The only sound that could be heard through the overly crowded hallway was the hum of the bright lights overhead and deep rumbling drone of the engine of the ship. Despite the people’s anxieties, despite their stresses, there was a moment when all of the refugees could sleep sound.
Squeezed between the shoulders of two different families, the two girls rested; Trisha, her head propped against the shoulder of the stranger next to her and her hand resting tangled in the hair of Fjibii. Fjibii, whom kept her hand balled into a loose fist, right before her mouth. Her head found Trisha’s lap to be an acceptable and soothing pillow to chase away the nightmares.
However, the stillness and droning slowly became disturbed as the sound of someone’s feet reverbrated through the hall.
“Trisha.” The voice was stern, sincere; vacant.
Trisha attempted to shift her resting position, but despite her shuffling, her head still found its way back to the strangers shoulder.
“Trisha.” The voice hissed stronger, more vicious.
Trisha managed a weary groan, still not fully awake, but aware enough of the precense standing over her.
“Why are you sleeping here? Why aren’t you with your parents?” The voice sounded so unforgiving and harsh.
The weight of her weariness kept her eyes close, but Trisha managed to pick her head up. “What? Because mama and pa-” Her eyes fluttered open. Her mind was finally able to parse the voice she was hearing. “Quil?”
“Trisha, why you sleeping here?” He seemed angry.
Trisha rubbed her eyes to wipe away the sleepiness, “Don’t worry about it. What do you want?”
“No, you shouldn’t be sleeping here. You have your mom and dad, and a bed.” The volume of his voice rose, now beginning to disturb the strangers that slept next to Trisha.
“Quil I - “ she looked at Quil’s vacant and sincere eyes, contrasted by the dark ring of purple just under them. She looked around the hallway, from the strangers next to her, then down to the sleeping Fjibii. “The room is small. There’s not enough room for Fjibii, so I am staying with her.”
His eyes narrowed, “You’re lying to-”
“What do you want, Quil?” Trisha ran a hand through Fjibii’s hair. Quil’s harsh voice had caused Fjibii to stir in her sleep. “You’re going to wake everyone up.”
“I need to talk to you.” His eyes glanced down at the young sleeping girl, “Leave the brat here, I want to talk to you alone.”
Fjibii shuffled in her sleep, rolling over so that her face was buried into Trisha’s stomach.
Trisha looked up and down the hallway. She grimaced as she looked down at Fjibii. “I don’t want to leave her alone.”
Quil’s eyes sharpened, “There’s like a thousand peeople within view, someone will be watching her.” He crossed his arms, “Trisha, it’s important. I need your help.”
Trisha grimaced, reluctant, but still convinced enough to gently lift Fjibii’s head from her lap. “I don’t want to leave her long, so just tell me quickly.”
Quil didn’t wait for Trisha to settle Fjibii into her nnew resting position. He had already turned to face down the hallway. “Stop babysitting her.”
“And who else is going to do it?” reflect Quil’s harsh whisper as she tip-toed over Fjibii and the other sleeping residents.
“That’s not your concern. She’s a child. If you don’t do it, a hundred other adults will.”
“You’re not making a convincing case for me to follow you.” Trisha’s volume had increased as they had turned down a more empty hallway than the one all of the refugees had been crowded into.
Quil slowed his pace, but he never turned to look at Trisha. “You know I am hurt. I need your help Trisha. I know how to fix this.”
Trisha’s brow parted, “You know I will help you,” her words soft and wavering. The further they moved away from Fjibii, the more she began to feel unsettled. She couldn’t determine the source of the feeling, but it drilled into her. And once that unsettled feeling had burrowed it’s deepest through Trisha, they stopped. A small breakroom, assumingly intended for crew of the ship as not a single refugee was nearby. The vending machine’s flouresence fought to be the brightest source of stale light beneath the overhead halogen.
Quil had yet to turn to face Trisha. He had stopped. Perhaps he was looking at the vending machine. Only one flavor of their favorite drink was available inside the vending machine; the tart flavor. The sweet flavor, on the other hand, was entirely out of stock and sold out.
