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  • Writer's pictureE. Paige Burks

Chasing Stars - Chapter Three

Amanda was flicking through reports on a tablet when a shadow approached her. She looked up, seeing Qek the Carnour walking toward her. Carnours were quite fascinating creatures. They looked just like cats, but stood on their back legs. Qek had silky fur that covered his body, colored like a jaguar. His tail flicked behind him as he stopped before her, his green eyes bright.

“He’s awake,” he said, his voice making Amanda think of melted chocolate.

“Thank you, Qek,” she said, rolling her tablet up like a piece of paper. She stood and slid the tube into a bag on her hip. “How close are we?”

Qek followed her as she walked from the room where she was working and into a hallway. “We’re just outside the asteroid ring,” he answered. “Should be at the Sentinel within the hour.”

Amanda nodded. “Excellent.” She drew a slow breath as she prepared herself to deal with her nephew.

Qek made a humored sound. “Need some backup?” he asked.

Amanda looked at him and smiled slightly. “Normally I would accept your offer,” she said. She looked down the hall toward the lift that would take her to the brig. “But I’m afraid I need to deal with my nephew on my own this time.”

“Suit yourself,” Qek said, his tail flicking unhappily. “Good luck, Commander.” He saluted her.

Amanda returned his salute before heading down the hallway. Her thoughts were roiling as she stepped into the lift and pressed a button. The lift was smooth as it zipped her to the floor she needed and the doors opened. Amanda didn’t like that Benjamin had been brought here, but he was a criminal, after all. She would give him one more opportunity to accept her offer, but after that, he would be out of her hands.

She walked past a row of doors that led into plain cells, stopping at the one where she knew Benjamin had been placed. She lifted her hand to a keypad next to the door, which scanned her handprint before flickering green. The sound of a thick, bolt-lock sliding open filled the hall. The door slid open, revealing a bare room with a toilet and a concrete slab that was supposed to act as a bed.

Benjamin was lounging on the slab, looking a bit worse for wear as he sat up. “Come to gloat?” he asked, his voice hoarse.

Amanda frowned and crossed her arms. “I’ve come to see if you’ve made your decision,” she said. “I don’t want to send you to prison, but once we reach the Sentinel, it will be out of my control.”

Benjamin forced a laugh. “That must chap your ass, Aunt Mandy,” he said, leaning back against the wall. His expression was goading. “I know how you love to control everything.”

Amanda’s expression darkened. “I could just leave you here,” she said slowly. She looked around the cell. “I dunno, maybe spending the next few decades in a cell would do you some good.”

Benjamin seemed like he would continue to be a little shit, but Amanda cut him off.

“Aren’t you even the least bit curious about what your mission would be?” she asked.

“Not really,” Benjamin said bitterly. “I assume I’ll be sent down to the bottom decks to shovel garbage.” He gave her a dirty look. “That way you can feel good about saving me without actually having to look at me.”

Amanda felt his words sting a bit. “Benny,” she said, a hint of pleading in her voice. “I’m trying to make things right…”

Benjamin scowled darkly at her. “Right would have been to look after me when Dad died,” he snapped. “I was a kid, Aunt Amanda! A kid!” Hurt flashed across his face. “I needed a parent and a home, not a commander and barracks.”

Amanda looked down at her feet then, feeling ashamed. “I know,” was all she could manage. “I should have done better.”

Benjamin was surprised at her admission. Silence was starting to settle over them and he cleared his throat. “So, what’s this mission?”

Amanda seemed to come back to herself and she pulled her tablet from her pouch. She unfurled it, the material becoming stiff in her hands. “What do you know about your mother’s homeworld?” she asked slowly.

Benjamin frowned at her in confusion. “You mean Hyacinth?” he asked slowly.

Amanda nodded, holding her tablet out to him. “We’ve picked up a signal from the debris cloud where the planet used to be,” she said. She watched as he scrolled through the data on the tablet, his eyes widening.

“You’ve found it?” he managed, his voice a slightly choked whisper. He looked up at her, the slight sheen of tears in his eyes.

Amanda nodded, looking down at the tablet. “We believe it’s the jewel,” she said quietly. “And I have a source who knows what it actually is.”

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