Shifting Ice: Alas, Poor Jaxal...

The fifth installment of Jared Vaillancourt’s ‘Shifting Ice’ series.

By Jared Vaillancourt [Creative Writing Bureau Chief]

Chapter Five

Seven hundred and thirty-two light years: that was the distance between Kapilo and the war zone. However,this great distance didn’t seem to do much to keep the war away, however. Vintis saw the war everywhere it went; public news holograms, advertisements run in Common, the Izraal tongue and most of the dominant Pyryx dialects, and even pedestrians on the street carrying banners and handing out flexies.

“Support the Imperial Court? Drive the Izraal invaders out?” one of the demonstrators asked Vintis as it walked past, a flexi in her tentacle as she offered it to Vintis. Vintis shook its head and held up its hand to decline the pamphlet. “You can’t stand by and do nothing!” the demonstrator shouted after Vintis as it walked down the street. “Sooner or later, this war will consume us all!”

They were hollow words, Vintis mused. The war was a blood feud, representing little more than the ignition of old prejudice between the Izraal and the Pyryx. Other species had yet to get involved, their eyes turned to the Jukkopo for guidance. Trying to persuade a Zwitii was a mistake on the demonstrator’s part, Vintis thought with a smirk; if she wanted involvement, she should lobby the Jukkopo.

Though it may have been the middle of winter, it was far too hot for Vintis. Its coat kept it cool, blocking out the suns’ heat, but it still felt far too warm. Kapilo was a world settled along its equator; there was nowhere for it to stay if it ventured into the southern wastes.

“Excuse me,” Vintis inquired at the transit stop, “what time does the next transport arrive?” it asked. To its surprise, the patron that turned to check the schedule hologram was a very familiar Zwitii.

“You’re only a few minutes early,” the other Zwitii informed merrily. It reached out with a hand, offering to shake Vintis’. Vintis accepted as the other Zwitii smiled. “It’s good to finally meet another Zwitii,” the other spoke in the Brakksys tongue, “I am Klezyp. What’s your name?”

“Vintis,” Vintis replied. It ignored the other patrons as they gave the two curious looks, bemoaning their use of a language other than Common. “You look familiar. Did you just move here?”

“Not really,” Klezyp answered meekly, its cheeks blushing. “I’m only here for a few months. I work for the Senate Census Commission.” Both Zwitii moved to sit on the empty bench at the back of the terminal. “I think I saw you the other day on the rooftops,” Klezyp admitted. Vintis smiled.

“I was wondering who that was,” Vintis chuckled. “There aren’t many Zwitii in the capitol.”

“You’re surprised?” Klezyp asked ironically, gesturing up at the suns. Both of them laughed.

“It is truly too hot here,” Vintis agreed. “So what kind of work do you do?” it asked.

“Nothing too special,” Klezyp said as it looked down at its feet, tracing circles across the metal. “I go to a planet. I record information about the populace, things like what species they are, their numbers, family relations, all that boring statistical stuff,” Klezyp chuckled. “What do you do, Vintis?” it asked.

“I work at one of the shipping companies at the local starport,” Vintis replied. “I handle requisition orders, maintenance log files, cargo manifests… nothing too special,” Vintis said with a chuckle. Klezyp laughed as well. Both looked up as the unmistakable humming of a transit’s engine pulled into the station.

“Oh, that’s the one I take,” Klezyp, said quickly as it stood up. “I’m off to the northernmost city today. Rumor has it that there’s a large Pyryx populace, and I’m so excited – I’ve never met one before!” it shouted over its shoulder. Vintis stood up.

“Klezyp?” Vintis said loudly, causing the other Zwitii to turn and smile back at it. “Uh, how would you feel about a drink sometime?” it asked. Klezyp’s smile widened as it paused on the transport’s open ramp-way.

“I’d love to,” Klezyp stammered. “Just look me up on the city-net!” Vintis smiled and waived as Klezyp boarded the transport and waived sheepishly at it through the window. “It was nice meeting you, Vintis!” Klezyp yelled as the transport hovered away. Vintis smiled and stuck its hands into its coat pockets. A moment later, its transport arrived.

“Ah, Vintis – you’re early,” Kyraa remarked an hour later when that worthy walked into their shared office. “I wasn’t sure you would be in today,” she said somberly. Vintis gave her a quizzical look as it hung up its coat.

“Why’s that?” Vintis asked. Kyraa sighed and tapped her screen, causing the image to flip so that Vintis could see it. Vintis gasped as it read the headline. “Kyraa, I…” it stuttered.

“I know,” Kyraa said sadly as she shut off her screen. “A few minutes after Jaxal and the others entered the prison, a group of Pyryx inmates tore them to shreds,” Kyraa said sadly. “My supervisor has given me the day off, but I’m going to work anyways,” she said slowly as Vintis sat down. “What about you?” she asked. Vintis looked up at her and blinked.

“Me?” it asked. Kyraa nodded. Vintis opened its screen and found a waiting message from the supervisor. It sighed as it read it.

“You knew Jaxal too,” Kyraa pointed out. “So, what do you say? Should we spend the day toasting his memory?” she asked. Vintis looked up at her as it deleted the message.
“I’d like to,” Vintis muttered to the shocked Kyraa, “but I’m very busy.”

It took Kyraa a moment to reply. “Of course,” she said politely as she left.

To be continued…