A blog where one NaNoWriMo Seattle Duck posts the chapters of the novels she never wants published for people to enjoy in the literary abandon.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Writers vs Ritters: The EPIC Battle Chapter 13

Dom frowned as he adjusted his welding mask. Things just weren’t working out right now, and it didn’t help that he was trying to do a lot of his usual tasks while in a cast. Teek was below him currently adjusting a few of the lower portions of the new armor they were building. Because of his broken wrist, it was taking them a lot longer to accomplish the simpler tasks. Although with Teek and Moose both now at the warehouse, things were moving along at a bit of a faster pace. It was still not as fast as Dom preferred it, but well enough that he felt he had accomplished at least something that day. Glancing over to where he was, Sola could see that he was stopped once again, trying to readjust how he was currently holding his torch. That was the fourth time in the past two hours he had done that.
            With the torch now out, he continued to fiddle with it for several moments. Teek raised her welding mask and peered up at him, concerned as to why he had stopped. Sola smiled, watching as the little female Ewok doted over Dom like a loving older sister. She spoke to him, probably trying to get him to take a break or at least do something less involved with his hands. So far Sola had counted one of the two conversations occurring at least seven times today. Looking past them, she saw Collin and Moose busily working on assembling a few items that were to go down on tomorrow’s shipment to the facility.

            They were small and mostly things that they needed like more beds or counters. Even desks and chairs were being put together by them. Some of the items had some basic instructions such as how to put the final pieces together. This saved a lot of room when it came time for the smaller cars to take them down. Shaking her head, Sola glanced back down at her paperwork having seen that Dom and Teek were back at work.
            Since the Ewoks had agreed to join them, Sola’s paperwork had skyrocketed. Thanks to Dom and Collin, they now had to make sure each and every Ewok had a name badge or ID card that they could use to enter the base when it came time to appear to aid them in any sort of way. From what she had heard, several of them had already used their cards in order to gain access to the roof. D00m had been not only maintaining how clean the whole place was, but also trying to finish connecting the last hundred rows of solar panels. So far she hadn’t gotten any luck finishing it, so the Ewoks had decided to step in since Dom had saved someone among their clan.
            Reading the current report from Aldorel about what had happened down there, caused Sola to smile. It was good to know they were receiving help; even if it was from an unlikely source that they thought they would be doing battle with. So far everything was working in their favor, except for Dom getting hurt. That was a given that it definitely hindered them at least a little. Thankfully many of the other techies, under Dom’s direction and Collin’s aid, were able to pick up the slack and figure out many details that still needed to be worked out.
            Yawning at the fact that they were steadily approaching three in the morning, Dom was surprised to find himself this tired. However for the past few days, he had been working less and resting more due to the painkillers Sola was still having him take. They were doing their job, but also limited his ability to work with heavy machinery; especially his blow torch. Hanging up the torch after having shut off the gas, he then took off his mask and set it on the work bench. He was obviously getting nowhere because he was starting to get tired. Holding out his hand, he felt Teek put her small mask in his hand. Setting it down next to his, Dom knelt down and let her climb on his back. Dom had explained it was like carrying a furry back pack, so to carry her was fairly simple and a light process. Heading to where Collin and Moose where, Dom looked to them.
            “We’re calling it a night. I’m having a hard time keeping my eyes open,” Dom said, yawning once more. Seeing that, Moose immediately did too, followed by Collin.
            “Sounds good to me,” Collin said, setting down his current tools. Moose jumped onto Collin’s back and the two of them headed off in the direction of Collin’s room. Dom turned and went to go check on Sola. He knocked on the open door of her office as he entered.
            “Are you going to work late?” He asked, stopping just before her desk. Dom hated it when she worked later than he did. Sure at times they both suffered from insomnia but they still managed to get plenty of sleep between the two of them.
            “I have to get those forms out to Hadrian, and well, there are all sorts of other tasks to be done around here,” she said, looking up from her paperwork.
            “Hadrian can wait until tomorrow. I know you’ve gotten used to chatting with him, but I’m sure he still misses chatting with me,” Dom said, laughing. “I’ll give him the order tomorrow and double check on things. You on the other hand need to come to bed,” he said, holding out a hand.
