To Boldly Go...

Chapter 1

Callum stared at the roof and sighed. He'd been on the Discovery for two weeks now, ever since he and Sillika had left Albia, and he was already bored sideways. After the initial quizzing from the captain and several other officers, they'd been left pretty much alone. There were limits to where they were allowed to go in the ship of course, but that was to be expected. He stood up and sighed again. He might as well go to the Mix. The Mix was a bar/restaurant/club on the next deck up. He'd been there a couple of times. He grinned to himself; there hadn't been a great deal of bars on Albia when he'd lived there. The Shee Council hadn't allowed it; study had been deemed more important. Obviously, his species had learned to enjoy themselves a bit more after leaving the planet. He shuddered slightly as he remembered why.

It seemed odd to everyone, including Callum himself, that he and Sillika had actually been born several thousand years ago, back when the Shee lived on Albia. They'd been students at the Albian Research Institute, the foremost education and scientific study building in the world. Callum had no idea how he'd gotten in there; he was useless with any sort of technology and had a tendency to treat test animals like pets. That had been a bit of a problem in dissection classes. When the Grendels had begun their rebellion, and the Shee Council had deemed the planet unsafe and had decided to abandon and ruin it, he'd found out that the Norns were being abandoned. He'd run off to try to help them, Sillika and a small Norn named Nirri in tow. They'd hidden six eggs and some gene samples, and Nirri had stayed behind to look after them. He grinned to himself, that hadn't exactly been the end of it, but it had been the first time they'd encountered the first of the three Amulets. He shivered, the Amulets of Life, Death and Guardianship were terrifyingly powerful, and had been responsible for many of the major, often catastrophic events in Albia's history. They'd also saved Callum, Sillika and Nirri's lives on more occasions than he'd like to think about, but had gotten them into worse situations almost as often. He'd given up trying to explain it to any of the crew, everyone but Commander Jay Feral probably thought he was quite mad by now. He grinned again, the crew found quite a lot about them odd.

He took one step towards the door, then glared at his trousers. Trousers, there was something he wasn't used to. The shirt was less of a problem, but the trousers rubbed him in all the wrong places. For the vast majority of his life he'd worn the then typical Shee robe. It had been floor-length, with a high collar that brushed his ears. He'd get used to the trousers, but it would take a while. He had briefly thought about going back to a robe, but considering they weren't made anymore, apart from dressing gowns, and the fact that his old robe now had more holes than a sieve due to one reason or another, he'd given up on the idea. He caught his own gaze in the mirror. He brushed a floppy lock of golden hair over the silvery scar on his forehead. He had a nice collection of scars, whereas Sillika had managed to get away with about two tiny ones on her arm. His fingers traced the slightly upraised area of skin on his chest through his shirt. The perfectly circular scar was the biggest he'd acquired. He shivered slightly as an image of Lraac flashed up in his head. Well, that was over now. He headed for the lifts.

Callum glanced round the Mix as the door slid open. It was a strange shape, with a large, square main part and five smaller oval shaped rooms leading off it. These contained the bar, a serving counter for food, a small dance floor, vid lounge and the way to the toilets. The square room was the main seating area, filled with a collection of tables and plush chairs. Various lighting rigs were set into the roof, which one was being used depended on what the main event in the Mix was that day. The place was filled with off-duty crew, and Callum glanced round to see if he could find anyone he knew.

"Hey Callum! Over here!" Sillika waved as he spotted her. He waved back and headed over towards the corner table she was seated. Sillika grinned at him as he pulled up a chair.


"Hi," Callum grinned back, then glanced round.

"No sign of Jay tonight?" He teased. Sillika blushed slightly.

"Don't know what you mean."

"Come on Sillika, you've been glued to him for the past week."

Sillika brushed her silvery white hair out of her face and glared playfully at him.

"Not you as well! I had this from Nirri..." She trailed off. There was silence for a few seconds. Then Callum flashed her a mischievous grin.

"Okay, I won't say anything else. But from that reaction..."

"Har har."

"Hey!" Jay's voice rang out loudly. Callum turned, noting that Sillika moved a little faster than he did. He grinned and waved as Jay made his way over to them. The uniformed Shee grabbed the remaining chair and dropped into it. Callum watched the Commander for a second. Jay'd been the one who'd finally gotten them off Albia. One of the Discovery's shuttles had landed there on a recon mission, and Jay had obviously been slightly surprised to find them there. Jay himself was quite tall for a Shee, with typical pale bluish skin and dark gold hair. He had brown eyes and always seemed to wear the typical NewAlbia Space Corps uniform of blue trousers, black shirt with emblem on breast pocket and rank pins down the arm.

Sillika smiled at Jay, shooting a warning glance at Callum as she did so.

"Hey. Any news from on high?" She asked. Jay sighed and shook his head.

"Not really. They're still processing your files. D'you want anything to drink?"

Sillika smiled.

"Llixer for me."

For a second Callum fought an urge to wave a hand across their locked gazes. With almost detectable reluctance, Jay drew his eyes away.

