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Wait, Joëlle!”

I caught up to her in a hallway with windows facing the back of the ship. A few moments later, and I noticed the space outside began to distort as though it was pooling into a drain directly behind the ship; at last Kronos had entered into slipspace.

Joëlle was staring outside too. “Dammit!” She pressed her hands against the glass. “I can’t take off from Kronos while it’s in slipspace.”

I stopped beside her, and between pants, said, “Theoretically it’s possible, just incredibly dangerous.”

Shut up!” She spun toward me, her brow furrowed. After a moment of silence, she asked, “What do you even want?”

I took a deep breath. “I want to help you. I want to travel with you in pursuit of the valicorr mothership. I want to take back the Shade Beam before they can turn it into a real threat.”

No.”

But- You said you need a team.”

No!” She was glaring at me.

I stepped forward slowly. “Why not?”

Because you let my team die, and now I’m all alone!” She spat. “I trusted you! I don’t know why, but I trusted you!”

My ears dropped. “I tried to save them! But I got caught up helping some other people on the way-”

Some other people?!”

I was finding it difficult to swallow. “Yes, some other people. They were trapped in an elevator. Her husband-”

Trapped in an elevator?” She took a step closer, looking up at me. “Was the elevator in danger?!”

There was a woman, she was crying, trying to save her husband who was stuck in there.” I bowed my head. “I had to pry the doors open, and climb down the shaft to help them.”

Anyone could have done that!” She shook her head in disbelief. “Not anyone could have taken out that gunship or bought us enough time to restore power, so my team could get out of there. But you’re a skyther Prince. You’re combat trained, you should have been doing that!”

Wait- The valicorr started attacking us in the elevator! I had to defend them!” I raised my hands defensively.

In the elevator? You mean after you’d opened the doors?” She shook her head. “Do you really think those valicorr would have even known people were in their if you didn’t leave the doors wide open for them to see? You put them in danger, by trying to help!”

I noticed the beads of sweat forming on my cheeks and palms. Maybe she was right. I made the wrong call… maybe if I hadn’t tried to help, the valicorr wouldn’t have noticed them, and no one would have died. I would have run to the defense cannon and shot down the gunship, and then I would have found some way to distract the valicorr who were blocking her team’s exit, until the power was restored.

My eyes were beginning to water. “I assessed the situation and made a choice,” I said.

You made a bad choice! Why didn’t you just do what I asked and help my team?! Now I’m all alone!” Her voice was breaking, and I saw tears forming in her eyes. “Why couldn’t you save them?!”

I don’t know.” I stared blankly at the floor.

Joëlle wiped her face. “I need a team. People I can trust.”

You can trust me!” I said. I felt a spark within me.

She shook her head and frowned. “I can trust you to what? To go back on the plan? To get people killed? What can I trust you to do?”

Slowly I closed my fists together, and I stood up straighter. I lifted my head, my ears, my eyes. I looked at Joëlle. I took a deep breath.

You can’t trust me to save everyone,” I said. “You can’t trust me to be perfect. Honestly, you can’t even trust me to stay out of other people’s business.” I stepped forward. “But you can trust me to try, and not to rest until that mothership is neutralized. I’m not happy about what happened at the base. Honestly, I’m devastated. I let people die. But I just want to do what I can to make up for it. And this Shade Beam needs to be stopped, before it’s functional.” I reached out a hand. “So please, I’m volunteering to put my life on the line with you, in the name of protecting the galaxy. Please accept my help, and my friendship.”

And my friendship? I thought. Whatever, the rest was good.

She was looking at me with more sympathy, but I could tell she was holding back tears. I held my hand out for what felt like ages, listening to the sound of us breathing and the ship’s hum. Finally, she grabbed my hand, and shook it, looking me in the eye.

I’m sorry,” she said.

So am I. I am so sorry.”

She bowed her head. “Well… we have to wait until Kronos arrives at the Olympus system. Which means we’ve missed our window for tracking the mothership via slipspace emissions. I won’t let that stop me from trying though; I will find it.”

So, we definitely won’t be able to track the slipspace emissions?” I asked.

Not necessarily,” said Jonathan. Joëlle and I jumped back at the sound of his voice as he stepped around the corner. “I’m sorry for eavesdropping, but I must say I’m very intrigued by the sound of this ‘Shade Beam’.”

