World of Souls Chapter 6: Downtime

Elinog was starting to get used to his new legs and was able to start working on maintenance with Janine. He was a little slower with only one set of arms, but he was working through it.

“Janine, can you hand me a crescent wrench? I don’t seem to have the right size wrench.”

There was a rustling sound and then Janine passed the tool to Elinog. “There, hon. Do you need me to work on anything else?”

“No, unless you want to start testing sub-systems. Nothing else is in need of repairs now.”

“Hey, I finished growing another batch of skin. Do you want to get it applied tonight?”

The sound of a bolt tightening echoed out of the crawl space. “Got it! What did you ask? A skin patch?”

“Yeah, do you want it applied tonight?”

“Well, I’ve got nothing better to do. Sometimes I think it’s better not to have them until I’m used to this, though. These legs bang around a lot.” There was a dull thud. “Ow. See?”

Janine chuckled. “That’s what the skin’s for. To help you get better control over them.”

“Right. Sure. Let’s do that tonight.” Elinog inched backwards out of the crawlspace. “Maybe until then we can work on those replacements for my lower arms. I’m getting some phantom pain.”

Janine’s large eyes rolled. “I gave you meds for that.”

Pulling himself out of the crawlspace the rest of the way Elinog nodded to her. “Yeah, but at the rate you prescribed them we’re going to run out.”

“The fungus is growing fine for now.”

“Right, but once we get to where we can’t cut off more I’ll go cold turkey. I’d rather ween off now.”

Janine nodded. “Makes sense, I’m just worried about you.”

– – –

Now that Blavet’s ribs were healed Allie let him fly while she and AB-775 worked on cleaning up the signal. It had major distortion and with every pass they found they had filtered out something from the signal and had to start over sections.

Allie climbed the ladder into the cockpit. “So, cap, you haven’t impacted any warp-stuff. I’m proud of you.”

“Still want to try flying through one of these clouds, though. Have you and AB-775 found anything interesting yet?”

“Interesting, yes. Intelligible, not yet.” Allie sat in the co-pilot’s seat and leaned back. “So, Elinog seems to be doing quite well.”

“Yeah, thanks to Janine. I’m glad that zarx recommended her back on the station.”

“I wish one of them would take a shift at the controls, though. I want some time with you, too.” Allie flipped the controls over to her console. “Go take a break. Bring me a coffee pod back, too.”

Blavet stood and stretched. His short tail still felt wrong. “Maybe once Elinog has his arms Janine can outfit me with a tail extension. Feels wrong to be so short.”

“I don’t think we have enough parts on the ship for that. It’s a different thing than arms. Requires a lot of motors and joints.” Allie cocked her head. “During your break maybe you can listen to the signal AB-775 and I worked out so far. He doesn’t have thaumatish in his languages, and I really don’t know much of it.”

“Is it in thaumatish?”

“It’s in some language we don’t know. It’s worth a shot. Now go get me that coffee pod.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Blavet started climbing down the ladder. “Wait, when did you become Captain?”

“When we started dating.”

“Oh, right.”

– – –

AB-775 sat in the corner of the cargo bay near a console, crunching data. The screen showed several languages rushing across it. Each in turned red and disappeared from the screen. At the top a readout read: Languages Tested: 98, Approximate Matches: 0

“AB,” Blavet approached from the corridor, “how’s the search going.”

AB-775’s cameras lit up and he stood up. “Ah, Captain. I’m using the ship’s language database. Haven’t found any matches yet.”

“Let me listen to the transmission. Allie thinks I might know the language.” Blavet pull earbuds from a pocket and plugged them into the console’s sound port.

“If it’s in the database I’ll be able to pick it out.”

Blavet shook his head. “There’s a couple languages in my head that aren’t in the database. Trust me.”

“Okay, Cap. Feeding it in. I’ll have it on low volume, tell me if it needs to go up.”

A slow, lilting language flowed into Blavet’s ears. It was distorted in places, but it sounded familiar. “Hmm. Sounds like maybe a dialect of Shiltarin or Drestalik. Maybe a combination of the two? Have you checked those yet?”

AB-775 paused his search algorithm and tested the two languages. “No, they aren’t quite a match. It contains words both languages don’t have. Maybe a third language?”

“Okay, I’ll keep listening, but I’m not sure what else it could be. Resume your search.”

