I didn’t get much sleep till morning, but I seemed to have made a friend of the creature, introducing itself as Navigator Kailo. Over breakfast, I learnt that my new friend was known as a Gek. A bird-like, originally amphibious, mercantile race, native to a water planet known as Balaron, which was the Geks home world. It talked a lot.
There was no way to tell if it was male or female. Maybe the Gek were neither, being just genderless. All the same, Kailo felt like a ‘he’, and so didn’t seem to mind when I referred to him as such. Stating that gender was determined spontaneously by circumstances, whatever that meant, leaving me baffled.
I did not pursue the topic further.
“Shuttle has too many problems, will take too long to fix; limited storage space,” Kailo said. “We salvage and leave for my ship, carry what we can.”
“How can we carry everything?” I replied.
“You silly,” he said crackling into laughter. “Look outside.”
I moved to the front of the ship to look out from the canopy. I hadn’t noticed anything in the dark of night, but now in the early daylight I saw a large, bulky vehicle parked beside my ship.
“Together we load everything on strong colossus and drive back to hauler. Then we leave barren planet.” Kailo paused, while he studied me for a moment. “Don’t think too hard, trust Kailo, not safe here, must go and soon.”
“Why? What’s wrong?” I asked.
“No time to explain now, later. Now we go, come, start with supplies—then ship parts.”
It took us till mid-afternoon to load the colossus, stopping only for a short lunch break on Kailo’s insistence, due to the orchestral accompaniment of loud grumbling sounds emanating from his belly. The colossus’ name was justified, it had a lot of cargo space and we managed to fill it with supplies and parts with room to spare.
Kailo seemed agitated as the day began to fade. “Late, hurry, we go now.”
As Kailo drove off, I took one final look at the broken shuttle that had been my shelter. It reminded me of the carcass of some fallen beast I had read about, somewhere in my lost childhood. Memories of a beast that had sustained my life, had kept me safe, but had finally succumbed to the ravages of a dead, desolate world, collapsing as it gasped its last breath. Seems like there was a voice, someone reading it to me, parents perhaps, or my own mind playing tricks. I had no recollection of parents. In fact, I had no memory of anyone.
We arrived at Kailo’s ship before twilight in a storm of stinging red dust. With visibility limited to the distance between the colossus and the ship, I could hardly make anything out. We struggled to load everything on the hauler from the colossus. My protests to wait till morning were rebuked with a frantic waving of hands and Kailo pleading, “No time, we go tonight!”
Kailo’s urgency troubled me, I couldn’t imagine why he was in such a rush to leave, and tonight in the midst of a dust storm.
A few hours into the planet’s night and we were done loading everything, including the now dismantled colossus. Fortunately, the storm had settled down to an occasional, but annoying, waft of dust, sand and dirt. I couldn’t believe we had finished. I was exhausted, hungry and thirsty.
Kailo beckoned I follow him to the back of the hauler. “Follow. Don’t make loud noise. Maybe still sleeping.”
I had no idea what he was talking about and I was beginning to think he’d lost his mind. Maybe I should have stayed and repaired my ship. I was beginning to regret having followed him back here. But it was too late to think of regrets, what was done was done, I’d have to make the most of it.
Following him slowly into the back of the hauler, I found myself in a dark room. Slowly, a faint blue glow from a single panel on the ceiling began to light the hold.
“Your eminence, please forgive Kailo—foolish servant I am—for taking so long. It was some distance, many things to load. Supplies we desperately needed have been found… secured. We now resume mission.
“Let me introduce…” Kailo stopped and turned to look at me in surprise. “I don’t know friend’s name!”
Flabbergasted, I looked at the single figure seated in a couch against the back of the ship. As more light panels began to glow, I could see her face. A young female humanoid, beautiful in every sense. She remained seated, looking up at me and smiled.
I replied slowly, “I… I don’t know my name.”
Robert Louis Stevenson