Graveyard of Empires - Chapter 9

 Traq was terrified. When the woman—Vivian Drowel—had shown up at the door, she’d had a short conversation with Rica, and then after a tearful and quick goodbye, she’d taken Traq by the hand and led him away from his home. His mother packed him a bag and told him she loved him.
Graveyard of Empires - Chapter 9

Sector 6 - Geid

Traq Lane

Traq was terrified.

When the woman—Vivian Drowel—had shown up at the door, she’d had a short conversation with Rica, and then after a tearful and quick goodbye, she’d taken Traq by the hand and led him away from his home. His mother packed him a bag and told him she loved him.

He was in a daze, following Vivian through Averton. She was tall, a lot taller than his mother, with high cheekbones and dark hair. She held onto his hand with an iron grip and pulled him whenever he slowed to try to look over his shoulder.

His eyes were wet, but he didn’t dare cry out loud. The first time he’d started sobbing, she gave him a long look.

He’d heard stories about horrible witches eating little children when they misbehaved. He tried really, really hard not to think about those stories.

They walked in silence. Averton was a place he knew by heart. A sprawling metropolis of narrow streets and bustling people. There were four open-air markets crammed with customers and goods. Dried fish hung from lines, and the entire city smelled of fermenting fish. In a few weeks, workers would slide the bones out of the mushy meat and pound it into a salty paste.

They navigated around a vendor pouring fruity, sugar-laden drinks from his cart. Farther along the roadway, a teenage boy offered to sell Vivian a pair of cheap sunglasses, and still farther a dog hiked his leg against the corner of a salon, watching them pass.

Traq watched it all but saw none of it. He couldn’t really believe he would leave Averton behind forever. Let alone his planet. It just seemed so unreal, like a dream.

Or a nightmare.

A carefully tended garden surrounded a golden shrine. A lot of people knelt in front of it. Once, a few months earlier, he’d asked his mom why she never prayed at the little shrine. She told him that it didn’t belong to their God. He wasn’t really sure what that meant.

Outside the city, it was a twenty-minute walk, yet it seemed to take only seconds. Vivian led him to a large parking lot for factory workers. There was a massive silver machine resting in the center.

“What is that?” he murmured.

She didn’t reply.

Probably a spaceship, he decided, curious despite his terror. The ship was enormous and sleek, at least four times bigger than his house. The strange metal gleamed brightly from all different angles, catching sunlight in some spots and reflecting it in others. He wondered how it flew. He couldn’t imagine something that big lifting off the ground.

But they didn’t go in. Not that one. Vivian took him instead to a much smaller and older ship. It was resting in the shadow of the larger vessel, hidden in the corner of the lot.

He felt an intense pang of fear. Where the first one was wondrous, this one was terrifying. It looked like a death trap.

“Climb on board,” Vivian said.

Traq eyed the loading ramp apprehensively. The paint was fading and he saw weird shapes and letters on the side. His mother had begun to teach him how to read, so he recognized a few of the letters, but some of them were completely foreign.

This ship was basically a big box with rounded edges attached to a smaller box jutting out the front.

“Is it safe?” he asked.

“It’s old, but still flies. The engines were replaced a few years ago and all of the safety systems meet Engineering Standards.”

Traq had been asking about the ramp—it didn’t seem to have any supports keeping it off the ground—but nodded anyway. Slowly, he started walking up the metal platform, gaining confidence as he went.

Vivian guided him to an enclosed room near the back without talking, her boots making metallic thuds against the floor. Traq’s own shoes were soft soled and caused only a whisper. The inside was cooler than outside. It was almost cold.

She gestured to a pile of blankets and clothing in the corner of the room. “Stay here during takeoff,” she said.

Then she disappeared, the door sliding shut behind her. Traq was surrounded by crates, and the walls were angled differently than his house, making it feel cramped and uncomfortable. And he was alone.

There were no windows either. The air tasted stale and bitter.

A humming sound grew from underneath him, and the floor felt like it was vibrating. He didn’t like it. He felt like a rat trapped in a cage.

With no alternatives, he sat down on the blankets. The floor was made of latticed metal. He doubted it would be comfortable to lay on for more than a few minutes.

After about an hour, he started sobbing.

It was still another hour before he gained enough courage to leave the cramped room to explore.

He wandered through the small ship absently, marveling at how different it was. The walls were polished metal, not wood or concrete. Bright lights dominated the narrow hallway. He’d been in cars, had even heard about ones that hovered, but nothing like this. The houses in Averton weren’t fully sealed or climate controlled. Inside this ship, however, he felt…stuck. Enclosed.


There was an alcove with an exit hatch near the front. A window on the side showed a star-filled canopy beyond. It was like looking at the stars in the middle of the night.

To his left, a ladder dropped into a dark room. There was a loud grinding sound and a hiss, not very inviting.

The last things he saw were a pair of sliding doors along the wall on his right and another door straight ahead. He didn’t go near them. He was afraid of getting in trouble if the tall woman came back.

Instead, he went back to the cargo hold and sat down.

About ten minutes passed before she finally returned. He heard footsteps clapping toward him. He huddled in the blankets, terrified. Vivian stepped into the room and stared down at him, standing in the doorway. The lights were behind her, framing her in shadows.

“Do you have any questions?” she asked. Her words were clipped and strange, and he had to struggle to understand her. Her accent wasn’t like anything he’d heard before.

He asked, “Where are we going?”




“Are we going into space?”

“We are already in space,” Vivian replied.

Traq looked up in surprise. “I didn’t feel anything…”

“It’s a decent ship.”

Traq closed his eyes and tried to see if anything felt different. The floor was vibrating more, but everything else seemed the same.

“I can’t leave?”

Vivian shook her head.

“Is my mom coming?”

Again, Vivian only shook her head.

Traq couldn’t help it. He started crying. She was silent for a moment, and then said, “The restroom is through the cockpit to the left. Stay out of the engine room.” When she saw, he didn’t understand, she stepped back and pointed to the ladder. “Don’t go down there. At least not until I can show you what is safe.”

“Is this my room?”

A slight smirk curled the edges of her lips. “This is the cargo hold. You’ll use the room on the left once I clean it out. It’s where I store medical supplies. Go and shower, and when you come back, I’ll have your room ready. You can sleep. We’ll be arriving on Mali soon, so get plenty of rest. Any last questions?”

Traq rubbed his eyes and looked up. “Why am I here?”

Vivian didn’t respond. She just stared, those dark-gray eyes studying him. He tried to stare back but couldn’t. He ended up looking down at his hands, wondering if he had made her mad. When he looked up, she was gone.

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