The display updated: Tested Languages: 100, Approximate Matches: 2

“Random language selection, then?”

“I find you tend to discover correlations faster that way.”

“Carry on, then.”

“Aye-aye Capn.”

Blavet nodded and unplugged his earbuds. Shoving them in his pocket he looked around the cargo bay for Janine and Elinog. “Hey, do you know where our salamen are?”

“Medical bay? Probably applying skin grafts again.”

“Thanks.” Blavet walked off toward the corridor. “Oh, and alert me immediately if you decode the transmission.”

AB-775’s camera’s light’s shut back off.

Blavet walked down the corridor and heard some cursing from the medical bay. He paused at the door and knocked. “Is this a bad time?”

“Shast! That’s sharp!” Elinog complained. “Oh, Captain. If you’re fine with seeing me get cut up by another crew member, come on it.”

The doors whooshed open and Blavet saw Elinog strapped down and Janine holding a fresh skin graft down on his leg. “Doesn’t look all that bad to me.”

“It feels bad. She says she can’t give me painkillers first. Needs me lucid.”

Janine scowled at Elinog. “I gave you a mild painkiller. You’re the one that wanted to conserve medicine.”

“Okay, you two. Stop bickering like an old married couple. I wanted to ask about the state of the ship.”

“We were not bickering!” Elinog and Janine said in unison. Then they looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Blavet shook his head. “So, ship status report.”

“Sorry, Cap.” Elinog grabbed his datapad. “There’s nothing major wrong. Some systems are getting corrosion faster. Probably because we’re in warp space. The exterior of the ship probably needs more plating.” Elinog motioned at his legs. “It’s a job for two mechanics, but we’ll need to modify a suit. My legs are a little too wide now.”

“I worked with what I had.” Janine finished applying the new skin. “Ok. This will hurt.” She pulled out a suture device and set it on its way.

Elinog bit his lower lip and motioned at Janine to continue the report.

“Right. So, there’s a little bit of radiation from warp space, but it’s usually not a problem. We’re getting a larger dose than usual, so the plating is for that, in addition to the corrosion.”

Blavet pulled out his datapad. “Do we have the material for that?” He started scrolling through a list of parts.

“Not in inventory. We’d have to take off some interior panels and plate them with lead.” Janine sent a file to Blavet’s tablet from her own. “These are ones that aren’t important to the function of the ship.”

The list was shorter than Blavet expected. “Ah, mostly ceiling panels and the wall panels in the cargo bay. That’s not enough for the whole ship, though.”

There was a beep and green light emanated from the suture tool. Janine pulled it off and checked the stitches. “Ok, good to go.”

Elinog nodded at Blavet. “Yeah, we were thinking we could try to mine an asteroid, but even if we could the smelting would be problematic. We can’t process plates that big. We’d use really small ones.”

“There’s also the problem of no mining equipment on the ship.” Janine sighed. “Our collision lasers aren’t made for mining.”

“Well, hopefully we won’t need the plating, but get started. I’m hoping we’re getting close to the signal. We’ve identified two possible language roots but need at least a third to make it out.”

Janine nodded. “Hopefully it’s not someone who needs help. We’re in no shape for that.”

“Well,” Elinog interjected, “if they need help and have a wrecked ship we can use it as salvage.”

“Right, let’s cross that bridge when we get to it. Once we get out of here we still have a job to do.” Blavet turned to leave the med-bay. I’m getting some rest. You should too.” He started to walk away then turned back. “Oh, and Janine? You have next shift at the stick.”

“Aye, Captain.”

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World of Souls Ch. 5: Troubles in Warp Space

In the early years of warp travel, many ships were lost trying to jump through warp space. The ones that returned intact fueled the design for the future drives. Eventually, the failure rate of drives dropped to astronomical rarity. Occasionally there were ships that went missing, but nobody knew if they had gotten destroyed during travel or if another malfunction had happened.

At one time a group of scientists purposefully trapped themselves in warp space to better study the area. They had a plan to jump back out, but that didn’t pan out. The shuttle they used to test the exit procedure exploded the moment the engine fired up. Any subsequent designs also failed until a scientist made a discovery.

“Look, we’re using the same calculations to leave as we used to get here. These are the entrance calculations. We’re already here!”