            “Look, you don’t need to inform me that I need sleep. You’re the one that looks like the living dead,” she said, pointing at him. Sola’s eyes followed the fuzzy “scarf” that was around his neck to the body attached to the arms to see Teek peeking at her. “Teek, please take him to bed.” Between the two of them, they would get on Dom’s case about sleep and generally force him to bed one way or another. But this time, Teek knew she had to turn on her friend. She made a string of noises before tapping on Dom’s shoulder.
            “She wants you to come to bed too,” Dom said, turning his attention back to Sola. The little Ewok said something else, which caused Dom to grab a chair  and took a seat. “And we’ll sit here the whole time until you do come to bed.” With his arms crossed, he and Teek both remained staring at her. Returning the look they gave her, Sola sighed and shut off her computer monitor. She hated when they ganged up on her, but karma had a way of biting back.
            “Fine, fine,” she grumbled, getting up and going over to them. Sola knew she shouldn’t try to waste time just sorting through papers or trying to get more work done. It was just best to usually go along and actually do what they said. Taking Dom’s hand, she walked out with him and Teek towards where their room was. Kneeling, Dom opened the door so that she could go to the room that she shared with Collin and Moose. Teek bid them goodnight before she disappeared into the place, shutting the door behind her. Smiling at Sola, Dom walked with her towards the room they shared.
            Sola changed and flopped on the bed, grabbing her book and starting to read it. Dom on the other hand was just lying there staring up at the ceiling. Glancing at him, she frowned, noticing that he just continued to keep his eyes focused on the space above.
            “Something wrong?” She set her book aside and moved down next to him.
            “Just going over my schedule for tomorrow… We have a council meeting, don’t we?” His eyes moved to look at her.
            “We sure do. Apparently we’re getting a strategist of some kind. He’s going to help us set up battlefronts and bases in more places for when we need to attack,” Sola said, remembering that she had the meeting scribbled into her planner. Reaching over she poked him, hoping for some reaction. “Is something else wrong? You seem distracted.”
            “I just feel bad for breaking my wrist. I mean really, this is slowing us down,” he said, looking at the brown cast he had.
            “Oh please don’t go all emo puddle on me. That is the last thing I need,” she said, poking him again. Dom laughed at the phrase.
            “Alright, I won’t…. I just have a lot on my mind,” he said, tugging the blanket over himself. Smiling, Sola reached over and shut off the light above her bed before she burrowed down to sleep for the night.

* * * * *

            The morning had been very long so far. Every council member was busily working on their projects. But the work place today was teeming with people. No matter how many council members had to attend the meeting, people were still frantically working. It was an eerie sort of pace that made the whole basement felt electrified. All of the tension was so thick they could feel it vibrating it around them. Dom was dreading the morning meeting as he wasn’t one to sit still for long. Granted, that was something he had to get used to since his cast really limited him at times. Right now he was sitting with Teek at his workbench trying to get at least something done.
            Teek looked up at him, from where she sat on the bench. She was shining a helmet before they sent it for testing. Sure it was pointless, but she needed something to do, and thus this is what she felt she could be doing. Dom was staring at the gauntlet before him where he was making sure the fasteners were flexing properly to allow a better range of motion than if the armor was just welded together. Flexing his hand, the armor easily moved with thanks to the robotic hand it was attached to. All of the sensor stickers stuck to Dom’s right hand controlled its movement. Pausing the movement, he tightened a few of the parts before he let it continue to flex and stretch. He hadn’t seen any points of breakage or weakness, so the design was working as it should, if not better.
            Sola wandered over from her work station in the command center. Many of the members were already assembling, and really the only two people they were missing were Dom and Collin… along with their Ewok counterparts. From what she had seen of Collin’s work today, he was getting a lot done. He was trying to work harder in order to make up for what happened to Dom. Despite what everyone said, he still worked overtime just to make sure they were that much ahead. Right now though, he was sitting taking a break with Moose.
            “You coming to the meeting?” Sola asked, leaning on the work bench by where Teek was. She hugged the Ewok and reveled in how warm she was compared to the rest of the basement. With the winter weather starting to set in, it was getting colder and colder for people to be outside and working on the exterior of the warehouse or the military facility they were using. Dom looked over and nodded.
            “Yeah…Just finishing up a few things,” he said, pausing the programming and taking off the sticky sensors.
