Catch a fistful of sky

Old friends reuniting in a new place | June 11, 2010

Leah stepped through the remains of the Naith ship, gingerly stepping through the ruined remains of a doorway. The ship had crash landed after being shot out of orbit in the battle that had raged in the heavens a few years ago. Now all that was left was the remains of a Naith Garden class mothership, one of the only ones not to activate its self destruct protocol.

As an all around tech specialist with a background in alien literature, Leah felt lucky to be part of the expedition that had recently landed on Cassius IV. It was a small team, made up of several generalists and two specialists, herself and Archivist Emily O’Leary.  All the members were humans, though there was talk of Old Bloods and Bhae Chaw being sent in to add in their perspectives.  She picked up one of the spheres that the Naith used in the place of books,and it glowed to life, projecting a series of dashes and glyphs that were the Naith language. The line scrolled vertically, telling its story. After a moment of playing with it, she realized she could control the speed by rotating her wrist up and down. Just as she was about to delve into whatever story the sphere was telling, she heard footfalls coming down the hall. O’Leary popped her head the wreck of a doorway, careful not to snag her black utility uniform on any of the twisted metal.

“Anything interesting?” the archivist asked.  Leah turned to regard the sphere, and then shook her head.

“I can’t tell. I just picked it up and I’m was just about to start looking at the glyphs.  This is my first time even handling one of their scribe globes,” Leah admitted. Emily looked over her shoulder at the flashing glyphs, and then shook her hair, pushing a strand behind her ear.

“Well, you might as well bring it with you. We have guests coming in,” she said, stepping fully into the room and looking at a piece of Naith calligraphy art that had fallen on the floor.  It was a banner meant to be hung at an angle, the calligraphy that was inscribed seemed like it was hastily scribbled over and over again.  Looking closer, you could start to see patterns that were formed in the strange Naith glyphs. Emily pulled her gaze away, realising Leah had said something. “What was that?”

“What do you mean, guests?” she said, tucking the sphere into a drop pouch that rested against her thigh. She was wearing the same utilities that Emily had on. Grey in color, short sleeved, pockets over each breast and cargo pockets on the pants. The shirt closed at the front with a micro velcro system and the material was rip proof, more or less and adjusted to the climate she was in. All in all, it was rather basic.

“Guests. We’re official. The Science Division is sending an Engineer over to help survey the ship and get us ready for a real expedition coming here. Its our show, but they’re providing more funding and manpower than the Titan Scholastica ever could,” she said, smiling widely. Leah returned her grin tightly, not so sure that Imperial interest so soon was a good thing.

“So how much longer do we have before they arrive?” Leah asked.

“That’s the thing,” said Emily, “they’re in orbit right now. I guess they’ll be ready by the time dinner is served down here.” Emily began stepping out of the room, waiting for Leah to follow and continue their conversation.

“They? I thought you said they were only sending an Engineer,” Leah asked. She stepped through and walked alongside the hallway, balancing herself against the walls when the floor jutted up.

“Yes, but I guess there’s a pilot and security staff or something. The war against the Peacers has been over for a few years now, but we’re in the boonies out here, and flare ups are still common,” Emily noted with a shrug. She hopped down to the shimmering blue grass and gave Leah a hand.

“Well, let’s go see what Leon has made for our very official guests. If I have to eat reformed meat and vegetable medley one more time, I’m going to gnaw his ear off.  Our guests should be good for actual fresh food, I hope” she said.

~

Carmen checked the landing protocols as she descended into the friendly atmosphere of Cassius IV. A hurricane was raging on the other side of the planet that took up more degrees of longitude and latitude then she wanted to think about, but that was to be expected with terraforming. The silver lenses sealed over her eyes streamed data on the left side, and she cycled through it with a series of blinks, giving commands by scrunching her nose and focusing on commands with her right eye. As her fingers moved over controls, she guided the plane into a controlled descent that would have them on the ground at the expedition site in about ten minutes.

