Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1 - Cover

Volume III of Legacy: Black Star, Part 1

Copyright© 2023 by Uruks

Chapter 11: Ryan Loves it in Space (Ironic Statement)

The creature is also very old. Some research suggests that it may be older than many planets. At times, it also emits energy outputs greater than stars. I will have to be careful going forward. The research team must establish the creature’s habits so that we may properly extract DNA samples. Live capture would be preferable, but highly unlikely. But if I can just get a big enough piece, that should be enough.

Being on a spaceship felt weird, but Ryan wished that weird was the only thing he felt at the moment. Like most things associated with the Fire Ministry, the compartment that served as his quarters was lined with red and gold metal. His bed wasn’t luxurious, but comfortable enough with a simple gray blanket and pillow. He took his armor off a while back, wearing only the red uniform of a Second with the insignia of the Ministry of Fire on the back. Ryan’s Psionic Armor lay on the corner desk with pouches of his Sun Gems thrown haphazardly around it and some even on the floor. His room was dark with the lights from the ship hallways as his only source of illumination. Every once in a while, crewmen in red uniforms or full-body Psionic Armor would pass him by. He heard that the ones in the full-body suits would sometimes fly along the vessel as escorts. At some point, Ryan might’ve marveled at the idea of flying through space in a spacesuit, but he was too distracted by other thoughts.

Ryan lay on his back dejectedly in his bed while staring up at the ceiling. He was beginning to wonder if he would ever get up. He was beginning to wonder about a lot of things. He should have been excited about a trip this important. He should have been ecstatic. But all he could think about was Éclair and their fight that somehow turned into the worst love confession in history. Neither one had spoken since it happened. Their trip had already lasted a few days, and the only thing he’d done was sit in his room and mope. He and Éclair had plenty of arguments in the past, but he had never gotten that angry at her before, and she had never looked so hurt. Éclair’s unrelenting adoration for Leon was annoying enough, but what was the worst part of all was that she still couldn’t remember the most important moments that she and Ryan shared together. Like the time when they first met when they were children, or the time when he took a knife for her from Silvia Slithe. Or the time that they were captured by the Fallen, and she was so frightened that she actually hugged him.

Things seemed to be going well. That sparring match we had at the exams felt like we had some real chemistry going. Just when I feel like we’re making some kind of emotional connection, she goes making out with Leon and starts treating me like a nuisance again.

Ryan raised up his hand and looked long and hard at his scaled skin. Ryan had never regretted the way he looked. His father and mother had always taught him to never be ashamed of who he was. And being with Grafael actually made Ryan feel proud of his Saurian heritage. However, Ryan began to wonder if Éclair would look at him any differently if he didn’t have scales.

Face it, jackass, thought Ryan to himself as he kept staring at his golden-scaled hand with fingernails long enough to almost resemble claws. This is all Éclair will ever see when she looks at you. It’s all anyone will ever see, because the truth is that it’s all there is to see. No use crying about it, so you might as well just get used to it.

“I just wish she could remember,” Ryan whispered softly to himself.

“Remember what?” asked a quiet voice in the darkness.

Ryan turned to see Éclair standing in the doorway to his chambers. She looked a little embarrassed and uncomfortable, but no less beautiful with her nearly pale skin, violet eyes, feline face, and silver-gray hair. She wore a simple blue dress with red trimmings and a gold metal pendant attached to the chest showing the lion and the dragon of the Fire Ministry facing one another. The dress was perfectly fitted to her tall, flawless figure, with tight sleeves that went down to her hands. Under the skirts, he could just barely see white leather boots. The boots seemed out of place with the elegant dress, but for Éclair it made perfect sense. Even if she couldn’t wear armor, she would prefer footwear she could fight in if need be.

Ryan turned away from her angrily, all the hurt and loneliness coming back to him all at once. “Nothing. Doesn’t anyone knock anymore?”

“I’m sorry,” apologized Éclair, and she sounded sincere. “Really I am. I was just passing by on my way to the bridge, and I saw that your door was open. I just thought...”

Éclair stopped for a moment and sighed deeply. “I just thought that I didn’t want to leave things where they were. I couldn’t.”

Ryan scoffed slightly. Even though he knew that she was just trying to reconcile things, he still wanted to stay angry at her. If he didn’t stay angry with her, then he might start hoping for something more in their relationship, and that was a disappointment he couldn’t risk feeling again. It would just hurt too much when he remembered what she really thought of him.

