Authors: Eric McMeins
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Military, #Space Opera
“Plus we have to be at Nixa in six days,” West added.
“What, why?” Cole started to ask, then he froze. “Shit,” he said again. “Why did you let me do that?”
“Because you are the boss and you know more about what’s going on than anyone. If you say hop, I say how high, even if there is a ceiling fan above me,” West answered him.
“Five days. I need some time to have a clear head. We spend five days out here looking for a home then we go back and fix a few things.” Anastacia walked in at that point.
“Ahh good, we have a plan then. You boys, always boasting and never thinking.” She sat next to Liam and linked to the ship before anyone could speak. Cole and the other two joined her. Cole took stock of the small explorer ship that he had apparently aptly named
The Manifest Destiny.
It was designed to hold ten men and was equipped for six months of deep space travel. It had four two-man cabins and two mini suites for the captain and Xo. There was a communal galley, small exercise room, and a large cargo hold that ran the length of the belly. The Captain and Xo got their own bathroom with showers, but the rest of the crew would share one communal bathroom. There was also a small lab in the rear of the ship that had all manner of testing and preserving equipment along with a stocked medical facility. It closely resembled a U.S. style space shuttle, but larger and without the tiles coating its skin. It was sleeker and painted, like all of his ships, black to blend in with the night sky. It had a powerful sensor array and a small nano forge that could keep the ship supplied with the probes full of nanites they would be sending down to the planets to do an initial recon.
For an Earth sized planet, they would have to launch about one hundred probes to get adequate coverage. Each probe would release billions of nanites that were programmed to look for specific things. Life, water, viruses, bacteria, atmospheric contents, among other important things would be collected by the nanites who would return to the probes and then that data would be transmitted back to the ship. Within an hour or so, they should know if a planet was worth checking out further.
Cole brought up a list of systems he had been working on before they had left. It held only a dozen and were spread out fairly far apart, not that it mattered much for his ships. He selected the nearest one.
“We go here first.” Nothing was known about the system. No one had ever apparently gone there. His ancestors had been methodical in their search patterns and hadn’t made it to this area of the galaxy before the war. If any other races had come here, they hadn’t made it public knowledge. All the sites Cole had chosen had a few things in common. A central star that was conducive to humans life. Out of the way and had no records attached to it—a planet that appeared to be in the Goldie Locks zone. Not too close, not too far, just right for liquid water. The bases telescopic arrays had been going nonstop for the last few days with these parameters in mind, and these were what they had found so far.
“We can bang a few of these out then head back,” Cole announced to his travelling companions. He purposely avoided looking at Anastacia. He was ashamed and slightly confused about what had happened and how he was going to tell Sky. If she ever spoke to him again.
“Shit,” one more time. “Okay, let’s go.” He plotted the course and set the warp delay. They all broke contact and returned to their bodies.
“I need food,” West announced, and rose from his seat.
“I will join you.” Liam answered back, and followed him out.
The awkward moment was interrupted by the sudden and expected jump into warped space. The thousands of light years of distance was covered in a few moments and the small ship popped out on the other side. Cole instantly bonded with the ship to avoid a conversation with Anastacia. This time he didn’t form a VR bridge, he became the ship. Its sensors were his eyes, ears and sense of touch. Its body was his body, and with a thought he could control any of its functions. Best of all, any chatter from the other personnel on board was fed directly into his mind, not having to talk to them. Cole could check on the insides of his ship as readily as the outsides. West and Liam were just sitting down to a steaming pile of space breakfast, usually a glob of heated tasteless stuff that supplied all the nutrients a growing boy needed.
Anastacia started to feed him the long-range sensor data. It was all matching what the bases scans had reported. Big yellow star slightly smaller than Earth’s had been. Young, only a few billion years old, and more than a dozen planets around it. Three way too close and seven ranging from just outside the prime zone to one almost at the limits of the star’s gravity. That left two planets within the right range, if only just barely. One was just on the threshold of being too close, the other too far. Oh well, they had come all this way.
He adjusted his course and goosed the engine and shot off to the nearest of the planets. It was exciting and boring all at the same time. He settled in and just enjoyed the view and the clear mind.
Thalo had gone stealth. For most beings that means walking quietly and sticking to the shadows. For Thalo it meant he disappeared. Totally and completely invisible to the naked eye and most forms of security. Very few other beings in the galaxy knew of this innate ability that Thalo’s people had perfected over the last few thousand years. It was a combination of bending light, suppressing sound around their bodies, and emitting a certain hormone that affected all living creatures. The hormone basically made whoever inhaled it not care about the odd shifts of light and small noises that did escape the Worlders. Cole knew about it and so did Sky, but they may be the only two non-Worlders who did.
It was the middle of the night in the Nixa Capitol. The Administrators had gone home for the evening just after midnight local time. Thalo had already made his way to the Colonial Administrators wing of the capitol building. He had waited patiently for hours for Fire to come home. His patience had paid off. Fire had come roaring up in a pricy ground car and had hardly waited for it to stop before he was hopping out and hurrying up the stairs to his building. He mashed his thumb on the security reader and opened his right eye wide for a retinal scan.
Pretty sophisticated even for an Administrator, Thalo thought. Thalo scooted in behind Fire and just made it inside before the door whammed shut. Fire made no indications that he noticed anything and no alarms were tripped by Thalo’s entry. Thalo stuck close to Fire and followed him deeper into his residence. Fire started to yell for servants. Beings of many different species rushed in to answer his calls. Food was ordered, clothes were taken, and new ones dropped off. Thalo hung back by the wall to avoid any abrupt encounters with the staff. After a few moments of hurried service, Fire’s office emptied out and Fire was alone behind his desk with a plate of steaming food. He quietly ate and stared at the far wall. Lost in thought, no doubt, Thalo thought.
