Warpt Factor – Installment 20

Izzy sighed. The haunted mansion seemed a little less impressive after seeing actual monsters and magic in action. This didn’t stop Izzy from taking the ride very seriously. She earned the high score on the ghost hunter portion of the ride, and unlocked the hidden route. At the end, walking along the exit path, Izzy performed a short victory dance that prompted a chuckle from CMO Carter and muttered remarks about being a sore winner from First Officer deCourville.

“So much for this being down-time, eh?” Professor Everest joked. “You doing all right, Captain?”

Izzy smiled. “As far as vacations go, it was a dud,” Izzy replied. “Made for a very impressive distraction. Top notch. Totally threw me off my game. Feeling ready to get back to doing some good, though. What do you think?”

Professor Everest huffed. “Just be careful with that sort of attitude,” he replied. “If you’re not careful, all procedure and proper work focus with no fun will make you into that.” He jerked a thumb towards Fontaine.

“I can hear you, you know,” Fontaine hissed without looking back.

“Let me present a reasonable compromise,” CMO Carter said. She spun around and stopped. “We can cut our trip a little short seeing how the park closes in a couple hours…But would we really want to miss out on making use of our meal passes?”

Fontaine chittered excitedly. “It would be prudent to fully utilize all of the amenities afforded to us with our passes, I would think,” he said, quickly adding, “I have heard such good reviews of the Orbital Opera, after all. I would like to second the motion to enjoy some fine dining and fantastical theater.”

Izzy chuckled. “Who am I, your caring captain, to deny my crew a little more fun before we depart? Let’s do this.”

The Orbital Opera hovered at the height of the park, a globe suspended from the upper reaches of the park’s boundaries. The ceiling, only visible when starstuff bounced against it, was clear and provided a perfect view of the billions of points of light beyond. The tables were in a fixed orbit around a stage at the center of the room, and the show was almost ready to start when Izzy and her crew arrived.

“Oh, wondrous! The tale of the feud between Mars and Earth!” Fontaine chirped.

Izzy enjoyed watching her crew as much as she enjoyed watching the show. It was peaceful. The food was all right, but a bit fancier than she’d have liked. She poked and prodded at it a few times in hopes of drawing Fontaine’s ire only to realize he was too enthralled by the performance. Giving in to the situation, Izzy forced herself to relax. By the end of the show, she was even enjoying herself a little though Izzy also found herself making mental notes of points to take back to her history teachers on Earth regarding how the Earthen Alliance at the time chose to approach welcoming the Martians into their great allegiance. By force.

“Exquisite!” Fontaine cheered as he leapt up, clapping all four hands.

Professor Everest snorted. “I’ve seen better versions,” he replied. “Spoiled myself by seeing the original cast. Everything else is just…eh.”

CMO Carter offered a friendly nod to Izzy. She raised an eyebrow.

“What? Do I have food stuck in my teeth?” Izzy asked. “Fancy food stuck in my teeth? Goodness, how embarrassingly classy of me.”

CMO Carter shook her head, but couldn’t help smiling. “You’ve got a message.” She pointed to Izzy’s CommLink. The small indicator light at the top of its screen blinked bright red.

“Huh,” Izzy said. “An Urgent one, too.”

She opened the message and reviewed it. The sender was anonymous, and the origin details were clearly heavily encrypted. All that was clear was the small map in the body of the message. Izzy continued to stare at it intensely. The sharp snapping of fingers pulled her back to the present.

“Is something wrong, Captain Warpt?” CMO Carter asked.

Izzy sighed. “Coordinates,” she said. “Mystery coordinates. I think it’s an invitation from our scary friend back on Rigel Six.”

CMO Carter downed the rest of her drink and sighed.

“Off we go,” Izzy said. “Crew, we’re starbound in ten. Don’t want to keep our host waiting.”

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