“My sister is intrigued by the possibilities and says she can have one of the spaceborn she’s studying meet you enroute to Aletheia as she’s already on her way there,” Airini said. “I’ve met her a time or two. Her name’s Kyla and she’s an exploration navigator out of Vaia.”
“Ugh, Vaia,” Amanpreet said. “That place is like some kind of historical throwback to the worst of history. Is she a religious nut? Every Vaian I ever met was trying to convert me to their sect, and last time we went there the Whisper had to leave rapidly because they didn’t like my books.”
“Hah!” Airini said. “I know what you mean, but no Kyla’s not a Child of Masari – about ten percent of their population isn’t. She’s Wiccan I think. She got into navigating to get away from the pressure to convert and they let her because she’s so bloody good at it.” She tutted to herself. “The Council is finally trying to do something about the Vaian government. They should have acted years ago. Theocracy is supposed to be illegal. That’s why Kyla’s on her way to Aletheia – she’s been asked to give evidence about the treatment of non-believers.”
“It’s a nice thought,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œBut Vaia is so resource rich so no one wants to annoy them.”
“Oh, they’ll be plenty annoyed if the Mez get their way on a response to Vaia’s latest round of laws favouring the Children,” Midori said. “The Tkin and Kska are both rather bemused by Vaia but the Mez recognise that particular rot as well as humans do.”
“What do they want to do? Sanctions?” Amanpreet said.
“A bit more extreme than that,” Midori said. “It’s a blockade and they say they’ll do it themselves if the Council won’t.”
“Buh. That would…” She trailed off and bit her lip. Vaia was rich in rare mineral resources but not yet fully bioformed – it couldn’t support its population without regular food imports. “I’m not sure that’s moral.”
“Me neither,” Midori agreed. “But we’re getting distracted. You meet Kyla and Airini’s sister enroute to Aletheia and test out if she can hear the Fish – does it have a name? It’s a person it should have a name. We can’t keep calling it the Fish.”
Umi translated that for Storm whose tentacles rippled in a Mez nod before she replied. Umi tapped out her answer on the keyboard.
“She says she asked and it told her it has a name in the songs of its people that doesn’t really translate but pilots who work with it call it… well it’s in an old language but would roughly translate as Promise.”
“Promise is a nice name,” Midori said. “Let’s call it that if it’s amenable.”
â€œI imagine it will be,â€ Umi said. â€œBut we’ll check.â€
Kyla’s vessel turned out to be a typical exploration ship. One of the smallest class of Stick barely a eighth of the size of the Whisper with much of it taken up by the navigation dome. The shielded accommodation outside the dome would fit three people, or four at squeeze, probably a couple of scientists and a backup navigator. There would certainly be no home comforts… and Sangat wondered why Amanpreet would not become an exploration navigator.
Sticks were designed to dock easily, virtually merging into one another, so it was only a few minutes before Kyla was requesting permission to come aboard. Amanpreet granted it and hurried to greet her and Airini’s sister.
â€œHi,â€ the shorter of the two women, who strongly resembled Airini with her long dark hair and bronze skin, extended her hand. â€œI’m Haetara. You must be Amanpreet.â€
â€œI am.â€ Amanpreet shook her hand before turning to the other woman. â€œAnd you must be Kyla.â€
â€œYes.â€ Kyla smiled warmly. With her pale skin and blonde hair she reminded Amanpreet a bit of Kane though he didn’t have family on Vaia that she knew. â€œDoctor Parata has explained your theory. I’m intrigued to see if it’s true because I have heard music in hyperspace a few times and thought it was a hallucination.â€
â€œWe’ll soon find out,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œPromise is going to sing as soon as we jump back into the hyperspace. We’ll have to share the dome â€“ it’ll be a touch crowded.â€
â€œI’m used to crowded.â€ Kyla shrugged. â€œBut can you bring me up to speed on what’s been going on? We only have part of the story.â€
â€œOf course,â€ Amanpreet said and explained the events leading up to them meeting Promise as she lead them to the bridge.
â€œWhoo!â€ Kyla exclaimed when Amanpreet finished just as they reached the bridge. â€œThat’s quite a story. Someone should write a mesh serial about this. It’d be a hit.â€
Amanpreet stared at her for a moment then shook her head. â€œI’d rather not.â€
â€œAm prefers her fiction classic,â€ Niobe said from the engineer’s chair. â€œYou should see her cabin. It’s full of twentieth century science fiction.â€
â€œNothing wrong with twentieth century science fiction,â€ Kyla said. She eyed the ladder to the navigation dome. â€œBut let’s get on with this. I really want to know if you’re right.â€