            “Good. Apparently our specialist is here to help us plan out the battlefield,” Sola said, picking up Teek. She hadn’t ever done so and was incredibly surprised at how light she was. Seeing that Dom was finishing what he was doing, she set Teek down and started to walk with her towards the command center. It was vital that the Ewoks attend in order to show what they were able to help with in terms of defense and battle strategies. Grabbing what he needed for the meeting, Dom hurried and caught up with them. Once they entered the command center, they immediately headed for their seats as the meeting was just about to start. Having noticed that Dom and Sola entered, Ane cleared her throat.
            “Now that everyone’s here, let’s get started. I know none of us are very skilled in other areas of planning besides our own. So, that’s why I took it into my own hands to find us some kind of strategic specialist. We’ve all been waiting and hoping for some kind of aid from any country overseas. We now have ourselves someone from the United States Army, Specialist Jonnie Lee Stiles,” Ane said, clapping along with everyone else as the man stood before them. Moving to the seat she had up at the front for herself, she sat and waited patiently for him to begin.
            “Good morning to you all. I’m sure you’re all curious as to why I’m the only one here,” he said, smiling at the faces around the room. “I ended up returning from a tour, and was put on an extended leave due to extenuating circumstances that have caused me to end up in your fine country.” Stiles was once again looking around the room, checking for any reactions.
            “It came to my attention that your country was in need of some aid because your monarchy was brutally murdered. Much of the time we involve ourselves in these sorts of matters, and help in any way possible to restore peace and liberate the people. However my government did not see it suiting that we engage in any kind of support to those that need it. But I’ve seen what has been happening to your people. And so I knew that it was time for someone to take a stand. I decided to lend a hand. Right now it may not seem like you have any help whatsoever. But you have the help of many people in the US that I have rallied to your cause. People are donating money and writing to Congress to get them to send you help in some way,” he said, smiling. “I decided to come here myself. And so I come here with a stream of donations and my services.” The room erupted in applause as everyone was glad to hear that something was now happening because of all their hard work.
            “Specialist Stiles—“ Ane started to say.
            “I’d prefer Jon, if you wouldn’t mind,” he said.
            “Right. Jon wants to help us strategize. He wants to help us in any way he can,” Ane said, nodding. 
            “Show me what you have and I’ll give you some tips,” Jon said, taking his seat.
            “First up, we have medical needs,” Ane said, looking to Aldorel. The girl stood up, a bit flustered, but adjusted her glasses and stepped forwards. She started speaking to him, and showing him several pictures and other items on the large screen. Many of the others prepared their presentations to him, which Dom could tell just by looking around made a lot of people nervous. They hadn’t even addressed the largest issue that would involve every council member… the battle front. With everyone this nervous, Dom figured the room would probably flat line the instant the minor issues were put to rest and the large ones had a chance to step forwards. Once the discussions had lasted long enough and they had returned from a lunch break randomly passed out by D00m, they resumed sitting in their large circular desk formation.
            “What’s next on the agenda?” Jon looked to Ane for what she had on her long list. Glancing down at her clipboard, Ane skimmed through her register, hoping to find where they had left off.
            “The frontlines,” she said. Dom typed a few things and suddenly the large map appeared across all three of the huge projector screens at the front of the room. Each screen was focused on a different area that they needed to provide some kind of protection for. Jon examined them, seeing that this was a lot more ground to cover, similar to the countries the US was currently involved in.
            “You’ve got the capital, this city, and the small military facility you’re currently occupying in the south,” he said, seeing each of the places and their coordinates in comparison with each other.
            “What’s your suggestion on what we do?” Minari asked, her arms crossed as she watched him. Jon grabbed the laser pointer and highlighted a few key areas.
            “I’m going to assume these areas are where you’ll have the most conflicts in comparison with all the other locations within the limits of the cities and the forest,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at the group.
            “So we should make sure to have a strong presence in these areas but make sure it’s hidden until a conflict breaks out?” Minari said, examining the places he had selected.
            “Assuming that this is where they will show a stronger resistance to you, yes. As long as you remain hidden until the time is right, things should work out in your favor,” Jon said, nodding.
            “But you have to remember that battles are random. If they do follow our plan, we’ll have to lead them in first. Some kind of bait to get it to work,” Dom said, looking at the map. Jon frowned, turning to the new voice.
