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Neqel Amherst

Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9

  • Neqel Amherst

    Rank
    : Corporal
    OCC: Tactical Corp (Recon Patrol MOS / Guerrilla Warfare specialist)
    Level: 1
    Alignment: Scrupulous

    Race
    : Meltrandi
    Sex: Female
    Age: 78
    Build: Athletic and fit
    Height: 6'1"
    Weight: 160 lbs
    IQ: 18 (+4% to all skills)
    ME: 14
    MA: 12
    PS: 33 (+18 to damage)
    PP: 20 (+3 to parry, +3 to dodge, +3 to strike)
    PE: 22 (+14% to save vs. coma/death, +4 to save vs. poison/magic)
    PB: 16 (30% charm/impress)
    Spd: 27

    Natural Aptitude Bonus: Quick Reaction Time. +2 to Initiative.

    Hit Points: 28
    SDC: 5D6 + 8 from OCC + 10 from Krav Maga + 10 from Body Building + 2D6 from Forced March + 1D6 from Running + 2D6 from Outdoormanship + 3D6 from Boxing).
    Action Points: 5
    Bonus Action Points: 0/0

    OCC Bonuses: +1 to initiative, +1 to Perception, +1D6 (rolled 3) PS, +2 PP

    Hand to Hand Combat:
    Number of Attacks: 3
    Damage: +20
    Strike: +4
    +5 with knife
    +5 with energy pistol​
    Parry: +5
    +6 with knife​
    Dodge: +5
    Roll With Punch: +1
    Pull Punch: 0
    Initiative: +3
    Critical Strike on a natural roll of 19 or 20 or from behind.
    Automatic knockout on natural 20 lasting for 1D6 melees.​
    Spartas Hover Tank Combat:
    Number of Attacks: 4
    Damage: +1
    Strike: +6 with guns
    +7 with hand to hand
    +8 with EU-11 Gun Pod.​
    Parry: +9
    Dodge: +8
    Disarm: +3
    Roll With Punch: +4
    Pull Punch: +4
    Initiative: +5​
    Abilities:
    Perception: +2
    Save Vs. Coma/Death: +14%
    Save vs. Poison/Magic: +4​

 
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Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9
Vignettes of a Civilized Zentradi #1

2024

"Excuse me, Mrs. Amherst?"

"Principal Samson, it's a pleasure to meet you."

Neqel raised an eyebrow at the surprise on the man's face when she offered her hand to shake. Hand-shaking was a Micronian custom. Why wasn't he receptive?

"You're, ah, not...I mean-" The bald-man in his suit adjusted his tie, cleared his throat and tried again. This time, he offered his hand and she shook it. "A pleasure to meet you too, Mrs. Amherst. I wish it were under better circumstances. I take it, er, Mr. Amherst wasn't available?"

"He works."

"...And you...?"

"Care for his household and his children."

The look of stark disbelief on the Micronian's face would probably amuse Neqel's husband, Richard. It just annoyed her. Once she'd been confused by such reactions. Years living the Micronians had taught her much, though, including the dubious social function of 'stereotyping'.

"That's why I came, of course. Now I understand there was an incident with Joy? Could you tell me what happened please?" Neqel's eyes narrowed. "She's not injured, is she?"

"No, no, nothing like that. You can collect her after we're done here. You see, Mrs. Amherst, your daughter Joy started a fight."

Both of Neqel's eyebrows lifted at that surprise. He seemed to expect a verbal response, though, so Neqel indulged him after a lengthy pause by saying "I see."

"You must realize fighting isn't something-"

"As I understand the law," Neqel said carefully, repressing the urge to call it Micronian law, "Children are not subject to criminal charges unless charges are brought against them. Is she charged with a crime?"

"Mrs. Amherst! No, nothing like that!" The Principal seemed shocked. "But fighting is-"

"What did she do?"

"She punched a studen-"

"Was it Stephen Brown?"

Again, Principal Samson looked surprised. "Is there some history I should be aware of?"

"He punched Joy last week. When I spoke to her teacher and demanded justice, I was told no teacher had witnessed the bullying so there wasn't anything they could do beyond telling Joy to go to her teacher if she had further trouble with Stephen. I'm assuming Joy punching Stephen was witnessed then?"

"It was," the Principal said. His lips pressed together in tight disapproval as he settled back in his chair.

"I'll tell her to make sure she's not seen next time."