She stood up, and ran one hand over the control panel, double checking that all panels were in place. This shouldn’t look like anything than a general purpose Cardinal class government shuttle. A panel being out of place might give that away on the sleek spacecraft. She adjusted her jumpsuit and left the cockpit to let the plane handle the rest. She could pilot the plane from the planet’s surface, if she had to, so she wasn’t too concerned about anything going too awry.

As she stepped into the crew compartment, she saw Alex working through a holographic display generated from a forearm mounted computer. Her monocular lens flexed and whirled as it spit its own equations out next to the display. She murmured in her throat once or twice, her hair tied back in a tight braid. She acknowledged Carmen a second later, the floating displays winking out. “I take it we’re landing?” she asked.

Carmen gave a nod in the affirmative. “I made sure we’d be coming in time for us to eat with them. I planned on offering them some of our fresh stores. They’ve been planetside for a little while now, and I’m sure they’ve been on rehydrated rations long enough that they’ll be more than happy to have something green or red,” she said.

Alex nodded. “Yes, that will certainly buy a bit of good will. People who aren’t used to soldiering take that sort of thing for granted,” she said. Her and Carmen shared a grin between women, and then Carmen flicked a nod at the other person in the compartment. His seat was facing the window, and he watched the cloudscape break apart to reveal the land and sea below.

“He’s fine,” Alex said curtly, drinking from a bottle of water at hand. “He gets this way every year around this time since I’ve worked with him, and there’s nothing to do but let it run its course,” she said dispassionately. “He’ll brood for a while around me but do the job all the same.”

“You shouldn’t talk about me like I’m not here,” the man said, sipping quietly from a large pitcher of tea. Carmen’s lips quirked – those were the first words she had heard the man utter in a week.

“Then you shouldn’t act like you’re not here, Tyler,” retorted Alex in a neutral tone. Tyler shrugged, and continued looking out the window.

“If you have a question to ask me, aviatrix, by all means, do so. I’ll choose to answer, or I won’t,” he told Carmen, turning to look at her. His gaze was neutral, thankfully, without any threatening body language her optics could detect. He was one of the larger men she had known, and moved quickly as well from what she had seen. She would not want him angry at her. She nodded her ascent, and then turned to look at Alex, who had twisted her chair to stare at her partner. There was a silent staring contest for a moment, and Tyler’s nostrils flared slightly before he turned back to the window.

“Sorry about that, you have to ease him back from his anti social modes,” Alex said brightly.

“I didn’t mean any harm, ma’am,” Carmen began. Alex cut her off with a wave of her hand.

“No, you didn’t. Don’t worry about him. He’s my human partner,” she said curtly. Carmen said nothing, and nodded her head again. She had worked with Alex before, and would rather have Tyler mad at her than Alex annoyed. She had been briefed about the possible capacities of the big man, but she had seen Alex in action, and Alex was a holy terror. She couldn’t imagine anyone being worst, and wondered again exactly why this team was necessary for something so mundane, or why Alex had put special intonation on the term “human partner”. Tyler didn’t seem like a xenophobic from what she had seen of him on the ship.

“You’re right, of course. I’ll go get those stores ready,” she said, slipping past the two and heading further back into the ship. Alex nodded at her in dismissal.

Once she was out of the room, Alex spoke again.

“Are you going to be alright?” she asked, a touch of compassion in her voice.

Tyler didn’t speak for a moment. “You mean “am I going to be able to perform?”, which is insulting, given our past.”

Alex sighed slightly. Tyler had his moments when he wanted a fight, and this was one of them. The way to win was to not give him what he wanted. “No, I am asking because I am your human partner and every year you do this thing where you want people to give you sympathy so you can turn it down. But I am concerned about your well being here, to be quite honest. People have cared about you for a while. You’d see that if you let them in,” she said. He said nothing, and she shook her head.”If only other people saw this side of you, they’d never believe it. How come you only do this around me and strangers?”

“Because you’re my human partner,” he said, sipping from his tea again as the ship descended. Alex gave a half smile.  She had played her words correctly: His mood was beginning to lighten.

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Paratrooper. Correctional Officer. Federal Agent. Hello world, these are my thoughts and this is my story.

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