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Illiya Chapter 5: Escape

Escape

Cargo bay

Taylor lingered in the kitchen long after her mother returned to the bridge. Her anger slowly dissipated and she became restless. Not wanting to return to the bridge and face Carla just yet, she headed down the long central passage towards the cargo bay, followed closely by Squilm.

Although it was routinely sterilised, the cargo bay had a lingering scent of oil and dirt. After a minute or two of casual exploration she found what she was looking for.

Leigh was tinkering in a small recess along the edge of the cargo bay. Dozens of small parts and wires lay strewn across the workbench. He was looking through a large magnifying glass as he fused two fine wires together. “You make more noise than an elephant,” he remarked, not looking up from his work. “Your cat is a lot quieter.”

Taylor grinned. “And how would you know how noisy they are? Have you ever seen an elephant?”

Leigh put down the fusing tool and looked up. “Of course not, they’re extinct, eh? But I’ve seen vids.”

Taylor shook her head as Squilm hopped up onto a crate and began to clean herself. “There are elephants on Proxima Centauri B. I rode one of them on holiday when I was seven, visiting my Aunt Charlotte on Mum’s side.”

Leigh frowned. “Them’s bottle elephants. Test tubes, DNA, take a bit o’ juice to any planet you want, mix it up and you can have a zoo full of long-lost creatures, any sort you like, even some dinosaurs they say. I’m talking about real elephants, wild and free, made the old fashioned way – on earth. They’ve been gone for centuries.”

“An elephant is an elephant, no matter where they came from.”

Leigh winked. “And a person’s a person, no matter how small – Dr. Seuss, if I recall. Horton was a smart elephant.”

Taylor smiled. “I guess so,” then an image of their petite xenobiologist flashed through her mind and her expression darkened.

“Trouble in paradise?” Leigh asked with a gentle smile.

Taylor closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath. “Um, it’s fine. No problem.”

Leigh swivelled on the stool to look at her straight on. “Something’s bugging you. C’mon, you can talk to old Leigh. Better let it out than bottle it all up and fester.”

Taylor sighed. “I was just with Carla. She was testing me at the science station. It was worse than being in an exam.”

“Now, now, I’m sure you did fine, bright young girl like you.”

“That’s the trouble. I thought I was doing OK, and she had some tough questions. But no matter what I said, she shot me down. I couldn’t say anything right,” she took a ragged breath and sat down on the edge of a canvas-covered crate.

“Ah,” said Leigh, the stool creaking as he leaned forward. “How many questions did she ask you?”

Taylor’s forehead creased in thought. “It wasn’t exactly like a numbered test. But maybe – a dozen? It went on for twenty minutes or so, but it felt much longer than that.”

Leigh whistled. “She must hate you.”

Taylor leaned forward on the crate, eyes wide. “Why do you say that?”

He tapped the side of his nose. “She’s competitive, and smart, real smart. She’s had a go at each of us, questioning us I mean, trying to show how smart she is. Usually it only takes a few minutes before she finds something to stump us, and she can have her victory. I had my turn when I joined. Got farther than most, I suppose, but it doesn’t matter, at least not to me.”

Squilm lifted her head, pink tongue extended. She glanced at Leigh, then resumed cleaning herself.

“But to her, it does,” said Taylor, sitting up straighter.

“Too right,” said Leigh as he picked up a small wire that had fallen onto the deck plates. “Winning is everything to our iron maiden.”

Taylor suppressed a laugh. “And why would you call her that?”

Leigh straightened the wire and set it on the workbench. “Because she’s hard as nails on the outside, and she prefers women.”

Taylor looked down at the floor, cheeks colouring.

“Um, sorry, I shouldn’t have said that,” Leigh gestured apologetically, hands clasped in front of him. “Not in front of a lady. I apologise. Please don’t tell your Mum I said that, it’s not polite to speculate on such things about the crew,” he pleaded, eyebrows wiggling. “Not that I know any specifics. She keeps to herself.”

“Now you owe me,” she said, eyes twinkling.

“Anything, just say the word,” Leigh grinned and turned back to the magnifying glass.

“So what are you building, anyway?” asked Taylor as she got up off the crate to have a closer look.

“Reconnaissance drone,” said Leigh, as he picked up another bit of wire and carefully twisted the end.

“Doesn’t look like much yet,” observed Taylor. “How big is it going to be?”

Leigh spread his thumb and forefinger wide apart. “About that big.”

