Immodest Proposal by Felicitas Ivey

January 16, 2015

Title: Immodest Proposal

Author: Felicitas Ivey

Pairing: Hagar and Shibito from A Modest Proposal

Prompt: drink

They arrived at Dunmore station and docked. Shibito shivered involuntarily, remembering his time here.

Hagar looked down at him, “The Serpent’s gotten a new registration and a bit of an upgrade, thanks to your people. We don’t have to worry about the authorities because of the way we left, because they don’t know it’s us.”

The ship was now called the Loose Goose. There were a couple of different registrations and names for the ship now, and all from places nowhere near the Nipponese Imperium.

“It was so confusing here,” Shibito murmured, thinking about the first time he had seen the station. “So many minds.”

He unconsciously leaned against Hagar, sighing when the other man put his arms around him. “You’re better now,” Hagar rumbled. “You got that under control. We can talk to Mama to see what he knows.”

“That’s if he even recognizes us,” Shibito said.

It wasn’t just the ship that had gotten an upgrade. Both of them were dressed like high-level freelancers, in expensive business suits. Hagar looked both wonderful and uncomfortable at the same time.

“I feel silly,” Hagar said, as if he could read his mind.

“No one would believe you would be interested in the slave trade if you wore your normal clothing,” Shibito explained to him. “We now look like the kind of men who would buy helpless people.”

Hagar’s reply was to hug him harder.

“Mama or his computer will give us the information we need,” Shibito said softly.

He didn’t add that after this was all over, Hagar could come back to Dunmore if he wanted to. He didn’t know if he wanted that. Hagar seemed to be the one person he could let his guard down around. If he remained emperor, he would need the man due to what the Chozyume had done to him. It was an anti-psionic drug that he had been dosed with by his mad cousin, since the man thought he had been a threat to him. He had been the more powerful psionic and had had a better claim to the throne. He hadn’t been up until then. He had been a shy scholar, more interested in hunting knowledge then power. He still wasn’t interested in the power, even if he could claim the Imperial throne. Shibito wondered idly if he could just stay with Hagar and ignore his obligations for once. Well, after he rescued all the cousins Kōgon had sent into space, because they were a more powerful psionics than he had been, and he wanted them out of his way too.

“We’ll get them back,” Hagar whispered in his right ear, before kissing it.

“I hope so,” Shibito said softly. “In what condition is what I’m afraid of.” He took a deep breath. “Shun’ei’s sixteen. Aoi had never even been off planet. Midori….”

Six lives ruined because one man thought they could be a danger to him. Seven if you counted himself. He had met Hagar, but the cost to his psyche had been high. His psychic power had increased, but he had changed in ways he had never thought of.

“We’ll stop at Mama’s to tell him we’re fine and to get some information,” Hagar said. “And while he doesn’t like or deal with the people we need to find to get your cousins back, he’ll be able to tell us where to find them.

Shibito sighed and just let Hagar hold him for a little while longer, before he slipped out of his hold. “Let’s go,” he said in a hard voice, shutting down his emotions as he left the ship. He couldn’t afford to slip up now, he wasn’t the person he had been before and that was it. He had to rescue his cousins, and hoped something like this hadn’t happened to them.

 

Hagar followed Shibito to Mama’s, slightly behind and to the left of him, as if he was his bodyguard. He was amused people were moving out of their way, as Shibito strode forward. It could have been how they were dressed or the fact that Shibito was radiating a cold fury he had never seen before. No one would remember him as the dishwasher he had been before when he was here, if they could even believe it had been him.

They got to Mama’s and Shibito walked through the door as if he owned the place. Hagar was relieved to see Mama was manning the bar at this hour, and not one of his few trusted minions. Mama was dressed in an emerald green corseted gown, with a matching hat and veil. He looked striking. Mama’s eyes widened when he saw the two of them, but said nothing until Shibito got to the bar.

“You made it out of here,” Mama said softly, as he studied them, checking it see if they were all right and curious why they were dressed the way they were.

Shibito nodded and Hagar swore he saw the man relax a little. “And yet,” Shibito said lightly and softly, “I need to throw myself on your mercy again.”

Hagar didn’t miss the look that passed between them – concern and support, and a promise to answer Mama’s questions later.

Mama laughed throatily, “And what trouble have you gotten yourself into now, Hagar?”

“A lot,” Hagar told him soberly.

Mama nodded, before asking in a louder voice. “And what can I get you gentlemen to drink?”

Hagar was hurt for a second that Mama was treating them like total strangers, but then it made sense to him. The clothing made him look different, and it helped he had darkened what little hair he had. And if Mama didn’t treat him like a regular, then he wouldn’t have burned his bridges here on Dunmore if this blew up in their face. Not that it mattered to him, because he wanted to help those kids that stupid fucker of a cousin had sent away.