The scientist’s assistant looked at her strangely. “Okay, I don’t follow.”

“We have two…well three calculations for warp travel. The first is the entry, the second (which isn’t important here) is distance, and the third is the exit back into regular space.”

“I thought the entry was the same equation as the exit only inverted.”

“No, there’s a few other calculations involved. I think it was just assumed they weren’t relevant because we weren’t moving through warp space.” The scientist turned to her computer and typed in afew lines of code. The screen showed a simulation of a shuttle. The shuttle disappeared from warp space without an explosion. “The only problem is that we no longer know where we are in relation to regular space…”

The assistant looked over the equations on the computer. “Hmm…but where are you going to find someone willing to test it? Everyone else has begun building a sustainable society. They’re all resigned to their perceived fate.”

“Then I’ll just have to try it myself, won’t I?”

– – –

The door leading to the warp drive was silent after the inner door shut. Blavet looked at Elinog and motioned at the door. “Should I try it or wait?”

Elinog shrugged. “No, I’ll open it. Keep your laser ready.”

“And you.”

Careful not to bang against the door with his radiation suit Elinog inched the door open. Blavet positioned himself to be able to see in the door when it was open enough, but not close enough that something could jump out at him.

The outer door opened and there was nothing inside. Blavet nodded at Elinog to continue. Elinog opened the door the rest of the way.

“So, do you think they’re inviting you in?” Janine’s voice crackled over the intercom. “They’ve collected at the other end of the warp bay.”

“Perhaps. Or it’s an ambush. What do you think, captain?”

Blavet scratched the chin of his radiation suit. “Well, there’s only one way to find out. Let’s go in. Lasers at the ready.”

Nodding Elinog went inside the door and Blavet followed. They closed the door behind them and waited for the all clear to open the other. It didn’t take long. It was exiting that the foam sprayers would activate, and the radiation would be scrubbed from the suits.

Elinog opened the inner door and stepped through. He saw a writhing mass of large, pink tentacles. He thought he could make out four of them before they charged forward.

Without thinking of the consequences Elinog immediately opened fire. Following Elinog’s lead Blavet also began firing his cutting laser.

The tentacles slowed their charge and assumed a more defensive stance, raising their heads high to strike. As they did so Elinog’s laser found an eye and killed one of them. The long body fell on Elinog, in a glancing blow. The laser cutter went flying from his hand. He immediately grabbed for the spare that was still attached to his suit but he didn’t make it in time.

Blavet watched in horror as one of the tentacles ripped through Elinog’s torso, launching greenish blood into the air. He quickly resumed firing, focusing on that tentacle. It went down and fell toward him. He attempted to side-step the body, but it pinned him against the wall. He felt a searing pain in his tail and passed out.

The other two tentacles ignored them now that they were not moving and made for the door. It shut behind them and the foam started spraying them.

– – –

Blavet awoke in the small medical bay. His tail felt stiff and he was unable to move it. He looked around the room and saw Janine working on Elinog. The lower half of his body was missing, but one of his lower arms remained. Blavet watched as Janine started to attach biomechanics to the bloody mess before he passed out again.

Allie watched the med bay cam from the cockpit as she tried to figure out which direction to head. She noticed Blavet wake up on the cam and saw him take in his surroundings before he slumped back on the bed. She was worried that he wouldn’t be able to function with only half a tail, but she was more concerned about their mechanic. If Janine couldn’t save him, they were going to have a hard time. Sure, Janine could do the mechanical work, but she didn’t know the ship like Elinog.

Allie sighed to herself and turned her attention back to piloting. She wasn’t sure what else could go wrong today. First, they got into a stutter, then the tentacles got onboard, then the tentacles tore through half of the crew.

When Elinog was attacked Janine had run out of the cockpit so fast Allie’s feathers were ruffled by the wind. When Blavet had gone down she wanted to run down there too, but she had to make sure that Janine wouldn’t get attacked by the tentacles.

Allie had rerouted the two tentacles to an airlock and launched them into drive space. They then changed their momentum and started heading for a point below and behind the ISS Dominiot.

Coming to a decision, she turned the ship around and started to go in the direction the tentacles were headed. Now that the tentacles were off the ship they seemed to know where they were going…

“Shast! They caused the stutter! They wanted to be here, in warp space!” She quickly typed her revelation into a document Janine had started on the tentacles.

