StarCrossed Chapter 5
Mystician Empire. Terrenus Solar-System. Terrenus VII. Trell City.
Year: 323 A.A. Month: 5. Day: 16. Time: 10:15 A.M., Trell Standard Time.
Crystal McKenna was pissed.
Carefully, she watched the front door of her apartment from around the corner of a nearby by building. Not a single Mystic was in sight. The Police were nowhere to be found. Crystal didnt trust it at all.
Maybe it was the way that wino lying on a cardboard box was positioned; he could easily scan the whole street, and his gaze seemed a little too steady, considering the half-empty bottle in his hands. Was he a spy for MysPol, an undercover cop with some Human-toned makeup, or was he just looking very hard for donations? Crystal didnt remember seeing him ever before, which only exacerbated her suspicions.
Also, that man over there, the one with the pinched face and the hunched shoulders; Crystal had seen him twice already in the couple of minutes that shed been watching. Had he finished an errand, or was he on the lookout? He glanced around suspiciously, but everyone in Trell did that. Walking in the street was normal enough; all cars (for those who had them) hovered these days, and staying in the middle of the road reduced the chance of mugging. The wino didnt bother asking the man for money. Strange.
None of that pissed her off, though. What pissed her off was that the Adamantine ore, which shed worked so hard to steal, was about to be confiscated. And she wasnt about to let that happen.
We should just leave, Candy whispered from behind her. She knew exactly what was going on. She didnt seem intelligent most of the time, but she had a pretty good mind behind those pretty eyes. Right now, those eyes were darting around as if following flies. Its not worth it, Crys.
Youd better believe its worth it, Crystal replied absently. Who was that woman? What was in that bag she carried? It looked awfully heavy. I worked hard for that Adamantine.
But, Crys... Theft is bad enough, but stealing Adamantine is an Imperial Offense. You could be locked up for a long time. Candys voice trembled. As well it should; Candy herself was no innocent. Few in Trell were, and they died or ended up like the wino.
Crystal didnt bother to respond. She and Candy had argued this subject many times before. Crystal wasnt about to submit to cavity searches (she didnt shudder at the thought anymore) or the dangerous conditions in the mines without something for herself. Besides, following the law seemed silly when the Police themselves were bigger thieves and cheats than she could ever be. Every day, Crystal saw people beaten, raped, or killed because they got in MysPols way. Nobody cared. Nobody from the Empire, anyway. Even Tartingill, a decent guy, had just shuddered and moaned at the violence, and then run away as soon as possible. She didnt really fault him, but it bothered her that Terrenus VII was such a hell-hole, and that the Empire let it stay that way.
The hunched-up man was now leaning against a wall, as if waiting for something. It was a point of satisfaction for Crystal when he and the wino exchanged short, barely noticeable nods. They were waiting for her to go into the apartment first. They probably thought she had traps hidden in the house. Or maybe they just wanted to get her and the Adamantine in one swoop. The Police had certainly been after her for a long time, especially since shed guarded that one stool-pigeon. Shed kept him safe until he left the planet. She hoped that he eventually made it to MysPol HQ, and got them to start an investigation. The investigation, though, would probably be run by Police just as crooked as those who now wanted to arrest her.
Crystal smiled slightly. They had no idea who they were dealing with.
To the surprise of the two undercover Mystics, Crystal simply stepped out from behind her corner and walked toward her front door. Candy belatedly tried to stop her, but Crystal ignored her protests. As expected, the two tried to go on with what they were doing, which was nothing. Fortunately, Crystal was able to keep her left eye (the one that wasnt glass) on them as she approached her apartment. They tried not to let it show, but they were watching her.
Calmly, taking her time, Crystal trotted up the steps to her front door. It was hard to trot in her trenchcoat, but she managed it. Carefree, she thought. Nope, I dont know that Im about to be arrested. Not a clue. She feigned a lost key for a moment, then found it in one of her pockets. She unlocked the door, stepped inside, shut it, and burst into motion.
When shed decided to rent this place, Crystal had made sure that the stairs were near the front door. That way, in case of fire or a situation like this, she was prepared. She almost flew up the stairs into her loft. She didnt waste time with clothes; they were all more or less the same, and MysPol could have them. Instead, she immediately ran to her safe.
