Luna was not happy being assigned the late old lady’s quarters. Earthling, as everyone had called her, since she had actually been born back on Earth, had been living on the ship since before it even had magnetic gravity. Everyone thought she was crazy but she’d lived to be one hundred and seventy years old, so surely she’d had some dementia, even if she wasn’t literally insane. Earthling had been the ship’s navigation officer back in the day but then worked in the ship’s clinic as a nurse for a couple decades.
However, she had been working in the kitchen as the head cook for the last couple dozen years before she died. There were several people who swore she was a Witch, like from some old Earth fairy tale. Luna thought that was just ignorant bigotry against the old lady because of her age and sex. If old Earthling had been male, Luna thought, he’d not have been accused of being a Wizard, of course.
Luna unlocked the door and walked inside. She’d heard Earthling was a hoarder too, which seemed to be correct by what she saw inside as the lights popped on. It was a tiny room, like all private rooms on the ship were, yet it was still packed with tons of things, floor to ceiling, in all directions as she walked to the center of the room and looked around. The bathroom door was open and she could see more things piled eye-high in there.
Luna sighed heavily, she’d been afraid of this. It was her responsibility now to clean out the trash and she couldn’t even sort out any valuables and send them to Earthling’s family because the old lady had listed no next of kin in her files.
Luna threw a basket holding a mound of sparkling jewelry and a huge purse off of a green upholstered fainting couch that had to have been an antique when Earthling was born. She sat down. She looked around wondering where she should start. “I will keep some of these beautiful antiques of course”, she said out loud to herself, picking back up the basket of jewelry.
“That is wise.” a voice answered.
Luna jumped off the couch and looked around. She saw no one, only boxes, bags, antique furniture, and an old ornate mirror hanging on the one wall not covered by boxes stacked in front of it. Nonetheless, she answered. “What? Who said that?”
“My brother, said that. Ignore him. You aren’t keeping anything, including the quarters, leave us, and never come back.”
Luna didn’t answer this time. She slowly sat back down on the fainting couch. Looking around the room, she still saw no one but she was sure she clearly heard the two voices come from within the room. She knitted her brows and shook her head, frowning.
“Oh no Miss, don’t make such faces. You are too beautiful to wear such an ugly expression.”
She had seen where that third voice came from. There was a man looking at her from out of the mirror. She got up and walked to the mirror on the wall. It was broken, into three pieces. The man still smiled at her from the upper right corner piece.
“I am Anterior Dimitri.” He introduced himself. “We are pleased to have a new Witch. We’ve been alone for months since Miss Ruby died.”
“No we are not pleased.” The first face had disappeared, replaced by a similar face in the largest broken mirror piece. “Go away.”
The first face and voice returned. “Pardon my brother. He is hateful. That is why he is called Posterior Dimitri.”
“Yes, yes, and I am Superior Dimitri.” A third face and voice appeared in the third broken mirror section, as the smiling face in the upper right faded away again.
“I see.” She did not.
“So what is your lovely name, m’lady?” The upper right corner piece’s man spoke to her again.
Luna looked around the room, though she was sure she was neither imagining this nor being tricked by someone playing an elaborate joke upon her. She turned back to the broken mirror, examining it closely, to see if it was somehow a computer screen.
“Your name? He asked you your name. Are you daft? Perhaps you have no name. Did your parents call you nothing?” Posterior Dimitri appeared and said, shaking his head.
“My name is Luna Goldsmith.”
“Ah,” Anterior Dimitri reappeared in his spot. “A smithy! We have not served a smithy in nearly three millennia. What beautiful works of art do you forge?”
Luna stopped picking at the frame that was decorated with carved woodland animals and flowers. She was sure it was not a computer screen but a regular mirror. “Well, not a regular mirror…” She said out loud to herself again.
The brothers answered in turn. “No child, we are not a regular mirror. We, beautiful Miss Luna, are a magic mirror. Any idiot could tell that.”
“Magic mirror.” She paused looking around the room. “Could you clean up this place for me, that would take some magic.”
“My brother, Superior Dimitri is the best at complex spells. He is the smarter of us three.”
Anterior Dimitri smiled at her then faded away and his brother appeared in the lower mirror piece.
“Surely you have some gold, as you are a goldsmith. Take four pieces and place them in the four corners of the room, then return to the center of the room and say: Between these treasured coins clear, make this mess orderly disappear.”
“I have no gold.” Luna said, laughing as she was beginning to believe she was actually talking to a magic mirror with multiple personalities and this amused her greatly.
Posterior Dimitri faded in, as Superior Dimitri faded out. “Ruby had lots of gold, look around. You’ll find some, you simpleton.”