To her left, a small exterior monitor that showed the ocean of stars beyond the ship. Trisha only gave a passing glance out the monitor window before returning her eyes to the stoic Quil. She stepped gentle steps forward until she found herself next to Quil. She examined the mostly-sold-out vending machine.
“Only the tart flavor, huh?” Trisha remarked in a rather hollow and emotionless joke.
Behind Quil’s eternally vacant eyes flared a small flame of determination, but yet he expressed nothing.
“You never liked the tart flavor.” Trisha stepped in front of Quil to look him more directly in the eyes. She took a breath, “So,” she gave a pause to wait to see if Quil would fill the void of silence, especially after his harsh and rude awakening. When he continued to remain silent, Trisha decided to fill in for him. “You woke me up to bring me here. You want my help. You need to tell me.”
“I figured something out.” His eyes met Trisha’s.
Suddenly the unsettling feeling began to burrow deeper into Trisha again.
“Rheiser had his Everbridge project.” His eyes shifted from Trisha towards the small exterior monitor. “He had Unit Zero-One, and her had Unit -” He paused, taking a heavy breath. “Lilli, the second one.”
Trisha crossed her arms, “I don’t understand why this is important.”
“Rheiser talked about Unit Zero-One and Lilli being prototypes for Zero-Three, think about it.” He turned to face Trisha. “The G.I.E. destroyed the Everbridge division of INTAL campus; INTAL requested refuge during their repairs; just after Corp-Two picked up the INTAL refugees, that brat showed up without any parents.”
Trisha shook her head, “I see where you are going with this, and it sounds rediculous Quil.”
Quil took a step to narrow the gap between him and Trisha. “No, listen. That girl is Everbidge’s Zero-Three. She’s a Hallowed Daughter.”
“So what?” She pushed back against Quil’s approach. “Even if that were true, that doesn’t change the fact that she’s just a child. You have no way to prove that she is related to INTAL at all.”
“Don’t you want to help me be happy, Trisha?” His voice sounded more calm, but his muscles still seemed tense.
“How does any of this help you get over Lilli?” Unconvinced by Quil’s sudden change in intensity.
“Don’t you remember what Rommel and Roule were talking about?” Quil now widening the gap between them as he stepped towards the exterior monitor to look out into the the stars.
“I didn’t understand anything they talked about, it never made any sense to me, Quil. Again, what does this have to do with Fjibii and you being happy?”
“The Hallowed Daughters, that’s what they talked about, and the Eversteam too.” This monitor did not display the massive golden seam that ripped through the Lotus, however, he could see, just at the far corner of the monitor an occasional golden ribbon swept by. “They said it’s could make dreams come true. They said it could change the universe. It can do anything. That’s why they wanted the Hallowed Daughters. They needed someone to make the Everstream work.”
Trisha stood her ground, the muscles of her crossed arms tightened. “Quil, are you listening to yourself right now?” Only silence filled the space between them. “Whatever INTAL and the G.I.E. were after is too complicated for you to understand. You have no idea how any of that works. You don’t even know if Fjibii can ‘make the Everstream work’.”
Quil turned around swiftly to face Trisha. “She’s the Hallowed Duaghter they wanted. She can resurrect Lilli.” His eager, wavering steps illicited a sense of fanaticism, yet his eyes still remained so vacant. “Fjibii can fix this. She’s the key. She can give me Lilli. We just have to give the Hallowed Daughter to the Everstream.”
His fanatic approach pushed Trisha back, cowering under the uncertainty of the sudden shift in Quil’s tone. “You have no clue the mechanics of this Everstream thing. Where would you even ‘give her’ anyways?”
“The Lotus. Don’t you see the giant gold seam? I know that’s the Everstream. It has to work. This is what Rommel, and Rheiser, and Roule were all talking about. This is it.”
“You’ve lost your mind, Quil. Please don’t do this.” She begged.
“Who cares about the kid? No one is here. She has no parents. She has no friends. She has no one to take care of her.”
“Are you listening to yourself Quil? What is wrong with you?”
“She’s a parasite on the thin resources of this ship. Don’t you want to help all the people aboard? One less hungry mouth means helping those that matter.”
Trisha shook her head.
