A Chapter by DB Heinemann

Conflict escalates


“Hey Ryan! What can I do ya for?” his boss greeted him brightly from his desk.

Ryan grimaced back. “Hey Steve. I needed to tell you something.” He entered the office which was very pastel colored. Green walls, yellow tile floor, and light brown desk. It made him think of an elementary school office.

“Sure! I always got time for my fellow human companion!” Steve smiled warmly at him.

Ryan’s jaw twitched. Steve loved that Ryan had a human name just like him. He always made jokes about how they were human spies that were bent on taking over Zenon. Ryan hated being reminded about the origin of his name and being compared to a human but he went along with it for Steve’s sake. “Shoky wanted to get away for a bit and take a trip to Mars…”

Steve eyes widened. “Oh wow.”

“Yea so,” Ryan shuffled. “I need to take a few months off starting next week.”

It was Steve’s turn to grimace now. “Geez, Mars. The trip alone would take about 8 months to and from, wouldn’t it?”


Steve shrugged. “Well, good thing we got robots that step in readily for such occasions.”

“Yea, I know, I just wanted to let you know,” answered Ryan.

Steve started to smile once more. “Well, I appreciate it.” He leaned back in his squishy, rolly chair and chuckled to himself. “Man, it’s a good thing the Zenon Government passed that Irreplaceable Law so robots could only fill in for employees when requested by employees, or else we’d all be out of jobs.”

Ryan shared the chuckle. “Good thing we have robots so we can take time off whenever we want, for however long we want.”

“Well, not for however long,” Steve sat back up. “5 years and your job card becomes invalid.”

“That’s still a pretty long time, though,” stated Ryan.

“Yea, way better vacation time than the humans.”

“Everything we have is better than the humans.”

“Righty-o, chap!” Steve winked. The two then began to laugh heartily at the ceiling.

“Oh, I shall miss you, Ryan,” Steve said, wiping away a tear.

“Yea, I’ll take pictures, alright?”

“I look forward to them. You have fun with Shoky. Are you going on a public transport or flying yourself?” Steve asked.

“Flying myself,” replied Ryan.

“Ah, you’ll have to brush up on your interplanetary travel, then,” Steve shook a finger at him.  

Ryan nodded in agreement. “Yea, downside to trying to do only national flights. Whenever you want to break the atmosphere, you get a little fuzzy.”

“I’d set you up with some flights but a week isn’t long enough for even one planetary flight.”

Steve snapped his fingers.”That’s it! I forgot we had moons. I can set you up on a flight to Titan…” he shuffled through some papers “tomorrow. Switch with Ngato. It’ll take a week but you should be back just in time for your trip.”

Ryan froze suddenly. He realized that leaving for a moon trip would mean leaving Shoky alone with Nalie for a whole week. On the one hand, he really should brush up on his interplanetary pilotry. As a rule, all pilots, no matter what kind, needed to know how to travel to other planets and be familiar with space shuttle controls. For good reason, though: in case humans knocked out all their robots and were about to completely nuke Zenon, the Zenon Government mandated that all zenonites with an interest in flying know how to pilot a spacecraft and make them fly one at least once a year. Luckily, zenonite engineers were sure to make it similar to aircraft and mostly autopilot. Still gotta know where the autopilot button is, though. Ryan was a mainly aircraft pilot who hasn’t flown spacecraft in nearly 28 months. It’d be good to practice in an official setting that had a co-pilot on hand should it get “fuzzy”. But leaving Shoky unsupervised with a live human?! He’s not even sure he’d trust her with a dead human. He may have been rusty with his spacecraft know-how but it’d all come back to him, he was sure. It’s just the autopilot button. Even though it’s always good to do a dress rehearsal before the big show, Ryan couldn’t risk-

“Bing!” Steve’s phone went off.

“Ah, Ngato’s fine with switching flights with you,” Steve said after reading his phone. “And I set up a quick refresher course for you to take after your shift. Wouldn’t want to look stupid in front of your girl.”


