Shuri never called. If she needed anything from Ari, a member of her guard would contact Uzo, and Uzo would relay the message. Ari's heartbeat skyrocketed when her kimoyo beads notified her to a call from the princess.
Ari quickly went over her time in the Mining Tribe to try to remember anything with which Shuri would find fault. There were so few things that actually troubled Shuri that Ari didn't have time to critique every detail of her performance to find the one little flaw. It was like trying to distinguish one grain of sand from another.
"Yes, I'm awake," Ari said. Her response was delayed, but Shuri didn't seem to notice.
"Have you installed the Nunjari yet?" Her voice was low and devoid of all of the joy that usually accompanied it.
Ari shook her head. "We're scheduled to do so tomorrow."
"I need you to do it today. Finish before this afternoon if possible, then take the Light Rail home. Uzo will be given the details of this change in plans."
"Yes, Princess." Ari never called her that. Shuri had forbidden it on the first day they met. But the authority in her voice demanded propriety. Further, Ari was extremely worried. She'd heard about the evacuations in the Panther Tribe. Some Panther Tribe members had arrived in the Mining Tribe the day before. Ari just assumed it was a precaution. There had been quite a few such events since Killmonger was in Wakanda.
Now Ari's instructions were to go home, which meant all non-combat palatial members were also leaving the city. Something was truly wrong, but Ari knew better than to ask questions about such matters.
"And the celebration?"
Shuri closed her eyes and shook her head. She'd clearly forgotten. "And that is also tomorrow?"
"Marana was elected acting Tribe Head until the Chief returns. If I go to her this morning, I could tell her to cancel and..."
"No!" Shuri yelled. She shook her head again. "I'm sorry," she mumbled. Ari's stomach was twisting so much from a mix of fear and nerves, she was sure should would wretch."
Shuri was silent for what felt like an eternity before she came to a decision.
"I will personally contact Marana and ask her if we can move the celebration to today. I don't anyone to worry more than they have to."
Shuri was obviously going through great pain to pull her mouth into a smile. "You'll have to try to relax before you see anyone, Ari. You look ridiculously anxious."
It was going to be difficult for Ari to relax. Ari didn't find herself nervous often, but when she did, her anxiety was uncontrollable.
"I will do my best," she replied just before Shuri left the call.
The laser hit the vibranium not quite as perfectly as Ari wanted, but the Nunjari powered on nonetheless and the elders, the few that remained in the Mining Tribe, were blissfully unaware. Applause erupted behind her.
She smiled at D'Miro, who nodded in return and then she faced the group of Wakanda's elite for questions. There were none, as usual, and the group shuffled out of the distribution center.
"Okay," D'Miro said when they were gone. "What's going on?"
"What do you mean?"
D'Miro took her hand, lifted it between them, and then left it in the air. Ari's hand was noticeably shaking.
"You've done this many times," he continued. "I know you're not nervous."
She shook her head. "Not about this." She walked over to one of the old power cells to extinguish it. "Can I ask you something?"
"Have you spoken to your family in the last few days?"
"Yes," he replied joining her at the second cell.
"Are they okay?"
He shrugged. "A bit annoyed because of the evacuation. We don't have much family in other tribes, so they have to stay in an inyo."
Ari remembered her last time in an inyo. She was on holiday with her parents in the River Tribe. The rooms were nice, well-decorated, comfortable, and spacious, but she didn't think the dozen or so inyos in Wakanda would hold every displaced Panther Tribe member.
"Just annoyed?" she asked. "Nothing else."
"Should there anything else?" he said. Ari could hear the concern forming in his throat. "And what does that have to do with why you're nervous?"
Ari moved to the third power cell. "Nothing." She smiled and hoped it looked sincere. "I'll be fine. I was only wondering what was happening in the city."
She could see that D'Miro was going to inquire further, but they both noticed someone standing in the entrance.
"I thought you'd be done," K'Nabu said. "I can return later..."
"No, it's alright." D'Miro looked at Ari one last time before going to the door.
He and K'Nabu clasped each others forearms and then touched shoulders.
"You have class in an hour," D'Miro told K'Nabu. Ari missed the wink he'd given him as well.
The intensity of the conflicting emotions that plagued Ari the moment she heard K'Nabu's voice sent her body to the floor. She was excited and happy to see him, but was equally distressed and also still reeling from her conversation with Shuri. She had maintained composure with D'Miro. She was sure if K'Nabu asked the right questions she would unload all of her fears and she didn't want to do that to him. Many of his family members were spread out among every combat force in Wakanda.
