Elinog, a purple and violet salaman with bulbous eyes dressed in mechanic’s overalls, spoke over the ship comm to Blavet. “You better come see this Blavet, the planet we were supposed to go to isn’t there anymore.”
Blavet sat up straight in bed and smacked the comm button with the heel of the hand at the end of his leg. His tail twitched anxiously, like a cat’s. “What do you mean it’s not there anymore? Is there debris?”
“It’s hard to explain, just get up here.” Elinog responded, then the static cut out as the comm shut off.
“I guess I’ll have to go see for myself.” Complained Blavet as he quickly pulled on a shirt and pants. It wasn’t long before he was climbing the ladder to the cockpit that had just enough room for three people, two of whom would need to be sitting to make room for the third. Sitting in the co-pilot’s seat was Allie, a skravyn that they had added to the crew a few stops back. Her black feathers were a stark contrast to the bright white of the ship’s corridors. Blavet looked at the scanner in front of Allie. “Well, the scanner shows the planet’s there, what’s wrong?”
“Look out the window, it may be a little hard to land.” Allie said, pointing where the planet should be.
“Well, have you tried hailing flight control?” Blavet asked, looking at the back of Elinog’s head. He was doing his best to act calmly, and he thought he was doing great until he realized his right leg was thumping against Allie’s chair.
“We were about to when Allie suggested you take a look first. She wanted to make sure we weren’t both going insane.” Elinog rapped on Blavet’s twitching leg to calm him.
“All that proved was that if we are insane then all three of us are.” Allie didn’t sound very hopeful as she pressed a few buttons on the console while clicking her beak nervously. “This is the ISS Dominiot. Does anybody read us?”
There was a crackle on the comm for a moment, then there was a reply. “This is Evkar flight control. All incoming traffic is asked to maintain distance until tests are over. Are we showing up on visual or scanners?”
Blavet reached over and pressed the talk button. “This is the owner of the Dominiot. You show up on sensors but not on visual.”
Another crackle of static came from the speakers. “Well, test’s over. We didn’t show up on visual that time, but we did on scanner.” The flight controller obviously wasn’t addressing them yet. “Should we drop the cloak for now then? Okay…oops. Had the talk down that whole time. Sorry about that. ISS Dominiot as soon as you have visual you have permission to land at the coordinates I’m sending you now.” A string of numbers started showing up on the flight screen.
Allie pushed the talk button on the console. “Coordinates received. See you soon. Pun intended. Over and out.” Allie turned in her chair and started to squeeze past Blavet, her feathers brushing through his fur. He was grateful that there were no wings to squeeze past him. “I’m going to take a sonic and change before we land, if you want to take over for me.” She didn’t wait for Blavet to answer as she slid down the ladder.
“Sure.” Blavet sat in the co-pilot seat. “I’m glad the sonic shower works so well. It cost a fortune installing that thing.”
“Yeah,” replied Elinog, “but it’s definitely better than piping water into the shower. That last leak almost made me commit sewer-cide.”
“The scrubbing sponge definitely uses a lot less water too.” Blavet ignored the pun. “I remember when my parents had us go on water rations. Dad smelled so bad that planets could smell us hours before we came out of FTL.” The two of them chuckled at that and Elinog started flying the ship towards the newly appeared planet. Wings extended from either side of the Dominiot as it hit atmosphere.
– – –
The planet Evkar was a talig colony. A talig was a humanoid race that had the faces of baby rhinos with short snouts. They also had brown fur covering their whole bodies other than their hands and face. They stood somewhere between 1 and 1.5 meters with adults having two horns growing from above their noses lined up vertically. They had very gruff voices and tended to use humans or human sub-races as flight control.
The Dominiot landed on a wide platform meant for a much larger ship with the cargo ramp facing the spaceport. The landing gear then extended to full length, the ramp lowered to the ground, and the wings folded back. The talig refueling crew was already out with hoses to connect to the ship as Blavet and the two crewmembers exited the ship.