With practiced ease, she input the combination and opened the safe up. As soon as the heavy lead door swung outward, she reached in and began pulling things out. When shed woken up two years ago in a trauma ward, the nurses had given her several articles that they claimed (once she learned their language) had been found on her. The first was a simple outfit, consisting of a black, tight-fitting sleeveless shirt, baggy pants with an odd green-and-brown design (camouflage?), and boots.
The second, and more important, was the satchel. It held a surprising collection of items. One such thing was a rod that extended into a spear, which was itself capable of generating a small electric shock. After examining it (and realizing that she understood all of the components), Crystal had realized that she must have built the thing. There was a dress (which showed almost as much skin as Candys outfits), made out of a strange, silvery material. There was a locket, with a hologram of a woman with glasses. Finally, there were blueprints, apparently written in her own handwriting, in her original language. Many terms in these blueprints were unfamiliar, but what she understood made her almost giddy at times. Shed spent many hours poring over these blueprints, re-learning and even improving upon the designs. These blueprints were what she had wanted the Adamantine for.
All of these items, and the sack filled with Adamantine, were stuffed into the satchel before she even opened the safe, ready to go. Crystal had always believed in being prepared. For as long as she remembered, anyway.
Crystal was not surprised when she heard shouts from the door, telling her to put down her weapons and come out with her hands up. Crystal didnt have any weapons (that the police knew about), but she doubted that would matter. As soon as they got their hands on her, shed be accused of more criminal charges than she could have committed in her lifetime, let alone the two years she remembered.
That was why she wasted no time in punching a hole through the low ceiling. The plaster fell, revealing the handle for the trap-door shed installed. She pulled on the knob, and the trap-door lowered. At the same time, a small ladder extended from it, reaching full length at the exact moment that it hit the floor. Crystal grabbed her satchel and dashed up the ladder, glad that Adamantine was such a light metal.
Once on the roof, Crystal didnt bother to close the trap-door; it would waste her time, and the Police would see it anyway. Even as she thought this, she heard the front door of her apartment smashed, either by a boot or a spell. Crystal immediately ran up to the edge of the roof that faced the street in front of the apartment. A quick scan showed three Police down there. They were there for back-up most likely, and didnt think theyd be doing anything personally.
It only took a moment for Crystal to reach into her satchel and find what she needed: a rod, a foot long and four inches in diameter. It was based on the design of the extending spear, but designed for a different purpose. Looking at it, Crystal hoped that she hadnt made a stupid mistake coming up to the roof, twenty feet in the air... But she didnt have long to reflect. The sound of boots tramping up the ladder to the roof renewed her bravery.
With a quiet curse, Crystal leapt from the roof.
The feeling of flying through the air was pleasant, almost relaxing. It was hard to judge, but Crystal thought her leap a good one, thought that she might actually clear the street and land painfully on the sidewalk on the other side. If she hadnt had a plan, of course.
At the push of a switch, the rod in her hand extended in a second to a length of fifteen feet. There was no way to aim precisely, but Crystal managed to plant the end of the pole at the curb of the far end of the street. Her arm stretched as the pole hit the pavement, temporarily halting her fall. It flexed, and pushed her the rest of the way across her path, over the sidewalk, until her feet slammed into the building across the street from her apartment. Now only ten feet in the air, Crystal allowed the pole to retract, and she fell from the brick wall. She tucked her body into a ball and rolled in midair, so that she managed to land easily on the sidewalk. Her ankles hurt like hell, but she felt great.
Dumbfounded, the three Policemen in the street stood staring at her, as if they expected her to grow wings next. Crystal almost felt like she could.
A sudden flurry of energy blasts from her apartments windows and roof, now across the street, made her roll to the side. Putting the shortened rod back in her satchel, Crystal took off before the three Mystics in the road could do anything. By the time they had their guns out, she was around a corner and running with Candy.
They ran in silence for a moment.
I didnt think youd ever use that Power Pole, Candy commented, between heavy breaths.
