Shifting Ice Chapter 14: A Kingdom For A Foxhole

By Jared Vaillancourt [creative writing bureau chief]

Vintis had become accustomed to the routine. In the past four weeks, Klezyp would leave early, sometimes leaving breakfast for Vintis before it left to count the citizens in another of Uixynki’s cities. Vintis had managed to find a temporary job at the local shopping mall, cleaning slabs of what it assumed was meat from in the freezer of a Pyryx deli. The carcasses were supposedly from the moon’s famous “Rising Sea” – an ocean that visibly bulged upwards towards the gas giant. The Pyryx owner was more than happy to have a Zwitii in her freezer.

“My other employees have to wear cold suits,” she explained to it one day. “But you Zwitii come from a cold world. I don’t have to go through the expense of buying a suit for you.”

“Glad to oblige,” Vintis had muttered as it grabbed the skinning scythe.

“I mean, that’s one of the advantages of having a mixed workforce,” she continued undaunted. “You never know who can do what. Differential evolution is truly a miracle, ah?” she had asked. Vintis had merely grunted and entered the freezer, ready to work.

By the end of the fifth week, the deli was doing so well that the Pyryx had given it a short vacation, so to speak. It had stayed up late the last night, enjoying a long-forgotten Amber Mist before sneaking quietly into bed with Klezyp. The night’s rest had been peaceful.

Vintis was awoken by the sound of the door chime. It stirred awake, reaching over for Klezyp but failing to find it. It took a second for it to remember that Klezyp was off to the southernmost settlement to count the local Oulu. Groggily, it got out of bed, stretched, and then donned the specially made robe that allowed its back fins to be exposed to the feeding lights strewn throughout the ceiling. It switched those lights on as the door chimed again.

“Hold on, I’m coming,” Vintis raised its voice at the door. It felt the warm sensation of the light playing across its fins before it made its way to the door. It was surprised when it opened it.

“Klezyp, is Vintis home?” The large Jukkopo was none other than Commander Ltezi. Vintis looked her up and down, surprised further to find her wearing a cold suit.

“I am Vintis,” Vintis replied. “I thought your ship left a week ago, Ltezi?” it asked.

“It did,” Ltezi affirmed as she placed a tentacle in the doorway. “I was reassigned to Starport Security. May I come in?” she asked politely. Vintis sighed and stood to one side.

“Please do,” Vintis offered as the Jukkopo lumbered past it. “I didn’t realize you knew where we were living, Ltezi. Can I get you anything?” it offered as Ltezi sat on the sofa.

“Thank you, no,” Ltezi replied. Her eyestalks all turned to focus on Vintis. “I have been in contact with a friend of mine back on Kapilo, Detective Rytz.”

“Who?” Vintis asked. Ltezi chuckled.

“She was the officer who interrogated you after Mr. Lizix’s death,” Ltezi clarified. Vintis scoffed as it searched through the drawers for a fruit.

“If that’s your idea of an interrogation,” Vintis chuckled. “What about her?” it asked aloud.

“She’s dead.” The words froze Vintis solid.

“Kyraa?” it asked as it closed it eyes. Ltezi sighed.

“A number of Izraal attacked the prison compound where she was being held. They freed her and a number of her cohorts. Rytz was caught in the crossfire attempting to stop them.” Vintis shook its head and stood up, the fruit clutched tight in its hand.

“Great stars,” Vintis whispered. “Where are they?” it asked. Ltezi stood up.

“For now, they’re stuck on Kapilo,” Ltezi said calmly. “Starport authorities will be watching out for them. They’re more than criminals now, they’re fugitives.” She bowed her eyestalks. “I just thought you’d like to know.” Vintis turned its head to look back at the Jukkopo, the frozen fruit shattering as it clenched its hand shut.

“Yes, thank you,” Vintis said politely. Ltezi nodded and turned to leave. “I’ll tell Klezyp that you stopped by,” it added. Ltezi turned an eyestalk to smile at it.

“Give him my regards,” Ltezi said as the door closed. Vintis dropped the pieces of the fruit. They still haven’t learned, it mused. If it was a game, as Klezyp claimed, then they were really shameless in playing it. But for now, it thought as it pressed the controls for the vacuum-bot, Kyraa was a bigger concern. Klezyp had to know.

“No,” Klezyp said later that night, its eyes wide with worry. Vintis nodded.

“Yes,” Vintis whispered to its feet. Klezyp placed a nervous hand on its shoulder.

“And she killed a Jukkopo, too?” it asked. Vintis nodded. “Oh, great stars, great stars, this can’t be happening,” Klezyp was almost hyperventilating. Vintis placed a hand on its knee.

“Klezyp, relax,” Vintis whispered. Klezyp stood up and began to pace.

“Relax?” it demanded. “How can I relax when there’s a maniac loose looking for your head?”

“It’s not like she can leave Kapilo,” Vintis pointed out. Klezyp crossed its arms and began to cry.

“You don’t know that!” Klezyp protested as it spat frozen tears. “They could have their own ship and circumvent the starport! They could be here any day now!”

“Even if they are,” Vintis said levelly as it stood and grabbed Klezyp’s shoulders, “there’s a Pyryx blockade surrounding this planet. They’d have to get through legions of Pyryx before they find us. Believe me when I say, Klezyp, that we’re safe.” Klezyp quickly kissed Vintis as if afraid it would never get another chance to.

“I’d love to,” Klezyp whispered as it hugged Vintis tight. “Great stars, I’d love to.”

As the two of them stood there, Klezyp shaking in Vintis’ arms, Vintis couldn’t help but feel its fears were justified.

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