If you missed the start of Alien Secrets, Flight of the Kestrel book 2, here is the link. To help your imagination, my idea of Tanu is based on Orlando Bloom as Legolas in the Lord of the Rings films.
Reuel's mind wandered to his first ship, The Rark. It was an Altairian Fast-Response ship, and he had managed to upset someone. Altairians are skilled at the art of feud-craft, making an enemy suffer without resorting to violence or even personal encounters. The first few months were fine, but one day he turned away from the food dispenser and bumped into a lieutenant, spilling hot stew all down the front of the officer’s uniform. Not only did it make a mess, but it burned the man’s chest, made worse by Reuel's vain attempts to mop it up.
It was a mistake anyone could make, and it could be argued that it was the lieutenant’s fault for standing too close. That was why the captain decided not to charge Reuel with assault, but the lieutenant would not accept the decision. From then on he made Reuel's life a misery, though not a single incident could be traced to him. From missing personal items to double shifts, every day there was something.
Everyone knew who did it, but the lieutenant was skilled, and no official action could be taken. The lieutenant was skilled at his job too and the captain was reluctant to lose him, so Reuel had to go. He learned later that the man had started feud-craft against someone else in a spaceport, and had been killed for it. Reuel felt vindicated, but sad it had come to this.
This vengeful, violent side of Altairians was not well known and rarely seen. Soft-spoken and graceful in their movements, Altairians appeared to be gentle people. They were courteous and kind, both among themselves and with other species. But push an Altairian too far, and the darker side will show.
The whole of Altair had once been violent, with warring overlords and roaming gangs. Eventually there was a devastating war and the victor had wiped out the leaders of every other clan and enforced peace. Somehow, it had worked, and modern Altairian society shows no trace of that deadly past.
Most of the Kestrel's missions consisted of settling disputes, supplying transportation and giving emergency relief. Consequently Reuel's violent side had never been seen.
While less violent, Altairian society was not egalitarian. There were deprived areas, and people without work, without credits, and with time on their hands easily became violent, especially the young. Reuel grew up in such an area. His one parent died in an accident at work and he was raised by a lone grandparent. Money was short, but education was free, and Reuel excelled. That was his means of escape.
When he was offered the chance to join the Kestrel, Reuel was not only glad to escape the Rark, he was grateful for the chance to interact more closely with non-Altairians. He had always been interested in the other species, and almost went into research rather than joining the PACT Academy. He might still go into full time research in later life. But now he had the opportunity to travel, to help people, to research in his spare time, and to meet the other species in person.
Most of the Kestrel crew were human, but that was a species in which he was particularly interested, and there were two other species on board: Balitoth the Zoan and Nefar the Kohathi.
Reuel and Balitoth shared a cabin and discovered a shared interest in humans. The human tribal ritual of 'football' seemed a good subject of study, and they began watching recordings of matches together. They soon found it was indeed a bonding experience, and became good friends.
In the Bokan cell, their fitful rest was disturbed some time later by the rattling of a flap at the bottom of the door. A plate of something that looked like bread and another flask of water were pushed in. Then the flap rattled shut again, waking Tanu.
He started thrashing about. 'Please, don’t, I can’t!'
'It is well,' Reuel tried to reassure him as he stretched and got up and fetched the water. 'Here, drink. Can you sit up?'
He helped the man sit and Hoy brought over the bread, which he divided in quarters, keeping some back for Parks. It was dry and tasted like fungus, they had to wash down every mouthful with sips of the water. Hoy took the water away from Reuel.
'Don’t drink it all, we don’t know how long it’ll be before we get more.'
With each mouthful Tanu became more aware. 'Who are you?' he asked at last.
'Fellow prisoners,' Hoy said, with a warning look to Reuel. 'We asked the wrong question of the wrong person. Why are you here?'
Tanu considered before answering. 'Because I refused… to cooperate.'
Reuel asked, 'How long have you been here?'
'I don't know, seems like weeks. They were nice to me at first, but then they lost patience.' He trembled at the thought, and fell silent.
Reuel thought about the prospect of being here for weeks. Being locked up was bad enough, the bread was worse, but he dreaded to think what was happening to Parks. The Bokans might decide to interrogate himself and Hoy the way they had interrogated Parks, and apparently Tanu, to see if they would reveal more. He wasn't sure if he could withstand torture. He shuddered and his cranial spines writhed under his hat.
The door opened again and one guard came in supporting Parks, the other stayed in the doorway, his weapon at the ready. The guard dropped Parks, grabbed Tanu and dragged him out, kicking and screaming.
Hoy and Reuel rushed to take care of Parks, thoughts of overpowering the guards forgotten. Parks' jacket was missing, and there was blood on the back of his shirt. He was shaking and could barely stand. As they helped him to a mattress, Tanu's cries echoed in the corridor until the other guard slammed the door.
'Take it easy, sit down and let me look at you,' Hoy said, stooping down with Parks. 'What did they do?'
Parks choked on the water Reuel was giving him and took a minute to recover.
'They used what they called the "pain-giver". I’ve never felt anything like it.' He started to shake.
'Take your time,' said Reuel. 'Sip more water.' He helped Parks drink.
'I need to lie down,' Parks said, and sank back onto the mattress.
Reuel leant towards Hoy and whispered, 'He must have told them everything! They’ll execute us!'
Parks reached up and grabbed Reuel by the shirt. 'I’m stronger than that, keep it together.'
Reuel went a brighter pink than usual, sat back on his heels and pushed at his hat, which wriggled as his spines writhed.
Parks dropped his head back on the mattress. 'We’re OK for now, but we’ve got to get out of here before they decide to do that again.'
'We’ve already worked out the only way out of here is to jump the guards,' said Hoy, cleaning the blood off Parks' face with the fabric ripped from the hem of Tanu's tunic. 'They’ve taken Tanu away, so our next chance is when they bring him back. You’re in no fit state to fight, so you’ll have to distract them, and Reuel and I will take one guard each.'
Parks reached for his right trouser pocket and winced. He beckoned to Reuel. 'There’s a small knife in my pocket. It’s not much, but every little helps. I managed to palm it when they were fitting the pain-giver.'
Reuel reached into Parks’ pocket and pulled out a scalpel.
'We must be careful, surely,' said Reuel, eyeing the scalpel. 'If we kill the guards it will cause an even greater diplomatic problem than our spying.'
Parks saw the darkness in Hoy’s eyes, reflecting his own distasteful reasoning. When Hoy spoke, Parks wasn’t surprised.
‘It’s true, becoming murderers won’t help us or our mission, but if we stay here how much of this -’ he pointed to Parks' injuries ‘- do you think we can withstand? We have to escape. If we only disable the guards, how long before they recover enough to raise the alarm? We don’t know. What we do know is knocking them out was extremely difficult when we were arrested. As abhorrent as the idea is, killing the guards is our only hope of actually getting out of here.'
Parks could see Reuel was shocked. His cranial spines jumped under the hat and he grabbed his head in pain.
Parks forced himself to raise his head again. 'I don't take this decision lightly, but to have Alliance people spying is a much bigger diplomatic incident than to have unknown individuals kill guards during an escape. Now, do you want the knife or not?'
Reuel sighed. 'I can kill better with my bare hands,' he said, handing the scalpel to Hoy.
Parks looked at Hoy in surprise. Parks hadn't been with the Kestrel long, and didn't know the crew all that well. He had always found Reuel to be a gentle soul, and such a casual certainty of violence didn't fit him. Hoy gave a nod and half-smile as confirmation.
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz