Shifting Ice - Chapter 18: Cold Running

By Jared Vaillancourt

Vintis wasn’t sure of the time when it awoke the next day, nor was it sure of much else; it had somehow managed to make its way back to Klezyp’s and it’s quarters during the events of the preceding night, but to the familiarly blurry memory of its mist-soaked head, everything else was unknown.

“Klezyp?” Vintis groaned, its hand slamming down over the control to activate the feeding lamps as it slowly propped itself up and extended its fins. Vintis looked around as the lights came on; aside from the faint fog of crystalline water hovering over the floor, it was alone. Vintis sighed as it sat up on the edge of the sheet-less bed, tossing a stray pillow aside as it rested its forehead in its palms.

“Great stars,” Vintis groaned, “I will never touch another amber mist for as long as I draw breath.”

“If only that were true,” a voice replied snidely as the doors hissed open. Vintis gasped and covered its chest out of habit, relaxing only after it recognized Klezyp entering the room. “You have no idea how many times I’ve heard people say things like that, Vintis.”

“Perhaps I mean it,” Vintis grumbled as it stood up and staggered over towards the shower. It activated the gas jets and stumbled inside. “My head is pounding harder than an ion drive.”

“As rightly it should,” Klezyp said as it sat on the edge of the bed, its hands cupped pensively in its lap. “You drank two bottles of mist last night, Vintis.”

“Two bottles?” Vintis asked as it poked its head out of the shower. “You’re not jesting?”

“Two bottles,” Klezyp nodded, its eyes locked on Vintis’. Vintis clicked its mandibles and retreated back into the shower.

“Thank the great stars I’m still breathing,” Vintis muttered as it washed up. Klezyp stood up as Vintis turned off the shower, the cleansing gas vaporizing as it stepped out.

“Thank the great stars security got you back here in one piece!” Klezyp said sternly. Vintis hesitated as it pulled on a pair of pants. It looked over at Klezyp and clicked its mandibles.

“Security?” it asked. Klezyp balled its hands into fists.

“You tried to break into the bridge,” Klezyp growled, spitting a frozen tear as it did so. “You had it set in your mind that we should turn around, find our shadow and blow it out of the sky.”

“Really?” Vintis asked. It turned and pulled on a top. “That doesn’t sound like me.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Klezyp, added as it took a step towards Vintis, its left mandibles parting to spit out another frozen tear. “Vintis, I saw a side of you last night that … well, that I don’t like!” it said shakily. Vintis paused and looked at Klezyp, who was visibly shaking. “You were angry, I understand that. But the way you tore off on a tangent, determined to stop at nothing to achieve some … some …” Klezyp closed its eyes as it sought the right word, “… drunken, zealous goal … I was scared,” Klezyp admitted. Vintis stood there, its coat in its hands, the look in Klezyp’s eyes sapping the courage it needed to put it on. Finally, Vintis sighed and slowly donned its coat.

“Klezyp,” Vintis said slowly, spreading its mandibles wide so that Klezyp could better see its mouth, “I didn’t mean to… I mean, I never intended…” Klezyp took another step and reached up, cupping Vintis’ mandibles as it gently suggested them shut. Vintis reached up to grab Klezyp’s wrists, and slowly they both bowed their heads until their foreheads touched.

“Just promise me, Vintis,” Klezyp whispered, “promise me you’ll come to me with your problems.” Klezyp took a half step back and stared into Vintis’ eyes. “I’ve lost friends, family and even an enemy or two to the drink, Vintis.” Klezyp paused to gently spit another tear. “I don’t want to loose a lover to it, either.” Vintis blinked, but then slowly nodded. Klezyp pulled them into a hug.

“I promise,” Vintis, whispered, “I won’t drink like your enemies.” Vintis chuckled, as they pulled apart. “That is, unless they got the good stuff.” Klezyp chuckled and grabbed its hand.

“Come,” Klezyp whispered, “they’re still serving breakfast in the mess, I think.”

Breakfast had been a tiring ordeal. Vintis was feeling rather full after leaving the feeding lamps on for so long, so its meal was quite frugal. Klezyp had already eaten, so instead the pair sat by the enormous view port, entranced by the biblical image of the distant galaxies beyond the meager splattering of stars near the galaxy’s rim. Vintis pointed one out.

“Look there,” Vintis gasped at the gorgeous, glowing barred spiral. “Do you see that milky one, with the two irregulars orbiting?” it asked. “Breathtaking, no?” Klezyp chuckled and nodded, its gaze not on the galaxy outside but locked lovingly onto Vintis.

“The Spiral of Ice,” Klezyp whispered. “When I was a child, I’d spend hours on the icy plains of the eastern ridge, just staring up at it and wondering if maybe it was filled with worlds like Brakksys.”

“I would love to go there,” Vintis whispered. “Just imagine what wonders it would hold.”

“I don’t really wonder anymore, Vintis,” Klezyp whispered. “At my age, you’re a little more worried about other things,” Klezyp whispered suggestively as it ran a finger in smooth circles across the table, “You know, things like…”

Before it could finish its sentence, the world shook. Vintis grabbed the table as alert sirens sounded and blast shields slammed shut over the windows. People began to panic and shout as a voice started to drone in rigid Jukkopo over the intercom. Vintis could make out something about another ship.

“Kyraa,” Vintis whispered as the ship rocked again. “Great stars, what now?”

Read more of Shifting Ice here


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