"You want anything Callum?"

"I'm fine."

Jay stood up, and with a final grin at Sillika, headed off towards the small, curved bar in the corner. Callum watched him go. Sillika might be getting on well with Jay, but he was pretty sure that his own friendship with the guy was a little strained. They got on okay, but there always seemed to be... Well, a level of sizing up going on. Callum couldn't quite work out why Jay might perceive him as any kind of threat. He shrugged to himself; it'd straighten itself out. Sillika waved a hand infront of his face.

"Anyone home?"

"Yeah, just thinking."

"Just checking."

Callum looked at her, hand automatically jerking up to his chest.

"The Link's gone, you don't need to worry."

"You still do."

Callum turned away from her stare. She was right though, he did still think about it. It often kept him awake. Lraac... He shuddered. Lraac, half Grendel, half Shee, all trouble. She'd been the reason the Shee had left Albia; she'd organised the wild Grendels into a fighting force that easily equalled the Shee's own. They'd lost several towns and outposts to the Grendels. It was then that the Council had decided that they would have to leave Albia and wreck the planet in the process. They'd gotten ready to leave in massive bio-organic ships equipped with stasis technology for the long journey. Then the Council had unveiled their masterstroke. They'd planted a special bomb, one that would poison the world with radiation and fire a vast amount of reflective particles into the atmosphere, blocking out the sun and plunging the planet into deadly winter for three years. That, they thought, should wipe out the Grendel threat. Lraac must have found out about the plan, and before they'd gone she'd... Ensured she'd be back. After the bomb had wrecked the planet's surface, Lraac and the Grendels should have been dead. She'd found a way to avoid that fate. She'd used the Life Amulet to somehow 'link' herself to Callum. When he was alive, the link would bring Lraac back in any way it could. A shiver ran down Callum's spine at the thought. Apparently it would have worked the opposite way, but thankfully he'd never had to chance it. He'd gotten pretty damn close though. Lraac's other 'use' for him surfaced in his mind and he shuddered again. She'd wanted a mate...

"Hello in there?"

Sillika's voice jerked him out of his thoughts and he blinked. That was over now, they were on the Discovery, the most highly advanced ship in the NewAlbian Space Corps fleet. Jay Feral and his team had found Albia, and offered to take them with them, back to NewAlbia. It had been hard to leave the planet that they'd fought so hard for, but quite frankly it wasn't theirs anymore. It belonged to the Norns, Ettins and Grendels. Not the Shee. He shook himself and grinned at Sillika.

"I'm okay, just thinking."

"I guess we've got a lot of that to do," she said quietly. They sat there in silence for a minute, then Sillika perked up.

"Hey, Jay's shown me some pictures of NewAlbia. It looks a great place."

"Yeah," Callum realised he should put a bit of enthusiasm into his voice, "Great. Can't wait to get there."



"You're a really bad liar."

"I know."

Jay Feral frowned as he placed the tray of drinks on the table.

"You two alright?" He asked. Sillika blinked, then grinned up at him.

"What? Yeah, we're okay."

"Just a bit of nostalgia creeping in," Callum laughed. Jay felt some tension ebb out of the air and sat down. Sillika sipped her drink.

"Remind me again where we're headed?"

Jay grinned.

"Back to NewAlbia. We'll make one stop off at Cellas Station, then straight home. You'll like it, I guarantee."

There was a high beeping from the small black callband strapped round Jay's wrist. He sighed and put his drink down. He hated being on call, but he was a Commander, he didn't have much choice about it. He flipped the thin cover and pressed his thumb onto the small scanner pad.

"Feral," he said quickly.

"The Captain wishes to speak to you Commander," the slightly tinny voice trilled. He sighed again.

"On my way."

"Problems?" Sillika asked. Jay shrugged.

"No idea. See you in a bit."

He got up and made his way to the lifts. The calls only ever seemed to turn up when he was in the middle of something. He grinned slightly; at least he wasn't in the bath this time. That had been annoying, and he doubted that the Captain had been too impressed when he'd turned up with a towel on his head to make a point. He pressed for the lift and stepped in as the door hissed open. He thumbed the scanner.


The doors slid closed and Jay's stomach lurched slightly as it began to rise. After a few moments, the doors opened again. Jay glanced round at the bridge, and at the noticeable absence of the Captain. He frowned, and tapped a nearby ensign on the shoulder.

"Hey, Crystal, where's the Captain?"

The Shee turned to him, and flashed him a sympathetic smile.

"In her ready-room. Warning Jay, she's a little pissed today."


Jay crossed the crescent shaped bridge, heading towards the rather plain doors that lead to the Captain's quarters and office. Various bridge crew gave him nervous smiles. He frowned as he palmed the door; there was normally a lot more noise on the bridge. Everyone seemed to be treading carefully today.

"She must be seriously annoyed," he muttered to himself as he stepped through the door.

"What was that Jay?" The Captain asked sharply. Jay's head snapped up, and he remembered himself in time to salute. He normally wouldn't have bothered, but when Captain Llella Sasch was in a bad mood, it helped to be as polite as possible. He fixed his gaze on a point a few inches behind her right ear.

