The red alert activated as Eden and Ensign Rogers turned the corner to head toward the station’s core, toward the emergency shelter. The claxons filled the corridor, and Eden forced herself not to cover her ears, not to stop walking, not to hide right there against the wall and hope that everyone would stop being afraid at her and the sound would stop and the lights would…
Remember, Eden. Her mother’s voice. Her mother’s warmth. She was done with her preparations, ready. Ready for casualties.
There would be casualties.
When outside is too much, focus on inside. Remember that time when Alexandria read to you?
Eden smiled at that, thought about it. Admiral Reese’s oldest daughter’s melodic voice and quiet pride at her Academy acceptance. The way she sang Tom Bombadil’s songs of Goldberry and the Old Forest… Eden focused on that, kept it and her mother’s presence in her mind, and, somehow, she made it to the shelter.
In the shelter, there were no claxons, no blinking red lights. The civilians who fled there would remain until an all-clear was sent; there was no need to add to their troubles with reminders of danger. In the peace of that, the low murmur of conversation between the station’s bartender and schoolteacher, Eden settled into a seat. Turned on her holofrog to teach it a new trick.
“We’ve known for a while that we weren’t the first colonists on Cestus,” Milton Johannson, attache for the Lukan City government, said to Eden. “We’ve found ruins from at least three previous civilizations… one was Hurq’, while we haven’t been able to identify the other two.”
Johannson was leading the away team toward the tallest building in the city, the Lucan Administrative Tower. “Tower” was a strong word for it – standing at just four stories tall, it would not have earned that distinction on Betazed, much less Earth – but for a place in the second city of a border colony, it wasn’t entirely unimpressive.
“We might have answers for you on one of them,” Eden said. “You say your people found these ruins recently?”
“Two months ago,” Johannson said. “Though… this is a little awkward…”
“The Commander isn’t here to enforce any old building or preservation laws,” Luvrodo said, cutting to the core of Johannson’s caution. “Her business is too urgent for that.”
“I suppose,” Johannson said. “When we found the ruins, Commander, there were signs they’d already been broken into once in the last century. Our assumption is that it was looters, or builders for the Tower building. That they didn’t report the ruins because they didn’t want the delay in construction.”
Eden sighed. “Trust me when I say I have no intention of leaving here with a bunch of old builders in my brig. We just need to see the ruin.”
“Come in, then,” Johannson said, leading them into the building and to the elevator.
The deck shook under Eden’s chair, nearly throwing her from it, and the bartender was flung to the floor, rolling over to show a bloody nose. Eden bit her lip hard to focus herself on her own body – that shattering pain was his, not hers. Then she screamed, tucked her head into her hands.
Whatever was attacking the station… it was one thing. One creature, one mind. And it hated them, with a power and intensity that was agonizingly painful for Eden to bear. She shook her head, face hidden against the table. “No… no no no. No…”
Then her mother’s warmth pressed back against that hate, reached into parts of her mind that only Arianna Starling really knew. Eden. I feel it too. But we will make it. After all… we have our family. Something that hates like that…
Can’t understand love. Eden finished the sentence. “Can’t understand love,” she whispered to herself.