While waiting for Kiik and Agent Brzko to arrive, the Muse of Mischief and Emperor Bartala had spent their time between the Rogsaars and planning a trip to Trella. The time, of course, passed very quickly. Empress Nalau was busy running the palace, preparing for Kiik’s arrival, and maintaining her benevolent presence among her loyal subjects.
The Suus have transporters capable of transporting beings between the surface and their ships but the logistics of loading almost one hundred Rogsaars and their provisions, made landing Kiik’s ship a more logical choice. Bartala had cleared them for using his private landing pad directly beside the palace. The proximity to the palace made this space off limits to all but the highest-ranking dignitaries. The Muse of Mischief, Emperor Bartala, Empress Nalau, and a handful of palace staff and guards, had gathered to meet the ship. It landed without incident but before the portal opened someone grabbed M from behind and swept her off her feet.
It was Brzko, he couldn’t wait for the portals to open to be near his beloved Muse of Mischief. “I missed you M.” he said lifting her up and kissing her.
He put her down and she regained her balance, “Hi Brzko, you know I missed you too. Did you have fun playing Suus spaceship with Kiik?”
“Actually yeah, it was really interesting. The Suus are brilliant, and they actually have a great sense of humor. They take their work so seriously that it rarely shows. But mostly I’m relieved to be with you again my love.”
Bartala couldn’t resist a chance to tease M “OK stop, stop, or go to your room! You two love birds…”
“Hush Bartala,” Empress Nalau interrupted “you know you enjoy a good love story.” she teased.
The laughing friends turned toward the Suus ship when they heard the sound of the ramp descending opening. Suus ships of this class are oblong, grayish in color and large, very large. The portal being used today was on the narrow end closest to the receiving group. The ramp descended from the open portal, a small group of Suss exited, slowly walking down the ramp in a tight formation. In front were two of Kiik’s team, then Kiik, then two more of her team. The front two Suus were carrying large red banners. Once they cleared the overhang of their ship, the banners automatically extended. They were fantastic, seeming to be ever changing shades of red as they billowed in the breeze.
The sight of five four-armed, green beings with long tails was shockingly beautiful. So beautiful in fact that the receiving group stood and watched in captivated silence. Emperor Bartala escorted Empress Nalau to the edge of the landing pad to receive their guests, the Muse of Mischief and agent Brzko stood just a step behind, M behind Bartala and Brzko behind Nalau.
As the they neared the group the front two Suus stepped aside and Kiik stepped forward, bowed, and projected her greeting “Your Majesties, on behalf of the Suus I thank you for receiving us and allowing us this opportunity to experience Ploosnar. We appreciate your hospitality.”
Emperor Bartala stepped forward and extended his right hand, as was the traditional Ploosnarian custom. Kiik stood, and followed his lead, extending her lower right arm and hand. Bartala grasped her hand and raised it high above their heads. “May you be honored with good fortune and long life my new friend, welcome to Ploosnar.” He then brought her hand down and to the center of his chest, holding it just for a moment, above his uppermost heart. With the official greeting over, he released Kiik’s hand, stepped back and let Empress Nalau, M and Brzko approach.
Empress Nalau, being the ever-compassionate hostess approached Kiik boldly, grasped both of her lower hands and welcomed her “Welcome to Ploosnar Kiik, I am Empress Nalau. I hope your journey was without incident.”
“It was Empress, thank you.” Kiik projected.
“Please follow me to the palace, we have the most wonderful guest rooms prepared for you.” Empress Nalau said.
“Thank you but we really could not impose on you,” Kiik projected “we will be fine on our ship.”
“You are honored guests, the first Suus to visit Ploosnar. Please, allow us to honor you as the dignitaries you are.”
Kiik knew she was outranked by the Empress. There was no use in trying to resist Empress Nalau. “We are honored to be your guests Majesty and we thank you for your hospitality.” Kiik projected.
M detected a feeling of excited intrigue. She suspected it was emanating from Kiik’s crew. The Suus took their work so seriously that they probably rarely, if ever, had the opportunity to enjoy the kind of lavish hospitality that was about to be bestowed upon them. She caught Brzko’s eye, he was detecting the same feeling.
“Wonderful, if you will follow me, I will show you to your rooms. After you have had a chance to refresh, we can gather in the great golden sitting room for refreshments.”
“Of course, Empress.” Kiik projected. She then turned toward her crew and seemed to pause. No doubt she was giving direction, the Suus carrying the banners turned and headed back to the ship, “Two of my crew will secure the ship and join us later.” she projected.
Empress Nalau headed up the walk toward the palace, Kiik fell in sync with her and two of her crew followed directly, and two palace guards followed the group. That left Emperor Bartala, the Muse of Mischief, and Agent Brzko.
“Are you hungry Brzko, or did the Suus have something other than vapor to feed you?” Bartala teased.
Brzko laughed and said “No, no, I’m not hungry Emperor, we stocked the ship with acceptable supplies before leaving Myaad. But I would like a drink. Suus do not consume alcohol of any sort.”
“Ech, I would not have enjoyed that trip!”
