Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
“Humans are not exactly new to war, Mr. Mikarik,” Boro said pleasantly. It wouldn’t have been the first time he had to sit through a lecture from a member of another species about Humanity’s neophyte status in the Known Reaches, though he preferred when the conversation took place in some dive of a bar with none of his superior officers in earshot and he felt the familiar itch in his knuckles.
Mikarik’s hand, which was carrying another forkful to his mouth, froze for a moment. The spectacle of watching the Thorian eat had lost its novelty and just made Boro lose interest in his own lunch.
“Oh, I’m well aware of that,” Mikarik answered. “You’re so efficient at it you nearly wiped yourselves out of existence a couple of thousand years ago.”
Boro cocked his head to the side, using a smile to hide what was bubbling on the surface, thinking a sneer was probably the best he was managing “Probably,” he said, allowing his eyes to drift back down to his tablet. “But you’re not exactly career military yourself. That was your first major conflict, and the Mraboran incident was only your what, fifth or sixth engagement?”
“I don’t necessarily speak for myself when I talk of experience. I speak for the tradition that raised me, that forged Empires when you were still climbing out of a Dark Ages you sent yourself to.”
“And yet here you are,” Boro looked up again and spread his hands in a gesture that meant to encompass the whole ship, “supposedly turning your back on that tradition and betraying the Empire you now defend.”
“My relationship with the Empire is my own.” The Thorian lowered his forearms, picked up a generous forkful of fish and stuffed it in his mouth, chewing it with his eyes pinned on Boro through his glasses. “And it’s complicated.”
“I have no doubt about that, but that’s not how our Nabak sees it.”
“You mean Sivian?”
It was that damned ghost of a smile again.
“Yes, Sivian,” Boro gritted through his teeth.
“No, I don’t think he does.”
“Do you think he should?” Boro asked.
“I’m sure you’re aware of what happened towards the end of that war.”
“I do, but that hardly did nothing to undo what already happened, did it?”
Was that really a tinge of regret that Boro saw creep across the Thorian’s face and disappear? Were they even capable of regret? Dr. Sufai might know, or else that Vaparozh xenologist, one of them could shed a light on whether he was only seeing things, but in any case, the Thorian had no answer so Boro pressed on.
“The Mraboran have likely not forgotten.”
“Good thing we don’t have any Mraboran on board,” the Thorian remarked.
“But we do have a Nabak.”
“As I’m sure you’ve noticed how the rest of the crew act around you.”
“Is there a point to all this, Commander?” The Thorian asked with a deep sigh and a long look at his plate. “Because between this conversation and the revolting fish, I’d sooner focus on my lunch.”
“Mr. Mikarik, I’m in a delicate position.” Boro dropped his voice. “I’ve got a Comms Officer, a very capable experienced officer, unable to take some sporty ribbing from my ship’s steward. I’ve got a civilian Head Engineer who’s having a hard time working with my Techever. I’ve got maintenance crew showing up in medbay because of a game of cards, and above all,” Boro looked around and leaned in conspiratorially, “there’s a Captain who is so focused on the smooth operations of the bridge that he believes that the rest of the ship is running as smoothly.”
“But you know what they all have in common, Mr. Mikarik?” Boro relaxed back into his chair, making sure to project his next sentence. “None of them particularly like that there’s a Thorian on board. You’re not in a great position either, and maybe that was my mistake. Maybe that’s how I failed my crew. I made you feel too comfortable. We’re barely one week out of Yshot Station, and you’ll gain access to the only place on the ship that’s so far been free of your presence. There’s a Captain there who might be tempted to make the same mistakes I have. And I’ll be there to make sure that he doesn’t. I just wanted you to know that before it becomes a problem between the two of us.” He gave the Thorian a purposefully fake smile, and rose from the table. “As you said, I should let you return to your lunch. Enjoy.”
The Thorian watched him as Boro tucked in his chair, pocketed his tablet and then turned his back to place his empty dishes on the kitchen counter. Only then did the Thorian call out to him, in his cold voice that often gave Boro an uncomfortable tickling sensation behind his ears. “Commander.”
Boro turned around, saying nothing.
“That’s not entirely true though, is it?” The Thorian continued. “There’s one person that doesn’t mind that I’m on board. Someone who’s quite pleased with the fact that they have a handy excuse in their arsenal, and can blame all their personal failings on the Thorian.”
This time, before he turned to leave, Boro was sure that it was, in fact, a smile.
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.