With school left behind, Quil looked out across the star port as the many workers rushed about, packing cargo cruisers with supplies for a journey, perhaps across the stars or maybe to just another petal.
"Seriously?" Trisha said, snapping Quil out of his moment.
Quil quickly turned around. The low gravity gently swept him off his feet. He swiftly reacted by grabbing the nearby handrail to pull himself back down. A cowlick cocked in skepticism at Trisha's arrival.
"Why are you here?" Trisha asked.
Quil looked at Trisha with a puzzled look.
She shook her head. "You left your watch on, dummy. I could only imagine that you wanted me to come find you." Trisha pushed forward and glided towards Quil to lean on the same railing as he.
Quil raised a sarcastic eyebrow, "Because I long to have you berate me about my childish dreams."
Trisha laughed and nudged him with her shoulder. "We're young. I'm pretty certain it's okay to have big dreams; I mean, look at me! Robotics engineer, hah." She shifted uncomfortably next to Quil. "Either we'll reach our dreams or we won't." She filled the following silence with a breathy laugh before looking out on the stars that sparsely spotted the vacuum outside of the star port. "I was just lonely. Figured I should instead come here to pester you about our project." Her gaze dashed back and forth to make sure no one was around. "Not to mention my parents have gone into freak-cleaning mode at home."
"Hmm," Quil responded apathetically. "Didn't we already establish the rocket is nearly done?"
"Well," She began, holding up her fingers to count off her checklist, "We need to finish constructing the base, then ensure the integrity of the rocket, and finally attach the remote launcher. We aren't quite finished, but we are close."
There was a moment of silence filled by the hustle and bustle of the workers, the revving of propulsion engines, and the clanging of various materials.
Quil looked around, taking into account the various star ship classes and their origins, whether they were Lotus built ships, and by what Petal they were built on or if they were built off the Lotus in one of the various space colonies that dot the stars.
Not a single Federation ship was found, partially because the star port on Nusiphera was a smaller star port with most of it currently preoccupied by the docked Galactic Imperial Empire capitol cruiser, but also probably due to the ongoing investigation of the destruction of Federation S.C. Unity.
Quil's eyes stayed sharply focused on the massive nose of the capitol cruiser that barely fit inside the port. It seemed peculiar that the G.I.E. was here, and moreover, the man surrounded by a handful of guards that exited the massive ship were even more peculiar to Quil. The man had perhaps the most interesting hairstyle to bless the Lotus, making the man appear either somewhat goofy or perhaps powerful amongst the ranks of his uniformed soldiers.
"That guy," Trisha pointed to the man, "he looks important."
"Hmm," Quil responded apathetically as he followed the man with his eyes.
"Who do you think he is?"
Quil's eyes passed over the nearby docked ships. A capitol sized star cruiser of G.I.E. make surrounded by some smaller jets. He definitely, without a doubt was G.I.E. Possibly he was the captain of the star cruiser. The more interesting question wasn't really who he was, but what the G.I.E. wanted on the Lotus. Quil shook his head, then looked at Trisha.
Trisha rolled her eyes, "That's not what you were wondering, though. I assume you are sitting there trying to figure out why he is here, right?"
Quil couldn't help but smile a little. He nodded in affirmation.
"Do you have any sort of a guess?"
Quil watched the man until he couldn't see him or his bodyguards any more. "I wonder if it's a P.R. stunt."
"What?" Trisha raised an eyebrow.
"G.I.E. are prime suspects under the circumstances of the recent destruction of S.C. Unity."
"You think they are the ones who did it?" Trisha leaned in closer to Quil.
He gave a confident nod. "In fact, I'm almost positive it's them, but, I don't understand why they did it."
Trisha laughed. "Not really something worth losing an arm over. Maybe don't worry so much about it, k?"
Quil leaned his chin into his hand as he studied the ship, "But what exactly would absolve the G.I.E. in the eyes of the press that is here on the Lotus?"
Trisha groaned. "That whole, 'don't worry about it' thing I just said was my polite way of saying: shut up. You are focusing too much on something way out of your control. It's just going to distract you from our work."
Quil straightened his back as his eyes met Trisha's, "I've been working,"
"Oh, really? Have you?" She scrutinized Quil, "And exactly how much have you gotten done since last night?"
Quil scratched the back of his head awkwardly. He could only give a weak shrug as his eyes drifted away from Trisha's accusing gaze.
"In other words, you did nothing in lab today because you were too busy researching this S.C. Unity thing, and then immediately after school you went straight to the tram and rode it here to think about all the info you read during your lab time, am-I-right?" she cocked an eyebrow.
Quil's cowlicks hung low with guilt. "So maybe I got a little wrapped up in this thing. It's not like we are under a deadline. We are also pretty close to finished."
