Anyway, because I'm feeling guilty about the fact that it's been more than two months since I posted the last chapter and I have no idea how much longer it'll take for me to finish this one, here's the first scene from Chapter 8 as a preview (for those on my flist who read it). I have no worries about it spoiling anything since a whole lot of other stuff will be happening in the rest of the chapter. And since I don't think I've actually linked to my fanfic in my journal yet, go here if you would like to read the whole thing from the beginning.
Boota walked down the hall, feet leading him down a familiar path while his eyes went over the report in his hand. They had just entered a new solar system the other day, which according to Lord Genome's memories, had once been the site of a devastating battle in the old wars. In the thousand years since, the leftover carnage floating in space had formed a long asteroid belt, and they were now sifting through the space rock and debris in search of any new (technically old) technology.
Occasionally they came across a spacecraft that was still somewhat intact, which they collected for further studying. The report he read now were observations taken on one of those spacecraft, a Spiral machine of unknown origin. It looked to be some kind of weapon, and the more scientifically-minded members of the crew were trying to figure out how it worked. Of course, once Simon took a look at it, his first thought would probably be to just stick his Core Drill inside and see if anything happens.
Boota looked up from the report just as he nearly bumped into someone in the hall. He mumbled an apology, then turned toward the captain’s quarters.
The first thing he saw when the door opened was the Anti-Spiral Messenger's long curly hair. She was sitting on the desk, her back turned to the door as she leaned in toward Simon, who was in his chair talking to her.
Boota had to suppress a territorial oink that suddenly rose up from some remaining animalistic part of his brain. It was stupid. Just because he used to sit in that exact same spot when he was a pigmole. It was a good thing she wasn’t small enough to sit on Simon’s shoulder, or he might have truly lost it.
Just then, he heard voices in conversation behind him. Two crewmembers were walking down the hall right at that moment, passing by the room. Boota quickly entered and slammed his hand on the door panel so it would close.
Simon stopped talking and finally tore his eyes from the Messenger to look his way. "What's up?" The Messenger also turned her head to glance back.
Boota sighed. They had no idea just how close they had come to being found out. It was partly his fault as well for being absent-minded and not checking to make sure the hall was empty first, but it was difficult to become accustomed to being so sneaky inside their own ship.
He hadn't failed to notice that the Messenger had been spending more time here lately. In fact, he couldn't recall a time in the past few days that she wasn't here when Simon was, looking increasingly at home in the captain's quarters each time he saw her. And she had ceased to appear during battles completely.
He also hadn't failed to notice the visible changes in their attitudes. The Messenger now sported a variety of different expressions, making her seem almost human. And Simon hadn't been this relaxed in another person's company in years. At times, he even looked happy.
And though Boota felt reluctant to shake his friend out of a rare good mood, the euphoria was blinding him to certain things, and Boota considered it his duty to watch out for such problems.
He walked over, dropping the report on the desk, and cleared his throat. "May I make a suggestion?"
"Perhaps you two should make an effort to be more...discrete."
"Yes. Really, it's a wonder you haven't been discovered already."
"Then what do you suggest? Hiding her under the desk?" Simon said jokingly.
"Do you really plan on having her stay here all the time?"
"Where else? It's accessible. You're the only other person who ever comes in here without my permission."
"Yes, but many people pass by this room. They could see or hear things. How about finding someplace else to meet in?"
Simon raised an eyebrow. "Such as...?"
"Your sleeping quarters, for example. No one goes in there." Simon actually did have a separate room with his own bed, but it was hardly ever used, as he preferred sleeping in his chair in the captain's quarters. Boota was aware of him only using it in his past excursions with Yoko.
"You worry about noise and then you suggest that?"
"Ah. Point taken."
The two of them thought hard. The Messenger looked slightly confused.
"How about my room—"
"I wouldn't lay a hand on her, I swear—"
"NO." Simon was adamant. Honestly, there was nothing to worry about. Boota had long since learned to keep his hands to himself (oh, how he longed for the days when he didn't need hands).
The Messenger was now giving them both suspicious looks. "What are you two talking about...?"
Boota coughed and looked away. "Nothing."
Simon leaned back, hands behind his head. "Well, it's a big enough ship. It wouldn't be too difficult to find a place. But it'd be such a bother..."
"Do you plan on continuing to see each other like this for some time?" Boota asked.
Simon and the Messenger blinked at the question. They looked at each other. Then, smiling, they both answered with a simultaneous "Yes."
Well, at least they were being honest with their feelings now.
"Then perhaps it's by time you let the rest of the crew know about your relationship? Wouldn't that make things easier?"
There was a tangible change in atmosphere after the question. Silence settled in the room as he waited for an answer.
The smile had faded from Simon's face. He sat up straight and said to the Messenger, "Nia. Could you leave us alone for a few minutes?"
"Simon?" The Messenger looked surprised and— fearful?
"Just a few minutes. There's something I want to discuss with him." He reached up and brushed his hand against her hair reassuringly.
A hint of sadness came into the Messenger's eyes, but she nodded. Seconds later, she was gone.
"That wasn't entirely necessary." Boota felt unsettled by the look on the Messenger's face. Just moments ago he had been exasperated by her constant presence, but somehow, telling the Messenger to leave seemed akin to throwing a dying puppy out into the rain.
"No, I'm afraid it is." Simon didn't look happy about it either. He folded his hands in front of him with a frown, then admitted, "I took her to see Lord Genome."
Boota's mouth dropped open a little. So he'd already let her in that close...
"I had to do it," said Simon seriously, and that was all the explanation needed between them.
"...Do you consider her trustworthy?"
"Then what is there to worry about?"
"Whether I trust her or not isn't the problem, unfortunately. Any information she gets is transmitted to the Anti-Spirals unwillingly. They might not know of it now, but we need to assume that they will."
"And that is why you sent her away? So they wouldn't know what we are discussing?"
"Right. And that's why I can't let the rest of the crew know about her."
Boota said nothing.
Simon wore a bitter smile. "I can't exactly expect them to just accept the fact that I willingly let the enemy into our biggest secret, can I?"
And here lay the biggest problem, Boota knew. Both Simon and the crew held a certain lack of trust towards the other. They trusted each other as far as getting the job done, but any kind of true friendship died out years before. Yoko had been the last link. And now Simon alienated her as well.
"But once the Anti-Spirals find out about Lord Genome, the fact that they know may become apparent to the rest of the crew. What do you plan to say to them then?"
"I'll be honest. I have no fucking idea."
This didn't come as too much of a surprise.
"I've been thinking about it. I really have. But this whole thing...wasn't supposed to happen. It's a lot easier when I'm just blowing things up, you know?" Simon laughed a little, shaking his head at the irony. "I think that this time...I might really be in over my head."
Coming from him, that was as good as a plead for help.
"I'll continue keeping an eye out on the crew. But I think you should tell them. Things will only get worse the longer you keep it secret."
Simon looked grim. "I have too many secrets."