|This Duchess isn't the Duchess in the story. Sorry.|
“It’s only been twenty minutes,” Juggy said from where the Sikorski perched on the mantle. “You’ll have to find something to occupy yourself. Or better yet, take a nap.”
Dee was upset and angry at being made to wait like a child while the two adults sequestered themselves in rooms upstairs. She liked the room, though, and that was a small comfort. There were books lining shelves on the far wall and with a shrug she went to them, looking for a title that would catch her eye and help her pass the time. Madame Skartarine wasn’t a wham-bam-thankyou-ma’am kind of lover. She had no idea what kind of lover Alu was and hoped never to find out any specifics.
She couldn’t stomach that a Symbi and a human were lovers, either. It made no sense. There was tension between the two races dating back to first contact, thousands of years prior. Every time a human settlement infringed on a Symbi planet that wasn’t properly denoted, there was war that inevitably resulted in enormous loss of life on both sides with one or the other notching a ‘win’. The impartial histories of Leci Szenko and her team had both sides losing as much as the other and really gaining very little.
There was just something about a Symbi that put Dee on edge. Maybe it was the fact that inside they were so very different than humans. Their genetic makeup wasn’t formed around carbon, like humans, but around something very like arsenic, a poison to humans. Dee had never heard of the two species being able to produce offspring though she had read about a couple of famous cases of illicit love between them. Leci Szenko was an impartial observer and reporter for the most part except when it came to sex. She seemed to revel in the sordid details of liaisons no matter who was involved.
And then there was the fact that her parents had been killed by a Symbi and no one had ever been able to tell her why it had happened. Why the Symbi had gone after her mother specifically or why it had set the constructor bots to tear the building apart was a mystery. There was nothing in his file or his previous behavior and records to indicate that he was unbalanced. Various factions came to the fore claiming speciesism and prejudice at the genetic level, but there was no science behind it.
At the orphanage where Madeleine had found Dee, there had been a Symbi girl who kept her distance from Dee. Hady, was her name. Nice enough to the other girls there, the nonhuman ones, but cold and vicious to Dee and the few other humans. (The attack on Dee’s building had created dozens upon dozens of orphans that day.) Smart, too, in the classes they shared. Dee had built a grudging kind of respect for Hady’s mind until the day it all went wrong.
Something was said in a small group that included Hady and three other nonhuman girls. Dee was certain that her name had been in that something said and when they all snickered and glared at her, an avalanche of hate tore its way down the mountain of her psyche and she snapped. Dee flung herself at Hady, intent on breaking the Symbi girl’s neck. Hady, it turned out, was a natural fighter and there was quite a row with lots of punches, kicks and hair-pulling to go around. Thirty or forty students jostled for a position where they could see the action and a couple of industrious types on either side of the hallway were taking bets. Eighty percent of those in attendance picked Hady to win quickly and possibly murderously.
No one had counted on Dee’s determination and species hatred. Everyone there, and those that would claim to be there later but couldn’t possibly have been, was mortified when Dee got around behind Hady and twisted the Symbi girl’s arm painfully up and backwards. The sick pop of ligaments and muscle as Hady’s shoulder popped out of joint was punctuated by a high-pitched keening that wasn’t recognizable as a scream. It was made worse as Dee jammed her foot into the small of Hady’s back and kept pulling and twisting until there was a tearing sound unlike anything any of the children had ever heard before.
Symbi flesh is tough, made to withstand incredible air pressure on their home planet, and Dee had pushed Hady’s arm so high and so far backwards that while Hady was face first on the ground she shifted position to put her foot on Hady’s shoulder and continued to pull. The tearing of Hady’s skin was something that no one there would ever forget. When the arm came free, Dee fell backwards and lost her grip. Huffing and puffing from the effort, she rolled over and grabbed the arm, dragging a trail of Symbi blood behind it across the white tiled floor to toss it on Hady’s back. The Symbi girl was unconscious and a teacher finally pushed his way through.
He vomited at the sight, giving Dee a chance to run through the crowd of kids on her side of the hall. She turned the corner and saw the doors closing at the end. She ran as fast as she could and tried to slip through the closing panels. Dee yelled at the top of her lungs and leapt.
She banged into the closed doors and knocked herself senseless.