I'm right in the middle of doing some fairly major editing overhauls in my "thriller" book (it's almost finished), so I've decided to post more of the sci-fi one.
Anyway... here it is. It has about one paragraph's worth of overlap from the last post so it won't seem quite so abrupt.
“Some help you are,” I grumbled, and awaited the landing. Renn piloted the craft into a small aperture in the side of the station, which closed the moment he landed inside. He sat very still for a moment after he unbuckled, and then he turned around to face me. His face was inscrutable, and all of a sudden, it looked very alien to me. I suppressed a shudder. What had I gotten into?
“These people are going to look very… strange to you. They sent me to get you because, of all the people stationed here, I look the most human. Within my race, there’s a great amount of variation, so don’t be surprised if some people look like the classic representation of elves and others look somewhat akin to bugs.” Renn turned back to the front, hesitated, and turned toward me again. “I just don’t want you to be too surprised when you see these people,” he added, and opened the top of the cruiser. He jumped lightly to the floor and beckoned for me to follow him. I sat on the edge of the cruiser and nervously dangled my feet into the air beyond. It wasn’t all that far to the floor—only a few meters—but from my perch, it seemed farther. Impatient, Renn held out his arms.
“Fine. Jump to me,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of time.” I gaped at him before I remembered that this was rude, first of all, and second, that Renn was very strong. After considering my options, I scooted to the extreme edge of the cruiser and jumped down. Although I didn’t land as nicely as Renn, I still landed better than I had thought I would. I straightened and followed Renn, who was already leaving, in the direction of the exit.
Once we got there, we were stopped by two armored guards. When I saw them, I was glad that Renn had warned me about the diversity of his race. One of them looked much like Renn, although his hair was brown, while the other did indeed look like he could be a bug’s second cousin. His eyes were like a cat’s and were very large, taking up most of his face; his hair, which was a shining greenish black, only covered the back half of his head. This odd character and his fellow interrogated Renn for several minutes, during which time Renn became visibly frustrated. Finally he lashed out at them with a single, barked word. The guards jumped and stared at him, and he proceeded to explain something to them. Since their language was completely unintelligible to me, I was in the dark as to what they were talking about. Because of their repeated glances at me, however, I thought that perhaps Renn was explaining why I was here. I stirred awkwardly, and Renn’s head whipped around to look at me.
“Hold still. They’re examining you,” he hissed.
“Examining me for what?” I demanded. By this time, I was feeling very uncomfortable.
“Well…” Renn began, flustered. He looked hard at me, as if judging how much he could say. “They’re supposed to be suspicious. They’re the first—well, the second—line of defense against intruders,” he said haltingly. I looked at the guards doubtfully. Renn gave me a thin smile.
“Everyone in my race is stronger than they look. Both of these guards are very powerful. One of them could probably stop an army of humans from entering.” The guards finished their appraisal of me then, and they talked to Renn a little longer before letting us through. Renn replied to their remarks with jabs of his own, and when we finally got through the next two layers of guards, a deep scowl had settled on his face. He all but ran through the hallway, and I struggled to keep up.
“What’s going on? Why are you so upset, if those guards were just doing their jobs?” I panted. Renn navigated around several chattering groups of younglings before he answered.
“Since I’m currently the youngest ensign at this station, some of the others here find it amusing to poke fun at me.” Although his face was unreadable, his tone was annoyed. “This mission was my first solo mission, and several people—including those two guards—thought I wasn’t ready for it. Now that they’ve seen you, they’re going to be even more condescending,” he added glumly.
“Me? What’s wrong with me?” I demanded. Renn sighed, despite the fact that he was almost jogging and by all rights should have been out of breath.
“You’re just not quite what they expected. I didn’t exactly tell them that you’re a girl. Neither did I tell them that you haven’t been raised properly,” he clarified, though his explanation only served to befuddle me more, as was becoming frustratingly usual.
“Well, obviously I’m a girl. What did they think I was?” I sputtered. It was my turn to be annoyed. Renn shrugged his thin shoulders.
“I don’t know. All I told them was that—” He broke off suddenly and reddened.
“‘Was that’ what? Am I supposed to know something here?” I interrupted.
“No. Nothing. It’s nothing. I just… oh, someone else can explain this better than I can.”
We jogged in silence for awhile, until it occurred to me to wonder why Renn had come to get me from my school.
“I can’t tell you right now. Don’t worry—no one will hurt you here,” he said preemptively, addressing my deepest fear. I snorted.
“Do you mind not doing that? It’s not exactly helping me to adjust,” I snapped. Renn laughed, to my surprise.
“I’m sorry. It’s second nature to me. I’ve been able to read minds since I was very young, and I don’t always notice when I’m doing it. Actually, mind readers are encouraged to use their powers as much as possible to speed communication. That’s why a lot of mind readers seem to have one-sided conversations. They don’t have to wait for the other person—or people—to respond verbally,” he said.
“So you’re not unusual.”
“Not really, although I am peculiarly good at reverse mind reading, which is basically when I put information into a non-mind-reader’s mind. That’s what I did to the guards on Earth. It’s almost too easy with humans—they have little or no resistance to reverse mind reading,” Renn elucidated, for once aiding my understanding.
“Could you do that to me?” I wondered. Renn stopped running and looked hard at me.
“Maybe. Probably. But it would take a lot of effort on my part, and if you happened to figure out that I was doing it, you’d probably be able to block me,” he replied, almost to himself.
“Why is that? I’m human, right?” I asked, and was instantly assailed by doubts. Renn took a deep breath and held it for a few moments, looking as if he would speak. Then he let it out in a long sigh.
“It’s a very long story, and as the youngest ranking person here, I’m really not qualified to tell it to you. This way,” he returned, taking my arm.
“Wait, wait, wait… where?” I all but shrieked, straining against Renn’s firm grip.
“Here.” He touched the wall. It shivered, becoming pearlescent, and thin lines formed the shape of a large double door, which swung inward noiselessly. Renn led me through the door into the colorful room beyond, and the door whispered shut, trapping me. I balked as Renn dragged me toward a thing that could only be defined as a throne at the end of the room. This room, I realized, was not just a room—it was a royal hall, in essence.
“So… this is a monarchical society?” I wondered, not realizing that I had spoken aloud. Renn gave me a look that was part anger and part fear. Suddenly, I felt pressure on my mind, as of a great mental weight. A series of impressions of death and destruction associated with speaking out of turn flashed through my mind, and I realized that they were from Renn. Now I was beginning to understand his plight.