And now I am the alien.
Brenda's thought was loud in his mind. The Elska bond between them was growing stronger the longer they were in contact with one another. But Muraski suspected something more than mere proximity was at work.
"You think I'm an empath!"
Muraski felt a grin cross his face as Brenda stopped short and verbalized his thought. He liked that look of shocked surprise on her face and made a mental note to make it appear more often.
Her expression changed to one of arch superiority. "Then you're going to have to learn to block your thoughts better. You really think I'm some kind of empath? Wait," she said before he could answer. "Some other time. When we don't have monoliths to worry about."
"Agreed," he said aloud, then he added a silent sending. But I look forward to teaching you the pleasures found in Elska.
Her face flooded with color and she swatted at his arm. She stalked forward a few steps before realizing she didn't know which way to go.
Muraski chuckled as he caught her arm up and laid it on his own. "Come minn hjarta. The bridge is this way." She did not pull away as he had been half afraid she might. Instead she accepted his support without leaning on it. It was a good sign.
He tried to see the Stjarna through Brenda's eyes as he guided her toward the bridge. The outside compared in appearance to the standard research-explorer ships used by the other space-faring races; but inside, inside was a mass of organic nerves and cells. A living organism that had reconfigured itself to meet the needs of the first L'u-cif-er who had discovered it injured and drifting in layered space during the First Migration. The ship, the only one of its kind that they knew of, had faithfully served its savior's family through the centuries.
No one knew where it had come from, not even the Stjarna. Its memory had been damaged in the accident that had crippled it. But while its body recuperated, its personal memory had not. Or so it said.
Meanwhile it seemed to take pleasure in serving the L'u-cif-ers, guiding them to discoveries that raised the status and fortunes of the House. And they, in turn, had learned to trust its guidance. While it might not know where it came from, it possessed excellent instincts and an immeasurable knowledge of the Universe. If it was concerned about Rudpar's monoliths, there was something to be concerned about.
"This is fantastic!" Brenda's expression was awed, like that of a child, as she stared at the opalescent walls that continually shifted hues and pulsed with life. "May I?" she asked, lifting her hand toward the tracery of veins and nerves that served as the ship's partitions. At his nod, she flashed him a wide, brilliant smile and reached out.
Muraski knew what her delicately questing fingers felt – a smooth, cool ceramic-like surface that warmed to the touch.