            “And you are?” He raised an eyebrow at him.
            “Dominic Knight. I own the facility above us and the basement we’re currently residing in,” he said, standing up and moving to where Jon currently stood.
            “So you’re the main benefactor,” he said, nodding.
            “Actually, he’s made a lot of our weapons and armor,” Ane said, glancing between them both.
            “Every piece of equipment down here has been made by you? Some scrawny factory owner that probably got this business handed to him by his daddy is also creating your main offense and defense? Boy is that really going to kill you,” he snorted.
            “I’m sure you’re enjoying your little jokes. But those aside, you can’t just assume those areas will be. If anything, you would have to analyze the presence that is currently in that area by the opposite force in order to even remotely guess what you were going to do,” he said, gesturing to the map. “You’re putting the lives of hundreds of civilians that are agreeing to help us at stake. You can’t just assume they’ll know what to do.” It was silent for a moment as everyone waited for some kind of brawl to break out between the two. Boys will be boys and it wouldn’t have surprised Sola if Dom threw the first punch. Astoundingly, they glared each other down for a moment before shaking hands.
            “Well, it sure is a pleasure meeting you,” Jon said, his expression breaking into a grin. “I’m excited to see your designs.”
            “Wait until you try them on,” he said, his face also now a smile. Sola exhaled the breath she was holding in. It was a relief to know that despite the fact they appeared so hostile to each other had at least been a rouse to see who would crack first. Turning their attention back to the screen, they resumed the original discussion with questions and additional comments from the other council members. After finally deciding on those points, Dom lifted up a portion of the circular desk that allowed him access to the middle. Pressing a button on the remote he had, a holograph version of the armor appeared.
            Jon raised an eyebrow, following him into the middle and looking at the picture before him. They sure as hell didn’t have this back home, which made this whole trip that much more fascinating. Shaking his head at the fact that this was indeed a full size armor display before him kept him quiet as he walked around it to see that it was fully detailed too. All the other members of the council sort of rolled their eyes, having seen this sort of show before.
            “Jon, if you could step into the middle, I’ll show you that the armor can fit you and any person in this room,” he said, gesturing around to the others seated in the circle. The strategist stepped into the middle circle. It took a moment before the armor suddenly expanded a bit to fit his taller frame and then fit around him simply like it would if it slid on as easily as a glove. A beep went off, which made him look up.
            “What the hell was that?”
            “It was taking your measurements. Now it’ll inform me what size I would need to make your armor specifically for you,” Dom said, glancing at him and then to the chart that appeared also in a 3D display. Saving the information and then storing it in a file he had for such things, he walked around Jon to make sure everything looked as it should. Waving his hand the display disappeared, leaving Jon standing in the light of the projector. “Thank you. You can step down now. I could probably have that made up in a few hours…” Another design appeared, this time it was one of the weapons.
            “Nice gun. I hope it’s more than just a picture,” Jon said, eyeing its large size and basic specs that he could see.
            “Don’t worry. I wouldn’t disappoint you and those around here that enjoy shooting too. These are real and you can test them yourself once we’re done here,” Dom said, laughing. It was amusing that this man was incredibly interested in what they were doing. Few people would probably find all these designs and blue prints interesting. No one else really did, as they all had their own work to concentrate on. Dom was thankful to have someone—especially another guy besides himself and Collin—that appreciated the craftsmanship that went into these pieces. Closing the program, Dom stepped back out of the circle.
            “Is this everything, or are you going to continue to show off?” Minari looked at Dom, obviously not amused at what he was doing.
          “Look, we already covered the information that we needed. So you shouldn’t need me or Teek anymore, right?” He turned to Ane, who nodded. Dom was more of a distraction, who preferred to be doing his own work rather than joining the group for a discussion that he wasn’t needed for. Nodding, he walked past Teek, who jumped on his back and clung on as he walked out of the command center.
            “Do you ladies need me anymore?” Jon glanced around the group, knowing he might still need to answer some questions. Ane spoke up, which started another round of questions that several of the council members wanted answered.
            Having returned to his work bench, Dom let Teek return to the task she was doing earlier. She had provided the information she needed to through his translation, so it would have been pointless for her to remain in the room. Reattaching the sticky sensors, Dom continued to fine tune the movement of the gauntlet so that once it was on a real hand, it worked like a glove would… or one’s own skin.
