Vong War Annals – “Calming the Storm” 4.14.08

             Cay Bel Iblis let himself into his chief engineer’s garage workshop, pausing a moment to regard the maelstrom taking place.  Davil Bullian was throwing things for no good reason, it seemed, banging around and rummaging for tools where they clearly were not located.  In the nearly nineteen years they’d known each other, he’d never seen his longtime friend with an expression quite like the one he was sporting at present.  Davil didn’t acknowledge him-didn’t even seem to notice his presence-as he finally stopped at his workbench, where some bit of technology lay in pieces.  He was muttering to himself as he reached out, groping for a tool that lay just beyond his reach.

            “Stupid Dad…coming home…bastard…”

            Cay shook his head, leaning against a shelving unit near the door.  “Don’t hold back, tell me how you really feel.”

            Davil’s head snapped up and he turned his gaze slowly from the table to his commander.  “…what do you want, Cay?  My leave cancelled or something?”

            Cay rolled his eyes, moving across the room to lean against the workbench where Davil stood.  He picked up the tool that Davil had been groping for and offered it to him.  “What, just because I’m your CO now, I can’t still be your friend and just drop by?”

            Davil sighed, taking the tool and turning back to his work.  “I didn’t say that.”

            After a few moments of silence and staring at the pieces and parts laying across the bench, Cay looked at Davil again.  “So what’re you working on?”

            “Just…puttering.  Something for the Legacy, maybe, if I can get it working.”  Davil eyed the bits of wiring and strange parts for a moment before setting to work again even as Cay raised an eyebrow.

            “Will this one involve stacks of paperwork on my part, too?  Or just your brainsweat and some blood?”

            Davil glared at him, sucking on the thumb he’d just sliced on a piece of the object’s housing.  “It’s something that I got from Aunt Arin about a million years ago.  So maybe.”

            After considering that a moment, Cay shrugged.  “Cool.  What’s it do?”

            “It’s a phased energy weapon.”

            The other man eyed the engineer for a moment.  “You’re dumbing things down for me again, aren’t you?”

            Davil managed a smile.  “Something like that.”  He gestured to the pieces and parts laid out on the bench.  “I’m basically trying to make what she gave me bigger.”

            Cay shifted his position, arms crossed, nodding thoughtfully.  “Here’s the important question: will the Hapan power plant handle this thing and the shields at the same time?”

            The engineer’s smile widened.  “I may have to tweak it a little, but this should be more power efficient than our current system.”

            His commanding officer nodded, leaning in to study the pieces as if he had even half a clue what they were about.  Davil fidgeted a moment, then finally asked, “So what did you want to talk to me about, Cay?”

            “What’s on your mind.”

            Davil grimaced, starting to drift around, starting to clean up a little, but mostly just moving, as if moving would help him escape the subject suddenly at hand.  Finally, he spoke.  “Other than wanting to feed my father his own balls?  Nothing.”

            Cay voiced a question he already knew the answer to, crossing his arms again.  “And why would you want to do that?”  He studied Davil carefully as he waited to hear what his friend would say in response to the pointed question.

            “Why do you think, Cay?”

            “I want to hear it in your words.”

            He took a deep breath, exhaling slowly as his hands slowly curled into fists, trying to maintain some modicum of calm as he articulated what had been festering for months now.  “He’s an adulterous bastard who’s humiliated my mother above and beyond all reasonability simply because he bangs anything with a vagina.”

            Cay suppressed a sigh.  “I thought it was something like that.  Davil…”

            He didn’t let his friend finish.  “And then-then-he has the nerve to come back here like there’s nothing wrong and leap into bed with her!  Like there’s nothing wrong.  Like he hasn’t dishonored their marriage every night he’s been away for the last fifteen years.”

            Cay cleared his throat.  “Davil, can I ask you something?”

            “Yeah, sure.  Ask.”  He slammed a toolbox shut.

