The tray whipped ripples of stench across the lunch room table upon it’s harsh landing.
“Ugh,” Trisha reeled in disgust. “This space food is more like cat vomit.”
Quil cocked an eyebrow and a cowlick.
“I’m serious!” He fork attempted to pierce the gelatinous ‘cat-spew’ only for the stickiest chunks to remain on the fork while the rest of the paste oozed through the prongs of her utensil. “I really didn’t think they’d dip into the emergency food rations so soon.” She placed the sticky chunks in her mouth. “At least, I assume that’s why they are serving what must be somewhat sanitized recycled garbage.”
Quil shook his head. His eyes shifted to the fork next to his tray. The prosthetic arm twitched. In jerky and twitchy movements, he managed to raise the arm and move it towards the fork. “I need your help.” The jerky twitching of the prosthetic stopped.
The fork nearly dropped from Trisha’s hand as her eyes moved to Quil. “What do you mean?” She tossed her hair to the side with a laugh. “If you want to use that prosthetic, I can’t-”
“Not that.” He interrupted her. The weight pulled down his cowlicks. “She’s still out there. I know she is.”
Trisha’s eyes returned to her food. “What do you want me to do?” Her forked skimmed in and out of the rich cat saliva dish.
“She’s there.” The determination pushed through his eyes as he gazed her down. “She’s still on Lotus. I can hear her. She’s crying.”
She could no longer play with the disgusting paste. Her muscles couldn’t find the energy. “That was our home.” She swept her hair aside again in hopes she could brush away the weight that held her head down. “It’s gone now, Quil.”
He shook his head. “It’s not gone. It’s just damaged.”
“The seam left behind from the explosion obliterated most of the Lotus. The small chunks remaining get sucked into the seam with each passing moment. There is no way she could be alive after everything that has happened on the Lotus.”
“I don’t understand why you doubt me.” His eyes stared intently at Trisha. Her eyes could not meet his. She kept her eyes on the food just below her face.
He kept his eyes fixated on her, waiting for her to respond. He was waiting for her reassurance. He was waiting for her belief. He knew he was right. She needed to believe him. He watched as her fork scraped more sticky mystery food into her mouth. Her head never lifted from it’s position. She kept her gaze fixated on the food. She took bite after bite. She didn’t have any intention to humoring his conversation further. “You need to eat, Quil.”
His eyes danced up and down across Trisha. He gave a bittered sigh before looking at his own lunch tray. He stared at the platter of greasy vomit. He did his best to focus one-hundred percent on the sticky spew. His fork was armed and ready, so he needed to keep his eye on his target. He just needed to move the fork into lunch. It just took the right amount of focus and control. He wanted his prosthetic to move into the food.
Move! The prosthetic snapped outstretched.
No! He needs the food. He needs to put the fork into the pile of whatever mystery matter is on his tray. He kept his gaze fixed on target.
The prosthetic fired pull force into the tray, slamming the tray and firing a spray of spew across himself and the table.
Trisha wiped her face off before looking at Quil. She wanted to laugh, but her laughter was quickly choked when she saw Quil’s eyes.
There was a vicious anger as his left hand swept the fork out of the hand of the prosthetic. He threw the fork away. He was prepared to excuse himself from the table when -
“Hi.” The little girl plopped herself down into the seat next to Quil.
Both Trisha and Quil cocked an eyebrow. A child sized umbrella fell from the little girl’s seat onto the floor. They looked at each other before returning their eyes to the girl.
She struggled with the slimy food. She couldn’t figure out how to use the utensil with the slimy food. She tried gripping the handle of her fork in different ways to see which provided the best ‘slimy food leverage’ though she had no luck.
Trisha eyed the little girl. She had to be at least half her age. “What are you doing?”
She had rather twitchy movements. Here eyes jumped to in front of her before her head snapped towards Trisha. Her eyes were like bleached pastels as they looked into Trisha. Her eyes stayed wide. They seemed to absorb all the information they could around her. Her head cocked. “I’m hungry.”
Trisha nodded insincerely, “Uh-huh. I can see that. What’s your name?”
There was a wonderous joy that illuminated her eyes. She stood up, prepared to make a boisterous statement, only to realize that her own baton for making grandiose statements was absent from her grasp. She checked her hand. No, it’s not there. She looked at her seat. Nope, not there either. Ah, but it was close by. Resting on the floor. “Wait.” She leaned down, clumsily flopping over the chair to the floor to lift the umbrella.
