Pantings are so easily accepted. The marring of canvas so readily displayed as art. Reds and blues and purples and blacks. Hundreds of colors, mimicking life. All of it considered a masterpiece.
Why is the scarring of a canvas so readily accept, yet we reject our owns scars as art?Space is not a kind place.
The universe as a whole isn’t a kind place, actually. In all my moments spent among the stars, that’s the lesson that’s continuously popped up, been learned, over and over again.
The universe is not a gentle place.
That’s why we exist. Why people, like the ones that occupy my ship, fight. Why we continuously throw ourselves into battle.
We know the universe will not stay it’s iron fist.
Perhaps we can still soften its blows.
That’s what we believe. What we strive for.
It’s what they strive for too.
The Sun Tigers. Fighters for good. Fighters against the Mihzar, the jackwad that thinks himself the ruler of the galaxy. The “king of the universe”.
Just like us, they fight.
That’s why I agreed to this alliance. Usually, nobody but my crew is allowed on my ship.
But, for the Sun Tigers, I’ve made an exception.
How could I refuse them after all they’ve done? Besides my own crew, they’re the only ones that have made a dent in the Mihzar’s army. The only other crew that makes his troops tremble.
How could I refuse them?
Especially since their mother vessel was lost in their last battle.
How could I tell them no?
Hearing someone call me brings me out of my thoughts. Though it isn’t one of my crew calling me.
It’s one of theirs.
The Sun Tigers.
If I recall correctly, his name is Ryder. He pilots a vessel that is known for its speed and accuracy, of all things.
Looking at his runner’s physique, I can’t help but think it suits him.
“Yes?” I reply, drawn back into the moment.
He looks nervous. Unsure.
It intrigues me, but I wait for him to speak again. I don’t want to interrupt his gathering thoughts.
“I was wondering… if I could maybe ask you about your scar?”
“My scar? Oh. Yes. My scar!”
I remember now that I have one that reaches up my neck, digging its way up to the skin just beneath my eye.
It’s been so long.
Looking at his uncertainty, I see that he expects me to say no. To reject his strange—and possibly intrusive—request.
But I won’t.
I smile at him reassuringly. “Only if I can touch your markings.”
That staggers him a bit.
He seems alarmed. As if I’ve asked him to strip to his skivvies.
“I’ve seen those markings before. They’re of a particular species. Humanoids that have beastly strength. They all have them, just as you do. I’ve touched them before—examined them. So I’d like to see yours as well, see if they’re different.”
My explanation seems to put him at ease some, but not completely. After all, his markings do stretch from his abs to his neck.
Perhaps that’s what has him uncomfortable.
Perhaps I should clarify.
“I won’t ask you to remove any clothing. I only want to examine the markings that reach your neck.”
At that, he seems even more comforted, but not completely at ease. I’m still a stranger asking to touch his neck. It does seem a bit bizarre.
But the universe is a bizarre place.
After a moment of thinking, he finally agrees.
“Okay. You can check my markings if you’ll tell me about your scar.”
“Deal,” I reply.
Perhaps a bit too enthusiastically.
In the next moment I’m standing in front of him. Examining just with my eyes.
For the moment.
“When did they show up?” I ask.
His face is a bit red, and he won’t look at me, but he answers.
“Last year, after I found out. Before then, I just… never knew who my dad was. I thought I was completely human. So I didn’t know, and I didn’t understand my, uh, alien side. I guess. And the marks didn’t show up until I tapped into that side of myself. I guess.” He flushes harder for a moment and rushes through his next words. “I don’t really know because I have no idea how any of this works. It’s still completely foreign to me, and almost none of it makes sense.”
I laugh once, startling him. Still grinning, I say what I’m thinking.
“Welcome to the universe.”
My remark earns me a nervous chuckle, and Ryder looks a bit more at ease.
“May I touch them?”
His face reddens again, undoing what my joke just did. But he nods anyway, eyes averted.
Gently, I begin feeling the skin of his marking.
“Interesting…” I breathe.
I smile at him. “Your markings are warmer than your human skin. The blueish purple gives away the fact that the skin on your marking isn’t normal, but it’s strangely hot compared to your human skin. I suppose it makes sense though. The race that carries these marks is extremely warm-blooded.”
“Oh. That’s… good to know.”
