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The Mraboran smiled, revealing the barest hint of two sharp canines. “Long time to be awake.”

“I’ve had longer,” Mikarik lied; now was as good a time as any to practice.

“Really?” That purr again. “I would probably go crazy being up all by myself.”

“So what’s got you up now?”

“Got knocked out. Always do. Any time we get close to a destination I start getting dreams that we’re headed straight for a star. Only way to get rid of them is to get up and make sure the ship’s not melting.”

“I’d prefer sleeping right through that, personally, you know, just in case it was true and I could avoid dying painfully.”

“Being all by yourself for three months sounds a lot like dying painfully to me.”

“Well you know what they say, a Thorian’s got time to spare.” The “they” of course were only Thorians who lorded their longer lifespans over almost every other sentient species. He loathed when other Thorians did it, but accepted that hypocrisy and self-loathing go hand-in-hand.

Those narrow feline eyes flashed at him with a lack of patience and she pulled a personal computer tablet out of a pouch on her belt and turned her attention to that. Mikarik turned back to his notebook, to agonize over synonyms and metaphors and scratch at the three cranial bumps running down his forehead, vestiges of a time when Thorian males slammed their heads together as a means of winning favour of unimpressed females. Every Thorian with the exception of his mother had mentioned to him how small his were, and many suggested how easy it would be to cave his skull in with a single slam, despite the fact that anyone who would be even remotely impressed by this display would be fellow brick-heads. Few had actually tried, and of those that did, none tried more than once. At least for this reason, he was quite pleased by them, even if they did itch something fierce whenever his mind was particularly preoccupied.

Three months he had been at it, and this was his fourth notebook, and every day he thought he was making progress until he read his writing the following day and convinced himself he had the eloquence of a toddler. In that respect, at least, he felt like a true writer. These efforts were difficult enough, but feeling her glance at him every couple of minutes didn’t help.

She let out a sharp huff, exaggerating the scintillating nature of whatever it was she had read, and then leaned forward in her chair. “So you’re an awfully long way from home for a Thorian.”

Mikarik tapped his pen on the page a few times. “Any further and I’d end up in Dead Space.”

“I suppose so,” she laughed. “This is my first time this far out.” She left open a silence that he refused to fill, preoccupied by the pages even though he hadn’t written or read anything in a while. “I guess I’ll need to get used to it though. My new diplomatic post is for five years, and then who knows.”

“Five years among Humans?” He looked at her then, a single canine poking out from a fuzzy lip. “Who did you have to kill to deserve that fate?”

“I don’t think Humans are all that bad, especially once you get to know them.”

“I’ll take your word for it. I find them too … twitchy, unpredictable. They haven’t quite figured themselves out yet, so how am supposed to make anything of them?”

“Harsh words for someone travelling to their homeworld. So what does bring you out to these parts?”

He squinted at her with his green eyes, something she would have seen even through the glasses and said, “You’ll laugh.”

“You don’t know that.”

He told, her. She laughed.

“I’m sorry, I thought Thorians didn’t do poetry.”

“Yes, I’ve heard the common misconception.”

“Something about you not being able to do metaphors?”

“Maybe not in the same way.”

“Oh, I remember now. You can’t combine things with certain adjectives. Like you can’t say uhh,” her hand went behind her head, giving it a satisfying scratch.

“Angry wind.” They said in unison, though Mikarik’s outburst was far less enthused. He wasn’t particularly keen on how many times this has been quoted to him, an inclusion in some two-bit traveller’s guide that got reprinted across every corner of the Known Reaches. Funny how most of them didn’t bother to include the other little tidbit that he was about to spring on the Mraboran.

“It’s true, we don’t personify things.” Technically they didn’t personify anything other than Thorians. Even the Mraboran’s use of “I” was grating to Mikarik’s ears. “But we have plenty of adjectives that serve their unique purposes.”

“Why do I have a sense that you have one up your sleeve already?”

Mikarik permitted himself a smile and leaned back in his chair. “Clearly I’m becoming predictable. But one word I’ve always liked is ‘netkarthai’. Hard to translate, harder still to understand. But it means something along the lines of “invoking a fear that one will never hear their loved ones again”. It also formed the basis of the word ‘netkarthi’, one of the many words of varying levels of derision that were used to describe the “severed” – those who were deaf to the hive empathy of the Thorians. Just speaking the word put a dark shroud around the room that flooded into Mikarik’s mind. This focused darkness is what he used to make the reckless decisions that gave him his medals and battle scars.

“Well that certainly is ominous,” she responded after chewing on the word for a bit. “Sounds like you might be finding a lot of that this far from home.”

“That’s the hope.” He responded and turned back to his notepad, still sensing her eyes refusing to release him.

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About the author

MichaelSilverV

Bio: I'm a husband, father of three, lawyer, writer, author of The Bloodlet Sun, and am currently working on my first contemporary fiction novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail.

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