In a swift arch of redemption, she raised the umbrella above her. “I am mommy’s ray of hope!” She twirled around, “I am mommy’s ray of sunshine!” She spread the umbrella over her just as she struck a pose. “I am a magical ray.”
Quil’s eyebrow twitched as he flopped back into his chair with an exhasperated gasp.
“Uh,” Trisha scratched the back of her head, unsure what to make of the current situation. “So, what is your name?”
Shock suddenly lit the girl’s eyes. “Oh. I’m Fjibii.” She closed the umbrella and sat back in her chair. She lifted the fork back up again and began to attempt to dig in the slime on her tray.
Quil ignored the girl. He focused on himself. His eyes narrowed as he stared at his prosthetic.
Trish gave an unconvinced laugh. “I wonder how that name looks on paper.”
The young girl managed to lift a small clump, carefully balanced on the prongs of her fork. Rather than moving the fork towards her mouth, she was too afraid of dropping the slop she had put so much effort into collecting onto her utensil. Instead, she leaned forward. With a wide open mouth and an audible “ahhh” as she approached carefully, as soon as she was within range of her meal, she snapped her mouth tight around the fork, capturing the plastic prongs, the soggy slush, and even her own bleached, pearlesceant bangs. She briefly choked and gagged as the hair tickled her throat before she reached inside her mouth with her hand to rescue the strands, now covered in saliva and half-chewed, soggy lunch. She cocked her head as she stared at the stained hairs. She stuck the clump back in her mouth, running the hair between her lips so that she could squeeze all of the juicy mouth juices and lunch-slop from the strands.
Trisha shuddered at the display. She grabbed her napkin as she leaned over the table. She ripped the hairs out Fjibii’s hand. She tightened the napkin around the strands and pulled them tight as to make sure that all the saliva was picked up. “If it doesn’t make you sick later, I think I will if I have to keep watching you.” Trisha remarked as she returned to her seat. “Seriously though, why are you here?”
The young girl cocked her head. She stared around the lunch room, looking at all of the people who had congregated within the room. Most tables packed so tightly with people that most people literally sat shoulder-to-shoulder. “I was hungry. Mommy always says the floor is dirty. She would be angry if I ate my lunch on the floor.”
Trisha looked around the room. She sighed, as she came to the realization that the little girl was telling the truth. “Yeah, I get it.” She lifted her fork and shoveled one confident bite of slop into her mouth. “But, we’re kind of busy-”
“No we’re not.” Quil interjected.
Fjibii’s eyes lit up. “Really?” She bounced out of her seat. “Can you help me find my mommy?”
“No.” Quil replied sharply.
“What do you mean?” Trisha looked at the girl.
The light within her bright eyes dwindled. She lowered herself back into her seat. “I haven’t seen Mommy since I woke up. I don’t know where she is.”
Trisha looked across the table towards Quil and noticed he was not interested in the conversation. She moved her eyes to Fjibii as her eyes parted. “I mean, of course I can help, but why don’t you just look in your room or wherever you have been assigned?”
The girl’s head cocked. Her eyes danced, confused, across Trisha’s face. “What?”
Trisha scratched the back of her head. “Uh,” she reorganized her thoughts, “well, where were you sleeping? Where is your,” a pause, “your home?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I don’t know where I am.” She stated it so simply.
Trisha was taken aback in bafflement. “How do you not know?”
Fjibii shrugged. “I sleeped for a long time. When I woke up, I didn’t know where I am.” Her eyes paced around the room. “I remember being with mommy. And then I was sleepy, so I go to sleep. I woke up with strange men. They were taking me somewhere. They took me to many different places. First I was in a small place with lots of other people.” She made a small box with her hands. “Then I was in this super-duper big room with even more people and many spaceships.” Her arms stretched outwards to paint a picture of such a grandiose room that her arms slapped into Quil. “Then they put me back into the small room with different people. I was only in the small room for a little bit. We left the small room to another super big room.” She illustrated the size of the room again, complete with striking Quil with her arms again. “And then some angry guy told me to come here if I wanted to eat.”
Quil ignored both the lunch before him and the girl. His eyes traced up and down his right arm, taking in the glimmer of the metallic surface of the prosthetic.
