“We need to wait Vea’ayr, if she goes now, she won’t be ready. She needs to rest, recover, grieve, and be given a full breakdown of the role she is being asked to play. We can’t just expect her to go into this blind. We have been fighting for years for the same goal and she doesn’t even know what the goal is. It is preposterous to expect this of her.”
“We don’t have a j’karn choice Brindel! You act as though I want to put her through this. If I could have done any of this without involving her, I would have. I would have left her on your little station without so much as a second thought if I knew she would’ve been safe and if I didn’t need her for what we have to face. Due to that sociopath Ygorn, we had to skip a few steps in our plans. The grieving process is one of those steps Brindel.”
Their arguing continued back and forth for a good while, and when I realized that I was gaining no new information pretending to still be asleep (and that the conversation was likely going nowhere) I decided to sit up and clear my throat to make my consciousness known. “Sha’ayr, you’re awake!” The anger in Brindel’s voice immediately subsided and changed to a tone of relief and excitement. “You were out for so long, I was starting to worry.” He ran over and wrapped all four arms around me. I squeezed my head out of his chest so I could breathe easier and talk. “How long was I out?” Honestly, I had only felt like I was asleep for a few hours. Vea’ayr stepped forward and answered, “Well, this would make rotation four… It’s odd, normally I have trouble going into metamorphosis, but when I am around you, I feel less restricted. I meant to only knock you out long enough to get us on the ship safely. Maybe it is our blood connection that makes my attacks more effective on you, I don’t know. We will have to do some research into that later.” Brindel interrupted her before, well almost before, her scientific curiosity became insensitive rambling. “Vea’ayr, perhaps now isn’t quite the right time?” She shook her head and her inquisitive look changed to one I had yet to see her express: relief. “I am quite pleased you are well Sha’ayr.” She approached my bed and tapped Brindel’s arm. He let go of me and she embraced me in a long hug. It felt strange. It was as if even though the feeling was unfamiliar, it was awakening memories of a life we should have lived. I could feel that she had always been with me even though she hadn’t. It felt like a comfort I was accustomed to, still somehow brand new.
As she let go I looked at them and decided to discuss the issues at hand. “Quite the argument you two were having.” As the words left my mouth they both tensed up as though they had backed into an ice wall. “I was thinking that, seeing as how it is my life you were discussing, maybe you would like to hear my opinion?” Vea’ayr and Brindel both looked at each other, awkwardly ashamed of not considering the notion. “Well,” said Vea’ayr sharply, “are you going to give it to us or just revel in our humility?” I nodded and replied, “Certainly. I am still shaken up, and I am going to be for a while.” I could already feel tears welling up in my eyes as I spoke. “My father meant the world to me, and his death will not be easy to overcome, but he died fighting Ygorn to save me and I doubt he would want to see me wallowing in my own pity. He needs to be avenged. If the Councilor was there, he had to have orders, right?” Brindel looked at me uneasily and opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by Vea’ayr. “He did. However, the orders were to find me and bring me in at any cost. It is my fault he died.” The room became thick with silence. I swallowed hard and forced my head up to make eye contact with Vea’ayr and responded with a harsh authority I did not know I possessed. “Vea’ayr, I will say this once: my father’s death is Ygorn’s fault and the fault of his superiors. No one else’s. Not you and not Brindel. Be thankful for this, because I will ensure that those who are truly responsible will pay with their blood, and if they are lucky and I am feeling merciful, their lives as well.” I could feel my skin getting hot and quickly suppressed my emotions.
Vea’ayr gave me a slight smirk and replied, “Hmm, it seems like your powers are rubbing off on me and my attitude is rubbing off on you.” I gave her a half smile. I couldn’t tell if she were joking because honestly I did feel different. I continued, “So, with that said, I feel like we should move forward. I want to be let in on all the details. I want to know what my role is in all of this and I want to know what I need to do to prepare myself. I want to learn how to fight like you Vea’ayr and to use something besides just my mind in a battle if need be. I want to understand the Wilvarokan culture and the Tilverhani culture even more. I want to know what life is on the other stations, at the Capitol, everywhere. I want to know if there are any integrated stations or if they are all divided by race. I want to know everything I can, and I know in time you will tell me all of it. Right now, more than anything, I want to know where we are going and what we are to do when we get there.” Brindel shook his head, but not in disapproval. It was more in forfeit, as though he realized my mind was too set for anything he said to change it. “You guys are way too much alike. Stubborn, incapable of listening to reason, and so objective and logical I worry you may just be robotic. Vea’ayr, I assume you can take it from here?” He looked at her and then left the room.
