Previous in Trope Bingo: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part IV
If you are reading from Trope Bingo, Part IV is not part of the bingo but an integral part of the story.
No Ao3 standard warnings apply.
Nehanani Jahnan gestured at the vessel floating in front the Maru. The etherboat was a big ship, looking more like a sea caravel than any space-faring vessel – at least, any space-faring vessel in the universe Yira and Jahnan had come from. Its sails were tight against an invisible force – not wind, not out here, but ether. Two great air bladders held it aloft.
And captaining that thing: “Nehanani Covair is my sister. Or my doppelganger, but we’ve always gone by ‘sister’, and she’s younger than me by a few years.” She glanced at Yira, who nodded shortly. He looked more worried than interested, but since she hadn’t released whatever hold the Tod’cxeckz’ret collar had on him, she couldn’t really blame him for that worry. “I met her the first time I ended up in this splinterworld – Yeah. I’ve been here before. This is the fourth time. I think the Maru likes this place, and when the what-if drive gets… conflicting signals.”
She caught her breath. She had to make sure things were tidy before she faced her dopple-sister. “All right. I apologize. You can talk… you don’t have to be quiet anymore. Sch’ket,” she added, the Tod’cxeckz’ret word for end order, just in case.
He put both hands to his throat. “This is why I don’t like what-if drives. A space-twister doesn’t put you into Alternate Universes.”
“Let’s yell later. Right now, a woman with a very similar upbringing to me who happens to be an ethership pirate is about to bring the Maru on board. We’re going to need to work together to get offboard with our sanity intact, and we can’t pull the what-if in an enclosed space. Can you work with me?”
Yira’s eyes narrowed for a minute, and then he nodded. “Thirty days to get this collar off of me, and we’re already down a day. Yes, I can work with you. I’m not going to run away and leave myself stranded in an alternate dimension, especially not one where they go through space in sailboats.“
The mechanical claws of the etherboat grabbed the Maru, shaking it slightly. Jahnan nodded. She didn’t trust Yira, not as far as she could throw him, but he had a point.
“All right. Maru?”
“Yeah, boss? Want me to shake the boy up a bit? He’s got a nice butt, you know.”
Oh, yeah. This was one of the universes in which smart ships were smartasses. Jahnan sighed. “I know. Please get him in walking restraints. And we’re on pirate protocols. Take care of yourself and remember that Nehanani Covair is not me. Check?”
“Nehanani Covair is not you. Check.” The guest chair wriggled a little, shaking Yira, pushing him around, and clasping restraints on his wrists.
“Stay close,” Jahnan murmured. “Maru, open doors.”
“Opening doors, boss. Don’t be gone long. You know what happens when I get bored.”
“Yes, hon Maru.” She smiled brightly and took Yira’s arm in a firm grip as the doors dilated open.
Nehanani Covair looked like Jahnan. She looked like Jahnan if bounty hunting had been a far rougher occupation than it had, if Jahnan’s fashion sense had been Military Harajuku, and if Jahnan had never dyed her green hair orange.
Her two associates were much the same: a Pallidus with the notable white skin and oversized mouth, and a probably-a-male of a variant Jahnan didn’t recognize, with pointed, hairy ears and what looked like a thin pelt of fur.. They were both wearing circus military chic, brilliant colors and elaborate insignia. They were also both carrying sabers and sidearms. Covair was smiling, but Covair was always smiling.
“Jahnan! I haven’t seen you since that event on Bolt Hole! And who’s this?”
“Covair.” Jahnan smiled warmly back at her doppleganger-sister. “Maru, Yira, this is Nehanani Covair, my doppleganger-sister. Corvair, this is Yira Trembane, my temporary kiczka-husband. It’s a long story,” she added, before Covair could pester her. “We’re just stopping in on our way to visit Yira’s stepfather.”
“Noted, boss,” Maru whispered into Jahnan’s commlink. “Good call. You’re cuter.”
“Oh, come on, let me show you around the ship, at least.” Covair took Jahnan’s arm. “We’ve added some neat features since the last time you were around our neck of the woods. And have a drink? We picked up a batch of Nevarian Whisky when we were in Yola last time. Here.” She took three glasses from her Pallidus escort and held them carefully while the other escort, the furry one, poured. “To family, wherever they may be.”
“To family.” Jahnan took one glass and nodded to Yira to take the other. “And to crew and associates, friends and good bounties.”
“To all the things that bring in money,” Covair laughed.
It was surprisingly good whiskey, with a hint of something earthy about it and a kick that hit Jahnan almost before she’d finished swallowing.
“..Speaking of which,” her dopple-sister was saying. Or Jahnan thought she was saying; everything was a little fuzzy all of a sudden. “I need to borrow your fancy-pants ship for a couple days, Big sis. Hope you don’t mind.”
Jahnan’s legs and her consciousness failed her, and she landed on the deck, finding it surprisingly soft. Somewhere nearby, Yira made an oof of complaint that sounded as sleepy – as drugged – as she felt. Then there was nothing.
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