Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
The Forseti wasn’t the worst ship.
There were worse places he could die. Acknowledging this; however, provided Mikarik little comfort while he roamed the corridors of what was already essentially his tomb. Nor was his mood elevated by the fact that he had to spend his remaining time among Humans, each of whom seemed to be their own shade of surly. It even made him wonder if he would prefer the company of the Hatvan, the only species capable of making even a Thorian question their superiority just by the power of the withering arrogant looks that comprised the Hatvan’s neutral expressions.
The Human crew of the Forseti were enough to make Mikarik count the hours down to the next stasis rotation so he could have the ship mostly to himself. Never entirely though, and less frequently than he would have liked. That was one in a litany of reasons for his dissatisfaction with the Thorian Navy – too many people were always busying about.
The week-long collective nap the Forseti was taking prior to its scheduled arrival at Yshot Station was a welcome reprieve for Mikarik from its inhabitants. The worst of the lot was their Second-in-Command, Boro Stevin, pale for a Human, with a shrewd face and dark eyes that were somehow calculating and blank at the same time, like those of a predator roaming while sniffing out prey. The man wasn’t clever enough to hide that he had an angle but competent enough to hide what exactly that angle was. All this amounted to was a level of unpredictability that would do Mikarik no favours in the next phase of the mission.
A few days after resupplying at Yshot Station, the Forseti would enter Thorian space, and it would fall to Mikarik to ensure that they threaded the needle and remained undetected as they wound their way through Imperial space. All he had to do was get them deep enough. Everything that happened from there, he preemptively washed his hands of.
That also meant that soon some of his time would be spent on the bridge. Not only would this cut into his forays to other parts of the ship, but it would bring him into closer contact with Boro, an arrangement that didn’t promise to be pleasant for either of them; however short it might end up being.
Mikarik shook the thoughts from his mind, annoyed with himself that they kept returning to him that evening, though suspecting that it had something to do with the creeping feeling that had been following him. Every ship he’d ever been on, whether military, commercial, or pirate hunter, had its own rhythm, its own breath and its own pulse. Within days of boarding, Mikarik would seep into the ship and let the ship seep into him, able to intuit if anything was wrong – from an engine malfunction to a drop in morale. And that evening, something was quite clearly amiss.
Mikarik had gotten used to it by then – the feeling of eyes on him, both out in the open and those not wanting to be seen. At times, he could admit, it bothered him – to be walking around as a bumpy-headed embodiment of a five-thousand-year-old Empire that had long cast him to its periphery and left him likely sharing more in common with some of the Forseti’s crew than most of his own species. Other times, there was something almost enjoyable about the attention he was garnering, a certain kind of power he was able to wield with his presence alone, sowing discomfort and fear as he went. For Mikarik on the Forseti, the feeling of being watched was not a fancy of a paranoid mind, but the plain reality.
This new feeling of being ill at ease though was entirely different. There was something foul clogging up the arteries of the ship.
When he turned a corner on the way to the galley, he thought he momentarily saw a figure up ahead. One advantage of being up during the stasis rotation was that the Forseti’s lights were dimmed to a more natural level, so he had seen this shape with his own eyes instead of through the darkened lenses that were safely stowed away in his pocket.
He’d battled with space psychosis before – the social creature’s mind and its desperate attempt to manifest some company when it realizes it’s the only sentient being in a lightyear radius. For weeks he would wait as live bait in his modified freighter for pirates to strike, battling his brain’s urge to split itself apart to have lively conversations with itself. It had been, he believed, the main reason why he ultimately lost the ship he spent years saving for and then rebuilding – a lack of focus at the worst possible moment.
No, this figure near the galley wasn’t psychosis. The shape was real, squat and familiar. There was, in Mikarik’s estimation, plenty of good reason to turn back, to go to sleep on an empty stomach; maybe even to crawl into a stasis pod until they reached Yshot Station. There was; however, little they could do to hurt a dead man.
When he entered the empty galley, the lights came on automatically, meant to replicate the angry glare of the harsh yellow sun of the Human homeworld. He manually put most of the lights out, turning only a dimmed spotlight at his own table. The windows around the room that normally displayed passing landscapes were off, and Mikarik kept them that way. Meeron was kind enough to have prepped some food for those who were on shift during this period of stasis. Mikarik was sure that Meeron had no intention for his meals to fall into Mikarik’s hands, which made them taste that much better.
He had taken his time getting comfortable – heating the food to just the right temperature, adjusting himself in one of the more comfortable booths, pulling up the latest book he was reading on his tablet and propping it up into position at just the right angle next to his plate. It was one of those classic pieces of Thorian literature – lauded by outsiders as masterfully describing true Thorian nature but which for those who lived that nature came off as dry tomes suitable only to torture schoolchildren. His first forkful had almost made it to his mouth when the doors to the galley opened and Officer Meslina walked in.
She did not immediately walk out. That was a concern.
Moments later, he heard the other door open and looking over his shoulder found that the Human Eframe Gonsyn and Sivian the Nabak had walked in. The Human and the Nabak stood in silence with such deliberate grimness, Mikarik had to keep himself from laughing. “There’s still some food left over in cold storage. So pull up some chairs?”
“You talk a lot, Thorian,” Sivian said, his voice gravelly with that distinct Nabak growl.
“Oh, Sivian, I thought we’d be on a first name basis by now,” Mikarik said.
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.