“Wow…” The kid’s eyes were shining.
“I’ve never seen so much water.”
“Only planet with more of it than Earth,” Daigo told him, “and Earth has a lot.”
System Trifecta was home to Planet Triad, the home world to the top three vacation spots in the galaxy, according to most rankings. It was also ranked in the top ten most expensive planets in the galaxy.
Planet Triad only had three land masses, each a top vacation spot, each an island nation practically designed by men, from the ground up. Hence the name. The islands were so far apart they could only see two of them, at almost opposite ends of the face of the planet. The rest was water.
More importantly, however, the moon was coming around. Deep blue, it provided for quite the relaxing moonlight down on the planet but it made it harder to discern when in space.
“Does the moon have water?”
“If you take it there, sure.”
“You ever went to Triad?”
“To Triad?” Kiyin scoffed.
Daigo shook his head, “we can’t even afford grav disruptors and the kid thinks we can go to Triad.”
“No, Kyle, I’ve never gone,” Kiyin put in using a kind tone of voice. For some reason, Kiyin really liked the kid, she was about the only one in the ship that would consider him a very important crew member. Not even his sister really believed in him, she would be much happier if he just stayed in his room and didn’t get involved with any of the danger they face.
“Which island would you go to?” Kyle glared at the planet yearningly. “I’d go to Summer Island. I’ve never been to a beach, I hear it’s great.”
Daigo glanced at Kiyin who glanced back at him with a hint of compassion. The two brothers had had it rough and sad, but these little absent-minded comments hurt the most to hear.
“Keep your head straight, Kyle, and you will. I promise.”
“If we survive today,” Kiyin added.
“Like I said,” he smirked at her, turning the ship around to head towards the moon.
“That would be cool, can it be Summer Island?”
“Of course. Now can you go and cook us something? I’d like to eat before we leave for the moon.”
Kyle agreed and left with all the energy of a youngster, leaving Daigo behind to sigh as he looked towards the moon.
More deadly risks awaited him, one more job that could go wrong in so many ways.
“Don’t want to die on an empty stomach, huh?”
“You know me,” Daigo admitted. “You know, I have a bad feeling about this one.”
“Really?” Kiyin sounded concerned, “why go ahead with it then?”
“What am I? Psychic?” Daigo leaned back in his seat and let go of the controls, Kiyin would be enough from there on out. “I’m not about to turn away from this kind of pay just ‘cause my stomach’s acting up.”
“I have a bad feeling about it too, though.”
He folded his arms, “are you psychic?”
She rolled her eyes in response, her tentacles undulating in a near shrug.
He then allowed silence to settle. Next thing he knew, he was smiling. That was happening more and more, he would just be sitting in that cockpit next to Kiyin, and a comfortable silence would settle in. He would feel so much at home.
“Did you know Spinz reads books?”
“You’re the only one who doesn’t, Daigo.”
“No I mean, he has a physical book. As in paper.”
She threw Daigo a look.
“He doesn’t exactly hide it, of course I’ve seen it.”
“It’s so weird to see one right in front of me.” He felt an itch on his nose, promptly scratching it while adding “and Hannes also doesn’t read by the way.”
“Not really a good example, Daigo.”
He chuckled, that’s what Sára had said. But then Kiyin would know, she had been there.
“Heh…I keep finding out stuff about these guys even after so long. What about you, Kiyin? Is there anything I don’t know?”
She rolled her eyes again and shook her head. He didn’t know if that was impatience or an answer. “Who’re you taking with you?”
“Kyle and Hannes,” Daigo replied.
“In case you get boarded. If Kyle is here with Sára, and he gets hurt, that’s it, she gives up on us.”
“But if he’s with you, she’ll do her best to help us survive. So Kyle won’t be left alone.”
“And vice-versa,” he agreed, “Spinz and you can take care of anything that comes into the ship, long as you have her help, and Hannes can take care of any trouble we face outside.”
“You trust Hannes too much.”
“I trust his skill, you know his past.”
“So what if he’s ex-military, how’s that going to help if you’re stuck in a corridor with a dozen armed men with their sights on you?”
Daigo observed the moon slowly growing larger. Pretty soon, the landing satellite would come into view. “There’re about three ASTRALs known to the underworld that are still alive, and not actually still an ASTRAL. One’s a rumor, the other’s a pirate lord or whatever, and the third’s a merc. That’s him, Kiyin. He’s not just ex-military.”
“I know,” she said while wiping her forehead of sweat with one of the tentacles. That prompted him to turn a dial to lower the temperature of the room colder. “I’m just trying to say…he’s strong, not invincible.”