            Close to an hour later, Sola walked out and sat down on the stool next to his workbench. She groaned and lay her head on the table. Dom raised an eyebrow at her, not really sure what to say. It could be actual planning problems that she was having, or it could just be that she was stressed beyond all belief and wanted to do something other than stare at paperwork and a computer screen all day. Just judging by the sound she definitely needed some kind of change of pace.
            “Something wrong, Sola?”It was a simple question; one that he couldn’t get hit for, or even yelled at because it was avoiding the overall subject. Instead, he figured he could just let her talk and he’d eventually flesh out the problem for her grumbling. She sighed, sounding very exasperated as if just sighing was going to take all the troubles away. Obviously it wasn’t working.
            “All this stupid planning. God everyone is just so uptight, and nothing is going the way it should,” she growled. “They’re all fawning over that specialist and it’s just pathetic that we’re all worrying over nothing. It would have been better if you two had started a fight or something.”
            “Where is all this coming from?” Dom set down his screwdriver and looked at her. This was definitely very unusual behavior for her.
            “Just… ugh. I’m tired of doing my job,” she said, slamming her fist on the workbench. It startled both Dom and Teek. They exchanged a glance before focusing back on Sola.
            “What would you like us to do to help you solve that problem?” Dom smiled to her, hoping that she would provide them with some kind of verbal answer. Instead, Sola made some kind of noncommittal noise. Heaving a sigh, Dom didn’t want to play twenty-one questions just so he could somehow miraculously figure out what exactly was Sola’s dilemma. Teek made a string of noises, gesturing to Sola and then to herself and Dom. Her speech pattern was fast, and a bit hard for Dom to follow, but miraculously he managed to do so. Sola glanced to between them, wondering if Dom had caught all that, or if he was going to translate just so that she knew what Teek was talking about. When he remained silent for a moment, she reached over and poked him.
            “What’d she say?”
            “She says maybe you should try doing what we do,” he said, glancing up at Sola before looking back down to Teek to make sure he was saying what she wanted him to. The Ewok nodded, gesturing to them to continue talking. Sola stared at him blankly, not sure quite what to say.
            “What exactly would this job entail?” Teek peered at Dom, and then grabbed something else she could be working on.
            “Anything you wanted. I could teach you something to do during breaks so that you don’t feel so limited,” he said, opening his drawer to find some kind of small task she could do.
            “Such as…?”
            “Well, what would you like to do?”
            “Something destructive,” she said, nodding. Teek put something into Dom’s hand before getting back to shining the helmet that was on the fake head before her. Looking down into his hand, Dom saw that it was a simple gun that was currently empty.
            “She says you could go shooting in the gun range,” he said, turning his attention to Sola. He was trying to gauge her reaction to figure out if she was okay with that sort of work.
            “The gun range… That’s all you have?” Sola stared at him blankly.
            “I-I’m sure I could come up with some kind of activity for you to do,” Dom said, nervous because of the stare she was currently drilling into his head. In many ways it freaked him out, which is how he knew that she was definitely one of those people that could control him with just the slightest look. The only other person that could do that was of course his parents.
            “Can I at least see if I like it?” Sola held out her hand for the gun that currently sat pretty limply in his.
            “S-Sure,” he said, passing it to her. Taking it, she could feel it had a very obvious weight in her hand, and definitely gave her a sense of power—no matter how slight it felt. Aiming it at the concrete wall, she exhaled and returned it to him.
            “What else do you have?”
            “Is there anything in particular you’re looking for that would interest you to do?” Dom was getting more and more edgy at what Sola wanted to do in her break time… or just whenever she wanted to stop working usually.
            “Dom, it’s not that hard. You just find me something to do that I agree with and then I’ll be able to back off,” she said, continuing to stare him down. She could tell she was obviously slowly ripping out his backbone. Boy was it easy to turn him into someone that became spineless. Granted, that could have something to do with Minari always yelling at Dom no matter what he tried to do.
            “What were your hobbies when you weren’t working?” That was always a safe question to learn more about someone. He should already know those answers, but he knew that if he could at least hear a new answer, he would be able to direct the decision accordingly.
