Part of the unit-wide mission Task Force 86: Refuge and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

A Stopping Place

Starbase 86
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The directions are written in sixteen different scripts. I can barely make it out as the crowd bumps and jostles me along. I catch glimpses of the Jotarn lettering between the swaying heads.

All arrivals proceed to promenade section G for assignment to quarters.

Everyone is tightly packed. The airlock is bottlenecked, and the crush of people lifts my feet. I can’t help but cry out, lifting her above my head, as far as I can above the surging chaos. She cries out too, a wailing drowned in confused moans and shouts of the mass that stumbles on. The acrid sweat and grime congeal on my face. The clamour of a thousand uprooted souls after five days’ travel at warp, deposited here. Where? I strain again to look out between the bodies.

Starbase 86

The letters mean nothing to me. My arms ache. Still, I lift her higher. She’s squirming now, kicking. I think of her tiny eyes, surveying all this, understanding nothing. There is nothing to be understood. I grip her beneath the arms. My hands can almost fit around her whole torso. I try my best to hold her upright. Her head rolls back, she doesn’t have the strength to lift it. She cries again; a piercing, desperate squeal. A couple in front of me look back, scowling, as if they had never themselves been infants; as if an ordinary child should be perfectly happy sleeping on the floor of a starship corridor while her mother weeps. I breathe in my anger, but in my mind I will her to scream louder. There is a justice to those screams. An outrage at the cruel reckoning of the universe. The indifference of a continuum that trudges on as slow and deliberate as the rotation of galactic spiral arms.

The rifts. The storm. From nowhere. They tell us of subspace, distortions and tachyon particles. It makes no difference. Our home is no less gone. Ripped from its foundations by a cascading wall of water. They speak of charged particle interactions in the upper ionosphere. Of a hyper gravitational pull, the equivalent of thirty moons shifting the tides. An awesome wave, kilometres high, grows out of the southern ocean and like a yawning beast will swallow all before it.

I lift her from the cot he made. He looks at me. I have never seen his eyes this way. They fall down at the edges as he speaks. I try to remember his face, each crease and contour. The black two day stubble and the flop of his fringe. That day he holds us both. There’s time for another run. We need to go first, but he’ll be right behind. I can’t let go. He pulls my arms away. The last thing he touches is my wrist. I try to remember that touch. The brush of his fingers as they run across my skin for the last time. His smile fades into the particulate haze. The transporter beam disassembles my life.

I can breathe. The crowd is thinning. A woman wearing gold sees her dangling above me, “We’ve got another child!” she calls. A grey skinned man, also in uniform, takes hold of her. I resist at first. For five days, I haven’t lost sight of her. I can’t let go.

“Hey, hey, hey… It’s alright… It’s OK…” He says, smiling. My eyes are void. There’s far fewer people now. Both of them walk either side of me. A door opens. I sit on a bench, with her in my lap. I feel the flow of blood returning to my arms.

“Here,” she says, offering me a steaming mug. I want to take it. But I’m still holding her. The crying has stopped. Her head nestles against my arm. She stays quiet as I hold her up, and the grey skinned man reaches out. He runs a medical scanner over her as I hold the mug in my hands. The warm, sweet tea vapours uncoil and my shoulders slump. I inhale, cut short by a gasping, single sob.

I place her down on the bed. She’s sleeping. I look around the room, towards the basin, the sonic shower and replicator. It’s a stopping place; somewhere to rest while on the way to the next place. I don’t want to go to the next place. I try to remember my home, and I know this memory is the closest I will ever be. Every day it fades. A few less lines in the darkened wood. A few less creases in his smile.