Taylor leaned in closer. “What’s it going to look like?”

Leigh shrugged. “Don’t know yet, depends on what your lady friend comes up with.”

“What do you mean?” asked Taylor, her frown returning.

Leigh fused a joint and blew on it to cool it down. “Bugs. All planets have ‘em, in one shape or another, and often nice big ones. Disguise this one as a bug, it can go most places undetected. It’s a lot easier than imitating a bird.”

Taylor smiled. “Better be a male bug, then, Carla says it should be mating season, you wouldn’t want your sensors to be… violated.”

Leigh nodded. “Good to know. Wouldn’t want that. Though I reckon I could design a fetching lady-bug.”

Taylor grinned. “I’m sure she would be a fine lass, that bug,” she said, mimicking his accent.

Leigh looked up at her and frowned. “Now don’t be taking the mickey on me, I have a proud Irish heritage, you know.”

Taylor leaned back, palms forward in apology. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it. I…”

Leigh flashed a quick grin. “Nor I. We Irish, we’re slow to boil, quick to joke…” he winked. “But we do boil. Remember that.”

Taylor stepped back, nodding. “I will. Thanks for your time.”

Leigh nodded, picking up a small piece of curved metal. “Now, you’d best let me be so I can finish this here bug before we land.”

Taylor was half-way to the cargo bay entrance when Leigh called out.

“Taylor.”

She turned and walked back a few steps so he didn’t have to shout. “Yes, Leigh?”

“One more thing. The iron maiden, she may be hard… but she probably has a heart, somewhere in there…” he paused. “Just remember that. Don’t matter what she’s like or not, she’s still crew. Be nice. She might come around.”

“Of course. I wasn’t planning to be rude or anything. But she makes me uncomfortable.”

“It’s just the questions. Once you get past that, she might be downright civil.”

“You might be right.”

“I often am, about a lot of things. For example, I can see that you’ve got eyes for a particular young navigator.”

Taylor blushed. “Um, no, really. Henry’s older than me. He may be kind of cute but…”

“No buts,” said Leigh, waving the pliers. “Although I suspect he may like yours as well. I call them as I see them, and these eyes have seen a lot more than you can imagine.”

With that, Leigh returned to his work and spoke no more.

Suddenly feeling more unsettled than when she had come to see Leigh, Taylor was uncertain where to go. There weren’t that many places to be in the survey ship, even though it was over a hundred meters long. When you factored in the engines, the shielding, life support, storage, the cargo bay and the vehicle bay, there wasn’t much room for people. Most of the life support was tucked away under the floor plates, along with the landing gear and antigrav emitters that ran along both sides of the ship. The result was more of a rounded triangular cross-section, with a tapered nose at the front and a flared out tail at the rear with permanent fins, similar to the first human space shuttles designed over a thousand years before, but with stubby retractable side wings. Aerodynamic principles hadn’t changed in all that time, and a survey ship had to be able to navigate the atmosphere of any planet. Flexibility in design was key in this type of work, and fixed wings operated in some environments where a shaped forcefield wouldn’t remain stable.

Taylor gazed along the long central corridor. It was looking like some people would be hard to avoid, at least until they made landfall.

She could return to her bunk… she flushed. No, she couldn’t, Henry was in it, and the ship was only designed to handle six. In more ways than one, she didn’t fit in. She was surplus to requirements, and she was beginning to feel that she wasn’t entirely welcome. Mum was right, two months could be a long time… almost an eternity.

With a sigh, she left the cargo bay and went in search of the one other person who would probably be happy to speak with her. For now, anyway.

Squilm stretched luxuriously and hopped down off the crate, then followed Taylor down the corridor.

Angus

“How are you doing, young lady?” asked Angus as Taylor stuck her head through the doorway of the tiny room. It was hardly bigger than a closet, with a compact console built into the wall and a single adjustable chair bolted to the floor.

Angus brushed a wrinkled hand back over his head, smoothing down a section of dark brown hair peppered with grey. It was thinning at the top, but for a man in his seventies his relatively full head of hair made him appear years younger.

“I’m okay I guess. I need some space, the bridge is a little crowded right now.”

“There’s plenty of space outside,” he winked.

“Very funny.”

“I’m well-known for my bad jokes.”

“Mum told me.”

“Were you looking for somewhere quiet? I believe the aft utility cupboard is currently vacant.”

Taylor shook her head. “I don’t want to be alone, but I’m not ready to go back to the bridge yet.”