Each of them held a single crate of precious cargo. The crates contained packets of nutrients not found on the planet but that were required for the talig reproductive cycle. A larger crate in the cargo hold, which was the only crate left, held a machine that would create artificial nutrients for when the supply ran out.
“Ah, I’ll send a team in to get the machine then.” A gruff voice greeted them as they entered the spaceport. “I assume that’s the large crate I can see from here.” A meter tall talig with short horns gave them a small wave.
“That it is. I’m Blavet, this is Allie, and this is Elinog. Where do you want these supplements?” Blavet raised the crate he was carrying slightly to implicate it.
The talig took the crate from Blavet. “I’ll take care of these, you two just set those down here. You should go to the mess and let ’em know Johnoy sent you. Should get you some free soul food.” Johnoy turned with the crate that was almost as tall as him and started carrying it away. A sign that said mess hall pointed in the opposite direction.
“Well, shall we?” Allie set her crate down and started walking towards the mess hall. Her talon clicks echoing in the empty spaceport.
Elinog looked to Blavet. “Our contact on the matter of spirits should be here.”
“Allie knows, if that’s why you aren’t being specific.”
“No, he thinks the hall might be bugged.” Allie said over her shoulder. “Are you guys coming or not?”
The two guys joined Allie on the trek down the hall. When they finally got to the mess hall it was mostly empty. There were a few talig spread about and a group of humans was at one table.
“Well, who do you think we need to tell that Johnoy sent us?” Allie asked, scanning the room. When she saw a table with a lone human who was trying his best not to look at them she said, “ah, let’s go over there.”
Elinog looked at Blavet and shrugged. Blavet shrugged back and they followed Allie to a lone human when a server bot intercepted them, it’s four arms carrying various plates and drinks. “Would the three of you like to order something?”
“We’d like a couple of hamburgers and a plate of birdseed for the lady.” Blavet smiled at the bot while Allie glared at him. “Scratch that. Three hamburgers and a side of cashews.”
“We don’t have cashews, but I can find another nut for you.” The robot started rolling away on its treads. “Also we replace the beef with a local herd animal, so the taste won’t be the same I’m told.”
“Thankyou.” Allie said as the three of them continued to the lone human. “Hi, Johnoy sent us. I assume you’re our special contact?”
The man stroked his long brown beard. “I may be. Are you here about the world that’s name is only whispered?”
“Only my soul could tell you it’s name.” Blavet answered, having heard this line many times throughout their search for the World of Souls. On impulse he added, “also, iaceo interius veritas.”
The man perked up at the sound of the phrase. “Veritas interius iaceo. I take it your friends know what you are? It’s strange, a half-emris being one.”
“Yes, he was born in FTL. That’s why he retains the power from his father.” Elinog sat down across from the man. Allie and Blavet sat on either side of him. “What do you know of this world?”
“I cannot talk about this where others can overhear.” The man started to grab an old leather bound book from the seat next to him. “Do you mind if I do this, or would you like to show me your skills?” He smiled toothily at Blavet.
Blavet grabbed a tablet from the inner pocket of his jacket and looked at Allie.
Plucking a feather from her arm Allie winced then handed it to Blavet. “Here. I don’t know why you won’t just collect my molts.”
The old man chuckled. “There’s more power in a fresh feather of course.”
Blavet used the touch interface to bring up a block of text in thaumatish and began chanting very softly. Not even Elinog, who was sitting right next to him and had excellent hearing, could make out what he was saying. Then, suddenly, the ambient sounds in the cafeteria went quiet around them. Blavet stood up and walked a few steps away and the sounds resumed. He turned and saw Allie’s beak moving like she was talking.
The sound of Allies voice came to Blavet in the middle of a word as he walked back into the audio bubble.
“-pid emris didn’t waste my feather again.” Allie glanced at Blavet. “You didn’t waste it, did you?”
“We’re good as long as nobody can read lips. I can’t obscure lips without the whole face being obscured and people tend to notice that amount later.” Blavet sat down next to Allie this time. “Well, what do you know?”