Okudai Vignettes

By MultiMapper
Copyright ©2002-2009 MultiMapper and CSU Productions.
All Rights Reserved.

For full disclaimer and Copyright information visit Copyright/Disclaimer Page. Continuation of viewing this document is deemed acceptance of all terms on the preceding link. While these stories are provided for free, I would appreciate it if those who were able would consider contributing to this artist via my Patreon.

Chapter 31

"Let's see what new adventures the universe has in store for us." Tyce said with a smile as he put an arm around Tyber and guided him off the shuttle.

Once the door was closed, Tyber stopped in his tracks and broke into uncontrollable sobbing.

Tyce adjusted his hold on Tyber to pull him into a full hug.

"Why does everyone I love go away?" Tyber whispered as he fought to control his sobs.

"It sometimes seems that things work out that way Tyber, but I promise that all love isn't destined to leave you. Love *can* last forever." Tyce said gently.

Tyber fought to gain control of his emotions and was finally able to pull back enough to look into Tyce's concerned eyes.

"This isn't an ending, it's a beginning. Let's go see what our new life holds for us." Tyce said with an encouraging smile.

Tyber still wasn't at a point where he could trust his voice, so he nodded his agreement to the Holy One's words.

* * * * *

"Holy One, did all go well?" Oluf asked hopefully as he rushed up to the pair in the hallway.

"Yes Oluf. I believe that everything occurred as it was meant to." Tyce said peacefully.

"All your belongings have been brought to the Mangeon and are being arranged in your quarters." Oluf said quickly.

Tyce smiled and said, "Thank you Oluf. I knew that I could trust you to arrange things. Would you please see that Tyber has everything he will need for the journey back to Okuda... and that he has a room prepared in the sanctuary of the main church before we arrive?"

"Begging your pardon Holy One, but the sanctuary is for you alone. It would be proper for the young one to have accommodations among the priests." Oluf said hesitantly.

Tyce smiled at Oluf, obviously expecting his reaction.

"Oluf, I would like to present Tyber, son of Traiel, the Voice of Okuda." Tyce said seriously.

Oluf looked from Tyce to Tyber with question.

After a moment to let the words sink in, Tyce continued, "In matters which involve Okuda and it's relationship to the other worlds of the universe, Tyber's words carry more authority than my own."

Oluf paled at the words as he looked at Tyber with wonder.

"Really?" Tyber asked with surprise.

"That's right Tyber. I didn't want to say anything in front of the others because they each have to speak to their own holy ones to discover their unique purposes. But as your Holy One, I can tell you that your purpose is to make decisions for our worlds and represent us to the other species." Tyce said frankly.

"But... you said... I have more authority?" Tyber asked reluctantly.

Tyce smiled as he said, "I don't plan on opposing your plans for our world, but yes. If there comes a time when we have differing ideas as to the proper course of action, I will defer to you."

Tyber's eyes went even wider as he considered the Holy One's words.

"Of course, I will expect you to defer to my judgment in matters regarding Okudai internal policy." Tyce said frankly.

Tyber absently nodded as he continued to think about what he had just been told.

"Oluf, Tyber looks like he needs to rest. Perhaps you could conduct us to our rooms." Tyce said with an amused smile.

After a moment for the words to register, Oluf quickly said, "Oh yes. Of course Holy One. Right this way."

* * * * *

"Oluf, I would like for you to make arrangements with the central government for Tyber to have unrestricted communication privileges." Tyce said as they walked slowly down the hallway of the Mangeon.

"Unrestricted access?" Oluf asked curiously.

"If Tyber is our voice in the universe, we need to be sure that he has the tools he needs." Tyce said frankly.

"As you say Holy One. Though it may take some time to convince the governmental agencies to allow it." Oluf said thoughtfully.

"I know you'll be able to work it out, but if you need for me to speak to anyone to back you up, just let me know." Tyce said casually.

Oluf stopped by a door in the hall and said, "I hope you will find these accommodations to be acceptable Holy One."

Tyce walked past Oluf into the room and looked around.

After a moment to consider, Tyce said, "Yes. Please be sure that Tyber's accommodations are equally acceptable."

Oluf froze for a moment and it appeared that a thousand different things were being planned in his mind before he finally responded, "Yes Holy One. It will be as you say."

Tyce smiled, getting a tiny bit of pleasure out of throwing unexpected challenges in Oluf's path.

"Come with me now Tyber. Oluf will contact us when your rooms are ready." Tyce said peacefully.

"Yes Holy One." Tyber said with a timid smile at Oluf as he passed.

* * * * *

Tyber looked around the lavishly decorated room cautiously before saying, "I don't know what I'm supposed to do."

