Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
The Thorian, who stood just inside the galley door, eyed the three approaching crewmembers with some interest, and perhaps expected what was coming. From where Boro was sitting, it was hard to truly discern the Thorian’s expression behind the glasses that shielded his eyes from lights that had been attuned to the brightness of Humanity’s homeworld. The Nabak took first honours – built like a boar and with an ugly mug to match – the Thorian had more than a foot on him but still took a broad shoulder into the kidney, or whatever Thorian equivalent resided in that part of the abdomen. Eframe followed in close second, this time jostling the Thorian shoulder-to-shoulder. Boro thought that Meslina would opt for something more creative but she repeated Eframe’s gesture, the Thorian swaying back with each collision like a jammed revolving door.
It was juvenile stuff, reminiscent of how cadets elbowed within the pecking order at the Academy. Boro’s only regret was that Surch had just stepped out and missed it.
Boro had always heard that a Thorian’s forehead horns, though more akin to mere bumps, did something funny when they were steamed. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like Boro or the others remaining in the galley were in for any sort of show. The Thorian attempted to discretely take a deep breath, straightened his shirt, and approached the counter of Meeron’s kitchen.
“What do you have for me today, Meeron?” The Thorian asked, propping his elbows up on the counter.
Meeron stood with his arms crossed for a moment, chewing on his lip, and then responded, his colonial accent sounding thicker than normal. “Only fish.”
The Thorian gave him a tight-lipped smile and surveyed the room without moving his elbows. There were only two fish dishes in the place, while the rest ate salad, or chicken or some packaged protein paste that may once upon a time have contained a certain percentage of a cow. He turned back to Meeron, who shrugged.
“Then fish it is.”
When the Thorian turned around after receiving his fish portion, notably with no sides, Boro flagged him down with a curt wave.
“Mr. Mikarik,” Boro greeted him as the Thorian lowered himself into the chair across from Boro. Early on in their journey, Mikarik insisted that there was no “Mister” or anything of the sort attaching to Thorian names, but eventually gave up on the corrections.
“Commander,” the Thorian answered, poking at the fish with his fork.
“Take it you’re not a big fan of fish?”
“Not particularly. It’s far too …”
“Fishy?” Boro suggested.
“Yes, I suppose for lack of a better word. We’re not exactly keen on sea food. Especially the little ones, so this is a learning experience for me.”
“In that case, here’s to learning experiences,” Boro said, lifting up his own forkful of flaky white meat, and after swallowing, continued. “So, I’ve been reading your file.”
“A solid indicator that it's about time you put yourself in stasis.”
Boro forced a laugh. “Yes, true maybe. You’ve flown during the Nabak Insurrection, haven’t you?”
“That’s what I like about you, Commander, never afraid to go straight to the point.”
“Should I be afraid?”
“Not at all. But I think maybe there’s reason for me to be?”
It annoyed Boro that he couldn’t tell whether the Thorian was smiling or not. Pretty much every sentient species smiled, a quirk of convergent evolution that seemed to be in ample supply in the Known Reaches. The Thorians that he chanced to meet though, were not as generous with the expression, and this one in particular seemed to always have his lips curled slightly to confuse Boro’s Human-adjusted eyes. More to avoid the Thorian’s expression than to refresh his memory, Boro picked up his personal computer tablet and, selecting a conveniently located shortcut, pulled up Mikarik’s file.
“You’ve seven confirmed fighter-to-fighter kills during that campaign,” Boro said, without lifting his eyes, and getting some satisfaction in the Thorian making the slightest move to try to read the tablet from where he was sitting.
“I’m a decent pilot.” The Thorian leaned back in his chair.
“And a decent shot it seems.”
If a single Thorian possessed an ego outside whatever collective selfishness drove the species, Boro thought that he could see it behind the tint of Mikarik’s glasses and around the corners of his mouth.
“If I recall, you’ve also distinguished yourself in operations that took down three larger vessels, one of which was …”
The sparkle of pleasure and faint smile vacated the Thorian’s face, and instead took residence on Boro’s.
“A Mraboran humanitarian ship, was it?”
After a moment, Mikarik put his elbows on the table, the sides of his arms facing forward, and his hands clasped under his chin.
“Have you ever been in a battle, Commander? I mean a real battle. Not a training exercise, or hanging back on the sidelines while two heavy ships engage in nothing more than a cursory exchange of fire just so they can report back to their superiors that they tried? Your father has. I’ve heard of him. Captain Avanthy Stevin? Admiral by now, I gather. Probably the only Human of note that I’d heard of until your friends from Intelligence picked me up on Kargoosh. But beyond that, Humanity is young, and small, and in all fairness, ambitious, but it’s inexperienced and is hardly in a position to criticize a power like the Empire on the conduct of war.”
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.