Malik Wescott

You are reading: Endless Stars

Written by Starwarsfreak117 on 25 Oct 2017 21:15.

Though the light was fading, the docks still bustled. Crowds of passengers dotted the
district, and between them wove trains of crewmen still in the process of loading and
unloading their ships. Foremen barked orders at their underlings, and taximen called
for their passengers, holding up signs and gesticulating wildly. The whole thing was
a tangled mass of bodies and noise, radiating heat and stink.

Malik hardly noticed. His column of black of gold cut right through the mundanity
of the docks, and he led the way, unimpeded, to his new assignment.

Though Malik would never admit it, the expedition was an answer to hundreds of
furtive prayers to whatever deity happened to be listening. He was a soldier, which
meant he carried himself with discipline, following his orders without question or
complaint. He fought for his country. Killed for his country. Died for his country.

But it was peacetime… and Malik was a soldier.

When news of this expedition surfaced, he was prepared to call in every favor he had
to ensure his regiment was selected to accompany the venture. It offered the first real
chance at action he'd seen since the end of the First Uranopan War.

Malik considered the seven years since V-day, and his hands clenched. Seven long
years of nothing. It grated on him.

But he had refused to let it show, because he was, ironically, a solider.

A circle of deckhands stepped aside to let Malik pass, and suddenly there it was: The
Noctis Accipiter.

The ship was beautiful. It hardly looked like it had been sailing for over four years.
Though Malik reminded himself it wasn't a war vessel, and this, their mission, was
not in the interest of combat.

Calling his men to a halt, Malik continued up the gangplank alone. Stepping aboard,
he nearly collided with a cabin boy, who muttered hasty apologies before actually
turning to look at the offended party. Seeing Malik in his captain's dress, the boy's
eyes grew wider than Malik would have thought possible. The boy offered a clumsy
salute, as if he wasn't sure whether or not it was the appropriate response. A nod
from Malik and the boy was gone, before he could even be asked to point in the
direction of the Captain's quarters.

Ultimately it was unnecessary, as Amalia Vega, Captain of the Noctis Accipiter, and
Malik's personal savior, had been informed of the regiment's arrival, and chose that
moment to appear.

"Welcome aboard Mr. Wescott."

"Sir!"

Vega met the salute with raised eyebrows, and turned away to hide a smile. "At ease
Mr. Wescott. You're a Captain yourself, no need for pleasantries."

"Perhaps. Though not of this vessel."

"Well I see the stories got that part right," the Captain said with a chuckle. Turning
away she motioned for Malik to follow, and led him back in the direction from which
she'd entered.

"Which part would that be, Captain?"

A snort. "The part that describes you as a major hardass. After you." She pulled open
a door, and motioned for Malik to enter. He followed, waiting at attention as the
Captain shuffled some papers on her desk and took a seat.

"Well Mr Wescott. I hear you are never shy about suggesting ideas? How do you
intend to work with us? And for heaven's sake, loosen up a little!"

Malik let his hands hang at his sides, but changed little else. "I intend to do the job I
was sent here to do. Protect the ship. To do that, I'll need more information. I wasn't
given much regarding our assignment. Or the people involved."

"Then let me fill you in." Vega stood and again began to sift through the papers on
her desk, before plucking a sheaf from the pile and offering it to Malik.

"Here is a list of all my crew, supplies, weapons and machinery. Our exploration will
take us through the galaxy, to the Alatheia Nebula, and beyond."

Vega, who had been pacing, came around her desk to stand in front of Malik. "It is a
mission that is rarely attempted. I intend to be the first to succeed."

Malik busied himself with the papers, looking for some clue he could use to cover his
ignorance. He found none.

"Forgive me, but my talents lay outside the realm of astrology. Why isn't it
attempted? And more importantly, why do you think you can do it?"

The Captain launched into a grandiose speech, one that Malik suspected had been
prepared, rehearsed, and recited on numerous prior occasions. Caught up in her
lesson, Vega might have passed as a professor, with her gestures and exclamations.
At one point she even pulled down a map from the ceiling. Rehearsed or not, the
woman was clearly passionate about the subject.

"…A month and a half travelling through a space cloud is difficult enough. But when
we get to the other side, who knows what we may find? Ellin himself took nine
months just to travel there and back. And the nebula, well… he speculated it was
wider than anything we've ever seen."

Vega went silent for a long moment. The only sound in the room came from her
pointer, which had been procured from somewhere inside her large coat. Staring at
her map, Vega idly tapped her chin with the long wooden stick.

"Captain?"

"Hm? Ah, right. Anyway, why do I think I can do it? If you need to ask that, Wescott,
you clearly haven't been listening to the right rumours about me."

Malik shrugged "I don't listen to any rumors. It's bad practice. Easiest way to
misjudge an enemy."

Vega gave the man a look, and, realizing what he'd said, he rushed to cover it. "I
mean… on the battlefield. My apologies."

Smiling, the captain waved away Malik's concern. "In the world of exploration it's
the easiest way to have your triumphs become legends."

Malik noticed a far away look take residence in the Captain's eyes. Turning away she
wandered over to gaze out the window.

"Of course, anyone who wishes for their triumphs to spread on everyone's lips, does
not explore for the right reason."

"And what is your reason, Captain?"

As if she were alone, Vega whispered her words, and a keen observer might have
noticed Malik lean forward ever so slightly, in an effort to hear the Captain.

"To reach out, across the endless stars, and discover something that no one has ever
seen before."

The moment that followed might have gone on for quite some time, but for a
shudder that rocked the airship, startling both Malik and the Captain from their
reverie.

"Blasted fools," cursed Vega."We can't afford any damages before we've even left
port. We're in for enough trouble as it is."

Malik perked up at this. "So you think there'll be trouble?"

"I hope not, but given that we are travelling such a great distance, there is no doubt
that we will come across something which requires your expertise. If not, I'm sure
you can learn to clean the ship like the best of them." Vega smirked, and waved a
hand, identifying the comment for the joke it was.

Malik hardly noticed. His mind was once again turning, thinking like the soldier he
was.

"You've captained this ship for what, four years? If the report was correct. And sailed
longer than that. No doubt you've made a few enemies in that time…"

"It's only to be expected" Vega said, coming away from the window. "But it is not my
enemies that I fear I will need your help with. It is more likely to be my fellow
explorers."

Though she was now moving about the room, rolling up maps and rearranging
papers, Malik noticed the wistful look was back in her eyes.

"Succeeding where Nathaniel Elin failed. Now that is a prize that some explorers
would kill for. Besides, we have to pass Praedonum on our journey. Planning for that
should take a good deal of your time."

"Pirate territory," Malik said, trying to keep an eager smile from his face.

"Quite."

Sensing the conversation was nearing its end, Malik straightened.

"Are there any other concerns I should know about Captain? Or shall I bring my men
aboard for inspection?"

"Not as far as I'm concerned. Bring them aboard. I want everyone, including yourself,
to work as if you are a part of my team. I am aware that you are separate, but it is
better for morale if everyone is seen to be working together."

Malik nodded, all too aware of the truth behind her words. "Very good, Captain."
The man turned to leave, but hesitated when he reached the door. For a second his
body went rigid, the soldier trying to reassert control, but it was to no avail.

"And… thank you, Captain."

Vega looked up, surprised. "For what?" she asked.

But Malik was already gone

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