• Max Turner

Years of Finding (2021)

Summary: Rose Red is searching for his long lost sister, Snow White, in this science fiction tale of long lost siblings and unexpected romance.

Tags:  Transgender character, Trans Male character, Trans Rose. Transmogrification, kidnap, rescue, happy ending.

They had left the Chapel of the Sleeping Princess with a renewed hope.


Prince was one of the most respected governors for sectors, with contacts enough to help anyone. Bear might frown about it, but to Rose the information the Prince had given them had felt worth the strangeness of the man.


Helpful and respected? Yes. A little unhinged? Also yes.


Rose had to admit that he had been a little relieved when they left behind the strange man and the love of his life that he had long devoted his entire existence, and city, to. Not that she would ever know considering she slept peacefully in a cryochamber in the Chapel at the very heart of the city.


Regardless of oddness, Prince had given him the name of someone he truly believed would be able to help Rose and Bear finally find Snow.


#


The desire to increase the ship’s speed had Rose’s fingers twitching over the control panel, but he resisted. Now inside a solar system there was a limit to how fast they could travel, but they were so close that it was difficult to not feel excitement on top of trepidation. It finally felt like Rose and Bear were close to finding Snow.


“There it is!” Rose murmured as he drank in the view before him, more beautiful than he could ever have imagined. “Baghdad.”


Their small ship moved steadily towards the beautiful ocean planet and large orbital station that housed the once native population.


Bear let out a low sound that vibrated around the cockpit, his fur bristling.


“This might be our last chance.” Rose’s words were quiet as he scratched nervously at his stubble. Bear let out a heavy sigh and placed his large paw on Rose’s shoulder.


“I know,” He rumbled, “though I don’t like the idea of having to trust others.”


“We don’t have any choice.” Rose reached across and scratched behind Bear’s ear to sooth his distrustful friend.


It had been almost two years since Snow had been kidnapped by the same dwarf that had turned Bear into his beastly form. They had been tracking them ever since.


Masters of engineering, the dwarves from Glade VII were a particularly clever and devious bunch. Aside from inventions such as the transmogrification ray, they were renowned for the almost indestructible metals found on their planet, that only they could wield. Many proudly displayed their wealth and heritage by wearing ceremonial weapons such as axes that they had forged themselves as a rite of passage. The combination of resource and skill meant that they built the best ships any species had ever known.


They were almost impossible to track, and if the dwarves knew you were attempting to, they could simply modify the resonance of the metal in their ships and practically disappear. They needed someone who could help with this.


#


“Is Baghdad the planet or the station?” Bear asked in a low voice as they left the docking ring and walked the promenade towards the famous bazaar.


Before Rose could answer a voice boomed from behind, startling them.


“It is both! And neither. Baghdad is the people.” A large, bearded man smiled as jovially as he spoke. He came to stand before them as Bear stifled a growl.


“Please, tell me what you need and I will do all I can to assist and make your stay a pleasant one.”


“For a price.” Bear muttered and the man smiled, eyeing Bear who then moved from all fours to his full height on two legs.


“You are a cynical one. You look around you and see a trading post, a place of merchants and smugglers and you think that we must all be looking to make money. I look around and I see a civilisation, forced from their planet by rising waters and rough tides. This is simply humanity before you, school children and bakers, clothiers and tour guides. Whatever stories you may have heard, I assure you, they are wrong. My name is Rashid and I am tasked by the people to greet visitors to our great civilisation. So please, tell me how I can help you.”


Rose returned the man’s broad smile, ignoring the way Bear’s eyes narrowed and his ears flattened.


“We’re looking for a captain called Sinbad-”


“Ah, I see. Well, there the stories you have heard are true.” Rashid’s expression dropped into a scowl. “He is currently banned from docking here. For the seventh time I believe. He is a great hero and adventurer but has, more than once, returned to port with some creature or other that has then proceeded to terrorise the whole of Baghdad. Last was some one-eyed monster that ate two dockhands before it was recaptured.” Rashid shook his head, his contempt clear as he then muttered softly, “may Allah give them an easy and pleasant journey and shower blessings on their graves.”


“I’m sorry for your loss,” Rose replied, unsure what else to say.


Rashid nodded and the smile returned to his face.


“I tell you he’s a menace. But if you still wish to seek him out, he has a home on a small moon orbiting the tenth planet of this system. You will know the one, it is shaped like a crescent and pocked by asteroids.”


“Thank you,” Rose smiled, feeling that they might be a little closer to Snow.


“Do not thank me, he is trouble. But perhaps enjoy a pleasant meal before you go?” Rashid gestured towards the bazaar.


#


Rose slept heavily. An adrenaline crash when they did not find Sinbad, followed by an incredibly heavy meal meant that he was asleep as soon as his head hit the bunk, leaving Bear to pilot them towards the tenth planet.


“Rose.”


“Yeah!” Rose was instantly awake, sitting bolt upright on the bunk behind the cockpit. “Are we there?”


“I think so,” Bear replied gruffly.


With a frown Rose looked past his furry form, out of the cockpit and into the starscape. He expected to see the tenth planet or the moon itself, but what he saw was not like any moon he had seen.