But Steve stopped him. “No need to thank me. You earned it. Now get out of here. You got a flight in 20 minutes.”

* * *

“You’re not coming back till when?” Shoky’s voice cracked on his phone.

“9 tonight,” Ryan repeated.

Shoky sighed. “That’s so late.”

“I know.”

“Why didn’t you tell him you didn’t need to take all that refresher stuff?”

“I’m not good at telling people with authority things I would prefer to do once they told me to do something else,” he reminded her. “Besides, I kind of need it. I haven’t flown a spacecraft in almost a year.”

“Yea, I guess I don’t want you crashing us as soon as we take off.”

“Thanks for the bode of confidence,” Ryan muttered. “How’s Nalie doing? She do anything suspicious yet?”

“She’s fine,” replied Shoky. “She hasn’t done anything. I’ve been explaining to her how job cards work like unlimited money with different levels, how we have robots that let us take a vacation whenever we want, how a year here is about 30 years on Earth and 1 year on Earth is a month on Zenon and our days are only 11 hours long…”

“Has she asked about any codes?”

“What codes?” Shoky asked, confused. “I don’t even know any codes.”

“Yea, fine, whatever, but has she asked about anything suspicious? Having to do with where we are, how to get inside, all of our oil reserves or how we don’t have a national army?”

“We don’t have an army?”

“How do you not know that?”

“Who are those guys in the uniforms, then?”

“The police, you mean?” Ryan rolled his eyes. “Those are different from the army. An army would protect a nation from foreign invaders like humans. The police just uphold the law and protect citizens and arrest people for, I dunno, harboring humans.”

“Ok, I know that’s not a law,” Shoky said.

“Because we don’t need one because why would anyone even want to do it?” Ryan shot back. “It’s like making a law against murdering people.”

“Humans have laws against murdering people.”

“Which is why we don’t talk to them. They’re terrible people and just destroy everything they find.” Ryan could feel his pulse quickening.

“Nalie isn’t so bad,” Shoky told him quietly. “I mean, she’s a little insecure and opinionated but altogether pleasant. I’m teaching her to play Rore. She hasn’t won yet but-”

“That’s cool, Shoky, listen,” Ryan cut her off as he noticed the time. “My flight’s leaving in a minute, I gotta go. Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone, ok?”

“You don’t do anything stupid,” Shoky grumbled.

Ryan could tell she was upset but didn’t have time to ask why. He’ll deal with it when he got home. “Ok, Love you, bye.”

“Love you, I guess,” she glumly told him. When he got home, he reminded himself as he hung up his phone. He was just outside the plane and thusly ran inside. He was greatly looking forward to his flight right now. Ryan loved flying. It always relaxed him. It was like a psychological escape from all his life problems, just flying away and staring at clouds and all the little people for a couple hours. It was like an out of body experience except out of the general location of his issues instead. Everything was far away and didn’t scream at him to be dealt with. One could see how the appearance of Nalie would make him especially eager to start his flight.

He raced into the cockpit and put on his headset. His co-pilot, who was Tarangi currently, did the talking, though, of course.

“Good day, nons and gunons,” she greeted the passengers. “We hope you enjoy your flight with us today. We’re going to be flying to Teneiwenua, about half an hour flight from here. If this is not where you were planning on going, please speak up now or forever accept your fate.”

* * *

The refresher course Ryan had to take when he got back from his flight hurt his brain. Even though the majority of the time all you had to do was press a button, Zenon thought it important for its pilots to know the emergency manual override and the general biology of a spaceship- for obvious reasons. He tried to make special note of everything the instructor reminded him even though he was recording the whole thing with his head camera which was like the Google Glass thing but cooler.

“Yep, that’s where the GPS is kept,” he muttered to himself at one point during the lecture. After exhausting mental exertion, Ryan stumbled outside where his cab was waiting for him. “Please let Shoky be alive and my house in one piece when I get home,” he prayed. “Please.” To his pleasure, his house still stood where he left it that morning. He took a deep breath before entering.