            “At what point in either of our lives has your mother done anything to suggest to you that she has trouble letting anyone know how she feels?”

            Davil stared at him.  “Only our entire lives, Cay.”

            He sighed.  “Dav…”

            “What?”

            “Be honest with me.  Is this about him embarrassing her, or embarrassing you?”

            Davil stared at him, dumbfounded.  “He betrayed her, Cay.  And she loves him and he betrayed her.  And the whole world knows it, but won’t say it to her face.  They talk about her like she’s some incompetent…”

            Cay muttered under his breath.  “Dammit, Davil, don’t make me do this…”

            His gaze snapped to Cay, eyes narrowing.  “Don’t make you do what?”

            Cay spread his hands.  “Who talks about her, Dav?  People who actually know her, or people like that little pissant on Coruscant?”

            Davil rocked back on his heels, finally mustering up voice enough to ask, “…what do you know about that?”

            His friend shrugged slightly.  “More than you think I do.  Who the hell do you think helped keep you out of prison for it?”

            The engineer growled, stalking back toward his workbench.  “I figured someone who realized the problem wasn’t my mother, it was the bastard he married.”

            “That’s one way of putting it.”

            He braced himself against the edge of the bench, staring at the pieces laid out before him without actually seeing them.  “I guess I was thinking it was Senator Bastra or someone.”

            Cay’s voice was quiet.  “It was several people.”

            Davil’s gaze flicked toward Cay, as if a synapse had suddenly been tripped in his brain.  “And how the hell do you know about that anyway?”

            He shrugged.  “The little pissant has a new assignment.  The personal flagship of General Garm Bel Iblis.”

            “Huh,” Davil mumbled.  “Guess I didn’t hit him as hard as I thought…how’d he end up on your grandfather’s ship?”

            “My grandfather requested it.”

            Confusion showed in Davil’s eyes.  “Why would he do something like that?”

            “Because not everyone thinks your mother is a joke.”

            Davil blew out a breath.  “No, just everyone who’s met my father but not her.  Which is most of the galaxy.”

            Cay just stared at him.  “Davil, are you honestly trying to put a Bel Iblis in the position of defending Mike Bullian?  You have met my father.”

            Davil slumped, leaning against the bench.  “Cay, I don’t know what you’re trying to do here.  I’m so angry at that man I can’t breathe sometimes.”

            “And what are you doing with that anger, Dav?”

            “Building shit.  Beating up dummies.”

            Cay’s brow arched.  “Is it working?”

            “When he’s not here, yes.”  He blew a breath out through his teeth.  “Talking to my sister, too.  She thinks I’m crazy.”

            “Which sister?”

            Davil scrubbed a hand over his face.  “Ari.  But I don’t know how she can handle all of it.  I just…don’t.”

            Cay rubbed at his forehead.  “Yeah…”  His voice trailed away and his friend looked at him squarely.

            “I’m crazy, aren’t I?”

            Cay shook his head slowly.  “You’re not crazy, no.  But dammit, Davil, you need some sort of outlet for all this rage.”

            “I thought that was why I was building you weapons and punching things.”  Davil cracked a smile.  “Oh, and occasionally spilling coffee on your XO.”  He sighed and slammed another toolbox shut.

            “And almost killing your friends?”

            Davil stopped banging around, turning slowly to look at Cay, a confused expression on his face.  “What do you mean?”

            “Life support on the Legacy.”

            The engineer shivered.  “That…felt different.  That wasn’t this.”

            “That was when you weren’t distracted, though.”

            Davil’s brow furrowed.  “I don’t follow.”
            Cay sighed.  “Don’t make an Auyn give you the Dark Side speech, Dav.  We’re not good at it.

            Davil snorted.  “That’s because you believe it doesn’t exist.”

            “No,” the other man shook his head slowly.  “I believe I can’t touch it myself.  I know it exists.  And there’s a man lying in the intensive care unit right now who could tell you firsthand about it.”

