Name: Captain Anex Blissama.
Place: A quarter mile from the Teh Conno Ha’ar fire camp on planet Meshlova IV
I am here with my First Mate Scen Lazzar. I wish I could say that we’re just sightseeing, but no. The Ogliothorpe Conundrum has sent us to this planet to retrieve the sacred exploding egg that the Teh Connos stole from the Malashin Hive.
I’m not looking forward to entering that camp.
The Teh Connos are innate firestarters. When they are away from their camp, they keep their powers under tight control. Inside their camp, however…well. They aren’t so restrained.
Scen and I are wearing special spacesuits that are completely fireproof. So, we should be safe.
I know from firsthand experience that everything has a breaking point.
Even I do. But I don’t want to talk about that.
I never want to talk about that.
Captain Blissama noticed how Scen was looking at her. She put her data recorder away.
“It wasn’t your fault, Captain.”
She stiffened. “We should get going.”
“You need to talk about what happened.”
“No. No, I don’t.” She marched down the stony trail.
Scen hurried after her. “Captain, if I may?”
“We will be at the camp shortly. We need to focus on what we are going to say and do to retrieve that egg.”
“Understood, Captain Blissama.”
She mentally cringed at her First Mate’s stiff formality.
Nothing I can do about it, though.
Name: Captain Anex Blissama
Place: The Teh Connos fire camp
The camp is just as fiery as one would expect from the Teh Connos.
It’s like walking into an inferno. Every…I don’t remember what the right word is…dwelling is a contained bonfire.
I am grateful for these spacesuits. Without them, we would be the toasted dead.
Scen has stopped giving me those overly sympathetic glances, which is a relief. He has gone off to find the chief, leaving me alone. I could have gone with him, but the Teh Connos have a well-earned reputation for disregarding women in authority positions.
I would have been in the way.
Scen has returned.
Captain Blissama and Scen entered Chief Teh Haggan’s inferno dwelling.
Three of the chief’s eyes focused on Scen. The other three scanned the Captain with pronounced disdain.
The Captain stepped back and let Scen do his thing.
“Chief Teh Haggan. You are looking well these days.”
The chief’s head antennae flicked with amusement. “Pleasantries from The Ogliothorpe Conundrum?”
Scen smiled. “Pleasantries from First Mate Scen Lazzar of the star blaster Igminom.”
His antennae went still. “Is there a reason why The Conundrum felt the need to send a star blaster our way?”
“We were in the system. We have come in the name of the Malashin Hive.”
The chief settled back in his seat and smoothed his robes around him. His antennae went flat against his scaly head. “You’ve come for the exploding egg.”
“Yes, we have.”
“And you think I will surrender it.”
Captain Blissama stepped forward. “It is imperative that you do so. That egg is precious to the Malashin people.”
His antennae flicked again. “Malashins are not people. All species know this.”
“That is not important. They want that egg returned.”
He sneered. “That egg is precious to us too, little femma.”
The insult didn’t faze her one bit. She had heard much worse in her run as captain.
“We will cook it until it pops and then offer it to our makers for the future success of our people.”
“I am aware of that. But that egg is the Malashin heir.”
“Which is why it makes a perfect sacrifice.”
She glanced at Scen.
He cleared his throat. “If any harm comes to that egg, the Malashin Hive will decimate this planet and all of the other planets in your holding.”
The chief’s antennae went still.
“This is not an idle threat.” said the Captain. “I know the Malashins. I have done business with them before. I know them. Their promises are their word are their law. They will come. Your race will cease to be.”
His six eyes focused on Scen. “Is this true?”
“Yes. Every word.”
The chief thought it over. “Very well. If you can find it, it’s all yours. If not, all mine.”
Captain Blissama frowned. “That sounds too easy. How much time are you granting us?”
His antennae flicked happily. “Little femma has some smarts, after all. Five standard minutes. Starting now.”
There was no time to argue about it.
Captain Blissama pulled Scen aside. “Think fast. Where would you hide an egg that you intend to sacrifice?”
“Somewhere no one could find it.”
“Or steal it.”
“Time’s ticking, little femma.” said the chief.
Scen winced. “Even with these suits on, it’s too hot. Too hot to think.”
“Tick. Tick. Tick.”
Captain Blissama scowled at Chief Haggan.
Then, she noticed several details all at the same time.
The chief was seated.
His robes were spread around him as if he were a little kid trying to hide something under his blankets.
He had remained seated through their whole conversation.
It was unbearably hot in his inferno dwelling.
Hot enough to cook an egg.
She jabbed a point at him. “You’re sitting on it!”
His antennae flattened. “Little femma is too smart.” He stood. “Take it. According to our agreement, it’s all yours.”
Name: Captain Anex Blissama
Place: Captain’s Quarters aboard the star blaster Igminom
Well. Mission accomplished.
We found the egg and delivered it safely to the Malashin Hive. I can only hope that the embryo is still viable.
He wants me to open up about my breaking point.
I’m not ready.
Captain Blissama sat back in her seat as her door buzzed. “Enter.”
Scen entered her quarters. “Captain.”
“I understand it is difficult for you to talk about what happened. I just want you to know that when you’re ready to talk about it, tell me. Talk to me. I will listen and I won’t judge you. I promise.”
She smiled at her First Mate. “Thank you, Scen. One of these days, I’ll take you up on that offer. I’ll tell you everything.”