QuetzalcoatlOn the way to the colony world of Alphenor, an interstellar cruise ship collides with a mysterious object. The passengers and crew must work together to survive, but they quickly learn that the ship which damaged their own is only part of a larger alien invasion. Unless they can do something to stop it, there will be no one left to rescue them.

QUETZALCOATL is a work in progress. Chapters presented here may not be the same in their final version.

Chapter One – Wrinkles

03:17:03 to impact

Eva took out her frustration on Mateo’s white shirt, attacking wrinkles with her iron as if they had done her a personal affront. She pulled out a ruler from the laundry kit she had spread out on the table and made sure the collar was folded precisely to regulation, then pressed the creases twice. No one would dare say she wasn’t doing her job to the best of her ability.

The door behind her opened–too soon. Eva spun around and found her husband leaning against doorway of their narrow bedroom, dressed in white pants with a gold-trimmed dress jacket slung over one arm. His jet black hair was damp from the shower and still loose, brushing the collar of his undershirt.

“Eva, have you seen my … ah. I should have known.”

Eva tried to hide the iron behind her back and almost got burned for her trouble. “I-I’m almost finished. Sorry for making you wait.”

Mateo’s wide lips bent into a smile that melted her, even after two years of marriage. “There’s no hurry; the party doesn’t start for another couple of hours.”

It’s not his fault, Eva reminded herself as she finished ironing the shirt. The true target of her anger was nearly seven light years away. “Dinner is in the oven there–your favorite.”

Mateo squeezed past her and peeked into the oven, and the smell of hot tamales filled the tiny room. “Did you get off shift early?” he asked in surprise.

“I put them together this morning,” Eva said, glad that they’d upgraded to a cabin with a kitchen of its own. She didn’t always take advantage of it, but she felt guilty ordering from Peru’s the cafeteria every day. The ship catered to passengers from all over the League, which often left its mostly Justician crew longing for a taste of home.

Eva set her iron down and gave the shirt a final inspection. Only when she was certain there wasn’t a thread out of place did she hand the garment over.

Mateo put his shirt on, and Eva claimed his jacket while he did so, laying it out on the table where the shirt had been.

“You cleaned that yesterday,” Mateo said, pausing with one arm in his sleeve. “I swear, I haven’t worn it since.”

“I forgot the buttons,” Eva fretted, rummaging through her laundry kit. “What would Captain Vargas say if I let his chief engineer arrive at the Debarkation party with tarnished buttons?”

Mateo reached over her shoulder and retrieved his jacket, hip pressed against hers in the narrow space. “I can see my reflection in them already.” He transferred the jacket to the back of a chair with a motion that left his arm wrapped around Eva’s torso. “What’s gotten into you? You’ve been working yourself up over nothing all week.”

Eva wanted to lean into the embrace, but resisted. “You’ll wrinkle your shirt.”

His other arm slipped around her waist. “Has some passenger been harassing you again? Tell me his room number–I’ll make sure there’s an extra charge on his bill.”

“It’s not….” Not one of the passengers, she’d been about to say, but amended it. “It’s nothing.”

“You can tell me.” Mateo’s bronze arrowhead of a nose moved into Eva’s field of vision as he kissed her cheek. “Is something wrong at work?”

Eva sighed and gave in, reveling in the warmth of his body against hers. “I got a letter from your mother while we were at Maisha.”

Mateo stiffened. “The same question as before?”

“Sort of. She accused me of neglecting your ‘husbandly needs’.”

A disapproving exhalation tickled the back of Eva’s neck. “You have to remember; it’s been four years for them, not just two. Add in my ten years as a navigator before I married you, and my parents ought to be expecting great-grandchildren by now. You can’t blame them for getting anxious.”

Eva pulled angrily away and plopped down on the couch. She’d known he would take his mother’s side.

“And now you’re sulking.” Mateo said, ran a hand through his damp hair. “What did I do wrong?”

“You know I don’t want to raise a child on this ship, with strangers wandering around drunk all the time, and half the crew shacking up together! What kind of an example would that set?”

Mateo sat down on the couch beside her, took her hand. “Of course I know. I promised I’d wait until you’re ready, not matter how long that takes. But you can’t expect everyone else to understand.”

“I just wish they’d all quit asking.” Eva pulled her hand free and turned her back to him, but Mateo took it as an invitation to continue his earlier ministrations.

“I can handle the reply,” he said, caressing the back of her neck with his fingers. “I’ll explain which of us is the needy one.”

“Don’t you dare!” Eva turned her head to make sure he was only joking, and Mateo met her lips with a playful kiss. His arms slid around her once again. “Your shirt–”

“I’ll just take it off.”

The conversation was just starting to get interesting when the comm chimed. “You have a call from the bridge,” said Luiz, the ship’s voice-interface computer. “Would you like to answer?”

Mateo continued to do pleasant things to Eva’s neck as he replied. “Voice only, Luiz.”

“Teo, mi amigo,” said the captain a moment later, “may I borrow your wife for a few moments? Noemi is having a meltdown over her wardrobe.”

With a sigh, Eva pulled away. The first rule of working on a starliner was, ‘you’re always on duty, even when you’re not’.

“I’ll be right up, Captain.”

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