Kirie was running her a hot bath, and William leaned against the door outside, complaining loudly.

" Can't we file some sort of complaint against him? Charge him with a crime? Treat someone in DASS jurisdiction like that and you get a minimum of ten years hard labour. I can't believe your father lets things like that go on!"

" My uncle," Nova clarified. " And he was the one who let Diurn take the Lyeha anyway... I suppose because of that I had thought he wouldn't be so harsh."

" How can you not know?"

" I've not seen the Lyeha within the past two years or so. The last I had heard of her, Irdat was angry because she couldn't be prosecuted for taking birth control."

" Your people have the most barbaric gender politics in the whole stretch of the ten star systems," William said. " I don't understand half of it, but my God."

" I don't particularly care for such things since it's none of my business."

" People have a fundamental right to not want children, Nova."

" I can agree with that. I don't particularly want any."

" You see?"

" You'd be horrified by the way Diurn wants things done, then."

" I'm horrified by the way Diurn does things already. I'm regretting not decapitating him."

" You really should've done that anyway. Fair game since he was making such a sincere effort to kill you."

William heard a whir, and stood away from the door.

Kirie came out, and after a moment, the Lyeha as well. Her hair had been cut much shorter, curling around her face, and she was wearing a spare DASS uniform in her size. She was fidgeting.

" Brother, thank you for taking care of me," she said, and bowed.

" I'm far too busy for such things. Wille is the one who won you anyway, so you're his responsibility," Nova said.

" Nova, don't be unfair," William chastised. " She's your sister."

" Thank you, Wille," she corrected herself.

" Ah! It's no trouble, don't worry so much about it, Lesa," he assured. " I've got a room set up for you, and I've called one of the cadets close to your age to be your attendant, starting tomorrow. You have free reign of the ship, if you have trouble call on me or Lt. Honda, the cafeteria has lunch at noon and dinner at seven, but you can call in to the kitchen anytime since you're an honoured guest, of course..."

" Try not to bother me," Nova deadpanned.

" How many times should I tell you not to be rude?" William said.

" As many as you like."

William realized that she looked quite confused by the exchange.

" Wille... Are you, perhaps, the DASS's Lyena...?" she asked.

" DASS doesn't have such a thing," Nova answered. " Even the highest part of their chain of command is run by committee."

Her eyes flicked between them.

" But he's your equal, brother?"

Nova shifted his weight, put off by it.

" I suppose. He's. We're. rae." The last word was spoken quickly and quietly.

" We've begun a passionate and torrid love affair," William clarified.

Her face went red.

" Oh."

" Don't mind the men so much," Kirie said. " They squabble like that constantly. I'll give you a tour of the facilities."

" I've just... never heard anyone talk back to Lyena before."

" Ah, so that's how he got this way," William observed.