It was, as Rashid had said, vaguely crescent shaped and pock marked but-


“Is that… that’s alive right?” Rose cocked his head, his top lip twitching as he turned his head to try and look at a different angle as the ‘moon’ undulated ever so slightly.


“Pretty sure it’s a Cete,” Bear huffed.


“A space whale,” Rose turned his head the other way, trying to make out exactly which end was which as they approached from the back. “And is that a-”


“A ship.”


Rose moved from the bunk into the cockpit proper to get a closer look. The ‘moon’ was small enough that the substantial ship was visible at this range.


“He’s parked on the back of a whale.” Rose mused, squinting at the sight as though that would make it any less curious. “Well, that’s brave, I’ll give him that.”


“State your business,” The voice cutting like static through the air crackled out of the comm unit and made both Rose and Bear jump.


“Uh, um,” Rose pressed the comm button as he cleared his throat, “hey. I’m looking for Captain Sinbad. I was told he might be able to help me find someone.”


There was no response for a few long moments before the bad line opened again.


“Do you have coin?”


Rose looked at Bear, his hackles up.


“Yeah, we can pay for the information.”


“Ha! You will pay even to land here, this is a private moon.”


At that Rose and Bear shared a look.


Rose wasn’t sure he wanted to go anywhere near the moon. This was definitely close enough. Space whales were known to sleep for hundreds of years, but when they woke up they could be disoriented and anything in their path might get buffeted at the least. The _very_ least!


What’s more, there was really no way to know when one might wake up.


“Land?” Rose asked Bear with a frown.


Bear winced, and despite it usually being an amusing sight to see him attempt human expressions with that muzzle, Rose found little humour in it now. If they wanted to find Snow they had no choice.


#


“Welcome.” The man greeted as Rose and Bear moved from their airlock into the expansive port. What had appeared to be a ship from orbit was practically a small town and it wasn’t going anywhere, for now. As they approached it had been clear that this complex had once been a few different ships, now built into a structure with a very similar engineering style and aesthetic to Baghdad itself.


It was strangely beautiful, with the sense of a small community even with the low lighting.


“We’ve come to see Captain Sinbad,” Rose replied, at which the man rolled his eyes.


“I know. Do you see a queue of ships waiting to dock?” He muttered then turned on his heel with a clear expectation to be followed. He led the way across a gantry and into something of a shanty town. Here there was more life and the scent of several arjīlah was prevalent.


The man directed them to a large tent-like structure where a woman eyed them with amusement and let them in.


Inside it was darker still, only a few aesthetically placed lamps played against the rich fabrics. It seemed empty but for a slight rustle, and then a voice came from the darkness.


“We will discuss the fee once you ask your question.” A man said.


Rose’s eyes adjusted until he was able to see the man, reclining on a beautiful couch.


“I have been told that Sinbad may be able to help me find someone. My sister was kidnapped.”


“May?” The man sounded outraged. He stood, flicking out his ornate dishdasha dramatically as he swept over to where Rose and Bear stood. “You came here because he _can_. Sinbad is a man of legend after all. Do you know who has your sister?”


“A master dwarf from Glade VII kidnapped her and-”


“A dwarf?” The man let out a hearty laugh. “No, this cannot be done. There is no way to find a dwarf who does not wish to be found.” The man turned and began to make his way back to the couch.


“You said Sinbad is a legend. We’ve been told-”


“Well, I suppose, I could try.” The man cut Rose off with a playful grin. “For a price.” The man was evidently Sinbad and Rose had a distinct feeling he was being hustled.


“How much?” Rose asked warily.


“Perhaps your pet?” Sinbad suggested, strolling over and raising a hand as though he might try and pet Bear’s head.


He hesitated just a moment before Bear began to snarl.


Sinbad’s eyes narrowed even as his grin grew.


“Oh dear, the master dwarf has left his mark on you.” Sinbad turned to Rose directly before continuing, with a nod at Bear “I can reverse this curse, for a price.”


“Um. We prefer him this way.” Rose replied.


That earned them another grin.


“I see. Well, instead we shall find your sister. And in return I wish for a fine Gladian weapon.”


“I don’t have one,” Rose replied with a frown, a feeling of dread pooling in his belly.


“Not yet. But when you catch up with this kidnapper, I am sure he will have many.”


Sinbad held out his arm to shake on the deal.


#


“There.” Bear growled, pulling up a region of space on the viewer in Sinbad’s command centre and zooming in. “Gladian. And it has his family crest on the hull.”


Rose blinked, “This is-”


“Practically magic!” Sinbad cut in with a flourish.


“How-”


“The greatest price someone can pay is a favour, or favourable trade. Just as you will bring me a Gladian weapon, this wonderful equipment was given to me, reluctantly, as payment by a dwarf from Wode Prime.”


“They are two systems away. Orbiting a trading colony.” Bear shook his head in amazement, “at top speed we will reach them within a day.”


“What if they move on?” Rose directed his question to Sinbad, who nonchalantly shrugged.


