Shifting Ice: Dark Premonitions

The second installment of Jared Vaillancourt’s science-fiction tale, “Shifting Ice”

By Jared Vaillancourt [Creative Writing Bureau Chief]

Chapter Two

Vintis awoke early the next morning, its head spinning from the alcohol. The news hologram had shut itself off once it had realized its observer was unconscious. Vintis groaned as its body protested the awkward position on the couch it had passed out in. The day was off to a bad start; of this much; Vintis was unwaveringly certain.

Breakfast was once again a function of habit; a roasted fruit from some far-distant world and twenty minutes spent on the roof with Vintis’ back fins exposed to the suns. Most of the vitamins it could generate itself with the solar energy, and the fruit provided the rest. Vintis squinted underneath its goggles through the morning glare and caught another Zwitii waiving at it from the rooftop across the street. Vintis smiled and waived back.
“Ah, good morning, Vintis,” Kyraa greeted it as it entered the office. Vintis offered the tall, imposing Izraal a curt smile as it made its way to its desk. “Some night last night, Vintis. You missed quite the celebration.” Kyraa remarked. Vintis scoffed.

“Did I?” Vintis muttered. “Great stars, pray tell,” Kyraa leaned back as she crossed her front legs, her work screen freezing in midair as it detected her eyes no longer glowing at it.

“The bar was full of Izraal, toasting our future victory,” Kyraa recalled wistfully. “I suppose you were quite drunk, my friend. Do you remember storming out?” she asked. Vintis brought up its work screen, grunting as it did so.

“I remember exiting politely,” Vintis mumbled. “War is nothing to celebrate.” Vintis looked up at Kyraa as that worthy chuckled and resumed typing, the words appearing on her screen.

“The same position shared by all Zwitii, it seems,” Kyraa remarked with a slight hiccough of amusement. “I shared a transport with some of your people on the way in today. They refused to look me in the eye.”

“It doesn’t help you’ve got three pairs, Kyraa.”

“You know what I mean,” Kyraa chuckled as she finished her report and prepared it for archiving. “I can understand your position, Vintis. War seems like such a scary thing, especially to you.”

“It does now, doesn’t it?” Vintis muttered as it sifted through requisition orders.

“Indeed! As far as I know, the Zwitii have never been directly involved in a war, have you?”

“Not me,” Vintis replied absent-mindedly. The third order was another repeat of last month’s.

“Of course not, we’re just file keepers,” Kyraa remarked with a coy smile. “But I’m interested, Vintis. What do you think?” she asked, once again freezing her screen as her eyes focused on Vintis.

“I think the company’s maintenance hangars could hire engineers that don’t go through so many plasma injectors,” Vintis muttered as it reviewed the order. Kyraa coughed and swallowed to catch its attention. Vintis looked over at her with a polite, “Huh?”

“What do you think about war, as a Zwitii?” she asked. Vintis considered her for a moment and then shut off It’s screen. It rotated it’s chair to face her stool and took a deep breath.

“As a Zwitii, I think war is the waste of time, life and resources done before negotiation resumes,” Vintis remarked, its voice inflectionless.

“As me, Vintis,” it continued coolly, “I think war is an affront. The Izraal and the Pyryx, great stars, the whole galaxy, has been at peace for almost five hundred years. All of us have worked hard to heal the scars of past wars. All of us have worked hard to remember just what wars cost – all of us have prayed for this time when there would be no suffering, no injustice and no further strife and this war,” it lifted its head, Kyraa staring at it intently, “represents the utter, total annihilation of everything we have worked and bled and sweated and prayed for.”

It turned from Kyraa and reactivated its screen. “But that’s just what I think,” it muttered. “I could be wrong.” Kyraa was silent for a moment as Vintis began confirming the requisition order, contacting its friend at the parts depot in orbit of Kapilo.

“Wow,” Kyraa whispered as she slowly turned to face her screen, “I never thought a Zwitii could feel so strongly.” Vintis gritted its teeth as it tried to ignore the comment. It shifted its focus, glancing at the Izraal through their respective screens. Finally, Vintis closed its eyes and took another relaxing breath.

“What are your thoughts, Izraal?” Vintis asked. Kyraa looked over at it quizzically.

“We have a right to a home,” she replied curtly, “and a right to defend it.”

“Simple as that?” Vintis inquire. Kyraa’s expression grew cold.

“Of course,” she replied softly. “Simple as that.”

To be continued…