The Illusionists

Author's Note: Hello, I am rust phoenix and this is my first actual story to be posted here. Feedback is appreciated, and if you review I will review you back. Also, I would just like to point out that this was written for a school assignment and there was a length restriction on it, so it might seem rather rushed. Future chapters will be most likely be longer and more detailed. Oh yeah, and the school computers may have messed up my formatting. There are no pairings in The Illusionists as of yet, but there will likely be in future chapters. It will probably contain both slash (m/m and f/f) and het pairings, but I'm not certain yet.

Chapter One: Shanna

Ever since a very young age, it was clear that Cory Qa had some inexplicable innate urge to defy each and every rule that was set before him. This trait would be considered inconvenient in the most innocuous situations, but for a guest aboard the spacecraft Terrazas, home of a colony of traders, this instinct was a short path to an extremely unpleasant end. This is because on Terrazas, there is one essential rule to follow: Never trust what you see. Of course, Cory had to go and breach this regulation too.

He had absolutely no idea what reason had convinced his father it would be a good idea to get tickets for the two of them to travel as passengers aboard a trader craft. He had even less of an idea why he had accepted the offer, but he suspected it might have been due to a momentary lapse of sanity brought on by the prospect of having two weeks off from school. Besides, it wasn't like they were signing on as crew, who would actually be doing something, so had bad could it be?

It had to be better than school, where he had somehow managed to get himself labeled as a nerd and a rebel at the same time.

In retrospect, this was definitely worse than school. For a guy who wasn't particularly social anyway, seven hours a day of isolation was ecstasy compared to being forced to spend 24 hours a day surrounded by overly chatty adults who treated him like he was five rather than 15 and were constantly rambling on about how much he reminded them of their own kids. He had no means of escape save for some pong-era games on the ship's computer. It was now the seventh day, night technically, although there was no way to tell what hour or day it was except for the glowing green letters that hovered rather eerily above the multipurpose wristwatch he had been issued upon boarding.

He was pacing through one of the many the bright white, astoundingly clean hallways of the ship. There were a few people working in cubicles, staring intently at computers screens, but they didn't bother to take notice of Cory. It was only because it was night that he had the room to pace. He had almost managed to train himself into sleeping during the day hours, and waking when the vast majority of people went to sleep. At first this routine had caused feelings of lethargy, but this had faded to a lingering but bearable throbbing behind his eyes.

"Cory, hi!" called a young woman, coming into view from down the hallway. She had long dark hair that fell to just below her shoulder blades. Cory recognized her as Shanna Tanner, a technical engineer assigned to the night shift. Cory guessed she would be in her mid-twenties, though her appearance placed her in her late teen years.

Cory grinned at her and waved in response. She was the only person he had met in… well, years, that treated him like a friend rather than an ignorant little kid.

"How's it going?" he asked.

"I'm good, yourself?" She had a pleasant, clear voice.

"Yeah, good. Bored."

"I kind of have to go check to oxygen circulation system, which could take a while, so I'll see you later, like maybe tomorrow. Hey!" Her face lit up with a wide grin. " I've got a free day tomorrow, so how 'bout I give you a tour of the ship? There's all kinds of stuff they don't usually let the tourists see, but I should be able to get us access."

"Sounds cool," said Cory enthusiastically. He normally wouldn't have been very interested in the prospect, but Shanna seemed to think it was something he would enjoy.

Michael Qa was quite enjoying himself on his voyage through the cosmos. He knew his son Cory was still rather moody, but hey, that was his personality. Maybe in the coming days the boy would start to see things his father's way, and begin viewing the trip as an exciting and invigorating adventure. At least it seemed Cory had made a friend, if he was touring the ship with her.

"Hullo, Liza," Mike called to his friend, through whom he'd obtained the tickets. Liza was a technical engineer, just like Cory's friend.

Liza took a quick look up from her computer screen, eyes landing on Mike and then darting away. She rushed into a corner hidden from view, beckoning for Mike to follow. Intrigued, he complied.

She spoke in a low whisper. " You and your kid aren't safe here. There's rumors -"

He cut her off. "What?"

"Are you familiar with the Illusionists?"

"Yeah," he said, wondering how an alien enemy from ages past fit into the equation. The exact reasons for the enmity were blurry, but from what he could understand, a colony of humans had claimed the Illusionist planet as their own, not realizing there was already life there, and sapient life to boot. This life didn't take kindly to being invaded and having their resources depleted, and they fought back. It seemed that the Illusionists, as they were called as they were unable to sustain a permanent form and so had to shapeshift frequently, seemed to be extremely intelligent but easily influenced by anything they came into contact with, so after meeting humans they perfected the art of deception. As they could take on the form of any human, they were extremely dangerous, being the perfect undercover agent. Realizing they had no chance to win against such a foe, and deciding that the natural resources would do them no good if they were dead, the humans negotiated to reach a tentative truce, on the condition that they each stay out of the other's territory.

"A few trips before this one, we trespassed in their quadrant of space."

"What?" exclaimed Mike.

"Hey, we just wanted a short cut, and we didn't think they'd mind that much if we only passed through. But soon they started sending us threatening messages, saying that since we made one transaction in our side of the treaty, they'll make one too. They're coming Mike, and my guess is they'll take one of our people. We don't know if they keep prisoners.

"There's rumors they're on the ship already. You and your son are under suspicion, so I advise you to take an escape pod and get off this craft as fast as you can.

"Yeah, thanks," said Mike, shocked at the danger he and his son were potentially in. "Hey, do you know where Cory'd be? He's touring the ship with another techie like you, Shanna Tanner I think her name was.

"No, that can't be it. There's no one on this craft by that name."

"Are you sure?"

"Positive. I outfitted everyone with wristwatches upon boarding."

"Cory!" Mike called desperately, voice echoing down the gleaming white hallways.

All that answered him was silence.