            Wincing at the mention of Ion, Davil stayed silent, leaning against the workbench again.  Cay continued.

            “That is, if you don’t want to talk to the man who proves it runs in your family.”

            The engineer hunched, crossing his arms, hugging them tightly against his chest, glaring at the floor.  “You’re doing it again.”

            “Am I?”

            “Being cryptic and obtuse?  Yeah.”

            Cay shook his head.  “Davil, hate him if you want to, but he’s a part of you.”

            He slumped further.  “How can I not hate him for what he did to Mom, Cay?”

            “She doesn’t seem to.”

            Davil sat down on the floor, leaning against his workbench, arms folded across his knees.  Cay knelt down beside him, squeezing his shoulder.

            “Anyhow.  You’re partially right.  I’ve got no tangible evidence that the Force exists.  But I’ve got a big heap of circumstantial evidence that tells me that you have it.”

            Davil sighed, staring at the floor, at the dustbunnies collected beneath one of his shelving units.  “I just want things to be simple.”

            Cay snorted, standing up.  “Then go live on a grain farm on Grassus and become a hermit.”

            Davil glared up at him.  “Not what I mean.”  He sighed a little, feet sliding out so his legs extended flat against the floor.  He sat there for a moment, gaze returning to shelves and dust bunnies.  “Why did he have to be like that, Cay?  Wasn’t she good enough?”

            Cay shook his head, offering him a hand up.  “Davil, if I could explain to you why he’s like the way he is, I can tell you for sure I wouldn’t deserve your sister.”

            Davil took his hand, allowing himself to be pulled back to his feet, the ghost of a wry smile crossing his features.  “If you ask Mikey, she’s too good for you.  But she loves you, and I think all of us accept that as currency enough.”

            Cay’s expression darkened.  “Let me guess.  He’s here, too?”

            Davil scuffed a toe against a lubricant stain on the floor.  “…we had a couple drinks at lunch before we came down to the surface.”

            Cay nodded.  “I suppose I’ll have to deal with him eventually.”

            His friend managed a smile.  “At least you two go better together than fire and water.”

            He hitched his shoulder in a shrug.  “Maybe.  Last time I saw Mikey was before I left to find…well.  You know.”  Cay looked away from Davil’s stare for a moment.  “He had a few choice words about me leaving Mary behind to head off on my own.”

            “He was only looking out for her, Cay.  You know he’s protective of her.”

            Cay shook his head.  “Anyway, speaking of fathers, I got you a present from mine to get your mind off of yours.”  He took something out of his pocket, setting it on the workbench-a badge with the symbol of the fourth fleet embossed onto it.

            Davil’s brow furrowed.  “What’s that for?”

            His commanding officer shrugged.  “I thought you might like to check out their systems.”

            The engineer eyed him.  “Trying to prevent some kind of knock-down, drag-out between my father and I?”

            “Look, if you don’t want the chance to crawl all through the technical guts of their null-gravity shield…”  Cay reached for the badge, which Davil snatched up.  Cay grinned.  “I just thought to ask for a favor while I was up there making peace with my father.  I didn’t even know that yours was here yet.”

            Davil snorted softly, turning the badge over in his hands.  “Your father would shit durocrete if he knew.”

            Cay chuckled, shaking his head.  “I’m sure he knows he’s here.”

            Davil shook his head as well, shoving the badge into his pocket before scrubbing his hands over his face.  “I just…shaavit, Cay…”

            Cay shrugged a little.  “There seems to be very little my dad doesn’t know.”

            “And you’re okay with that.”

            He shrugged again.  “I can’t change what happened, all I can do is move forward with what I’ve got.”

            Davil sighed.  “I guess you have a point.  I just…I wish I’d never known what I know now.  He was like some kind of hero to me, Cay.  My dad?  And then all this shit.”  Cay rested his hand on Davil’s shoulder, squeezing it gently.  Davil scrubbed his hands over his face again, sighing.

