Chapter 27:



Before I begin with the start of the new book, I have to acknowledge the awkward timing of events happening in real-life. EVERSTREAM02 focuses a lot on a refugee crisis, the suffering caused by losing your home, and being orphaned due to these destructive forces. At the time of writing this, a refugee crisis making millions face hardships unprecedented created by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. My heart goes out to those affected by Russia's heinous actions. If you are able to, please consider supporting organizations that are helping with the relief efforts for Ukraine.
International Medical Corp (providing medical assistance in the region):
Voices of Children (helping children deal with the effects of war and loss of their home):

(The following is an early preview and is not representative of the final product. Many errors and typos will be present.)

    “Whoa!” Trisha ran her hand down the cold metal. “It’s so cool!”
   Quil’s vacant eyes locked a heavy gaze onto Trisha.
   “I’m serious.” She continued to rotate the prosthetic around in her hands.
   Quil swiftly turned away from Trisha, pulling the prosthetic out of her hands. He walked down the fluorescent halls of the ship. The bright lights above highlighted the faces of the masses that rest weary, heavy backs against the walls of the ship. Quil did not acknowledge a single refugee. His vacant stare stayed ahead of him. He followed the halls, trying to find that missing piece.
   “Are you looking for your room?” Trisha tried to keep up behind Quil.
   He barely acknowledged her.
   “You know, Silje was really nice. She really tried her best to pull some strings to make sure you could have a private room.”
   Quil slowed his pace for a moment. He stared at a family. Even though the lights overhead were almost blindingly bright, the exhaustion had settled over the whole family.
   Trisha’s eyes fell to the floor. She looked at the family. “Some of families are luckier than others.” She gripped her own arm as she moved her eyes back to Quil. He had already left her behind.
   She ran to catch up to him. “We still have school. It’s a bit crowded.” She ran just ahead of Quil so that she could look into his eyes. “It’s perfect!” She smiled. “That means we can skip class and no one would notice. Maybe we could go to docking bay. It’s too dangerous there for refugees, so we might be able to breathe a little bit better there.”
   Quil’s vacant eyes gave Trisha nothing. He pushed past her, further down the halls.
   The idea hit her hard. She nailed that idea into the palm of her hand with her fist. “That’s it! I know what we can do!” Once again she ran in front of Quil. “You know, all of these large ships have their own low-sec storage. We could break into this ship’s low-sec. I bet they have all sorts of cool tech in there!”
   Quil’s cold, right arm stayed limp next to his body. He pushed Trisha out of his way with his left arm.
   Trisha fell behind him, sinking into the crowd of sheltered families.
   He stepped through hallway after hallway, searching. His search brought him through narrow halls that required him to step between what few belongings the families had or stepping between the legs of the families that slept through the exhaustion. His search brought him through large commons. Commercial business aboard the ship had been shut down. Blocking the doorways to these closed business were children too naive to understand the circumstances. The children pestered their father. Their mother tried to comfort the kids, trying to keep them in the blissful ignorance. His search brought him to private quarters. Many of the doors to the rooms remained open, revealing a room packed with additional beds. Families inside could barely leave or enter the room. His search brought him to wide thoroughfares. Though his was not able to find what he was looking for, his search paused.
   The vacant eyes stared upon the external displays. He didn’t blink. He felt nothing. He stared at the golden seam that ripped through the black curtain of space. Golden tears wrapped and crushed the wilted petals. Debris the drifted in front of the rift cast heavy shadows.
   “Do you remember?” Trisha didn’t look at the monitor. Her palm was open as she offered a gift towards Quil.
   Quil’s eyes drifted from the monitors to the gift Trisha offered. Pudding. He stared at the brown cup of chocolate and sugary yumminess.
   “It’s all gone now.” Trisha kept her eyes focused on the pudding cup. She watched as Quil’s warm, left arm took the cup from her.
   “Silje says hardship breeds strength, you know?” Trisha looked down the crowded thoroughfare.
   The cold right arm gave a violent twitch. Quil cursed. He threw the pudding cup to the floor.
   Trisha looked at Quil with sympathetic eyes. She shook her head. “You have to practice making a connection with your prosthetic. Don’t try to do something so complicated right now,” she picked the cup off the floor. “Just ask for help, okay?” She lifted the lid of the cup, revealing the snack contained within. She placed the spoon inside the snack and handed it back to Quil.
   The cold right arm moved slowly, occasionally twitching hard left or hard right.
   Trisha smiled. She put the cup into the cold hand and helped wrap the fingers around the cup. “Silje says that we are all in this together. So we should work together.”
   “She’s not dead.” Quil’s vacant eyes returned to the glowing seam.
   “What do you mean?” Trisha kept her eyes on Quil.
   “Lilli.” He took a small sip of his snack. His eyes stayed locked to the monitor. “She’s not dead. I know she is alive.”
   Trisha looked towards the floor as she gripped her arm. “Quil.”
   The cup collided with the floor with a splash of the sugary snack. “Don’t give me that shit, Trisha.” His eyes were no longer vacant. The cold arm violently twitched. He cursed. His left hand jabbed a finger towards Trisha. “Why would she die? She held joy. She was happy.”
