There were always going to be more questions.  How could there not be more questions.  I was looking for answers and I suspected Aria knew something.  When she did talk, I was still lost.  Unable to comprehend what she was going on about.  And I still didn’t know who I was.

We were preparing to leave, to go and see a priest.  A priest, can you believe that?  Great, what was I going to confess?  That I’d forgotten who I am?  That I had no idea where I was and who all these strange people were?  People, aliens; whatever they were, whoever I am, wherever this place is.  No!  Stay focused.  Aria needs you, she’s point zero, everything just connects to her.  Can’t you see that?

“Hey, are you OK?” Aria said.

I looked up.

“Sure,” I lied.

I think she knew I was lying.  “I’m OK, really,” I insisted.  I had to pretend I was fine so she would stop staring at me.  She had enough on her plate without me adding more.  I decided to hold back my questions and wait till we reached the Priest.  Maybe the Priest did have the answers.  I sure hope he did, for Aria’s sake and for the rest of us.  I smiled and put on my best, calm face.  She grinned and finally looked away.

“Are we returning to the freighter?” I asked.

“No,” Aria said.

“Why not?”

“It’s too heavily damaged and in no condition to travel.  Repairs are going to take some time.”

Aria turned to Kailo and smiled.  Her eyes full of sympathy.  “And Kailo had to make a great sacrifice.  Selling off the Hauler along with the Colossus to pay for all the repairs. I’m hoping one-day his ‘whooping freighter’ will see its captain again.”

“Maybe,” Kailo sighed.

“What about your fighter, Kailo?” I asked.  “What’s going to happen to Lucky No.7?”

“No, no.  Not selling No.7.  Getting fixed with Freighter.  Was damaged too, fighting pirates.  No.7 other half of Kailo, not ever sell.  One day Kailo fly Lucky No.7 and captain whooping freighter again.”  He stopped to think.  “Maybe.”

“I’ve given your chief technician the coordinates, Kailo,” Aria said.  “When they’ve made all their repairs, they’ll follow us, slowly and safely.  We’ll have made a big head start but I’m hoping they’ll catch up.  I think you’ll see your crew and ships before we reach the centre.”

Kailo chirped.  “Very good news.  Kailo thank Aria from bottom of heart for lifting spirits.”  He rushed to Aria and hugged her.

It was good to see Kailo still hopeful.  He was a great pilot and I suspect just as good a Captain.  Both Aria and I were happy to have Kailo with us, he had proven himself a solid friend in difficult times.

We left Kailo to assist with loading supplies and boarded Aria’s ship.  The interior of the White Squid was surreal, and it seemed to be more spacious than I had imagined from the outside.  The walls, the ceiling and floor, seemed to blend into an organic sphere of liquid black and pearly white.  Perfect symmetry taking full advantage of the space given.  Long elongated glow beams crisscrossed and bent throughout the interior, eliminating any shadows.  Panels were sparse, but those displayed were very large and transparent, and reacted to touch and voice.  The ship had a voice too, which sounded like a young boy’s voice, but was serious and not childlike at all.  However, it only responded to Aria’s commands, ignoring the rest of us.

I sat beside Aria in the front of the ship and watched her as she proceeded to connect a thin white cable from the front panel to her wrist.

“I have these coordinates, how many Warp Cells will we need?” Aria asked the ship.

“Coordinates indicate two direct paths.  One is longer than the other.  The shorter route requires four Warp Cells, the longer route requires six,” the ship responded.

“We only have five Warp Cells.  Plot the shorter route,” Aria instructed.

The ship sent a relay message to the orbital space station in the system, querying and gathering the latest intelligence from a host of transmissions collected in the last few days from traders and freighters.  The ship responded almost immediately with a surprisingly tense tone.  “Warning!  Danger, Aria!  Shorter route crosses volatile system with unstable gravity well.”

“Then make sure to avoid the well,” Aria replied, unperturbed.

“Probability of encounter cannot be measured accurately.  There is a high risk of…”

“There’s no choice, we’ll deal with it when it happens.  Prepare to make the jump.”

Aria proceeded to remove the cable from her wrist as Kailo boarded the ship.  Uncertain how much he had heard, she avoided eye contact with him.  Kailo approached us smiling, so I assumed he missed the danger bit about the unstable gravity well.

“Supplies loaded.  Kailo loaded too.  Now ready, we all ready to find Priest.  All good,” Kailo reassured himself.  “And Kailo no longer afraid to go to centre.  Kailo has all he need.  Has friends, and friends have Kailo.”

Aria got up and hugged Kailo.  “No Kailo, you don’t need to be afraid when you’re with friends.”

No friendship is an accident.  

O. Henry