To fill square one-two on my card for trope_bingo. Story two of a new series.
First: The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper Part I
No Ao3 standard warnings apply.
Jahnan had one of the richest bounties of her career literally in her grasp. She also had an earring that said that she’d married him under Tod’cxeckz’ri law and a paper telling her how to get rid of him and the earring, and a Tod’cxeckz’ri clerk smirking at her from behind the safety of his counter.
She ran her thumb down the list. “Okay. First choice is your parole officer. Kill two birds with one stone that way.”
“No way.” Yira Trembane shook his head. “I am not going within a star system of that maniac if I can avoid it.”
“You know the terms of your parole included not leaving the star system.”
“Why they were stupid enough to parole me in the first place I’ve never figured out.” Yira smirked. “He’s out. How about my ex-wife? Well… my first ex-wife.”
“Isn’t that the one all the media were calling ‘Bonnie to your Clyde?’” That had been several years ago – and two prison escapes and a parole violation past.
“Right until she Bonnied right up my Clyde, yeah. I’m sure she’s willing to say I’m a lousy husband.”
“And I’m not willing to get within a planet of her. All right. How about…” She ran her finger down the list.
“How about my mother? She’ll get me out of anything.” Yira’s grin was irrepressible.
“That’s what I’m worried about.” Jehnan shook her head. “Well, where’s she live?”
“Berich, Oswurn system.” He threw it off like he was talking about something in the core. Jehnan snorted.
“No. We’ll find someone else. That’s out in the Lawless territories.”
“They’re not really Lawless, you know.” It was the smirk that did it. “Worried about losing me?”
“Fine. Fine, we’ll go talk to your mother.” She was going to regret this, she knew it. But better losing the bounty then ending up stuck married to Yira Trembane.
“If we leave now, we ought to be able to catch the cross-system shuttle. It doesn’t stop in the Oswurn system, but it does stop in Cephapren. Bing, bang, boom, back here in ten days, plenty of time to get me out of your hands.”
It was Jahnan’s turn to smirk. “Who says we’re taking public transit? Come on, kiczka-husband, let’s go.” Every time she used the Tod’cxeckz’ri word for “submissive spouse,” he flinched. She was going to used it as often as possible between here and Berich and back again.
“I could start calling you ‘Kozel-wife,’ you know.” He wasn’t so much following her out of the claims office as he was allowing himself to be dragged along. It was better than the fighting-every-step-of-the-way he’d been until here, so Jahnan would take it.
“By all means, please feel free to call me ‘Mistress-wife.’ I’m sure your mother will love that.”
“My mother doesn’t speak Tod’cxeckz’ret.” Yira looked around; the spaceport was not exactly bustling, with nothing but a couple shuttle flights and some private ships waiting. “If we’re not going to the cross-system, where are we going?”
“My ship.” She did enjoy the ability to surprise someone like Yira Trembane. “What, did you think I followed around bail-jumpers and parole-skippers on public transit? I’d never catch anyone.”
“Fine with me. Then I’d still be in the wind.” He squirmed against the restraints; Jahnan tightened her grip. She’d lost him twice that way.
“Oh, someone would catch you. A big famous thief like you? All the bounty hunters are looking for you.” She pushed him forward with a hand on the small of his back. “Here’s my ship.”
He’d almost slipped the cuffs, but it wouldn’t matter in a moment. “This?” He whistled. “How’d a bounty hunter afford this?”
The Maru wasn’t a big ship – it could hold four people, sleep the same four, and had two coldsleep pods for emergencies – but it was sleek, pretty, and fast. “Let’s just say you aren’t the first high-profile runner I’ve caught. In with you.”
“Unh-unh.” He dug his feet in and balked. “Ships like these have those bratty smart computers.”
“Yeah, and you don’t think that collar you’re wearing does, too? You want to be my kiczka-husband forever?” She caught him just as he was turning around, the cuffs hanging uselessly off of his left wrist, and gave him a pointed shove. “Maru, catch.”
“Catching.” The nearest passenger seat rotated and pushed forward, shoving into Yira’s calves. He stumbled, and the armrests caught his wrists and wrapped restraints around both. “Caught.”
“Umnf.” Yira shifted. “See? Bratty smart computers.” While he got situated – the Maru wouldn’t let him go – Jahnan settled into the pilot’s seat and began punching in coordinates.
“What sort of drive – ow, I need that – does this thing have?” Yira shook his braids out of his face and wriggled against the still-moving seat. “Is it a Tungarian Twister? Those are pretty fast.”
“Oh, no. The last ship I had was a ‘Twister but this one’s a What-If Drive.” She flipped three switches and grabbed the handles, feeling the faint tingle through her hands. “You said Berich, right? Oswurn system?”
“A… No, no, no, no, no, no, let me off this ship right now…” Yria began struggling in earnest against the seat. The Maru hummed in his ear and wrapped him up a little bit tighter, soft restraints covering his forehead and his lap.
