Tarot Conversations: Strength

I'm thrilled to be taking part in the very first International Tarot Day Blog Hop.
For Strength, I've chosen to share an excerpt from my in-progress sequel to Fragile Bond, a military scifi featuring a sapient alien species of bipedal humanoid felines, and a population of humans traveling the stars.

XI, Strength. Wildwood (L) and Mary-el (R) tarot decks.

"I'm concerned, Zachary. Maybe this isn't such a great idea after all." Cirrus slowed to a halt, his words echoing in my head as his voice rumbled at so low a register it resonated through my breastbone. His whisper didn't bounce off the walls though, unlike the soft thump of our footsteps in perfect cadence.

I turned back to grab his arm and drag him in my wake, second thoughts be damned. My fingers slid along the fine white and black stripes of hair on his forearms, and I tightened my grip, finally catching hold of his wrist. "I refuse to let you back out of this at the last possible second. Commander Hakken has agreed to hear your petition. The least you should do is air it for them to hear."

I tugged, but Cirrus towered over me, flexed his arm, and resisted with depressingly little effort. His nostrils flared on a gusty sigh, and he shook his head. His round tufted ears twitched nervously. The ambient noise of voices rose sharply. Startled, his ears flattened against his skull and his lips curled back from his teeth, exposing fangs as long as my fingers.

"Cirrus." I drawled his name, expanding the syllables until they sounded more like a growl-purr of his native tongue. It distracted him and soothed his nerves, judging from the way his posture relaxed fractionally. "Your fathers will be terribly disappointed in you if you return home without even making an attempt."

It worked. Cirrus stared up at the ceiling, stretching his neck, and whined. The soft, downy white hairs lining the front of his neck and chest looked half rumpled from sleep still, a lack of self grooming likely due to stress. As much as he wanted this appointment to the Diaspora, he harbored a deep-seated aversion to strange humans.

I could hardly blame him, given the circumstances of his orphaning and subsequent adoption. "I know you want this. Just remember why."

Cirrus growled, and it shook my ribcage at such a close proximity. I squeezed his wrist encouragingly and released his arm, stepping back to give us both some space. He'd never thrown pheromones before and I strongly doubted he'd do it at me of all humans, but I'd sat through the safety briefings often enough to stay alert and vigilant, and maintain a healthy berth of distance. Cirrus's fathers were fastidious about it.

"I have not forgotten," the furr insisted, unsheathing his claws and combing them down his neck, stretching his chin up as he self-consciously groomed himself outside the door to the commander's office. "But I'm grateful for the reminder all the same."

"No problem," I muttered, diverting my gaze to the door with steely resolve. All the same, the column of his neck and bare expanse of his chest remained branded into my brain and teased along the edge of my periphery vision. "Just…remember that Commander Hakken isn't exactly a sympathizer. Don't take anything he says personally, okay?"

"You mean I can't take offense and rake his frail body into shreds? Yes, I'm aware. Father Marc reminded me of this before you arrived at the house earlier."

"I'm sorry I missed that speech," I laughed, suddenly nervous on his behalf. "I want nothing more than for this to work, I'm on your side okay? Don't forget that either."

Cirrus lowered his chin, claws grooming down the center of his chest, and gazed at me with steady, unblinking blue eyes like ice crystals. "I could hardly forget that, Zachary."

I grinned and rapped on the door to announce our presence.

"Enter," barked the commander from within, voice muffled through the buffered wall. The modular structures were originally designed for interstellar travel so the material possessed greater density and insulation than anything naturally occurring on Horace Deuce Niner.

"Here goes nothing," Cirrus murmured as he followed in my wake as I entered the office. His breath was a warm breeze over my buzzed scalp, and a shudder ran down my spine.

I rolled my shoulders back and stiffened to attention before the commander's desk. "Sir. I've brought the liaison representative for your consideration and approval. This is Captain Cirrus Marcson."

Commander Hakken eased back from the narrow desk, sinking into the zero-G chair that squeaked faintly beneath his shifting weight. Fingers steepled, elbows on the armrests, those flinty eyes skimmed over me dismissively and honed in on the furr lurking a step off my left side. "I was led to believe you would be presenting me with a noncombatant, one capable of coexisting and cohabiting with humans in close quarters."

My gut swooped low in defeat. I swallowed a few times before I managed to form a response. "That is correct, sir."

"What you've brought me is no sentient species. That is a feral creature capable of rending every last one of us limb from limb. No fucking way will I condone its presence on a space-faring vessel. What possessed you to even formulate such an idea when I don't suffer them unsupervised in my presence here on a stable installation?"

I stared at Commander Hakken with equal parts disbelief and disdain, mounting horror pushing its way up my throat. "You can stand there and insult an entire species based on your twisted perception of their violent response to an invading force? Because they didn't welcome our presumptive presence with submission?"

"As you were, Sergeant. You're damn right I do. They made no effort to communicate."

"May I remind you, we made no such overtures either."

"A lapse in protocol."

"Which cost lives. The fault is entirely ours. Why would you attempt to lay the blame at their feet?"

