QuetzalcoatlEn route 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 attacked the shirt in front of her with an iron, flattening wrinkles and pressing seams as if the white fabric had done her a personal affront. The kitchen table was covered with her previous work. Eva’s uniforms in one pile, Mateo’s in the other; pressed and folded as neatly as she might have done for any of the Peru’s four or five thousand passengers. Even angry, she wasn’t one to do a job halfway.

The scent of tamales filled the tiny cabin, and Eva ground her teeth at the hours wasted preparing them before her shift that morning. It was probably too late to pretend she hadn’t cooked anything.

Sure enough–just moments after Eva slapped the last folded shirt on top of the pile, the cabin door slid open.

Mateo sauntered in, wide lips bent in an oblivious smile. Normally that smile melted her, even after two years of marriage, but right now it just made her eyebrows twitch.

“Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”

The question caught him flat-footed, right in the middle of opening his mouth to ask how her day was going. It was annoying how dashing he could make that look; dark ponytail brushing broad shoulders as he turned his head in confusion. “What did–”

Eva grabbed Mateo’s tablet off the counter. He must have recognized the memo she had open on it, because his eyes widened in alarm.

“I couldn’t believe it when Noemi told me. You promised you wouldn’t retire for another ten years, maybe more! But then I find out you’ve asked the captain to find you a replacement?”

“I didn’t mean for–”

“For me to find out, I know. Not until it was too late.”

“Eva….” The guilt on Mateo’s face made her heart sink.

“It isn’t too late, is it? Tell me you haven’t done anything irreparable?”

Mateo tried to slide into the kitchenette–probably to wrap his arms around her and kiss away her ire–but the empty laundry basket slowed him down enough for Eva to put the narrow table between them. He sighed.

“I … I’ve already made a down payment on a house.”

For one brief moment, Eva considered throwing the iron at him. “How could you? You know I love it here!”

Mateo tried once again to approach, and once again she dodged him. “But weren’t you just telling me how much you loved Alphenor? That it was your favorite, out of all the colonies we’ve visited?”

“That’s different–”

“Light years away from the major trade routes, with billions of acres of unclaimed land, and they haven’t even categorized all the megafauna yet. You always said you wanted to see places no one had ever seen before. How much further from civilization do you think you can get?”

“You didn’t even ask me!” Eva thought she was too angry to cry, but once she started to let loose, the tears came pouring out. “I love it here, aboard the Peru. This is my home!”

This time Eva wasn’t fast enough. Mateo slid around while she was half-blinded with tears and wrapped his arms around her.

“I’m sorry. I should have asked you first, but I wanted it to be a surprise.”

Eva thumped her fist against Mateo’s chest and let out a bitter laugh. It had certainly come as a surprise.

“I thought … with all the times you’ve complained that a starliner is no place for children, I figured you’d welcome the change.” Mateo mistook her outraged silence for encouragement to continue. “Just wait until you see it. There’s a huge yard, big enough for a dozen kids to play in. The pantry could fit this whole kitchen inside!”

“I’m not going.” Eva’s pronouncement startled him enough to loosen his grip, and she pushed free.

“If you’d rather go back to Justicia, raise our family there–”

“What if I don’t even want children?”

The look on his face was almost payback for what he’d done. “But I thought you….”

“It was never me who brought it up. It was always you, or your mother.” Those last were getting more and more insistent, to the point of being rude. “And by the way, what right does she have to pry into our marital affairs? Last week’s letter made me feel like a teenager having my first period!”

Mateo was clearly as embarrassed about the letter as Eva was, but she didn’t let herself forgive him over it. “Well you can’t blame her. Most of her friends are expecting great-grandchildren by now.” Not that Mateo was old enough to have any grandchildren. Sure, he’d been born long enough ago, but his physical age–slowed down by countless relativity-shortened trips through Jumpspace–was only about ten years more than Eva’s.

“I most certainly can–”

The comm chimed, followed by the captain’s rich Justician accent. “Teo, mi amigo. Might I borrow your wife for a moment? Noemi is having a meltdown over her wardrobe.”

Eva moved toward the door.

“Don’t answer it,” Mateo pleaded. “You’re off duty. For all he knows, you’re not even home.”

He tried to interpose himself, but Eva reached around him and pressed the reply button. “I’ll be right there, Captain.”

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