            “It’s easier for me,” Cay admitted quietly.  “My dad lied to me, so I can forgive him.  Your dad lied to someone else.”

            Davil snorted softly.  “More like everyone else.  Starting to wonder if maybe that’s not part of why Ari doesn’t seem to care that she’s dying.  She won’t have to see how this all ends.”

            Cay winced.  “This assuming we all live past the next battle.”

            “Yeah…”  Davil shook his head.

            Cay patted his shoulder.  “Anyway, do me a favor?”

            “Sure?”

            “Come find me the next time you feel like beating up a dummy.”

            Davil smiled wryly.  “And miss my chat-time with Ari?”

            Cay shrugged.  “If she’s unavailable.  I haven’t found a decent sparring partner since Xander left.”

            “Molly’s mopey since he did.”

            The Legacy‘s captain made a face.  “I noticed.  I think she blames me, too.”

            “She’ll get over it.  Probably.”  Davil grinned.  “He’s not the first boy to ogle her.”

            “Dude, that’s your cousin.”

            “Dude, all the more reason for me to notice when boys ogle her.  Corsem’s not around to keep an eye on her, is he?”

            Cay laughed.  “Which brings me to another matter.  Speaking of ogling, what’s the deal with you and Aly?”

            Davil shrugged.  “She has a thing.  I don’t know what I have.”

            “You could do worse.”

            “Maybe.”

            Cay smirked.  “Wait, you have done worse.”

            Davil’s eyes narrowed.  “…what’s that supposed to mean?”

            “I remember your senior prom date.”

            Davil sighed.  “She was a friend and no one else was going to take her…”

            He playfully punched Davil in the shoulder.  “I’m just messing with you.”

            Davil shot a glare in his direction.  “I hate you sometimes.  I really, really do.”

            “Fine, I’m taking my pass back, then.”

            Davil took a step back, out of Cay’s reach.  “And waste a favor?  Not a chance.”  He glanced toward his workbench, then at Cay.  “Going to let me get back to these phased energy weapons?”

            Cay nodded, chuckling.  “Just ask for Marcus Davidson when you get up there, he’s the chief engineer aboard the Vise.”

            Davil stopped in his tracks, blinking at Cay.  “He got sent to the Hole.  When did he get out?”

            Cay winced.  “Yeah, which brings me to another secret you can’t tell anybody.”  He drew a deep breath and exhaled it slowly.  “The Hole is orbiting above our heads with a null-gravity shield on it.”

            The moisture fled from Davil’s mouth.  “…your father’s flag…that’s the Hole?”

            “My father’s fleet,” Cay corrected.

            “Shaavit, Cay, that’s one big secret.”

            Cay nodded.  “Yeah.  I take it you’ve heard of Marcus Davidson?”

            “Y’think?”

            Cay deadpanned.  “The name means nothing to me, Dav.”

            Davil licked his lips, fidgeting a little.  “He’s…well.  Before I got shipped back here, he was the more brilliant engineer in the fleet.”

            “You’re just saying that because the Jargunda Yards keep trying to hire you away from me.”

            Davil shook his head hard. “No, Cay, I’m serious.  And he got sent to the Hole for doing for his commander what I did for you.”

            “Ah.”  Cay winced.  “A word of advice.  Don’t mention that up there.”

            He blinked.  “Why, because I didn’t get kicked to the stockade?”

            Cay shook his head.  “No, because it’s taboo, and they don’t talk about past…infractions.”

            “Huh.  And I take it you know that because your father told you?”

            “No, because I made the mistake of asking a commander what she got sent there for.”

            “Ah.”  Davil’s gaze tracked him as Cay made his way toward the door.

            “Anyway.  I’m taking your sister out to dinner-at least, I was going to.  Have fun with your toys.”

            “I’ll try, Cay.  Tell my mom to stick my dinner in the fridge.”

            He nodded and slipped out, leaving the engineer to his work.

~ Joint post between Erin and Wyv

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