I told you, its not a Power Pole, Crystal replied, her breaths coming easily. That name just sounds wrong.
Oh yeah, muttered Candy. And Extend-O-Rod was a lot better.
Crystal couldnt help herself. She began laughing. As they ran from the Police, right after shed escaped near-certain death, Crystal laughed. And Candy laughed with her. After living with Crystal for almost two years, she was used to this sort of thing.
Time: 10:31 A.M.
Crystal had known ahead of time that sneaking aboard (or hi-jacking) a ship would be difficult; shed been to Trells one port before, and she knew first-hand how high the security normally was. However, MysPol was actively searching throughout the port. The lobby, the terminal, even the landing pads, all were patrolled by Police. The only safe place was, of course, the bathroom.
It was perfect. There was a ten-to-one ratio of men to women in the local MysPol, and the Policewomen who were smart enough to patrol the bathroom were easily enough overtaken. Plus, if a Policewoman didnt come back out, the Policemen sure as hell werent coming after them. Theyd just assume that the woman was having female problems, and put it out of their mind. In some ways, as Candy could attest, men were very predictable.
Crystal couldnt help letting out a sigh. I wish this wasnt necessary, she said. It wasnt a whine or a complaint. Really.
Candy showed no sympathy. Well, if you werent a kleptomaniac, maybe it wouldnt be. But you are, and it is. Besides, I think it suits you.
Crystal could only grumble that she wasnt a kleptomaniac, and brood as Candy kept on working. Eventually, though, it was done, and they both stepped out of the stall. Even Crystal had to admit that she looked different. First, she had replaced her grey working clothes and trenchcoat with the t-shirt and pants from her satchel. Her hair was now cut so short as to leave Crystal almost bald. Small changes, perhaps, but effective. She looked completely transformed, except...
My arm is too obvious, she noted. Her right arm ended abruptly at the elbow. She seldom noticed the phantom pains anymore, except when she looked directly at the stump.
Candy frowned. Hmmm... Good point... Abruptly, she snapped her fingers and grinned. Ive got it! Crystal stood by passively as Candy pulled the satchel off of Crystals left shoulder, and hung it on her right. Once the satchel was secure on Crystals shoulder, Candy gently lifted the half of an arm and lowered it into the open satchel. Crystal looked in the mirror, and saw a traveler who was protective of her luggage.
Crystal smiled, though it was hard with her near-baldness. Good. Now you. Candy, however, was not to be defeated easily. Rather than let her own hair be cut, Candy put on Crystals old trenchcoat, took off her blue-tinted glasses, and put her hair up into a bun.
Whoah, Crystal muttered, shaking her head. For a mechanic, youre a little too good at this sort of thing.
Candy smiled radiantly, before she hid it under a mask of space-lag. A girls got to have hobbies, right? Dressing up is better than collecting rocks, right? Her smile lit up again for a moment. But maybe Im talking to the wrong person about that.
Crystal chuckled. Maybe Candy was right, but the rocks in her satchel were hers and hers alone.
Time: 10:34 A.M.
Im a relative of McKennas, Crystal announced in a low, morose voice.
Dake, the thin, plain-looking, young man in charge of the security scanner blinked. You know, he said, of all the people whove told me that, you look the most like it. He winked then, and Crystal could tell that he knew.
There was no need to worry, of course; Dake had been on Crystals payroll for months, now. Occasionally it was necessary to get a client off of the planet with sensitive merchandise, things that might not be allowed on space-faring craft. Dake, however, knew that Crystal would not let a person keep a weapon if he was dangerous. So, Dake made a little extra money, and nobody got hurt.
With a bored expression on his face, Dake allowed her through a metal arch. It was a scanner, of course, far more advanced than a metal-detector. However, just as Crystal passed through, Dake flicked a switch off and on, exactly long enough to let her through without anybody noticing a problem. With a grateful nod, Crystal walked on.
Dakes hand on her shoulder stopped her, though. She looked back to see him grinning. Tell McKenna Ill miss her, he said. If she ever shows up here again, she can call me.
Crystal nodded again before moving on. Well, maybe he wasnt that plain-looking after all.
