By Jared Vaillancourt [Creative Writing Bureau Chief]
“Well, would you look at that!” Kyraa shouted from across the room. Vintis looked up from its glass, its eyes out of focus as the expensive brandy burned down its throat. Kyraa pulled another of her trademark smiles, cockily pulling up the tendrils to the left of her mouth.
“What now?” Vintis inquired grumpily, its head swimming in a peculiar mix of stress and alcohol. Kyraa chuckled, a strange sound for an Izraal to make, and instead pointed up past Vintis at the screen floating behind the bar. Vintis coughed and turned, noticing as the other patrons turned their heads to regard the hologram. On its shimmering surface a supposedly attractive Jukkopo reporter was running through his story, the words incomprehensible but the subtitles blissfully clear.
“War?” someone asked as the room fell utterly quiet. Vintis squinted, forcing the screen into some semblance of clarity to his fading vision. Was this its fifth glass already?
“Ha – I knew it,” Kyraa encouraged the reporter, as she stood up, her glass tight in her hand. “I knew the Pyryx were stupid. I knew they’d do something like this!” Vintis turned to consider her. The tall Izraal downed the last of her drink and turned to demand another from the barkeep. Vintis merely grunted and continued to read the screen.
“War declared – Pyryx protests of new Izraal homeworld become violent,” Vintis muttered as those words drifted across the hologram. “Great stars, Izraal fleets mobilize as Pyryx armada approached the system,” it finished. It turned as Kyraa whooped and lumbered over to the counter, her long legs dancing her body neatly around Vintis’ as she retrieved her drink.
“My friend, a toast,” Kyraa offered as she held her bubbling blue concoction in front of Vintis’ face. “This is the day I have held breath for! The start of this war solidifies our claim! The Pyryx would not attack a colony of their own – they truly do believe that world is ours!” she exclaimed. Vintis regarded her drink as it heard the other patrons, most of them Izraal, lift their drinks and down them. Vintis lifted its glass, Kyraa expectantly inching hers to its. Instead, Vintis took another sip and set the glass down.
“You’re fighting over a rock,” Vintis grumbled. “You had other colonies. You didn’t need a replacement for your homeworld out of your neighbor’s back yard.” Kyraa lowered her glass, her six eyes all focused intently on Vintis. Finally, Kyraa smiled.
“I guess I shouldn’t have expected a Zwitii to understand,” she said politely. Vintis looked up at her and reciprocated her fake smile, lifting its glass as Kyraa’s alien smile grew and she once again lifted hers. Vintis gently tapped the edge of its brandy with her bubbling mystery.
“To chaos,” Vintis lisped. Kyraa became motionless as it swung back the last dregs of liquor. Without another word, Vintis passed its credit coin across the counter’s reader, pulled on its goggles and nodded curtly to Kyraa before exiting the bar. It seemed to fit that the suns were low on the horizon as the day waxed into night.
“Great stars,” Vintis mumbled, “Why war? Why now?” In all its years it had never seen the likes of war. History was full of it, of course; great battles that had shaped borders and forged cultures. But war was a word that had become less popular, even scarce across the Andromeda galaxy. Four hundred alien species had simply learned to coexist, and if anyone was proof of such a concept, it was the Izraal and the Pyryx; two mortal enemies, their differences finally cast aside.
“That’s right ladies and gentlemen,” a public news screen was saying from above the transit terminal. “War. Allow me to continue in Common: The Imperial Guard has declared today…” Vintis stopped listening as passers-by gasped and paused to stare up fearfully at the screen. It was surreal to them, Vintis mused; they had no concept of the inner workings of a politician’s mind. After so many years knowing Kyraa, Vintis wasn’t surprised at all.
That night, Vintis could not sleep. It was on every channel; diplomats condemning both sides, politicians making declarations, Izraal and Pyryx militants screaming out of the screens as unholy sounds threatened to drown them out. While Kapilo was some distance from the war zone, it was still far too close for Vintis’ comfort. It was not until late at night that something the reporters said caught its ear.
“… And the Imperial Guard has imposed an exodus order on all alien nationals living on the world in question, to safeguard those who do not belong in their fight…” Vintis shot the screen an angry look and threw the remote through it, flickering the image. It lay back and closed its eyes.
“Not our fight,” Vintis muttered. “Why do they always lie like that?”
To be continued…