   “Quil, I want to help you,” Trisha pleaded.
   “Then help me find Lilli.”
   “I can’t do that.”
   His vacant eyes were filled with such blackness. His cold arm moved swift towards Trisha’s face. She flinched looking away. She heard the prosthetic’s collision with the monitors. A cold draft fell across her, and then silence.
   She opened her eyes. Before her was the external monitor. Though it was damaged, cracked now, she could see a warped display of the seam the ripped through her home. Quil was gone.
   She did her best to hold everything together. One of the refugees must have seen the event unfold. A man with a hoarse voice placed a gentle hand against Trisha’s back. “Are you okay?”
   She looked at the man. His back weighed heavy, the skin below his eyes sagged. A shaky, uneven hand passed a bottle of water to Trisha.
   “Thank you,” Trisha took the water.
   He shook his head. “I overheard your conversation. You are right. We are all in this together.”
   Quil walked the hallways of the ship alone.

   “Silje,” The captain’s voice made the cramped elevator shudder.
   “Sir,” Silje saluted.
   “I’ve issued a new set of Requisits of Aid for Telkian colonies.”
   “Yes sir.” Silje clutched the papers to her chest.
   “In addition, I need you to write up a Requisite of Aid for Nijon.”
   Silje’s ear cocked surprised.
   “I believe the Telkian’s will be more sympathetic if they hear the words straight from one of their own Lopps.”
   Silje nodded. “Yes sir. However, I would like to remind you of the civil disputes of the Telkian territory. I am uncertain how willing Nijon will be in taking on Terran refugees.”
   The elevator door opened.
   “Silje,” Lorie’s never met Silje’s. He towered above her as he took wide strides that left Silje behind.
   Though her chest tightened as she began to jog to keep pace with him, she did her best to hide her heavy breaths.
   “The entirety of the Solar Corp-Two fleet is over capacity. We are not just a little bit over capacity either. At the rate supplies are being drained, our fifty-year reserve will be depleted within two.”
   “Yes sir,” a heavy breath, “I understand.”
   “Every staff and crew member has been reassigned to relocating the refugees.”
   “Yes,” another deep breath.
   “I don’t want to hear your excuses. The Lopp’s problem is the Lopp’s problem, it is not the Terran’s problem. Your problem is your employment aboard this ship. The lives of countless displaced people are in our hands.”
   His feet made the floor rumble as he halted. His eyes filled with heavy shadows as he looked down over Silje. “I hope that you understand the gravity of your responsibility, Silje. Responsibility means to take action, Silje. Do not give me excuses. Take action.” With that, he departed, leaving her behind.
   She gripped the papers tight. She looked across the room she stood in. It seemed easy to mistake this room for a typical office rather than a marvel of rocket engineering.
   The flourescent lights overhead smeared all of the shadows away. As Silje sat at her desk, the lights overhead reflected bright highlights from the pale white papers. It was so blinding to her. She layed the papers flat. To her left, a tower glowing bright under the flourescent lights above. To her right, another tower glimmering in bloom and white.
   She flipped the corners of each page, inspecting only the title of each sheet. Each one had the same title. Each sheet a one page summary of yet another displaced refugee.
   With a heavy sigh, she took the small stack of papers before her and added them to the tower to her right. The gravity of the ship pulled her hands back to the desk. Her eyebrows parted as she began to inspect the tower to her left. She lifted a small chunk from the top. Again, she flipped through each page inspecting the title. This time the forms were one page summaries of possible asylum for those displaced. She began to let each page slip through her finger, flicking through all the pages rapidly until the end came.
   And there before her eyes was the glowing screen. The caret blinked in and out at a relaxed pace awaiting her input, the address for the letter already assigned.
   A person was on her mind. Why was this person on her mind? There were countless people in need of help and it was her responsibility to aid those people. Yet the weight of that single person weighed vastly more on her mind than the many displaced.
   The weight pulled her head to her desk, sending a quake of concern across the surface of her workspace that also pulled on the towers to her left and right. The unsteady towers of responsibility trembled under her concern until the towers collapsed.
   An illuminated drift of white workload tumbled over Silje head, burring her within her own conscious. The glow of the overhead lights penetrated deep within the rubble of the collapsed tower. She could just make out the words of the nearest papers to her. One paper spoke of colonies, the next spoke of one of the displaced families.
   Silje let a pained groan beneath the debris. Now her responsibilities were stacked chaotically and (literally) weighed her down. Yet, despite the added weight and pressure, she could only think of that one person.
   She lifted herself from her desk, letting the papers roll to her feet. Her haste to dispell her unending concern brought with it a draft that pulled with it her tumbled responsibility. She boarded the small transportation craft and directed the pilot to the cruiser where the answer to her concern waited.
   There, amongst the cat-walks the bored and lonely schoolgirl rested her cheek in her hand as she leaned over the bars. She perked up as she heard the footsteps near. The girl’s hardened brows softened. Her poorly tied hair drooped. She looked at the Telkian woman before her. The telkian woman grimaced as she clutched her chest.