After Candy got through the scanner, they both moved on to a desk. The young woman behind the desk absent-mindedly checked their passports, and didnt even notice that the pictures were somewhat out of focus; the pictures managed to convey the images of two women, but that was about it. The woman had apparently seen so many false passports that she no longer questioned them. Crystal told the woman that she and Candy were to be passengers on the noon flight to Zhar. She was gratified to see the womans apathy; they could be going to the Dominion for all she cared.
Crystal and Candy, with a relieved sigh, exited the building and came out onto the landing pad. Any ships which had just landed or which were about to leave would be on the hard plastic pads. All they had to do, Crystal knew, was to find a suitable ship. As they examined the ships one by one, Candy pointed out that most of these were merchant ships. They wouldnt be taking any passengers, she reminded Crystal.
I know that, replied Crystal. And she did. She had been stealing Adamantine for so long that she had managed to work out every aspect of their escape plan. Well stow away. If I understand Greyspace technology, and Im pretty sure I do, there wont be a problem with the three-passenger limit until the ship tries to re-enter normal space. Of course, the ship will dock at a Greystation before it leaves Greyspace, and well sneak out then.
Candy nodded uncertainly. I guess. Still, if we get caught, who knows whatll happen? They could throw us into space or Greyspace. Or they could let us stay in the ship until they have a chance to call MysPol.
Crystal wanted to point out all the reasons that they wouldnt be caught, but she didnt have as many as shed like. A couple of merchants wouldnt be able to manhandle her out of an airlock or anywhere else, but a hiding place could become a coffin if she was discovered. So, since she couldnt assuage Candys fears, she ignored them.
They had passed a few ships that Crystal was considering when she suddenly stopped and looked at the ship they were currently standing by. Candy couldnt understand why, and said so. It looked like it had been put together out of scrap iron. It was small, cramped, and looked like a cone, cut in half down the center and tipped over. It had an actual glass cockpit, through which they could see a vague figure. It was, in short, an absolute piece of junk.
But Crystal wasnt looking at it. She was smelling it.
Well, not exactly smelling. She had trouble describing it to herself, and had never even tried explaining it to Candy. A few months after shed awoken in the hospital, shed begun smelling things. The mines smelled of despair; thugs on the street smelled untrustworthy; Mystics had a smell all their own. It got to the point where she could walk through a crowded room blindfolded and not bump anyone, because she could smell where each was. She could even recognize individuals by their smell. Candy smelled sweet. Some people gave scents that werent really scents, like Tartingills scent of honesty. The only drawback was that she couldnt sense individual emotions; just the scent of a persons personality.
Crystal had been a bit scared at first, but it soon became second nature. When shed begun her portraits, she almost thought she could smell her subjects. The blue-haired man smelled like blood. The two aliens, short and yellow, smelled like... a fresh breeze? The blond man, though... he smelled like... like everything, and nothing else in this universe. The simple memory of his smell made her dizzy.
She was almost overwhelmed, now, because she could smell him. Here! The ship, that broken-down piece of junk, was giving off a smell that she thought was his. It was a slight smell, as if he had been near the ship only briefly, but it was the first clue that she had found to her past. She would follow any lead, she knew, to find out who she really was.
Despite Candys pleas for caution, Crystal approached the ship. Right by the name Endless was a door, and she stopped before it, climbing the few steps jutting out from the ships hull. Crystal wasnt familiar with the control panel to the right of the door, but she managed to figure it out, and pressed a button. She waited for the occupants to respond.
After about two minutes, she tried again. Still no response. Candy, behind her, was obviously starting to get antsy, and Crystal wasnt too sure about standing in plain sight, either. But she could still smell the faint residue around the ship, so she waited.
Surprisingly, the door opened and Crystal found a short, yellow, bald alien standing before her. This was surprising for two reasons. First, she had expected to hear someone over the intercom, not to have someone come to her personally. Secondly, her brain did back-flips as she realized that she recognized this young aliens appearance, and his smell: a fresh breeze. Was he someone she had known in the past? Or if he wasnt, was he of the same species?