Luna stopped laughing and mirrored Posterior Dimitri’s grumpy face with her own. None of the brothers added anything further. They seemed to be waiting on her. She rolled her eyes, shrugged, and started looking in the basket of jewelry she had moved off the fainting couch. She indeed, found lots of gold. She took a pair of flying saucer shaped figural gold earrings and put one each at the back left and right corners of the room. She then got a gold and ruby ring out of the basket and placed it in the far corner by the bathroom door and returned to the basket. There she found a gold bangle bracelet marked with silver stars and a opal moon. She took it and placed it in the corner by the front door. Then she turned to the mirror.
“Go on. my dear, say it.” Anterior Dimitri nodded reassuringly. “Between these treasured coins clear, make this mess orderly disappear.”
“But, they aren’t coins. Will gold jewelry work?”
“Yes, I assure you, all gold is coin. Try to buy yourself a prettier dress than that rag you are wearing with any piece of gold and you will find it is coin.” Posterior Dimitri sneered at her from the left side of the frame.
Luna spoke the incantation. She was not sure if she thought that it would work, until she saw the room explode and things fly about setting themselves into place neatly on shelves and counters or disappearing into puffs of smoke in the case of all the trash. Within three breaths all the movement settled and Luna was standing in a very beautifully decorated room full of antique treasures. She turned back to the mirror.
“You are telling me Earthling really was a Witch and you three really were her magic mirror?”
“Boys, she has it figured out! If we had hands we’d clap for her.” Superior Dimitri said to his brothers.
“Yes m’lady.” Anterior Dimitri said reappearing. “What magic of yours can we help with?”
Luna started to answer, but the lights suddenly started flashing and a loud shrieking alarm went off.
“Jupiter!” She swore. “Are we under attack again?” She ran from the newly organized room back into the ship’s public quarters passway and headed for the Command Room where her station was.
As she arrived breathlessly at her post she quickly read the reports on the computer screen at her desk. “Jupiter!” She swore again.
“Another unidentified ship. It is closing in on our position faster than the last one did.” Her boss told her from his post one level up.
“They aren’t transmitting anything either.” She had slipped on some earbuds and was squinting as people always do when trying to listen for something they can’t hear. “Nothing Cap, not even a binary code or a warning siren, nothing.”
“Try contacting them.” He shouted down at her.
“The ship looks identical to the one we destroyed three months ago.” Another officer said from the level below. “So what is Luna suppose to say to them? Hi, we killed your brothers but please don’t shoot at us.”
The captain waved his hand. “We had no choice. Tell them we didn’t want to destroy their other ship but they attacked us first and we do not wish to do battle with them. Ask for some diplomat or representative to come for a meeting and we will discuss making reparations for the destroyed ship and crew.” He rattled off.
Luna sent that message in English, then Egyptian Arabic, then German, then Hindi, then in Tsalagi, the Cherokee language. Aliens were just as likely to understand the Cherokee language as they were English she figured. However, that had exhausted her rather impressively diverse language skills that had won her the Senior Communications Officer title. So she had the computer translate it into French, then Russian, then Spanish, then Hawaiian too. She was throwing everything at the wall trying to see what would stick, as they say.
Her assistant leaned over from his desk to her right. “Try a visual language?”
“Yes, yes, sending it in Egyptian Hieroglyphs…. and Cuneiform… and Mayan glyphs sent now.” She reported. Then she paused, squinting and listening again.
There was a long wait. The Captain on the upper level of the bridge, her assistant beside her, and the Man-at-arms on the level below her all stood watching her.
“Report!” The captain finally lost patience and barked at her.
“I got nothing, Sir.” She said. I am going to set the external lasers to project a holographic message of ‘ceasefire.’ I am projecting it one hundred kilometers in front of their vessel along their flight path. They should see it, now.”
“Omar, are they slowing?” The Captain asked the man at the navigation desk behind him.
“No, Cap, no change.” He reported after checking his screens.
“How long till they get here?” The captain said, slumping behind his desk.
Omar studied his screens again. “Just over two hours, if their speed is constant and if we don’t run. We might be able to outrun them if we start now.” Omar looked back at his screens. “I say we run.”
The Captain sighed. He was in charge of the ship. The ship was his first concern but the inhabitants of the Europa Colony were also his responsibility. If they ran, they’d be leaving that colony in harm’s way. “Call Mars, Lunar, and Venus colonies and their defence ships and tell them to stay put, and guard the system. Call Europa Colony and tell them we have to try to lure them off. Call Titan Colony, tell them that I am sorry, they are on their own too, ’cause we need their defence ship to back us up. Then call their ship and tell John, I said I need him and his ship to follow us, to guard our six. We are are going to try to lure them out of the system.”
“Luna sent all the messages, and when she was done, she let the Captain know that all ships and colonies had received, understood, and agreed to the messages.