Tyce smiled, then walked to a small couch and sat down before answering, "Before we discuss the duties you'll have when we reach the home world, why don't we talk about the things we need to attend to during our journey. There are quite a few things that need to be dealt with in the next two days."

Tyber nodded, then looked around uncertainly.

"Please sit and be comfortable Tyber. Before our trip to the Gorn ship, you were already going to be a member of my family, but now that you have been chosen as the Voice of Okuda... you are my equal." Tyce said frankly.

"Is that my title?" Tyber asked as he cautiously sat down in a large cushioned chair.

Tyce considered for a moment, then slowly said, "It could be. That's really up to you. Several of the Holy One's past had considered making a prophesy regarding you but once such a thing is done, you are bound by it."

"I don't understand." Tyber said cautiously.

"Well, like the Gorn for example. They gave their emissary the title of 'Trach Manja'. For a thousand years the Gorn have known that one would be named to be the Voice of Warriors who would stand above all houses and castes to represent the interests of the entire Gorn empire." Tyce said distantly.

Tyber nodded slowly, then asked, "What's wrong with that?"

"The mold has been cast which describes just what a Trach Manja is and what he can do. Now Oscar will have to fit into that mold, even if it doesn't entirely fit him." Tyce said frankly.

Tyber thought for a moment, then said, "But since you haven't announced that I'm coming, I'm free to... do what?"

"You're free to do the job that needs to be done without limitations. The 'Voice of Okuda'... or whatever we decide to call you, will be able to represent Okuda when speaking to the Federation or the Gorn or any other race without being constrained by a written 'destiny' or 'prophesy'." Tyce said frankly.

"If that's so, then why did the Gorn Holy One invent the Trach Manja?" Tyber asked curiously.

"The way their society was developing, there was almost certainly going to be a fragmentation of classes at some point. We actually expected it to split three ways... but that doesn't matter. As soon as it was determined that their society was going to fragment into autonomous entities, the Holy One concocted the Trach Manja prophesy so that no matter where the emissary emerged, he would be given the proper respect by all." Tyce said carefully.

"I'm sorry. I really don't know much about Gorn history. So they *did* fragment?" Tyber asked cautiously.

Tyce smiled and said, "I'm sorry Tyber. When I get to thinking about the long ago, I sometimes lose touch with the here and now. And to answer your question, yes. They fragmented. Since Oscar was the child of laughter and light and came from one of the main houses of the Gorn empire, the prophesy of the Trach Manja turned out not to have been as necessary. But if Oscar had been the child orphaned by poverty, he could have easily come from the fragment... that is, assuming that they still exist."

Tyber shook his head as he tried to process the myriad of emotions associated with all the new information he had received in such a short time.

He looked up to notice Tyce watching him consideringly.

Tyber waited to see what was on Tyce's mind.

"You're overwhelmed." Tyce said slowly.

Before he could think better of it, Tyber said, "Yeah. A little."

Tyce slowly nodded then said, "I have a suggestion that might help, if you're interested."

Tyber nodded quickly that he was.

"Although I can advise you on what to expect in the coming days, that's probably going to be of little comfort to you. I think that, if you wanted, we could invite Oscar over to spend part of the journey to Okuda with us." Tyce said carefully.

"Oscar? Here?" Tyber asked uncertainly.

"Yes. There's no time like the present to get people used to the notion that he is welcomed on our ships and on our worlds. There will come a time when he will do the same for you to let his people know that you are the exception to the rules they have grown up with. To the Gorn you will be known as Trach Manja Tyber of the Okudai.

"Wow. That really sounds impressive." Tyber said with wide eyes.

"You think so? I was kind of leaning toward 'Voice of Okuda'. It sounds so much more... peaceful." Tyce said consideringly.

Tyber chuckled at Tyce's expression, then said, "How about while Oscar is here, we tell our people that he is 'Oscar, the Voice of the Gorn', then when I go to his world, I'll be called 'Trach Manja Tyber of the Okudai'."

"Yes. I think that will work very well. I'd rather not have to explain what a Trach Manja is to the Okudai people. They might get the wrong idea and start thinking that you're a type of royalty." Tyce said frankly.

Tyber nodded, then slowly said, "Eliam said that we weren't supposed to let ourselves be universally known. But it looks like all the Holy Ones are working to make sure that everyone knows who we are."

"Yes. I suppose I should have explained that to all of you when I had you together." Tyce said as he thought about what he should say.

"If everyone knew what you could 'really' do, then you would fail. There is no doubt of that. But it is necessary for people to know who you are and that you're important so that you will be allowed to go where you need to go and do what you need to do." Tyce said carefully.

