Shifting Ice: Many Dark Secrets
Culture / April 7, 2010
By Jared Vaillancourt [Creative Writing Bureau Chief]
“Oh, wow,” Vintis, whispered as it stared out through the window at the beautiful nebula. It had heard about this nebula, of course; there were numerous star charts and holographic tourist flexies describing its beauty and discussing its scientific properties. Seeing the nebula with its own two eyes, however, was a totally different thing all together.
“They call this the Hysteric Arm,” Klezyp whispered to its ear, its warm breath comforting behind Vintis. “Thousands of years ago it was a star. One day it went nova and took its whole solar system with it. If you look close,” Klezyp pointed past Vintis as what looked like a cluster of dark thorns sitting in space, “you can still see the debris of several rocky planets.” Klezyp placed its hand on Vintis’ shoulder.
“It’s beautiful,” Vintis whispered. “It looks like someone took an old-fashioned tazer to a J’r,” it smirked. Klezyp giggled and hugged Vintis tight. Vintis smiled. “Have you seen this before?” it asked.
“Once, on my way to Kapilo,” Klezyp nodded. “I didn’t really take notice of it, though. You’ve seen one yellow and black cloud of dust, you’ve seen them all.” Klezyp chuckled. “It looks different with you in my arms, though. It almost looks… tranquil.” Vintis smirked.
“Tranquil like a tazered J’r?” Vintis asked. Klezyp laughed.
“Excuse me,” a voice inquired, “are you two having a nice flight?” Both Klezyp and Vintis turned and looked up at a tall, regal female Jukkopo wearing the red uniform spacesuit of a Commander. Vintis smiled up at her and held Klezyp’s hand as it nodded.
“I’ve never seen a nebula before,” Vintis informed the Jukkopo. “We were admiring the view.”
“I am pleased to hear that,” the Jukkopo smiled, her eyestalks bobbing. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Commander Ltezi, first officer of this ship.” She extended a tentacle for both Vintis and Klezyp to shake in turn.
“I’m Klezyp,” Klezyp smiled, “and this is Vintis.” Ltezi smiled at them.
“Relatives?” Ltezi asked politely. Vintis smirked and nudged Klezyp.
“Only if Klezyp pops the question,” Vintis chuckled. Klezyp giggled as it blushed.
“Ah, to be young again,” Ltezi giggled. “It’s been far too long since I’ve had a mate. You’re a lucky woman, Vintis,” she added. Vintis looked up at Klezyp and sighed. Klezyp winked.
“Tell me, Commander Ltezi,” Klezyp asked as it put its arm lovingly around Vintis, “have you ever ferried Zwitii before?” it asked. Ltezi sighed and bowed her eyestalks.
“I am ashamed to say no,” she admitted. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I’m not a woman,” Vintis grumbled. Ltezi turned her eyestalks to it.
“Oh!” she exclaimed. “I apologize. I often do have troubles telling alien genders apart.”
“You shouldn’t have that problem here,” Vintis grumbled. Klezyp laughed aloud as Ltezi gave Vintis a curious look.
“We appreciate you checking on us, Commander,” Klezyp said quickly. Ltezi smiled at it.
“I check on all of our passengers,” Ltezi chuckled. “Should either of you need anything – food, refreshments, perhaps a private room,” she added with a sinister tendril twitch, “Just let me know.”
“How about a tour of the ship?” Vintis asked on a whim. “Can we meet the captain?”
“Vintis!” Klezyp suddenly hissed as Ltezi reared up in shock. Vintis furrowed its brow.
“What?” it asked. Ltezi sighed.
“I am afraid that seeing the Captain is forbidden,” Ltezi explained. “Since you have never seen a nebula before, I can safely assume you’ve never traveled in space before, am I correct?” she asked. Vintis nodded. Ltezi swallowed. “Space travel comes at a cost.”
“More like a sacrifice,” Klezyp whispered to Vintis nervously. Ltezi nodded.
“Navigation is such a tricky thing,” Ltezi explained. “If we could design computers to handle the rigors of faster-than-light travel, believe me, we would. However, it takes a dedicated, devoted and totally focused mind to guide a starship safely through the vacuum.” Ltezi sighed. “You cannot meet the Captain because, well… technically you’re aboard her,” Ltezi finished. Vintis stared at the alien.
“Klezyp, care to translate?” it asked. Klezyp swallowed.
“It was nice to meet you,” Klezyp said to Ltezi. The Commander nodded and turned to lumber over to another patron. Klezyp turned to Vintis and stared into its eyes. “Vintis, the ship’s computer has a living Jukkopo at its core,” it explained. “Every ship has a cybernetically integrated Captain. Without one, space travel would be dangerous.” Vintis swallowed. It turned back to the view of the nebula.
“That’s horrible,” Vintis whispered in shock. “I didn’t know.”
“It’s no one’s fault,” Klezyp whispered as it kissed Vintis’ cheek. “Just do what I do and ignore it. The Captains choose to make their sacrifice. It’s a lot of ‘greater good’ stuff.”
“I’m sure,” Vintis muttered. The Nebula suddenly looked very cold and tortured.
“Come, let’s get some sleep,” Klezyp whispered. “Uixynki is only three days away.”