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Nov 28, 2020 5:09 AM
Tedekhi comes home with some news
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Tedekhi’s heart rate hasn't gone below 100 beats per minute in seven days, and he would be concerned if he had any ability to focus on something other than piloting this crappy little ship he’s stolen from a deep-space port. 

The engine whines incessantly and he closes his eyes against it, his ears flat against his head. The front screen is white as he moves through hyperspace, and the sensors and controls blink on and off. Tedekhi tried to repair them as best he could, but he had no supplies. He's piloting half-blind. But he's almost home, almost almost almost. Just a little longer. A few more hours. 

He's so tired. He's so thirsty. The burning wounds on his thigh and stomach left by a soldier’s blaster during his escape send angry stabs of pain through his body — he has no medical supplies. He'd dabbed the wounds with sanitizer and wrapped them in strips torn from his shirt — not proper burn care, and he worries they're infected.

The display blinks off. Tedekhi whacks it until it comes back online, and then leans back in his chair and groans. His head is spinning, and spots dance in his vision — his food and water ran out two days ago. This ship is too small to store much, and it wasn't made for interstellar transport; it's a glorified taxi. There isn't even a bed. That is probably why it had been so easy to steal — that and the fact that it's falling apart. 

Only a few more hours of hyperspace, Tedekhi tells himself. Just hold on until then.

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He barely can keep his eyes open, and has to desperately fiddle with the dashboard several times, until finally, finally, the sensors read that he was in range of home. Tsaidam

He weeps in relief, not realizing it until tears land on his hands and the controls. He wipes them away, braces himself, and prepares the ship to exit hyperspace, activating his shitty cobbled-together helmet and the stabilizers in his much too big and rusted suit. There's always a danger with ships like these that the transition out of hyperspace will break them apart, but hopefully if that happens Tedekhi’s life will be preserved long enough for him to send out an emergency flare and be rescued by the small cruisers in orbit. If worse comes to worse, he has detailed notes and messages on his person and in the nearly-indestructible black box. Someone will find it and get it to Findei. And then Mehtien will be rescued, and Tedekhi will recover his honor and save his friend’s life. 

The entire ship shudders and hisses alarmingly as it comes out of hyperspace, and the blinding white showing from the windows abruptly turned into black nothingness. Tedekhi’s head swims alarmingly and he only just manages to jerk the helmet open and grab an empty cup before he throws up, gagging on bile. 

Fuck,” he groans, wiping his mouth. His vision dances with colored spots, and his entire body shakes. “Fuck.”  That hasn't happened since he was thirteen and traveling interstellar for the first time with his mother. He’s always been proud of his ability to endure the stress of coming in and out of hyperspace with no side effects other than a little dizziness here and there; it's part of what had made him a distinguished pilot. He's in worse shape than he thought. 

But he's almost home. Almost, almost, almost. He manages to flick on the engine controls again and put his helmet back on, holding the steering toggle in weak and trembling hands. He is almost out of fuel.

He pushes the toggle as far is it will go and groans as he is pressed back against the seat.

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The blackness in the window has resolved itself into familiar, beloved starscape, and the blue-green-white marble of Tsiadam in the center of his field of vision. The only thing stopping Tedekhi from crying more is the instinct to conserve all water. 

Tsaidam grows and grows and grows, until Tedekhi can gleefully pick out the continents and mountain ranges and then the steppe. Home, where he was born. No clouds. The sky must be so so blue, looking up from that sea of gold and green, the white-capped mountains at his back. 

He's close enough now to see the haze of atmosphere above the surface of the planet, and then he is close enough to feel it slow his ship down. At this height, leaving a ship without gear would mean instant death, but there is still enough gases to impact a moving ship. 400 kilometers; he needs to get ready for landing. 

He forces his trembling hand to switch the necessary controls on or off, retracting anything unnecessary into the ship and sealing it over. The windows darken to protect Tedekhi from the intense light that moving through the atmosphere would generate, and then he accelerates forward, forward, forward, until the only thing he can see is blue and green and white, and he feels something pulling on the ship, pulling them faster than the engine could. He shuts off the engines and takes a deep breath, running through everything in his head. 

He's done all he could, prepared all he could. Now he just has to hope that he doesn't burn to ash or crash into a mountain and die. 

Tedekhi doesn't remember much after that.

He remembers the shaking and the screaming of metal, he remembers the blaze of incandescence around the ship as it falls, he remembers the heat of it. He remembers pain, searing pain in his leg and his side. He remembers the feel of the steering toggle in his hand, jerking it back with all his strength.

 

And then, nothing. 

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Jizhu has just finished cleaning the barn when she sees — well, first she hears the ungodly screeching, and then she turns away from the barn and looks up and sees the ball of metal fall out of the sky. It is approximately the right size and shape for a ship, but never in her life has Jizhu seen a ship so misshapen, nor has she witnessed such a bizarre and incompetent landing.

Nothing is on fire, which is good.

“Saki!” she hollers in the direction of her house. A few minutes later her wife appears coming down the path between house and barn, ears pricked with curiosity. 

What? What’s wrong!” calls Saki, jogging up to her, her scent washed with protective concern.

