Bouncer woke me living up to his name. He pounced on the bed, dislodging the sheet pooled around my back. I grunted and pushed up onto one elbow, shoving him off my side. “Ow, you beast. What’s got you so excited?”
His eyes were fixated on the door, and he danced on his legs. The soft mattress sunk under his weight, and I rolled toward him. Bowling into him, we collapsed into a heap. He licked my shoulder and neck, nuzzling his head against my cheek. I stroked his nubbly skin, rubbing along his powerful muscles over his shoulders and down his spine as far as I could reach while I tickled his sides with my lower arms.
“It makes me nervous when he does that,” Garjah said.
Craning my head, I glanced over Bouncer’s back. Garjah was in the doorway, two trays balanced in his hand. Steam rose from the upper tray, and a large jug with mugs balanced below it. I had the urge to pounce on him, not to knock him down and rub my body all over his—though that would be fun too—but to get to the food.
My stomach snarled angrily, and Bouncer jerked back onto his haunches. I laughed. “Sorry, buddy.”
Garjah set down the trays on the bed and slid in on the other side of them. Somehow they didn’t spill. Technology, magic, I didn’t care. “How long did we sleep? I’m starving.”
“Timok said you were still providing nutrients for the change in your body and the additional mass. You need to eat more.”
“All I ever do is eat.” I picked over the tray, grabbing into the bowl and the stabby things I was supposed to eat with. Not even bothering to ask what the new dishes were, I started tasting and eating. I huffed and hissed my way through a few bites that were too hot, which made Garjah chuckle as he ate at a much slower pace from the single bowl he’d grabbed off the tray.
“Did you make all this? How?” It looked fresh.
“I had a delivery from the markets of food, other parts are replicated, and some is from the garden.”
Stopping with the bowl pressed to my lips and a shovel of the diced orange bits about to scoop into my mouth, I glanced from Bouncer’s begging eyes to Garjah. “The garden he was in, unsupervised? Did you wash the produce?”
Garjah’s thin lips spread in a smirk. “What would you say if I said no?”
My nose wrinkled, and I started to lower the bowl. Garjah grabbed it and tilted it back up. “Stop. You’d think you weren’t a biologist with how finicky you are. The food garden is enclosed so he couldn’t get inside. And I washed it,” he said before I could open my mouth to protest again. “No other animals, insects, or chemicals are present in your food. Well, other than the chemicals that make it, but that’s not exactly sexy breakfast in bed talk.”
“So we did sleep all the way until breakfast!” I blinked, but the light hadn’t changed much. The suns were really affecting my ability to tell time.
“A human saying I picked up, since we don’t call first shift meal breakfast.”
“Is it first shift if you’re not on a ship?” I countered.
“Yes. It is still the first shift, and the same general functions apply to the meals and work performed on a planet as on a ship. Speaking of that, I need to connect with Seedrah today, and there’s a meeting we need to attend regarding the block I put up.”
I put down the bowl since I couldn’t exactly look serious and dignified while shoveling food in my mouth. “We need to talk about that, by the way. When were you going to tell me about the power you have? You never told me you head security for the entire race!” My voice rose, and I stopped, taking a breath.
“It isn’t something I felt the need to explain. Jah. My name says it all.”
“Your name says it all for Four Arms. Even with these”—I waved my arms—“it’s obvious I’m different. I don’t know these things.”
Today, you should learn more then. While I am in a meeting, Mereval asked to speak with you and also work on some documentation from your quadrant from long ago. Something about books on paper she’d like you to assess.”
I’d wrapped my hand around the cup on the tray, but I jerked when he mentioned records on paper and spilled over my hand. Lifting my hand to my mouth, I sucked the sweet, caffeinated fluid off my skin. Hmm, I faintly tasted of Garjah.
“Is that all?” I liked the scent, and I wanted nothing more than to be wrapped in it. But my belly was sated, I gave Bouncer my bowl to pounce on and finish off, and I was ready to go.
Bliss. Water cleaning. They had reclamation processes, so it didn’t go to waste, but I was able to get completely clean in a water shower that didn’t make the water feel like chemicals burned by skin or gave me a risk of organ-consuming bacteria spiking straight for my brains.
Clean, fed, hydrated, with Bouncer at my side, I left the transport Garjah was piloting and waited on a light blue bench for him while he put it wherever personal transports were located. I liked the one he had better than the one the Kardoval had made us use the day before. This one didn’t let anyone see inside, limiting the uncomfortable stares directed at us.
Mereval met us at the doors, this time made up in a casual outfit with a tunic that tied above and below her arms. She looked nice, but not so nice my clothes looked out of place.
“I have a scroll I’m dying for you to translate for me,” she said, tugging me inside.
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