"...Mrs. Amherst! That is not an acc-"

"I'm Maltrendi, Principal Samson, as you've doubtlessly figured out judging by your surprise when you met me. Many people like yourself think we're nothing but mindless savages. What I find remarkable is that your society claims it abhors violence yet it turns a blind eye when its most vulnerable members are victimized. Especially when the victim is half-Maltrendi, when she's bullied because of who her mother is. Be sure I'll talk to her about appropriately handling racism. See to your own house before you criticize mine, however. Now, is there anything else or may I collect my daughter?"

Outraged, red-faced and speechless, the school principal at last shook his head and escorted her to the teacher's lounge. Little Joy sat patiently before bouncing up to run to her mother's arms. Neqel swept her child up and carried her from the building.

As they walked to the family car, Joy hung her head and said "I'm sorry, Mommy."

"I am too, Joy. You must choose your battlefield carefully in the future. Only fight when it can bring victory, not defeat. And do as your father says; don't punch anyone weaker than you."

"He said I was a mutt because you're my Mommy."

"And that's why we're going for ice cream."
 

Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9
Vignettes of a Civilized Zentradi #2

2025

"Is it just you tonight, Kelly?"

Neqel managed a smile for Charlotte Miller. Her oldest son Nathan was best friends with Charlotte's daughter Ivy. Micronian mating patterns were still something of a mystery to Neqel, despite thirteen years of living among them, but she suspected the other woman had hopes their kids might date when they were older. Given both children were barely thirteen themselves, it was premature speculation in the eyes of this Maltrendi mother.

"Kelly?"

"Yes, just me." She accepted a hug from the other woman, watching as other parents trickled into the school class room for another PTA meeting. "Richard wasn't feeling up to it."

The hug tightened. Inexplicably, Neqel felt her eyes well with tears. Cheeks burning with humiliation, she hastily dashed them aside and forced another smile for Charlotte, disguising her shameful failure at composure. Richard was only mortally wounded by cancer, however the Micronian doctors continued their mindless platitudes about 'illness, not injury' and 'a terminal prognosis doesn't mean abandoning hope'. Meaningless and no excuse.

Richard still lived. She would have tears enough when he wasn't.

"Shall we get started?" asked Sally Bird. The President of the PTA was an efficient officer, worthy of obeying, so Neqel took a seat immediately.

"Now, we have the fall festival coming up," Sally said once everyone assembled quieted and gathered together. The small, thin blonde woman gestured to the board where she'd drawn out this meeting's agenda. "As you all can see, it's mostly familiar faces in the audience this year so we'll be relying on those of you who contributed last year to do so again."

"Last year, Grace Anderson and I handled making the baked goods for the raffle table," Neqel observed. "But her son's moved on to high school I believe and she's not here tonight."

"...Yes, that is a shame, you two were wonderful last year," Charlotte said beside her.

"I don't suppose you'd be willing to handle the whole table yourself?" Sally asked hopefully.

"I'm capable of completing my assigned objective," Neqel said, stiffening in her seat.

Several chuckles rippled across the crowd of mostly women. "...This is a volunteer position," Sally said, smiling in what was either amusement or fatigue. "Again, just because I'm the elected president doesn't mean you have to obey orders, Kelly. You're an amazing baker, though, and I'm sure we'd all love it if you could support that."

"I had hoped I might help with one of the festival g-"

"No!"

It was impossible to pin down the exact women who voiced that cry, so simultaneous and numerous was the response. Neqel narrowed her eyes and peered around the room. "I'm perfectly capabl-"

"Kelly, of course we welcome your help," Sally said, looking visibly stressed. "Did you have a game in mind?"

"Perhaps I could run Pop-A-Pumpkin? The target practice exercise with balloons?"

"It's not target practice," Charlotte muttered.

"It could be target practice," Neqel muttered back.

"I think we're covered with Pop-A-Pumpkin," Sally said. The sighs of relief around the room were audible. "Would you like to perhaps help with face painting?"

Neqel frowned dubiously. "That depends on what you'd like me to paint. Perhaps Tomahawk Battaloids?"

"Perhaps ponies?"

The Maltrendi sighed and said, "Sign me up for all the baking."
 

Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9
Vignettes of a Civilized Zentradi #3

2025

The war was nearly over.