Hakken motioned to the literal manifestation of said feet. Cirrus huffed and wiggled his unshod toes, claws safely sheathed. "Have you seen those claws? One slip and containment integrity would be ridiculously moot. Never mind sterilization processes. All the hairballs --"

"Commander," Cirrus finally growled, stepping forward to bump my shoulder with his arm. Hakken eased back again, chair protesting the swift movement. "Your objections are wholly ridiculous. I have studied your airlock cycling mechanisms and procedures at some length. My physiology presents no extreme parameters for your systems."

Hakken eyed me, arching a brow up their forehead. "I presume that wasn't just a bunch of random barks and snarls."

I exhaled slowly, doing my best not to sound as though I was actually sighing in exasperation. "Captain Marcson has predetermined his compatibility with our airlock systems and their cycling processes. No aspect of his physiology, be it his nails or his pelt, presents any measurable amount of undue hardship for existing system function parameters. You're being unreasonable."

"You're putting words in its mouth," Hakken accused, incredulous.

"I'm the one with the translation thorn embedded in my skull, commander. Not you." A certain amount of cultural transfer demanded paraphrasing. I'd learned that much rather swiftly in my time as understudy and assistant at the H29 Liaison Office. "Would you prefer the captain obtain a trim and a mani-pedi before receiving reasonable consideration for the onboard liaison position?"

"I have no intention of cutting off my dreads or braids," Marcson informed me rather bluntly. I glanced at him only to find him glaring at me in disdain and disapproval. "For you to even imply I would consider doing such a thing is highly offensive."

Hakken frowned, attention flicking between us to track our conversation. He didn't interject, waiting for me to translate for him, no doubt. Fuck him and his pretentious racism. I eyed Cirrus, whose pelt remained short and neat everywhere save on his scalp and neck, where it grew long enough to form dreads and braids decorated with meticulously carved clay beads.

"It's called sarcasm, Cirrus. I've no doubt your fathers would both have my ass in a sling if I ever suggested someone take a blade to your hair." At least he maintained the presence of mind not to bare his fangs at me again. Hakken would probably shit a brick if he pulled something like that while in the commander's presence.

"Enough, both of you," Commander Hakken intervened at last. "Sergeant Santino, you've made your point quite clearly. I'll take your recommendation of Captain Marcson for the liaison position under advisement. Dismissed."

I saluted and withdrew from the commander's office. Cirrus followed my lead, then strode down the hallway alongside me, a steady growl vibrating the air around us. He unsheathed his claws repeatedly, the same way I might clench my hands into a fist repeatedly to disburse tension. For Cirrus, however, it didn't do much judging from the steadily increasing decibels of his vocalizations.

"Rein it in, Cirrus." I smacked his arm in hopes of drawing his attention, but the furr only picked up his pace as though desperate to get out of the liaison facility. He slammed through the door and out into the vibrant midday sunlight, and kept going, straight toward the nearest tree. He sank his claws into its immense trunk and began shredding at the thick bark. He bared his fangs and his ears flattened against his head again. The roar erupting from him was so deep and low, I felt it in my bones more than heard it.

He could not do this here. Not right outside the liaison office. Not when he was supposed to be the picture of control and self restraint. I strode up and fisted his dreaded braids with both hands. I didn't yank or pull, just let him feel the weight of my touch. "Cirrus, stop."

His roar cut off in the next moment. His chest heaved as he pulled air into his lungs. His hands remained on the tree's trunk, but his claws sheathed. It was a good start. Impressive, actually, given the racist condescension the commander had just subjected him to.

"Should we go talk to your fathers about Hakkin's response?" I asked.

"I'd rather not involve them."

"I know that."

"They have enough to deal with."

"Yeah, they do," I conceded. I let the silence stretch out between us. Cirrus rolled his shoulders and straightened, releasing the innocent tree from his grip. "Maybe we should go see them anyway though. Captain Staille will want to know what Commander Hakken had to say."

Cirrus turned his gaping maw of fangs at me, and ran a tongue over one. "You're right about that. And he probably has one of his casseroles cooking, too, now that you mention it. I could eat."

"When can you not?" I laughed, walking past him toward the home his fathers shared on the far ridgeline overlooking the valley.

"I haven't encountered such an instance yet," Cirrus assured me.

I hope you all have been enjoying this very first International Tarot Day blog hop. Next stop, The Hermit: brought to you by Kimberly Tsan of Fable's Den. The previous post, The Chariot, is brought to you by Sandra Gedds of Firerose Tarot.


  1. Wonderful! How did I not know you were making this?! *makes grabby hands*

    1. Okay, I'll admit that this wasn't even remotely in-progress until the prospect of writing a short piece for the Strength card became a goal. Then all the sudden, I couldn't see anything excerpt Cirrus, Marc and Hamm's adopted son. :)

  2. Replies
    1. Haha! As smooth and effortless as this section was for me to write, I expect I will have a full rough draft before too terribly long. Barring any unforeseeable obstacles.

  3. I love love love that you used some of your fiction to write about this card! Very cool and creative, thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for reading! Glad you enjoyed it. :)


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