"And if the Okudai people know that I'm the Voice of the Okudai, then Lehman shows up and is the Voice of the Chameloids, he will be let in and people will be able to accept him." Tyber said thoughtfully.

Tyce smiled and said, "Yes. Exactly. In fact, all the Holy Ones will be working to make sure that all the 'Five Voices' will be recognized and given proper access wherever they need to go."

Tyber nodded, then stood as he said, "Then let's get started."

Tyce smiled and said, "I assume you know how to work the communications equipment."

"I've lived most of my life on starships. I could use a comm before I was potty trained." Tyber said as he walked to the desk where a terminal was located.

"I believe if Vincent were here he would have said, 'TMI - Too Much Information'." Tyce said with a chuckle.

Tyber smiled at Tyce's words as he began to work the controls.

* * * * *

"Would you please contact the lead Gorn vessel and establish contact with the Trach Manja, Oscar?" Tyber asked the communications worker on the bridge.

"I'm sorry but 'The Law' prohibits casual contact of outside species." The young man said in a warning tone.

Tyce walked into view of the terminal and said, "Korible, son of Mishin, I am the Holy One. I would like to speak to the captain."

The communications worker's eyes went wide as he stammered, "Yes. Yes Holy One."

A moment later Captain Treas appeared on the screen.

"How may I serve you Holy One?" Captain Treas asked respectfully.

"Would you please inform the bridge crew and the other captains that this boy, Tyber, son of Traiel, has been designated as the 'Voice of Okuda'. As such, he is exempt from all prohibitions against communications with people outside our system." Tyce said firmly.

"Yes Holy One, I will inform them immediately."

"Also, on the Gorn ship there is a boy who has the same position within the Gorn Empire. To us he would be known as Oscar, the 'Voice of the Gorn'. To his own people he would be known as the Trach Manja, Oscar. Any attempt at communication from him, either now or in future, is to be accepted. And if he should wish to come aboard any of our vessels, he is to be welcomed and treated with the utmost respect." Tyce said seriously.

"You're saying that we are to welcome a Gorn onto our ship?" Captain Treas asked with disbelief.

"Yes. Of all the massive Gorn Empire, this one, and only this one, is given free access to all the territories of Okuda." Tyce said firmly.

Captain Treas stared at Tyce as her mouth dropped open slightly.

"And of course Tyber will be granted the same access within the sovereign space of the Gorn Empire." Tyce said seriously.

Captain Treas finally seemed to come back to herself enough to say, "I will see that the bridge crew and other captains are informed."

Tyce smiled and said, "Thank you Captain Treas. The government will be informed and these changes will be in effect throughout the Okudai system before we reach Okuda."

"As you say Holy One. Is there any other way I can be of service?" Captain Treas asked hopefully.

"Tyber wants to contact Oscar, the Voice of the Gorn. If you could make that possible, that is all I will need for now." Tyce said gently.

Before Captain Treas could tell her communications officer to place the call, he had already made contact and was waiting for Oscar to answer his comm.

Tyber smiled when he saw Oscar's face on the screen.

"How are you doing Oscar?" Tyber asked with a smile.

"My Holy One is insane." Oscar whispered, then glanced around with worry, to see that he hadn't been overheard.

Tyber chuckled at the statement, then said, "My Holy One was just telling me that if you wanted to come over to our ship and spend part of the journey with us, it'd be okay."

Oscar looked at Tyber with surprise, then past him to Tyce who was standing just behind him.

"I've already cleared it with my people. If you want to visit, you'll be welcomed." Tyce said frankly.

"Thank you. I need some time away from the Holy One. He's... happy. Way too happy." Oscar said hesitantly, then looked around again.

"We're on the Mangeon. We'll be ready to receive you whenever you transport." Tyce said with a smile.

"I will be there immediately." Oscar said, then the screen went blank.

"J'Laad must really be driving him crazy." Tyce said with a smile.

Tyber nodded and thought about how lucky he was to have Tyce as a Holy One.

* * * * *

A tone at the door drew both boys' attention.

"Yes?" Tyce called in the direction of the door.

"Holy One, I have made the preparations you requested." Oluf's voice said quickly.

"Come in Oluf." Tyce said as he turned his full attention toward the door.

No sooner had the door opened than Oluf started talking.

"I have relayed your instructions regarding 'The Voice' to Minister Falek and he has assured me that the permissions will be in place before our arrival."

"Good." Tyce said with a nod, then asked, "Do you happen to know where Audge is?"

"Audge? Oh yes, your security. He is in the cargo bay comforting the injured. He awaits your summons." Oluf said professionally.