Neqel knelt in the chair next to her husband Richard's hospice bed, legs tucked beneath her, one hand entertwined with his. The other hand held a copy of the Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock. Why Richard cared for the poet was beyond her but she indulged him, as she did in all things.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats...


"Kelly "

The whisper was his first word today. She thought she might never hear him speak again. Another victory for him, another commendation to his credit. Wracked with a failing body, still he persevered. A great swell of pride bore away her sorrow. Her husband. Her husband. Such a man, to fight so hard for a few more moments with her.

"I'm here, my love."

"Look at you. Haven't aged a day." His eyes were dim, far from their old blue luster. But his gaze held only her in it.

"Age is something you Micronians do. We prefer to greet death naturally, our perfect forms torn open by the ravages of wholly unnecessary conflict."

An old joke. Predictably he smiled, or maybe she imagined the smile. Felt it, sensed it on those lips more dear to her than any others.

"Don't be in a rush to join me."

Neqel's breath caught. "...Of course not. Someone has to make sure Eliot gets dressed for school."

A light remark to meet a heavy request. She'd learned well the art of verbal deflection. Almost imperceptibly, Richard's hand tightened on here, surprising in it's strength.

"I wish we'd been able to share this."

"We've shared everything, my love. I've been here for it all. I will never desert you "

"Oh Kelly. I wish I could have shared my work too, the Project, what we've accomplished."

"I'm not an engineer, Richard. Not would I want to be. Don't think of regrets. Think instead of what you accomplished. You won the heart of this Meltran. You have three children to follow you, who will do great things in their lives thanks to what you've already given them."

They were silent then, with only a ticking clock and the relentless hum and noises of the monitoring equipment by his bedside.

"Promise me you won't fight my parents."

"...Why would I?"

"They're going to have a hard time, losing their only child. They may say things that are cruel and unkind. I need you to forgive them."

"Forgiveness is your belief, not mine. Nonetheless, it will be as you wish. I've always obeyed you in all things, my love."

"I don't...you always do that. You're just trying to provoke me, aren't you?"

Neqel only smiled, knowing he enjoyed the teasing. It was impossible, this situation. For even as he lay dying in the hospice bed, there was a realness, a fire all him, a feeling of belonging. This was the only man who would ever understand her. As she understood him.

"Will you sing for me?" he whispered some time later.

"...Richard, you know I don't-"

"Not now. Soon. You'll know when."

Neqel swallowed hard against the rise of emotions foreign to the Meltrandi warrior spirit, to a true warrior's heart; despair, anguish, a tide of feeling too strong to feel. So much feeling, were she her natural thirty five feet tall her body would still not be large enough to contain it.

No. Until the war was lost, she wouldn't surrender. Not to any of it. Richard deserved her best.

More time passed and she resumed her TS Eliot. Afterwards she moved on to reading aloud the Bible, for Richard had always loved the account of Job. His scriptures meant little to her, full of foreign sentiments, impossible promises and description of things beyond any Meltrandi's experience. But she could feel the comfort he felt in the way his hand held hers, in the comfortable way his presence sat within her.

Then it slipped. He slipped, drawn from her, falling away from her. His hand held hers but his breath fell too shallow to see, his heart too slow for the monitors to do anything but wail the way she wanted to.

The mechanical leads of the monitor pressed against her palm. It was real, in a way Richard's empty shell was not. Neqel had seen hundreds die, thousands over the course of her long life. She knew what death looked like.

This is the 137th patient I've lost.

It was a foreign thought, spoken clear as day in her mind but from an invisible voice. Neqel was alone except for the mournful warbling of the medical monitor resting under her hand. A moment of madness surely. Something to set aside.

She had one last duty to perform.

Slowly, the Meltrandi set aside her books and stood on legs that trembled from hours and hours of inactivity, of not moving away from her husband's side. Then, in a low alto, she answered his last wish.


Death, be not proud, though the whole world fear you
Mighty and dreadful you may seem
but death, be not proud, for your pride has failed you
You will not kill me.

Though you may dwell in plague and poison,
you’re a slave to fate and desperate men;
So death, if your sleep be the gate to heaven,
Why your confidence—
when you will be no more?
You will be no more, you will be no more;
even death will die.

Death, be not proud.
Even death will die.
 

Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9
Vignettes of a Civilized Zentradi #4

2026

"Fall in!"

And Neqel was the first into formation. The Tactical Corp recruit duty uniform she wore was nondescript, but not much different than the flight suit she'd worn when piloting her Queadluun-Rau. It was stiff, though, possibly due to disuse. It was still new after all.