“Nothing, maybe,” says Jizhu. “Well, probably something, just not necessarily for us -- something just crashed over there, beyond the sheep pasture. Nothing’s burning, so the farm’s safe, just. We should probably check it out.”

“Something? You mean a ship?”

“Gods, I hope not,” Jizhu mutters. “If that was a ship then it deserves to be burnt. It was the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen fall from the sky in my entire life.”

Saki shakes her head fondly. “If someone might need our help, we should go right away.”

“Yeah. I’ll grab our gliders, you get — water, I guess? The medpack?”

And fifteen minutes later, they touch down in front of a very tiny, ugly shipwreck.

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Tedekhi can barely see, can barely stand. The fucking door is melted shut, because of fucking course it is. He has a blowtorch and a blaster, and he finally breaks through the metal shell with a horrible crack.

The light from outside is blinding, but he manages to stumble through the hatch, his eyes squeezed shut. He slides down the hull and lands on glass crystals and ash that the impact created from the rocks and grass. He takes two steps and then collapses, his knees buckling. The glass granules crunch as he lands face-first. 

“Ouch,” Tedekhi says, but it sounds more like. “Hhngnfh.”

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There are vocal exclamations, and footsteps, and then — hands, sturdy but gentle, turning him over — and then the voices are easier to hear.

“Holy shit,” says Jizhu. “How is he alive—

“Shhh,” says Saki, flapping her hand at Jizhu. “The medpack, hand me the medpack — sir, can you hear me? You’re alright, you’re safe, we have medicine — just relax and keep breathing okay?”

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They're speaking his language, his language. Even with blurred vision and an awful ringing in his ears, hearing Siung-yi feels like clarity. Tedekhi groans, trying to raise his arm to open his helmet. He tries and tries, but he can only raise it an inch or so. 

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“Hey, hey hey, it’s okay, I can get your helmet,” says Saki, hurrying to do just that. There is a low hiss as the helmet unsealed, and then his helmet is open and he can taste the fresh air. “Just relax, okay? Don’t move. You’re really hurt. I’m going to scan you now for injuries, okay?” There was a soft beeping between as she prepped the handheld medscanner. 

“Oh, fuck,” she says a moment later.

“What’s —”

“He’s — I don’t even know where to start. He has fresh blaster wounds, there are burns -- and the readout for his signatures is all off, I mean there can be error with the vitals on scanners like this but when it’s this extreme… he — I think he’s concussed, there’s a bunch of red flags going off around his head on here.”

“Fucking hells — do you think the concussion is from the crash, or before? Whatever sort of fight he got himself into?”

“I don’t know, Jizhu, I barely know how to read this scanner! We need to call into town for a real medic, can you?”

“Yeah, I have my pager.”

Saki crouches by Tedekhi’s head, her voice quiet and soothing. “Sir, can you hear me? Don’t worry, we’re getting you help. I think you’re concussed. Do you understand me? Can you tell me your name?”

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Tedekhi forces his eyes open and groans, closing them immediately. “T’d’khi,” he mumbles. “I need…” He needs to get to Findei. He has vital information, this is an emergency. He tries to say those things, but cannot move his lips. 

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“I know. It’s okay, the medic is coming. We have some water, do you think if we propped you up you could drink a little?”

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“Mhm.” Water, water! Yes!

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“Great.” She scrambles around his head so that she can very, very slowly lift him up. “Let me know if I’m hurting you too badly, okay?”

Together she and Jizhu manage to feed Tedekhi some water without drowning him.

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Tedekhi gulps the water desperately, shuddering with the relief of it. “More, please,” he manages to whisper. 

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“Yes, yes, of course!” says Saki, pleased and relieved that he's able to talk. They give him the whole canteen, very, very slowly.

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“Thank you so much,” Tedekhi gasps, leaning back against them. “Thank you, thank you. I thought — would die, I thought… I have a message, important, please.”

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“A message?”

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“You’re welcome. The medic will be here soon, I’m glad that you’re okay. What is the message?”

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“For Findei. Mehtien — alive. Immediate — emergency. Need to know. Everyone.”

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What?” Both of them are staring at him. They look at each other in shock, and then back down at Tedekhi. “That’s — prince Mehtien? He’s alive?

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“Yes,” Tedekhi whispers, trying and failing to open his eyes. “Captured — both of us. The ship… We survived. Need to tell Findei.”

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“Oh fuck.”

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“Fuck. Okay. Okay — okay. We’ll send a message right away. Stars. Okay — Jizhu, you go back to the house and get the satellite phone, I’ll stay here with him until the medic —”

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“Yeah, on it,” says Jizhu, already hopping to her feet. She dashes away towards the house.

“It’s okay,” Saki whispers to Tedekhi. “We’re going to tell Findei, it’s okay. You did really, really well.”

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Tears drip down Tedekhi’s face. “Thank you, thank Tengri,” he chokes out. “He’s hurt. My friend —”

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Saki’s eyes fill with tears in sympathy, and with bewildering, overwhelming shock at their prince still being alive.

“They will help him. I know they’ll help him. They’ll send people here to ask you questions and then they’ll - they’ll go get him. It’s okay. Do you know where he is?”

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“Han. Chang’an. Th’ palace. Please, please, they’re hurting him.”

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