"When we have concluded our business, summon him. And be sure that all of his belongings are brought to this room. He will be staying with me." Tyce said as he watched carefully for Oluf's reaction.

"His belongings have already been installed into your quarters. Will you be needing another bed brought in?" Oluf asked as casually as if he were speaking of the weather.

Tyce walked across the room and looked into the sleeping chamber before saying, "No. Audge is my security, and I will feel most secure if he is in the bed next to me."

Oluf bowed his head slightly to acknowledge that he understood.

"What of preparations for Tyber?" Tyce asked as his mind went back to his list of things that needed to be done.

"Quarters are being prepared for 'The Voice' as we speak. His belongings are being transported aboard and should be in place soon." Oluf said nervously.

"You can call me Tyber."

"No. He can't." Tyce said firmly.

Tyber looked at Tyce with surprise.

"It will be necessary for you to be addressed by your title until people become familiar with your position. If you allow Oluf and others to call you by your given name openly, it will make their acceptance take that much longer." Tyce said seriously.

"I understand." Tyber said quietly, then turned to Oluf and said, "When we are in private with the Holy One, you may address me as Tyber."

"As you wish." Oluf said as he bowed reverently.

Tyce thought for a moment, then nodded his acceptance of Tyber's wishes.

* * * * *

"Oluf, due to the recent... unpleasantness, I have fallen behind on many of my routine duties. Would you please go through the outstanding tasks that require my personal attention and organize them so we might dispense with the bulk of them before our arrival at Okuda?" Tyce asked seriously.

"Yes Holy One." Oluf said, and Tyber noticed that Oluf seemed to be pleased by the declaration.

"Oh yes. I promised Vincent, the 'Voice of the Federation', that I would relay contact information to him... I suppose that I should gather similar contact information for Lehman, the 'Voice of Chameloids' and JonJon, the 'Voice of Androids'." Tyce said in thought.

"Shouldn't we make sure that they have the same access that Oscar does?" Tyber asked cautiously.

Tyce smiled and said, "Yes. But Oluf can arrange that at his leisure. It was necessary to make accommodations for Oscar right away so he could visit."

As if on cue, the tone sounded to indicate that someone was at the door.

"Yes?" Tyce responded casually.

"Holy One, the 'Voice of the Gorn' is here to meet with you." Captain Treas said diplomatically.

"Please show him in." Tyce said with a smile.

The door opened to reveal Oscar and Captain Treas standing side by side.

"It's good to see you again Oscar. Please sit and visit with us while Tyber's rooms are being prepared." Tyce said gently.

Oluf looked at Tyce quickly, then moved to the computer console to begin typing furiously.

Tyce noticed Oluf's movements then smiled as he turned his full attention to Tyber and Oscar.

"What do you think of our ship? It's quite a bit different than what you're used to, isn't it?" Tyce asked casually.

"Yes. The temperature is cooler than I am accustomed to, and the smell... forgive me Holy One." Oscar finished as he looked down.

"It's fine Oscar. J'Laad has mentioned that mammal species tend to have an odor that is unpleasant to Saurians." Tyce said gently.

"No. Not unpleasant, just.... different." Oscar hurried to explain.

"Really? J'Laad said that the scent of mammals was reminiscent of livestock." Tyce said frankly.

"Then perhaps it is because I have never been around livestock that I have not made that association." Oscar said frankly.

Tyce smiled as he said, "That sounds reasonable to me."

"Holy One, the Voice's belongings have been installed in his rooms. All preparations are complete." Oluf said quickly.

Tyce smiled and said, "Tyber, if you boys would like to go to your rooms and relax for a while, your rooms are ready."

"What about the messages for Vincent and the others?" Tyber asked cautiously.

"It's just contact information. I'll take care of it. Go on and relax. After the day you've had, you two have earned a rest." Tyce said gently.

Tyber looked at Oscar with question and received a nod as his response.

"Which way to my rooms?" Tyber asked Oluf seriously.

"Allow me to show you the way." Oluf said reverently.

Oscar looked at Tyber curiously.

"Tyce said that I'm equal to him now. So Oluf is treating me like I'm a Holy One." Tyber said as he slowly walked with Oscar to the door.

"It is good to be shown such respect. I must discuss this with my Holy One." Oscar said as the pair followed Oluf out of the room.

Tyce smiled at the door for a moment, then went to the computer and began to compose his message to Vincent.

* * * * *

"I hope that you will find these accommodations to be acceptable." Oluf said as he stood aside to allow Tyber and Oscar to precede him into the room.

Tyber looked around the room and froze when he saw a young man wearing priest's robes, standing just inside the door.