"You know where you are, larva?"

She tilted her head up as the other eleven just-graduated recruits fell into formation at her sides. "Sergeant, I'm in Third Force Recon Company, 3rd Platoon, Alpha Squad."

"Damn right you are, larva. You know why I call you larva?" The Sergeant's attention had shifted to the young man next to her. All twelve of them were graduates of Basic, Infantry AIT and Airborne, with a year of supplemental training poising them for the Tactical Corp's Recon Patrol. It was a two year program, though, with the second delivered at Fort Benning, Georgia, where they'd be learning on one of the three Recon Patrol bases in North America. They'd handled the tests, physical and mental. But passing the exacting standards of a serving TA-RP Sergeant was something new.

"No, Sergeant!"

"Because you ain't hatched yet. You're all little, helpless, nothing but a bunch of goo that might learn to fly someday." The Sergeant's fierce, unrelenting eye swept over them before finally settling on her again. "Larva, why in God's good name is your hair blue? Did you read the SC Code of Military Conduct or do you delight in wasting my goddamn time?"

"Sergeant, per SC Regulation 670-1, my hair is required to be a natural color."

"Are you a goddamn Zeek, larva?"

"No Sergeant!"

"Are you going to give me some bullshit about Zeeks being male but you're actually a Meek?"

Neqel repressed a sigh, even as she silently gave the Sergeant a mark for more intelligence than most of the Sergeants she'd had in the last year. "I am Maltrendi, Sergeant."

"Jesus, who let you into Tac Corp?"

"That would be the UEG Immigration Expansion Act of 2014, Sergeant."

"Are you being smart with me, Larva?"

"No, Sergeant. I'm-"

"Give me a hundred, let me see for myself."

Obligingly, Neqel dropped and knocked out a hundred pushups. Her arms were warm by the end but she'd been bred for high-gravity environments up to ten times Earth's gravity. Micronian women might struggle but she'd need to have a few of her fellow squad standing on her back to experience the same.

She leaped to her feet when done and immediately fell back into formation. To their credit, none of the other eleven of her squad so much as whistled; a feat rarely accomplished with her Basic cohort.

The Sergeant for his part simply smiled. "Quack like a duck."

She obliged him again without thought.

"Woowee, you Zeeks really are that conditioned. You see this Zeek, larvae? This is your role model. This is the standard you must not only meet but exceed. In this outfit, we hunt Zeeks and you'd better be damn better at it than them or they'll hunt you right back. What's your name, Zeek?"

"Amherst, Sergeant."

"Ain't no Zeek name."

"It was my husband's, Sergeant."

"Ah."

A glimmer of compassion there? Had he picked up on the past tense? More surprisingly, had he chosen to not press an issue still sore and raw? Tactical Corp Recon Patrol's Sergeants might be a cut above the rest after all.

"Here's how this is going to go, larvae," he continued, walking the line. "You four are Fireteam Alpha, you four are Fireteam Bravo, and you three with the Zeek are Fireteam Charlie. Base tradition assigns the TL based on a run through Bolton and Malvesti, back to back. Fall in and let's see how you do."

Neqel glanced at Fireteam Charlie's members as they followed the Sergeant at a brisk trot across the green fields of Fort Benning. Nickens, Glasshouse and Chang, all men. If they minded having a woman or a Maltrendi in their midst, they didn't show it but neither did they make eye contact.

A minute later, no one had time for eye contact. They hauled themselves over ladder courses, across log rolls and free-climbed platforms in rapid order. Minutes later, everyone was breathing hard but concentration was total. They lacked her condition but were in better shape than the other Micronians she'd trained with over the past year.

It was tempting to pull ahead of them, out distance them with her superior musculature and high-gravity bred stamina. But the Army of the Southern Cross emphasized teamwork, cooperation. And whoever became the Team Leader, this Fireteam would be her operating unit for the forseeable. Their victory was her victory.

So when she reached the next climbing platforms first, Neqel bent a knee and offered her cupped palms. Chang seemed surprised but each didn't hesitate to put a foot in and accept a boost upwards. Much to her surprise, she was rewarded with a return hand up.

"Why?" Chang asked, too out of breath and in too much of a hurry to ask a longer question.

"We embrace the suck together," Neqel answered with a smile.

