leave the plotting of my downfall to amateurs?”


Mareva stood next to Viral, her face shining with joy. Suddenly, she raised a finger.

“Forgot something. Won’t be a minute.”

She dashed off to one of the walls of the room, and holding her breath, ran her finger down the list. She knew roughly where she’d ended up. Somewhere in the high middle. No matter. There was only one thing that did matter. Ah. Engineer Mareva. Final score. Thirteen hundred and four. And just underneath, at thirteen hundred and two…

“Yes!”

Someone tapped her shoulder.

“Let other people take a look, will you? Don’t they teach you stokers any manners?”

Mareva grinned at Helmsman Debaar. “Pardon my rudeness. As it happens, I have found your name already.”

Debaar raised an eyebrow. “And from your incredibly smug expression, I deduce that it is somewhat below yours?”

“I am afraid so. By two points. Hardly a significant difference on thirteen hundred.”

But I beat you, Mareva didn’t say. Debaar sighed, and gave a little laugh.

“Congratulations,” she said. “I made a gamble last night. It didn’t pay off. I saw you on stage. You are going to get married?”

Mareva grinned. She couldn’t help it. “Yes. Yes, I am.”

“Well, congratulations on that, too. I think I’ll go and find some of my favourites.”

Debaar turned round to leave. Mareva put a hand on her shoulder. Debaar looked round. Mareva held out her hand. Debaar hesitated a moment, then took it.

“Good match,” said Mareva. “Thank you.”

Debaar hinted that she might have smiled, turned round and walked off. Mareva trotted back to Viral.

“I won. Do I get a prize?”

“Yes,” said Viral.


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

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