She managed to descend fluidly into a seated a position. "I'm just tired," she told him. "Up late."
He smirked. She'd been with him most of the night, but her remark wasn't enough to throw him off completely.
"When did you and D'Miro become friends," Ari said before he could talk. It was a good segway, because she'd honestly had the thought when she saw the way they greeted each other.
K'Nabu shrugged. "He's been spending extra time with me at the mountain. I won't get this much access to all of these varieties of vibranium when I leave."
Ari nodded. "Very true."
"And the way he leads the course I thought for sure his focus would've been mining. He was actually a weapons student and an expert on practical uses for vibranium and..."
Ari didn't pay attention to everything K'Nabu had to say about D'Miro. She already knew he was brilliant and she needed to calm her breathing.
"So you've chosen a focus?" Ari asked when he stopped talking. It was the right question. He didn't realize he'd lost her for a moment. "Weapons?"
He smiled. "You would love that, wouldn't you?"
Ari laughed at her inability to hide her distaste for weapon development.
"No," he continued. "And not because of you." He pointed to the Nunjari. "One of those could potentially power Wakanda for fifty years maybe more."
"So what if we took one into the solar system." His eyes went to the ceiling. "What if it powers one of our space stations? What if, assuming that T'Challa doesn't follow in his father's footsteps and actually approves an extraterra planetary settlement or even an intergalactic mission, which, I know, is stretch, but what if we took the Nunjari. Imagine the possibilities."
Ari couldn't believe what she was hearing.
"What are you looking at?" K'Nabu said when his eyes found hers. He pulled at lose coil of her hair and smiled.
"When I return to the palace," she said. She swallowed down the knot that she had been suppressing since morning. What if she never returned the palace?
She shook her head and rubbed her eyes so her attention would stay on K'Nabu. "When I return, I am to train in the palace's Intragalactic Program, so that in two years, I will lead a team to safely transport a Nunjari to space."
It took a solid minute for K'Nabu to grasp what she was saying.
Ari nodded and genuinely smiled at the wonder in K'Nabu's eyes. "Shuri gets what she wants. And she wants to go to space. And I volunteered to join her."
Another minute of silence passed laughter poured out of him. In that moment Ari had almost completely forgotten her worries. It was remarkable how similar their brains functioned.
"So," she said, "By the time you receive your qualifications. I'll be in space."
"I'll be on the next ship after you." He pulled her head towards his pressed his lips onto her forehead. "Couldn't be more perfect."
Marana made her announcement that the festivities were to be held a day early in the Tribe's Center. There were grumblings from elders, but mostly people accepted the change without complaint. There were questions, of course, but Ari knew none of them would be answered.
Ari was in no mood for a celebration. She was convinced she wouldn't be able to handle it in the way her position required. The minute she made the decision she wasn't going, a familiar face, her favorite face, appeared from her kimoyo beads.
"How are you, my sister?" Ari said nearly in tears.
Ari's heart sank. Kazu, who was generally of the same disposition as Shuri, was in much the same mood Shuri had been earlier that day.
"Kazu, what's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," Kazu replied. She forced a smile. "But I am here to see you."
"Here?" Ari said looking out of her window. Kazu stood at the entrance of the Chief's residence.
"What are you doing here?" Ari hurried out of her room and darted down the long hallway to greet her sister.
Ari threw her arms around her almost as soon as the doors opened. "I've missed you so much, Kazu." She wiped the tears with the back of her hand.
A few seconds into the hug Ari realized Kazu was not hugging her back.
Ari took Kazu by the shoulders and held her at arm's length so she could see her. "Okay, seriously, what is the matter?"
Kazu was having a hard time looking Ari in the eye. "We were told to temporarily leave our Quadrants and return home."
Ari sighed and brought her in for another embrace. "I know. I'm worried too. We have to trust those who have chosen to protect us."
She released her sister and led her into the chief's residence. "That doesn't explain why you're here, sister. This is not home."
Kazu shook her head. "Palace members also left the city. I thought I would come here and we could go home together."
Ari smiled. "This is an excellent surprise. The best surprise."
Kazu plastered a smile to her face, as practiced and mechanical as the previous.
The party would surely change her mood. "The Nunjari celebration is happening right now. You can wear one of my robes and we'll go together."
Ari took Kazu's hand and pulled her into her room. She wasn't used to being the happy sister, but she was used to being the eldest. If Kazu wasn't feeling her best, Ari would certainly to do her best to change that.