Nyoto loved the endless expansion of space. He loved how it stretched on forever, in all conceivable directions. Turn one way and a new wonder would appear, if you only traveled far enough, long enough, or deep enough to find it. He often contemplated the vastness of this void, marveling at its ever-changing form that baffled the mind and dared any one consciousness to attempt and grasp the wholeness of its complexity.
Through all the countless eons that he had lived, wandering through the star-filled plane, his mind always returned to one singular idea: The eternity of the universe, was so simultaneously empty and overflowing with life. When moving through that solitude, Nyoto never once felt alone.
It was an ironic truth that the Star Child felt his most isolated when surrounded by people. The presence of other living creatures kept him aware of their proximity to him and yet emphasized the distance they maintained. He was an oddity, after all. Something to be looked at but rarely approached.
Nyoto learned early on when joining society that even in a universe brimming with alien diversity, there still remained traits and outliers that would always keep some species separate from the others. There was something inexpiable about him and his kind and that made simpler beings uneasy. Star Children could be marveled, they could be feared, but it was rare that they were treated with equality and understanding. Such truths played like white noise in the background of his mind. It wasn’t something he frequently dwelt on, nor did it bother him to do so, but it was an idea that he could never forget or ignore.
Nyoto’s disposition reflected fragments of this understanding. He was a quiet man, preferring to keep to himself, his thoughts and his work. A dedicated engineer, he devoted his time and energy to working on the ship’s engine and the Quantum Drive that made her so unique. He loved this machine and he would gladly admit it. Her mystery and her science, working together perfectly in their intricate dance of precision -It electrified his ingenuity. It was an honor to be one of only a handful of souls in the entire universe granted access to this advanced form of technology and be allowed to study, understand it and learn how it worked. Had it not been for Captain Treta’s coaxing toward this opportunity, Nyoto never would have joined the pirate’s crew and would likely still be welding space stations in the outer rim.
Today, one of countless many in the eternal wakefulness of his being, the Chief Engineer was hard at work within one of the steam rooms. Buried deep in the bowels of the infamous star racer, Nyoto spent a majority of his time maneuvering the many chambers of piping, machinery wells and engine rooms to see to the constant maintenance that the Monoceros required. Captain Treta recently informed him that they were planning to make a quantum leap in the next few days, which meant Nyoto and his assistant Xaer’sa needed to see to testing and heat-treating all of the piping systems on board beforehand. With the miles of pipe that ran through the interior of this astro-beast, the team had been at their task for quite some time.
Nyoto was standing on a grated walk-way in the dim red lighting of the chamber. Steam pooled from the pipes all around him making the air hot and heavy with moisture. Neither he nor his assistant engineer seemed to notice however and continued with their work.
“South cooling bend C, channel fifteen, how’s it read?” he asked, holding a temperature controlled GlassPad in his hand. The Star Child’s voice echoed through the hollow chamber, the the usual rumble and click of his deep tones muffled by the hissing steam.
“It’s way too low, only a 12.1” Xaer’sa said, her voice echoing back from somewhere in the darkness. “We had problems with the South sector last jump, this time it’ll definitely need reinforcements.”
Nyoto make a note of it on his glass.
“Think you can get it?” He asked. There was a moment of silence, his glowing eyes peered into the crevasse of piping where his assistant had squeezed herself in order to conduct the test.
Xaer’sa was a Nir’anon: a slender, agile race of snake like people; cold blooded heat seakers ideal for working in hot, confined places such as this. Xaer’sa was the only individual with which Nyoto frequently interacted. Their working relationship was professional and practical and at times they were even friendly toward one another. That was more than could be said with any other member of the crew. Even Captain Treta, who had his trust, rarely saw Nyoto’s kindness, though he suspected it was there. Despite his initial reservations, Xaer’sa had proven she could be trusted around his machine, and that was enough for him.
The silence ended with a defeated grunt.
“No.” her voice echoed back with frustration. Nyoto activated a cling feature on the GlassPad and stuck it to one of wall vents.
“I’m coming up.” he said, and rising to stand on his hind legs, leapt into the air. Despite his weight and size, the large alien landed on the piping channel with feather like grace. Carefully, he maneuvered through the jungle-gym of metal beams and rods, making his way to where his assistant was waiting -crammed between several large pipes a few levels below.
There was no lighting in this part of the ship. Had it not been for both the alien’s heightened ability to see in the dark, they would have found themselves in pure blackness. Nyoto’s mane of hair, which defied gravity by the same power that made him appear weightless, gave off a slight greenish glow.
He arrived, two levels above channel fifteen. Nyoto looked down through the gaps in the metal and spotted Xaer’sa, lying on her back beneath their target.
“Hand me the winch.” He said and reached a clawed hand down to her. She passed it back. Nyoto secured the device against a steel beam above and encircled the section they needed to enforce.
“Ready with the supports?” He asked.
“Ready” came her reply.
“Alright. Closing values A and B.” Two knobs on either end of the section were tightened, sealing off the bend between.
“Raising on my count… three....two...one… now.” Nyoto gripped the massive section of pipe and lifted it from its place. There was a great hiss as the pressure within was released and the large section of metal rose into the air. He held it patiently, braced against his shoulder and oblivious to the crushing weight of its girth. Xaer’sa leapt out from below, set up the support beams beneath it and tightened the winch to prevent its collapse.
“You’re clear.” she said and Nyoto stepped away. Together they examined the internal deterioration the section had suffered. Nyoto made a few remarks, which Xaer’sa jotted down on her Glass. Reinforcing this in order to withstand the extreme heat and pressure of Quantum space travel would take a lot of extra effort, and afterwards the section would undoubtedly need to be replaced. Nyoto would need to have a word with the Captain about that before the day was through. He nodded to Xaer’sa to fetch their equipment. She bolted off, swinging down through the metal maze as she disappeared again into the darkness.
Nearly five hours later, and the South Section was complete. Nyoto was ready to take on the West Sector next but one look at Xaer’sa and he knew they were done for the night.
“Go.” He said, not a trace of kindness in his voice. Had she not worked with the celestial for so long she might have been hurt by his dismissal. Unlike most living creatures in this universe, her boss did not require the blissful recuperation of sleep and had little patience for those, like herself, that did. But it didn’t bother her, the fact that he was considerate of her lack of energy was enough. He could very well demand they keep working and at this rate she was soon to collapse with exhaustion.
Xaer’sa smiled at the Star Child, or at least -gave the best impression of a smile that she could with her features.
“Thanks boss. I won’t be long. Just a quick nap then we can finish this up.” she said, slinging a leather bag over her shoulder.
Nyoto made a dismissive clicking sound as he continued to make notes on his Glass. He did not meet her eye.
“I’ll see you in a few hours!” she called, walking off down the passage. “You should eat something, by the way, take care of that grumpy attitude!”
He scoffed, looking back at her over his shoulder. If only to upset him, his stomach chose that moment to grumble in response.
Damn traitor, he thought, half-humoredly. I suppose I could grab a quick bite. It’s the middle of the night so at least the mess will be empty. He looked about the darkness of his surroundings, the familiar hum of living metal filling the air.
A short meal and then back to work. Nyoto nodded to himself and made his way to the upper decks, silent and empty save for a few woken souls.