Angus raised an eyebrow. “I heard Carla was testing you.”

“Could you actually hear that from here?”

Angus nodded. “I didn’t mean to listen in, but yes. It’s a small ship, and the unfortunate acoustics make some conversations carry from the bridge.”

Taylor sighed. “Mum warned me about that.”

“A side effect of living on a small ship, I’m afraid. Did you want to know what Trent had for breakfast?”

Taylor blinked. “Ah… no, thanks.”

Angus nodded. “That’s good. It doesn’t pay to be nosey, and sometimes you have to pretend not to notice things just to keep things civil after a few weeks together.”

“Does it get that bad?”

Angus shook his head. “No, not really. We’re pretty used to each other’s habits, and ignoring some of them is just part of getting along. Still, things can get a bit strained on the return leg when everyone’s tired and have nothing to do but write up their final reports. Even Henry can turn into a grouch.”

“It’s hard to imagine that. He seems really friendly.”

Angus smiled. “Yes, well, it’s a matter of scale. Henry at his grouchiest is still more pleasant than some of the crew on a good day.”

‘But you notice it.”

“Of course, it’s part of my training as a xeno-psychologist. If I don’t have any aliens to talk to, I have to make do with observing the next best thing. Humans can be quite peculiar at times.”

Taylor smiled. “I’ve seen some strange things on campus.”

“That’s to be expected, the juveniles of most species are not yet fully domesticated.”

“You make it sound like students are like a herd of animals.”

Angus raised an eyebrow. “Have you observed their feeding patterns at a party with free food?”

Taylor laughed. “You may have a point.”

Angus nodded. “It’s important to be observant, just as it’s also important to forgive and forget, and pretend not to notice potentially annoying behaviours from your fellow crew members. I don’t mean if they’re being obnoxious, just their personal habits. For example, Trent sneezes a lot.”

“Does he? I’ve haven’t noticed.”

“Good girl, you’re learning. Letting the little things slide makes things go a whole lot smoother, believe me. And it’s a whole lot easier when everybody knows each other. But as you’re new…”

Taylor put a hand on her forehead. “What have I done wrong?”

Angus waved a hand. “Nothing much. Well, not yet. But you would do well to remember that other people won’t always behave the way you want them to.”

“What do you mean by that?” Taylor’s cheeks coloured.

Angus put a wrinkled hand on her shoulder. “Don’t let Carla get to you. If she riles you up, don’t react. Try to let it go.”

Taylor took a deep breath. “I’ll try, but it won’t be easy.”

“All you can do is try. Perhaps you should talk to your mother, she might have some pointers for getting along with Carla.”

“I can’t talk to Mum.”

Angus raised an eyebrow. “You and your mother aren’t getting along?”

Taylor glanced down the corridor. “What? No, she’s just busy right now, but… Mum and I only started talking yesterday. She had arranged three whole days for us to have some semi-private time to talk, but I wasted most of it trying to avoid her. I’m a terrible daughter.”

Angus leaned back in his chair and put a finger to his lips. “Maybe you needed that time to get ready to talk.”

Taylor wiped away a tear with her hand. “We hardly ever see each other, and I’ve been angry for so long. But now that we’re talking, I can’t help but think about those lost days. I don’t know when we’ll get another chance to talk in private.”

Angus shook his head and put his hand back on the desk. “People aren’t like light switches, Taylor. These things take time.”

“But we’ve hardly talked in the past twelve years.”

“I think perhaps you just needed that time to get ready to talk this time. Don’t beat yourself up about it.”

Taylor nodded. “You know, you sound a bit like one of the psychiatrists I saw when I was younger. Are you analysing me?”

Angus laughed. “No. I’m primarily a hydrologist, and my other area of expertise is xeno-psychology. More of an interest, really. I suppose there are some common courses with psychiatry, but they just help me to try and figure out how sentient alien beings might think, in case we run into any new ones out there.”

“You still sound like a shrink.”

“You learn a lot by observing people over seven decades. You get to know things, see the signs.”

Taylor looked up. “Do you have any suggestions on how I can talk to Mum? I don’t want to mess things up.”

“Open your mouth, engage the vocal chords, and smile a lot. Listen twice as much as you speak.”

“That wasn’t what I meant.”

Angus sighed. “I’m sorry Taylor, I never had kids of my own, so I’m not a great source of wisdom in that area. The job never left me the time. Your mother was lucky.”