He showed no recognition of Crystal, though. He glanced around as if looking for somebody. When he was satisfied that nobody else was present, he finally spoke to her. Can I help you? he asked nervously. His voice broke, since it seemed to be in that stage where a young teen cant speak two words in the same tone.
Crystal couldnt help staring at him for a moment. He looked young, maybe fourteen (assuming his race aged as Humans did). However, he was so thickly muscled that Crystal doubted he could be nervous about anything. Most heavily muscled people felt very secure, often false. His big eyes, though, belied his physical power and darted to and fro with a distinctly alarmed air. Perhaps it was the fact that he only wore a pair of shorts that made him so nervous. Some people were that bashful.
She decided to get to the point. My friend and I would like passage to a Greystation. We can pay you, or we can fix any problems your ship might be having. Given the outer condition of the ship, Crystal was pretty certain that something inside would need fixing.
The alien stared at her in some confusion. Uh... I think you should ask the Captain about that. He stepped backward, into the airlock, and gestured. Please, come in.
Crystal obliged, and they both waited for Candy to step in as well before they set off down a dark hallway. Crystal couldnt help noticing that the inner airlock door was open. Why? Didnt anyone on this ship know how to operate a door? She didnt wonder about it for long, though. She soon became caught up in this ships design. What were all those wires for, running in and out of the walls? And all of those devices, only a few of which had any obvious purpose. Etherite drives werent that complex.
By the time they got to the cockpit, what with the strange ship design, the aliens nervous glances at her, and the nearly palpable feeling of worry coming from Candy behind her, Crystal felt almost uneasy. It normally took a lot to discomfit her, but today had not been exactly peaceful.
The young alien entered the cockpit (the door of which was already open), and moved aside to allow Crystal in as well. She entered the seriously cramped cockpit to find a young man (maybe a little older than she was), dangerously thin and with disinterested eyes. He looked her up and down, and Crystal thought she detected a bit of experience in that glance. His long hair and gaunt, malnourished face made her doubt that many women found him attractive, though. He wore a silvery bodysuit that would have been skin-tight, had he not been so thin. To Crystal, he smelled like... a new deck of cards; unpredictable.
You want to hitch a ride? he asked. His voice was light, and lent a cheerfulness to his words that his expression didnt share. Without waiting for her response, he continued, You said you can fix things. Can you reconnect the ships computer?
Crystal nodded. Candy may have been a good mechanic, but Crystal hadnt seen a computer yet that she herself couldnt get to sing and dance. Reconnection was simpler than tying her shoe (having one hand made shoe-tying something of an ordeal). With practiced ease, she knelt before an open hatch in the console, spotted the disconnection, and fixed it, all without even taking her arm from the satchel.
Systems flickered back to life, lights blinked on and off, and a low hum grew. Greetings, Captain Thyme, said a disembodied voice, suddenly.
Crystal bumped her head as she pulled out of the wiring beneath the console. Shed heard of artificially intelligent computers before, of course, but shed never been in the presence of one. She almost went back down to examine the design inside the console.
The Captain, apparently named Thyme, smiled. Hey, T. You operational? When the computer replied to the affirmative, Thyme spun his chair to face Crystal. Thanks. Well be glad to give you a ride to anywhere you can think of. He glanced at Candy, and gave her a smile that Crystal was certain did not go unnoticed. And your friend, too.
The short alien spoke up. But wed better leave quickly, right, Thyme?
Thyme nodded in agreement. Right, Masan. Crystal felt a twinge of... something at that name. Had she met him? If she had, why didnt he recognize her? Thyme continued, Where would you two like to go?
Crystal, for one, was a little surprised by this offer. She glanced back through the cockpit door, and saw that Candy was similarly confused. You can just drop us off at a Greystation, Candy replied. We can go from there on our own.
Thyme frowned. A Greystation... those are in Greyspace, right? The surprised expressions on Crystals and Candys faces answered the question. Thats what I thought. Well, this ship doesnt use Greyspace.