“I enjoyed the Suus, they are some of the most fascinating beings I’ve encountered. The amount of data they’ve amassed about the Universe is stunning.” Brzko said.
“Come, let’s go to my private sitting rooms for drinks while Nalau plays hostess. We should have plenty of time to make up for the last four days you spent sober. And we can plan our trip to Trella.” Bartala said as he began walking toward the palace.
Brzko and M followed. “We’re going to Trella?” Brzko “Yes! While Zri and his team were rounding up the Brusher, I actually got M to sit still long enough to tell me the story of how you two met. That caused us to reflect upon our first meeting and how M stumbled upon Ploosnar. Perhaps there was a reason, some link from Trella to Ploosnar.” Bartala explained as they approached the palace.
“First, let’s make sure everything is ready for the Rogsaars to return to Myaad.” M said.
“Bah! M! You are a party pooper. I want to talk about a fun trip, not logistics. But of course, you are correct. As long as we can plan with a nekmid in hand.”
The trio entered the palace through the private side door, it led directly to the royal chambers, was heavily guarded and the biometric scanners ensured it could only be used when one was with a royal. The two palace guards that had followed the group back to the palace stayed at the door, there was no need to follow Bartala around his own home. They entered a long white hallway. It was lined with statues of previous Emperors on the left and Empresses on the right. The statues were in color, they seemed to be alive, although made from something that felt like marble.
“OK Bartala,” M said stopping in front of the third or fourth statue, “I’ve been here a few times before and it’s amazing but also kind of creepy. The previous royals seem so lifelike. It’s as if they are looking at us.”
“You get used to it, but when I was a child, my great- grandmother…” Bartala turned and stepped back a few steps to stand in front of an Empress that was presented in an amazing gown of silver. He nodded toward the statue of his great- grandmother, “…she told me these statues would honor me when I became Emperor. As I walked down this hallway every morning, I would gain strength from the presence of each one. I did not believe her when I was a child, but now, I see that she was right. I am honored by the presence of my ancestors. Nalau and I will teach the same understanding of this honor to our child. But a child is a conversation best left for another day.”
Other than Brzko, Bartala was by far the best friend M had; they knew each other extremely well. She could tell something was amiss when he mentioned having a child, there was a momentary look of deep sadness. When the timing was more appropriate, she’d ask him about it.
The group continued on down the hall to Bartala’s private sitting room.
“I love this room Emperor Bartala, it just feels comfortable.” Brzko said as he entered.
“Thank you Brzko, please make yourself at home.” Bartala said as he closed the door.
The table had been set with fresh fruits, lusimis, and of
course nekmid. M settled into her usual spot, Brzko sat beside her and Bartala settled into his usual spot across from them. He poured them each a nekmid. Raising his glass to his friends he began a toast, “To my dearest friends, and our successful endeavors on Myaad.”
Bartala refilled the glasses the moment there were set upon the table. He leaned back and yawned. “Tell me about the Suus Brzko, what was it like to be on a ship with them for four days?”
“By the end of the trip I was feeling a little confined, I’m not used to traveling by ship.” he answered.
“Oh poor you! Having to travel like a normal non-time traveling being.” Bartala said sarcastically. They all laughed.
“Exactly! They were kind enough to grant me access to the Suus database. I spent some time searching for references to Clyrea X9. There is only one specific reference, the one Kiik told us about,” he said looking toward M “but there were other incomplete references to planets that no longer exists I started attempting to cross reference that data to see if I could get anywhere.”
“Clyrea X9?” Bartala asked.
“On Myaad, just before Brzko and Kiik left, she told us that she had found a reference to a planet called Clyrea X9 in their database. The beings of this planet had the ability to travel through space and time. The seemed to live a very long time or to be immortal, the males had dark skin and the females had light skin.” M explained.
Bartala was very excited, he leaned forward “Great stars! We’ve got to find this place; it must be where you are from. What else do they know about Clyrea X9?”
Brzko offered what little information there was, “Unfortunately that’s about all we know. There are references to an unnamed planet on the far side of the Trellan Galaxy that could have been Clyrea X9, or it could hold some clues. I’d like to have Zri send a crew out that way to start scanning and see what they can uncover.”
“That settles it. “We’re going to Trella after the Rogsaars are settled back on Myaad.” Bartala said, “This will be splendid, it has been far too long since I’ve been on a mission with the two of you. Oh, the fun we will have!”
“Easy Bartala, you wouldn’t want to mess up that pretty Londo hair of yours. Is Afrit still here on Ploosnar?” M asked. There was a knock at the door.
“Come.” Bartala beckoned.
The door opened, a member of the royal staff presented himself, “Emperor Bartala, Empress Nalau has asked me to inform you that your presence is requested in the great golden sitting room.” With the message having been delivered, he turned and left the room.
Bartala stood, “Yes, Afrit the Great is still here. I rarely see him, I think he has been out exploring every corner of Ploosnar. We will plan our Trella excursion another time. Now it is time to play royal host to our guests from Suus.” He straightened his jacket and smoothed his ridiculously tall hair on the way to the door.