Trisha stamped her foot in hopes of asserting her dominance; however, the low gravity sent her bouncing upwards. She grabbed a hold of the rail pulling herself down though she kept her stern gaze on Quil. "'pretty close to finished,' is not 'finished'." She stated bluntly.
Quil sighed. "Yeah, yeah."
Trisha's eyebrow twitched. Quil could be such a stubborn log sometimes and she knew the best way of dealing with his stubbornness.
She clenched her fist, reeled her arm back, then proceeded to sling the slug forward right toward his face -
"Trisha!" Her right hook stopped just before striking the oblivious log.
"Yes?" Trisha pulled her watch close to her face.
"We have a guest coming over tomorrow," her mother smiled in a rather grand display of delight, "a rather handsome G.I.E. captain." She blushed as she hid her face behind her hands. "Your father and I are excited to have his company, so make sure you don't do that thing you do."
Trisha grimaced, "'thing I do'?"
"Yes. You know the one where you go out with that boy and come back a mess. Just come home and clean yourself up now and you won't need to worry about it later."
Trisha's eyes went flat. "Thanks, Mom." she tapped her watch ending the call.
"G.I.E. captain?" Quil's eyes dashed to Trisha's.
Trisha rolled her eyes. "Oh boy," she sighed as she dropped her chin into her palm to look across the star port. "You're thinking he's the one we saw leave that star cruiser, aren't you?"
Quil gave an affirmative nod.
Trisha turned and brushed her hair out of her face. "I don't see how – or really – why, you get so obsessed with this, but," a devious smile crossed her face, "If I took advantage of him being in my home, do I get anything in return?"
"Are you trying to negotiate some sort of a deal here?" Quil raised an eyebrow.
She gave a playful shrug. "I have the resource to get some more answers to this thing you are obsessing over, but my family is sucking up so much, I definitely risk grounding for at least -" a pause for thought, " six-hundred hours."
"When has 'Parental House Arrest' ever stopped you?" Quil crossed his arms.
"Well, of course, a little house arrest has never been a problem for me, but parental house arrest at this time could put a dent in our project timeline. So, basically you need to offer me something to alleviate the added stress."
"Like what?" Quil cocked an especially annoyed eyebrow (though, in truth, he was actually excited about this deal).
A sly smile crossed Trisha's face, "Like maybe spending less time obsessing over these kind of things so you won't be late next time I ask you to come out and help me."
"That seems overly reasonable. The point of you questioning the man is to get answers. If I have answers then I am going to do less research, which means -" Quil cocked his head. "Ah," A (somewhat) apathetic breath of realization escaped him. "I see now. You just want to spend more time with me."
Trisha's face turned red, "Well, not like that, I mean, you know. The project -" she fumbled over her words, "the rocket, you know?" She choked the words out in more of a squeak than any series of coherent words.
"Well," Quil raised an eyebrow, "last I heard, the rocket was nearly done. Then what?"
Trisha's eyes fell sharp, "Look, you can't measure our friendship based on what series of projects we have to do! Just because we don't have anything specific to do after our current project doesn't mean we can't just do," she paused trying to find the words, "friend stuff. You know? Watch movies together, play a game together, go harass adults by pulling pranks."
"Breaking into junkyards," Quil's cowlicks lowered.
"Yeah, something like that!" Trisha extended a hand. "So do we have a deal then? I get as much information as I can from the guy; you spend more time with me afterwards?"
Quil lifted himself from the rails, extending his hand and taking hers. "Agreed. I will spend more time with you once you have fulfilled your part of the bargain."
Trisha laughed. "Bargain? Really? You make this sound so formal, hardly a pact between two friends."
Quil shrugged as he returned to leaning over the rail, and leaning away from Trisha.
Trisha giggled and pushed Quil. "Come on, let's go home," she said as she hopped over the catwalk where she pushed off, gently floating down to the floor of the star port.
"Where are you going?" Quil's cowlicks raised in curiosity as she drifted away, further and further.
She gracefully turned around to show the sincerity in her eyes. "Trust me, just follow me."
Quil shrugged. Without much thought, he decided he would do as she said, and he too crossed over the catwalk, pushing himself with as much force as he could to catch up to Trisha's descent. While she landed rather gracefully on the floor of the star port, Quil's over-emphasis resulted in his face smashing rather hard against the cold floor of the port before the energy of his collision sent him bouncing back into the air.
"Careful there, cowboy." Trisha gripped his clothes to reel him back down to the floor.
Quil shook it off. He attempted to wipe away any red marks before returning his eyes to Trisha. "Where are we going now?"
Trisha continued on her way moving away from the busy portion of the star port. "Somewhere I don't think many people know of, but it's something I think you might appreciate."
"Cryptic." Quil retorted plainly, as he followed just behind her.
