Hello! If you’re just starting this story, here’s Part 1. Otherwise, read on!
Hours later, Xendri was gone, making her rounds inspecting the ship and its cargo, and Nell and Elise were busy chatting over a hand of cards. They’d made it through the Terran gate with no issue and were now well on their way to Jorn space.
“Must be terribly uncomfortable sitting in all that armour,” Nell noted casually. “It’s safe in here and we have oxygen, you could at least take your helmet off.”
“Oh, I couldn’t.” Elise shook her head with what Nell imagined was a blush.
“If it’s your Captain you’re worried about, he’s not allowed up here. Xendri would probably have a fit if she saw him up here again.”
This seemed to win the woman over. After a moment, she reached up slowly, unclasped her helmet, and pried it off. Underneath, she was revealed to be Jorn, and quite young. Her orange skin was flushed like a golden sunset, and her richly-coloured brown hair was chaos around her face as it tried to escape the ponytail she had it mostly tied back in. Her horns were the stubby kind that just formed little bumps on her forehead. Nell had the urge to reach out and feel them with her paws, but she resisted, unsure if her touch would be welcome. She’s beautiful, but seems kinda young to be hanging out with such suspicious people.
“Who are you guys?” Nell couldn’t help but ask.
Elise’s already flushed cheeks deepened in colour. “The JLF. Jorn Liberation Front. Maybe you’ve heard of us?”
Nell’s lips thinned into a line. Oh, I’ve heard of you…
There were terrorist organizations in every culture, some more or less organized than others. The JLF was Jorn’s particular version of the separatist movement. They believed in Jorn-first politics and that the Jorn should separate themselves from the Galactic Council, violently if necessary.
“Pardon my saying so,” Nell murmured, “but you seem a little young to be a terrorist.”
Elise gasped. “It’s not like that! I know our reputation, but Captain Droon is a decent man. He would never endanger innocents for our cause. We just want the government of Jorn to listen to us. The Council is choking us, destroying our culture and our independence. They want to conscript us for a galactic military force…”
She was interrupted by Captain’s Xendri’s abrupt return to the cockpit. “Bombs!” Xendri stated, out of breath. “He’s got bombs in my cargo bay! That bastard! Why does it always have to be bombs?”
Nell shot Elise a look, raising her brow in question. Elise’s expression was as shocked as Nell’s own. “No,” the Jorn woman shook her head in denial, “there’s got to be another explanation. We were going to liberate a Jorn mining colony, to recruit them for our cause.”
“Mining colony?” Xendri questioned. “These aren’t regular bombs. I scanned them when Droon wasn’t looking, they’re fire-bombs. Specifically made to kill living things while keeping infrastructure intact. He’s not intending to destroy a mine, he’s planning on wiping out a colony.”
“I have to–” Elise tried to stand, but Nell put a hand on her shoulder.
“I don’t think talking to him is going to do any good. He’s already lied to you once. Let us handle this.”
Elise continued to look troubled, but she acquiesced, sitting back down.
“Xendri?” Nell questioned, meeting her Captain’s eyes.
“I’m thinking about it.”
“Well, think fast,” Nell told her. “We leave the Jump Gate in five minutes.”
Justine Alley Dowsett is the author of nine novels and counting, and one of the founders of Mirror World Publishing. Her books, which she often co-writes with her sister, Murandy Damodred, range from young adult science fiction to dark fantasy/romance. She earned a BA in Drama from the University of Windsor, honed her skills as an entrepreneur by tackling video game production, and now she dedicates her time to writing, publishing, and occasionally role-playing with her friends.