“You won’t burn my wedding pictures.” I extended my hand, demanding the memory stick back.
“Naiomi, you plugged this into your work computer?” Carter ground his teeth while taking a deep breath, following it with a sigh. “I’ll have to run a full scan to see what kind of virus you’ve given it. You know the security policies. Your memory stick is now company property. You signed the same NDA we all signed. I’m throwing this memory stick into the incinerator.”
“They’re the only copy of my wedding pictures, and I need to get them off that stick.” I tossed my single, long, blond braid over my shoulder for effect. I doubted tossing my braid looked terrifying. Perhaps if I swung my head around and whipped him across the face with it.
“Wow. Well, never say you can’t trust a copper salt merchant,” Connor said.
Ayumi gave him an inquiring glance.
“Is that a common saying?”
“But what did they put it way out here for?” he continued, gesturing the screen where their ship’s camera focused in on the alien structure. “Two jumps in dead space, not so much as an asteroid within a parsec of it.”
“That might be a bit of an exaggeration,” Ayumi said, smiling, as she watched the telemetry unfold. “But, yes. You’re right. We never would’ve found it without the trail of rumors that began with a wine-sodden copper salt merchant.”
“Was he? I didn’t know there was a market for wine-sodden copper salts.”
The emissary of destruction awoke as his ship decelerated upon entry into the Grinaldi system. Though the calendar would say a dozen generations had passed since the Grinaldi had methodically, torturously, wiped out his homeworld those memories were fresh in his mind. For him, it had happened only days before.
His consciousness, the only part of him which had been able to make the journey, went immediately to work. He confirmed the computer’s accounting of the ship’s location and checked to ensure that the transmissions originating from the system’s large fourth planet were indeed Grinaldi.
His makers had argued whether a conscious mind was necessary for this mission. There had been some who felt computerized systems were all that the ship required, but others said such a device would be irresponsible, capable of accidentally wiping out other inhabitants if they had overrun Grinald in the centuries between the launch of this ship and its arrival.
His irregular blood pump sped up in reaction to the silence. Wind should have filled the sails. Instead, they hung limp—dead. With no wind in the sails, Allen sat perfectly parallel to the cutter’s mast. Green pre-dawn starlight glinted off the reflective surface of the glass flats surrounding him and the cutter. Pre-dawn calm on the Lacus Glass Flats meant death. The cutter’s long skates made no “skitting” sound, completing the terrifying silence.