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 Cultural Exchange - Part 3

I hadn't needed to rush. She didn't show up for another two days. Friedrich and I had stowed her equipment in one of the empty drive compartments and started work. Kugi wanted the cradle back ASAP and suggested, very strongly and rudely, that it might be best if we got the landing gear checked out first. I ran the control harnesses while Friedrich cycled the gear with the manual bypass engaged so as to check for hydraulic leaks and door operation.

Controls on a ship like this are simple once you get the hang of it. Once the device controls are hooked to the fiber-optic ship's network, they can be talked to by any computer on-line as long as the user has the right permissions. Once the gear are ok'd by Friedrich, I'll 'tell' them to cycle a few times with my personal commlink to make sure the control section is working right. The gear'll 'call' my commlink to 'tell' me how far up or down they are. Like I said...simple. Once we get a ship's computer system proper, I'll work out the interface details for the bridge's console.

The ship itself was in fine shape, so all Fred really had to do was a little PM. A standard quarterly system check was all that was needed for the mechanical side; you know, bleed the lines and lube the joints and check for odd wear patterns. Piece of cake. Even the doors fit snug with only a minor adjustment.

As we stood by admiring our work, our new crewmate finally showed her snout and it looked as if several of her friends were going to see her off, so to speak.

The old emissary was there with his retinue and so were a couple of IISS reps. Thank the stars that the senior asshole couldn't be bothered or couldn't be spared from his 'vital' duties. He would've just said something stupid and end up harassing me anyway. Besides, there isn't any new paperwork for me to sign.

The young pup was now wearing simple blue coveralls in contrast to her fellows. The rest were dressed in bright (gaudy) ceremonial garb. I guess everyone had to put on a show for this project. Whoop-de-doo. Yet all the peons were still expected to bust a knuckle and look happy about it while the bigwigs congratulated each other. Heh, let them slap each other's back, just as long as I can fly away. The sooner, the better.

The emissary stood and talked with the suits and the older female answered some questions, but I couldn't hear what they were. That left our new pup to wander over to the hull and look at it closely, like she'd never seen anything like it before. I thought she was suppose to be one of their best and brightest. Let me give her a scare, then.

I cycled the gear down when she was nearly under it. That oughta wipe that happy-look off her mug.

With a small thunk noise of mechanical latches releasing, the doors opened and brushed Rortuvu's ear. I watched with my chin down by my belt as she slowly ducked under the gear door and stood upright again beside the now descending main gear. She was actually checking out the workings of the safety latches. And pulling a tool out of a pocket to make adjustments! Eff her! Who does that whelp think she is, judging our work when we were suppose to be training her! So I cycled the landing gear back up again. That'll teach her to respect our expertise..

" Ixnay, oronmay! Everybody's looking"

Friedrich was right. Everybody was looking at us and me with a maniacal grimace on my face. They must think that I was trying to squish her and set Vargr-Human relations back 30 years with my actions. Too effin bad. She shouldn't have been so uppity with my ship.

She just ducked out of the landing gear bay as the strut lifted and the doors closed and locked. Then she reached into another pocket and pulled out a feeler gauge and checked the seam gap around the door!

"May you open this door again, please? The gap is not wide enough here. It may jam under acceleration. It must needs to be adjusted."

How humiliating and in front of Vargr too. I guess my embarrassment showed because the older female doggie came over by us and spoke. First to Rortuvu, who bowed politely and backed away, and then to me.

"Do not be concerned for this, friend. She was merely doing as she has been trained to do with machines, for she is an asdegh. If she had done less, it is I who would have been shamed."

"Perhaps, but as she is to be under our command for the length of this exchange program, how is she to respect us when she is correcting our mistakes? "

"She is an Angueth. She is one of our best... how you say... 'monks', and knows machines above all else. And all else is new to her. "

"KHazaekhs uedz vofaerr tigh!"

The old emissary had come up beside us quietly and had growled his words at the teacher. She bowed low in submission and whimpered quietly as she retreated back to the shadows under the bow. He then turned and looked me straight in the eye, but his voice was more polite than with her.

"Yes. My little Rortuvu is very good with her hands but she has no real experience. That is what we hope to gain from this. She is gifted and can repair almost all things when things are quiet. It is when things are loud that she needs learning. There is a large difference between a classroom and a burning engine room, yes? She needs to learn to repair machines when no parts are around and the universe is in fighting. And then, she can be the teacher to others of her kind."

"Her kind? And what is her kind...Angueth? I have been in your territory before but I have never heard of such a thing. What is so special about her kind? "

His eyes narrowed a bit and his lip raised a bit. I must've hit a touchy subject here. He didn't sound quite as polite anymore.

