Haley nodded, “Will it be a problem if I keep the weapons console active? Someone might be out here.”
She wasn’t wrong. The first time we’d flown out to the gate it had been partly to take the jet into space and partly because we could make out without worrying about being interrupted. That did not work out as planned. We’d been interrupted by an alien AI that wanted to piggyback on our ship to get out of the system, supers monitoring the area, and a small but multiple ship battle near the gate.
“It’s probably a good idea. It’s not weird at all to find local ships with their weapons active near a gate. You never know who’s going to come through.”
I looked toward the gate. We’d traveled a distance even since we’d started talking. A massive circle of silvery alien technology hung in the middle of space. Not far from it floated a huge, gray sphere that definitely wasn’t a moon, it’s smooth surface was free of the inevitable asteroid craters. Despite its superficial resemblance to Star Wars’ Death Star, it also lacked any obvious weapons. Being the creation of the Xiniti, I wouldn’t have been surprised to discover that it could blow up a planet despite that.
In my head and on a screen on the dashboard, we received a communication from Hal.
[Communication initiated by the Really Big Camel. Request that you match velocities for passenger transfer.]
“I’ll come around and match speeds,” I said, calculating the best route to do that in my head, my implant gathering information from the ship’s control systems.
Within seconds, I changed the jet’s direction, swerving to my left and then coming around, finding ourselves matching speeds with the cargo ship.
Haley watched the jet’s sensors and looked over at me, “You’re much better at this with the implant.”
She grinned, “We didn’t have any time to make out this time.”
I looked over at her, “We barely had any last time.”
As she laughed, we matched the cargo ship’s speed and direction and got as close to it as I dared without attempting to land on it. I hoped this was good enough.
I didn’t even have time to wonder about that as lines shot out of the cargo ship’s hull, hitting the jet around the door. Within seconds, a filmy substance extended from the lines on the ends, filling the spaces with a transparent layer of goo.
Moments later, the jet contacted me again.
[Ship to ship docking completed. Air pressure equalized. Cargo ship has notified me that the their airlock is about to open for the passengers.]
I barely had time to register that passenger now had an “s” on the end when the sensors registered both Kals and Katuk walking down the passageway toward the jet. Kals wore a green spacesuit with a transparent helmet that extended out of the main part of her spacesuit. Through the helmet, I could see her light brown skin, black hair and enough of her face that I knew it was her. Katuk, by contrast, wore silver Xiniti armor that in its most powerful version wasn’t much different from a small warship.
I doubted Katuk wore that version—though I couldn’t know it. Still, he wasn’t high up in Xiniti society. It wasn’t likely.
Ignoring that thought and all the memories I had of both of them and the time that we’d spent on Hideaway fighting for our lives together, I opened the airlock.
I opened it a little early. They were still more than ten feet away, but there wasn’t much of a wait. Soon enough, Kals and Katuk stepped into the airlock. It wasn’t a large one—barely big enough for the two of them to stand next to each other with no room behind them.
Almost the moment the door behind them shut, the sensors reported that it was safe to open the door on our side, allowing the two of them into the cabin.
Through the implant, I felt the dock remove its tethers from the side of the ship and saw through the sensors as the four lines and filmy walls merged into one line and withdrew into the cargo ship.
Even as part of my brain saw that, another turned the ship toward Earth and began to accelerate, all of those parts working directly through my implant. The rest of me turned around in my seat as Haley did the same, watching as Kals’ spacesuit absorbed her helmet. She smiled and I noticed another detail about her that I hadn’t thought of in a while—nothing about her hair or the makeup I assumed she was wearing was out of place or smudged.
It was just as noticeable here as it had been out of place in a backwater colony out past the edge of civilization.
Next to her, Katuk’s helmet also melted into his suit, revealing that he, like every other Xiniti, looked like “the grays” in Earth’s alien conspiracy theories—gray skin, big heads, and big, black eyes. The major difference between the reality and the theory was that the Xiniti had a mouthful of sharklike teeth and warrior culture while the grays seemed to spend a lot of time abducting people and using anal probes on them.
Kals, meanwhile, had stopped looking at us to glance around the jet. Turning back to us, she said, “It’s been so long since I—we’ve—been in here. I can’t believe it.”
She smiled again, walking to the front to take a seat in the first row behind the cockpit. “Nick, I’m so glad to see you.”
Before I could reply, she looked past me to my right and continued, “Am I right in guessing that you’re Haley? I’m Kals.”