It wasn't long after a few hallway switches and various corridors through stacks of storage containers and crates that they arrived at what might have been one of the most foreboding doors in the entire spaceport.
A heavy door. A cold door. A thick door. A door that clearly sealed many mysteries behind it's dense threshold.
Trisha heaved as she turned the heavy knob of the door, leaning into it with all her weight to open it. An incredibly cold draft exploded from behind the door, sending shivers down Quil's spine.
"Are we breaking into the junkyard already? Should I prepare to run?"
"Not quite, though these corridors haven't been used in so long you might mistake it for some cramped junkyard." She ushered Quil into the dark corridors that lye before the threshold of that mysterious door.
He stepped in, feeling the chill. Hums and clicks echoed up and down the halls that stretched to infinity. The walls of the corridors were lined with numerous types of snaking and winding infrastructure. Subtle lights sparsely dotted the halls, occasionally switching on or off then followed by a loud mechanical click. Beyond those mechanical sounds laid silence, emptiness, and darkness.
"What is this place?" Quil asked bewildered by its rather impressive expanse of seemingly endless halls of even more impressive engineering.
"It's called the Sanction." She began as she followed the lines of pipes down the corridor in front of them, "or, at least, that's what I like to call it. The Sanction expands the entirety of the Lotus, throughout all of Nusiphera, to Lutea, Cerulea, Neilum, and Nymphae; every petal has the Sanction flowing underneath it."
Quil, not far behind Trisha, managed to give a slow and considered nod through his bewildered curiosity from this "Sanction". He saw halls that branched out into more halls, which branched into more, while some branched into wide foyers, and commons areas. There were tiny rooms, there were large rooms, all seemed to have once served a greater purpose but now lye empty and abandoned.
"This is what the Lotus is without the Augmentation altering what we see. This is where the engineers really showed their intellectual prowess in the construction of this wonder. In a sense, it is believed all these various cables that run the walls are part of the circuitry that sustains the environment that gives this colony its life."
Quil's cowlick cocked. "You know a lot about this place," his eyes continued to wander up and down the halls, taking in this place of fascination.
"Well, when you escape from home as often as I do, you gotta learn about the short cuts, you know?"
"Short cuts?" he muttered through the distractions.
"Well," she let out a little laugh, and turned to look at Quil, "I guess your obsession rubbed off on me." She turned back around to continue following the route. "I couldn't help but to be a little curious about what this place is. There is little documentation on it, so researching it was tough. I guess the residents of the Lotus have become complacent towards the workings of their home due to how capable it is at self-sustaining.
The only paperwork I could find was by a small team that couldn't even sustain its research due to the Federation only giving a small grant. Most of their published stuff was mostly incomplete."
They continued to move down the narrow corridors, Quil drifted shortly behind Trisha, though, occasionally stopping to ogle some interesting bit of circuitry or mechanisms.
"Where are we going?" Quil pushed forward to catch up with Trisha.
"Home, you idiot."
Quil shook his head. "Yes, but do you know where we are going?"
"Of course," She paused, here eyebrows parted, "well, for the most part."
Quil's eyes fell flat.
"It's not like I come to the port often."
"How did you even find this place to begin with?"
"Having a whole family isn't what it is all cracked up to be." She began, keeping her eyes ahead. "Maybe it's selfish of me to say, but my ignorance of families like yours, well, I envy it - er, well, I did." Trisha seemed to be trying to distance herself from Quil. Perhaps it was the darkness that hid her face that made it so easy for her to talk. "There were many times I just wanted to escape the constant arguing. It seemed like every other day they were arguing, and they tried to make sure I didn't know, but how discrete can you be when you're -" She began to belt in a grand forte, "YELLING AT EACH OTHER AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS." Her shout resonating throughout the empty halls until those echoes, too, faded into the emptiness of the Sanction.
Trisha stopped, grabbing a hold of some miscellaneous piping (who knows what its purpose is) to support her weight, as if the thoughts that she had brought up were the missing gravity in these passageways.
She took a heavy sigh. "They tried." Pianissimo now. "They tried to hide that their arguments were always about me in some way, but," She let out a breathy laugh, "I don't need to do the theatrics again. It's hard to be subtle about these things when they are practically shouting to my face." She wiped her face. She wasn't crying. That would be a rather absurd assumption to think that she would cry.
Her eyes moved to Quil's. The only detail he could make out were the reflection coming off her glossy eyes. He imagined she was looking at him for some sort of a response.
Quil pushed himself over to the wall Trisha was leaning on and leaned next to her, trying to comfort her with an awkward grab of her shoulder.