Crystal blinked. A ship that didnt use Greyspace? But every ship in the Empire, or the Neutral Sectors within Imperial space, used Greyspace. Greyspace, as Crystal understood it, was a mysterious, misty place with strange properties. To the eyes, it seemed like nothing so much as an endless, misty plane, stretching on in every direction. Ships sensors always claimed that, like space, Greyspace had no atmosphere, but any known race could breathe in Greyspace. Also, though computers registered near absolute zero temperature, no creature was ever uncomfortable while floating along unprotected in Greyspace. For another thing, gravity seemed... subjective. One could float freely, or fall in any direction chosen.
Greyspaces most important property, however, was its size. Like the real universe, Greyspace was infinite. However, it seemed to be (according to very confused physicists) a smaller infinity than the real universe. One could enter Greyspace, move at a normal speed for a few hours, leave Greyspace, and end up a light year from the starting point. A journey that would otherwise take centuries could take days, using Greyspace.
The little she had learned about Greyspace (all second-hand) had nearly driven her crazy with curiosity. What was behind the strange properties of Greyspace? Why was it so malleable that it could support any life-form? How did it work? Of course, none of the texts she had read gave away the internal workings of a Greygate generator, or even the nature of the sciences discovery. The only fragment she had been able to dig up was that Greyspace was a failed attempt to discover the secret behind the Sol Dominions method of transportation, Quark Destabilization.
Considering that Greyspace was the Empires only real method of transportation, the simple statement from this Captain Thyme had great importance. If they didnt use Greyspace, then this ship couldnt be Imperial. If this ship wasnt from the Empire, were agents of the Empire even now searching for it? Were Crystal and Candy trying to hitch a ride on a ship belonging to illegal aliens?
Crystal could no longer smell the blond man. Perhaps he had never actually entered the ship. But the smell of him outside remained in her mind, and made the decision for her. Can you take us to Hyg?
Thyme looked a little surprised that she decided so quickly, and without conferring with Candy (Crystal knew shed get some grief for that), but he didnt bother to question her. Instead, he looked up at nothing in particular and said, T, do you have the coordinates for... Highg? Hyge? How do you pronounce it again?
Hyg, answered the computer, apparently named T. Yes, Captain Thyme, I have the coordinates. However, according to my programming, the Hyg sector is restricted. Do you still wish to go?
Thyme lowered his head to look at Crystal. Why is Hyg restricted?
Candy spoke up, since Crystal knew next to nothing about Imperial history. About a hundred and thirty Mystician years ago, Hyg became a neutral planet. Since its so close to Mysticia, though, its become a rebel planet, and home to the Freespace Movement. Almost everyone in trouble with the Empire goes there sooner or later.
Thyme frowned. I think I do remember reading about that, he muttered to himself. He glanced back up at Candy. Why is it allowed to stay Neutral? Shouldnt the Empire have annexed it by now?
Candy smiled. It would, except for three things. First, Hyg has an unruly populace and almost no natural resources. It wouldnt be worth the trouble. Second, allowing the Freespace Movement to stay on Hyg means that Lady Asellus doesnt have to worry about finding it again. And third, Lady Asellus promised to let it remain Neutral.
Thyme blinked, surprised. She promised? What do you mean?
Listen, Crystal cut in, annoyed, we can have the history lessons later, right? Lets just get going.
Youre running from the Empire, arent you? Masan asked suddenly. He stared at Crystal piercingly. What did you do?
Does it matter? Crystal responded. Theyll haul you off to prison just as quickly, and take your ship apart to see what makes it tick. Hyg is the best choice for all of us. Adamantine theft was an Imperial offense, but Thyme and Masan would be arrested just for being foreigners. The Empire didnt trust its neighbors more than it had to. Considering the Empires size, such a policy was wise.
Masan looked about to protest again, but Thyme cut him off. Shes right, Thyme. Whatever shes done, do you think we can be in any more trouble by harboring criminals? Masan accepted the explanation, but he didnt seem to like it. Thyme continued, Besides, a rebel world is the perfect place for us, eh? He smiled, then, a roguish, prankster smile, and Masan smiled back at him. Thyme looked back into the air above his head. T, how long will this trip take?
There was a pause as the computer calculated. In order to minimize the risk of collision with incoming or outgoing ships, I shall set our coordinates for one-thousand-five-hundred miles from the planet. Given the speed at which we shall travel, and the fact that we must leave this planet before initiating a wormhole, the estimated time until reaching the planet Hyg is approximately three hours and twenty minutes. I will open the doors to the individual cabins, so that all may rest during this period.