            “Reading, music, and movies,” she said, reaching over and taking his water bottle. She took a long drink of it, finishing it off and then setting it back down. He stared at her, not exactly expecting those answers. Dom was more imagining to hear something like “doing crossword puzzles in pen” or “drinking coffee and watching the clouds.” Definitely not the a-typical “music, movies and reading.” That answer caught him incredibly off guard. Getting up, he grabbed Teek and swung her onto his back, and then took Sola’s hand. Leading her across the warehouse and to one of the far rooms, he reached the end of a hallway that most had been told was just a storage area. It surprised her to see that one of the doors had a keypad next to the door.
            Watching him, she saw that he entered in six numbers before the light on the pad switched to green. Pushing open the door, Dom led her inside. The door behind them closed with a soft click. In this new room, it was quieter, almost sound proofed. Overall, the climate was refreshing. With people moving around, the basement got considerably warmer. But in here, it was a bit cooler; however warm enough that she was comfortable.
            “This isn’t where you stash all of your porn, is it?” She glanced at him, slightly nervous at what she would find in this place.
            “No. I’m not that kind of guy,” he said, rolling his eyes. Go figure that was the first thing she thought of. Her eyes were just starting to adjust to the dim light when suddenly all of the lights brightened—not to where it hurt—but to where it was just relaxing. Sola’s façade completely changed the instant she saw what exactly he kept locked away in this room. Each and every wall contained bookshelves. All of those bookcases were completely full of books.
            “Where the hell did you get all of this?” She continued to take a gander around at everything. Sola didn’t think such a thing would exist in a basement like this. When she ever pictured this many books in her mind, she mostly thought about the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast.
            “My dad started the collection… because he realized that books were really the only way I enjoyed to learn. So over time, he gathered all sorts of books,” he said, releasing her hand  to let her explore. “There are rare ones, and books from every genre imaginable.” Walking with Teek, he set her down on the ground so that she too could explore. The little Ewok wandered off, heading to one of the bookcases. She had never really seen such things before and was incredibly curious.
            The overall room was set out pretty simply. All the walls were lined with bookcases, with each case filled to the brim with books that were neatly organized. From what Sola could tell, it was by genre, and then alphabetically by author. Every light was subtly placed in the wall, allowing them to be just the right luminosity. Despite the fact there weren’t any windows in a basement; the room simulated the effect of having windows. Each piece of furniture was set up so that one could be comfortable where they enjoyed reading the most. A bed was completely made—including fluffy pillows—along with a large couch, a very inviting cushy bean bag chair, and of course a desk in case someone needed to pen a letter or read their book propped up. Taking a closer look, Sola could also see a recliner was strategically positioned with a reading lamp and table next to it.
            Perusing the book shelves, Sola scanned the titles to see if there was anything she wanted to read right now. Of course, with hundreds of choices, these were all now on her “To Read” list. Turning her head, Sola saw that Dom was over kneeling next to Teek who had found some picture books. She seemed to be talking to him and pointing to the pictures. She was obviously very intrigued by these flat people that appeared to exist in their own world within these pages. Removing a book, Sola headed to where the bed was and curled up, enjoying that she could go and be comfy anywhere she wanted in this room. After she started to read, Dom finally approached with a book in his hands. Sitting next to her, he began to read. A few moments of silence passed between them before Sola closed her book and looked at him.
            “How come you didn’t tell me this place existed?” It was very evident to Dom that keeping this place a secret from her might have been a mistake… a rather large one if she got even angrier. He was silent for a moment, choosing his words carefully.
            “You could say I was being selfish. I just didn’t want anyone to know this is where I sneak off to when I need a few moments to myself,” he said, shrugging. The book he had was currently spread across his lap, covers facing upwards.
            “This is a horrible secret to keep from me. You could have just told me. I would have known you needed to be left alone,” she said, watching his expression.
            “I know… I’m sorry,” he said, looking down. It was a few moments before finally Sola grinned at him.
            “A part of me is glad you kept this hidden from me. I would have probably abused the ability to come in here, and have turned into D00m. Then I would never sleep,” she said, laughing.
            “Do you forgive me for keeping this from you?” He turned and looked at Sola, hoping that she would. Then again, there was no telling what she would do with Minari and Ane always seeming to give her some tips on how she should run their relationship. Putting a finger to her chin, Sola was quiet for a moment.