   The schoolgirl could no longer hold strong. The tears welled up within her. She lunged into a hug, tackling Silje. Silje accepted her embrace, holding the schoolgirl tightly against her, stroking her hair.
   The bustle of workers and departing craft masked most of the crying from the school girl, while the rest of her sobs were buried and muffled within the chest of of Silje.
   Silje felt a bit uncomfortable. Awkward, holding the girl knowing she was the only support left for her.
   They stood embraced until their legs no longer could support them. Whether it was the gravity of the situation or the gravity of the ship, regardless, they found themselves resting their backs against the bars of the catwalks of the port. Trisha leaned her head against Silje’s shoulder.
   “He’s so angry.” A breathy sob left the school girl.
   Silje could only muster a slow nod.
   “I just wanted us to return to normal.”
   Silje searched across the floor of the catwalk they rested upon. She looked for the words to reassure the girl resting upon her shoulder now. What was the right thing to say? What would her mother have told her? Should she she be sympathetic and relate? Or should she appear confidence to bolster strength?
   Silje’s ear twitched. “We can try.”
   Trisha lifted her head from Silje so that her eyes could find the sincerity of Silje’s statement. “I know. But what do I do? He’s,” she paused. Her eyes looked away from Silje. “Bitter.”
   Silje’s eyes glanced across the girl’s informal appearance. She reached toward the girl’s hair to pluck the hair-ties from the disheveled and uncombed hair. “We can think of our heart as a collection of ourselves.” Silje ran her fingers through the tangled mess of hair. “And every person we love, we share a piece of ourselves with.” She pulled the hair on the right side into a tight ponytail. “The more we love someone, the bigger that piece is.” She pulled the hair on the left side into a tight ponytail. “And when we lose that person we love, they will take that piece of you with them.” Silje tusseled the girl’s bangs with a warm smile.
   Trisha instinctively flinched as Silje tusseled her hair. From behind her tangled bangs she could see the smile. Her eyebrows lowered as her eyes drifted away from Silje.
   “He’s hurting right now because there is a hole inside of him.” Silje drew Trisha’s eyes back to her. “But, you have a piece of him inside of you. You can be the one to fill that hole.”
   Trisha tossed her head to the side. “I told you, I know that already. I don’t know how.” Her brow sank to sympathy as her own hand brushed through the smooth and tidy ponytails.
   “Keep pushing him for what you want, and when he hurts you, I will take care of you.”
   Trisha did her best to avoid making eye contact with the woman, but she found a strange gravity existing within this small bubble of space around them. She was annoyed. This gravity had never existed before. She didn’t like it. It was pulling at her head, tugging at her tidy ponytails, dragging her eyes back to the woman who sat next to her. She felt the warmth next to her, the warmth that the gravity guided her towards. “How can you take care of me when you are responsible for all of the refugees?” Trisha spit coldly against the gravitous heat.
   Silje’s ears sank. “I feel like such a terrible person,” she looked away.
   Though the warmth seemed to dwindle, the gravity grew stronger, finally drawing Trisha’s eyes towards Silje.
   “I -” Her ears drifted back to Trisha. There was a glint of hope within her guilt filled eyes. “I don’t want to be responsible for the refugees. I’m too worried about you.” She pulled Trisha against her and embraced her.
   Trisha remained quiet. There was a gentle and calmly warmth that washed over her. It was nostalgic to her, but why was it so nostalgic? It reminded her of something. It reminded her of someone back home; someone that she didn’t think she would miss so much.
   “You try to appear so strong,” Silje whispered as a hand ran through Trisha’s hair. “If your strength is not a lie to hide how you really feel, then I am worried about how you are handling this loss.”
   Trisha breathed in the nostalgic warmth. She felt like a baby again. How incredibly horrible. She snapped from Silje’s clutches. “I-” She shook her head to shake off the remaining blanket of nostalgic warmth before continuing, “I’m fine. I can deal with my own problems. You should take care of these people.”
   “I know you are lying,” Silje cut through Trisha’s barrier.
   Her eyes sank. The gravity pushed her back inside that warm, nostalgic blanket. “I know you know.”
   Silje’s hand made soft gentle strokes through Trisha’s hair. “If we all could just help the people around us, things would be better.”
   “I need too much help, Silje,” Trisha spoke through soft breaths.
   “Every chance I have, I will come see you.” Silje reassured her.
   “And tomorrow?” Trisha looked up from the nostalgic cradle into Silje’s gentle gaze.
   “The fleet sent to the S-O-S of the INTAL campus will be returning tomorrow with another thousand-plus refugees from the G.I.E.’s assault on the campus. I’ll be assisting with relocation of the refugees within the Solar Corp-Two domain.”
   Trisha pulled herself tighter into the cradle as her eyes drifted away from Silje’s.
   “I’m not sure how long the task will take, but after the arriving refugees have been dispersed, I’ll come to the [NAME OF CRAFT] to see you.”
   A silence fell over them. It was simply the sorrowful joy of support that they let settle amongst them. Not a weep, not a tear. Not a smile, not a laugh.
   “Just help those around you,” Silje spoke soft as to not disrupt the calm that had settle between them, “We are all in this together.”