Fireteam Charlie was the first to finish. To her surprise, the Sergeant appointed her TL. Given his earlier antagonism, maybe it was meant to make her life harder, directing peers unused to taking orders from a Maltrendi. After the course together, though, these peers showed no signs of bucking those orders.

Maybe she'd make it through the next year after all.
 

Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9
Vignettes of a Civilized Zentradi #5

2027

"No way they're yours."

Neqel smiled fondly at the picture of her children, normally tucked away in an inside pocket of her duty fatigues. Nicely enough, the CBR Mk. 2 Light Field Armor she wore had the same pocket. Glancing over at Private John Chang, who chuckled beside her, she tilted the picture towards Private Sarah Worcester. The other woman was part of 3rd Platoon's Beta Squad, a fellow trainee like all of 3rd Platoon's soldiers. Sarah's last name was also almost unpronounceable and it annoyed Neqel, though she had to admit the woman seemed nice enough otherwise. Reminded her of her old friend, Charlotte Miller, actually.

"That's Nathan, my oldest, he's fifteen. That's Joy, she's thirteen. And my youngest there is ten, Eliot."

She had to speak up over the roar of the helicopter. The HH-62 Supply Sergeant had enough room for the whole thirty members of 3rd Platoon with space to spare. Rigged up in battle armor and their rucksacks, it wasn't exactly a comfortable ride but it did give 3rd Platoon's members a rare opportunity for casual conversation.

"How young were you when you had them?" Sarah asked.

"She could be your gramma!" said Private John Chang, still chuckling at Sarah's surprised reaction.

"I was born around...1950, I believe," Neqel said. "I'm around 77 years old, though given the relativistic differences involved with spaceflight, I might somewhat older or younger than that."

"No way! You're gorgeous! ...I mean, you look my age."

Neqel gave the redheaded woman an appraising look. Was Sarah making a pass at her? While not unwelcome, it wasn't sought after either and decades among Micronians hadn't made it much easier to notice a pass. It was marginally better to know many Micronians had similar issues detecting romantic interest in others. How did the species manage to reproduce?

"Have a cookie," Neqel offered, defraying the uncomfortable moment with homemade baked goods. Scores of times in her prior 'life' as a homemaker, she'd defused difficult conversations by offering food. Remarkably, it still worked in the military.

"...Uh, thanks!" Sarah accepted it, took an experimental bite, and then made some noise that was probably pleasure. Impossible to tell over the Supply Sergeant's rotors. "Where the hell did you find cookies at Fort Benning? Not the commissary, right?"

"She bakes," Private Chang said. "Like, all the time. It's good, right?"

There was a mischievous twinkle in his eye. Neqel's heart sank. She'd spent enough time with the Chinese-American man to know he never passed up an opportunity for some good-natured amusement at her expense. Clearly he thought the redhead was interested as well.

So Neqel silenced him with a cookie.

Refusing to be muffled by the sugary confection, John spoke on while chewing his first bite. "I know for a fact she's not doing anything Friday night."

"If my fifteen year-old son can learn to eat with his mouth closed, Chang, so can you."

"This is so good!" Sarah said, grinning around her own mouthful. So Neqel passed her a small bag, gesturing further on down the line, plainly indicating they should be passed around.

The helicopter dipped, drawing the attention of 3rd Platoon to the suddenly yawning exit off the helicopter as Sergeant Tyler pulled it open. The big black man's deeply drawn in breath of satisfaction at the cool jungle air beyond couldn't be heard over the engines but his posture was unmistakable. Neqel rechecked the sling for her LLR-8 5.56mm rifle. She and Chang were the riflemen of Fireteam Charlie, with Nickens carrying the AGL-12 Grenade Launcher and Glasshouse manning the HLW-6 Heavy Squad element with its impressive automatic fire and overwatch capabilities.

Given her own preferences, Neqel would have taken the HLW-6 herself. She hadn't had time to qualify for it though, in large part due to the commitments and role of Team Leader. TLs were riflemen. They deployed specialists, weren't specialists themselves. Besides, in the field she went first with Chang in the back, wedging their heavy element in the protected center. The position of glory was hers.

"Last chance for anything good for a week, am I right?" Private Chang said, grinning. "Speaking of last chances..."

"Chang..." Neqel shot him a glare.

"Well, how about it?" Sarah Worcester asked, leaning in close. Beyond her, Sergeant Tyler took a step back and looked towards the cockpit. Any minute now.