It was unsettling to be completely alone with Vea’ayr on her ship and, honestly, somewhat intimidating. Though she looked like a battle-hardened version of myself, she carried herself with such deliberate purpose that I was certain she could intimidate any Wilvarok or Tilverhan. She approached my bed again and sat down beside me staring me in the eyes with a stern, unwavering gaze. As my unease reached its maxed, it dissipated into a curious bewilderment with her first four words. “Do you like gardens?”
Not quite sure how to respond after such an intense build up, I just slowly nodded my head. “Good,” she said with an almost playful tone, “walk with me then.”
As we exited the black-pitrinium medical bay where I had been recovering, we walked into a very sleek hallway which went on almost out of sight before starting to bend toward an obvious circle. “How big is this ship?” I asked, almost rhetorically. “Bigger than most. I spent a long time designing this ship to act as a portable command center in case of an emergency. I also knew it would need to accommodate Tilverhans and Wilvaroks both, so I made sure the Tilverhans had a big hallway to run in. If you look up I put jump pads ever so often just so they could stay in practice and in shape.” She turned right and began walking. As she did, the floor turned into a conveyor of sorts, moving swiftly in the same direction as us, but only where we were walking. I had never seen technology of this sophistication. “What happens if someone is walking the other way?” She stopped and the conveyor system stopped with us. As she got down on one knee, I followed suit and she lowered her face close to the floor. “Take a closer look.” It was truly amazing. The floor was made up of what must have been thousands, if not millions, of tiny rubberized ball bearings, each being propelled by its own force. “The floor is pressure sensitive and measures your walking speed. The ball bearings spin in the direction you are walking and help propel you their faster. They use a magnetic field to spin and can complete an hour’s walk in a mere ten minutes.” I was truly mesmerized by the concept. “Vea’ayr, this is brilliant! You designed this entire ship? How did you do all this on your own?” She looked up from the floor, with a somewhat offended and possibly mischief in her eyes. “Who said I did this on my own?” Her voice sounded almost sad. As we stood and she saw the apologetic expression on my face she laughed and I realized she was not actually offended. I smiled, relieved, and could not help but wonder if her behavior was typical or if she was just as excited as I was to have a sister to share time with.
After about three minutes we came to a door on our left hand side, embellished with a beautiful ivy design. “Here we are,” she said with pride in her voice, “my garden.” She put her hand on one of the leaves of the ivy and it began to glow green and the door beeped. After hitting a few buttons on a display which had appeared on the leaf, she grabbed my hand and put my handprint against it. “There. Now you are in the system. You can enter the garden and any other locked room aside from my personal chambers at ease. Congratulations and welcome aboard the crew of Veasha.” We stepped on to a platform and with the downward swipe of Vea’ayr’s hand it began to descend swiftly. It must have dropped at least fifty hands before coming to a halt. As it did, the black doors which sealed the inside opened to a truly breathtaking sight.
After a long moment of silence and awe, I managed to let out a whispered exclamation. “It’s absolutely gorgeous!” I had never imagined such a thing could exist on a spaceship. Huge bundles of ivy, woven together into what seemed to be tree trunks and reaching thirty hands into the air. Like huge droplets of dew, blue fruits clung to the ivy, the darkest of which seemed to almost drip off. “These are Gratta Berries. I found them growing on a planet during my travels and harvested some for my ship. They are edible, retain a lot of water, and are surprisingly filling. They are one of the many fruits in my garden. I have vegetables too and even animals. I spent over a turn just cultivating this place and take a lot of pride in it. I have made sure that the flora and fauna, though from all different planets, mesh well and create an entirely self-sustaining ecosystem. This garden, almost more than the ship itself, is my masterpiece.” My cheeks were beginning to hurt from the width of my smile. “Vea’ayr, this is beyond beautiful! How does it get sunlight though?” As I asked, she looked up with her hand shielding her eyes. “I created a miniature star to power my ship. It provides the light needed for the plants to grow. There is a large lake in the center which feeds into an irrigation system that mimics rain water. This garden, like this ship, is one of a kind. I refill the lake with water when I find a comet I can pump from. It would take turns, maybe even ages for the lake to dry up completely.” We continued walking through the garden and I watched the animals fly and run about, many of which I had never even seen before. “Aren’t the planets restricted? How did you land there?” She sighed and grabbed hold of both of my hands, spinning herself in front of me. “Only in the outer ring. These animals and these plants didn’t come from the outer ring, they came from beyond old space.” My smile faded to a concerned grimace. “Vea’ayr, are you saying you expect me to believe you’ve made it through old space? There’s no way to get through easily, and to go around or even wind through would take eons, if not an eterna. How is it even possible?”
