Part III in a series of short stories that leads up to the complete unveiling of my new project!
Adan Stone met Kr’zani’s glare with a smile. He knew the dog didn’t like him, but one day he’d see that his distrust was completely unwarranted.
“If I may,” Kr’zani said, sounding as if he resented the polite words, “what’s the urgent matter that the Mistress needs to hear about?”
Adan sighed, settling back in his seat and folding his hands behind his head. Really he just wanted an excuse to see her, but Kr’zani wouldn’t be satisfied with that. “As it happens, I just had a fuel leak on my ship that my mechanics had to repair. It happened rather suddenly and I didn’t sense any foul play, but I wanted to see what Shera thought of it.”
Normally Kr’zani would visibly bristle when Adan called Shera by her first name, so Adan was surprised when the dog’s eyes widened instead.
Adan leaned forward. “You know something about this?”
Kr’zani’s tail swished lazily. Behind the fierce expression, Adan knew there were rapid calculations running through that brain of his. His nose twitched like he was sniffing the air.
“You’re telling the truth,” Kr’zani said grudgingly.
“Of course I am!” Adan spread his arms and stood to his feet. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
Ignoring him, Kr’zani continued, “Perhaps while awaiting the Mistress we can attempt to solve this problem together.”
Adan grinned and chuckled. It would be amusing to have a little companion by his side for once. “Shera always swears by that nose of yours. Why not?” He turned back towards where his ship was parked but Kr’zani barked, halting him in his tracks.
Adan turned sharply as the loud noise echoed in the confined space. “There’s no need to shout, I’m right here.”
Kr’zani bared his teeth. “You didn’t allow me the chance to tell you that our fuel pipe leaked as well.”
Adan raised an eyebrow. He felt a sort of thrill run through him. “Now we do have a mystery on our hands, don’t we?” Suddenly, Kr’zani’s behaviour fell into place. “You thought it was my doing, didn’t you? That’s why you’ve been so suspicious.” He scoffed. “Why would I sabotage you?”
Kr’zani held his gaze but remained silent for a moment, as if debating whether or not to answer the question. “The facts did seem to point to you as the culprit, but now I admit they point elsewhere.” He inclined his head toward a corridor leading away from the cockpit. “This way. I will show you our fuel leak.”
Adan followed by Kr’zani’s side. He wasn’t sure if it was his imagination, but Shera’s sidekick seemed to grow bigger all the time. Currently, Kr’zani’s back was level with Adan’s hips. Adan had never been entirely comfortable around the dog, and his massive bulk didn’t help the feeling. He played it off, of course, just like he always did, pretending like he was perfectly at ease. But Kr’zani was undoubtedly dangerous; did he have any real loyalties?
“How are you finding it here in Chronos?” Adan asked casually. “I understand that you’re not from this galaxy.” Maybe if he gathered enough clues on Kr’zani’s real motives, he could bring his concerns to Shera.
“It’s different from home.”
Adan waited for him to say more, but he didn’t.
“Where is home? Shera has never told me.”
A low growl hummed in Kr’zani’s throat. “That’s because I’ve never told her, or anyone else for that matter, and it’s not your concern.”
Adan held up his hands. “All right, old chap, I was just wondering.” Mentally, he swore. This dog was more than a closed book; more like a book that was chained shut.
“Will you permit me to ask you a question in return?” Kr’zani asked, his tone even once more.
Adan dug his hands into his pockets. “Of course.”
“Why is your manner of speech so…odd?”
Adan laughed. “Noticed that, have you? I’m fascinated with Earth’s history; it’s the history of my own people, you know. Before I got into this line of work I was a historian.” He thought back to those uncomplicated days and smiled. Part of him still missed it.
“You adopted ancient speech simply because you liked it?”
“Why shouldn’t I? It’s from my favourite period, the early twentieth century. There was a sort of refinement about that time, even in the midst of war.” He paused before he could get carried away. “Of course, none of this means anything to you, does it?”
He might have imagined it, but he thought that Kr’zani nearly smiled. “Not at all, Mr. Stone.”
“Ah, well.” There weren’t enough people in Chronos familiar with Earth to truly appreciate how perfectly he mimicked an Englishman from that time period, both in his speech and dress.
He straightened his waistcoat thoughtfully as Kr’zani led him into the engine room. They walked down a narrow passageway filled with all sorts of pipes and valves until the room widened.
Two Muaprans were crowded around one of the fuel pipes, but they turned as Kr’zani and Adan entered. Adan had forgotten about the two mechanics that Shera had taken on. He was still surprised at her choice, as they looked rather stupid.
“This is Mr. Stone,” Kr’zani said. “He is a…colleague of the Mistress and I have invited him to take a look at the leak.”
“It’s already repaired,” the tiny Muapran announced, glancing anxiously between Adan and Kr’zani. “There was only one leak, so it wasn’t hard to fix.”
“I’d like to take a look anyway, if I may.”
The Muaprans silently stepped back. Adan glanced at Kr’zani. “Have you smelled anything?”
“Idvarian plasma. I smell it on you, too. Qokaks can smell it through layers of steel.”
Adan examined the repaired pipe but could find only the faintest blemish where the new material took the place of the old. “I thought of those rats, too. But I don’t use Idvarian plasma; the stuff’s too hard to come by.”
“Neither do we.”
Adan spun to lock gazes with Kr’zani. “Then they’re trying to sabotage us both!”
“Who’s trying to sabotage us?”
The whole room went silent at the sound of the quiet, but confident, female voice. All eyes went the same direction.
A figure stood in the doorway of the engine room. She was tall and broad-shouldered, belying her nimble and unassuming nature. Her figure was accented by a form-fitting captain’s coat and matching leggings. Her auburn hair looked red in the harsh lighting, styled as it always was into a neat bun. Not a hair was out of place. Her faint freckles stood out on her tanned skin as she quirked an eyebrow and met every pair of eyes in the room.
Adan found his heartbeat quickening as he gazed at her. He cleared his throat and recovered himself. He’d quite forgotten how beautiful she looked.
“We don’t know yet,” he informed her.
A slow smile spread across Shera’s face. Her green eyes glittered like a cat’s.
“Then it seems the game, as they say, is on.”