“Hey,” he greeted his guests, looking around cautiously. Nalie and Shoky were at the kitchen table, playing a game of cards. It looked like everything was in its proper place, nothing knocked over or broken.

“Hey Ryan,” Shoky muttered, not looking at him as he entered the house.

Rore,” stated Shoky, laying her cards on the table.

Nalie growled, throwing her cards on the table. “I don’t wanna play this game no more.”

“Never play a card game with Shoky,” Ryan told her lightheartedly once he was sure everything was physically ok. “She always wins.”

Shoky scoffed but otherwise ignored him. Ryan shifted uncomfortably in the silence. “How about I get dinner started?” he clapped his hands and started towards the stove.

“I already made something,” Shoky mumbled. “Riwa paray.

Ryan’s face fell as he looked at the pot on the stove. “No! I was saving that riwa for Kaee day!”

Shoky rolled her head towards him. “Oh, I’m sorry. How stupid of me.”

Ryan twisted his mouth. “Shoky…”

“What?” she snapped.

“Can we-”

“Talk? Sure.” She got up and walked quickly passed him into his room.

Ryan sighed. He noticed Nalie who seemed to be pointedly focused on the cards on the table. “Shut up,” he muttered. He turned his back to her, unable to notice Nalie look up to stick her tongue out at him.

“Shoky,” he sighed as he entered his bedroom.

“Don’t you Shoky me,” Shoky, “You’ve been such a kaihee lately, treating me like some child that can’t do anything right. I am capable of independent responsibility, y’know. I can do things by myself without everything exploding. And it’d be nice if you actually listened and trusted my input and capabilities.” She crossed her arms and stared at him, waiting for a response. Ryan really needed her to stop being mad right now.

He walked towards her with sympathetic arms out. She flinched away from him. “I’m sorry,” he said, still moving towards her, his fingertips reaching her elbows. “I shouldn’t have cut you off and called you stupid. I shouldn’t keep yelling at you. I should trust you more...” He tried to think of more things he should stop doing but couldn’t so he ended it with another, “I’m sorry. I’ve just been a little stressed out lately, ok?”

He gently took her face into his hands, forcing her to face him. “I love you so much, Shoky. I’d be devastated if anything happened to you. I just want us to be safe.” This part, at least, he meant.

Shoky’s tight lips sank into a sad frown. “It’s not just now, though,” she told him, breaking from his arms. “You always freak out and talk down to me- or over me- whenever I do something.” She walked to the other side of the room. “I never feel like your girlfriend; I always feel like this thing you have to constantly watch over and control and worry about…”

Ryan’s head tilted apologetically. He opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by the sound of his television turning on in the living room. His mouth clamped shut and he raced out to find Nalie with the remote in her hand, staring at the large screen.

He felt his face tighten as he snatched the remote out of her hand. He knelt down to her eye level. “Don’t touch anything,” he angrily reminded her. Nalie looked about ready to punch him but he straightened up just in time to turn the T.V. off.

“Wait,” Shoky put her hand out to stop him. Ryan was about to ask her, “What?” when the audio from the T.V. registered in his ears. It was the Zenon National News or ZNN, for short. One of the reporters informed Ryan what Shoky was so interested in:

“-Yea, you heard right,” the reporter trilled. “The Human Food Festival has begun. After a careful, secondary  inspection by Zenon Central Science Center, our government has approved human food safe for zenon consumption. There will be a week long, planet wide festival in every major town- a day for each continent. Together, we shall try the infamous Earth food. Zenon Central scientists have already been able to clone the tasty morsels so we have no fear of running out-”

Ryan turned off the T.V. at this point. Shoky turned to him, “Ca-”

“No.” he cut her off.  

“Pleeeeeaaaasse,” Shoky clasped her hands together and almost kneeled before him.

“No! Are you insane?” Ryan stood his ground. “I have a week long flight tomorrow and even if we could go, we sure as hell can’t take her with us.” Ryan pointed to Nalie. “One of us would have to stay behind.”