"This is Dengarvin. He will be your personal attendant. If you have any need, simply ask and he will see that it is provided." Oluf said seriously.

"Oh, um. Thanks Oluf." Tyber said, then looked at Oscar to see his reaction.

Oluf gave a quick, courteous bow, then withdrew from the room.

Tyber was about to speak when he noticed that Dengarvin was fighting, trying not to stare at Oscar.

"Dengarvin, this is Oscar, the 'Voice of the Gorn'. He is my guest." Tyber explained carefully.

"Is there anything I can provide to make you and your guest more comfortable?" Dengarvin asked in a nervous voice.

"I'm actually feeling a little bit hungry. How about you?" Tyber asked as he looked at Oscar with question.

"Yes. I think I am." Oscar said uncertainly.

"Is there anything special that you would like?" Dengarvin asked hopefully.

"No. I'm sure we'll like whatever you come up with." Tyber said, then looked at Oscar with question.

"Yes. Tyber is correct. Anything will be fine." Oscar said quickly.

"Would you prefer to dine with the crew, or here in your room?" Dengarvin asked cautiously.

"I think we'll eat here. That'll give everyone a little more time to get used to the idea of Oscar being here." Tyber said frankly.

"I will return with your food as quickly as possible." Dengarvin said as he started toward the door.

"Wait!" Tyber said, hoping to catch him before he ran out.

Dengarvin stopped and looked at Tyber with question.

"We're not starving. You can relax and take your time." Tyber said honestly.

"I'm sorry, I'm just a little nervous." Dengarvin said nervously.

"Please try to relax. You're doing fine." Tyber said assuringly.

Dengarvin nodded, then withdrew from the room.

* * * * *

"I wonder how Vincent and Lehman and JonJon are doing." Tyber said absently as he looked at the door.

"They're probably wondering how we're doing." Oscar said with a grin.

Tyber chuckled, then said, "I can't believe that I only met you this morning. I feel like I've known you for a thousand years."

"A hundred-thousand." Oscar said distantly.

Tyber quirked an eyebrow at the strange response.

Oscar giggled and pointed.

"What?" Tyber asked cautiously.

"That furry thing on your face... the way you just moved it..." Oscar said before breaking into giggles.

Tyber smiled and said, "It's an eyebrow and most of the time it kind of moves on it's own."

That response caused Oscar to laugh even harder.

Tyber felt himself drawn in by Oscar's infectious laughter.

When both boys had finally laughed themselves out, they laid back on the couch and stared off into the distance.

"It's a new beginning." Tyber said for no apparent reason.

Oscar nodded his agreement, then turned slightly as he said, "Yesterday I was a child and the future was impossibly far away. Today I am an adult and I have been officially named as an heir to the third estate and as the Trach Manja of the Gorn Empire."

"Yeah. Yesterday I was a child and I didn't even think about the future. I mean, I was going to be just like my dad. That was the best thing that I could dream of, there was never any doubt." Tyber said distantly.

"We do not have a path that has been laid out for us. We have to make our own path." Oscar said quietly.

"Maybe this is why my Holy One thought it would be good for us to be together right now. We can share what we're feeling because we're going through the same thing." Tyber said thoughtfully.

"Yes. I am glad to be here, my Holy One is so excited that the Trach Manja has arrived that he is making all kinds of preparations. He seems to have forgotten that I am here." Oscar said with amusement.

"I bet he'll be surprised when he notices that you're gone." Tyber said with a grin.

"Yes." Oscar said with a chuckle.

* * * * *

"Holy Voice... I mean Voice Tyber. I have your food." Dengarvin's voice said quickly through the comm.

"Come in." Tyber said with a smile.

The door opened to admit Dengarvin pushing a cart loaded with food.

"That was quick. I told you that you didn't have to rush." Tyber said slowly as he sat up.

"The food was nearly prepared. It is time for the midday meal." Dengarvin said as he moved the cart to the side of the room and began to lay the food out on a table.

"Dengarvin, would you do something for me?" Tyber asked quietly.

"Yes. What can I do for you?" Dengarvin asked quickly as he turned to devote his full attention to Tyber.

"Would you set yourself a place at the table and eat with us?" Tyber asked hopefully.

"But the high priest Oluf said that I am to serve you." Dengarvin said quickly.

"If you really want to serve me, be a real person who I can talk to. I'm afraid that my title will make it difficult to find people who will treat me like a person." Tyber said as he reflected on the things Audge had said about how Tyce was isolated by his duties.

"Of course I will do as you ask, but... are you sure?" Dengarvin asked hesitantly.

