Friday, October 10, 2014

11: Zephyr Station (Part I)

Entry 11: Where Cor makes some calls and Felix tries not to freak out adjusts to the situation.

                Felix and Cor were half way across the system by the time Kla realized they were missing. The ship they had boarded had been a short-range shuttle that operated solely within its home sector of Oshi, where Selenium and a handful of other livable planets resided. Cor had explained relatively little of what they were doing and, to be honest, Felix wasn't sure he wanted to know that far ahead. He was still having enough trouble trying wrap his mind around Torrik's involvement in his current predicament. So when the shuttle finally docked at the Oshi sector's assigned GCC Spindle Station, he'd been caught off guard.
                Now he stood in front of the space station's observation window in a little populated viewing room. The window itself took up the entire length of the wall, stretching from floor to ceiling and spanned one foot thick bulkhead to the other in a bubble-like window. The builders had done their best to keep the window colorless so that the view wouldn't be tinted, but with all the different layers of UV protection and general shielding needed to deal with the near constant plasmapheric and solar winds that swept through the area, the most they had been able to do was reduce the usual neon orange color to something less drastic, leaving every star beyond the window tinted a faint peachy color.
                It was still a spectacular view in a way – just a great swath of blackness peppered by faded out stars – and Felix liked it much better than the far side's view of the binary stars that were the Oshi system's main source of light. Felix had heard that this station was actually one of Universe Weekly's top ten spots for borealis whale watching, curious creatures that were one of the few known animals that could survive in the vacuum without protective gear. And given their sheer mammoth size it had been speculated by xeno-biologists that this was because empty space was one of the few places big enough to accommodate them. Even the smallest recorded sighting – a baby over in the Black Tortoise system – was still easily as long as an Empress-class cruise liner.
                Like Earth-bound whales, borealis whales needed air to survive, and often breached in various planets' atmospheres to get it. They could store it for months as they traveled to their next air pocket. Their skin was thicker and harder than any ship's hull and their inner temperatures rivaled that of stars to fight off the freezing cold of space. They had many names across the galaxy, however 'borealis' had stuck firm because of their ever-shifting, multi-hued skin that trapped and stored light from across the spectrum so it could be digested later during the whale's long journey.
                But if any of the mammoth, light-eaters were nearby today, Felix didn't see them. All he could see was the void, and it was starting to make him feel cold inside.
                He leaned his head against the heavily reinforced window with a thunk. It was only just now starting to sink in. He was on the run from a woman that had tried to hire him and then threatened to kill him from one day to the next. He'd lost his job, his life's work, and he was pretty sure Tori would try and kill him the next time he saw her.
                "If I ever see her again." He realized.
                A part of him wanted to call her, to at least let her know he was still in one piece and that he hadn't meant to just up and ditch her like he had. But if Kla was smart – and Felix had seen nothing to suggest she was anything but – she would be watching Tori's communications frequency to try and find a way back to him.
                "That's probably why Cor smashed my comm unit." Felix thought with a sigh and ran a hand through his dark hair as he leaned on the observation rail. "She's gonna kill me when I get back."
                Felix groaned under his breath and scrubbed at his face with both hands. He hadn't slept since the night before all this madness had started and that had barely been more than a cat nap. He was exhausted and so hungry that he actually felt queasy, like his stomach was trying to digest itself.
                From somewhere behind him, a cloud of muffled profanity echoed his sentiments.
                "Couldn't have said it better myself." Felix grumbled as he straightened up and turned away from the room-spanning window. The room behind him was built to hold over a hundred people, with rows of seating a few yards back and holographic monitors set deeper into the room for the people in the crowd that couldn't see the window directly for the press of beings in the way. It was largely empty right now, with only five or six people occupying seats. The lights were dimmed so the lighting wouldn't cause a glare on the window and obstruct the impeccable view.
                What appeared to be a moving sidewalk sat a few yards behind the last bench, and beyond that another smaller window that still took up most of the back wall that showed the central part of the spindle station beyond instead of stars and infinite space. Felix knew better however; the sidewalk and the back window were stationary because it was really his side of the observation room that was moving as it slowly circled the core of the station.
                Felix hardly glanced at the back window as he trotted down the three steps that separated the raised viewing platform from the bench seating that filled most of the room. Any other day, under any other circumstances, Felix would have enjoyed watching the station working around him. He'd always admired the elegant practicality that had gone into designing the stations.
                The numerous spindle stations strung throughout the galaxy had been commissioned by the Galactic Cohesion Council in their ongoing effort to promote interstellar peace between the various (and often discordant) races in the galaxy and were named after their resemblance to oversized spinning wheel needles (a curiously common object in the universe). Spindle stations were made up of a long, tapered central shaft surrounded by seven orbiting rings like the one Felix was on that grew in width until they reached the widest center ring and then shrunk back down again to hug the top third of the spindle.
                This one in particular was GCC Station 112, but the locals called it Zephyr Station after the near constant spatial winds that raged between the twin stars Osh and Ii and the nearest planet Toltaris. Felix just called it a long layover.
