Rhona retrieved some ration bars from inside the shuttle and passed them out to the rest of the team. She stopped by Isamura’s side and pressed one of the nutritious snacks into her hand.
Isamura looked at her and waved the bar from side to side without opening it. “What’s this?” she asked.
“Ration bar. You look like you could use something to get your strength back.”
Isamura tore open the wrapper, sniffed at the bar and bit into it. After chewing for a few moments she commented sourly, “I cannot seem to taste this… whatever it is.”
“It has all the nutrients a grown woman needs to survive,” Caroline said with a glance to the side and a half-smile.
“It lacks flavour,” Isamura complained.
“It’s not like I can just wave my hands and conjure up some pheasant and blueberry sauce.” Caroline laughed and shook her head. “How did you think we were going to eat while we were out here, trap wild game, fish in a river, that sort of thing?”
“I enjoy fishing.”
“Well maybe when we’re not pressed for time we’ll go fishing,” Caroline suggested.
When everyone had finished eating, Caroline stood up, brushed herself off and addressed the group.
“Something’s been bugging me ever since the shuttle was attacked. Isamura, you said that it’s possible for the invisibility screen to be breached, right?”
“If the proper magic is used, it is possible to see the unseen, yes.”
“Fair enough. How would they have known to use it though? In advance of us arriving, I mean.”
Isamura shook her head slowly. “There are those who can see events that have yet to transpire, but they are few in number. I have never heard of an orc who possessed such a gift.”
“So someone told these orcs that we would be coming,” Caroline concluded, folding her arms and frowning.
“You believe that we were sent into this ambush by Meg?”
Caroline nodded. “It had crossed my mind, yes.”
Rhona put her hands on her hips and gave a low sigh of frustration. “If what she told us is all made up to get us killed, then we’ll be no closer to finding a crystal than when we first came here.”
“If that is the case then I am truly sorry,” Isamura replied. “Many things have changed since I last visited this place. It may be that we cannot trust Meg, or any of the town’s inhabitants.”
“It was odd that we hardly saw any of them, except behind the windows. The streets were… deserted,” Rhona said, feeling annoyed with herself for not pointing out the strangeness sooner.
“I suppose that we were too focused on what we wanted, to see what was really going on,” Caroline admitted. “But at least we’re still alive. We can find out what Meg’s involvement is in all of this.”
“Sure, let’s go walk into the nest of vipers and see how else they can lead us to our doom,” Macaude said sarcastically.
“I do not believe that would be wise,” Isamura said.
“I was thinking more along the lines of sneaking in when the watch changes,” Caroline suggested.
“It’s possible,” Rhona said with a nod. “When I was standing watch, I noticed there were a few blind spots that could be used to get past the guards. Caroline, what if Meg proves to be uncooperative?”
Caroline thought about it, her eyebrows drawing together worriedly as she considered that possibility. “If it becomes necessary, we’ll secure her and try to make our way out of the town without drawing too much attention.”
Isamura seemed to disapprove of kidnapping her friend’s daughter, but she could not deny that Meg could have lied to them, if indeed that was who she was. “Very well,” she agreed grudgingly.
“Well, we have some time until sunset so I suggest everyone get a little rest,” Caroline said.
The away team broke out some of the blankets and ration packs and prepared to bed down until nightfall. Caroline slouched on a seat inside the shuttle, stretching her legs out in front of her.
Isamura sat next to her, affording a smile and a reassuring pat on the arm.
Caroline turned to Isamura, taking the woman’s hands in her own and giving them an affectionate squeeze as she gazed longingly into those brilliant green irises that were like mirrors of her own, with subtle differences in pigmentation.
“I love you,” she breathed, and leaned in to softly capture Isamura’s lips with her own, feeling a passion rekindled, her heart racing like a lovesick teenager. She felt Isamura respond, with lips caressing and her body inclining toward Caroline so that their joined hands were squashed in between.
There was no hurried rush to have Isamura’s tongue in her mouth, no frantic stroking or sucking of lips, no hands rumpling or pulling at clothes, there was time for a slow and sensual build-up. At least it seemed to Caroline that they were taking the time.
When their lips had teased and caressed each other they sought out new places to arouse, not too far mind you, just as far as the chin and jaw. If Caroline’s heart was racing before, now it surely ached as they danced around the inevitable embrace.
But as Caroline tried to intensify the kiss, she found instead that Isamura pushed her away. No wait… not away, just back. Backward, and down onto the seat, with Isamura slowly following her down until Caroline’s head was cushioned against the seat and Isamura was sprawled somewhat atop her. Then Isamura kissed her warm and willing mouth, and she was glad of the support.
Caroline felt faint at the blistering sensation of their coupling mouths, and her body yearned for more than just contact with her lover. She enfolded Isamura with one of her arms, rubbing at the firm back muscles that lay hidden under a layer of clothing. There was nothing quite like the warm embrace of a beautiful woman.
So she was a little disorientated and disappointed when Isamura broke the passionate embrace and pulled her back up to a sitting position, giving her a wide smile.
Erica cleared her throat. “Again? Really? I could be anyone, you know.”
Self-consciously, Caroline glanced over to the shuttle’s entry hatch, where Erica stood with a little smile.
“Sorry. I thought everyone was going to sleep.”
“Ah, don’t worry about it. You make kissing look beautiful,” Erica added.
Isamura wrapped an arm around and cuddled Caroline.
“So, not tired yet then?” Caroline asked.
“Well, there’s cards and board games stashed somewhere on board,” Caroline suggested.
Tegan appeared at the hatch shortly. “Oh, there you are,” she said to Erica, who was rummaging through the supplies looking for something to pass the time. Then she glanced over at Isamura and Caroline, who were still cuddling.
“What’s all this then?” she asked with a faint smirk.
“Oh. Caroline and Isamura are in love,” Erica replied, looking up briefly at Tegan and then at what she was gazing at. “Congratulations, you’re the second person to know.”
“I’m honoured,” Tegan replied dryly.
“Caroline wants to keep it a secret for now, but she took one look at me and just had to kiss me,” Isamura explained.
“It’s not going to be much of a secret for long then,” Tegan said, shaking her head with amusement. Then she looked down again, “Hey Erica, whatcha looking for?”
“A game or something. Hey Caroline, would you mind if we hang out with you?” Erica asked.
“An excellent idea,” Isamura enthused. ”We’re great company. We could talk for a while, play games, oh and you could watch us make love, that would be a good way to pass the time.”
Caroline poked her with an elbow and cleared her throat. “She’s joking.”
“That’s too bad, I’m not a big fan of board games,” said Tegan.