Inspired by the prompt: What did that jackass do now?
“I haven’t been this color since I was a kid.” I glanced at my arms and chest. The locals wore tight vests but I preferred to leave mine off whenever I wasn’t in the small town. The tight squeeze brought back bad memories, but they faded more and more.
Danie put his arm next to mine. “I am still the same color. The locals look at me funny.”
“That’s probably something to do with the nanotechnology they implanted in you, not your skin. And the locals look at you funny because that kid caught you and Freska with her fingers all ending with wires and shoved into your neck and stuff.” I raised my eyebrows. “Not exactly blending in.”
“Like you and Captain don’t attract attention,” Danie said. “And what about when Deke blew that giant hole near the road?”
So none of them had really done a good job avoiding the locals, but at least the universe at large wasn’t knocking down their doors. Freska had littered the night sky above them with some minders, as she called them, that Danie had helped her camouflage. They’d have warning if someone came calling that wasn’t on the usual list of traders or planet hoppers.
“So what are you building today and why are you outside to do it?” Danie curled up in the shade of a striped tree with wide, triangular branches covered in soft, fuzzy leaves in yellow and red. He crushed one between his fingers, releasing its distinct pepper scent to ward off the flying bugs starting to descend as the first sun faded.
I’d begun to tinker, as Captain put it, with different things. I liked fixing stuff, but I liked making things even more. The kids on this planet didn’t have it as bad as we’d had it growing up, but they didn’t have a lot either. I could make toys, little things out of metal and gears, things scavenged from the ship or even things others threw out.
It got where people were already bringing me anything metal they found in trade for an eventual finished product to give as gifts, even the adults.
“I like it outside.” I shrugged one shoulder, using the tiny torch to weld on another scale. “And I needed my inspiration.”
“It ran away when you came. Don’t turn your head, but glance off to your left.”
“Stay calm,” I said quietly when Danie froze, his chest not even moving.
“How did I not see that running away?”
“Dunno. I think it’s got some sort of ability. It’s been coming closer since the second day we were here.”
“What is it? Does Captain Querry know?”
See, and that was where I was having an attack of conscience. I hadn’t told him about my visitor. I wasn’t able to get a glimpse of it for weeks on end, just sense it. How’d he take me thinking something was stalking me? I’d get locked inside and he’d bring Deke in to hunt it.
That couldn’t happen. Then I’d caught a glimpse of it stealing my lunch one day. The next day I brought two lunches. Since then it let me see it every day, coming closer and closer. The toy was my way of showing Captain without telling him.
“I’m making the toy as a surprise for him.” The creature had melted back into the shadows, but I didn’t need to see it to make the rest of the long, plated tail. Just two more pieces to put together.
“Nice.” Danie blinked. “Where is he today? Captain?”
“Dealing with Deke.”
“What did that jackass do now?”
“Nothing as far as I know?” I shrugged. “He’s just making the rounds.”
“Oh. Well, I’ve bugged you long enough today, I guess. Freska said she’d take me in to the market today for more ingredients. If you guys want to come over for last meal after the next sunset, I’m making enough.”
“Thanks. We’ll comm you.” If Captain wasn’t freaking out or starting a hunt. No. I looked up, holding the last scale now, and made a silent vow. I didn’t know what my visitor was, or why it was there, but I knew it wasn’t to harm me.
Captain was screaming and so not convinced. “Fire breathers, Kohen. And it’s not from this planet. So who or what brought it here?”
“That sweet scent. That’s what it is!” I remembered it, from way back when Lakshou had taken me off the ship to the planet when the flame wasps had attacked us. “I knew I’d smelled it before!”
I explained about that uninhabited planet and the large beasts Lakshou had told me about, the ones that weren’t a threat. “So, see, it won’t hurt me.”
He snorted. “You believe anything he said? Besides, I ask again, how did it get here? You aren’t safe. Deke should—”
“See, I told Danie that you would say that. No! No hunting it. No hurting it. I won’t let you lock me away for my own safety.” I stood up and frowned as I stared down at Captain. “You trust my instincts for other things, why not this?”
Before he could answer, I spun and walked outside. I didn’t care if the second sun was going down, bringing down the darkest night the planet had. I didn’t care that we had plans for dinner with Danie and Freska.
And for the first time, I learned that not only did the sun make the scales on my creature sparkle, but it literally glowed in the dark where it was curled up outside below the window into our room. I glanced at the front door; Captain hadn’t followed me.
“Come on, Sparkles, it’s not safe,” I whispered.
Then I got to hear its voice. It trilled and twisted, following me but staying in the bushes to my left. Then I stopped and sat. “Sparkles? Am I imagining the way you understand me?”
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