Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
As promised, it had taken less than a day for Boro to return to bridge duty, happily still not inhabited by the Thorian, but just in time for Meslina to deliver a troubling report.
“We’ve still not received anything from the satellite.”
“Were we supposed to?” Boro asked. “I thought we wouldn’t hear from HID Intelligence for at least another week?”
“No,” she said slowly, dropping her voice, “I mean that the satellite itself is unresponsive. I should have received a ping if our message was relayed, but there’s only silence.”
“Hmm,” Boro murmured loudly and walked over to Maggie’s station. The Techever had always looked zoned-out when she was plugged in, but Boro had come to learn that she had the ability to be fully present in both worlds, regardless of perception. “Are you getting anything, Maggie?”
Her eyes darted back and forth before her, still staring past and above him, until she brought them back into focus on him and answered, “No. Though it’s small and ghosted and even with our long-range subspace sensors concentrated on its anticipated approximate location I wouldn’t expect to see anything.”
“The ping’s the only way of knowing it went through,” Meslina said behind him.
“Then we try again.”
“I have, no confirmation on that one yet. I also went ahead and targeted a further satellite. Anything beyond that and we risk not hitting it, or someone intercepting the message.”
“Focus on those two then, and let me know if anything comes back. Maybe when we’re not moving we’ll have better luck.”
On the morning of Tuka’s memorial, after two days of sitting idle on the frontiers of the Thorian Empire, Captain Pueson made the call to abandon any further attempts to get their message back to the Human Interstellar Dominion. Both satellites remained silent, and no amount of scanning turned up even the slightest indication that they were actually there. Similarly, they could see no friendly ships anywhere within range, and there was nothing to suggest that anyone had bothered to investigate what happened to Yshot Station. On the other hand, there was growing evidence of distant Thorian activity, and after much pressure from Boro, the Captain agreed to resume the mission, which meant that nothing about the incident at the Iastret station would reach home for months, and no one in Tuka’s family would know that his role in this undertaking was already over.
It was a day that was destined to be sour, one that, at the moment of the imagined dawn on board the Forseti, had chosen to make miserable whoever dared live through it.
The day of the memorial was also going to be the day that the Thorian started proving his utility to the ship and would join them on the bridge. Boro had to admit that if they’d been properly prudent, Mikarik would have already been called in to advise on the Thorian activity they’d picked up on their long-range sensors, but part of Boro was heartened to see that even Captain Pueson didn’t appear to be in a rush to invite the arrogant bony-headed alien into their presence. Still, he would not put it past Pueson to make too big of a deal of the Thorian joining them, possibly a stunted stumbling speech about the possibilities of cooperation even between the unlikeliest of allies. Nothing Boro wanted to be present for, so he took several detours after leaving the memorial before finally heading to the bridge.
According to the window screens that lined the hallways of the Forseti, today they were flying over something Boro could recognize – his own home planet, Earth, the cradle of the Human species. There was no strange vegetation, or impossible rocky outcroppings, or a shade of sky that gave just that uncanny feeling that this was not where he was born. As far as he could tell, they were soaring over the west coast of the northern Aremiga continent, one of the areas hardest hit during the Great Fire and that remained sparsely populated even to this day, lying across the entire Mer Pacific from where he was born and raised.
By the time Boro reached the bridge, the Thorian was already there, standing just behind Captain Pueson and reading some displays over his shoulder. What had Intelligence intended to be their end game here? If the Forseti survived the entirety of its mission, what would they do with the Thorian to ensure that he wouldn’t immediately run back to the Empire and reveal everything he’d learned? They must have had some kind of retirement plan in mind; one with limited freedom that did not quite amount to imprisonment. This wasn’t Boro’s problem to solve, and certainly not right there and then.
“Mr. Mikarik,” Boro said curtly.
The Thorian turned slowly, cracking the faintest of smiles. “Commander Stevin. I hope you had a restful sleep.”
Ten years of sleep wouldn’t have been enough to prepare him to work alongside the smug bumpy-headed bastard.
“So where has our guide guided us to today?” Boro asked instead, making sure to put just the right tone of derision on ‘guide’.
“Mikarik has advised us that we need a two-day detour in order to avoid the Thorian activity we’d been monitoring,” Captain Pueson said.
“Two days?” Boro tried to stifle his incredulity, keeping a straight back to appear at least somewhat comparable to the Thorian in height. “His first hour advising us and we’re already changing course that would delay our mission by another two days? And I didn’t think we could afford much more lost time.”
The Captain did not look entirely pleased with Boro’s outburst but did not get a chance to voice his objection as the Thorian stepped in to interrupt. “Well, Commander Stevin, I may not know too much about your ghosting technology in particular, but in my experience the more ships there are that could triangulate your position based on the little energy distortions you inevitably leave, the worse shape you’re in. And that,” he motioned at the display he and Pueson were studying, the string of yellow blobs almost connecting at the side of the screen, “is a formidable amount of navy ships.”
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.