“You can stay behind. You don’t even care about human food,” argued Shoky.

Ryan tried not to be hurt by the fact Shoky was so willing to run into a history-making festival of apparently delicious food without him, leaving him with a human she found and who she insisted on helping. He tried to. He composed himself. “You’re forgetting about the week long flight I have tomorrow. Besides, didn’t you hear the reporter? They cloned the food. They’ll probably put it on the market once the festival is over and you can have as much as you want whenever.”

“But this is an historical moment! I want to be a part of it!” Shoky pouted. She twirled slightly as she desperately tried to figure out how to get her way. “Nalie’s trustworthy. I could leave her here an-”

“No!” Ryan roared. “I’m not going to let you leave a human in my house unattended. She’s on the run from our government and is probably trying to destroy Zenon anyways.”

Shoky’s hand grasped her head, as if trying to prevent it from exploding. “Oh my God,” her voice shook. “I can’t believe you still think Nalie is out to destroy all of Zenon. She’s only 12 years old. She would have been 8 when left Earth. You really think an 8 year old child is mentally mature enough to commit espionage against an entire planet?”

“Human child,” Ryan spat.

“It makes no difference!” Shoky practically screamed. “Maybe if you spent the time to get to know her instead of skirting around the room, accusing her of things with no basis, you’d see her innocence.”

Ryan’s face tightened. “You’ve known her for maybe 3 days and you already trust her more than you trust your own government. More than you trust me!”

“You’re being ridiculous!” Shoky shouted at him. “This is a great opportunity to get over the stupid fear of humans and you’re not even going to try to listen to Nalie’s side of the story.”

“How can I trust a human over my own government?” Ryan demanded.

Shoky glared at him in a deadly fashion. “Her name is Nalie.”

Ryan growled. His fingers shot into his hair, needing to grab something. “You want to leave a human here by herself just so you can go to some stupid festival! It’s no wonder I treat you like a child when you always completely disregard anything that would make sense. Damn upoko tamati. Do you even have any sense at all?”

If volcanic eruptions had a face, it would probably look like Shoky’s face right now. She opened her mouth to spew forth the liquid fire and brimstone that trembled inside her, wishing to set everything ablaze. “Pehea maia koe, koutou upoko Pokohua?! At least I’m not some gullible, close minded hipy! You blindly trust everything is exactly as the ignorant kawatanga says it is without ever looking into it yourself! You’re the upoko tamati, clinging to your mommy government and believing all the stories she tells you-”

Stop it!”

Ryan and Shoky both turned, surprised to see Nalie was still standing there. “My God,” she gasped. “Stop fighting, please.” Ryan couldn’t think of any words to say but he felt them boiling in his head. They cooled to a simmer, however, the longer he stared at Nalie. Her dark eyes threatened to leak, her whole body shook. She looked ready to crumble but at the last second, she tightened up and forcefully said, “I’m sick of it! If y’all don’t quit bickering, I’ll just leave and find my own damn way home!” Nalie didn’t give them a chance to respond and instead fled to the guest room.

“Nalie!” Shoky called after her. Nalie responded by slamming the door behind her.

Ryan suddenly realized what he had just said. Dear God, could he really say something that awful? He watched as Shoky looked incredibly torn as to what to do. He hesitated to reach out and simply hold her together. But an exasperated Shoky, oblivious to Ryan’s flinching arms, turned and ran in the opposite direction towards the front door. Ryan stood alone in his living room. He eventually decided to to exhale and walk towards his room.

© 2016 DB Heinemann

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Added on November 6, 2016
Last Updated on November 6, 2016


DB Heinemann
DB Heinemann


Just a super awesome person looking to hone the craft. I mostly do fantasy but I occasionally get science fiction-y or some artsy fartsy soul searching writing. But fantasy's my main go to because the.. more..

HOZ Prologue HOZ Prologue

A Chapter by DB Heinemann