Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
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“Beautiful isn’t it?” Captain Mokob said, the black pearl held out between his fingers drawing the attention of his eyes to the exclusion of those he was speaking to. “You’re a mechanic, Valyen, I’m sure you’ve seen your fair share of these before – the backbone of all advanced technology in the Known Reaches. Interstellar travel at the scale we see it would not be possible without them. The money you’d fetch for one this size will let you live comfortably for a couple of months anywhere in the Known Reaches. This particular specimen is very dear to me – the last remaining piece of my share of the biggest windfall I scored on a comet chaser when I was hardly older than Samir here. The rest of the loot I spent to live like a royal for a few years and after that I bought the Oshken and founded my own crew.”'
“I find that very hard to believe,” Valyen said, her mouth full of food that was being chewed with some hostility.
“It’s not surprising,” Mokob answered. “It is a wild tale of riches. But these beauties can’t be made, you see, they can only be found. And the places they’re found are often remote, hard to get to, and unpredictable. Which means finders are in high demand and get paid accordingly.”
Mokob slipped the sphere back in his pocket and its hold over Kviye dissolved.
“I’ve always wanted to know,” she said, “What are they, exactly? I’ve asked this question before, but nobody’s been able to give me a straight answer.”
“That’s because no one has one,” Captain Mokob replied with a slight shrug before sipping his drink.
“What do you mean?” This time, it was Valyen’s turn to ask, placing her left forearm on the table and leaning forward.
“What I mean is, even though everyone uses them, no one really knows what they are or where they came from. There are theories of course. Some believable, others less so. One I hear the most is that its ancient technology so advanced that it seems magical to us. I don’t know what use the ancients had for shoving their tech into comets and other odd corners of the universe, though there’s plenty of theories on that too. I think it’s just folks trying to come up with something that will let them continue to close their eyes to the fantastical.”
Samir nodded, and then offered his own, “I once heard it could be leftover material from the Big Bang. The distilled essence of creation itself.”
“Ah yes, another very ‘scientific’ explanation, if you will,” Mokob said.
There was a brief silence at the table. Captain Mokob and Samir seemed to consider other theories that they’ve heard, while the first mate Nmala looked his usual stoic self, but it was the first mate’s turn to speak.
“Blood of ancient gods,” Nmala said leaning in across the table with a wicked smile surprising Kviye with the realization that his face could, in fact, move. “If that tickles your fancy.”
Kviye stared back at him dumbly. Something the Captain must have found amusing because he chuckled and said, “Yes, certainly one of the more fanciful tales. Usually, they’re a bit more in the middle.”
“Oh, the confluence of the ethereal material that binds the whole universe together!” Samir said.
“That’s a good one!” Captain Mokob said. “Not sure if I’ve heard of that one before.”
“This is ridiculous,” Valyen mumbled.
“It is, isn’t?” Mokob said, his look suddenly distant. “We rely on them to get us to the stars, to keep us alive in the unforgiving black void of space, but we don’t even know how they work. You travel the Known Reaches as much as I have, though, and you discover that there’s a whole lot of ‘ridiculousness’ out there.”
The rest of the dinner was far less eventful, for Kviye anyway, whose mind disappeared into the unknown Known Reaches, full of mysterious alien technology and teeming with billions of Humans going about their business. It was this last fact that troubled her most; the sheer scope of it. By all estimates, there were no more than a couple million of them on her home moon and even in her wildest dreams she thought to encounter maybe as many others or a few times more. Not thousands of times more, numbers that slipped beyond her comprehension and into the fantastical, the realm of the black spheres themselves. How much knowledge was that amount of people capable of producing? What kind of miracles could they work?
At the end of dinner, when their guests had excused themselves and started heading towards their temporary lodgings, Kviye snuck away from helping with the dishes and sought out Samir.
She caught up to him in the yard between the main house and the guest house, where he stood with his face to the sky in admiration of the massive quarter-dome of the gas giant that bathed them in a gentle blue light.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” She asked, following his gaze to the night sky.
“It is. It’s easy to forgot how much better it all looks from the ground, but,” he turned to her then, his prominent brows casting his eyes in shadow, “On the ground, the view never changes.”
“Hey, I know you’ve had a long day but there’s something I wanted to talk to you about that I didn’t want to bring up in front of the others. Do you have a moment?”
If he had been tired, Samir managed to wipe the fatigue off his face. “Sure.”
“Let’s walk,” she suggested.
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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.