I ate, but my brain was whirring so fast from thought to thought that I was surprised they couldn’t hear it. Or smell the neurons firing. I swear, it was all flowing through my brain so fast that it was a surprise static wasn’t sparking from my fingers every time I touched my metal fork.
Swallowing a bite of something I didn’t even taste, I glanced at Garjah yet again. He frowned at me. “What? Are you not hungry?”
“They’re staring at me.” The Kardoval were watching us both, though they were attempting to be discreet.
Not exactly possible in such a small room and with them sitting directly across from us.
“Can you blame us?” Sloval asked abruptly. “You are just as unknown to us as we are to you.”
Maybe. “I am an unknown, yes. But you know about humans, the universe at large. I know you have databases on us; Timok used them when he treated me. I’ve never meet your kind before, your planets are hidden from the rest of the universe, and culture is a complete unknown.” I put my hand on Bouncer’s head, stroking him with my fingertips. “I’d say you have me at a disadvantage.”
“You’re not exactly human anymore,” Sloval rebutted.
“Stop that,” Mereval hissed.
That was not the kindest way to approach the changes that had happened to me, one of the main reasons we were here. That, and the fact that I’d somehow bonded with Garjah in the first place.
“Essell, we appreciate that you are here to speak with us, and we wish to know more about you personally and find out more about humans. Things are… changing. This is a sign.” Mereval indicated him and Garjah.
“We are not a sign.” Garjah’s voice was a harsh rebuke, and I turned to him, astonished. I’d never heard him speak that way, not even to Seedrah when he’d screwed up.
Maybe I should feed Bouncer. He was getting restless, starting to shift his weight on his front feet, and eyeing the plate on the table. I took a breath, turning away from Garjah’s tightened features to look at Quixoval. “You wanted to see Bouncer eat, didn’t you?”
Quixoval’s shoulders dropped and he let go of the table. A smile spread across his face, but then he hesitated. “Oh yes. Is it safe here? Will he stay under control when he gets a taste of meat, or should we leave?”
“He’s never hurt anyone before.” He could get a little… bouncy. There was a reason I’d named him the way I did, but I’d fed him with others in the dining hall before and it’d been fine. “Just stay over there.” I grabbed the plate. “You hungry, buddy?”
Bouncer’s ears perked up. His nostrils flared, and I chuckled. “Oh yeah, you smell it, don’t you?” I turned my chair and scooted a few paces backward. He’d gone deathly still, and he was staring directly at the plate in my hand. I picked up a strip of meat. “Ready?”
He crouched, his thick muscles bunching around his shoulders. As soon as I threw the meat into the air, he was moving. Bouncer jumped, catching the meat in his jaws in mid-air with a sharp snap. The light scattered on his pebbled red skin as it darkened. Bouncer shifted from foot to foot, whining for more.
I threw one more piece into the air and then two more left and right. Bouncer caught the one in the air, then pounced on the one to the right. He tore into the piece on the left, shredding it with his claws.
“Bouncer, stop that!” I scolded him. He was going to scratch up the floor. I got up and pushed him away from the strips of meat. Picking them up, I dangled them over his head. “Come on, take them.” There were gasps, but I ignored them as he did a little hop and delicately took the strips out of my hand.
“What if there was poison on that meat?” Quixoval asked. “You just picked it up.” He turned to Garjah who was sitting relaxed in his chair. “You let him.”
I shrugged. “There’s never been any before.” I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips. “And Garjah doesn’t tell me what to do.”
“The cerops would never hurt Essell. He doesn’t release his poison.”
“Maybe he’s incapable,” Sloval suggested.
“Bouncer is perfect.” I resented them suggesting otherwise. “He loves me so he doesn’t want to hurt me.” To prove my point, I fed him the next few strips from my hand. He always took them gently. “I only throw it because he likes to move. It’s fun for him.” I threw two pieces up right next to each other and he did a rapid snap, snap and got them both.
Bouncer settled down at my feet with the last piece I tossed him as I tucked the plate under my half-full one.
“It’s almost like he knows what you’re going to do.” Lenveval stated his observation just as quietly as he’d done everything else since we entered the room. He seemed to take in everything and miss very little.
“He does mirror Essell’s emotions,” Garjah confirmed.
“You do as well,” Mereval said. She looked disturbed, tapping the table.
“What?” I frowned.
“You get upset, he gets upset. You relax, he relaxes. It’s a complication.”
“Isn’t that the nature of the bond?” I asked.
“No, not like this. Timok warned us to keep our distance, but we thought that was the result of an incomplete bond. You have bonded, but this mirroring between you two is unknown.”
Great, more things unique to me. I’d already changed my arms and eyes. Now the bond? “You’re not going to try to break it, are you?” Would they separate us? My heart started to pound.
“Has anyone told you what a broken bond entails, Essell?” Lenveval asked.Want more flash?