Trisha raised an eyebrow. She took a moment to consider the story the girl had told her. “I think you might be one of the INTAL refugees.”
Quil’s eyes lit up. In a flash of sincerity his attention joined the conversation. His eyes danced from Trisha’s suggestion, to the strange girl with strange bleached and prismatic hair.
The girl cocked her head. “What’s that?”
Trisha waved away the girl’s question. “Don’t worry about it. I’m sure your mommy is around here somewhere.”
“You said we were busy,” Quil returned his attention to the prosthetic. With all his concentration he managed to get the fingers of the prosthetic to ball a fist, though he was not able to determine the sensation of his grip. He was unsure whether he gripped his fist tight or gripped loosely. He didn’t wait for Trisha’s reply. He departed the lunch table, leaving behind his tray of uneaten food.
“Is he angry?” The girl looked at Trisha.
Trisha’s eyes followed him until she could no longer see him. Her eyes drifted from where she last saw Quil down to his uneaten lunch. She shook her head. “He’s hurt.”
“What happened?” The girl mirrored Trisha’s sympathetic gaze. “Did he fall? Mommy always said to wash the hurt when I fall.”
The sympathetic eyes of Trisha’s collapsed into joy as she broke into laughter.
Fjibii seemed uncertain of what her own reaction should be. The mood had shifted so suddenly, she was unsure what feeling she should feel.
Trisha regained her composure. “It’s an injury.” She stood from the table to move towards Fjibii. She placed her finger against the girl’s chest. “The injury is inside here, so it’s a little bit difficult to wash.”
The enlightenment lit up Fjibii’s eyes. “Oh! Mommy never told me how to wash that kind of injury.”
Trisha managed a single breathy laugh. “Maybe when we find your mommy she can teach both of us.”
What a familiar scene. Her eyes stared blankly at the blinking caret of the screen, waiting for data entry from the distracted staff. The flourescent lights overhead beat heavy against her head and back. Should she feel even the least bit of weariness, those lights would hammer her back to work. But, just as before, there was a different distraction on her mind. Someone that made her lose her focus.
She decided she didn’t want to linger. She could spend all day mulling over that distraction, or she could get up and make sure the girl is safe. She knew what she was going to do. She pushed the keyboard out of her way, lifted herself from her seat, and turned to leave this cell she was locked in.
“Silje.” A fearsome stone wall blocked her exit.
She recuperated her sense of professionalism in a brief moment before the wall. “Captain Lorie.”
“How many Requisites have you submitted this shift?”
Perhaps she hadn’t completely recovered her sense of professionalism. His words set an uneasiness upon her. “I,” she could easily find the words, but shame held them back.
He crossed his arms.
“Only two, sir,” her head hung with shame. “I submitted a Requisite of Aid to the AiMiDi campus, as well as an outer-lying colony of the Telkian Union domain.”
“I’ve already expressed to you the strain the refugees have put the fleet in, have I not?” A gray and heavy eyebrow lifted.
“Yes sir.” She shrank before him.
“They strain more than just our supplies. Infrastructure is also close to being overloaded. Each ship must be carefully monitored to ensure there are no hazards. With the arrival of INTAL refugees, the entire fleet is in a very compromised position. The longer we need to take care of the refugees, the higher the chances of something catastrophic happening. That pressure is on you and your team, Miss Yuritan.”
Her ears lowered. “Y-yes sir.” She remained standing before the great wall.
His crossed arms tightened around him. Were her head not hung so low, she might have seen his muscle tense. His eyes stayed focused on her.
She kept her hands folded in front of her. She watched as her thumbs twiddled around each other.
“I am waiting for you to return to your desk, Miss Yuritan.”
She nodded. “I know you are.”
“You are not sitting down because you plan on visiting another ship in the fleet, aren’t you? Perhaps the Sylph?”
This caught her attention. She looked at the impenetrable wall before her.
“I monitor nearly all of the activity that goes on within my fleet. I have records of you visiting the Sylph on multiple occasions.”
“Surely you understand -”
“Understand that the boy and the girl are aboard that ship? I am no fool, Miss Yuritan.”
“You are careless, Miss Yuritan.”
“Prioritizing visits with them is only putting their own future at risk. If you truly care about those children, then you will prioritize finding them a permanent and stable home instead of coddling them as if they were your own spoiled children.”
He waited for her acknowledgement.
Her head hung low. Her ears hung low. But she stood firm. “No sir.”
