Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
The ship that contained their newest customers was an ugly conglomeration of parts, the big belly suggesting that it may have once been a smaller cargo freighter. The hull was covered by a decades’ old patchwork of repairs, while the great arms that made it look like an insect appeared to be welded to the body using little other than the hope that the ship wouldn’t fall apart.
After a few minutes of the comet chaser hissing and creaking as it adjusted to their atmosphere, there was a low thud in the hull. The entry ramp lowered after getting jammed in place for a moment and two Wintis ducked their heads and stepped into the daylight. Built for few ships other than their own, the Wintis stood at least a head taller than most Humans, owing mostly to their long toes. Kviye had never seen them because Wintis wore boots up half their leg, but she had heard that the toes culminated in hooves. The Wintis’ eyes, which sat wide apart on a slightly triangular elongated face, were round and mostly black, with only thin slivers of white visible on the sides. Flattened noses with narrow vertical nostrils were surrounded by thick short fur that covered the bottom half of their faces, while the Wintis’ hair was generally short, culminating in a slightly longer tuft at the top of their head.
Of the two Wintis that disembarked, the one on the right was taller, with lighter auburn fur that stuck out messily from his cheeks. The other was chestnut brown, had a flatter nose and a scar running from his brow past his eye and down the length of his cheek. He stepped down the ramp more cautiously than his companion, holding with both hands a metal rod wrapped partially in gauze that Kviye did not immediately recognize as a weapon.
“You can put that neural devastator away or walk right back into your ship.” Valyen spoke in the language common to spacefarers.
The Winti with the lighter fur looked around for a moment, then patted the other on the arm.
“Apologies. My first mate has seen more than his fair share of pirates so he tends to be a little too careful sometimes.” The Winti with the scar didn’t take his intense gaze off Valyen but did place the rod into a metal holster behind his back. “I’m Captain Mokob of the comet chaser Oshken, and this is Nmala.”
“My name is Morozo Valyen and this is Hon Kviye.”
Kviye nodded, wondering if Valyen spoke for her because she mistakenly thought Kviye couldn’t keep up with the language.
“If you don’t mind me saying, I didn’t really expect to encounter any Humans this far out.”
Kviye and Valyen glanced at each other at the unfamiliar word.
“Humans?” Valyen repeated.
“Humans, yes,” Captain Mokob hesitated, “That is the name of your species, right?”
A ringing rose in Kviye’s ears and a heat bubbled in her chest. Her mouth went dry but still she managed to speak in a tongue much rustier than Valyen’s. “You know of others like us?”
“Why sure. You’re not a common sight, mind you, but,” the Captain’s eyes widened and his mouth opened into a smile that revealed his flat blunt teeth, “One of my crew is Human. I’ll go get him.”
As Mokob walked back up the ramp, Nmala stood immobile, regarding them. The ringing in Kviye’s ears only grew louder, making it hard for her to hear her own thoughts as they raced through the endless possibilities of what the next minutes could bring. She glanced briefly at Valyen and found her frozen with cruel determination, a look Kviye had never before seen on her friend’s face. She thought that maybe if the weapon was in Valyen’s hands, both the Wintis would be dead by now and the ship blown up into scrap.
“Hey Samir!” Captain Mokob shouted into the open door. “Samir.” A muffled reply came from within. “Ngado? … Could you get Samir for me?” Mokob turned back to rejoin Nmala on the ramp, resuming his smiling disposition right where he left off. “He’ll be right out.”
Kviye’s fingers found Valyen’s hand and grabbed it and she appreciated that Valyen returned an assuring squeeze back.
A young man, with a sandy light brown face partially obscured by dark grease stains, and with a head full of short dark hair wound into dense coils, stepped out of the ship into the light. To Kviye’s eyes, he was unmistakably one of them. His eyes lit up when he saw them, and he rattled off a sentence in a tongue that was unfamiliar to Kviye. Judging by Valyen’s silence, it was equally foreign to her.
The man’s face shed some of its enthusiasm which was replaced by confusion. He spoke in the language again, this time making it sound like a question, but Kviye and Valyen remained lost.
“Do you speak Trade Thorian at least?”
“Yes,” Valyen answered, “Though I didn’t know that’s what it was called.”
“Great, perfect. Sorry, I guess I shouldn’t assume you’d know StEC this far out near the Adaract Hive. Still, it’s nice to see some familiar faces. Though, I have to ask, are you okay?”
He was looking at Valyen when he said it, and she narrowed her eyes before replying, “Me? Why?”
“I’m sorry, I’ve just never seen a Human so pale before.”
Valyen looked like she was about to dig deep into her knowledge of informal Trade Thorian when Kviye stepped in with her own question. “You mean there are others?”
She wasn’t sure if it was her accent or the fact that the words caught in her throat but she repeated, “Like us. Are there others like us?”
“Humans? Oh, like … billions. On Earth and on the colonies and oooooh I know what’s going on here!” His mouth was agape in wonder as he shook the arm of his captain who’d watched the conversation with increased fascination. “This must be one of those lost tribes. The ones that lost contact after the Great Fire. I would have thought they’d found all of you by now but I guess not.”
“The Great Fire?” Kviye wasn’t sure if she liked the taste of those words on her tongue.
Captain Mokob’s honking laugh startled her momentarily. “Well isn’t it just the most fortuitous thing that we landed here? Looks like you have a lot to catch up on. And you,” he pointed a finger at Valyen, “Look like the person to talk business with.”
“Your crew should disembark,” Kviye offered. “They can sleep in the lodgings behind the garage.” She gestured with her head towards the white building where her and her father had lived for the past few months.
“What are you doing?” Valyen hissed at her in their native tongue.
“Offering them a place to stay.”
“But at your place?”
“That’s not our place. That’s –”
“Please, my apologies,” Captain Mokob interrupted. “We didn’t mean to intrude.”
“You’re not intruding,” Kviye said.
“It’s nothing really, my crew is fine to sleep aboard the ship. It’s where we live anyway.”
“You can sleep on the ship, Captain. I need a break from all that metal,” Samir said, and elbowed past his Captain to walk down the ramp.
Mokob looked over his shoulder and then back at Kviye and Valyen. “Believe it or not, it does look better on the inside.”
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.