“That is a chance you take. Or… If you wish for me to lend you this equipment to take with you, I will accept in return your bear. Despite the fact that he is not a pet.” Sinbad grinned and Rose wasn’t sure if the glint in his eye was optimism or amusement.


“No.” Bear gruffly replied and turned his own glare on Sinbad. A moment later though, he looked to Rose for back up.


“No!” Rose emphatically responded, which earned a chuckle from Sinbad.


“Be off then. I shall see you very soon with a wonderful weapon. And remember, this you owe me whether you find your sister or not. I suggest you do not disappoint me, after all, I can easily find you.”


With another flourish Sinbad left the command centre leaving Rose and Bear to be shooed back to their ship by the same irritable man who had greeted them less than two hours before.


#


Bear was right, it took a little over fourteen hours but there was the Gladian ship in orbit of a planetary trading colony.


They’d had months to plan for this and knew exactly what they must do next.


Bear held the ship steady as he pulled in alongside the much larger vessel.


Rose’s palms were sweaty as he stood at the airlock waiting for their planned stealth connection. Then with the soft woosh of the lock Rose opened the airlock and attached his tech unit to the Gladian side, wanting to override the lock quickly. It worked on the third attempt, which was not as fast as he’d hoped but they didn’t seem to have been detected yet.


As soon as the door opened, Rose slipped onto the ship and took a chance of heading aft suspecting that any quarters or even any sort of brig that Snow might be in would be in that direction. He could feel Bear catching up behind him and taking up a covering position.


The ship’s layout was standard and Rose quickly found the brig and attached his tech unit to try and unlock it, only stopping when he heard the whir of a weapon energising behind him.


“Shit,” He muttered, turning with his hands up only to be confronted by Snow.


He drew in a sharp breath and they looked at each other for a long moment.


“Rose?” Snow asked, frowning and squinting.


A lot of time had passed and many things had happened. Rose was no longer the young woman Snow had known.


“It’s me,” He reassured. “Your, um, brother.”


Snow beamed a smile and nodded, “I can see it now. Wow. You look so different but… more like you.”


Rose let out a huff of a laugh and the weapon whirred down.


“And… that poor young man…” she glanced back to where Bear watched over them, “still a bear?” Snow winced, her expression one of pained regret.


“Yeah, well. Don’t worry about that right now. We need to rescue you before that dwarf realises we’re here.”


Snow looked taken aback by Rose’s words before realisation then dawned on her.


“Oh. Oh, Rose. I wasn’t kidnapped, I ran away.”


“You... What?” Rose tried to process the words but his brain just did not compute. “Snow, we’ve been looking for you for almost two years. And you… You ran away?”


“I left a note,” Snow’s tone was apologetic and she looked like she was bracing for a telling off.


“Note? What note? What are you talking about?” It had been an odd time for the two of them but Rose was sure he’d have remembered a note!


First there was a talking bear crashing in their spare room, whilst Rose was trying to come to terms with his gender identity. And the dwarf responsible for the bear’s condition was pestering them all the time. Next thing he knew Bogoris was gone and so was Snow


Rose sucked in a breath to calm down as he waited for some sort of explanation from his sister.


“I pinned the note to the door.” She offered, at which Rose rolled his eyes.


“In high winds? Snow-”


“Look, I’m sorry! I was never like you Rose. You were always so strong and adventurous. Then you’re best friends with this talking bear, and I felt so alone. When I met Bogoris he was sweet and kind and we fell in love.”


“How was I unaware of all of this!” Rose cried with exasperation, throwing up his hands.


Snow cocked a brow and gave him a stern look before then glancing back towards where Bear was patiently waiting.


Okay, so that was fair, Rose realised. He and Bear had quickly become close and perhaps they had left Snow out a little bit. Bear had been there for him when he was coming to terms with his gender and maybe that had excluded Snow?


“I left a note because I knew that if I talked to you, you wouldn’t want me to go and you’d talk me out of it. And I didn’t want that. I loved Bogoris so desperately, I still do.”


The light in Snow’s eyes and blush on her pale cheeks at those words confirmed a truth that Rose could not deny.


“We always planned to return. We just lost track of everything.”


Rose let out a sigh.


“Well, damn.” He chuckled and shook his head.


Technically he had no issue with dwarves. He was a little iffy about dwarves who transmogrified his friends, and to be honest he’d have hated anyone who was trying to date his little sister.


“I ignored you.”


Snow shook her head, “No. Well, yes. But I understand now that you were going through something.” Her soft smile was as sweet as when she’d been a child, and Rose felt that protectiveness for her all over again.


“Well I guess I better meet my brother-in-law and make sure for myself that he’s being good to you.” Rose took a deep breath, bracing himself for what came next.


“Yes. And… I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to return your friend to-”


“Nah,” Rose interrupted quickly. “He’s, um. He’s good.”


Snow frowned in confusion so Rose quickly continued, “I do need one thing though. Got any spare Gladian axes knocking about? I have to pay a debt to a man who lives on a whale.”


Snow’s eyes went wide even as she frowned. She looked between Rose and Bear for a moment before replying, “I think we have a lot of catching up to do.”


There was definitely no denying that.


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