Megrez Mass 3
Nyota found herself reluctant to disturb the garden’s other occupants when she arrived. Even though they were on the bottom of the seafloor, the air was sweet, like a spring breeze. She could hear a strange tune playing faintly over the sound of trickling streams. One of the Hylotl nodded politely to her, then went back to trimming the flowers. Nyota could feel all the stress of the past few weeks just melting away as she listened to the song and the water.
After a few minutes of just enjoying the peaceful garden, the Apex got up to search for the source of the song. She spotted it quickly: an old handmade music box, clearly well-loved and cared for. As the song began again, Nyota turned on her microphone recorder.
Esther spoke up as the song ended. “That’s an interesting find you have there,” she remarked. “This music box plays an ancient tune… It’s a commemorative object. I will research what its origins are. That might give us a nudge in the right direction.”
“From a music box? Strange clues from strange places,” Nyota said, heading back down the ladder. The guard from the island had mentioned an undersea ruin, but she had no desire to spend much more time underwater. Being in the garden had made her miss the sun and wind on her fur. I ought to see how Lumin’s doing.
It was just shy of midmorning when Nyota teleported back to the surface outside the old stone house. She could hear someone humming inside. “Hello, Lumin!” she called.
“Hey there, is that a Nyota I hear?” There was a crackling sound, Novakid laughter. “Come on in and chat a spell. How’ve ya been?”
“A bit deeper and wetter than usual,” Nyota told him, ducking through the doorway. Lumin had converted the old wooden door to a swinging one, like the sort Nyota had seen once in an old human Western movie. He also had a few flasks and bottles, no two alike, set up on the table. Nyota was surprised to see what looked like a rudimentary chemistry set next to them.
“Sounds like an adventure,” the Novakid remarked. His plasma flickered warmly, the equivalent of a friendly grin if Nyota remembered his kind’s “expressions” right. “Go on, tell me about it.”
“There’s not much to tell this time,” Nyota said, claiming a vacant seat. “I found a Hylotl above the waves and a city below them, but I’ve only got a bit of gossip and a music box as clues for my search. How about you, though? Life been treating you well here?”
Lumin laughed again. “Ya got a mighty strange idea of things if ya think a city under the sea is ‘not much to tell,’ Nyota. Though I guess it seems like nothin’ to ya adventurin’ sorts. Me, I’ve been tidyin’ up a bit here and there. Found a nice ol’ measurin’ kit in a crate upstairs. Made ya somethin’, too. Here.” He passed her a small vial. A faintly cream-colored liquid sloshed gently inside of it.
“Thanks… but what is it?” Nyota asked, taking the vial warily and watching its contents swirl around.
The Novakid hummed and rubbed the back of his head, a couple of sparks flickering in his cytoplasm. “Ah, well… It’s a mighty fine place you’ve helped me secure. I gotta thank you for it. So I, um, heard Apex are fond of bananas… It ain’t the real deal, but this juice should taste like ‘em?”
Nyota was by no means an expert in all Novakid expressions, but she could have sworn Lumin was embarrassed.
“The banana thing is a bit of a stereotype, courtesy of the Miniknog,” she told him with a small laugh, “but they are delicious… Thank you very much, Lumin.” She uncorked the vial and took a sip. Her eyes widened.
Lumin leaned forward, fizzing anxiously. “What? How is it?”
It tasted just like bananas. Even the smell and texture were right, the wonderful creaminess of a banana smoothie. “It’s perfect,” Nyota sighed. To her shock, she felt tears pricking at the corner of her eyes. The last time she’d tasted this was back on Earth, the morning before graduation. It had been her birthday. Apex didn’t really celebrate birthdays, but somehow Isobu had found hers out.
Embarrassed, Nyota ducked her head and flicked the nostalgic tears away, hiding the motion by recorking the vial and stashing it in her vest pocket. “I think I’ll save the rest for later,” she said, absurdly grateful that her voice didn’t betray her. “Stay safe, Lumin. I’ve got to go get some sleep before I head out wandering again, but I’ll visit again as soon as I’m able.”
“You too, Nyota,” the Novakid replied, watching her go. “Come back whenever you like. My door is always open for a friend.”
Friend? A small smile tugged at her lips. It felt good to hear that again.