Shifting Ice Chapter 19: An Echo Darkly

By Jared Vaillancourt

“Attention passengers,” the Jukkopo voice over the speakers finally started to speak in Common, “We apologize for the inconvenience, but we are currently experiencing a class 12 malfunction.” Vintis looked up at the ceiling as Klezyp tugged on its hand, guiding them back to their quarters near the center of the deck. Vintis scoffed as the ship rocked again.

“Class 12 malfunction?” Vintis asked aloud. Klezyp grunted as they dodged around a hysteric Pyryx woman, her bone plates chattering something in her native language.

“That’s the polite, Jukkopo way of saying another ship’s caught up to us and started shooting,” Klezyp explained. Vintis braced itself against a bulkhead as the ship rocked again. Once the shaking stopped, it followed Klezyp into their quarters, where they locked the hatch and strapped into the harnesses that had popped out of the wall.

“Caught up to us? In hyperspace?” Vintis asked. Klezyp nodded.

“Just because we’re moving faster than light relative to the universe doesn’t mean we’re moving faster than those who are relative to us,” Klezyp explained. “I don’t know. It’s a lot of scientific jargon that never really made sense to me.” Vintis looked over at it and swallowed nervously.

“Well, it makes sense to someone,” Vintis shouted as the ship rocked again. Klezyp nodded.

“They’re probably pirates,” Klezyp explained. “It’s rare, but sometimes small tribes think they have the gonads to attack an Enclave cruiser.” Klezyp laughed as the ship rocked and Vintis could have sworn by oath that it heard the faint echo of an explosion. “No pirate’s ever survived that.”

“Comforting,” Vintis shouted, its eyes staring straight ahead as it held onto the harness tightly. “So, how long does it usually take for them to leave us in peace?”

“Hard to say,” Klezyp chuckled. Both of them looked up at the ceiling as the ship stopped rocking.

“Less than a minute,” Vintis remarked. Klezyp chuckled as the harnesses disengaged.

“Of course,” Klezyp giggled as it helped Vintis stand, “it’s hard to tell what you’re flying to attack when you start at extreme range.” Vintis scoffed and straightened its coat.

“Well, that was an interesting diversion,” Vintis chided. Klezyp nodded, a smirk forming across its mandibles.

“Attention passengers,” the Jukkopo voice came on again, “Again, we apologize for the inconvenience. Our malfunction has been corrected, and our lido and stargazer decks will be re-opened for your pleasure momentarily.” Vintis chuckled as the door to their quarters opened invitingly.

“Our tax credits at work,” Vintis smirked. It turned and offered its arm to Klezyp. “I believe we were enjoying the view of the stars, my love?” Vintis asked coyly. Klezyp giggled and accepted.

“Lead the way,” it replied courteously. Vintis smiled as they made their way back to the mess hall, reclaiming their table as they waited for the blast shields to open. When they did, the Spiral of Ice and its two companion galaxies were waiting, as bright and beautiful as they had been moments ago.

“Never a sight so beautiful,” Vintis remarked at the distant galaxies. Klezyp chuckled.

“I could say the same,” Klezyp whispered. Vintis looked over at it; Klezyp was looking at Vintis, its pearly scales seeming to glow in the ethereal beauty of the cosmos beyond the window. Vintis smiled and leaned forwards, clicking its mandibles curiously as Klezyp rested its head on an open palm.

“I believe you were telling me something before our rude interruption,” Vintis chided. Klezyp blinked and placed its other hands onto the table. Vintis placed its hand over Klezyp’s.

“I was talking about the wonders of the universe,” Klezyp whispered. Vintis shook its head.

“I believe that was me,” Vintis giggled. “Great stars, are you loosing your memory, my dear?” it asked playfully. Klezyp chuckled and shook its head.

“I was saying how Zwitii my age stop wondering,” Klezyp replied softly. “We stop looking up at the stars and seeing the glorious portraits of an omniscient artist. We cease thinking of aliens as mysterious and exciting beings from worlds described like dreams.” Klezyp lowered its other hand and rested it atop Vintis’. “We instead fill our time with wonders of a different sort.”

“I see,” Vintis nodded. “What kind of wonders are those?” it asked. Klezyp took in a deep breath and closed its eyes. It smiled as it opened them again.

“We look down from the stars and back at our own world,” Klezyp whispered, as it looked out at the Spiral of Ice. “One hundred, two hundred, three… Zwitii of all ages eventually do this.”

“Indeed?” Vintis asked. “Well, it’s comforting to know I’ll have that to look forward to.”

“And I face it now,” Klezyp said softly as it turned to stare back into Vintis’ eyes. “It’s a calling as old as our race, Vintis. It’s the blood of our people. It’s…” Vintis held a finger up to Klezyp’s mandibles, feeling a frozen tear forming under its scales as it did so.

“I know this speech,” Vintis whispered. “Klezyp, are you truly…?”

“Yes,” Klezyp nodded as it reached up and held Vintis’ hand. “Vintis, will you-”

Before Klezyp could finish its question, Vintis lunged forwards and embraced it in the most passionate kiss of its life.


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