"Nothing ma'am."

Sasch sighed and stood up. To Jay's surprise she didn't seem to have been doing anything else before he'd come in. This wouldn't seem odd, unless you knew her. Sasch would always be working, if you wanted to talk to her you'd have to try to get a word in between pauses in typing. Now though, her whole attention was fixed on Jay. It was unnerving. The Captain was shorter than Jay; hair tied up in a totally immovable style that it was speculated rocks would bounce off. Even though she only came up to Jay's chin, she had a tall personality. She wasn't much older than he was, but was the most highly decorated officer on the ship, with more commendations for bravery and dedication to duty than most people earned in a lifetime. This was probably her last mission as a Captain; she'd been put in for promotion before they'd left. She also had the most restrained temper Jay'd ever seen. This wasn't a good thing; all it meant was that she didn't snap very often, but when she did it was a good idea to be on a different planet. Her copper gaze bored into him.

"I expect you know what this is about."

Jay shook his head.


"Dammit Commander! *This* is what I'm talking about!" She snatched a data pad from the desk and shoved it towards him. He glanced at it.

"My report?"

"Exactly. On this supposed 'Albia'. Care to explain yourself?" She glared at him. Jay scrolled down through what he'd written, trying to find the problem. He couldn't find one.

"I, er, I don't understand..."

Sasch slammed her fist into the desk.

"I didn't request you on this mission because of your ability not to understand my orders!" She snatched back the pad and held it up to Jay's face.

"Norns, Grendels, Ettins. Even the flying hand is mildly believable. But this garbage about magical Amulets? You seriously expect me to *believe* that?"

Jay hesitated. *He* wouldn't have believed it, but...

"Callum and Sillika swear it's..."

"Ah yes, the living relics. They're the same age as you are Commander, if they were several thousand years old, don't you think that it would show?"

"The medical tests..."

Sasch waved a hand.

"True, they did give some odd results, but that could have been caused by any of a hundred things."

"All together, ma'am?" Jay added sharply, then regretted it as the Captain's expression hardened.

"Your report is ridiculous! How am I supposed to show the Admiral this when we get back, hmm? Do you *want* to be the laughing stock of the Corps?"

Jay glowered silently. He agreed that the story about the Amulets sounded ridiculous, but when you understood the facts... He'd seen the Hand, talked to it even. He'd seen the Amulet it wore and could see that there was something odd about it. He'd seen Callum's scar, seen the Ettins who seemed to have formed an entire religion around the Amulets. He'd heard the tone of voice everyone had used when speaking about the pendants. He believed them.

The Captain glared at him.



"For gods sake Jay! These new Shee have lied to you! I don't know what reason they have for spinning such a ridiculous story, or why you choose to believe them, but I intend to find out!" She stalked back to her desk and sat down heavily. She tapped at the screen for a few minutes, then looked up. Her expression softened for a second.

"Listen Jay, you're a damn fine Commander and a loyal officer, but I can't have wild stories like this spreading around the crew. Until I find out why those Shee are here... You're suspended from duty."

"What?" Jay stared at Sasch, outraged. He'd been *suspended*? For doing his damn *duty*? The Captain met his stare.

"You heard me. It's nothing personal. Oh, and report to the infirmary on your way back, you're to have a full scan and chemical screen."

Jay held her gaze.

"Permission to speak 'freely'?" He didn't wait for a response.

"I do believe them. There's no reason why Callum or Sillika should lie. And I also believe that if you weren't so keen to get a promotion at the end of this mission you'd be a bit less preoccupied with what the Admiral is going to think about one report that, if you would actually take some time to look at the evidence behind it, gives all the explanation that you need to know about two Shee who've been through hell and back trying to save a planet that the rest of our people left for dead! Now, *if* you'll excuse me, I have a drink to finish."

Jay spun on his heel and strode out, almost feeling the Captain's shocked stare on the back of his neck. He stormed past the open-mouth bridge crew, palmed the lift and glared at the wall until the door closed. Only then did he groan and stare at the roof. *Why* had he done that?

"Because you didn't think before opening your big mouth," he muttered. He sighed as the lift doors slid open. He'd get it in the neck for this.

"Jay? You alright?" Sillika's voice made him jump. He looked up and grinned as she made her way down the corridor towards him. She frowned.

"You've gone red, what happened?"

Jay gave her a weak smile.

"I've been suspended."

"What? Why?"

"For my report on Albia. Captain thinks I made it up, or that you were lying."

"We weren't lying," Callum joined them, shuddering slightly, "We weren't lying."

"I know, I know. It's just convincing her otherwise."

There was another beeping from Jay's callband. He sighed and brought it up to eye-level.

"Probably another..." He stopped and blinked. Sillika tried to look over his shoulder.


"Just wants me, or rather us to go back to the bridge."

"You mean the Captain wants to see *us*?" She asked incredulously. Jay nodded.

"This can't be a good thing."

"I'm inclined to agree with you."

Chapter 2