The H'lizar Yatnan (The Lazer Dragon) Part 3

The ship's bridge was a tight place, made tighter by the copious statues positioned beside the viewports, and the writhing bronze dragons twining beneath the concave ceiling. Shooka smoke clouded the air, and deep, stylized carpets covered the floor. Toward the back of the room was the Captain's dais, on which the Captain's throne was set, cloaked in carpet, and backed by a stylized wood carving that rose into two dragon's heads, breathing fire at one another above the Captain's head. Behind the Captain's throne were two great statues set against the wall. They were standing at attention, holding spears in one hand and shookas in the other. These shookas were lowered between them to the pillows of the ship's Shas-smoker, who would sit there and puff, directing the Shas-hive.

This was where Jhuruk met the ship's acting captain, her quartermaster, and... her acting Shas-smoker.

"Shasma. It is an honor to finally meet you." Acting Captain Mahmoud al-Besur began, struggling to raise his obese body from the Captain's throne. "I am happy to serve the Lady Sultan in this way: carrying your command to you. As well, I am happy to say that the civilians and officers of this starship have been made docile and subservient, so that you will have no trouble in your future."

"Is that so? You work fast to have made them subservient in less than a month." Jhuruk looked over his officers, neatly arranged for him to view.

"I am proficient. Yes." Mahmoud beamed as he said so, using a cane to maneuver his hulking form away from the Captain's throne.

"What is your commission, after you hand over this one?"

"I am still waiting. I am not fortunate enough to receive the title Shasma, so a commission will be harder for me to find..." he ran a hand through his great, forked beard. "But I will look, and, by the Grace of the Ancients, I will be granted one."

"By the Grace of the Ancients." Jhuruk set his hand on the throne's armrest, and stared up at the dragons' heads. "I would like a tour of the starship before you give her to me. If that is acceptable."

"It is more than acceptable, Shasma." Mahmoud adopted an indignant tone that Jhuruk didn't fail to notice. He snapped for a sunspot (a young boy officer) to run along and find the quartermaster, Hammab. "He is no doubt among the commoners, that quartermaster. He is of their people, and they use him as some sort of voice to me. I have ignored him more often than not, and I would suggest you do the same."

What you do and what I do are two very different things, Jhuruk thought, looking back toward the Shas-smoker's pillows. There, nestled between the two statues, the ship's Acting Shas-smoker sat. He looked unwashed, and far beyond caring for his appearance. His thick, stinking plait of hair was wrapped around his body, and his oily beard was interwoven haphazardly with religious beads. His olive skin was black with grime, and his finger and toenails grew five inches or more. "This is Ahmad, your Shas-smoker?"

"Yes," Mahmoud said proudly, "he is my brother."

"Well. I am proud for your lineage." Jhuruk said, clapping the Acting Captain on the shoulder.

"Shasma. I am here to conduct you throughout our starship."

Jhuruk turned toward the voice, thick with the accent of the Far Southwest, where the Fourth Sultanate can be found. Its owner was a short, stocky man, wearing a feathered pagri with dragon symbols. He had hooded eyes and light skin, and a pin-beard that was well-combed. "I would be delighted."

"Then follow me, Captain."

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