He snickered a bit, and in reaction, she frowned away in the embarrassing realization that was obviously something that needn’t be said.
He stood up, figuring the food was about ready. “Come with, Kiyin. Eat with the crew.”
“I–I have to bring us to approach.”
“It’ll take like an hour to get close enough for comms,” Daigo gently grabbed her shoulder, over the tentacle, and felt her shiver to the touch. “Come on.”
She relaxed in that familiar way that preceded compliance. Daigo knew she would go.
It wasn’t long before they were all spread around the table, pulling from the large pot Kyle had filled with a stew – or soup, Daigo wasn’t sure. It was good, as usual, and it included rice, so it was a bit better than usual.
“I guess this isn’t poisoned…” Sára complained, of course.
“Depends on your point of view, sis,” Kyle laughed it off, “I’m happy you like it.”
“It’s good stuff, kid,” Hannes complained, “reminds me of the army cantina.” He gave his joke two singular laughs but no one else really got it or even knew whether he actually meant it as a compliment or otherwise.
The conversation continued, amiable and pleasant.
Daigo was happy to see his crew interacting; mocking each other, sharing stories, getting to know more and more about one another. Hannes teased, Spinz killed jokes in a way it made them funnier. Sára never laughed and looked sad, but they had gotten so used to it now that it was a reason for humor and she didn’t seem to mind. Kiyin didn’t look sad as she did out of her element. She laughed along, reacted to the conversation, but never really put herself out there.
Daigo considered how she had always been a fish out of water. Left her planet nearly a decade before she was ready to, married to a man she had never gotten to know, who was as much of an outsider as one can be. The result was that she struggled to be nothing other than the pilot of the ship, trying to get her world to revolve around herself and the Hornet’s Nest.
He made an effort to convince her to not do that, he felt like it wasn’t what she really wanted, just what she felt like doing; it was funny how the two could so often be opposites.
“Guys,” Daigo called them all to attention. He wanted to talk to them about the mission, a small speech about how great they all were.
Alarms, however, cut him off.
The ship was alerting them they were being targeted by weapon systems.
“Argh, I told you I should be in the cockpit!!” Kiyin ran off to stave off their destruction. Daigo grunted a bit too nervously, he edged to follow but stopped himself, pointing at Sára.
“Sára, get to it,” he walked off, “right now!”
She sighed an agreement.
Daigo ran out to the hall and ran up the several flight of stairs. He knew by the sounds Kiyin was producing above him that she was two flights ahead of him.
When he finally caught up, she was already bringing the ship to a stop, multi-tasking a hail through to the sattelite.
“This is Hornet’s Nest, offering our deepest apologies! We were on auto-pilot and absent from the cabin. We have stopped our advance and request you un-target immediately. Over.”
Daigo sat down, smiling nervously back at Kiyin’s deadly look.
“What? You were having fun and didn’t notice the time pass by. That’s good, right?”
She looked aside flustered and he observed the main panel’s combat feedback while disengaging the general alarm system.
Then he saw they were un-targeted.
“Hornet’s Nest, this is the Wallace landing satellite. That was a very bad way to initiate contact. Over.”
“We offer our deepest apologies,” he smirked, “our autopilot’s been acting up. Over.”
“As in we don’t have one,” Kiyin whispered, almost making them both laugh. The stabilized forward thruster worked well enough in space, they had never bothered to get a proper system installed for autopiloting.
“Well, what is your business? Over.”
“Our business is with Mr. Wallace. We’re scheduled, over.”
Daigo released the radio and waited, nervous. He exchanged glances with Kiyin, who had her hand on the thruster, ready to high-tail it if anything went wrong.
“I’m afraid I don’t see anything for a Hornet’s Nest… maybe it’s under a different name? Over.”
Daigo’s brain tumbled around in his head, trying to find a natural way to gain time while at the same time trying to come up with what to do. Instead, he decided to trust Sára. She had, after all, never failed him.
“How did you write it? Over.”
“Nest of the Hornet. Over.”
“Ah, that’s the thing, it’s plural Hornets and then nest. Try that? Over.”
“What?” Kiyin reacted confused, but sure enough, the man was quick to reply.
“Acknowledged.” Daigo groaned in relief. “Sorry, we just wanted to make sure, you’re one hour ahead of time, after all. But it is here, so you are clear for approach, we’ll ready transport. Over.”
“Sure, uhh, Hornets Nest in approach. Over.”
Daigo coughed a laugh, trading a smile with Kiyin, mimicking her head shaking.
“Dang girl doesn’t even know the name of her own ship.”