Prosperous: Chutes & Ladders

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Chapter 23

TRU LOOKED UP WHEN THE LIFT DOORS OPENED. Q’AL GLANCED UP FROM THE doc-slip in his hand, but didn’t say anything. He had a medical case slung over his shoulder, probably headed off to check on a crewman’s injury. Tru stepped on, turning to face the door. The lift descended. It stopped and the two walked off. Two turns later, Tru began to wonder if they were headed to the same locations.

“Going to check Gracie’s injury?” Tru asked.


Tru looked away, not seeing Q’al glance at him.

“Is that where you’re headed, Captain?”

“Yes. The engineering crew are a little nervous around her and she says they won’t do their work because they’re afraid of hurting her.”

“This is a new experience for everyone, Captain, including me.”

Tru smiled. “I know. It’ll take some time for everyone to adjust. Now if I can just convince Gracie of that.”

I know that already, Truman Barnet,Gracie argued.

“If you say so, Gracie.”

Q’al was amused by their interaction; it reminded him of a brother and sister. “How old is Gracie believed to be?”

“It’s hard to tell,” Tru replied. “Living entities can’t be carbon dated.”

Q’al nodded. “Do you know, Gracie?”

No. I wasn’t aware of time, as you know it, until I came to Prosperous. I still don’t really understand it.

“What do you suppose happened to others like her?”

Tru shrugged. “No one knows, but every time we’re within range of a new planet, she scans for others.”

I can’t be the only one of my kind, can I, Q’al?

“It’s possible you are, Gracie. Evolution is strange like that.”

That would be cruel.

Tru smiled. “It’s not so cruel. You got stuck with us. Just imagine how the first Sileriums felt, Gracie. Alone with psychic abilities and parents who didn’t want them. I can’t imagine what it was like for them.”

Q’al looked down at the mention of Sileriums. He was still uncomfortable with the idea that his captain was half Silerium.

“And they eventually found others like themselves, didn’t they?” Tru continued.


Q’al looked at Tru. He was staring down the hall with a distant look. Q’al guessed he had a lot on his mind.

“Are you concerned about what we’ll find in the Paskian computer?”

“Hm?” He looked at Q’al.

“Are you concerned about what the Terallians are up to?”

Tru nodded. “I’d be a fool not to be. The Terallians have never been very friendly toward the other races, especially humans, but Emperor Lixu approached the Merchant Raitor board to request joining. After eight years, I don’t know why he would risk being banned.”

“Perhaps not all of them feel that way. Perhaps this was just a faction.”

“I hope so.”

The two were silent for a few more steps. Q’al suddenly stopped in front of Tru. It made Tru stumbled to a stop before stepping back.

“I’m not comfortable with Sileriums, Captain, but I trust you. From the first day we spoke, I felt I could trust you. Perhaps it has something to do with how much you’ve contributed to psychology and your optimistic views, or perhaps it’s how I’ve seen this crew take to you. Even Ga’reicht crewmen trust you and they don’t trust anyone! But… There will always be that little voice that’s telling me to be wary of your Silerium side, because they are known to be unpredictable and untrustworthy.” Q’al drew a breath. “Perhaps time will eventually shut the voice up.”

“Doctor Equ’Wixal, racism doesn’t work like that. Perhaps you should consider a transfer when we get to spaceport. I can’t afford for you to distrust me because I’m half Silerium. And these talks we’ve had about my race have not helped me trust you. I don't feel comfortable putting my life in your hands, which is a problem since you’re the senior medical officer, isn't it?”

Q’al didn’t answer. Tru frowned, the first disapproving look Q’al had seen on his face since he’d met him.

“We need to go check on Gracie and the crew. Come on.” Tru walked around him.

Q’al didn’t move. Tru considered stopping and asking what was wrong, but he didn’t really care. There had been few times in his life he’d felt so insulted by someone, and this was one of them.

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