– – –

Blavet paced in his room. His balance was a little off now that his tail was only a half meter in length. He still had a splint and a bandage on his tail and a wrap around his chest for a couple of cracked ribs. The bandaging could be removed in a few days.

He tried to think about his own injuries or how the tentacles could have gotten on board, but his thoughts kept going back to Elinog who was only barely alive, and Janine who was trying desperately to keep him that way.

Janine had installed every piece of biomechanical patch she could to his system, practically rebuilding the lower half of his torso. She had then started to attach cybernetics to him. They didn’t have the type of advanced products she needed in storage, so she had started to cobble him together using spare parts.

Unable to keep his mind off Elinog, Blavet decided he should visit the cockpit again. He had tried to relieve Allie of duty earlier, but she said that he was in no state to fly. She was right, but he felt like he needed to do something. He left his quarters and started back up to the cockpit.

Allie was annoyed to hear footsteps climbing the ladder. There was only one person it could be, and she knew the stupid emris would try to take over flying again. “You are in no state to fly.”

Ignoring the statement Blavet sat down in the co-pilot’s seat. “I see you swapped seats.”

“Yeah. Feels weird flying from the other chair.” Allie was relieved that he hadn’t insisted on giving her a break.

Blavet pulled up a side cam on his screen and watched the colors of warp space fly by. “You know, this place is beautiful.”

A clicking sound filled the cockpit as Allie laughed silently. “It’s a bad place for a date, though. You have to get trapped here to see the colors like this.”

Laughing slightly Blavet winced and doubled over. “Ah, don’t make me laugh. I have a couple of cracked ribs, remember?”

“Sorry. Just stating the truth.” Allie turned the ship to avoid a large rock. “Hey, can you check the receiver readout? It keeps flashing at me, but I don’t have the time to look.”

The readout appeared on Blavet’s screen as he pressed a few holo-buttons. “Hmm. We shouldn’t be getting any signal here. Maybe it’s just interference?”

Allie nodded. “Right, that’s what I’m thinking. Shouldn’t be anything intelligible.”

There was a pattern showing up on the visual signal display. It kept repeating the same thing. “Hmm…this seems manufactured. It’s like there’s a signal on a loop.”

“Well, let’s hear the audio then.” Allie flipped a switch on the pilot’s seat and interference started playing from the speaker. Her skravyn ears picked up a quiet repetitive section. “Okay, I don’twant you flying, but I need to clean this signal up. This could be important.”

“Okay. Taking the stick.” Blavet switched controls to the co-pilot cluster. “I’ll try not to ram us into a boulder.”

“Quiet. I need to hear.” Allie pulled up the filter controls for the receiver and started eliminating the obvious sounds.

– – –

Janine was glad to see Elinog’s vitals stabilize. She took a moment to down a coffee pod and force some nutrient paste down her throat. She didn’t have time to get real food. Just because Elinog was stable for now didn’t mean she could leave the room.

Parts were scattered all over the second, unoccupied bed. She didn’t think Blavet was ready to leave the med bay, but she needed the extra room. With great effort, she cut off Elinog’s remaining lower arm. She had hoped that it wouldn’t need to be removed, but the casing needed more bone to attach to, and the arm was in the way.

Designs for replacement arms were on display on her datapad. Mostly things she could think of while she was working on the emergency biomechanics. She screwed the last front plate into place and carefully turned Elinog over to connect the wires to his spinal column. She tested the wires before inserting them, then screwed on the last back-plate.

There wasn’t enough artificial skin on the ship to cover the whole apparatus, so she made sure to put pads on the bottom of the feet and a few other places. She jotted down a note to start growing a new batch of skin in the cargo bay when she had the time.

After she finished final checks on the cybernetics Janine started flooding Elinog’s system with nutrients and a wake-up stim. He slowly began to stir.

Elinog opened his eyes and saw Janine leaning over him, concern on her face followed by relief. He felt lighter and heavier at the same time. He opened his mouth to speak and found his throat was extremely dry. “Water” was all he managed to get out.

“Right.” Janine grabbed a dropper and filled it with water. She slowly dripped it into Elinog’s mouth. “Small swallows. You’ve been getting hydration from drips.”

