If you missed part 1 of this serial short story, then click here. Otherwise, read on!
To Vox’s dismay, a suitable engineer did not present him or herself within the next few days, and all too soon their repairs and upgrades were completed, so they were ready to depart. The Lysaan flowers were loaded into the Majestic’s upper-level storage area in a glass aquarium-style tank that they didn’t dare risk leaving in the cargo hold.
“Up here they should remain secure, and they’ll have all the gravity and environmentally-controlled atmosphere they could ask for,” Xendri said, beaming and looking over her cargo proudly.
Within the glass, the flowers were vibrant and healthy-looking, their blue, white, and green hues pleasant to look at. Despite this, Vox was unsure what all the fuss was about, but they were getting paid, and handsomely, so he dismissed any feelings he might have on the subject.
“The tank is supposed to be completely self-sustaining, so we should lock the door and advise everyone that this room is off limits.”
“Good idea, Vox,” Xendri agreed. “Let’s make sure everyone is in position and we’ll do just that.”
Not much later, the Majestic rumbled to life. Vox had taken up residence in the communications room with his laptop affixed to the metal desk and the window behind him affording a clear view of the galaxy as they sped through it. Being an Urtax, he could both work on the Majestic’s accounts and enjoy the view at the same time through his crystalline form; his vision was not limited to one direction like most species.
Tapping lightly, Vox set up their gate travel and prepaid their expenses through Alpha Centaurii, Praxius, Raal, Yauva, and Bluaoc. They would have to refuel in the Bluaoc system, but Vox didn’t foresee any problems except maybe elevated prices, due to Bluaoc being a heavily populated system. From there, they would be just one gate away from their destination in the Lysaan system, Saigyin.
Idly, he looked up Saigyin, just to know what to expect, and curiously found very little information. A tropical garden-world, Saigyin was the Lysaan’s first established colony. Previously uninhabited, the colony had been established peacefully some fifty years ago and was protected under Lysaan law as a ‘conservation area’. As such, no weapons were allowed to be powered on within orbital range of the planet, or upon it, and no plants were allowed to be removed from Saigyin without permission from the Lysaan government.
I hope they won’t have a problem with us bringing plants in…
Not sure what to make of this newfound knowledge, Vox set himself to reading about the Lysaan themselves, feeling he would better be able to negotiate with them if he knew more about their language and customs. He was so absorbed in his studies that the journey to Bluaoc passed swiftly and he felt the ship slow sooner than expected.
“Is there a problem?” Vox called up to the bridge through the repaired communications system.
“No problem, Vox,” the pilot, Nell, informed him, “just settling in to dock at the Bluaoc gate for refuelling.”
Vox stared down at his screen, noting the date and time. Right on schedule, if not a little bit ahead of it, he noted, surprised, if not a little impressed.
They were quickly fueled and on their way to the Bluaoc-Lysaan Gate. It doesn’t seem to be a very well-used gate, Vox noted, looking out the window at the vast expanse that was only sparsely dotted with ships.
Something drew his attention, or rather the absence of something. The field of stars that was their galaxy seemed almost to be interrupted by a blot. The small oblong shape blocked out the stars beyond it and it was moving, keeping in time to a small ship that flew somewhat erratically through space. Curiosity getting the better of him, Vox focused on it.
What is that thing?
It was like no ship he’d ever seen before. Small and round like a metal ball, it looked only big enough for maybe one person to ride inside. Instead of gliding smoothly through space, however, like most ships, it bucked and swayed like a piece of debris caught in the waves of an ocean. It left behind a trail of fumes as well, a sign that its engine was either failing or working overtime. What concerned Vox more than the strange one-man ship was the cloaked thing following it.
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.