He uncrossed his arms. “I expect you to pull your weight aboard this ship. You cost us necessary supplies and put a load on our infrastructure. At this time, every apple eaten, every drop of water drank, every kilowatt of power is precious. So, your performance better make up for your cost in supplies, Silje.”
“We’ve practically searched this entire deck for your mom,” Trisha sighed exasperated as she flopped against a vacant section of wall amidst the other refugees in the hall.
The tired family of refugees looked towards Trisha and the little girl dragging a frilly pink umbrella behind her.
“I didn’t even see another Telkian, let alone a Telkian that could be your mother.”
Fjibii brought the umbrella close to her chest. She embraced it tightly, perhaps hoping it would embrace her back.
Trisha noticed Fjibii’s tightening grip. “You don’t need to sweat it. These ships are huge! We just checked this deck. There are more to check.”
“She lost her mother?” the mother of the family chimed in.
Surprise crossed Trisha’s face. She looked towards the family and gave an exaggerated nod. “Have you seen a Telkian woman around?”
Fjibii looked anxiously into the eyes of the family.
The mother gave a weary shake of her head. She pulled her own child in tightly next to her. “I’m sorry to eaves drop on your conversation, especially when I don’t have any information to help you.”
The exasperation returned to Trisha. She shrugged. “It’s okay.”
“All of the families here are struggling. The best we can do is to help each other, right?” The woman broke through her own weariness to give the best reassuring smile she could. Her eyes drifted to Fjibii. “I’m sure she isn’t the only one so worried.” The mother looked at her own child before returning her eyes back to Fjibii. “She’s probably worried sick about you.”
Fjibii gave a solemn nod. Her grip of her umbrella loosened as she lowered back to the ground.
“I will let the other families know that you are looking for this girl’s mother, okay? It’s the best I can do.”
Fjibii leaned forward, away from the wall. Though the hallway of the ship was packed with other families, to Fjibiii, she only saw an empty hallway that extended infinitely beyond her. The hall reached on into infinity. Her ears sank as she looked down the hall. Her grip around the handle of her umbrella loosened until it fell to the floor with an echoing, plastic clack as it struck the floor.
Trisha leaned down to grab the umbrella. She motioned the umbrella towards Fjibii, trying to encourage her to take it. Fjibii tossed her head to the side, away from the umbrella.
Trisha kept height at Fjibii’s level. She put a hand on her back. “It feels impossible, doesn’t it?”
Fjibii brought her attention back to Trisha. She gave an uncertain nod.
“But you don’t need to worry. Sometimes things can feel like that. But,” she scratched the back of her head. She actually wasn’t really sure what to say next. Of course things can feel impossible. Her eyes glanced around the room. Eventually her eyes came to rest on her watch, the screen dim at the moment. She grimaced before returning her gaze back to Fjibii. “But, it only feels impossible. It’s not impossible, it’s just a feeling. If we give up now, then it will be impossible, but if we keep going then we can find your mommy.”
Fjibii’s eyes danced across Trisha’s face before she gave a silent toss of her head to the side.
Trisha motioned the umbrella towards Fjibii once again, seeing if she had changed her mind. Fjibii just ignored Trisha, shaking her head and walking down the hallway.
“Well, I am sure you will remember this was a special gift. I’ll hold on to it until you are ready to take it back.” Trisha smiled as she followed behind Fjibii.
Fjibii didn’t look back at Trisha, she just marched on.
“What do you feel, Fjibii?” Trisha stayed only a couple paces behind Fjibii.
Fjibii shook her head as she kept walking further down the hall, looking at each face of each light-haired refugee she passed.
“Do you feel sad about your mom?”
She ignored Trisha, continuing her march.
“Do you feel angry about your mom?”
She shook her head, continuing onward.
“Do you feel like she left you behind on purpose?”
Her pace slowed. She looked ahead at all of the tired, exhausted, weary, and distraught faces before her, recognizing none as her mothers.
The lights overhead flickered.
Trisha stopped next to Fjibii, looking towards the lights as their glow seemed troubled until ultimately the lights cut out entirely.
Fjibii moved herself closer towards Trisha.
“I wonder what is going on.” Trisha pushed through the crowd going further down the hall.
“We need to evacuate this area quickly,” a strong man stood at the breach of an open bulk head door. It was difficult to tell through the dim lighting, but Trisha could see the same exhausted eyes as the other refugees aboard the ship.
