Deathwalker 6.3

            “Botulinum?” I muttered, frowning as I edged up another step. No, that didn’t sound right. I think it started with a t. “Taxiforming?”
            “Tax-what?”
            The question boomed out over my shoulder, and I jumped straight up and spun around like a startled cat, landing awkwardly on my butt. As I hit the ground, the feeling of death cut off like someone flipped a switch. Or somehow erased the dead in an instant. The idea sent a chill through me, and I stared, trembling, at the remaining doors. How was that possible?
            “What are you doing?” The voice was deep, loud, and completely unfamiliar.
            “He speaks to himself of strange things.”
            That one, I knew. Which meant the Light One had followed me and brought a friend. And here I was, sitting on the floor. I scrambled up and about halfway to standing. Then, I made the mistake of looking up and froze. I had seen large races before, but I had never seen someone take up room on a spaceship quite like that.
            It…he?… was broad and squat in a wall kind of way – an ancient Earth wall kind of way. One that was thick and dense and made for defense. But that wasn’t what made me stare: his skin was covered in fragments of… stuff. There were sheets of metal, flecks of rock, and bits and pieces of brightly colored I didn’t know what. It was like a suit of eclectic armor attached directly to his skin – though my mind winced away from how they’d been attached.
            As my gaze traveled up and up, he moved, revealing that what I’d taken for flat pieces of metal and rock were actually chunks thicker than my arm. The biggest was comparable to my torso and deeply imbedded. It was like being able to see through someone to the bones – big bones made of stone and metal. My eyes widened. Could that be what they were? They were all joined together with an almost clay-like substance. I marveled at how strong it must be to hold all that metal and stone together. And move them. I wasn’t sure I could pick up one of the bigger pieces. But all of them? Gaping, I wondered if the ship had a sensor for his location so that it could adjust the engines.
            “Is it stuck?”
            It took a moment for the laconic question sink in. When it did, I flushed and jerked up to standing.
            “My apologies!” I blurted and yanked my gaze up to where I assumed his head would be. And stared again. It was surprisingly normal – well, humanoid. The eyes had an unusual shade that gave them away as manmade. Otherwise, there was nothing about his face that would stop him from passing for Ialuan, Kaihmi, or any number of other races. But how could his skin function so differently on his head than in his chest?
            And that was not something I could ask now. For all that they were manmade, his eyes showed a cynical, considering air that told me that he was far too used to people gawking at him. I needed to make up for staring like a two year old. Quick. Maintaining eye contact, I cautiously made the sign of respect for equals.
            “I am Deathwalker Sephtis,” I announced formally. “I am honored to meet you.” Then, I held my breath, hoping that someone would return the introduction for a change.
            His head tilted, and although the cynicism remained strong, I got the impression that I’d surprised him. Then, he turned and looked over his shoulder at the Teg, who had alighted on one of the light fixtures, which curved out from the wall so perfectly that it could’ve been made for him.
            “It is gesture of honor,” the Light One said in response to the glance. “He treats you as equal.”


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