Taylor snorted. “Lucky?”

Angus looked down at his hands. “Well, lucky may not be the right word. You have no idea how hard it’s been on her. She’s fortunate to have had you while she could.”

Taylor raised an eyebrow. “She could have stayed with me and Dad.”

Angus shook his head. “Not my place to pry, but you’re right. There are lots of ways a life can work out, and sometimes you get it right, most often people just have to deal with a range of good and bad choices and do the best they can.”

“So I was a bad choice?”

Angus sighed. “I’m not saying that at all. If I had had a child, I would have hoped they might be something like you turned out to be, strong and independent. I’m probably saying this all wrong, and I don’t want to make things worse. Maybe I should just say that I’m lucky, because I finally got to meet you.”

Taylor looked at him in surprise. “You don’t mean… you and Mum? When did you meet?”

Angus frowned. “Now I’ve gone from bad to worse. Your father was a wonderful man from all accounts, aside from leaving you too soon. What I’m trying to say is that your mother talks about you constantly. Good job on your last Astrophysics exam, by the way. It must have helped with Carla.”

“I-”

“I don’t know how she manages it, and it’s not an ideal situation, but she really cares about you.”

Taylor sniffed. “All those lost days on this ship…”

Angus put a hand on her arm. “Don’t go crying over spilled protein supplements. Look forward to the days ahead. With your course options and your major, you could apply for a job on this ship in a year or so, then you could spend as much time as you like together.”

“I don’t know…”

“None of us do. Our lives are filled with choices. Right now, I’m choosing to change the direction of this conversation, just like a real shrink might do. You didn’t come to see me to talk about difficult things. If I’m right, you’re looking to get away from that kind of thing for a while. How can I help distract you, young lady? It’s not like I’m in a rush at the moment. My time is yours.”

“I don’t know.”

Squilm brushed against Taylor’s leg, unnoticed. Annoyed at being ignored, Squilm jumped up onto the console in front of Angus.

“Sorry about that,” said Taylor as she scooped the virtual cat into her arms.

“Not a problem, I like cats, real or otherwise. Although this one seems intent on getting your attention. Have you been petting her enough to satisfy her daily affection quota?” Angus smiled and reached out to scratch Squilm behind the ears. She closed her eyes and purred.

Taylor laughed, the smile lingering on her face.

“Mum talked about you a lot during our visits.”

“I’m honoured that she used up any of that precious time to talk about me at all.”

“You mean a lot to her. I think you must have helped to keep her sane through all of this.”

“I was known for having a positive effect on females of our species, back in the day,” Angus winked. “Now I’m mostly a good listener.”

“That you are,” Taylor smiled and leaned forward, trying to read his screen. “So what are you up to?”

Angus smiled. “Just preparing, in case we find any aliens to talk to. But of course nothing can tell you if you’ll find an intelligent species or not until you get to the planet. So I’m reviewing notes on the species we know, their characteristics and quirks, it’s good to have an open mind. Aliens of all kinds are fascinating, their behaviours, attitudes, the way they think. We’ve encountered quite a few in the Commonwealth, but most of them we now see on a regular basis so that’s become almost normal, every day stuff.”

Taylor nodded. “I’ve met quite a few species at university.”

Angus smiled. “I expect you would on Ganymede, perhaps less so on Earth. If you choose a career like this one, it can only help to be familiar with the neighbours. Anyway, the few alien species that decided they wanted to be left alone intrigue me, but of course they don’t want to talk. But it’s the possibility of finding another sentient alien species that excites me most. The problem is that we xeno-psychologists don’t know if we’ll find anyone to talk with, and that’s why it’s a secondary role. We double up skills as much as we can, and two of the crew have to have emergency medical skills, just in case. So I’m a hydrologist, medic and maybe, someday, a real xeno-psychologist.”

“Do you think we’ll find anybody to talk to here?”

Angus shook his head. “Honestly, I have no idea. The fact that the first crew disappeared gives us no hints at all. They could have succumbed to a natural disaster, or been attacked by wild beasts. The records show some indigenous animal species, but that’s common on life-bearing planets as well. But as for intelligence… if the prior crew had reported anything about that, the planet would have been re-visited far earlier.”

“I guess we’ll find out soon enough.”