“Didn’t think you cared that much,” said Ryan cynically. “Not that it will make any difference when we finish this little errand and get back to Romeo. Then I’ll be yesterday’s news once again.”

“That’s not fair,” responded Éclair indignantly as she took a step into his quarters. “So, I’m with Leon now. So, that bothers you. What do you expect me to do? I’ve loved him for years since before I even met you, and you think I’ll give that up because you got your feelings hurt? Grow up and stop acting like a jilted lover, Ryan. You and I only just got acquainted less than two years ago, so don’t-”

“See! That’s the problem!” cut in Ryan tensely as he sat up in his bed so fast that it made Éclair flinch slightly. “You didn’t just meet me a couple of years back. We met a long time ago when we were kids way before Leon ever showed up.”

“What are you talking about?” she said in confusion and annoyance.

“Stop pretending like you don’t remember!” growled Ryan, clenching his bedpost so hard that the metal creaked, bending in on itself from the strain. “You were a little girl lost in the woods on the Elven colony world. I found you and led you to a meadow where we played with these weird little woodland creatures. Then I played a trick on you, and you got mad and ran off. That’s when you fell off the cliff and I caught you, Éclair. I ... I caught you. You honestly don’t remember any of that?”

Ryan was pleading with her, begging her to acknowledge even for a moment that it happened, that it was more than just a dream. But Éclair’s only response was that same bewildered expression.

Ryan grabbed his hair and grunted in barely suppressed fury. “What is wrong with you? How do you just forget something like that? That was one of the last kind-of-happy moments of my life before my world went straight to hell! And now you’re telling me that, as far as you know, it never even happened!”

“Ryan,” said Éclair timidly, clearly uncomfortable with how upset Ryan was becoming. “I don’t know what to say.”

Ryan sighed in defeat, the last vestiges of his passion dissolving into cold acceptance. “Well, I do. I’m leaving Squad 99. I’m transferring to a new squad as soon as we get back to the Ministry. Preferably one off-planet in the outer territories.”

“What?” exclaimed Éclair with a head-jerk of surprise. “You can’t be serious.”

“Look. You and I both know it’ll be better for everyone at this point. Especially you and Leon since I’ll be itching to kick his ass the longer I stay.”

“Ryan! Just ... just stop for a moment, please,” stammered Éclair. “Let’s just think about this for a second. After everything we’ve been through together ... everything we’ve survived ... everything we’ve overcome. Gregory. The Goblins. The Exams. The Fallen, for goodness sake! We survived all that and we did it together, and you just want to walk away for something as petty as this?”

Éclair’s voice was actually starting to break a little. She wasn’t crying, but she was getting very emotional. It touched Ryan to know that at some level, Éclair cared that much for him. Unfortunately, he knew that she didn’t care enough for it to matter.

“This isn’t just a spur-of-the-moment decision,” replied Ryan, looking down at his feet as he was finding it more difficult to look Éclair in the eye. “I’ve been thinking about it for a long time now. Ever since our fight with the Fallen. And I really do think it’s what’s best for everyone.”

“How could you think that, Ryan?” pleaded Éclair. “You, me, Grafael, and yes, even Leon ... everyone back home at the Fire Ministry, we’re a family now. At least ... at least I thought we were becoming one.”

“You thought wrong, Éclair,” said Ryan, his voice dead with coldness. “My family died years ago. And I’m not looking to have another one.”

Éclair stared silently at Ryan for a few moments. The tension in the air was palpable enough to cut through it with a knife.

Finally, after seconds that seemed like hours, Éclair said softly, “You don’t mean that. You can’t mean that.”

“I do mean it,” said Ryan, strengthening his resolve despite how painful this conversation was becoming. “Think about it. The only reason I joined the Ministry was to get revenge on whoever killed my parents. How can I do that if I’m too busy playing around with everyone? How can I do that if I’m too busy swooning after a girl who could only ever see me as just ... as just a scaly little monster?”

Ryan’s face twitched and his voice nearly broke. He closed his eyes and did his best to compose himself. Saying everything he just said took every ounce of his willpower and more. As much as Ryan had probably hurt Éclair with his words, those same words were equally painful to speak.

