Despair is an ugly thing. When my mother sent me away after the invasion—little did she dream of what she exiled me to—hopeless dread and futile guilt. With her hands, she pushed me away, yet with her heart, she clung to me.
“Come back when you can; save us if you can. But at least one Bhuac must survive. And it must be you!”
I did as she demanded. I took the transport on docking bay one-one-four and headed out into the universe and away from certain Bhuaci destruction. I was protected only by a gruff, Ingot merchant named Buford, who needed someone to blame when things went wrong, which, with his clumsy skills, they often did. I accepted every menial job: collating orders, checking the ship’s inventory, noticing when things went missing, and even tracking down a guilty thief once. I was a Bhuac of all-work-and-no-play and served in every role imaginable, servant, advisor, director, detective, even guard on occasion. Being a shape-shifter, I could cover my quaking insecurities with hulking forms and menacing fangs.
But I never played the part I longed to return to—Faye, a gentle, beloved daughter. Even as a friend I would have felt some satisfaction. But Buford was not interested in friends. He was interested in units, the more the better. Profit was his closest kin.
Then one day we headed toward a planet I had never been to, a rising star on the horizon, called Newearth. Buford told me its colorful history, the demise of Oldearth, the Luxonians’ protection, the Cresta invasion, the Inter-Alien Alliance Commission. Something in me stirred for the first time in uncounted cycles. I longed to visit this new horizon, but Buford changed his mind, and we veered toward the Divide and a greater profit margin.
Then a new opportunity struck. A traveler boarded, a hidden figure who merely said that he was heading to Newearth. His name was Gabriel. He appeared human, as I did on most occasions, but I sensed he was Bhuaci, like me. Knowing our own planet’s desolation and our sister planet’s demise, I could understand his desire for secrecy.
Gabriel paid Buford well to take him to Newearth. My imagination stirred, dead hopes rekindled, but I could not break free of my employer. How could I? I had no one to turn to, nowhere to go.
As we approached Newearth, Gabriel tossed a satchel he always carried over his shoulder and offered Buford his final payment. Buford held out his data-pad, tapping his foot. He had contacted a Cresta merchant who was to meet him on the other side of the planet. I stood by, watching, an unnamed grief wringing my soul. Then Gabriel surprised us both.
“Here, that should cover all costs.”
Buford glanced at the data-pad ready to pass it to me when his eyes widened, and he pulled it close and read it again. “What’s this? Trying to play some kind of game?”
Gabriel’s brows furrowed. “I never play games.”
“But it’s too much, by half or more. We agreed on twenty-five and this here’s near fifty. You’re Interventionist, aren’t you? Trying to catch me out! Well, it can’t be done, I’m an honest—”
Gabriel waved Buford’s concerns away. “Nothing of the sort. It’s just that I plan on taking your hired help with me. She’ll be quite useful on Newearth, and you’ll find another—”
“Not one as good! By the Divide, I’m not letting her go. She’s going with me to—”
Gabriel faced me and bid me come closer. I was in my favorite fairy-like form, lithe with large, almond eyes and shining, golden hair. I stepped nearer, hardly daring to breathe. Gabriel smiled down at me and clasped my hand. “You’re one of our own. So few of us left.” He turned to Buford. “If you don’t release her, I’ll charge you with enslaving a Bhuaci against her will. I happen to know someone on the Inter-Alien Alliance Com—”
“Take her, then! Good riddance. I only hired her for pity’s sake. She’s so timid and all. You’ll find that out.” He looked slyly out of the corner of his eyes. “And when you tire of her, send her back. I’m too soft, I know, but I’d hate to see her come to ruin on some dirty street.”
With a nod, Gabriel led me toward the debarkation tube. I had nothing to carry with me, so I accepted his direction and started away. I only looked back once. Buford had turned away.
When we arrived on the Newearth Main Street, I was overwhelmed by the bright, bustling energy all around. This was like no planet I had ever seen before. I thought my heart would burst with excitement. Gabriel continued to hold my hand as we scurried across the street and up to a tall building with large, gleaming windows.
I stared up at the brilliant structure set against the blazing, blue sky. “Where are we going?”
“Home. Temporary of course, but it will do until you become accustomed to your new role.”
My gaze dropped from the building to Gabriel’s face. “My role?”
Gabriel bent down at my side. “The one your mother assigned you—savior of Bhuaci.” As the sun beat down upon his golden head, a light shone in my eyes. I could barely see him, but I never forgot his words. “I’m your mother’s friend and your friend too. Your family sent me. I’ve been searching all these years. Now, finally, you will save our people from despair.”
My eyes filled with tears. So, I had a friend, a home, and a mission too. But who would save me from despair?