Author: Hillary Lyon

“Watcha got there?” Mik-taa’s co-pilot asked, watching her unfold a large map on a table in the ship’s galley.

“It’s a map,” she replied, not looking up.

“No duh,” Bix scoffed. “Even I recognize old tech maps like that. Whatcha looking for? Going somewhere?”

Mik-taa ignored him. She smoothed the creases in the map and ran her finger along a path somebody inked long ago. A trek of phosphorescent dashes leading from their home world to—

“Well?” Bix insisted. Mik-taa kept her finger on the map and looked up. It was obvious Bix wasn’t going away until she talked to him.

“I’m not planning anything. Look,” Mik-taa said, returning her focus to the map, “I found this stowed in the back of a cabinet below decks. Behind a stack of ancient external hard drives. I wondered what it was, so here I am. Okay?”

As she spoke, Bix moved up behind her to peer over her shoulder. “That’s a star map of the outer galaxy,” he said. “Probably several hundred years old. I’m surprised doesn’t crumble beneath your finger. It belongs in a museum.”

Mik-taa continued tracing the path beneath her fingertip. Bix reached over and placed his finger ahead of hers on the map. “There’s your destination! The edge of the galaxy. A little solar system floating on the fringe.” He leaned closer to me map and squinted. “Path ends at a tiny planet.”

“Wonder what’s there, what’s so important some one had to leave a trail of crumbs.” Mik-taa straightened up. “Hey, we’ve finished our run,” she said making eye contact with Bix, something she rarely did. “And we’re not far from this planet, so…”

“Sure,” Bix said, smiling. He loved it when Mik-taa’s eyes met his. It sent chills from the top of his head to the tip of his tail. The scales along his spine flared and rested. Good thing he was wearing his uniform; otherwise, his response would be embarrassing—especially if she didn’t feel the same way. He cleared his throat. “Let’s see where it leads.”

* * *

They were in the upper atmosphere of the little green and blue world before Mik-taa could finish her energy drink. Modern interstellar travel was like that; but Mik-taa fretted: How nice it would have been to take our time, to really do some sight-seeing along the way. She felt a wave of nostalgia for an experience she’d never had.

Bix interrupted her musing. “Let’s dip a bit closer to the surface. I’ll skip over the water—”

“There’s so much of it!” Mik-taa softly laughed. “Do you think the treasure is sunk below?”

Her laughter sent delicious ripples under his thorny scalp. “Nah.” He answered, adjusting the ship’s settings. “Let’s scan the land masses.”

“Look!” Mik-taa pointed to the video screen above the control panel. “What a beautiful design!”

Bix looked up. On screen was a gorgeous, intricate pattern inlaid in a field of… Bix wasn’t sure. Probably some crop particular to this planet. He recognized the pattern’s style, though.

“That,” he said, pointing to the screen, “is the work of the genius reclusive artist, Moltier. I studied him at the academy; I’d know his work anywhere. This installation—it’s not in his known catalog.”

“So it is treasure!” Mik-taa squealed.

“It is. And he’s likely created others here.” Bix reached over and touched her hand. “We’ll spend as much time as we need to explore.” An electric thrill passed between them. “I guarantee there’s more to come.”