“Whiskey,” Shibito said, his tone indicating he was doing Mama a favor drinking here at all.

A drink and a look around the place was a start. While Mama didn’t like slavers, it wasn’t as if he could be picky about his clients. And this was a place one wanted to be if you were looking for something or someone. Hagar was glad the bar had survived the raid that had thrown Shibito into his arms.

“And what else can I get you gentleman?” Mama asked, pouring Shibito’s drink.

Shibito inclined his head in thanks as he took the shot, and then slid payment over. The cred chip was worth a lot more than a drink, but Mama didn’t bat an eye when he slid it into the safe built into the bottom of the bar without offering to give them change.

“We are looking for people with a certain skill set,” Shibito told him smoothly. “Ones who have the reputation of trading in flesh, and are considered ruthless even for that group. They go by the name the Osprey Group.”

Mama frowned, but lifted his chin at a table in back. “You might want to talk to those people,” he said, his voice like ice.

Hager looked down at him, knowing Mama was furious. “Family,” he rumbled.

Mama tightened his lips, and Hagar knew he understood part of the reason they were asking about the Osprey group. The group was a loose consortium of slavers and drug runners, who bribed enough people to keep under the radar and out of prison.

Shibito tossed back his whiskey, like it was water. Mama reached under the bar and handed Shibito and unopened bottle. “This’ll help.”

“I owe you,” Hagar said softly.

Shibito strode over to the table, though Hagar thought it was more like a stalk. He followed him, wondering what was going to happen. There really hadn’t been any sort of planning, except to go to Dunmore Station and talk to Mama. But he was certain Shibito had some sort of plan— it was just that he hadn’t told him what it was.

“Gentlemen,” Shibito greeted them, setting the bottle on the table. “May we talk?”

Hagar wouldn’t call the two men sitting at the table gentle anything. Both of them looked hard and rough, and radiated an air of menace, even wearing cheap suits. He hadn’t seen them around Mama’s before, so it meant they were either here for a reason or they were new to the place.

One of them grabbed the bottle and looked at the seal, checking to see if it was unopened. Satisfied it hadn’t been tampered with, he poured some into his glass and the glass of his companion. Shibito set his glass down, a subtle hint he would also like some of the whiskey.

As some of it was poured into his glass, the smuggler told him, “Thanks for the drink.”

“It does seem to be the best way to open conversation,” Shibito said mildly.

In the mirror in back of the smugglers, Hagar noticed Shibito’s smile was chilling, colder than space and more dangerous than vacuum.

The smuggler set the bottle down, “I’m Smith. He’s Jones.”

“Keiri” Shibito told them.

“And the big guy?” Jones asked.

“He’s not important,” Shibito said. “And he doesn’t talk, so his name isn’t important either.”

The smugglers snorted at that, but didn’t press. This wasn’t a business you wanted to know names in. And Shibito indicated he was the hired help. It should have made him angry, but he didn’t know who this person was. Shibito had the persona of ice-cold smuggler now. It was sort of frightening, since it had happened the moment he had stepped outside the ship.

“We have the packages,” Smith said, taking a sip of his whiskey.

“I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t,” Shibito said mildly, as if the conversion hadn’t started in the middle of itself.

Smith and Jones shifted, uneasy. Hagar thought for one wild second they were frightened of Shibito, which he thought was funny. Because while he didn’t know this Shibito, , he wasn’t frightened of the cold bastard he was being now, even though Shibito could tear him apart with a thought or two. And he was certain these two didn’t know that.

“We can deliver them to your ship—”

“We’ll go to your ship.” Shibito said in a pleasant voice, one that didn’t match the ice in his eyes. “I want to make sure I have the right packages. The last pick up was… incorrect. It was —unfortunate— for everyone involved.”

Shibito drank his shot after he said that, and then poured himself another, smiling like he was talking about the weather.

Hagar watched Smith try to control his shudder and fail, while Jones looked like he wanted to be anyplace but here. Hagar felt the temperature drop, he swore.

“Our ship then,” Smith croaked eventually, when he realized Shibito wasn’t going to take no for an answer or tell him where his ship was.

“Thank you for cooperating,” Shibito told him graciously, taking another shot of whiskey.

Hagar was under the impression these two would agree to anything just to get the hell away from Shibito.

“We might as well get this over with,” Shibito said, standing up. “Then you gentlemen can get on with your business.”

 

Shibito was surprised when Smith and Jones led him to their ship. It was docked on the same level above Hagar’s, which would make things easier. For them at least. Shibito wasn’t going to make anything easy for Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones. Hagar was a comforting presence at his back, and he was grateful he hadn’t said or done anything to ruin his plan, even if the man didn’t know what it was. He didn’t even know what he was doing, this was all instinct and feelings, and part of him was screaming how wrong this was, but it felt right to do it this way. Before, he would have planned and dithered, but letting it go now and letting his instincts run his plan was wonderful.

