Insufficient Mating Material (recovery room)
- Ark Imperial, Recovery Room
Djetth was aware of a threat.
He could hear a gruff voice like the rumbling of distant thunder.
Sounds were muffled, like falling snow. There was cottony stuff over
His eyes wouldnât open, but he knew someone was in his room.
Drifting in and out of consciousness made him all too vulnerable, damn
it. Even when he was half awake, he couldnât force his limbs to move.
The pain was tolerable. It was no worse than a hangover all over. That
was the drugs. Fewmet, he was as helpless as a baby.
He heard a closer sound, a sharp indrawn breath. Slack-damn, he
couldnât see, couldnât turn his head.
Oh, shit, there were two of them.
âPrince Djarrhett! Didnât see you, Sir. Sorry to disturb you.â
Neck bones clicked. The surprised one must have turned his head.
âYou may call me âRhett. Iâve no plans to use my rank to save a
Worldâ"or a lifeâ"without bloodshed tonight.â
So âRhett was there. Double talking bastard! So, he had no plans to
not shed blood? Whose blood was he planning to shed tonight? What was
he up to? Fratricide, perhaps?
Someone with human body odor was too damned close to his bloody bed.
And the insensitive bastard was bending closer.
âThose arenât nail clippers on a cord around his neck, are they, Sir?â
Grievous! Only Tarrant-Arragonâs right hand man went around calling
Princes and title-stealing impostors Sir. What was Grievous up to?
âTheyâre wire cutters, Grievous. I imagine there is a limit to how
advanced medicine can be. Djetthâs broken jaw is not only braced by
the half mask, but wired shut. If he had to vomit, the wires would
have to be cut immediately, or heâd die.â
âThatâs bad, Sir.â
Too damned right.
âGiving Djetth the means to get himself chunk-blowing drunk could also
Good of you to say so, âRhett. Thatâs exactly the sort of thing I want
my enemies and future in-laws to know. Perhaps youâd like to point out
that an involuntary mouthful or two of wine could choke me while Iâm
in this helpless state? Grievous might not have thought of that.
Slackness damn you, âRhett!
âHeâll have what youâd call a âglass jawâ for quite a while,â âRhett
continued unconcernedly. âThe rigid half mask will give him some
protection for the next month or so. Nevertheless, heâll have to swear
off fistfights, and give up getting wall-banging drunk. He canât
afford to get his jaw broken again.â
âSo, youâre saying he has a drinking problem, Sir? I dare say heâs not
happy with his life.â
No shit, Grievous!
âI guess not,â âRhett agreed.
Psycho-bloody-analyze me, do! Djetthâs brain flick-flacked
unpleasantly. If heâd been drunk but not incapable, at this point heâd
chug down two long glasses of the nearest alien equivalent of orange
juice to counter the imminent mind-somersaults.
How the Carnality had the topic turned to boozing, anyâ¦? Djetth felt
his brain take a dive. Wheeee!
No way to stop himself from cartwheeling back into unconsciousness. No
~ * ~
âWhat were you planning to do with whatever youâve got behind your
back, Grievous?â âRhett asked in a deceptively sweet,
Tarrant-Arragonian tone of voice.
He twirled his nasty little knife through his long, flexible fingers,
as though it were a ballpoint pen-sized baton.
âI thought Iâd crack open a bottle.â Grievous held up a swanâs neck
shaped bottle as if it were a large silver passport at a corrupt
Still seated, âRhett held out his hand for the bottle. Heâd decided
that Grievous would drink whatever was in it, but there was no
advantage in being uncivilized.
âGotcha, Sir.â Grievous left the foot of Djetthâs bed and handed over
the bottle. âI dare say that might not have been such a good idea, if
he doesnât hold his drink well.â
âRhett inclined his head, and deftly sliced the top off Grievousâs
bottle with his very sharp surgical knife, releasing a pungent
fragrance that reminded him of sweet fennel seed and heavy duty
âI remember the time you came to visit me with a bottle of wine,
Grievous. You hoped to loosen my tongue, as I recall. Youâd arrested
me, thinking I was Djinniâs troublemaking fiancÃ©.â
They exchanged conspiratorial smiles.
âAnd you, Sir, were willing to be tortured or put to death in his
place rather than let on that you werenât him.â Grievous jerked his
head, indicating the sleeping Djetth. âI never figured out what
possessed you to be so noble.â
âRhett never revealed information without a very good reason to do so.
He thought he had one. Djetth could use a sympathizer in his enemyâs
camp, and the Englishman had potential, if only because of the English
fondness for underdogs, dark horses, and noble men.
âHe is my big brother.â Having lobbed an informational bombshell,
Rhett ducked for cover, and reached for a stack of paper receptacles.
âDid you think to bring Djetth a flexible drinking straw, Grievous?
No? Then, weâll drink it. Pull out a pallet.â
âRhett nodded to one of the pull-out drawers, and swiveled his own
segmented chair to face away from Djetthâs bed.
âHis brother, Sir?â
Near silence descended apart from the thick glug of wine as âRhett
unhurriedly poured the first slug into one of the paper bowls left for
the patientâs use.
Without rising from his seat, he passed the first bowl of acid green
liquid to Grievous, who took it and sat down.