“If the Captain decides it’s safe to land, we will be able to have a look around. The tough part of the job is that you have to look in unexpected places. What rates as intelligence? The ability to communicate? Most species do that, even a wide variety of plant species can communicate warnings through chemical messages when they are threatened. Intelligence can come in many forms. On Deneb-three I came across an intelligent fungus that was having a dispute with a lichen. They were arguing occupational rights over a particular boulder. In the end, the lichen moved on to a nice piece of shale, after a bit of persuading from yours truly, seeing as it was more mobile than the fungus…”

Taylor snorted. “You can’t be serious.”

Angus looked at her sharply. “Of course I can. How could you doubt me?”

Taylor flushed pink. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend. I mean, really… a fungus?”

“And a lichen,” added Angus, nodding. “Rated a sixteen on the Aztberger-Lynch scale.”

“Oh,” said Taylor. “I didn’t realise. Is that smart?”

Angus gave her a professorial look. “Of course it is.”

“How smart, then?”

He broke into a wide grin. “Dumber than the average rock, actually. There is no such scale. And no intelligent lichens… at least so far. But I am always hopeful. Now, mosses, on the other hand…”

“I don’t know when to believe you,” Taylor shook her head, smiling.

“I’ll tell you a secret,” he leaned forward.

She leaned in close. “What is it?”

“You can always trust me. But don’t always believe me, especially if I seem overly serious,” he whispered. “Or if it just sounds like plain rubbish. Make sure to use your head, eh?”

Taylor nodded slowly, not sure what to believe. But she knew she liked Angus, that much was certain. Kind of like her grandfather back home – full of jokes, but offering pearls of wisdom from time to time. The tough part was separating the two.

“So,” said Angus, brushing his hands on his light blue jump-suit. “Is there anything else I can help you with, young lady?”

“No, I feel a lot better now,” grinned Taylor as she dropped Squilm to the floor and placed a hand on his shoulder.

He gently lay a hand on top of hers. “Anytime. You are your mother’s daughter, and she’s a great lady… I mean captain. And a good friend.”

With that, Taylor withdrew her hand and slowly made her way back to the bridge. Squilm followed along behind, tail twitching. With the support of people like Leigh and Angus – and her mother – she was sure she could handle anything that was thrown at her over the next few weeks.

Of course, she was dead wrong.

Henry

The next twenty four hours passed by quickly. Taylor managed to avoid Carla for the most part, which seemed to suit both of them equally well. Trent was busy with his maps and didn’t seem to want to talk, so she left him alone. Avoiding Henry was more difficult. He was everywhere, checking systems, preparing equipment, making coffee…

“Just made it, would you like some? I prefer cups, so its nice when we’re on-planet or have the gravity switched on,” he said, motioning with his mug. It had the words Crowded House printed across one side.

It sure is, thought Taylor. She was about to turn and leave, but thought better of it. Having just entered the kitchen it would be awkward to leave, and perhaps even rude. Squilm had obviously decided to stay, and was already sitting on top of the table.

“Um, sure, thanks. Black, no sugar.”

Henry glanced at the table. “Already sweet enough, eh?”

She groaned, deciding to change the direction of the conversation. “Um, yeah. So, tell me about your mug. Where did you get it?”

Henry glanced down at the mug, considered it briefly then looked up at Taylor. “It’s an antique and repaired more than a few times. More glue than mug by now, I guess. It should probably be in a museum, but I like using it. It gives me a sense of connection to home, all the way out here,” he gestured with the cup, narrowly missing the edge of the table and another session with a tube of glue.

“And home would be… ?” prompted Taylor.

“An archipelago in the South Pacific, back on Earth.”

“I was born on Earth. Where in the South Pacific, exactly?”

“New Zealand, south-east of Australia, last stop before Antarctica,” he said. “Well, actually Proxyon-four is where I grew up from about age twelve. But I was born in New Zealand. My family all traces back to there, though a lot of my family left for the stars long before my parents did. We’re a long line of travellers, voyaging across the seas… and now across space. My family is spread out all over. But I should introduce myself before I say any more.”

“We’ve already met, Henry.”

“Yes, I know, but this is the formal introduction of who I am, where I’m from, and a bit about my family, going way back. This is my pepeha,” he smiled. “Are you ready?”

Taylor looked at him uncertainly. “Okay…”

Henry nodded and began to speak.

“Tēnā koe e hoa. Ko wai ahau nei?

Ko Pirongia toku maunga

Ko Waipa toku awa

Ko Waikato toku iwi

Ko Ngati Mahuta toku hapū

Ko Tainui toku waka

Ko Kamaka toku matua

Ko Helen toku whaea

Ko Henry Parata toku ingoa

Tēnā koe, tēnā koe, tēnā koe e hoa.”

