Captain Pora Hairfoot looked up at her half-dragon deckhand and felt a frown pull at the corner of her lips as Sunar did a slow-blink when she told him that someone was going to the expense of keeping an interstellar holo-call open just to wait for him. It is very hard to get even such a small reaction out of a monk, and if that isn’t a look of surprise then I’ll turn in my ‘friend of a monk’ card. I don’t think I like this.
The young man had recovered almost instantly, of course. What do they do to these kids? He smiled politely at her and said something about the expense of an inter-planetary call and wasting time. She nodded to him and led him towards her office at the fastest walk her Halfling legs could manage, the concern she sensed from Sunar putting a fire under her feet. I like this kid, but worried monks tend to do unpredictable things.
As they entered the office the image of Master Ikthan’s face split into a broad smile. Pora felt her eyebrows furrow as she caught the slightest twitch in the boy’s eyelid. Something about that smile unnerves me, but I can’t put my finger on it… I don’t like how Sunar reacted to it either.
Pora had to suppress a double-take as Sunar matched the other monk’s wide smile. She moved herself out of the vidcom’s camera range and leaned against a wall to ponder as the two men greeted each other with effusive tones and large gestures. I have only seen Sunar smile like that once, when he gifted the crew with booze, and then it was for effect… and the only times I see his arms move that much are if he’s telling a story or doing his katas. He comes into the ship wounded, and now acts like this? What in the Emperor’s name is going on? Her eyes narrowed a bit as she picked up another detail. He is hiding that wound from the camera. Subtle, but he doesn’t let that wing out from behind himself unless he has something blocking the hole. Why?
The two men continued to talk in the same extravagant style and Pora began to involuntarily shift in her seat. Master Ikthan started by thanking Sunar for the gift of the seeds that had been sent, then went into excruciating detail about how and where each had been planted. Somehow the two managed to slip in little stories about things that happened at the Monastery, but even that didn’t sound right. She seriously doubted that a teen Sunar, for example, would steal the lift-ticket off of a tourist and spend the day skiing with it. The boy just didn’t seem the type to have ever pulled such a thing… and hadn’t Sunar mentioned something about walking patrol in that city of theirs?
Pora’s unease grew as the two continued to talk. They appear to be enjoying their conversation and catching up on old times, and if they weren’t both what they are – and I didn’t know their kind like I do – I’d probably believe it. Old Shando, though… learned far too much from, and about, him back in the day. A warmth floated up in her chest at the memory of her monk friend, gone so many years now to pursue… something. How long has it been since I sent him a note? Have to fix that soon…
She brought her attention back to the matter at hand. Part of her wanted to believe the scene playing out before her, to chalk all her concerns up to paranoia and simply let these two have a moment… but things just didn’t feel right, and decades plying the star lanes had taught her to trust her gut.
Her lips quirked a bit in a smile as she remembered something in particular Shando had taught her. Your quiet mind understands far more than your thinking mind does, but it will only explain if you still yourself and pay attention to it. She stopped listening to the two men and tried to focus more on what bothered her about the situation. Her first clue came from watching Sunar as he talked about the game of ‘peg the dragon’ that the crew had invented. He gestured expansively while explaining various attempts by the crew to win the ‘pot’ that had been set forth. His story telling is excellent, and everything looks natural, but… there: That tension in how he holds his wings, and across his back. Something has him angry, or afraid, or both.
The realization came to her as such a surprise that she nearly missed when Sunar told Master Ikthan how much money he’d won. Money? He didn’t win any money at all, not real money, anyway. It was ship’s credit. What is going on here?
She then turned back to look at the man on the screen. She couldn’t place the human’s age, and she’d developed a knack for identifying the ages – at least in broad strokes – of nearly any race. Her eyes narrowed a bit as she considered some of the rumors she’d heard over the years. That man could be barely middle-aged, or he could be on the edge of his twilight years. She took a moment to study his eyes, and nearly got lost in the deep wells she found there. She suppressed a snort. If that man isn’t at least twice as old as the normal life expectancy of a human, I’ll smoke my own engine exhaust!
Still, something about him bothered her. Something about his smile. No, not his smile… what that smile does to his face, or rather what it doesn’t do. That man has no laugh lines, no frown lines, no creases of any type on his face. If he was in the habit of expressing himself the way these two are now, he should have laugh lines you could furrow with a plough! What is going on here?
Curiosity began to fill her, along with a sense of foreboding, and she began to fidget. She tried to keep still, but it grew harder with each passing moment. At length the two men laughed at some strange quip she didn’t begin to understand, nodded, waved, and signed off. A look of dangerous intensity replaced the smile on Sunar’s face and he turned to her.
“Captain, I am afraid I must request an indefinite Leave of Absence, effective immediately.”