"Yes. I am very sure." Tyber said as he took a seat at the table, then continued, "And I would like it if, when we're alone like this, you'd call me Tyber."

"But I was told that you are the 'Voice of Okuda'. He who speaks for our people to the rest of the universe." Dengarvin said quickly.

"That's right, I am the 'Voice of Okuda'. But that's not all I am. I'm a person just like you. I eat, I sleep, I have people that I love. It would really mean a lot to me if you would treat me like a person."

"Thank you. I will try." Dengarvin said timidly.

"Dengarvin, you've already met Oscar, the 'Voice of the Gorn'." Tyber said as he indicated Oscar who was now at his side.

"It is an honor to meet you." Dengarvin said reverently as he bowed.

Oscar glanced at Tyber, then said, "Dengarvin. You don't have to bow to me."

"I simply wish to show my respect." Dengarvin said timidly.

"You may show me respect by treating me as a thinking and feeling being who is no better or worse than you are. Meaningful discussion can only be achieved among equals." Oscar said seriously.

"It looks like you're finished laying it out. Let's eat." Tyber said as he gestured to the table.

"Yes. Please. I hope you like the food that I selected for you." Dengarvin said in a rush.

Oscar looked at Tyber helplessly.

"Did you have anything else planned for the next few hours?" Tyber asked with a smile.

"No." Oscar replied cautiously.

"I think it's going to take both of us the entire meal to get Dengarvin to really understand what we're saying." Tyber said frankly.

Oscar looked over at the young priest, who seemed to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown, then said, "I enjoy a good challenge."

* * * * *

The meal went on longer than any of them would have guessed.

Dengarvin did seem to relax slightly and even ventured some opinions of his own before the meal was over.

Oscar and Tyber were both happy to have someone to spend time with who was completely outside their situation. It helped to take their minds off the enormity of the things that had happened earlier in the day.

But when the last of the food had been eaten, Dengarvin fell back into his subservient roll and began to load the empty dishes onto the serving cart.

Once the cart was loaded, Dengarvin quietly asked, "Is there anything I can get for either of you?"

Tyber glanced at Oscar with question, then said, "No. I can't think of anything."

Dengarvin gave a single nod, but didn't make any move to leave.

He seemed to be uncertain about what he was supposed to do next.

"I think we'd like to rest for a while. If you'll let me know where to contact you, you can have some time to relax and I'll call if we need anything." Tyber said slowly, hoping that the young priest would, indeed, relax.

Dengarvin walked to the communications console and keyed in a code.

"I will await your call in my cabin. You may call me at any time." Dengarvin said as he turned to face Tyber and Oscar.

"Okay. Thanks." Tyber said, then watched as Dengarvin pushed the serving cart out of the room.

* * * * *

"I wonder if I'll have someone like that to get things for me." Oscar said hesitantly as he looked at the door.

"I don't know. I think it depends on your Holy One." Tyber said speculatively.

"Perhaps it would be better if I didn't. I don't know that I would like the feeling of having someone being subservient to me." Oscar said cautiously.

"I know what you mean." Tyber said slowly as he walked across the room to sit on a large sofa.

Oscar watched Tyber sit down and seemed unsure of what he should do.

Tyber patted the cushion beside him, inviting Oscar to sit beside him, then said, "Maybe if I can get Dengarvin to relax a little bit, he could be more like a friend than a priest who is trying to serve me."

"Perhaps he would be able to relax more easily if I weren't here." Oscar said frankly.

Tyber looked at Oscar with surprise at the statement, then said, "I don't think so. I think this whole thing is as new to him as it is to us. Oluf probably told him that it was his job to take care of me, so now he's trying to sort out the best way to do that. I think that if we let him know it's okay to relax around us, he might be alright."

Oscar nodded his agreement, but Tyber noticed that his posture seemed to be slightly 'huddled'.

"Is the cold really uncomfortable for you?" Tyber asked with concern.

"Not terribly. I am simply not accustomed to it." Oscar said carefully.

Tyber looked around, then said, "I'll be right back. Give me a second."

Oscar watched as Tyber hurried out of the main room.

* * * * *

"Let's try this." Tyber said as he carried a heavy blanket with him to the couch.

Oscar looked at him curiously, then seemed to understand what the blanket was for.

"My people do not generate body heat the same way that yours do." Oscar said cautiously.

"Really?" Tyber asked with surprise as he took his seat on the couch beside Oscar.

"So wrapping myself in that will do little to alleviate the cold." Oscar continued in an apologetic tone.

"Maybe not, but I still think I can help." Tyber said as he took the blanket and draped it over Oscar's shoulders.

