Shifting Ice: Chapter 13

Same Shadows, Different World

By Jared Vaillancourt [creative writing bureau chief]

“Well, here we are,” Klezyp, announced as it did a slow spin on its heel, its arms extended to showcase the room. “I know Senate employee housing is different from what you’re used to, Vintis, but I kind of like it.” Vintis took a look around the room and did its best not to laugh.

“You’re telling me aliens from hundreds of species across thousands of worlds live in rooms just like this all across the galaxy?” Vintis remarked. Klezyp nodded as it placed its bag down on what Vintis assumed was a sofa.

“You bet I am,” Klezyp chuckled. “When you’ve got a workforce so diverse that many of your employees don’t even breathe the same air, you’ve got to have some way to appease them all.” Klezyp walked over to a panel on the curved, bone-like wall and tapped out a few commands. Almost immediately, the insufferably warm room became cozily cool.

“Ah, well, they’ve done a good job!” Vintis smirked as it walked over to the table analogy and sat on the trans-species self-molding stool. The jug of water sitting in the middle of the table froze as Vintis removed its coat. “Hey, look at that! I haven’t seen ice in over fifty years.”

“Well, I could freeze some more if it’ll make you feel more comfortable,” Klezyp said from across the room. “I usually spray the walls with water before I adjust the temperature to Brakksys normal. It gives the place a more homely feel, don’t you think?” it asked. Vintis chuckled as it stood up.

“So, where’s the food?” Vintis asked. Klezyp turned to face it and crossed its arms, a smile crossing its mandibles as it shook its head.

“The Senate isn’t all seeing, Vintis,” it replied. “Do you know how hard it is to keep track of every sentient being coming into and leaving these homes? They can’t just leave a generic nutrient pack lying around, it’d be poisonous to someone,” it explained.

“Sorry, Vintis, but we have to do our own shopping.”

“Great stars, I’m shocked,” Vintis muttered sarcastically.  It walked over to Klezyp as that worthy turned and let out an amused scoff. “Allow me the honor of alleviating this burden of hunger I fear we may face,” Vintis said cockily. It placed its hands on Klezyp’s arms. Klezyp smiled and shook its head.

You are just too much, my dear Vintis,” Klezyp whispered. Vintis kissed it.

“I’ll be back in a little while,” Vintis said as it grabbed its coat. It heard Klezyp giggle happily as it left the large alien room.

By the time it had found the Uixynki equivalent of a grocery store, Vintis was fairly certain that it was late. The other moons were already large in the sky, and the gas giant dominated the horizon to the south. The giant world was dark, and at its edges glowed the bright blue light of its primary star. Vintis entered the store and gulped. Most of the patrons were Pyryx.

“Welcome!” a buggy hovered over to it and greeted merrily. “Do you require assistance with your purchases today?” the machine asked. Vintis shook itself out of its discomfort and thanked the machine.

Shopping turned out to be less of an ordeal than Vintis had originally feared. The gargantuan Pyryx were polite enough, allowing the relatively small Zwitii passage and offering their assistance with items too high for it to reach. By the time Vintis arrived at the credit coin reader, it was feeling very relaxed.

“Excuse me?” came a small yet disturbingly deep voice. Vintis turned and came eye-to-eye with a young Pyryx child, his jaws opened curiously and bone plates retracted. Vintis smiled at the boy.

“Can I help you, son?” Vintis asked. The Pyryx tapped his hip with his claws.

“Are you Vintis?” he asked. Vintis hesitated, surprised.

“I am,” Vintis replied. “How did you know that?” it asked. The young Pyryx extended his bone plates and shivered, causing them to clatter loudly.

“My father told me about a great Zwitii war hero,” he replied. Now Vintis was as confused as it was surprised. It cleared its throat.

“I’m not a war hero,” Vintis replied. The Pyryx retracted its bone plates.

“But you’re Vintis,” he protested sheepishly. “You avenged the death of Lizix.”

“What?” Vintis whispered, a cold chill running down its spine. The Pyryx nodded.

“My father told me all about the evil Izraal Jaxal,” the Pyryx said happily, his bone plates extending again. “He killed the innocent Lizix. The Zwitii named Vintis avenged his death.” Vintis stood there, so shocked that all it could do by way of reply was flex its mandibles.

“Cxou!” a matronly Pyryx called out as she rushed over to the boy and swept him up in her massive arms. “What have I told you about bothering strangers, Cxou?” she demanded. She looked down at Vintis and clicked her jaw. “I apologize, sir. My son is quite young. He once more wandered off, did he not?” she directed this last at Cxou.

“But mother, he is Vintis!” Cxou protested. The boy’s mother gasped.

“Is this true?” she asked Vintis. “Are you the one who stood up for us on Kapilo?”

“No,” Vintis replied after a hesitation. “I’m afraid your boy is mistaken.” The older Pyryx chuckled.

“That happens,” she replied. “You Zwitii do all look alike.” Without another word, she took her child and walked away. Vintis waited until they were gone to let loose its shiver.
Just what was this galaxy coming to, it wondered?

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