            “I could… but you know, that would just be so typical of me. I’d rather you do me favors forever instead,” she said, smirking in a very malicious way. Seeing that look made Dom incredibly nervous just to picture in his mind what she could possibly have him do. Laughing, Sola leaned over and hugged him. It was good to see him smile, and worry like they used to before stressful times like this. Lately, the laughter wasn’t really a big thing in the command center. Everyone was always serious all the time, which drove Dom nuts to no end.
            “Deal. Favors of any kind,” he said, poking her. Digging into his wallet he handed her a card of some kind.
            “What’s this for?” Sola raised an eyebrow at him, not sure why he was handing her a credit card.
            “That’s connected to my personal account. You can use it to purchase new books for this library. Just mention my name and that you’re my girlfriend. They’ll be able to pull up a list for you at the bookstore,” he said, dropping his wallet on the side table. Sola stared at the card, seeing that it was different than the card they used for the warehouse.
            “Is this like giving me the keys to your apartment?” Since they didn’t live in a regular building, there was really no way for him to treat her like a normal girlfriend when examining the circumstances.
            “I guess you could say that,” he said, thinking of the common symbol used in TV sitcoms and movies. Sola grinned, slipping the card into her pocket. It was a rather sweet gesture, especially coming from someone so reserved. Altogether, it made her glad to know that he was coming out of that turtle shell he seemed to always live in. Cuddling into the pillows, Sola resumed to read, enjoying the quiet away from the hustle and bustle in the rest of the basement.
            “How am I going to get back in here?” She hadn’t seen him put in the code, and didn’t want to take any chances at guessing what the number pattern was. Dom blinked, completely forgetting that fact.
            “Oh. I guess that would help, wouldn’t it?” He laughed, before he moved down next to her. “It’s just my birthday. Plain and simple, really. Not many people know it anyway.” Nodding at that, Sola went through the date in her mind. Getting off the bed, Dom stretched and slid on the shoes he had taken off earlier.
            “Where are you off to?”
            “I figured I’d get back to work,” he said, looking over to where Teek was reading all of the children’s picture books. A large stack about as high as her when she stood was sitting next to her, and it was steadily getting bigger with each book she pulled from the shelf.
            “Aww, you’re going to leave me?” Sola didn’t want to be the only one taking a break. She would have much preferred it if Dom or someone else were in there with her.
            “I’d like to stay, but I know that if I don’t appear to be working, I’ll probably get someone yelling at me, or complaining that I’m slacking off,” he said, shrugging. “You’re welcome to stay here though. I have more projects to finish,” Dom said, smiling at her. He left his current book on the bedside table and headed to where Teek was. After speaking to her for several minutes, he finally patted her head and left alone. Grabbing a few of the books, she got up and headed to where Sola was curled up on the bed. It took the Ewok a bit—and Sola’s help—for her to scramble up next to her and start to read the picture books.
            Watching the little Ewok gazing at the pictures, Sola set aside her book and decided to read with Teek. Gazing at the page, she noticed that the book did have more than just images. Every so often she saw that there were sentences, which she figured Teek couldn’t understand. The two cuddled for a time as Sola enjoyed the warmth the small creature gave off.
            “Would you like me to read it to you?” Sola gestured to where the sentences where on the book she was currently looking at. Turning to Sola, Teek handed her the book and nodded. Grinning, Sola started to read the short book.
            “In the great green room, there was a telephone and a red balloon, and a picture of—the cow jumping over the moon, and there were three little bears sitting on chairs. And two little kittens and a pair of mittens, and a little toy house and a young mouse. And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush and a quiet old lady who was whispering hush. Goodnight room. Goodnight moon, goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight light and the red balloon. Goodnight bears and goodnight chairs; goodnight kittens and goodnight mittens. Goodnight clocks and goodnight socks; goodnight little house, and goodnight mouse. Goodnight comb and goodnight brush. Goodnight nobody and goodnight mush. And goodnight to the old lady whispering hush. Goodnight stars, goodnight air; goodnight noises everywhere,” Sola said, finishing the book. Teek exhaled in content, liking that story. From what Sola could tell, she understood every word. Despite the fact they were two different species she was sure Teek enjoyed that storybook, and probably others if they read them. The Ewok yawned, and snuggled against her, before picking up another book for Sola to read. She was glad for the closeness and how much it felt she was in her childhood again. This was so wonderful to just sit and read simple stories and reminisce about her once simple life. All of this thinking eventually caused her to doze off next to Teek.