"How about what?"

"Dinner?"

"Sarah..."

"I thought..." Sarah glanced at John Chang.

"Oh, she is," he said. "Though I think it's more about men being males. You know Meeks don't have their own."

"Well, you aren't the useless, treacherous, loathsome Zentradi but your kind are rather helpless," Neqel observed. "My husband couldn't find his shoes or organize his life without me. Certainly my sons can't seem to function without me to ensure they do their homework. Or eat."

"I like eating," Sarah said. "Dinner? Friday?"

"Thank you."

"...but no?"

"But no."

"Fair." And Sarah flashed an easy smile, no harm taken.

As 3rd Platoon lined up for the airdrop, Chang nudged her. Rather than whisper over the roaring of the open bay and the HH-62 Supply Sergeant, he toggled his mic on, keyed for one-on-one chatter.

"She was cute!"

"Yes, she was."

"C'mon, Kelly. I would have thought someone who'd lived as long as you would know by now; pass up life's opportunities and you get passed up."

Neqel smiled fondly, as Richard's face loomed in her mind's eye. "I've lived long enough to know love when I see it. I've had mine. Maybe someday there'll be another. For now...for now, I have children to take care of, to provide for. I'm all they have. I can't be distracted." Her fingers tightened on the grip of her LLR-8. "I have to come back to them, John."

"You can have both, you know."

"Perhaps." She smiled at him as the order to drop was given. "But I only need the one."
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Letters from Aunt Myrtle #1

Without her husband, with her kids taken away from her, and entering a new military base where she knows no one, Neqel may be alone in the world - but she does have one longtime fan.

Little Miss Myrtle.

Myrtle is Richard Amherst's aunt, Emily's older sister, the first child. She is 20 years Neqel's senior. This is the woman who allowed Richard's sweet side to blossom forth to the point that one day he would romance and win a giant, for no normal woman would do. From her rocking chair, Miss Myrtle thinks out loud, speaks her mind, and calls it like she sees it. Not that the rest of the family pays her much mind - half the time Myrtle doesn't know what she's saying. But when she does, there's wisdom and kindness there. While Myrtle cannot do a thing to help Neqel, she can still be a fan. And she can still write Neqel letters. Like this one.

"Dear Neqel,

It's Saturday. At least I think it's Saturday. Do you know what day it is? I guess when you get to my age, you just don't give a darn about keeping track of those things anymore.

I tell you what I do give a darn about though - I miss Richard.

I know you miss him too. You miss your husband just as much as I miss mine. And let me tell you something - you will never stop missing him. It's natural. So don't let anyone tell you you're crazy. Let them lose the best thing that ever happened to them and see how they feel. Some things you just can't relate to until it happens to you.

You called him Richard. So did I. But like his granddaddy, he was also Dick. So was his granddaddy. Dick is a manly name. I like Dick. It runs in the family though I seem to be the only one who uses it. Everybody looks at me all funny when I do. Then they just laugh and laugh. I don't get it. What's so funny? I know what it is, Neqel. They just can't relate.

So yeah. I miss Dick too. I'm not myself without Dick. Your husband was the best Dick in my whole life. All the Dicks we've had in the family, he was the greatest and the sweetest. The other Dicks in the family were good but they just couldn't rise to his level. I wonder. What's an old lady supposed to do now that her little Dick is gone? It makes me sad.

But take it from me, honey-bunny. Keep your chin up. Remember, you've had the best Dick the Good Lord ever made. And believe me, the Good Lord knows Dick like nobody else! When it's your time to go, you'll be with Dick again and know Dick more deeply than you ever did here on Earth. Why? Because Dick's waiting for you up there in Heaven. Whatever happens here, that's a big something to look forward to, don't you think so?

Love and blessings,
Myrtle
 

Dannigan

Kaerri's Man. =)
Supporter
Letters from Aunt Myrtle #2

Dear Neqel,

I think it's Wednesday. Why? Because we watched a movie together, Emily, the kids and me. We had a good time. Wednesday is movie night, isn't it? I think it is. We watched Beauty and the Beast. A tale as old as me!

So, I gotta tell you. I don't know what's gotten into that sister of mine! Tonight at the dinner table, there Emily is telling Joy and the boys that the reason their father got cancer is because you two were together! Something about "all that radiation in space the aliens suck up got into your dad and that's why he's gone" and some other such nonsense.