Shibito politely studied the ceiling of the dock while Smith punched in the access code to the ship. In the meantime, Hagar eyed the empty corridor for trouble.

“We have them here,” Smith said. “They’re still most of the way out of it.”

“Not much fun,” Jones complained.

Shibito swallowed his anger and the impulse to splatter the two of them against the interior of their ship. It was a nice looking ship, clean and well taken care of, but the aura of it was disgusting. Hagar’s fury was a comforting feeling behind him.

“I was promised undamaged merchandise,” Shibito said coolly.

Both men blanched and Smith hurriedly led him to a cabin. “They’re locked in, even if they’re so out of it they don’t know who they are, never mind where they are.”

Smith stepped aside and let Shibito stride into the cabin. Asleep on two raggedy futons were his cousins, Minomoto Aoi and Teike Murasaki. They looked fine, just that they were asleep. Thankfully, they were also dressed, even if it was only in some sort of loose, short dress.

He took a deep breath, reaching out to them psychically, scanning them quickly. Their minds were jumbled and opened to him, their shields were gone and he didn’t want to know what being on this ship, near these animals, had done to them. He breathed out slowly, keeping a tight control on the anger he was feeling. He couldn’t lose his temper now. Just one word would make him snap.

“We’ll take it from here,” Hagar rumbled behind him.

“The merchandise—” Jones started.

And that was the word, Shibito decided. Aoi and Mura weren’t merchandise— they were his cousins. They were young women, intelligent, talented, and above all innocent and Kōgon had taken that away from them. Shibito turned and before he could even think, he had created a psi-sword in his left hand, falling into the sword forms automatically. It had been an unconscious gesture, his anger manifesting into a physical presence, one he could use to punish men who thought women were merchandise.

Jones’s shriek of surprise was cut off, when Shibito swung and easily cut off his head. There was hesitation for a moment and then Jones’s head fell one way and his body the other. Thankfully, neither part was near his cousins. Shibito smoothly turned, dancing a few steps forward to do the same to Smith. It was over in less than a minute and he wasn’t even breathing hard. He banished the sword with a thought and looked over at Hagar.

Hagar looked back at him. “You do know this is going to look odd to the authorities.”

That was it. No censure about killing those two animals had been unwarranted. No fear at seeing his power. Just a simple statement about how ‘odd’ it was going to look to the authorities.

“Let’s get the girls out of here,” Hagar continued. “It won’t be good for them to see this.”

He leaned over and scooped up Aoi. “And we need to get them fed. She’s too damn skinny.”

Shibito choked back a laugh, because he knew if he started laughing now, he might not stop. He leaned over and picked up Mura, cradling her in his arms.

“Stay close to me,” he told Hagar. “No one’s going to notice us taking my cousins to the ship.”

“I was a little worried about that,” Hagar told him calmly. “But I figured you’d know something.” He followed Shibito out the door. “You might need to come back and do some work on the computers too.”

Shibito didn’t know what he had done to deserve Hagar, since the man was so accepting of him.

“After we get the girls settled, I’ll come back here and go through their computers and records and then think of some way of getting rid of the mess,” Shibito promised.

Was he as bad as Smith and Jones to think of them as a mess and not human beings? Mura sighed and snuggled into his shoulder. No, he wasn’t, because they weren’t human beings to consider other people as merchandise. He’d get what he needed from their ship, clean up the mess and think of someway of hiding their deaths until they were far away from here.

“I’ll see what we can borrow from Mama for them,” Hagar said.

“He’s too tall,” Shibito protested automatically. “But we can see where he can recommend to purchase clothing,” he added after a couple of minutes of walking.

“After we get these two settled,” Hagar said. “Then I’ll change and talk to Mama. They’ll feel better without seeing me right off.”

Shibito didn’t know what to say, so the rest of the walk was silent.

 

Did you enjoy Felicitas Ivey’s story? If so, check out the rest of her books and take 25% off at checkout with the code FelicitasIveyFlash. Coupon code is good for one order per customer through February 16, 2015.

2 Responses to “Immodest Proposal by Felicitas Ivey”

  1. Shirley Ann Speakman says:

    I enjoyed the story I haven’t read many steampunk books it was very good.

  2. Charlessorge says:

    “I haven’t seen you in these parts,” the barkeep said, sidling over and above to where I sat. “Personage’s Bao.” He stated it exuberantly, as if word of his exploits were shared by means of settlers around assorted a fire in Aeternum.

    He waved to a wooden butt beside us, and I returned his gesticulate with a nod. He filled a eyeglasses and slid it to me across the stained red wood of the bar first continuing.

    “As a betting fellow, I’d be ready to wager a honourable piece of silver you’re in Ebonscale Reach on the side of more than the carouse and sights,” he said, eyes glancing from the sword sheathed on my in to the bow slung across my back.

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