As Oscar was about to protest, due to the pointlessness of the action, Tyber draped the rest of the blanket over his own shoulders, then pulled Oscar into a hug.

"I don't understand..." Oscar began to say, then a smile came over his face as he whispered, "You're warm."

"Yup." Tyber said as he snuggled even closer to Oscar and pulled the blanket tighter around them.

Oscar moved his arm so that he was returning Tyber's hug, then closed his eyes as he felt Tyber's body heat slowly warming his skin.

The combination of a full belly and a warm embrace started to work it's magic on both the boys.

With half lidded eyes, Oscar quietly said, "This is nice."

* * * * *

After an undetermined time of just sitting and hugging, Tyber finally said, "I wonder why all our people can't be like this for each other."

"Because the Holy One has declared that your people are lesser beings." Oscar said absently.

"Lesser beings?" Tyber asked curiously.

Oscar snuggled in a little bit closer and said, "I think it was the only way that we could be neighbors without fighting."

"How is that?" Tyber asked curiously.

"The Okudai aren't fighters. They aren't technologically advanced and really don't have any significant resources of interest to the Gorn Empire. If we were to invade your space, we'd almost certainly conquer you, but... what then? We'd end up with an inhabited planetary system that we'd have to occupy and govern. It would be an endless drain of our resources with no discernible benefit." Oscar said distantly.

"So the Holy One said that we're 'lesser beings' than the Gorn, so that everyone would accept that it's not worth the bother." Tyber asked, trying to find a way not to be insulted on behalf of his people.

"I think so. The Holy One doesn't explain himself to me, but it seems reasonable." Oscar said quietly.

"Yeah. I guess it does." Tyber said in thought.

"If we were on my ship, I would offer to take you to the bathing pool. I think soaking in a pool of warm water would be very relaxing right now." Oscar said, effectively changing the subject.

"Let's see if we have a tub. We may be able to do that." Tyber said, then before Oscar could object, he got out from under the blanket and walked out of the main room again.

* * * * *

Oscar heard and unusual sound, like running water, from the room Tyber had entered. Then, a moment later, Tyber walked out and said, "I think you're really going to like this, but you should probably adjust the water temperature so it's comfortable for you."

"You have your own bathing pool?" Oscar asked hesitantly.

"Yeah. Just a little one. It's called a bath tub." Tyber said, then motioned for Oscar to join him.

Slowly, Oscar shifted the blanket off his shoulders, then walked to join Tyber in the doorway.

"Go ahead and check get the water to the temperature you like." Tyber said as Oscar approached.

Oscar walked into the bathroom and to the tub where water was flowing.

"Is this okay with you?" Tyber asked hopefully.

After a moment to adjust the water to be slightly warmer, Oscar said, "Yes. Although my people do not usually have private bathing pools."

"So what do you have? Community bathhouses?" Tyber asked as he began to undress.

Oscar noticed what he was doing and began to do the same as he said, "Yes. My family, the third estate, provides bathing facilities for each of the communities that are under our protection. The other estates do the same for their people."

"I've heard that the Okudai used to do something like that, but now it's more common for people to have their own tubs." Tyber said as he folded his clothes, then walked to the edge of the tub.

Oscar casually glanced at Tyber then his eyes went wide as he looked at Tyber's groin.

"What?" Tyber asked cautiously.

"I never... I didn't..." Oscar stammered.

Tyber looked down at himself, then back at Oscar with question.

"We are not... the same." Oscar said as he pulled down the loose fitting pants he was wearing.

Tyber blinked at what he saw... or more accurately, didn't see.

"Where's your penis?" Tyber finally asked.

"Pouched." Oscar said frankly.

Tyber dragged his gaze up to meet Oscar's amused eyes, then he hesitantly asked, "What does that mean?"

Oscar smiled at the question, then reached over to feel the temperature of the water.

"Let's get into the water, then I'll explain." Oscar said gently.

"Okay." Tyber said, then slowly began to put his foot into the water.

"Too hot?" Oscar asked with concern.

"No. It'll just take me a few seconds to adjust to it." Tyber said as he slowly lowered more of his leg into the water.

Oscar watched for a moment longer to be sure that Tyber wasn't going to be uncomfortable, then climbed into the tub to join him.

* * * * *

"So you were going to tell me about 'pouched'." Tyber said as he settled in beside Oscar in the tub.

"I have basically the same genitalia that you do, but mine recedes into a pouch when it is not in use." Oscar said frankly.

"Where?" Tyber asked curiously.

Oscar had to move a little to gain his balance, but finally stood in the tub and pointed to a barely noticeable dip in his lower abdomen that looked something like a navel.

