“Do you seriously believe in all that stuff, hatchling?”
It had been almost a month since we’d left Migo III, and I was in the main lounge reading my Bible when Mearr found me and began questioning me about it. While I had normally found the lounge to be a surprisingly solitary place — certainly more comfortable than my bunkpod — it had the unfortunate tendency of dropping people in on me at unexpected times.
“I mean, a big fancy house in the sky for all the humies to party forever in? Sounds nice, but I gotta tell ya,” he said as he sat down on a couch across from me. “I’ve seen the skies, hatchling. All of them. On every planet in the galaxy. You know what’s on the other side?” He spread his hands out wide and glanced from left to right. “This. Nothing. Emptiness. Sure, it’s freedom and I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything else. But mansions in the clouds? Eternal sunlight? Angels? Nah, I never seen any of that.”
I finally sighed and closed my Bible, tucking it into my coat pocket. I still wore my coat, more often than not, because I discovered I couldn’t rely on the freighter’s atmospheric regulators to maintain a consistent temperature on all decks. I didn’t know if it was a cost-saving measure, a failure in its systems, or what. Frankly, I still don’t care. But I wasn’t about to freeze to death cleaning the lower decks. So I brought my coat.
With the Bible safely tucked away, I leaned forward to rest my elbows on my knees and look Mearr in the eye. “No angels?” I said. “Really?”
Mearr flipped his tail and slapped a grin on his face that I had come to learn meant “Are you serious?” without carrying active hostility. Disbelief and amusement, instead of frustration with an order. He chose to drive the point home with his words as well. “Golden halos, white dresses, and bird wings on humie bodies? Yeah, excuse me for not believing it.”
“Why do they have to look like our inadequate pictures?” I said. “All the Bible actually says about angels is that they come from heaven, they’re servants of God, and they always accompany their appearance with the words ‘Fear not,’ so we know that they’re terrifying.”
“Oh, boy, sounds like the kind of folk I’d like to hang out with. Why is your Bible always talking about how scary God is?”
That was another matter, I told myself. I had to focus on one question at a time. “When the visitors came, they came from the sky, and with great power. And maybe they were servants of God, maybe not, but I believe that nothing happens in this universe without His knowing consent. So in that way, they had to be. And maybe, if we had all had a little bit of fear, instead of curiosity, we’d still have a homeworld.”
I had to take a deep breath to cut myself off before launching into an entirely separate rant. While it was true that I’d never felt much of anything toward our long-lost precious Earth, it was frustrating to me how almost every other human being in the galaxy seemed to care so damn much. It was like we were paralyzed by its absence, never caring enough about anything other than the loss, keeping us from rising above our unenviable station in life.
We were like an entire race locked in depression following the death of a loved one.
And it pissed me off.
But, I had to remind myself, none of that mattered out here. Here I was one human among a half dozen other alien species. Each with their own sorrows and frustrations. I couldn’t impose my own onto them, especially when I didn’t much care one way or the other about my racial history.
I always had enough on my mind trying to live through each day.
Mearr, however, had apparently noticed. “Touchy?” he said with a smirk and a flick of his tail.
I shrugged and leaned back, sinking deep into the couch. “I’ve never had a reason to care much.”
“Shame. You’re kinda cute when you care.”
The comment hung in the air for a long moment. About the time I was thinking of saying something, however, the PA clicked on.
“Mearr,” came Gator’s voice over the comm. “I need you up top. Get here, now!”
A flick of Mearr’s tail was accompanied by an expression that said “What a shame,” and he lept to his feet and sauntered off toward the cockpit.
No sooner had he left, however, when Em barged into the room.
“What’s going on?” she said. Looking around, her eyes eventually settled on me. “You, hatchling. Tell me what’s happening!”
I sighed and raised my hands defensively. “I don’t know anything, Em. Honest.”
While Em had started out friendly enough, over the past few weeks, she had grown increasingly belligerent toward me. Guhle suspected it had something to do with the way I was cleaning some of the lower levels, particularly near some of the engine bays, but when I presented this theory to Em she had flatly denied it — though she did make bold threats against my person should I ever do anything unnatural to “her baby.”
In any case, whatever was bothering her, it had been enough to keep me away from her for the bulk of these past few weeks.
When possible, that is.
Now, with Em bearing down on me, I didn’t have many options for getaways.
“C’mon, Em. You heard Gator. He needs Mearr up in the cockpit and he didn’t say why. So just calm down.”
“Calm down?” she bellowed. “The subsystem alternators on my baby suddenly shut down and you want me to calm down?”
I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about, but I wound up sticking my foot in my mouth anyway.
“Um, yes?” I said.
It’s a good thing I had developed some decent reflexes over the years, and that I hadn’t lost them during my drunken time on the orbital stations of Migo III. I narrowly avoided Em’s swipe at my head as I slid off the couch and onto the floor. While I’m fairly confident that it wouldn’t have torn my neck from my shoulders, I didn’t want to stick around to find out.
“That was a close call, miss,” said a voice from across the room as I scurried under the table.
Glancing out from where I was, I saw the armored boots and green cape of the Vigilant Sentinel T’Vosh.
As if this day couldn’t get any more weird.
“Why don’t you step over here for a moment,” he said to Em. “And why don’t you come out from under the table, sir?”
I slowly extricated myself from my cover and positioned myself with as many large, bulky pieces of furniture between myself and Em as possible. Like I said, I didn’t know what was bothering her, but while she was in this trigger-happy mood, I decided it was best to be cautious.
“Now, can either of you tell me what the problem is?” said the Farseer.
“You’re not my mother,” said Em. “I don’t have to tell you anything.”
“Em,” I said urgently. Then I glanced at the Farseer briefly before returning my attention to the mechanic. “Be polite,” I said before mouthing, “He’s a visitor,” as distinctly as I could.
I had never been good at social subterfuge.
“It is quite alright, hatchling. I understand that Em is upset about something.”
Em crossed her arms in front of her body. “They shut down the engines while I was in the middle of maintenance. How am I supposed to gauge performance if they aren’t running? And how the hell are we supposed to get anywhere if we aren’t moving?”
I felt myself flinch as Em’s last sentence exploded. But the Farseer remained remarkably impassive.
“Both are important questions,” he said. “I am unable to answer either of them as they stand, but I can tell you why we have stopped.”
Both of us looked at him, our expressions clearly delivering our question.
“We have come across a Farseer scouting patrol,” he said. “Or, more accurately, a Farseer scouting patrol has come across us. They are delivering boarding instructions to your crew as we speak.”
“You knew about this and didn’t tell anybody?” said Em, though the accusation held no threat. Apparently the steam had drained out of her after her initial assault on me.
“Of course not,” said T’Vosh. “I am a Sentinel, not a Prophet. I can only tell you what is happening now, not what will happen.”
“Right,” Em said. “Forgot. Sorry.”
“Why are there scouts even out here?” I said. “I thought our route was clear.”
“Such was my understanding as well. I assume that we will know more once these other Sentinels have come aboard.”
“They’re coming aboard here?” said Em. “Now?”
“As soon as they finalize the boarding instructions, yes.”
Em’s mouth snapped shut as all four of her eyes widened. She then spun around and marched off toward the cockpit.
T’Vosh turned toward me. “Is there a problem with her?”
“Aside from talking to the ship as if it were her child, I don’t think so,” I said with a shrug. “She seems stable enough to me. But I’m no psychologist.”
“Why does she need a psychologist?”
I stared at the Sentinel for a long moment before simply shaking my head. “Nevermind,” I said as I silently wondered whether Farseers believed in sarcasm.