âYour Great Djinn relationships confuse me,â Grievous grumbled. âNot
so many days ago, you told us youâre Princess Djinni-veraâs brotherâ"â
âI apologize if I misspoke, Grievous. To be strictly accurate, Djetth
and I are half-brothers. He and I had the same mother. We are also
cousins because Djetthâs father and mine were half-brothers.â
âRhett poured a bowl for himself before continuing. âDjinni-vera and I
had the same father but different mothers, so Djinni is my
half-sister. Her mother, as I think you know, was an Englishwoman.â
In referring to his and Djinniâs sire, âRhett used the past tense
misleadingly. If Djinni hadnât told anyone that their rogue Djinn
father was alive, let alone that their sire was the male behind the
Dragon headmask worn by Tarrant-Arragonâs greatest enemy, then he
wasnât about to do so.
âYour very good health, Grievous.â âRhett set the bottle down at his
feet, then raised his paper bowl to his lips and tilted it. The
opacity of the paper and the shape of the bowl made it impossible for
Grievous to tell whether or not heâd drunk any.
Grievous took the first sip, then another. Almost immediately, the
manâs personal, nervous aroma mellowed.
âIncestuous lot, you Great Djinn,â he remarked, glaring suspiciously
over his bent shoulder at Djetth. âSo, he was all fired up to marry
his half-brotherâs half-sister.â
âOh, absolutely,â âRhett agreed cordially in a very uppercrust English
drawl, as he swirled his wine in its full paper bowl.
âMy dear fellow, you must bear a couple of facts in mind. We Djinn are
almost extinct. Great Djinn males are highly sexed. Moreover, our
exiled ancestors were granted conditional sanctuary on Earth. The
condition was that we donât interbreed with Earthwomen.â
âI see. That explains the little missâs mother.â Grievousâs sarcasm
It was also entirely justified.
âYour own Anglo-American taboos are relatively recent, Grievous. Think
of the Egyptian pharaohs. They practised sister-marriage, even though
they werenât on the edge of extinction.â
âRhett bent from the waist and set his full bowl on the floor at his
feet beside the silver bottle.
âMy half-Earthling, half-sister was the last virgin of the Imperial
blood line. Virginity is more important to Royalty than it is to
commoners. It was inevitable that Djetth, being the oldest, would
claim herâ¦ in the sense of an early, formal, legally binding
betrothal. He was betrothed to her since she was eighteen months old.â
âRhett threw out carefully chosen information like shark bait. He was
fishingâ¦ for a friend for Djetth.
From Grievousâs body language, âRhett could tell that the man was
reluctantly drawn in by a side of Djetthâs story he hadnât heard before.
âDjetth was honorably waiting for Djinni to reach legal Mating ageâ"not
always synonymous with marriageable ageâ"when Tarrant-Arragon sneaked
through the exclusion zone around Earth and bagged her before her
birthday. Can you imagine how Djetth must have felt to lose her and
everything that went with her, after waiting nearly sixteen years for
âWell, when you put it like thatâ"â Grievous stood, as if agitated.
âSixteen years. Thatâs quite a time.â
Still standing, Grievous brought the paper bowl to his mouth and
tossed back the wine as if it were a shot of vodka.
âI lost my wife to another man,â he said gruffly, glaring into his
emptied wine bowl. âI half killed the bastard when I found out. Ruined
my military career. Well, he was my commanding officer. In prison, it
helped to have a âhardâ handle. Thatâs when I began to call myself
Grievous, after my crime. See, I did the bastard Grievous Bodily Harm.â
âHave another,â âRhett said gently. He took up the bottle by its long
neck and reached over to refill Grievousâs empty bowl. âSit back down.â
In thoughtful silence, they each stared at Djetth, whose regular
breathing was interspersed with dreaming grunts of discomfort.
âItâs all over, then?â Grievous turned a statement of the obvious into
âRhett had doubts of his own.
Surgery was over. The patient had survived. As for the rivalry between
Prince Tarrant-Arragon and Prince Djetthro-Jason, that might be far
âHe wonât thank you.â Grievous glanced again at the unconscious Djetth.
âNo,â âRhett agreed wryly. âHeâs not one for gracious speeches, even
if he could speak. Did you have any specific reason in mind?â
âCastration for a kick-off. Poor bastard.â
Grievous had not been in the Operating Theater. Being human, he
apparently didnât understand the difference between the sensory
neutering of a Great Djinn and the crude removal of bollocks.
âRhett rested his elbows on his knees and steepled his fingers.
âYou didnât think Tarrant-Arragon means to Mate his lonely
younger sister to a physical eunuch, did you, Grievous? That would be
a dirty trick.â
âThen, what the dickensâ¦?â
âLet me explain about the rut-rage, and Djinn male anatomy. The truly
dangerous organ is not the penis or the testicles. It is a little
moth-shaped gland in the sinus area.â
âRhett stroked the sides of his nose with his index fingers to
indicate where his would be, if he still had it.
âA fully functioning Great Djinn male can smell an ovulating Djinn
female from the equivalent of fifty Earth miles away, if the wind is
in the right direction.â
âRhett smiled at Grievousâs expression.
âLegend has it that a male falls irrevocably and permanently in love
at first scent with the first ovulating female he smells.â
âBefore he sees her?â
âExactly. Sight unseen. It is a fatal flaw in our Djinn evolution.
Another is that Great Djinn alpha-males do not share Mates. They donât
accept substitutes. They fight to the death to have and hold the first
one they smell.â
âHold on, though. Crown Prince Tarrant-Arragon and Prince
Djetthro-Jason didnât smell the same girl,â Grievous interjected.
The human caught on fast, too fast.
âConfusing, isnât it?â âRhett agreed.