“Uh…my—my last job? I used to work at the, the Outer Spiral Roadhouse.” Rekha pulled her gaze away from the mural of the butterfly nebula that arced over the vaulted ceiling of the main concourse, and looked down at her shift partner.
“No kidding?” Lianne said. “How long did it take you come all the way here from there?”
“Oh, uh, not long. Not long. Took a wormhole.”
Lianne glanced over at her. “Well, look at you, Miss Moneybags.”
“We’ve chosen you because you’re just a couple of ordinary transport technicians,” the unfamiliar transport chief said. “And for one other reason. Proximites and humans are both relatively fragile species—no offense—when it comes to space travel. But here on solid earth…well, you’re still fragile, but you have certain qualities that come in handy should there be any problems with this particular prisoner.”
“Captain’s log…we are passing through the waterfalls of Zarqlok.” Meena placed a finger on an empty space on the dashboard console, pretending to press a button. A cascade of soapy water passed over the front hood of our car.
“Of what-lock?” I asked.
She glanced over at me, then faced forward again. “D.A.D. unit appears to be malfunctioning.”
“Here, you see?” the surgeon said, as he pointed with his scalpel. “At the nexus of the heart and the brain? Between the eyes and the throat, right at the back of the mouth, where the voice is on the verge of emerging?”
The secretary peered past the gleaming scalpel and tilted her head. There was nothing to see at the moment, other than the expected anatomy inside the mouth. The corpse that lay on the dissection table had been long vacated. But the surgeon claimed that he had cut through at just the right time, the fleeting moment right after certain death.
The stegosaur watched the beetle flick open its hard outer wings and extend the flight wings underneath. She watched the beetle launch himself into the air and hover, floating to and fro before he droned away. She watched in study of the beetle’s ability. And she watched in envy of the beetle’s ability.
She heard pebbles shifting behind her, but she did not turn.
“You’re looking in the wrong direction,” a voice said.
The stegosaur smiled and swung her head around.
“If you want to fly, there’s the way,” said the little limusaurus. She tossed her head back as she strode over to the stegosaur.
Pike tilted his head up slightly, so he could see more clearly through his helmet. He raised his arm and glanced at the detector in his gloved hand. With his other hand, he pointed straight ahead.
“That way,” he said.
Captain Tai drifted past him, holding her own arm up, so that the light beam panel on the forearm of her suit could illuminate their way.
The dark side of the moon was not just regular dark. It was pitch dark. If not for the trackers, and the back-up trackers, and the emergency back-up trackers, in their suits and their equipment, Pike would have at least hesitated wandering any farther into the unmapped region from which the anomalous signal seemed to be originating. More likely, he would have talked his captain out of venturing ahead altogether. Even more likely, she wouldn’t have needed to be convinced.