The end of the day found Jol at home in the kitchen with his clanmates. Three times a week, they gave their house staff the day off. That meant cooking for themselves, a task the trio enjoyed.
The room was massive, as befitting a colony governor who might have cause to entertain visitors and dignitaries. Banks of prep tables, ovens, coolers, and kitchen tools spanned an area as large as Iris Jenson’s entire home. Yet the three men worked close together, preferring close companionship after being apart all day.
Jol found himself relaxing into the sociable quiet as he fed chunks of seasoned beef and pork into the grinder. He was in charge of the main dish tonight, a meat pie. A Native American Earther named Quinn who lived at the far edge of the colony had given them the recipe, along with instructions on how to make the corn soup Ospar was preparing and the fried bread Rivek mixed dough for. Quinn practiced a traditional belief system remarkably similar to the Kalquorian Book of Life’s philosophies. He was one of the few Earthers who wasn’t guarded around Kalquorians. He indulged in long discussions with Jol’s Imdiko, who happened to be the head priest for Haven’s Temple of Life.
Thinking about Earthers made Jol reflect on his afternoon. Saving the boy Thomas from being run down had been on the edge of his consciousness all evening. Thomas and Iris Jenson. A most captivating pair. Two people he hadn’t been able to put out of his mind no matter how many distractions had demanded his attention since leaving their home. Thomas, with his big brown eyes that riveted with such precise attention on whatever claimed his fancy. Iris, her ocean blue eyes swimming with tears that came far too easily as she watched her son.
His tone mild, Jol said, “You will be receiving a complaint from Governor Hoover tomorrow, Ospar.”
Standing on Jol’s left, the Dramok snorted. “I receive complaints from him every day, my Nobek.”
Jol smiled. Earther Governor Hoover was Kalquorian Governor Ospar’s least favorite part of his job. The uneasy mix of an Earther colony within the Kalquorian Empire had the two leaders at each others’ throats more often than not. Hoover was always insisting on less Kalquorian influence over the Earthers, even when such would be detrimental to his people.
Ospar unleashed a theatrical sigh as he measured spices to go into the soup. “What will be his particular issue this time?”
“I had an Earther’s shuttle impounded and his permit to pilot revoked. The fool nearly ran down a child.”
He sensed both his clanmates pause in their work. Ospar turned to him. “A child?”
Jol switched off the meat grinder and regarded his clanmate of 26 years. Ospar’s handsome face was missing its easy smile, the smile that so often disarmed opponents during his long political career. Ospar not wearing his charming expression was always a bad sign. It usually meant he was only moments from finding someone to throw across the room.
A flicker of anger warmed Jol’s chest, thinking about the afternoon’s close call. “A six-year-old boy. One with sensory impairments that led to him being in the middle of a travel lane. The area is clearly marked to all traffic that a child with a disability lives there. The offender was driving his shuttle too fast with all warning devices disabled.”
Ospar’s bright purple eyes narrowed, his wide nostrils flared, and his square jaw tightened. “Did you happen to pound some sense into the offender’s head while you were at it?”
“I thought for the cause of peace between the colonists and ourselves that it was best to refrain.”
The Dramok grimaced. It never failed to amuse Jol that a man whose career hinged on compromise had to be reminded often to do so. But in this instance, Ospar’s instinct to squash bad men could be excused, what with a child involved.
“Pity. But a wise decision,” Ospar finally said, clearly hating his own words. He raked a hand through his shoulder-length black hair.
To Jol’s right, their Imdiko spoke up. His mild tone betrayed none of the concern he no doubt felt. “Where were the child’s parents?”
“There is only the mother. Iris Jenson.” Jol was profoundly aware of how his mouth formed the woman’s name. He saw again her tear-bright blue eyes, her pretty but too worried face, the strands of golden hair escaping from its messy ponytail and the woven brown cap on her head. He swallowed, wondering what she was doing at this moment.
He made himself meet Rivek’s sharp eyes, eyes that were usually soft and warm. His Imdiko’s strong, chiseled features were framed by braids twisted into the forward part of his ankle-length hair. Even out of his long temple robes, any Kalquorian would know instantly they were speaking to a priest. What they wouldn’t realize was they were dealing with a man who was every bit as dangerous as most Nobeks. Fortunately, Rivek didn’t have to display that side too often. For the most part, he was a gentle Imdiko whose very presence could calm most agitated minds.
Jol told him, “She was present and looking out for her son, but unable to retrieve Thomas in time. It was no fault of hers.”
“I’m sure she was appropriately grateful for your help.” Ospar’s sarcasm came out with little bite. They were all used to Earthers, particularly women, keeping as much distance as possible between themselves and Kalquorian men.
“She thanked me profusely.”
“Really?” That brought back Ospar’s smile as he returned to his cooking. It made him look boyish, even younger than Rivek who was ten years his junior. “Sometimes they surprise me.”