A/N: I still haven’t thought of a good name, so this is what I got ok. I’m still very open to suggestions of names.
I’ve come up with a name for your kind, Everen sent to the aliens one night as she sat on her bed, kicking her legs back and forth. Motes.
Everen had been communicating with the aliens a lot in the four days since they’d first contacted her. They’d learned many, many words, and so the garbling sound that came with new words was very rare now, but when Everen sent “Motes,” the sound that she had come to associate with computing and testing the new word came again and extended longer than new words usually extend.
Motes, they repeated. Motes.
What do you think? Everen was a bit nervous. It wasn’t every day that you presented a people with their own word.
The feeling in that word is… small. So very small.
Well, I’ve never seen you, but you’re always there, so it almost feels like you’re the dust in the air all around me. And all the stars and planets all around are drifting like dust motes. I got it from the “mot” part of “emotion” too. I thought it was kind of fitting.
It will do, they sent, along with an emotion of slight dissatisfaction. But then they sent a stronger feeling of thankfulness and punctuated it with thank you for giving us a word, Everen. Humans and Motes. Hoping for a good future. There was a pause. Then a sudden feeling of anxious nervousness. Good future? They repeated, this time as a question.
Everen sighed and flopped back onto the bed. She was worried about the future between humans and motes as well. I hope so. You know that we weren’t always very good people, what with our wars and all. She felt a stab of guilt. I know that I said I thought we’d be better, but there’s some stuff I haven’t told you about.
The Motes sent an emotion that Everen had come to recognize as an, “Oh? Go on” feeling.
There have been some… bad incidents on the ship, Everen sent, unsure if she should be revealing this to the Motes.
Four people died very recently. We’re pretty sure they were killed. Murdered, in fact. I’ve been trying to figure out who did it and why, but I just can’t. I trust everyone on this ship so implicitly.
Everyone? they asked. Even the sleeping ones?
The who? Everen sent a feeling of confusion.
Many sleep on your ship. We can feel them. We can touch their dreams. They are deeply sleeping. They are deeply sleeping for a long time. They sent an emotion that Everen couldn’t identify, but it had notes of sadness, loneliness, and mystery in it. She didn’t know what they meant by it.
Then she realized, Oh, the people in stasis? Are you saying one of them is guilty? Is one of them awake?
If one is awake, we do not know that they are in stasis. No one deeply sleeping is guilty, only dreaming. But we ask if you trust them implicitly.
Everen was brought up short at that. She’d never considered the people in stasis very much. She figured she’d eventually get to know them, but until then, it was no use wondering what they were like. No, I suppose I don’t, because I don’t know them. But I do know everyone who is awake on this ship, or at least I think I do. And none of them would do this kind of thing.
We will look. We will watch the people who are awake. We will listen to their emotions. We cannot hear their words like we can yours, but we can feel their feelings. We can touch their dreams when they sleep. We will find the one who killed them. We will help you Everen. And then you will help us. They sent a feeling of finality, almost as if they had just shaken hands on a deal.
With that, Everen shut off her connection and shivered. She didn’t know how the Motes wanted her to help them, but she was glad they were willing and able to help her with her own problem. It was strange that she’d never thought to ask them before. She’d just assumed that there would be no way they could offer assistance.
She sighed one more time, rolled over, and had one of the best nights of sleep she’d had in four days.
The morning, before she even got out of bed, she reopened her connection and sent, Hello? Motes? Did you find anything?
They sent an emotion of greeting. We touched their dreams. We listened to their hearts. We felt their turmoils. Yes. We touched their dreams and we found one guilty of murder.
Everen’s stomach lurched. How could it have been so easy for them? Did people really wear their guilt on their heart so clearly? Everen had spent so many nights questioning, wondering who could have done it, and they’d found them with what seemed like no difficulty at all. Well? she asked impatiently, Who’s the killer?
We do not know their name, but here is their signature. The motes sent a complicated emotion.
I don’t recognize it, Everen sent, disappointment hovering over her like an incoming thunderstorm. How will I know who that is?
The motes were silent for a moment, thinking. Tell us the full names of everyone awake on the ship. One of their word-names may align with the emotional signature.
Everen grimaced. Could she remember the full name of everyone on the ship? She’d probably miss a lot of people on the first go around. Janna Whitehorse, she began, and continued listing names. The Motes were silent until, oh, Clarisse Bevington, of course, Toni Shep-
Stop, they sent, startling Everen out of her flow of names. They garbled a bit before repeating, Clarisse Bevington.
What, you can’t mean she did it? Everen’s heart began to pound with dread and fear.
Clarisse Bevington is the killer.
But she can’t have… Everen’s mouth felt dry. She’s the captain.