What- I thought you were going to the lounge?” I said.

He smirked. “Did I say that? I don’t think I did.”

Joëlle spoke up. “So, you didn’t know about the Shade Beam?”

Only rumours about a planet destroying weapon. I assumed it was nonsense.” He shrugged. “I guess it wasn’t.”

Joëlle rubbed her eyes. “So, you think there might be a way to track the slipspace emissions, even after flying to Olympus aboard Kronos, and back to the Voren system in my ship?”

He nodded confidently. “Yes, if I were able to operate your scanners, and modify them a bit, I’ve been working on such a device in my spare time. One that would be able to detect even minuscule traces of slipspace radiation. It’s technically complex, so you might need my expertise to use it.” He manually adjusted his cybernetic eye.

You… want to come with us?” I asked. Joëlle shot me a glance.

Yes, I do,” he said. “All my research on Voren, well, it’s going to be put on hold indefinitely unless the TAU decides to construct a new research base there. But, if word about the Shade Beam gets out, I doubt they’re going to fund another station there. It’ll be associated in the eyes of the public with secret weapons testing, which is not a wonderful image.” He paused, and his smile faded as he stood upright, his coat trailing. “The valicorr killed my coworkers… and friends. I want to do what I can to help stop them.” He turned to Joëlle. “And I was just telling Osax about my history as a marine. I’d be good help in a fight, when inevitably it comes to that.” He smiled weakly.

Joëlle slowly nodded. “Alright. I can work with a team of three. Five would be ideal, though four would be better than three…” She trailed off, then turned to Jonathan and shook his hand. “Welcome aboard, Jonathan.”

Thank you,” he said. He smiled strangely.

My ears lifted and I sighed in relief. The valicorr had a seemingly unstoppable ship, and now the means to construct a weapon that could destroy an entire planet. But, we were forming a team to counteract it. It seemed foolish, but that thought brought me comfort.

I was thinking as well,” said Jonathan, “we should get K in on this.”

I was hoping K would be interested,” I said, and my thoughts turned to her. I had no idea what she was planning to do, now that her home was destroyed. I wasn’t even sure how much she cared… her mood swings were so extreme. But I had a feeling she’d want to join us.

Joëlle nodded. “Yes, K would be an extremely valuable asset,” she said.

Well,” I cleared my throat. “I’ll go find K and talk to her about this. Shall we regroup when we arrive at Olympus?”

Yes,” said Joëlle. “When Kronos exits slipspace, let’s meet in hangar D; that’s where my ship is.”

Jonathan stretched his arms and shoulders. “Getting a bit nervous. I didn’t expect to be doing this.” he said, and chuckled.

I looked him in the eyes. “No one expected this.”

 

I found K alone on one of the observation decks. It was a dome-shaped room which you entered via stairs leading up to it. The dome was made up of windows, and K was lying down on a couch, staring up at the stars streaming past in a distorted blur. Her chest rose and fell slowly with each breath, and her orange eyes gleamed dimly in the light. She was humming a song, with a simple melody I had never heard before. It was enchanting, and flowed smoothly like a waltz. When she noticed me, she tilted her horned head to look my way, and waved casually.

Hey.” She turned back toward the stars. I could tell she was deep in thought.

I approached her, and sat down on a chair nearby. “How are you doing, K?”

She exhaled. “Great.”

I gazed up at the stars. “Me too.”

She looked at me and raised an eyebrow. Then she chuckled to herself. “You’re funny, Osax.”

So are you, K.”

We sat in silence for a while longer.

So,” I said, “do you know what you’re planning to do, now that you’re out exploring the galaxy?”

She sighed. “Yeah.”

Can I ask what you’re going to do?”

She snorted. “Yep.”

...What are you going to do?”

She closed her eyes. “I’m gonna lie here.”

I waited for her to continue, but of course she didn’t.

So-”

Osax,” she interrupted me. “Uh, you go ahead.”

No, it’s alright.”

She sighed. “Okay, so… I just was wondering...” she turned to face me. “Why... are you still talking to me?”

I titled my head to the side. “I don’t understand.” She didn’t look angry.