“What is going on?” Trisha asked the man.
His firm gaze met Trisha’s. “This old infrastructure just can’t seem to handle the stress. Seems like there was a failure in one of the electrical lines. It’s unstable and will likely start a fire soon.” As if to prove his point, a blue arc of electricity jumped from the wall and ripped across the floor of the ship before disappearing again.
The man grunted as he watched the blue arc fade. “We don’t have much time, let’s move the refugees.” His eyes moved back towards Trisha. “It’s dangerous, girl. You need to stand back.”
Trisha shook her head. “I’m able enough to help.” She watched as a crying boy was carried out. The boy struggled in the arms of the man, shouting for something, or maybe shouting for someone. His arm was outstretched.
“Seal it, that’s the the last of the people.” A person nodded towards the firm man at the bulkhead.
“Wait.” Trisha grabbed the man’s arm. “That boy lost something. We should get it for him.”
The man shook his head. “If that fire spreads, it could severely damage the integrity of the lifesupport systems. We just can’t put all of these people at risk. We need to seal it, contain the sparks, drain the oxygen, and wait until the ship’s maintenance can come and restore the area.”
“But it’s important to him! He needs it.”
The man shook his head, “Unless it was medicine that is available no where else in the universe, he doesn’t need it.” The man lifted a metal hatch on the wall revealing a massive heavy lever coated in a thick coat of red paint. “This isn’t the time to argue this.” It took much of the man’s strength to pull the level, but once he lowered the lever, the bulk head began to crawl it’s way from the ceiling to the floor.
Trisha’s eyes dashed from the boy, now lumped in with the other refugees. She followed his outstretched hand from his desparate pleas. She looked towards Fjibii. “Stay here, okay?” Trisha ducked underneath the bulkhead door before it’s heavy weight separated her from the little Telkian girl.
With the bulkhead sealed tight, it was completely black inside the sealed area. She moved the little girl’s treasured umbrella into her other hand so that she could wake the screen of her watch. She hoped that the screen’s illumination would be just enough for her to find the boy’s missing object.
The blue arcs from the burnt wall gave her brief glimpses of the sealed area. Each arc blackened the surface it struck. She kept her distance from the damaged wall as she felt around in the darkness of the room. She had managed to move several many paces away from the damaged infrastructure by the time she found an object left behind. It certainly seemed likely that it was the object that the boy cried for. It was a gentle and soft blanket. A waft of flowery cleanliness tickled Trisha’s nose as she picked it up. It smelled washed and cared for by a loving woman of the boy. She kept the blanket close to herself to protect it. That distinct smell that came from it’s soft fabric made Trisha understand why it was so important to the boy. A flickering glow softly illuminated the sealed area. She was beginning to make out details in the fabric. She could see soft, flickering reflections in the steel bulkhead before her.
Trisha turned to look back at the side of the hall she had entered from. The blue arc ripped through the walls and floor, attracting towards other pipes and infrastructure of the ship. One of the pipes had melted, now a jet of glowing flames fired from the hole. The jet lit more of the room on fire, melting plastics, sending plumes of thick smoke rolling through the contained area Trisha was in.
She kept the blanket and umbrella close to herself. Going back wasn’t an option any more. She turned to the bulkhead she was closest to. She tried banging a fist against it, but it was so dense that it was impossible to tell there was anything on the other side of the door. Trisha found the hatch she saw the firm man use. She opened it to reveal the large lever. She tried lifting the lever with as much strength as she could.
The fire melted through more of the panelling of the walls, revealing more exposed wires, creating even more blue arcs that streaked through the halls.
Trisha returned her attention to the lever. It took all of her strength, but she was finally able to lift the level. However, nothing happened. The door remained sealed.
She pressed her head against the door. Of course, it’s a mechanical lock for safety. But it would take power to open the bulkhead. She looked towards the flames. The toxic smoke had pooled on the ceiling above and began to encroach upon her as the room filled more and more with smoke. She covered her mouth with her hand as she sank to the floor. She was at a loss of ideas. She looked around the entire hallway she had been sealed into. At this point, over half of it had been consumed by fire, and just over her head stirred a swirling pool of black smoke. She was trapped into this corner with no way she could escape.