The Navigation Officer had reported that they were underway and building to top speed within the hour. While Luna had been busy talking to every ship and station in the system, the Pilot had reported that they could stay out of weapons range for 14 hours, if the alien ship didn’t increase their speed.
“Let’s all hope and pray, they are at their top speed already.” The Captain said. “By Jupiter, let’s hope and pray they chase us and don’t just swoop in and destroy every human colony in the universe back there.”
The Command Crew sat tense and alert to their various monitor screens for hours. It had been just under three hours when Omar at Navigation reported he was now sure the aliens were following them and Titan’s Defense Ship out of the Sol System. They were not attacking the colonies. Six hours later, they were still running, and the aliens were still chasing.
Luna had been transmitting the ceasefire and negotiate message on all frequencies, on all channels, in all languages, and still projecting it visually with the lasers as well between them and the alien ship. There still was no reply in spite of all her varied attempts. The Captain had come to her station looking over her shoulder. He shook his head.
“Go rest a couple hours Luna. Call in a new assistant too.” He motioned to her assistant who was kneeling by her chair helping her. “You two need to be fresh if they catch up to us in the morning.”
She nodded. Her assistant got up and walked out the door into the passageway. She called in one of her other assistants who’d been off duty all day. Once she arrived, Luna left to go take the ordered nap. She should have stopped by the Clinic, no one could fall asleep under these types of situations. She hadn’t thought to though and ended up back at her new quarters’ door. She hadn’t remembered her three strange roommates until she stepped back through that door.
“Welcome home, Miss Luna. You look exhausted. Are you quite well?” Anterior Dimitri asked her.
Luna took three steps into the room, letting the door shut behind her. She walked over to the mirror and again inspected the frame closely. She took ahold of the bottom piece which ironically was the home of Superior Dimitri, and tried to pull it loose.
“Not this stupidity again.” Posterior Dimitri appeared in the left side’s piece. “Why do these Witches try to get us out of the magic mirror. It is a magic mirror. You can’t get us out, you ignorant girl.”
Luna gave up, the mirror seemed to be telling the truth. The pieces were fixed in place indeed, like magic. She shook her head. She wanted to argue with Posterior about her intelligence or ask Anterior about it being a real magic mirror used by real witches in the past or ask Superior Dimitri how to survive the ship’s cut-throat competition in the dating pool but she was so tired. She had to get some rest, her life, the life of everyone onboard the ship might just depend on her having a clear wide awake mind in the morning. She just turned her back on the mirror and went to the bed to lay down. She tossed and turned umpteen times, before sitting up with her throbbing head in her hands, starting to hum; “om, om, ommmmmmmmmmmmm.”
“Miss Luna, begging your pardon. If you will excuse my interrupting you, please. You seem to need a sleeping potion.” Anterior Dimitri said from across the room.
“You can do that? Make me sleep?”
“We can do anything, you fool.”
“I was speaking to Anterior Dimitri, not you Posterior.”
“If you want a good spell, you should be speaking to me, child.”
“Fine! Superior Dimitri, I need to sleep.” She said coming to the mirror.
Superior Dimitri smiled and nodded. “Very well, you shall need a cup of water and you should then place it in the moonlight. However being not on Earth, I suppose the light of one of the light fixtures will have to do. Leave it there on a table as you circle it on foot as fast as you can for seven running laps around the table. Then hurriedly drink it in one gulp before your heartbeat slows from the running.”
Luna shook her head but went and got water from the bathroom sink, in a fancy gold rimmed teacup she found on the table with various other antique dishes. She followed Superior’s directions exactly. Then she sat back down in bed. She was about to thank him when she fell over sound asleep with her legs hanging off the side of the bed.
When she awoke, the grandfather clock was chiming six times for the 6 in the morning hour. She wasn’t on duty for another hour but she wanted to know what was happening with the chase. She rushed out of her quarters and back to the command deck.
The Command Deck was packed with two shifts of officers, all hunched over computer screens looking grouchy. “Maybe I should fetch us all some coffee?” She asked the room. No one answered. She grabbed a passing Navigation Assistant and had him fetch the coffee.
Luna then took her station from her assistant and looked to see if they had received any reply to any of the messages while she had slept. As she feared, they had received no reply whatsoever.
“Luna,” the Captain wandered over to look over her shoulder. “The ball is in your court. We have got to get them to talk.”
“We’ve tried everything, Cap… I don’t know what else to do.”
“Well pull some magic trick outta your hat or we are going to be in a firefight in less than an hour.” The Captain snapped.
Luna’s head cocked to one side. “Maybe….perhaps…”
“What?” He snapped again louder.
“I have an idea…but I have to go to my quarters, I’ll be right back.” Luna jumped from her chair and ran out the door and down the hallway at breakneck speed. When she reached her room, she ran straight to the mirror. “Can you boys help me? We are about to be under attack.”