So you know me. I can't keep my big mouth shut. I tell her, "Wait a moment. If that is true, wouldn't Dick have gotten the cancer much earlier? And how come none of the kids have been diagnosed with it? And how come Neqel doesn't have it? Or any other big green person I've heard of?"

Then Emily goes on all about how they are all green and gray and blue-skinned because all that space radiation made them that way. And I says, "What do you mean? God makes all kinds of skin colors! If we lived down in Florida, we'd be red-skinned from the sun! Mister Jean-Luke and his family from Haiti are as black as they come! God can make any skin color He wants! He's God! All right?"

Well she says, "Well, maybe so, but God didn't make Neqel! Those evil Robotech Master people they talk about made her!"

And finally, I can't take it no more. I put my foot down and I says, "You know what? You're treating poor Neqel just like that big furry beast in the movie tonight, you know that?" And the kids just looked at her.

Well... You know what happened after that. Emily got all angry with me again and Stan sat there. He didn't know what to say. Emily's not used to being challenged in her own dining room, even by her older sister (that's me), but that's the way it is with me! God made me! I love my little sis, but if she has a problem with the product (that's me again) she can take it up with the Creator (that's my lord, Jesus)! You know what I mean? Of course, you do.

Neqel, just because you're blue-haired and from out of town, it doesn't mean God loves you any less than he loves anybody else! It's just like it says in 1st Corinthians 13! Love never fails! Don't you let anyone tell you any differently (I wrote that last part, not Jesus)!

Now you stay safe out there, dear.

Love and blessings,
Myrtle
 

Epiphany

Proverbs 17:9
Vignettes of a Civilized Zentradi #6

2028

"Kelly! Look at you!"

Neqel smiled at the familiar yet absent voice of her best friend, Charlotte Miller. Woodlawn Baptist Church in Crestwood still had some minutes to go before services started but the place had already half filled with people. The worship hall was familiar, if still intrinsically foreign. To the Meltrandi, the closest parallel to a place like this was a briefing room.

Which, in retrospect, made some sense.

"Charlotte. How are you?" Neqel accepted a hug from the Micronian woman and was surprised with how fierce the other woman's embrace. "Were you worried?" she asked, frowning.

"A little," Charlotte admitted. "So, you done with training? On leave or something? Look at you, you don't look any different at all! I thought you'd come home...I don't know..."

"Wearing a tattoo?" Neqel said, arching an eyebrow and receiving soft laughter for it.

"Something like that. It's just...you've been through basic training, whatever else training, and you're some kind of special forces or something now, right? But you don't look...any different at all. Not at all."

Neqel took a minute to study the other woman's face. Perhaps it'd been the absence, of being deployed and rarely being able to visit home while serving. But for the first time, she saw what perhaps Charlotte expected to see; change. Age. Her best friend had been...twenty five when Charlotte and Neqel had their first children in the same year. That was sixteen years ago now. Charlotte was forty one and though she didn't look much different, Neqel was surprised to realize their apparent ages made them look more like mother and daughter rather than old friends.

Micronians feared aging, as would the Meltrandi if they experienced it. The last thing Charlotte needed was a reminder.

"I was a soldier long before I was a mother," Neqel said, redirecting the train of thought. "Now I'm a soldier again. But I'm still..." she paused, smiled at the realization and shook her head slightly in disbelief. "But I'm still a mother and still your friend, Charlotte. It's good to see you."

And this time she gave her Micronian friend a hug back.

"Did you come with Joy and the boys?"

"I did. Their grandparents agreed to let them ride with me here and sit with me."

The other woman's lips pressed firmly together. "You know, I'm so sorry for-"

"Think nothing of it."

"Do you think you could get custody back? I mean, your kids and mine have been friends all their lives, I don't want them moving away. But they should be with their mom."

Neqel stepped away then, walked her way along the aisles of pews, past faces long familiar and foreign. Children were older. A few new people. The smell of the place was exactly the same; finished wood and the faint perfumes and colognes of the congregation.

"Kelly, I'm sorry-" Charlotte said, catching up to her.

"I want them back with me, more than anything," Neqel admitted. "But I promised Richard. A promise no Maltrendi has ever promised to my knowledge. I swore to forgive them and not to fight them. I may not be a Christian, Charlotte, but I keep my word. Perhaps today's sermon will help affirm that choice," she finished with a brief smile.