                "Slaggit Ian!" Felix followed the sound of Cor's muffled ranting. "Of all the rotten times you pick now to not answer?!"
                Felix turned the corner and found Cor sitting in front of one of the dirt-smeared public call boxes, scowling at the machine as if it had personally insulted him. Unlike the viewing room, the hall was brightly lit, but still just as empty. Felix knew if he kept walking he would find more signs of life closer to the docking stations and the commercial flights that most people came to Zephyr Station for.
                As it was he grabbed an empty chair from one of the other call boxes and sat backwards in it next to Cor, crossing his arms over the back of the chair and resting his chin on his arms. "How's it going?" He mumbled.
                Cor looked just as exhausted as Felix felt. "Not good." He admitted. "My idiot brother," he slapped the top of the call box irritably, "won't pick up his dang comm. Don't know I bothered to get him the dang thing..." he grumbled under his breath.
                Felix waited for him to go on, but when Cor just rubbed at his eyes in silence, he asked with raised eyebrows, "And that's it? The only one you trust enough to help us is your 'idiot brother' who won't pick up the phone?"
                 Cor shot him a scowl. "No." He muttered and then looked away. "Just thought he was the best man fer the job."
                Felix snorted and rolled his eyes. "The guy that can't be bothered to pick up his comm unit was your first choice?" He muttered, sarcasm saying just how much faith he put in a man like that.
                Cor glared at him outright now. "No, the army veteran and bonified war-hero was my first choice. " He shot back.
                Felix scowled off in the opposite direction as guilt swept over him and half smothered his exhaustion-driven bad mood. "S'rry," he muttered with a scowl. And then, forcing himself to calm down, he snuck a look at Cor, "I didn't know you had a brother."
                Cor half shrugged as he typed in another long set of numbers. "We don't talk much. War messed him up pretty good."
                Felix frowned, but no longer in anger. He may not keep up with current events, but he was pretty sure that Hybridia hadn't been at war since they'd pushed back the technovores thirty-plus years ago.
                But he felt weird asking about it. "That sounds...ominous." He mumbled, feeling uncomfortable. He'd never really heard Cor talk about his family other than that his parents had died several years ago. As far as he knew, Cor had ten brothers.
                "Or ten kids." Felix thought with surprise. The thought that Cor had a family out there somewhere had never even occurred to him before  now.
                For the moment though, Cor seemed intent on maintaining the mystery of his family background. Felix thought about asking him about it now that Cor had already opened the door, but then the older Hybridian was punching in another communications frequency number and he lost his nerve.
                Cor held the old fashioned ear and mouth piece to the side of his head and waited as the call box connected him to the comm-freq he'd given it.
                It took a few seconds, but whoever was on the other end must have answered because Cor sat up a little straighter and said, "Hey, it's me. I need a favor."
                Felix sat up and watched Cor intently. This far out in the boonies, the GCC hadn't bothered to pay the extra expense for vid phones so Felix had no idea who Cor was talking to. He couldn't even hear a miniscule voice leaking around the earpiece of the machine.
                Felix frowned. "Oh sure, they skimp on the video monitors but not the privacy settings." He grumbled to himself.
                Cor was talking again. "Yeah I know the place. We can be there in a jiff. Oshi out on Zephyr Station. Uh-huh, that's what I was thinkin' too. And while we're in transit I need you to get a hold of the Commander for me." His eyes flicked toward Felix next to him.
                Felix raised an eyebrow at him, silently asking, "What?"
                Cor didn't say anything. Just scratched at the stubble on his chin and muttered, "Yeah you heard me. I, uh, I got a favor to ask him too."
                Cor paused long enough that Felix thought the person on the other end was questioning his sanity or something along those lines. He didn't know who this 'Commander' was, but he sounded important.
                Cor made an impatient face and braced his free hand against the side of the call box. "Yeah-yeah I know. Look, I know how he is too, but he's gonna wanna hear about this, all right?" He rolled his eyes to the ceiling and tried to get a word in edgewise as the unknown speaker kept talking. "Ye-yes-I know but-yeah I got that-" Cor pulled the ear piece away from his head and frowned at it in shock just long enough for Felix to catch the miniscule squeaking of a long distance connection. "Now that's just cheatin'!" He grumbled when he put it back to his ear.
                Felix watched, not sure what to make of any of this, as Cor pinched the bridge of his nose and finally muttered, "Oh fer the love of the machine Mari now is not the time!"
                Felix frowned in thought. Well at least now he had a name.
                Cor leaned against the call box again. "Yes," he stressed, "that would be helpful. Thank you. Yeah, see ya when we get there."
                Felix watched as he hung up the earpiece and disconnected the line. "So?" He asked when Cor didn't offer up anything voluntarily.
                Cor stood up and kicked his chair in. "So what?" He asked wearily.
                Felix frowned at him. "So who was that? Where're we going?"
                "Friend a'mine." Cor told him and then hooked his thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the lift. "And we gotta go pick up some tickets outta here."
                Felix scrambled to his feet and followed Cor, forgetting his own chair in the hallway. "Where to?" He tried again.
                Cor clapped a hand on his shoulder and grinned at him, but Felix noticed the expression didn't reach his eyes. "Well that's the tricky part..."

< Entry 10                                                                                                                                              Entry 11.5 >

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