"Oh, wow." Tyber began to say, then froze when the tiniest trace of pink could be seen, peeking out.

"Is that..." Tyber started to ask, then froze again as a teeny bit more emerged.

Oscar followed Tyber's gaze, then quickly dropped down into the water.

"What's wrong?" Tyber asked cautiously.

"That..." Oscar started to say, then seemed to want to approach the topic from another direction, "What I just did, I shouldn't have done it."

"Why not?" Tyber asked carefully.

"Because, to expose myself to you in that way, it is an invitation... no, a promise..." Oscar said with difficulty.

"So you just... what? Said that you want to marry me or something?" Tyber asked carefully.

"No. Well not precisely. But it could be taken to mean that I am offering myself for courting." Oscar said hesitantly.

"Oh, okay. I think I get it." Tyber said as he relaxed back into the warm water.

Oscar seemed to be uncertain that he had explained it well enough.

"Since we're built different, I asked you to show me. You did. And I guess me looking at you and making you think about it caused your 'little guy' to wake up some."

"Not that little." Oscar said in a growl.

Tyber smiled, and continued, "Fine. The 'big guy' woke up and peeked at me and that freaked you out a little because it was like your people's way of saying that you want to date."

Oscar slowly nodded that Tyber understood correctly.

"So, if you're not interested, just say it and we'll forget that it ever happened. Just think of it as one of those weird things that sometimes happens when Humans and Saurians bathe together." Tyber said with gentle smile.

"Thank you." Oscar said with relief.

"But you still need to say it." Tyber said with a grin.

"Say what?" Oscar asked hesitantly.

"Say that you're not interested in me... you know, like a boyfriend." Tyber said simply.

Oscar seemed to consider for a moment, then nodded that he agreed that it needed to be done.

"Tyber. I'm not..." Oscar trailed off as he looked deeply into Tyber's eyes.

"I'm not able to say that I don't like you... because I do." Oscar finished in a trembling voice.

"Good. Because I think I feel that way about you too." Tyber said shyly.

"Really?" Oscar asked with surprise.

"Yeah. Really." Tyber said timidly, then barely restrained a giggle.

"Do your people have a taboo against mating with Saurians?" Oscar asked cautiously.

"Not that I know of, but I don't know if anyone ever even thought of it." Tyber said honestly.

Oscar nodded as he thought about what they were about to do.

"What about your people?" Tyber asked cautiously.

"What about them?" Oscar asked as he tried to devote his full attention to Tyber again.

"Do your people have a taboo against mating with mammals?" Tyber asked cautiously.

Oscar considered for a moment, then said, "Not really. The only thing I can think of is when my father used to tell me not to play with my food."

Tyber stared at Oscar for a moment, then slowly broke into a grin.

"My people will never be able to accept us." Oscar said with regret as he moved so close that Tyber could feel the breath of Oscar's words on his skin.

"Mine probably won't either." Tyber said as he moved forward to close the distance even more.

Oscar nodded slightly, obviously disheartened by the words.

"But we're Trach Manjas." Tyber said with a hopeful smile.

Oscar met Tyber's gaze with an expression of surprise.

"We're not them." Tyber said in a whisper.

"We're Trach Manjai. Above all houses and castes." Oscar said as joy infused his expression.

Tyber moved to close the last few centimeters between them when the sound of an incoming transmission came from the main room.

* * * * *

As Tyber hurried out of the bathroom, he thought about who might be calling him.

He didn't have any reason to believe it was his father... and yet, he couldn't deny that it was possible.

As his bare bottom hit the chair, he remembered that he was completely naked.

Although he would prefer to put some clothing on, he didn't want to keep his caller waiting.

After a quick glance around, he pressed the key to accept the incoming transmission.

"Is everything okay Tyber?" JonJon asked with concern.

From the prickly sensations on his face, Tyber was certain that he must be blushing.

"Yeah. Fine. You just caught me while I was, um... taking a bath." Tyber said reluctantly as he glanced back toward the bathroom.

Oscar called in the Gorn language, {"If it is not an emergency, tell them you will call them back. It's getting cold without you."}

Tyber felt the prickling of his blush return as he nervously asked, "What's going on guys?"

Vincent smiled as he said, "We needed to talk to Tyce. Is he around?"

"I'm sure he is in his suite of rooms. I'll connect you." Tyber said quickly, hit the control to put the transmission on hold.

"Communications, would you please direct this call to The Holy One?" Tyber said into the comm.

"Yes. Right away." The communications worker said efficiently.

{"It's getting cold."} Oscar growled from the bathroom.

"I'll be right there to warm it up." Tyber said as he walked toward the bathroom.

To Be Continued...