Deathwalker 9.2

            I stared blankly for a moment. Restraint? She pointed at the tiny bit of food I’d scooped up.
            “Oh!” I was feeling slower all the time. “I’ve never had this before.”
            “I see,” Kith said reprovingly. “You may get a new meal this once, but in the future, I suggest you pick foods that you know you will eat.”
            “What?” I blurted. I had lost track of the conversation somehow.
            “In space, we cannot afford to waste food,” he explained slowly. I closed my eyes and took a long, deliberate breath. He acted like I was 5 years old.
            “I do not want more food.” I replied in the same slow, condescending tone. “The Kaihmi do not waste food.” Ever. Nomadic life simply did not allow it. Or rarely. Aunt Apikalia never allowed it.
            “You are not eating.” His tone got worse if that was possible.
            I held it in. I don’t know how, but I kept from snapping the obvious response (Because you’re talking to me!). But I didn’t dare try to say anything else. If I opened my mouth, that’s what would come out. I was sure of it.
            Jaw locked tightly enough to twitch, I turned back to my food. My instinct was to shovel a huge bite into my mouth as a kind of “There! I’m eating!” But I was not going to let him ruin my meal. I was going to enjoy this new food, and if he didn’t like it, he could go watch someone else eat.
            Deliberately, I separated another of the bits I hadn’t tried yet and took a bite. Like before, I held it in my mouth a moment to analyze the flavor and composition, and then, I slowly started to chew.
            Kith growled (a sound that reached right down to the base of my spine and activated the “run” instinct in my legs). Ignoring both gave me a burst of childish pleasure as I savored the flavors. And another as I took another purposefully small sampling. His growing irritation was like an approaching storm front, a perceptible front of energy at my side. Since I was fairly sure he wouldn’t hurt me (considering the Captain’s reaction to my minor cut), his annoyance added flavor to the meal. Especially since (and maybe I really was 5 again), he had started it.
            “He is eating, Kith.” The woman sounded either amused or sympathetic. I couldn’t really tell.
            “He is picking it apart,” Kith snarled. “It is not meant to be tasted this way. Then, he dares to say he does not like it.”
            “No.” The word snapped out before I could stop it. “You assumed I did not like it.”
            “You won’t eat it.”
            “I’m trying to!” I half rose to face him. “I might have a chance if you’d stop interrupting me!”
            It was harder to ignore my legs when he growled this time. Maybe because I could see him leaning over me. Or because his eyes suddenly seemed metallic and cold.
            “He has a point.” The woman’s voice was a calm, cool breeze. We both spun towards her, and my jaw dropped open. She hadn’t moved – she was leaning on the table as casually relaxed as she’d been at the start.
            “What?”
            “He was eating. You interrupted.” She smirked up at him in a friendly way, not even blinking when he loomed over her.
            “That is not eating!” His heavy fist landed on the table, and the scarred carbon shook. “It is a whole. Not little parts.”
            “True.” She nodded. “But I imagine he’s never seen or heard of some of those parts before.” She looked at me, and I blinked and then nodded slowly. “If he wants to recognize them later, he’d need to try each one, wouldn’t he?”
            “But that ruins the dish!” Kith’s expression wasn’t simply angry. He acted as if tasting each part instead of the whole was somehow offensive. Like an insult. Maybe even sacrilege.
            “Nat! Mor!” A disembodied voice boomed and echoed through the room. I jumped like a startled cat.
            “They’re not here, Raz.” The dark-haired woman took the sudden sound as calmly as Kith’s anger. “Try the-“
            “-Turn on the screen! You have to see this!”


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