She took in a deep breath. They saw her enter the hallway before the bulkhead closed. She was certain that they were rushing to open the door to save her. She just needed to stay safe until their help could arrive.
A cool drop of water tickled her scalp. She looked above her. She couldn’t see through the smoke, but she was able to hear more drops of water hit the tiles and cool the flames. The sprinklers overhead were increasing the pressure slowly.
She unfolded the umbrella, creating a gust of wind that sweapt the smoke away from her. The drips of water turned into a stream of water before finally becoming a torrential downpour that snuffed the flames. As the flames were doused, her only source of light within the dark hallway faded away until finally things returned back to the pitch black that she had entered the room in.
She could feel a cool breeze sweep over her. A gentle glare gleaned off the wet floor. Bright flashlights shot penetrating rays through the thick smoke.
Trisha caught her breath, as her lungs choked on the toxic air around her. She coughed before she managed to shout across the hallway towards the lights. “I’m here!”
She watched as the lights approached her. Two men in protective suits approached her. One of them strapped a mask around her face before they lifted her from the floor and carried her through the smoke.
They closed the bulkhead behind them as they exited the hallway. A temporary airlock had been errected just before the bulkhead door to capture the toxic smoke that had escaped. As the smoke was drained from the lock, the men pulled of Trisha’s mask as well as their own masks.
She felt the clean air enter her lungs, cleansing them of the toxic air she had breathed in prior. She gave a heavy caugh, causing her to fall to the ground. One of the refugees handed Trisha a cup of water. Trisha managed a meager ‘Thank you,’ through her coughing fit before she was finally able to down the water.
She was able to fully recover her own strength. She pulled herself to her own feet so that she could scan over the crowd. She pushed through the people, going directly to the boy who was being comforted by an elderly couple. She kneeled to his height as she offered the soft blanket in her hand to him. “Is this what you lost?”
The young boy wasn’t able to even speak before he snatched the blanket out of her hand.
The elderly mustered sincere gratitude through their exhausted eyes. “His mother,” the elderly woman stroked the boys hair, “she wasn’t able to make it to the evacuation ship in time.”
Trisha could only manage a weak nod.
“His father hasn’t been able to cope with the loss well either. So we’ve been watching him. Thank you.”
She shook her head, moving her eyes to the boy. “This blanket. It’s an important memory of someone you love.” She smiled. “Please, keep it close to you.”
“Girl,” A voice called to Trisha.
Trisha stood up just in time to be tackled by a young girl.
“She’s been crying for ‘ChiCha’ since you left. I assume you are ‘ChiCha’?”
Trisha laughed. She pressed Fjibii’s head into her, embracing her close to herself. “I’m Trisha.”
The firm man laughed. He gave Fjibii a pat on the head before stepping away. “That was a really stupid thing to do.” He stopped to look at Trisha as she continued to embrace Fjibii close to herself. “But, thank you. All of us need more heroes during this time.” And with that, he walked away.
Trisha leaned down to Fjibii’s height. The little girl pressed herself even tighter against Trisha.
“Hey, Fjibii,” Trisha spoke gently. “Your mommy really saved me.”
Fjibii loosened her embrace so that she could see Trisha.
Trisha presented the umbrella to Fjibii. Glistening drops dyed with the black soot dripped from the umbrella. “Your mommy helped me. She really did. This is a very valuable memory. You should keep it close to yourself.”
Fjibii rested a hand on the umbrella. Her vibrant eyes stared into Trisha’s. “Thank you, Chi.”
“A Telkian child?” Silje inspected Fjibii closely.
Fjibii hid herself from Silje behind Trisha.
Trisha cocked an eyebrow as she pushed Fjibii out from behind her. “You weren’t shy earlier today when you met me and Quil.”
She gave a sincere nod as she leaned her back against Trisha’s pushing hand, protesting Trisha’s encouragement. “I know. But this lady looks different.”
Silje looked bewildered at the child. “Different? What’s so different about me?”
“I know you’re not my mommy.” Fjibii accussingly rebelled against Silje. “My mommy looks way super much more beautiful than you.”
Silje crossed her arms. “Well, I never said I was your mommy.”
“Yeah-huh,” Fjibii crossed her own arms now. “You have ears like Mommy. None of the people here have ears like Mommy. You are just a lady in a costume and wig trying to trick me.”
Trisha kneeled down next to Fjibii. “I’m the one who brought you to her. Do you think I would try to trick you?”