"I must leave that for her to explain. My speaking is not so good, and I do not know all the words. Perhaps you will learn much from her as she learns from you, if she can make discussions of such matters. It is a special thing to be, and much honored. Do not let her come to hurt or nikh nitue vaedvifu vidfue!"

My command of the Gvegh language is not as good as it was a couple of years ago but, that sounded like it involved some fairly vital organs. His two male aides turned toward us with their ears perked up at the sound of his threat. Did I mention that they seemed bigger than the average pooch? Of course they really wouldn't do anything without their boss's orders. The emissary was their leader and they wouldn't want to show him up. The big kahuna could take care of his own business. They were just insurance and a revenge package. Friedrich had come up also and was ready to back me. Rortuvu, for some reason also came up, with her ears laid back and eyes held low. She wasn't eager for this, but she knew which side of her bread the butter was on, and it wasn't on our side. For better or worse, the two IISS diplomat suits came to smooth things over before either of us got too worked up.

" Please.. Lord Azdzafodh! We are friends here. Would it not be better to save our bravery for our common enemy to see? I am sure that Scout Ishmael will be overjoyed at his new crewmate once he sees her at work. Wouldn't you Mister James."

That last was directed at me and I read 'soon to be without a ship and drummed out of the service so fast that your butt would pass your scalp' between the lines. I judged it best to go along, but I was still pissed at being threatened and now being told to accept it and smile 'please sir, may I have some more'. One of these days, my temper is going to get me in trouble...again.

"Yes. I am looking forward to working with her. I am sure that I will find it gratifying to have such a capable young female ...under me. If she is as good as I have been told, then I will be very satisfied."

Where did that come from??? Oh, what the hell, as long as it was insulting, who cares. All I did was hand her compliments. Its not my fault if they misinterpret it.

The emissary and I stared each other in the eye and our hackles both raised a couple of inches. One of the old wolf's bodyguard actually growled. Friedrich gripped his spanner a little tighter. Rortuvu came between us but I was too busy trying to stare him down to notice right away. Everybody basically froze, not wanting to be the one to start something tragic.

"Please, Master! I beg for this opportunity to learn!"

Rortuvu's voice was softly urgent. She was on her knees with her ears back, and her head ducked in submission. Then she looked up at me in the same fashion. For some reason I wasn't quite mad anymore, and I felt ashamed for insulting her, just to stick a barb or two at him. I backed down. I felt like a heel. I'd get over it.

Everyone relaxed after I stepped back. Like a cloud that passed across the sun; it was dark, now it is sunny again. It was as if nothing occured at all. But... Rortuvu followed me.....??? I looked at Azdzafodh with a shrug and a half apologetic smile and he looked at me, tilted his head sideways a bit and smiled, then nodded to Rortuvu. And then, he laughed.

"Heh! We are too much alike Mister James it seems. Like magnets, we push each other. But Rortuvu is different and is pulled to you..and your ship. Maybe we will drink in success after all. Risgaet foghith ghisghaeg asdits Rortuvu! "

Rortuvu did an awkward curtsey and gave a small smile. If her face wasn't fuzzy, I bet I coulda seen her blush. Rortuvu's teacher, tail wagging, rushed up to her and they touched their muzzles together briefly before she handed Rortuvu a small package, then hugged her again, sniffing deeply so as to remember Rortuvu's scent. For a time, whispered words were exchanged, final lessons and advice I guess, until Azdzafodh's shouted command sent the elder chick running to her place behind him.

Rortuvu stood watching with a wistful look in her eye as the Vargr delegation and IISS suits exchanged still more pleasantries while waiting for the ground cars to arrive to take them back to their embassy. My partner came up and stood behind me.

"Boy, did you cut it close. I thought we were going to have a dust-up for sure. Don't know who I woulda decked first; them for being there or you for being stupid."

I gave him me usual reply. It was something of a catch-all excuse for my sometimes inflammatory behavior.

"Its not the first time, it won't be the last. Man, that drained me. I'm going in where its cool and grab some lunch. If its not breaktime, it should be. Ya'll coming?"

"Yeah yeah yeah. Next time, gimme some warning before you decide to light up, ok? I wanna be sure I get front row seats next time."

His voice tailed off as he walked up the ramp and into the ship. He was still talking but nobody could hear him. I stopped at the bottom of the gangway and looked to see if our new engineer was following us. Instead, she just gazed out over the hot concrete at where the limos had been before taking her 'family' away and leaving her behind. A tear rolled down her snout.

There are those times, too often, when I understood how she felt...

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