"I hope it will!"

A tall man carrying some pounds and a full head of salt-and-pepper flecked hair approached them. Despite the polo shirt he wore tucked into a nice pair of slacks, there was a presence and weight to him. Possibly an athlete. Probably a warrior. Retired long since, no doubt, but something always carried over in the hands, in the jaw line, in the eyes.

"You must be Pastor Giles," Neqel said. "You took over for Pastor Gilroy when he retired?" She offered her hand and said, "A pleasure to meet you."

He hesitated, then took it and shook firmly. A strong man as she thought. "We don't see a lot of Zentradi at church. Or ever."

"I'm Maltrendi. And I've been coming to this one for the past sixteen years, though for the last three I've been serving in the Tactical Corp of the ASC."

"No kidding. You're Nate's Mom? Joy, Eliot, they're your kids?"

"Neqel Amherst," she said, forcing a smile. Yet another Micronian who didn't care for her kind, even if he was marginally better at hiding it than most. "I'm on leave for the weekend so I thought I'd spend some time with them."

"I wouldn't have thought a...a Maltrendi? Would choose a church to spend her time in."

Charlotte stiffened next to her. Neqel's forced smile simply widened a fraction. She was pleased now that she'd chosen one of her blue summer dresses to match her hair, with a nice white cardigan for balance. Aesthetics on their own still meant little to her but she'd learned they could be a subtle form of Micronian armor in their own way. She was well aware she looked fashionably and appropriately dressed for church services, not at all the jumpsuits or more masculine attire often preferred by her fellow clone-sisters.

"It's not my first choice," she admitted. "But my husband grew up in this church. Though he's been dead these past three years, his children should be raised the way he wished, learning about and honoring the God who made them."

"A good answer," Pastor Giles said, nodding agreeably. "You have your own God, though, don't you. The ones who made you. Feels like there's a scripture that fits the situation."

Neqel tilted her head slightly. Then she said, "2nd Corinthians 6:14, I'd assume."

This time he was surprised. His grin didn't slip, though, and he bobbed his head. "The very one. 'Do not be yoked together with unbelievers'."

"'For what fellowship do righteousness and wickedness have in common?'" she finished the quote. "I've heard them all, Pastor Giles. Let me give you another. “'Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me'.”

"Ruth Chapter 1. That's a very good one," the Pastor said. Some real warmth softened the permafrost beneath his superficially friendly face. It was pleasing to see. "You're not like any Zeek I've ever seen. Never met one who'd even cracked the Good Book."

"It's your operating manual, isn't it? We Maltrendi are created fully grown, fully aware of what we're made to do. Since you're born as infants, you need your instructions recorded and taught to you."

"We're not made to kill."

Charlotte took a step forward but Neqel slowed her with one hand to the arm and a quick shake of her head. This was a battle she was equipped to fight. There was pain in this man's eyes. Experience. A bad wound may heal but the scar tissue is never the same. Neither was this warrior-turned-priest.

It would be easy to point out the Micronian murder rate, the crimes they inflicted upon each other, acts of betrayal no Maltrendi would ever inflict on another. Such an answer might win this battlefield but inflame the war. There was still a part of Neqel that hungered for conflict, any conflict. It was tempting to spar with this male. But this was Richard's church, her children's place of spiritual training.

As long as her husband's parents were here, she had conflict enough and more than enough.

"I know we're foreign to you, Pastor Giles," she replied at last. "Aliens in your midst, ones who've harmed you and yours. Godless devils with no respect for the sanctity of life. But your God has wide arms. Long ago, in Leviticus, he said 'When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God'. I don't know your God like you do, Pastor, but as long as I reside among you, he's the God of my family too."

"Never met a Zeek like you." The Pastor's words were casual but his body almost trembled with restraint. With visible effort, he grimaced and said, "Excuse me, Meltrandi. Whatever you are, you're welcome at Woodlawn. Your kids have been great to have here. I'm sure you will be too."

He glanced up at a clock on the wall and said "About time to start. It's nice meeting you, Mrs. Amherst."

"Call me Kelly."

It eased something in him, that last offer. An olive branch as the Micronians might say, though what a specific species of tree had to do with peace was beyond her. He left lighter than he'd come and that was something.

When Neqel took her seat next to Charlotte, her son Nathan on her other side, she took a breath. And found she felt lighter too.
 
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