She choked back her tears, then covered it up with a laugh. "It's why I hate it when you talk about wanting to leave the Lotus." She gripped the piping tighter, "I've been there. I've been in a place where I wanted to escape from it all. That's why I ran to the star port. It was the point that seemed furthest away from home. A place where I could look out and see the endless ocean of stars and dream." She paused for a minute. "After so many nights of escaping I started trying to find faster ways to get to the star port since it's quite a journey taking the tram here. One day, tired of taking the long ride to the port, I tried using a locater instead of a guidance system. It lead me to a withering part of the Petal, mostly abandoned. It was lonely and cold there.
"I found a warehouse which eventually led me to these halls. Curious, I didn't want to leave them, but, frankly, I was frightened, too. They are a bit unsettling: only the mechanical racketing of breakers flipping, switches switching, and the occasional fizzle of steam for cooling, but otherwise empty. Expansive, dark, cold, and empty," she paused a minute, "so empty," she mumbled under her breath.
"I used my locator to try and lead me to someplace I was familiar with." She continued, "of course, down here, it has trouble finding which way is North since we are on the underside of the petals. I spent," She took a moment to think, "well, I'm not entirely sure how many hours down here, but eventually I came across the door that led me into the far edge of the star port docks, tucked away behind meters and meters of storage."
Quil gave a slow nod in affirmation. "So, thereafter you researched this place."
"Right!" She exclaimed. "Now," she let go of the supportive pipe and pushed forward, "We don't have far to go, so let's head home."
Quil lingered behind for just a moment. No longer were his eyes distracted by the spectacle of this strange place. His eyes danced across Trisha ahead of him. His cowlicks lowered as he found himself gripping the pipe tighter.
It wasn't long, as Trisha definitely led on, before they reached a strange looking elevator.
Trisha knew what she was doing, stepping in, placing her feet into a left and right foot lock on the floor, then bracing herself with the handle bars that lined the elevator.
"Uhm," Quil stared perplexed at the weird contraption.
"Just step in and do as I did," pointing to her feet. "Put each foot in the corresponding lock, then grab a bar and hold your stomach."
Quil took one heavy, uncomfortable gulp as he slowly stepped into the elevator, doing as Trisha said. Right foot. Check! Left foot. Check! Brace self with handlebars, then brace stomach with - WOOSH.
Before he could have even been prepared for the aggressive and rapid acceleration the elevator displayed (not that there is any way he could have prepared for that), Quil was being forced to the floor of the elevator from the incredible acceleration. Inside the elevator, Quil couldn't see what was happening, but he could feel the elevator do a full one-hundred, eighty-degree turn and then stop.
The locks came undone, sliding off and escaping into the floor of the elevator with a hydraulic "sigh".
When the elevator doors slid open, it almost seemed to boot Quil out, making him land face first into the concrete to welcome back the gravity. He let out a loud groan then just lied there.
Trisha leaned down, poking Quil, "You alright?"
Quil just let out one gnarly gag, followed by little drool oozing from his mouth.
Trisha cooed in a comforting voice, "You're gonna be okay." She gave him a pat on the back. "I wasn't prepared for it the first time either," she continued, as she lifted Quil up from the ground.
Trisha continued to drag Quil towards her bike, where she had it chained to a pole just outside of the large warehouse.
Trisha's description was definitely correct. Even under the dense gold of the evening light, there was an odd forlorn atmosphere to this place. The augmentation portrayed it as a clean, humble part of Petal Nusiphera, but it was silent. Dead silent, and empty. Not a creature stirred in this place.
Quil unhinged his arm that was wrapped around Trisha. "Oh," she responded to his returning life, "So you think you can handle yourself now?"
He gave half a nod before holding a finger up. He ran back inside the warehouse where its empty chamber echoed the grotesque sounds of today's - and probably yesterday's - dinner being vomited onto the cold concrete.
Quil shambled out of the building back to Trisha, cradling his stomach. He gave a weak nod as he signaled "OK".
"Great!" Trisha responded, clapping her hands together, "Because my bike only fits one, so you're gonna need to stand on the back axel," she leaned in close, "and hold me, really tight." She let out a laugh as she mounted her bike.
Quil groaned then stepped onto the rear axle just as Trisha peddled off down the road. The gusts of Trisha's speedy determination blew Quil's twin cowlicks back - perhaps the ride might actually get his hair to sit flat for once.
Before long, they were back where the city was a little more alive with the countless people returning from their daily commute.
They passed through many places unfamiliar and familiar to both. As they reached the neighborhoods just outside the city center, they passed through their familiar bridge that crossed the canal, then past their favorite convenient store with their favorite vending machines just outside, and soon after that they passed their school, and finally they reached home.
"Well," Trisha began as she stopped the bike, letting Quil off, "The ride wasn't that long, see?" Her eyes glistened under the cool night light.
Quil looked at the night sky as he raised an eyebrow.
"I was more concerned you might puke on me." She laughed.
Quil simply rolled his eyes and departed without so much as a "good bye".
Trisha huffed before pedaling home. "You're welcome, dickhead."
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