This was the kind of work Thalo was truly made for. He had patience, special awareness, and an almost addicted need to ferret out secrets. He had missed this kind of work over the last few months and was enjoying it immensely. Plus, if his hunch panned out, he would be bringing down this Nixa soon. Thalo settled in to wait, and watched as the Nixa finished his late night meal.
Finishing his meal, a servant suddenly appeared, scooped the dirty dishes up, and vanished back out the door. Fire settled back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling. His fingers drummed on the armrests of said chair. Lost in thought, Thalo took the opportunity to study the room.
The wall directly behind Fire was covered in 2D and holographic pictures of Fire with important Nixa and some other races. Fire’s desk was a monstrosity of carved stone. It was deep black with flecks of gold and a vein of what appeared to be silver running through it. The floor was covered in priceless tiles of polished gemite, a local stone that was difficult to quarry without shattering it completely and also near impossible to polish to such a high sheen. Only the richest of beings could afford a little, let alone do their whole floor in it. Especially since Fire was rarely ever in residence here. He preferred his luxury yacht that was currently part of the embargo. The wall to Thalo’s right was covered from front to back with shelves filled with gifts. Rare, valuable, and mundane items filled the shelves. All from other powerful Nixa who would want to see their gifts properly displayed. He figured Fire would have tossed most of them if he could get away without offending anyone.
The wall to Thalo’s left was covered in priceless art from around the galaxy. One of a kinds and ancient masterpieces shared space with more recent artists. Dotted around the room on pedestals were statues and carvings, also of immense wealth and rarity. Thalo was brought back to his target by a sudden movement. Fire quickly leaned forward and activated a screen on his desk. A small section opened and a flat screen popped up.
“Cut the crap, I know you’re there. Show yourself.” Thalo almost let his stealth field drop at the accusation. How had he known, did he have some bit of tech that the Worlders didn’t know about? Thalo was royally screwed. He opened his mouth to reply when he was stopped by a small being slowly stepping out of the solid wall to his left. Thalo was amazed at the sight. The small creature had literally just stepped through solid stone like it hadn’t been there. Thalo’s skin crawled as he stepped backward out of the way of this mysterious creature. The creature was one that Thalo had never seen before, or, hell, heard of before. It obviously didn’t speak any known languages because as it began to speak, Thalo heard a weird noise emanate from its head seconds before a box near its throat crackled with an electronic voice.
“One day I will discover how you know where I am and when I am here.” The voice from the box was laced with static.
“Just remember that I can, that is all that you need to worry about at the moment. Now on to business. You were there and heard, I assume?” Fire stated.
“Of course, that is what you pay me for. Is it not?” Thalo wracked his brain as they bantered back and forth. The creature was maybe four and a half feet tall, couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds and was bipedal. As far as Thalo could tell, it wasn’t wearing any clothes. It was androgynous, to say the least. Smooth dark grey skin covered its body and not a single hair. It had no sex organs that he could see, and was covered in lithe wiry muscles. The only thing it was wearing was the box lashed around its neck that translated its speech. Its head was ovoid in shape and it had small dark black eyes, no nose, and a small slit that he assumed was its mouth. The mouth didn’t move like a normal beings mouth when it talked. It just opened slightly and the weird noise poured out of it.
“Yes, yes but that is not what is important. I know what I heard. I need to know what I wasn’t privy to. I need to know what they talked about in the Prime’s office.” Fire gave the being a flat stare.
“A sense of humor is what you lack,” the creature said, followed by a odd cackling sound that wasn’t translated. “First, our bargain. I need proof and no recordings. Live and current proof or I leave.”
“I think we both know you wouldn’t do that,” Fire said as he leaned in closer. “You push me too far at times; you underestimate my willingness to follow through with my promises and threats. Now tell me what I want to know.”
Thalo saw a slight slump in the beings shoulders and felt bad for the little guy. Obviously, the getting paid comment was the joke that Fire hadn’t laughed at and further more it sounded like Fire was blackmailing this little guy to work for him. “Very well. I arrived as soon as I could.” The little guy launched into an almost word for word retelling of the meeting Thalo had with the Prime as soon as they arrived. Thalo was impressed. Walking through walls was one thing, a computer-like memory was another. It took two hours for the creature to tell his tale and at the end, Thalo had noticed some discrepancies. Nothing major but he had left out a few things. It was worth knowing that the creature would lie to Fire.
“Nothing was said of me? Questions about my dealings?” Fire asked, agitated.
“No, they are clueless as to who the Nixa they are looking for is,” it responded.
There was the proof he needed, but then Fire interjected.
“I never said I was the one responsible,” Fire stated. “I am usually the target though, so I am surprised no one mentioned me.” Fire stood and started to pace around the room. The creature remained quiet and motionless.
“Have you heard anything else from any conversations you have over heard?” Fire asked as he came to a stop.
“No, besides talking about organizing the investigation, the only thing others are discussing is the Kin who is rampaging around the capitol.”
“Good, go and continue watching the Prime. Only break surveillance if any leads are found.” Fire waved him away with his hand.
The creature bowed and turned to take his leave. Without pause, it walked right up to and into the nearest wall and disappeared from sight. Thalo’s skin crawled again. Fire suddenly slammed his hand down on his desk.
“Bastard Prime,” he swore. Fire looked at the time display on his desk and swore again. He began calling for his servants to prepare his bedroom for sleep and headed out of his office. Thalo didn’t follow. He waited behind to do some snooping of his own in Fire’s office. He waited a good half hour before he moved around Fire’s desk and look at the computer display. He was about to touch the computer when a voice spoke from his right.