Thyme nodded sedately, as if unsurprised. Masan seemed glad for a chance to rest. Candy and Crystal were shocked. Three hours and twenty minutes?! It would take days in Greyspace to reach Hyg.
Crystal was bubbling over with questions, but she didnt get a chance to ask them. Even as the computer spoke, the cockpit window had shown the ground quietly dropping away beneath them, revealing the bright diamond pinpoints of stars, undiluted by any atmosphere. Then came the Wormhole.
Time: 11:58 A.M.
Thanatos stared quietly at the plastic landing pad upon which the Endless had waited. The irony of the situation did not escape him; that Thyme and Masan had found that girl before he; that his attempt to hobble them had resulted in their leaving without him; that his plans were all but ruined because he had happened to come a day too late, when she was being chased by MysPol.
Still, he remained unperturbed. Emotions, human emotions, burned deep within him, but he barely recognized them. He had been human for two years now, but he had not sought to act and think like one. That way would lead only to failure, which he couldnt afford. He had to find Rakin, if he wanted to regain his Reaper status, and the girl was the key to finding Rakin.
He left the spaceport, and sought out the Chief of Police. He had some questions to ask. Possibly quite painful questions.
It never occurred to him to wonder whether his timing was too coincidental.
While Thyme and Masan (neither of whom were yet used to the experience) and Candy all shrunk to bursting and began to turn a strange shade of seven, Crystal found herself remarkably untouched. While the ship wavered in and out of reality and unreality, Crystal was a rock of solidity. She stood alone in that maelstrom of energies that threatened to tear apart the fabric of their very beings.
She stood alone and wondered. What am I? Who am I? And, to top off the questions, the ultimate: Why me?
The Wormhole just laughed at her, and continued playing with reality.
Hyg Sector. Space.
Time: 6:20 P.M., Facinaturu Mean Time
What the hell was that? Candy shouted, leaning warily against one wall of the hallway. She seemed afraid that the wall might swallow her, but she couldnt stand on her own.
That, Thyme muttered, was a Wormhole. Maybe Masan can explain it to you, because I sure as hell cant.
Candy nodded appreciatively, though she didnt understand at all, and managed to get to one of the cabin doors. The door slid open as she approached, and closed behind her. Crystal had no doubt that shed sleep like the dead. Masan seemed too tired to explain Wormholes to Crystal, and wandered down the hall until he found an unoccupied cabin and stumbled inside. Crystal was left alone with Thyme in the cramped cockpit. He sat, she stood, and neither of them spoke for a long time.
What did you do? Thyme finally asked. Youre obviously on the run.
Crystal shrugged. Ill tell you if you tell me what youre doing with this ship. Its obviously not of Mystician Empire design; besides the fact that this ship doesnt use Greyspace, I dont think it uses Etherite, either.
Thyme grinned, and leaned back in his seat. Fair enough. Im a famous rebel from three centuries ago. I was frozen, and recently escaped. Masan, one of my partners, was also frozen, and also escaped. Together, we hijacked what I believe is an experimental ship from the Empire that just happens to be run by a Mec core that served me before I was frozen.
Crystal stared at him. Not bad. I just stole some Adamantine.
Thyme frowned. You dont seem very surprised.
Two Mystician years previously, Crystal had awoken in a hospital bed with no memory of her past life or even her name, and spoke a language that nobody understood. On top of that, she had soon realized that she was physically as strong as any man, and that she could smell people. Having dealt with all of that, she thought, nothing was very surprising any more.
She shrugged. Stranger things have happened. Of course, you could always be insane.
Thyme chuckled. Soon, though, the chuckle grew into true laughter. Crystal finally found herself joining him. One sitting, one standing, both trying to fit into a terminally cramped cockpit, on the run from the Empire in a ship that seemed like it might fall apart at any moment. And if the laughter sounded a little less sane than usual, and a little more desperate, Crystal could live with that.
If I wasnt on the run all the time, life would get really