It took a while for Elinog’s throat to feel wet enough to speak. “What happened? Last I remember a tentacle shot at me.”

“Well…I did what I could. There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just tell you. You lost the entire lower half of your body.”

Elinog propped himself up on his elbows and looked down his body. Just below his ribcage, he saw the silver and black plates. He lifted a leg to get a look. “Well, you did a good job. The leg looks right. I think I need some time to process, though.”

“Do you want to be alone?”

“No, doc. I want you here.” Elinog looked at Janine. “Thanks.” He tried to swing his legs over the edge of the bed. It took more effort than he was used to. “Ugh. Looks like I need to work on my upperbody strength.”

“Careful! The connections are still fresh.” Janine rushed to stabilize him. “You’re both more and less fragile than before. You need to be careful.”

Elinog nodded. “I understand…wait. Where did you get the parts for this?”

“Uhh…I had to raid your spares.” Janine said, sheepishly. “There weren’t enough cybernetics on the ship for this.”

“Okay. Well, we’ll just hope we don’t need anything you used then.” Elinog finished standing up. “Oh, I can feel the bottoms of my feet. Am I supposed to?”

Janine watched as Elinog took a few steps. “Yes, there’s not enough skin on the ship to cover the whole thing so I just dealt with the important places. I’ll grow more when I get the chance.”

“Right.” Elinog looked down at his sides. “So, about my lower arms. Can we do something about those?” He looked over and saw one of his arms on a tray with other, mashed organs. “Oh, I assume that neededto be removed?” He motioned at the tray.

Looking where Elinog was motioning Janine nodded. “Yeah, I needed more bone to secure the legs.”

“I assume the metal will keep them from regrowing.” Elinog sat back down. “Okay. Now I need to process alone.”

“Comm me if you need me.” Janine kissed him on the cheek. “Don’t try to fix anything by yourself. Talk to me first.”

“I will.”

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World of Souls: Chapter 5 – The Space Between

World of SoulsA small, pinkish vine climbed the landing strut of the shuttle. It disconnected from the ground and hid in the mechanism for retracting the strut. When it came time for takeoff the vine went unnoticed. Once the lander was securely attached to the ship the vine searched for a way onboard. It had only a limited time before it died of exposure to hard vacuum, and barely found a way to activate the airlock in time. It shed the dead outer layers of its cells and searched for the pantry. It needed to gain strength for the next part of The Great Plan. Continue reading

World of Souls Chapter 4: The Writing on the Wall

“You know the likelyhood of the first planet we visit being The World of Souls is astronomically small, right?”

“I know, but I’m going to send the pictures to Elinog to check.” Blavet hit send and the tablet showed an icon of an ancient cell tower with a red x over it. It read ‘signal not found’. “Oh. No signal in the cave. I guess we can finish in here first.”

“No, go out and send the message then continue getting samples. I’ll get a few more while you do that.” Allie returned to picking mushrooms and getting samples of other flora.

Nodding at Allie’s sage advice Blavet returned to the mouth of the cave. Once there he sent the message and waited for Elinog to respond to him.

– – –

There was a beeping noise coming from Elinog’s comm as he extricated himself from Janine. “Hold on. Gotta get that. Probably the boss calling to see if we’re still hard at work.”

Janine grabbed her clothes off the floor of the shuttle and hurriedly put them on. “Or they’re on the way back. They were rounding it off with a cave somewhere.”

The screen on the comm took a moment to light up. “I might need to grab a new one from the rack. This one’s a little laggy.” He opened the message from Blavet. “Whoa. Those are some big scratch marks.”

Elinog’s shirt collided with his face and during the struggle to get it off of his giant, salaman eyes Janine took his comm. “Those may be more than scratches. Get dressed. We have some cave walls to examine.”

“Fine, but we continue this later.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Janine tossed the comm back to Elinog, her bulbous fingers sending it in a weird spiral.

– – –

Allie splashed water at Blavet from the stream in the center of the cave. They had been waiting around for half an hour and she was getting bored.

“Oh, that’s how you want to play it?” Blavet pulled his water bottle from his satchel and held it, cap towards her. “Don’t make me do it!” Allie splashed him again. “You’ve done it now!” He took the cap off the bottle and started chasing after Allie. “Get back here!”