The girl looked at Trisha and then to Silje. She grabbed one of Silje’s ears and tried to pull it off.
Silje reeled back as she nursed her ear. “Trisha told you I am not trying to trick you.”
“You look kind of like my mommy. Maybe you know her?”
Silje shook her head. “I don’t know any other Telkian’s aboard the Corp-Two fleet.” She watched Fjibii’s eyes sink. “But, I don’t really manage the refugees. I don’t really know who is aboard the ship.”
Trisha sat down next to Silje. “Is there any way you can find out?”
Fjibii dropped into Trisha’s lap. Trisha wrapped her arms around Fjibii.
Silje’s ears lowered. “Yes. Sort of. There is still a large number of refugees that are having their documents processed. It’s not a very quick procedure. It will be easy to check the records of the refugees that have been processed, but those that are still unprocessed I would need to check manually. Considering the number of refugees, that would be impossible for me to do.”
Fjibii leaned her head back so that she could look into Trisha’s eyes.
“How long do you think it will take Corp-Two to process all of the documents?”
Silje laughed. “I’m sure many of the refugees will be living in their new home by the time their documents have been processed.” Silje sighed, shaking her head. She looked at the two girls that sat together. “What’s your family name, Fjibii?”
Fjibii’s eyes lit up excitedly. “Oh!” She bounced in Trisha’s lap. “I was thinking I would have a boy and a girl, and I can name one Jean and the other Flannel. And their daddy’s name can be Polyester.”
Obviously a useless endeavor, Silje lowered her head into her palms. “I’m not really sure what I was expecting.” She returned her eyes to Fjibii. “It’s strange to have another Telkian aboard at all. The foreign population of the Lotus was small. I guess that would make it easy to check the records.” Something struck Silje’s mind, lighting her eyes up with enlightenment.
She leaned over towards Fjibii and spoke in a strange language.
Fjibii stared blankly at Silje. She cocked her head. Her eyes wandered around the room as she searched her mind. “Mama anu-anu so.”
Another exasperated sigh, another failed idea. Silje pulled her legs close to her chest so that she could rest her head on her knees.
“What did she say?”
“It’s just baby talk.” Silje remarked. “She said ‘I love mommy’.”
“Oh,” Trisha lowered her chin onto Fjibii’s head. “What did you ask her?”
“I asked her about her family name. But judging by the fact she still uses baby words, I think she might understand English better her own native language.” Silje let the defeat of the interrogration settle over her. She gently stroked the prismatic hair of the little girl. She felt the soft strands separate from around her fingers. “Do you remember what your home was like, Fjibii?”
She nodded. “It was very bright and warm at home. Everything was all swirly and wooshy. Mama said that it was a sad place for a child’s hood. I always listen to her speak to papa. She would say to him ‘she’s locked in this home like it was a person.’ I never knew what person she was talking about though.”
Trisha looked at Silje to see if anything struck her.
Silje could only manage a meager shrug.
“I think my home’s name was Oh-soup-bone-hay. But, I never drank any soup.”
Silje repeated the words. “Oh. Soup. Bone. Hay?” Something about that string of words seemed strangely familiar to her, but she was completely baffled why such a random string of words seemed familiar. “It’s like trying to decipher hieroglyphics.”
Trisha pulled Fjibii close to herself so that she could rest her head ontop of Fjibii’s. “Do you ever miss your home?”
“Me? Nijon?” Silje was taken aback.
“Yeah. Do you miss it?”
Her eyes wandered around for a moment. Her hand continued to stroke the soft hair of Fjibii. “Sometimes.” She leaned over until her own head rested on Trisha’s shoulder. “I miss the festivals. They were always so beautiful. And I miss the food. Everything was so yummy.” Her eyes drifted from her place on Trisha’s shoulder to Trisha’s eyes. “But, my home is here with the Terran people now.”
There was nothing more to say. Though there was always more to discuss, instead they found this quiet moment more important than the heartache and loss that enveloped the entirety of the fleet.
A soft whisper left Silje’s mouth. “I am going to grant you access to the transport jets so you two can go to the other ships.” Silje placed a card in Trisha’s hand. “Maybe Fjibii’s mommy is waiting somewhere else in the fleet.”
Trisha looked at the card in surprise.
A regret-filled laughter escaped through Silje’s breathy whisper. “I’m going to be in deep shit for this.”
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