“Miss Luna, oh dear, whom are we fighting with and why?” Anterior Dimitri asked.
“You horrid humans will never cease warring, will you?” Posterior Dimitri spat.
“Superior Dimitri, you tell me how to communicate with the alien ship chasing ours. They won’t respond to any message I send, in any language.”
Superior Dimitri appeared in his spot and leaned his head to the right, thinking. “The talking stick spell should work, don’t you think my brothers?’
“If she was strong enough to use it, then it would but I doubt she can manage it.” Posterior Dimitri said with an eye roll.
Anterior Dimitri came into focus and nodded towards the closet. “Miss Ruby had her father’s old walking stick. It was made from a branch of a holly tree that had been struck by lightning. I daresay that is the most magical stick on the ship.”
Luna retrieved the stick, it looked overly ancient and overly ornate like everything else in the room. “What do I do with it?”
Superior Dimitri returned and told her the spell. Luna looked at the mirror and then to the stick in her hands, shaking her head. “I don’t know. I mean, how can…”
“Idiot girl, it works by magic.” Posterior Dimitri interrupted her doubts. “If you doubt it, it will not work, if you believe it, it will work. Be gone, use the spell or die in the battle, we don’t care which.”
Luna turned on her heel and ran out. As the door slid shut behind her, she heard Anterior Dimitri saying that he cared.
She made her way to the Command Deck, and fell into her seat flipping on a video communication channel and holding the stick out in front of her to the camera. “Friend or foe? We don’t know. Until we talk and share, we are unaware.” She spoke firmly, trying her best to believe it would work.
She held the stick closer to the camera. “Take the talking stick from me. Then you can talk to us and we will see.” The stick shook for a moment and then was just gone from her hand.
“What the fresh hell was that?” The Captain nearly screamed at Luna.
“It might… no, it will work. Just wait.” Luna watched her screen, staring into the camera smiling. She nodded at the camera reassuringly, smiling again.
The captain behind her was about to scream again when her screen was suddenly filled with video and audio from the pursuing ship. An otherwise very human looking man with golden feathers for hair and beard was holding her stick out to his camera and trying to mirror her smile though his face seemed to not know how to do it. In perfect English he began speaking.
“We have been calling. You would not answer. We were able to understand you once you showed us your stick. Then it appeared here.” He looked down at it in his hand with a grimace his face seemed more accustomed to. “Seventeen prisoners escaped from our detention center some time ago. They stole a ship and we tracked them to your ship. When you broke orbit and retreated, we assumed they had hijacked your ship.” He looked up from the stick to meet Luna’s eyes on his screen. “They are insane criminals. We have to stop them before they harm anyone as it would be our fault for allowing them to escape.”
“Well, see… they did get to our space. They attacked us and we had to defend ourselves. I’m sorry to report to you that we destroyed their ship. There were no survivors. We attempted to assist them once we took their ship but all seventeen on board were killed.” She said… but he only looked at her blankly.
The Captain restated what she had said in some more official sounding legalese but the man on the screen seemed to not hear. Luna checked her screen to be sure audio and visual was transmitting. It was. Then she recalled the spell.
“Talking stick,” she held out her empty hand. “Return here, so I can speak again. Then they will hear.” Luna said, this time she didn’t have to work up the belief, she knew it would appear back in her hand just as it did. Then she repeated her report on their prisoners, just as before, but added that they had been buried at sea properly on Europa.
The man on the screen held his hand out to the camera. Luna repeated. “Take the talking stick from me. Then you can talk to us and we will see.”
The stick jerked about again in her hand before appearing in the man’s hand on her screen. “If their bodies were entombed in the waves of a sea, then our Sea Gods will be appeased by that. We can mark the matter closed. They were criminals but they did have loved ones. If we can assure them that their ill family members were unable to hurt anyone and were laid to rest with the Sea Gods, that will be most helpful.”
Luna held her hand out and didn’t even have to speak the spell for the stick to reappear in her grasp. “I can transmit video of the funeral rite. We documented each of the seventeen casualties’ burial at sea.”
Luna offered up the stick but the man on her screen held his hand back to his own chest. He just smiled, nodded, and closed the channel after Luna had sent the promised video recording to his ship.
“Sir,” the navigation officer interrupted, “They have reversed course. We are no longer being pursued.”
“You care to explain any of that?” The Captain said to Luna, reaching for the stick but she pulled it back before he could touch it.
“It is a secret. One of Earthling’s secrets… her quarters… now my quarters… are full of Earthling’s secrets.” Luna shrugged. “That’s all I can say.”
“Well it looked like some damn kinda crazy magic.” The Captain said, stomping away.
“Magic. Yes sir, it did look like that, didn’t it?”
by Ginger Strivelli