By the time Elinog and Janine arrived on the scene both Allie and Blavet were soaked with water and lying on the floor of the cave, exhausted.

Taking in the scene Elinog decided to just start setting up the lights. “Hey, we’re here. I’ll start setting up the lights and you guys go help Janine. We brought the lander over, it’s all fixed up now.”

“Your shirt’s on backwards.” Allie said as she rushed by Elinog to help Janine with equipment. “With those big eyes I would’ve thought you’d notice.”

Blavet grinned at Elinog. “So, we do all the work and you guys play?”

Elinog rolled his large eyes. “Oh, and you didn’t?”

“We just splashed water at each other. Nothing more. I can tell by the state your clothes are in that you did a lot more.”

“Stow it captain. We’ve got work to do.” Elinog tossed a light stand at Blavet. “These lights are a two person job.”

The light stand was deftly caught by Blavet’s tail and he began working on the lighting with Elinog. “Just keep your mind on the task at hand,” Blavet murmured.

“I said stow it!”

“That was to me, not you.”

– – –

Allie saw Janine straightening her light jacket before trying to lift up a large case. “This thing is heavier than I thought.”

“I think the gravity here is stronger than ship gravity.” Allie grabbed one end of the box. “Here, let me help.”

Janine picked up the other end of the box and they carried it into the cave. The writing surprised her and she almost dropped her end of the box. “Those look a lot different in the picture. Those scratches are not random.”

“Isn’t this going to just look the same as the pictures Blavet took?”

The box was gently set down next to a large stand with no lights on it. “No, this is a holo-cam. This should be able to register the depth of the scratches. Then we can run it through our database. If that comes up with nothing we’ll send it to SECO to have them check it.” Janine saw the questioning look in Allie’s eyes. “We’ll send it to them either way. I just want to see if we can send it with information. They may not tell us if they find something out. We’ll move on to the next solar system either way.”

Blavet and Elinog finished the last light setup and hurried over to help with the holo-cam. The device was larger than it probably needed to be. The technology had existed for centuries, but the size hadn’t decreased any noticable amount.

“This thing is large, but it’s pretty light.” Blavet was holding onto part of the holo-cam with his tail in addition to his hands.

“Yeah. It’s mostly just awkward. That’s why it comes with a stand like this.” Elinog carefully followed Janine’s lead. Making sure not to tilt the cam while Allie screwed it to the base.

Allie crawled out from under the holo-cam. “All done.” She handed a hex-key to Elinog.

“When did you take this?”

“When you weren’t looking.”

“Raven’s will be raven’s I suppose.” There was teasing in Elinog’s voice.

“I don’t expect lizards to understand.” Allie’s voice carried the same tone.

Janine sighed. “I know you guys are comfortable with each other, but those are still speciest phrases.”

“Sorry.”

The holo-cam took a few button presses to get started then the four of them stood away from the side facing the scratch marks. Allie made to leave the cave before it started.

“Hold on. Everyone who was present is supposed to be in any holo we send to SECO.” Blavet hooked his tail under one of Allie’s arms and pulled her back towards the holo-cam.

“Fine.” Allie faced away from the holo-cam as it took the holo, rotating slowly. “There. I was present.”

“Don’t like holo’s or something?” Janine asked as she sent the holo file to her datapad.

“They never capture my feathers right. Something about not having that fine of detail. I don’t like it.”

“Let’s pack up and get back to the Dominiot. If AB-775’s update is finished it will be simple to dock. Otherwise we’ll have to match speed first.” The holo-cam packed up faster than it had set up and the lights were easy to dismantle.

– – –

“Take us out facing away from the star. I don’t know how well the polarization works on this new windshield.” The shuttle lifted off of the ground slowly and started the assent out of the atmosphere. “I assume we’ll have no problem exiting the atmosphere this time?”

“If you’re asking if I messed with the flight parameters for the exit then the answer is no.” Janine glanced at Allie. “I assume that nobody else messed with the parameters themselves?”

Allie shook her head. “I don’t know an ampersand from a percent symbol. I couldn’t do that myself. Okay. We’re getting up to supersonic. We’ll be out of here in a flash.”

Janine glanced at Elinog. “So why did you fly down here when she’s the pilot?”

“Practice. It’s really annoying that she waited until I was piloting before she had you set up the turbulence.”