“You know about transport gates, right?” I smiled and rolled my eyes. “Of course I do, I did go to school.” She looked at me somewhat disapprovingly, “Well, I can’t be sure what they actually teach in a Tilverhan school on a station that has a secret military training base. Well, as you know, a transport gate can send you through subspace which is void of all matter and thus you can pass through at exponentially increasing velocity. The only problem is that you need a partnered transport gate on the other side to catch you. For most, this has caused a problem as they must be assembled around a planet and put into a steady orbit and it is impossible to navigate a ship through old space and as you said, it would take at least an eterna. So, I designed a self- assembling transport gate and launched it through old space, slingshotting it around black holes and eventually toward a planet. I wasted two before finally getting the third one to orbit. I went through, skeptical as to whether I would ever return from subspace. When I emerged on the other side, I saw a small but beautiful planet and began my probing and examining of the planet. I sent probes to get plant life and some of the more tame animal life. Overall, the planet was too dangerous to explore alone, so I came back and began studying the life I had found. After that it was easy to hit a few more planets inside the ring and set up transport gates. Now I have five total planets I can go to from my gate station. We are actually on our way to that station right now.”
At this point nothing she could say or do could surprise me anymore. It seemed like I had lived such a pointless life compared to hers. She had done so much and had the same amount of time as me. “How did you have time to do all of this?” She looked at me and smiled, “I have had help.”
We walked for what must have been at least two hours and she told me about the plants and animals she had seen, showed me all the fruits and vegetables in the garden, let me taste the ones I found interesting. Some I enjoyed, some I did not, and some I regretted ever trying. The Gratta Berries were my absolute favorite and had a unique sweet/sour combination I had never tasted in any food on the station. They also had a very crisp texture and the pulp was like small, water-filled beads. At first it was hard to adjust to the texture, but I quickly began loving it. She was right though, it was filling. After only two Gratta Berries, I was completely full.
We made our way to the lake in the middle, taking the long route through the extensive garden, and sat by the water. “So Vea’ayr, why am I here? What is this plan you have for me? What is it you need me to do?” She sighed and the playfulness faded from her face. It became stern and cold, much like when I had first seen her. “Too much, Sha’ayr…” She said, loftily. I considered responding, but it occurred to me she was speaking to herself, trying to find the words she needed.
“You have a gift that I don’t. Your clairvoyance is beyond anything I could have imagined. I knew you would be advanced in some way, but I didn’t know it would be like this. I need your strength of spirit and, if we are to survive this, you need my strength of mind. I need us to try something that I have only theorized until now. I need us to share our minds. If we do, it will give you full access to any memories I have not suppressed, and it will give me access to yours. You will learn what I know, about everything. You will be as smart as me and I will be as powerful as you. It will, in theory, turn us into the single creation our mother was trying to create. I need you to be on board with this though, I won’t do it without your permission.” She wasn’t looking at me. She was staring over the water, unable to even make eye contact whilst discussing it. I saw a tear roll down her face and splatter on her shoulder. “There’s a chance it could not work. If it doesn’t, we may both just stay the same… or one of us could change and the other could die. I don’t know what would happen, but I know I need to know what you know if I want to win this.” We both sat in silence for around ten minutes. “I’ll do it.”
She worked hard to turn and look at me, her head as heavy as her heart. “Are you sure about this Sha’ayr? I really don’t know what will happen. I think with us being twins, it should minimize the risks, but there is no way to know for sure.” I nodded and she lowered her head. “Very well.”
Before I had time to realize what was happening, she thrust her head forward with a savage ferocity, forcing her horns into my stomach. As I felt blood pushing up to my throat, I felt her horns snap off in my stomach. My mind began to go hazy and I started to panic. I had only known Wilvaroks to do this for reproductive reasons and didn’t understand what she was doing. As my vision began to blur into darkness, I felt her grab the base of my horns and force my head down toward her. I would feel blood from her torso dripping onto my forehead, then my head felt lighter. My horns had snapped off inside her stomach. I watched her collapse as darkness overtook me. It didn’t feel the same as passing out or falling asleep. My mind didn’t go into rest or go into a panicked flurry, it just turned off. People often describe death as a void and now I knew why. This was it. The world around me faded and there I lay, an empty husk.
Thorns by Kevin Copenhaver is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.