Leona R Wisoker
Sihco Tenne rested a slender hand on the head of his first born child and carefully restrained himself–this time–from ripping out great chunks of Na’tenn’s fine, pale hair.
“You’ve upset your mother again,” he observed. “I thought we talked about that.”
Na’tenn stayed kneeling before his father, not moving a muscle. The carpets that covered the steel deck meant that Tenne wouldn’t hear Apet, the boy’s mother, complaining about bruised knees, but that seemed a small mercy at the moment. He’d learned to live with more than bruised knees when he’d upset his father, gods be blessed; it had probably done him good. Na’tenn hadn’t lived through nearly enough bruises yet, that was the trouble. He didn’t understand about pain . . . and there was so much pain in the world, and it took so many forms.
“You’ll have to apologize,” Tenne said.
Na’tenn’s head twitched, just a little, the rebellion he didn’t dare voice betraying itself in his muscles. “I didn’t do it, Sihco,” he muttered, a further rebellion. Tenne wondered if all parents went through this trouble with their firstborn in the time before the manhood ceremony.
Tenne sighed, then lifted his hand. “I’ve heard that before.”
“It was true then too.” Na’tenn sat back on his heels, scowling at the carpet. “There’s a shena on board, Sihco. I can feel it.”
“There is not. There were forbidden, and the gahoo have warded the ship against them. You are being foolish,” Tenne said, as he had told the boy nearly every cycle, it seemed, since their journey across the Infinite Dark began. “Na’tenn, a Sihco must take responsibility–“
“–for his actions, and not blame them on another. I know. A Sihco also must tell the truth, and I am!”
Tenne shook his head. “Report to gahoo Amemn,” he said. “You need another reminder about respecting one’s elders.” Na’tenn’s chin began to rise in stubborn protest; before he could lose himself so much as to meet his father’s eyes, Tenne barked: “Go! Now!”
The boy scrambled to his feet and fled the room, thin limbs flailing with youthful awkwardness. Although the doorway irised open well ahead of his arrival, and spanned considerably wider than arm’s reach, he still managed to catch his elbow against the doorframe on the way out. Tenne put a hand over his eyes and sighed.
The door hissed faintly as the dragon-panels slid together: a sound of air cycling, of pressure being regulated. Tenne made a mental note to call the head mechanic, Rrull, to look at the door; it shouldn’t be making any noise. Tenne sighed again. He and his court lived in a world of mechanical marvels, surrounded by science; surrounded, even more palpably, by space. And his son insisted on speaking about demons and ghosts and shenae. He was frightening everyone on board, upsetting the women, making everyone’s life so much more difficult.
Why couldn’t he just be quiet?
“This is getting ridiculous,” Tenne said aloud, leaning back in his chair. “Turning Apet’s favorite dress green and pink? Was that really necessary?”
“It amused me,” a soft voice said behind him. A cool hand slid across the back of Tenne’s neck, where the short-cropped hair bristled. He shivered and sat still, eyes half-closed. “As does seeing you continue to pretend I don’t exist….”