Taylor stared at him, wide-eyed. “What does all that mean?”

Henry grinned. “It is who I am, my identity. You must say it boldly, it’s a declaration. But it translates to

‘Greetings my friend. Who am I?

Pirongia is my mountain,

Waipa is my river,

Waikato is my tribe,

Ngati Mahuta are my people,

Tainui is my canoe,

Kamaka is my father,

Helen is my mother,

And I am Henry Parata.

Greetings, greetings, greetings my friend.’“

“That’s a lot to say. I just introduce myself as Taylor.”

“But I’m sure there’s a lot more to you than just your name, right?”

“Of course,” said Taylor. “But usually it takes a while to get to know people and share details.”

“Yeah, well, we get over that part pretty fast. Once you let people know who you are, where you’re from and what’s important to you, then you can get on with the rest of the hui – that’s a meeting or gathering, like this.”

“You might need to write that down for me,” said Taylor. “With the translations.”

“Of course, I’d be glad to.”

“So you said something about a canoe?”

He smacked his palm on the wall next to the drink dispenser. Squilm hopped to her feet and glared at Henry. “With fine weather and a good waka, you can go anywhere. Even in bad weather, it just takes longer. Of course my ancestral waka was Tainui, which was an actual canoe that took my people to Aotearoa – that’s New Zealand – over two thousand years ago. However Zanzibar’s the waka – ship or vessel – that I’m closest to right now. I need it to get me home again.”

“Oh. So what language is that in?”

“It’s Te Reo Māori. That’s what I am – my family, my history, I mean – proud Māori going way back. My Iwi is spread across the stars…”

She shook her head. “Ee-wee?”

Henry grinned and walked over to Squilm and tickled her under the chin. “Tribe or people in a nation, but the term becomes a bit vague out here. We are all connected. But until I get back home, this -” he extended his arms, slopping a few drops of coffee onto the floor, “- this, all of you, are my temporary whānau.”

She looked at him blankly. “Fah-now?”

Whānau means family.”

“So why don’t you just say family, and ship, and nation, so that other people understand you? Why don’t you just speak Standard?”

“Because…” he said, turning serious, “… because we almost lost it, our language, our culture. When you lose a language, part of your collective soul is lost as well. Who you are, where you come from, what you believe in and what’s important to you, it all matters. Identity matters. We are all connected, but we remain us, te tangata whenua – the people of the land, everyone from Earth. I’ll say it again slowly, like this – tay tah-ng-ah-ta fen-oo-wah.

She started to say it then stopped, suddenly feeling self-conscious.

“That’s why we have to be careful, you see?” he nodded, then drained his cup in a single gulp.

“Careful how?”

“Every planet with life has its tangata whenua. The people and the creatures that are here before we arrive, and will be here after we leave, they are always changed when we visit, and that’s not always a good thing.”

“Why not?”

History. Human history is full of conquest, domination, erasure… destroying indigenous cultures and species wherever we go. Lots of other species are like that too – the Xathen are a prime example, no friendly conversations with them, ever. Even the Zelani were like that until we got firm and friendly with them. They were long renowned as fierce warriors, but these days they are better known for their skills in the sensory arts. But the point is, when threatened, te tangata whenua always – and I mean always – fight back. They’re just not always successful. It happened on earth, over and over – it almost happened to my people. And it can happen out here if we’re not careful.”

“Oh.”

The room fell silent, each following their own thoughts. She watched Henry, examining him closely. He suddenly seemed a lot wiser than his twenty-three years.

“But, here we are now, ready for a grand adventure, eh?” he said, a goofy grin back on his face. “This is a new experience for you, right?”

Taylor nodded slowly. Her thoughts were still catching up, imagining generations of voyagers in canoes and spaceships, all leading up to the man who stood before her. Henry had left her with a lot to think about.

“Well, don’t forget to drink that while it’s hot. This machine stuff is pretty nasty when it’s cold,” he said as he washed his cup and dried it with a small towel.

Taylor stared down at her hands, surprised to find a cup with a now-tepid drink held loosely in them. She had barely noticed when he had handed it to her. She swallowed it quickly and set the cup in the small sink. When she turned around Henry had gone, and Squilm had followed him out. She was left alone in the kitchen with her thoughts as she washed the cup.


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