“Have you never met another of your kind?”
He looks tense, and speaks tersely. “Humans.”
With my hands on his markings—the things that clearly clarify that he is “other”—I wonder:
How would it feel?
To be completely human one day, and then half alien the next? To be unknown, even to yourself? To have to carry a mark that identifies you as something beyond what you know? A mark that everyone can see—regardless of if you try to hide it or not?
Is that so unlike a scar?
Don’t scars make you something other? Speak of times that you’ve had to fight? Had to endure? Had to survive? Don’t scars bring you to the understanding that not everything is in your control?
Is that so unlike his mark?
My fingers still on the warm, silky skin, I find myself wondering.
I smile at him and retract my gaze from his neck.
When I do, I step back, garnering his full attention.
And then I pull the collar of my shirt back.
It reveals the gnarliest parts of my scar.
I’d forgotten where I’d gotten it—that I even had it—until he’d said something. Pointed it out. This scar is one of my largest, one of my nastiest.
The story is actually pretty good.
“I was on Quarton, looking for a… specific item. During my trip, I was attacked. Had to crash land on this bizarre island. A giant monger beast came at me. Ever seen one of those before? They’re built like golems, but they have fangs and claws and lava in their veins. When they strike, a certain type of venom gets released. Leaves your skin looking dead. White. Most of the time, the venom kills you, because that’s essentially what it does: instantly kills parts of your body. But Doc set up a treatment for me to make sure I didn’t die. Actually, it’s because of him that I can still use my arm. I was lucky that day. Lucky my crew was keeping close tabs on me. That they were ready to act. To help me. That Doc is as smart as he looks, and then some. I got real lucky that day.”
He’s looking at the scar like I expected he would. Like it’s a miraculous thing. A giant billboard or a monster living under my skin.
I laugh at him lightly. Which confuses him.
At his puzzled look, I tell him. “It’s not a big deal. At the time, it absolutely was. But now? Not so much.”
“How can that be? It doesn’t bother you? Doesn’t freak you out when you see it?”
I shrug, letting go of my collar.
“It is what it is. There’s no sense in fussing over scars. I’ll only get more. It’s not like I’ll be lazing around. Not like I’ll go into hiding. And, even if I did, I doubt I’d stop fighting.”
He looks a bit mystified. Confused still.
It’s kind of…
The grin seeps into my voice. “Scars happen to all of us. There’s no need to ignore them, but it’s silly to worry about them. They’re stories, tales of who we are or what we’ve been through. Every scar is a mark, something to make you stand out. To remind you that you’re built to last. That you’ve survived so far, so what’s to stop you from making it through whatever’s going on right now? They’re here to remind us of who we are.”
At his questioning look, I decide to just give him the answer.
“Survivors. Fighters. People made from the stuff of the cosmos. Stars in our veins, and comet belts strapped to our bones. We’re all a lot more than what we seem.”
After mulling it over a moment, he opens his mouth, like he’s about to say something.
Which is, of course, when my navigator’s voice comes over the speaker system.
“CAPTAIN, THERE’S AN ENEMY VESSEL SIX QUADRANTS AHEAD.”
I really wanted to hear what Ryder wanted to say.
But, now is, apparently, not the time.
“Have they spotted us yet?” I ask.
“IT DOESN’T SEEM SO MA’AM.”
I nod, mostly to myself. “Good. Get the mantas ready, we’re going into a dog fight.”
When the hall goes silent, Ryder and I look at each other. In some sort of blinking contest, I think.
I let him win.
Walking past him, I sigh and smile.
“Well, we better hop to it. Duty calls,” I say.
“Yeah…” he agrees easily enough, but he still sounds disappointed somehow.
Before we go, I decide to throw him a bone.
“By the way,” I say casually, looking over my shoulder. Instantly, I garner his attention again.
The captain’s demeanor fades. The serious and no-nonsense look I normally have. It drops out of existence.
In it’s place, is a grin. A smile. One that outfoxes a fox.
I give him a sly grin, one that seems to startle him.
My grin grows, pleased, and then I continue.
“I think your marks are really cute.”
He stops in his tracks, shocked.
As I walk ahead, I can’t help it.
When I make it to the bridge, I’m still grinning from ear to ear. Adding smile lines to my marks.
And what wonderful marks they are.