Blavet chuckled. “She probably considered it part of your training. You reacted instantly.”

“Why do you want to know how to fly?”

Elinog shook his head. “I know how to build a spaceship from pieces of other spaceships, but I couldn’t fly worth crap. Now I can fix ‘em and fly ‘em…most of them anyway. Sometimes I’m astonished at how counter intuitive control setups can be.”

“You should’ve seen the control setup mom had. She used her tail for half the controls. When dad had to pilot while she was pregnant with me he had to have two copilots.”

Blavet and Elinog burst into laughter while Janine just stared at them. “Did your father lose his tail or something?”

“Oh, no. Sorry I forgot you didn’t know. I’m half-human.” Blavet motioned towards his eyes. “The biggest giveaway is my human eyes. See how I have visible whites and irises on all three of my eyes? Most Emrys have no whites and only a few have visible irises. Also, my tail is about 15 cm shorter than average.”

– – –

Allie hailed the Dominiot. “AB-775, do you read?”

There was a short pause then a short burst of static. “I’m here. The ship’s still intact. There were no close calls with asteroids or anything.”

Janine sighed with exasperation and started up a data link with the Dominiot. “Somehow that makes me more worried because you listed asteroids specifically.”

“Oh, that means there was. He’s a bot. He’s terrible at lying.” Elinog also had a data link with the Dominiot running. “Camera 12 sector delta.”

“Nothing I can’t fix. Some subsystems look like they need cycled, but I can do that from here.” Janine tapped on her tablet a few times. “Purge initiated.”

Allie commed the ship again. “Ok, we’re approaching for docking procedures. Can you take control?”

“Yes, taking control now. I hope you enjoy flight AB-775!”

– – –

“The ship database has nothing on the wall scratches. It detected a pattern, but no corresponding data is available.” Janine frowned. “Well, I guess I’ll just send it through to SECO.” She turned the cockpit holo to astrogation and started doing the calculations for the FTL jump. AB-775 assisted, happy to finally be out of storage.

In the cargo hold of the Dominiot Blavet looked at the scratches on a holo display. Something looked familiar. He reached into the control cluster and mirrored the holo. Then he turned it upside down. The scratches suddenly took on a meaning. He turned to face Allie who was watching him work. “It’s in Thaumatish. The rough translation is ‘Life’.” He turned back to the hologram, studying the scratches again. “I think either it’s referring to how lush the planet is, or this is the reason the planet is so lush in the first place. I have to send this data to the council.”

Allie shook her head. “Will they take it seriously?”

“I’m sure they’ll send someone to look into it before SECO can. Their bureaucracy will slow them down.”

“So we just keep moving, then? You’re not even curious?”

Blavet shut off the hologram. “I’m curious. I just know I need to focus on my assignment. I have my own reason for seeking out the World of Souls you know.”

“I know.”

World of Souls Chapter 3: An Alien World

The landing craft was filled with portable equipment for the short journey down to the surface of the planet. The whole crew came down for the landing, the shipboard navigation was keeping the ship in orbit and the rarely used astrogation bot was sitting at the controls in case of an autopilot failure.

“Hey, guys. Is the nav light supposed to blink purple when in orbit?” A metallic voice chimed over the landing craft speakers. “I may need an update but I don’t know how long that will take.” Continue reading

World of Souls Chapter 2: Exploration Not for Its Own Sake

“Well, that wasn’t a complete waste of time at least.” Elinog sighed as he fiddled with the tech he was installing in the Dominiot’s cargo hold. “We have wide coordinates that encompass enough uncharted systems that it would take an earth year to survey. And that’s if we’re lucky.” There was an acrid smell as Elinog cried out in surprise. “I thought I told you to turn off the power to this section!”

Allie looked at the switch bay she was leaning next to. “It is off. The problem might be the switch bay if you’ve got power.”

Blavet sighed. “I told you it wasn’t the flux buffer. Now the new one is shorted and the old one can’t go in until we fix the switch bay.” He turned the conversation back to the start. “So, I’ve been looking into it and we can get paid for every planet we survey in sector N1XZW. There’s some old spacer stories about misfortune befalling anyone who goes there. Anyone who has been assigned that sector was suddenly transferred to another sector within a week.” Continue reading

World of Souls Chapter 1: Information Gathering

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. Continue reading