            Having finally finished his work and grabbed some dinner for Sola, Teek and himself, Dom headed into the library. He noticed that she wasn’t in her office or at her work station in the command center. So, he assumed she was still taking a day off in the library. Entering in the code, he managed to somehow open the door despite both his hands being full with the food tray he was carrying along with their drinks and other items. Slipping in, he listened as the door closed with a quiet click behind him. Once the lock reengaged, he moved to the table and glanced around the room for Sola. The lights were dimmer than they had been when he left, which he figured the room had done that automatically. It had still sensed occupants, just no one reading or moving in some time. Moving around quietly, he grinned to see that both Sola and Teek were tucked into the bed, a stack of picture books starting to slide off. Being careful to not make too much noise, he cleared off the bed and set the books aside.
            One of the books in particular he noticed had been left open, probably from being read quite a lot while they sat. Picking it up and skimming through it, he grinned, recognizing it as his favorite book as a child. Ah, Goodnight Moon. An excellent choice, he thought, setting it on top of the pile. He then went about setting out the plates of food. It would be a few minutes before the smell of food had filled the room, but already the meal was going to start getting cold soon. Dom hoped Sola would be roused by just inhaling the aroma of all that had been prepared. Taking a seat facing the bed at the table, Dom took out a pair of chopsticks and started to eat. There were also forks, but he knew they would make too much noise, and he didn’t want to risk waking them rudely with his eating. Picking at his food carefully, he observed them sleeping for a time while he ate. Several minutes after he started, he saw Teek’s nose twitch a few times before an eye opened and she snuck a glance around the room.
            Much to her surprise and delight, her eyes opened fully and she landed on Dom, sitting contentedly and eating his food. Gently disengaging herself from Sola, Teek moved over to where her friend was and climbed into a seat which she knew was her food. It was all specially prepared by Moose, who had made sure they both had their normal Ewok foods brought to them. Although eating regular food from the basement wasn’t bad, both of them preferred the natural tastes that they had always grown up with. Nibbling away at her meal, Teek grabbed one of the books Sola had read earlier and flipped through it. Dom could tell she was examining each page, probably trying to burn each picture to her memory. Of course, he could understand why. This book was just a sweet story that pretty much everyone had been read during their childhood.
            A few minutes after Teek had awoken, Sola was finally being roused by the smell of food—and good food at that. Blinking awake she instantly sat up and moved to her spot at the table. Dom watched her quietly, not wanting to speak or interrupt her. She did just wake up after all. They ate in silence for several moments before Sola smiled up at him.
            “Good morning!” She beamed.
            “Um… Good morning to you too,” he said, not sure how to answer. “It’s… it’s not morning.” Without even skipping a beat, Sola had her answer.
             “Don’t worry, I know. I just always say that,” she said, taking another bite.
            “Did you enjoy your break?” Dom was currently pushing around the food on his plate, trying to decide if he was really up to eating it or if he was just going to pass it to Sola.
            “It was wonderful! We read some books and took a nap,” she said, continuing her grin. She was watching Teek read the book, or at least gaze at the pictures, very intently.
            “I’m glad. You seem very well rested,” he said, taking a bite of some potato.
            “I’m totally ready to go back to work,” she said, finishing off what was on her plate. Reaching across the table she stabbed some more vegetables that were on Dom’s plate with her fork. She knew he was completely fine with her helping herself to his food.
            “Good. I don’t think you have any new paperwork on your desk, so it should be pretty light going back to your office,” he said, taking a sip of his glass of water. Nodding, Sola finished the last of his potatoes and salad. Stacking the plates seeing that he was finished, and so was Teek, Sola piled all of their stuff together onto the tray and got up.
            “You look like you could use a nap,” she said, poking him in the forehead.
            “I’m just drained a little. Lots of technical work and battle planning makes my mind feel muddy. As long as I sleep tonight, I should be fine tomorrow. My head will clear up,” he said, nodding. That was usually the case when it came to all of the preparation he did for any task. And of course thankfully there were more people working on this than just him. Getting up, he followed Sola and Teek out of the library and into the rest of the warehouse.

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