I mean, we’re done the mission. And I royally screwed it up.” She shook her head, and chuckled. “Actually I guess you royally screwed it up; I normally screwed it up, just, more than usual.”

I remained silent, and she sat up.

Look,” she continued, “we don’t have to work together anymore. We were assigned to a mission, we almost died, we found the station under attack, and we tried to save it and kind of succeeded. But now, don’t you have princely things to do? Other people to talk to about scholarly things and ancient alien bullshit?”

Alien bullshit?”

I meant loro stuff, not skyther stuff. Mutual aliens.”

I raised one of my ears. “Would you rather me not talk to you?”

No!” She said, and then turned away, chuckling nervously. “No, I just don’t get it. You don’t have any reason to want to, and you have plenty reason to leave me alone. You must have other friends.”

I paused. “Do I need a reason to want to talk to you?”

She stared at me puzzled. “Uh, don’t you?”

I thought for a moment. “I just enjoy your company.”

She looked at me dumbfounded. “Ha, ha,” she said sarcastically.

Really,” I said, “I enjoy being around you.”

Why?” she was eyeing me suspiciously.

You’re headstrong, you’re funny. You have a heart somewhere in there; you tried to cheer me up when we were in the lounge, and the stress of everything was getting to me. You’re curious about things, like me.”

She scoffed. “I might be curious about things, but not like you, you nerd.”

I shook my head, ears lifting. “You know, I’m trying to compliment you.”

Yeah, that’s the best time to insult people. Catches them off guard.” She flashed a toothy grin at me. “Besides, now that I know you have feelings for me, I can manipulate you.”

I laughed. “What the hell is wrong with you, K?”

I have no fricken idea. You’re the first person who’s gotten close enough to me to ask that, and still wanted to talk.” She looked me in the eye, her tusks framing a warm smile. “So, does this make you my friend?”

I felt my chest get lighter. “I hope so. I’d like to consider you my friend.”

She grinned.

And actually, I don’t have many friends,” I said. “I’ve traveled so much, much more than most people, skythers and humans alike. It makes it hard to maintain friendships. Fiona is one of the only friends I still have, and even then this is the first time I’ve seen her in ages.”

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised a nerd like you is so lonely.” She said, smirking. For whatever reason, I found her teasing endearing.

What about you? You must have had some friends on the station…” I trailed off, realizing that even if she did, they may have been killed in the attack.

She shook her head, and the smile began to fade. “No, not really. When I was growing up, the doctors and scientists took care of me. But, none of them really cared about me, I guess. I think I scared people too much.”

Yeah?”

Yeah.” She shrugged. “Scaring people isn’t all bad.”

I know I scared some people on the station,” I said.

Those people were cowards, if you scared them.”

I was trying to say I sympathize, and you turned it into an insult. Come on, K. Why?”

I don’t know. You’re the one who wanted to be my friend.” She was smiling. “So, I interrupted you a while back.”

Yes.” I said. I relayed to her the information about the Shade Beam, and how Joëlle and Jonathan and I were planning to go together to try to stop the mothership. “So,” I continued, “we wanted to know if you would come join us.”

She looked at me with a startled expression. “Osax, that’s insane.”

I nodded.

No, like, that’s really insane. The AA guns couldn’t even dent that thing.”

So, that’s a no?” I asked.

No? No!” She grinned. “It’s a yes. I wanna get back at those bastards. Besides, once we’re heroes I’m sure there’ll be fame and money in it.” She crossed her arms.

I smiled. “Yes, I guess so. I’m glad you’re on board.”

I’m so on board. Honestly, I had no idea what I was gonna do since the base got destroyed. Was thinking of stealing a ship and flying after it, or something.”

K…” I said.

Hey, I was just thinking about it, I didn’t do it!” She paused. “Hey, also, do we have to go with Jonathan?”

Yes, we do.”

Fine.”

What’s your problem with him?”

I don’t know,” she said. “I just don’t like him.”

I shook my head. “Well, we need him to track down the mothership.”

There was a long pause, and I listened to the hum of the ship. Then she spoke again.

...Do we have to go with Joëlle?”

I put my head in my hands.

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About the author

Seb Woodland

Bio: I'm a writer, game developer, artist, and musician. Just a creative guy working on art and trying to make his way in the world.

-There is always hope-

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