They just stood like that for a few moments; Éclair looking down at Ryan, and Ryan looking down at the floor. Fortunately, the intercom came on at that exact moment, breaking the silence.

“Attention ambassadors. We are coming up on our destination. Please report to the bridge immediately.”

“That’s us,” said Ryan in a quiet, subdued tone. “Let’s get this over with.”

Ryan slowly moved past Éclair while she continued staring silently at the wall. As Ryan walked away, he tried to keep from looking back, but he just couldn’t help himself. Hoping that she would be looking at him, Ryan saw Éclair walking away in the opposite direction.

Ryan and Éclair arrived at the bridge at the same time despite taking alternate routes. Éclair would not even look at him. He doubted that she would ever really look at him again. The bridge was a large multilevel chamber with gold and red walls. It was a round room with a tall, wide golden dais where the captain overlooked a huge round display window as wide as a small house. Technicians, pilots, and engineers floated above and around the captain on red metal desks while working on consoles with yellow glowing holographic schematics. Around and beneath the dais were walking areas where dozens of Elemental guards in full-body Psionic Armor patrolled.

The display window – which reminded Ryan of the window in the Fire Minister’s office – showed darkness and countless soft glowing white stars for a little while. Then Ryan saw a number of ships come into view on the display. He couldn’t tell how big they were, and they were too far off to make out many details, but they vaguely resembled big black beetles to him.

As Ryan appraised the bridge and the approaching vessels, Éclair walked past him tersely. Her contempt for him was evident in her every step as her long, shiny hair swayed roughly from her footsteps.

She hates me now. At least I can be certain of that. No wondering or second-guessing about that feeling. I suppose it’s better this way with Grafy’s vision and my murder hormones acting up every time Leon gets close to her. I never had a chance against Leon anyway. The guy wears glasses and somehow manages to keep them on while killing people. I can’t top that!

“Captain Freed. Are the Insectoids in range of the transmission?” asked Éclair professionally, all emotion displayed earlier was gone, hidden behind an impenetrable mask of composure.

“Yes, Ambassador Kaves,” replied a middle-aged dark bearded man wearing the red uniform and gray pants of Fire Spacers with the stripes of a Third displayed on his shoulder. “They just arrived a few moments before you showed up.”

“All the shipments have been surveyed thoroughly, I trust. It might sour future relations if the first trading mission meets any complications?” she asked respectfully, but with authority.

Captain Freed gave a disarming smile and a polite bow of his head. “Don’t worry, Ambassador. We Fire Spacers know our business well. Regular commissions like yourselves don’t spend that much time in space, but for us, it’s a way of life.”

His tone was confident, but also accommodating. It was a little strange. Captain Freed was a Third Level Elemental, and Éclair and Ryan were both Seconds, so technically, he did outrank them. But for this special trade and negotiation mission, Minister Kaves had given Éclair and Ryan temporary, but honorary statuses as ambassadors, giving them command over the ship. As far as Ryan could tell, the captain had no problems taking orders from Éclair despite the fact that she was much younger and less experienced. Though he probably wouldn’t show the same courtesy if Ryan was the one giving orders.

“I didn’t mean any reproach, Captain. So please forgive me if any was inferred. As this is my first negotiation mission, I simply wish to check all my bases,” Éclair offered gently.

“And you would hardly be the Fire Minister’s ward if you did any less,” the captain said just as gently.

Éclair turned to the display window. “And our Flame Fighter and Astronaut escorts ... they’ve reported nothing out of the ordinary?”

“Nothing at all, my lady,” replied the captain politely. “Remember the Insectoids have a great deal of respect for the Kaves family, which is one of the reasons that you were selected for this mission. It has been a long time since we’ve exchanged goods like this, but I don’t expect there to be any trouble. The Insectoids protect this portion of space well, and their relationship with the Ministry of Fire has been friendly enough in recent years. However, it can be difficult understanding them sometimes. Insectoid languages don’t translate very well with the computers, I hope you know.”

Éclair showed nothing but grace for the subtle challenge as she said in a confident tone, “Thank you, Captain. I am aware. I’ve been briefed on all the conditions of this mission. Though I have studied their languages thoroughly in the past, I did brush up on the dialect that their ambassador favors. Please rest assured, just as you and your men are prepared for your duty, I am prepared for mine.”

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