3.4

Vortran found Yik lurking just outside the doorway to the control room, holding a couple bottles of water. He was staring intently at Sam, who was still at the controls, and drinking from another identical bottle. Vortran took one of the bottles out of Yik’s hands and opened  it to take a sip. He quickly covered the mouth of the bottle with his hand and shook his head at her, gesturing for her to be quiet. She put the lid back on the bottle and inspected it warily.

Sam slipped out of his seat suddenly, knocking the bottle to the floor and spilling its contents.

“What did you do to him?” Vortran glared at Yik suspiciously as he propped Sam up in the corner and started cleaning up the spill.

“He needed sleep, and I am helping. Always carry quick sleep pills for long trips.” He took all three bottles into the kitchen and poured them out in the sink, “He will wake up rested and extra happy after we land.”

Vortran climbed into the pilot seat to take over, yawning a little. Yik had let her sleep for a couple days, and Mark had barely been out of his room since the last stop. “Geez, you cut it close with that, we land in a couple hours.”

“It is very fast acting and he would not budge. Should I come with you when we land?”

Vortran shut her eyes for a second and shook her head, “No, I’m getting our supplies from an old friend of mine. She doesn’t like it when I bring friends.”

Yik seemed to accept this explanation and left her to drive, retreating into the kitchen again.

***

When they finally landed Yik positioned himself in the open doorway, where a pleasant breeze blew over the rocky ground. The spaceport was at the far end of where Vortran needed to go, and she hefted her backpack over one shoulder, making her way through a sea of knees. As she passed a group of vendor stalls she snatched a trinket away from an inattentive shopkeep and shoved it in her bag out of instinct. The crowd lessened quickly past the stalls, turning into small shops and then nicer and more exotic shops. The scent of coffee filled the air and Vortran made her way to the source. It was a new shop, offering some rare and exotic flavored teas and coffees. Sam had always preferred tea to the hard stuff, and Vortran had a sneaking suspicion the kid would too. She picked out a little sampler bag and paid for it, then ducked back out into the street, tucking it away in another pocket of the bag.

The far end of town had buildings spread farther apart, and at the very end was the shop she wanted. A one story building with almost no windows, that looked rather like a ridiculously thick waffle. She went around to the side door and reached up to knock, but it jerked open immediately and the six foot lizard lady on the other side pulled her in roughly.

“Oh, girl, it’s so good to see you!” She had Vortran in a vice like hug and shook her around a bit.

“It’s good to see you too, Max, but you’re gonna snap me in two if you keep this up.” Vortran wheezed a little and Max set her down on the floor again.

“Sorry it’s just been so long, what brings you to the neighborhood?”

“I…” Vortran hesitated, trying to find the right explanation, “I need info and an invite to the shifter market.”

Her friend’s expression grew serious and her tone dropped, “I thought you weren’t into that kind of stuff. It’s bad business girl.”

“Not for me… I’m not looking to get into that mess. Trying to help out on a rescue mission here.”

“Whoever you know who got themselves stuck in the fights ain’t getting out pretty, you know that.”

“It’s a kid.”

Max’s expression softened, “Oh.”

“It’s Sam’s kid.” Vortran looked down at the floor.

“I told you that man was nothing but trouble, girl!” Max threw up her hands, “I don’t know what you see in him. Every time you see him he breaks your heart. You know he doesn’t think of you like that but you keep melting all over him like a pup. He’s too reckless and he’s gonna hurt you for real because you can’t just let him go!” She was digging around in drawers as she ranted, and finally returned to Vortran with a little black computer disc. Vortran was still staring down at the ground and said nothing, “So… Sam’s got a kid?”

“Yeah… remember the rugrat we found last time I saw him?”

Max hissed angrily through her teeth, “Fucking bastard, takes in a foundling but he can’t bother to even notice you. I’m telling you now he’s just gonna hurt you again.”

“I know, Max.” Vortran climbed into a nearby chair and slumped down, “But he was so broken up about losing her. We had to drug him on the way here ‘cause he hadn’t slept in days.”

“Don’t go getting your hopes up, even if you find the kid he’ll probably just ditch you again. And if you don’t find the kid…” Max left the thought hanging in the thick air of the shop.

“I’m not expecting anything to change, that’s not why I’m doing this… I just…” Vortran looked down at the black disc in her hand and slid it in a pocket with the tea, “I want him to be happy.”

Max opened up another drawer and pulled out a cobalt blue bottle, handing it to Vortran, “After this, if you want to try finally telling him, this may help. Just don’t pilot anything afterwards, not even autopilot.”

“Thanks, Max.”

“Come back and cry on my shoulder when he breaks your heart again, girly.” Max held the door open and Vortran shouldered her bag again, heading back on the long walk to the ship.

The trip was just long enough that she’d composed herself by the time she reached the vendor stalls again. She paused at the inattentive owner’s table and dug in her bag, putting the trinket back where it had been stealthily. “Haven’t changed, my ass.”

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