“Almost there. Close your eyes and think of home.” She squeezed the handles and pushed forward, using the mundane rockets to lift them off the ground. “Five, four, three, two, one…”
Yira screamed. The Maru moved between worlds, stopping briefly in the infinite of possibilities.
“Okay, where are we landing? It’s a big planet.”
“Bienville… starcrud, I hate those things. I always think I’m going to leave part of me in another dimension.” He twitched against the restraints. “Can I have a hand?” For the first time, Yira Trembane sounded plaintive. “Just to check?”
“Bienville Sud or Bienville Equatorial? Big planet, Yira.”
“You know Berich?” He peeled his eyes open. “Oh, we’re really there. Bienville Sud-Est, there’s a tiny spaceport at-” He rattled off coordinates; Jahnan punched them in, and checked to be sure they led to an actual landing place. “My mother’s place isn’t far from there, if we rent a carre.”
“I can tell this is going to be fun. Still, sooner we do it, the sooner I can turn you in.”
“And the sooner I’m free of your insane ship. It’s pinching me!”
“She likes to do that.”
It took them twenty minutes to land and another twenty for Jahnan to get Yira back in proper restraints and into a waiting carre. She’d pulled up his mother’s name from the dataweb and used that to find the woman’s address – it was actually rather close to the Bienville Sud-Est spaceport – rather than trust Yira’s directions.
The carre zoomed along the packed-dirt roads – Bienville really was a backwater, but at least the rental carre had good lifts – while Yira squirmed and fussed. “Maybe we shouldn’t…”
“It was your idea. And there aren’t many people on that list that we’d both want to talk to.”
“But I mean, do I have to be in these?” He held up his hands the short centimeters the chain would allow, displaying the shackles linked to his belt. “They make me look like some sort of-”
“Criminal. Here, to the right before the swamp,” he gestured awkwardly. “It’s the little road you can barely see between the mock-cypress and the weed-tree.”
The carre’s positioning software was telling her the same thing. Jahnan swung right onto an even less-maintained dirt path, the carre’s lifts having a hard time of the potholes and – really?! – tire tracks. But the software said they were almost there.
Yira’s mother, it appeared, lived in a crate home, a sealed-seam collection of plastifoam shipping crates, this one stacked three high and at least four deep. A crate had been cut in half lengthwise to serve as a porch, and the front door was salvage from another crate. Jahnan parked the carre next to an older but still-quality carre of a very similar model.
“Don’t go to the front door. Nobody but government and cops go do the front door.” Yira tilted his head off to the side of the structure. “Over there. She’ll know we’re coming, of course.”
“Of course.” Jahnan unbuckled Yira from the seat and “helped” him out of the carre – keeping a grip on him the whole time, of course – and walked as casually as captor-holding-tight-to-captive could walk up to the captive’s mother’s side door.
The door was open before Jahnan could knock, and the barrel of a pulse rifle greeted her. “What are you doing with my son?”
“Ma-ma-a-n,” Yira whined. “Don’t shoot.”
Jahnan cleared her throat. “Hon Joceye” (or so the data had said she was called), “I’m a bounty hunter, name of Nehanani Jahnan, and in claiming Yira Trembane as lawful catch-”
“There’s nothing lawful to catch my son at!” She waved the rifle in Jahnan’s face. “So there’s no way he could be your lawful catch.”
“Be that as it may,” she glanced at Yira, but he was cringing away from his mother as if the rifle was pointed at him, “the bounty was posted, and I was attempting to claim Yira-”
“My son ne est pas un criminal!”
“I believe you, ma’am. However, the bounty was there- Yira?”
“She won’t listen to me any more than she will to you.” He shrugged. “Maman, Hon Nehanani caught me.” He held up his cuffed wrists. “And the Tod’cxeckz’ri-”
“What were you doing in Tod’cxeckza?” The bellow was ear-searing and the rifle was now pointed at Yira. “Only criminals and perverted little beans go to Tod’cxeckza, and I did not raise you to be any sort of perverted criminal, Yira Mikalla Trembane.”
Jahnan put herself between mother and son. “Hon Joceye-”
“Don’t you hon me, missy. Get out of the way and let me deal with my son as he ought to be dealt with. Being on Tod’cxeckza – Yira, what are you wearing around your neck?” Her eyes slipped from Yira’s collar to the earring on Jahnan’s ear. “Oh, no, you don’t. You two get off my property.” She shook the rifle again.
“You get gone, now, or I will remind you what it is to be your maman. You don’t come back until you’ve cleansed all Tod’cxeck poison out of your mind. I did not raise you to be someone’s pet. And you.” The rifle pointed steadily at Jahnan’s skull. “I don’t ever want to see you again.”
“We’re leaving, maman.” Yira tugged on Jahnan’s arm with both hands. “Aren’t we, Kozel-wife?”
Jahnan let herself be tugged. “Yes.” She hadn’t had a weapon pointed at her in quite a while. “Yes, let’s be leaving.” She hoped Yira had more than one parent still alive.
Next for Story: Mad in Atter
Next for Trope Bingo: http://aldersprig.dreamwidth.org/893899.html
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