Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
Neither Mikarik nor Sivian, the ship’s Nabak engineer, had expected or particularly enjoyed their first meeting, a week into the Forseti’s journey. When he’d accepted this assignment, Mikarik had expected the Humans to keep him on a short leash, practically confining him to house arrest in his quarters. So he was as surprised as the crew of the Forseti to see that he was given immediate free reign of the ship apart from the bridge. The Forseti wasn’t a particularly large vessel, so there were only so many places his wanderings could take him. Towards the end of that first week, he had decided to visit the engine room and take a glimpse at the black pearl at the heart of the starship.
While Mikarik found that most treated the ancient substance with a sense of detachment – a technology forged by beings long since moved on from the Known Reaches, he had always seen something kindred in the dark spheres, an organic presence, if not a silent sentience. He had the kind of respect for them that could not be afforded to a simple machine and when he first laid eyes on the one that ran the Forseti, Mikarik realized that this particular specimen deserved a level of respect he’d never given a black drop before.
As he watched it struggle in the containment field deep in the back of the ship’s engines, Mikarik could tell this one had clearly seen some things and came with a long rich history of abuse at the hands of inexperienced and careless handlers. If this was the poor drop that was supposed to power the Forseti’s subspace skimmer and also to throw up the dark cloak of dispersing energy that should have kept them off Thorian sensors as they weaved their way through the Empire, then perhaps death would come sooner than expected. The engineers on duty mostly avoided him as he watched the drop strain and groan under the pressure. The only exception was a Human named Kamira Shim who said “Hello” with a slight nod, and seemed to wonder if she should ask him what he was doing there before thinking better of it. Another one by the name of Eframe Gonsyn ignored him entirely, but with so much intention that he might as well have been shining a spotlight on Mikarik.
“If you’d called earlier, I would have given you the grand tour.” Mikarik turned around and found Chief Engineer Aimi Ishikawa standing at the head of the engines, her expression not bothering to hide anything about how she regarded his presence there.
“Oh wait, no,” Ishikawa said, her one hand grasping her personal tablet while the other one motioned chaotically about her, “There it is.”
“It’s an impressive ship,” Mikarik said.
“It most definitely isn’t,” the Chief Engineer responded, approaching a panel and comparing it to something on her tablet. “If you’re trying to find something flattering to say, don’t bother. And if you think this is representative of other ships in the Outer Rim Confederacy fleet, don’t get your Thorian hopes up.”
Mikarik couldn’t help but smile, though Ishikawa, eyes fixated on her work, wouldn’t have seen.
“Well it certainly is an interesting ship,” he said.
“That, Mr. Mikarik, we can at least agree on.”
“‘Mikarik’ is fine.”
“‘Mikarik’, sure. Look, I don’t know what purpose you have for this visit other than, you know, to be in my general vicinity, but we are really busy right now and –”
“Hey Chief I think I’ve figured out what’s been overriding our system –” The Nabak looked up from his tablet and stopped dead in his tracks, black eyes focused on Mikarik as sharply as his tusks.
“Gitang it,” Ishikawa muttered. “Sivian? Why don’t you take the rest of your shift off? I’ll see you back here tomorrow.”
Sivian didn’t move and Mikarik could hear his breathing from the other side of the engines, despite their constant hum. He inclined his head slightly towards Sivian and the Chief Engineer, said “It was nice meeting you,” and headed towards the exit. Sivian though was going to make it as inconvenient as possible, standing with his stalky wide frame in the middle of the passage. All Mikarik had to do was pass by him, say nothing, and everything would be fine. That’s what he promised himself.
Just as he was passing Sivian, trying not to make eye contact, the Nabak growled, “What’s the matter, Thorian? Didn’t think you’d actually have to come face-to-face with one of us?”
Mikarik was tempted to tell Sivian how the Insurrection ended for him, but the truth was the person who deserted the Thorian Navy was the same person who’d shot down Nabak starfighters. And even though it’s been years, Mikarik still wasn’t sure which of those people was the real him. His people accumulated their share of sins; to be expected from the oldest Empire in the Known Reaches. But they were not the only ones who spilled blood to achieve their goals and despite their shared emotional kinship that bound them across the aether, they were not opposed to turning that energy inward either. He could still clearly see the explosion against the clear skies of Sankoal, the wreckage of the freighter raining down into the waters of the bay. Why was he the one made to answer the call, when others had just as much to answer to and more?
“Face it, Sivian, if it had been the Hatvan instead of us, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation,” Mikarik said, the cumulation of his frustrations amounting to nothing more than a deflection.
“What was that, Thorian?” A dangerous note had entered the Nabak’s voice.
“Nothing, Sivian. Enjoy your day off.”
‘Nothing’ is what he should have said in the first place. Mikarik realized that later, once those first few weeks had passed and he discovered that his lashing out wasn’t making life easier for anyone, including himself. Amongst Thorians, he was little more than a suspected netkarthi, a being severed from the empathic consciousness that permeated the species. Here, it was the same thing.
They didn’t see Mikarik, they saw a Thorian.
In the galley that evening, Sivian, Eframe and Meslina came to find a Thorian, and so a Thorian he intended to be.
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.