Nico noticed the little girl as she pressed herself against the glass window of his antique store. She stared with intent but when he smiled, she didn’t smile back.
He returned to his work but looked up over the wire-rim of his glasses as the bell above the door tinkled. The little girl strode in, black braid swishing behind her, followed by a frazzled woman.
“Annie, wait,” the woman said, but the girl ignored her. Instead she stopped at the end of the counter to focus on the project in front of Nico.
“The layover was only two years.”
Hazel let out a breath and crinkled her already wrinkled forehead. “He told me about it.”
Keira bounced her newborn child, more to calm herself than to calm the baby. “We’re newlyweds. How could he die? Was there a malfunction in stasis?”
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.