“The Everstream can give us someone important. It can return Lilli to me, and we can return to normal.”
“I’m not doing it, Quil. It’s stupid. It’s insane.”
“The child is worthless!”
“Stop it, Quil.”
“Just sacrifice her. I want to be happy.”
“I said enough!”
“No one loves that child, she’s a worthless orph-”
Trisha’s hand swept across Quil’s face. Quil recoiled with gritted teeth as his prosthetic arm shuttered in stilted moves. “I love her, Quil. I care about her. And she has a mother, somewhere, and we are going to find her. I don’t want you to be happy, Quil. I want you to be yourself again. I want you to learn to accept the fact that Lilli is gone.”
Quil teeth grinded together more.
“She’s dead. There’s nothing you can do, Quil. You have to accept that.”
“Liar!” The prosthetic jittered more. Quil cursed as he looked at the arm, grabbing it by the shoulder.
“I know what you’re trying to do,” Trisha stepped towards Quil. “Do you think it will fix things if you hit me? Do you think that’s going to make that stupid girl you want come back to you?”
“Shut up!” His prosthetic shook under the stress. He managed to make it move close to striking Trisha, but couldn’t complete the swing.
“You think striking the only friend you have left is going to fix things?” She pushed Quil at his shoulders. “Just do it.” His prosthetic shuttered again. “Just hit me Quil.” She pushed him again. “It’s not going to bring her back. She’s dead.”
“I hate you, you whore.” The metal arm grinded under the unstable control, still unable to make any connection with Trisha.
Trisha’s voice choked. “I still love you Quil. So do it. Use your left hand.”
“You’re just selfish.” Quil snarled gripping his arm. “You’re just keeping me to your self.”
Trisha’s brows narrowed, “I don’t know where you get these ideas from.”
“You just said it! You love me. You don’t want Lilli to come back.”
“I just want you to be normal again!”
Trisha shoved Quil again, “Shut up, Quil!” She kept her face hidden from him. “You’re the selfish one. You’ve been so self-absorbed, pouting, that you didn’t even notice my parents are gone. They’re dead.”
“You hated your parents.”
“Fuck you, Quil. They’re still my parents. Everyone else has lost someone or something important to them. You’re not the only one. Your stupid girlfriend blowing her fucking brains out is the reason we’re all suffering.”
A cold silence fell between them. A shadow cast over Quil’s brow as he hid his eyes from Trisha’s view. His arm that gripped the prosthetic lost it’s grip and fell to his side.
She watched as the light briefly glistened off the tear drop before it pooled on the floor beneath Quil. “I hate you.” Quil’s left fist slammed across Trisha’s cheek, knocking her down, kneeling on the floor as she broke her fall with her hands. She tried to catch her breath, but was unable to under the swell of tears.
“Chi!” The small footsteps came rushing into the room. Quil managed to turn around moments before Fjibii struck him with her umbrella. He gripped the umbrella mid-swing, stopping her assault, pulling on the end of the umbrella with all his might in hopes of having Fjibii let go. As he spun around with the umbrella, Fjibii lost her hold on the handle, sending her into the flouscent light of the vending machine. The glass cracked and the lights flickered as Fjibii collapsed at the base of the the machine.
“Quil!” Trisha tried picking herself up, “She has nothing to do with us. Stop!”
Quil turned his attention to Trisha. “I hate you.” A vicious spit left his mouth as he raised the umbrella above his head, ready to strike Trisha again.
“Go away!” The shout was a piercing screech. Fjibii lifted herself to her feet, and it was at that moment Quil felt validated. His concentration was broken as he stared at the young girl step forward. It wasn’t her that was captivating, but the golden glow eminanting from her eyes. The gold ribbons dancing out of her eyes licked her face and swept her hair like a gust of wind. “Go away, boy! No one likes you! You just make everyone sad!” She launched forward, arm reeled back, and just before her fist could collide with Quil, like a comet, the golden ribbons spiraled around her fist, sending a shockwave that blew Quil backwards, out of the small breakroom and into the hallways of the ship, slamming his back against the wall. [[[Quil needs to drop the Umbrella]]]
“Go away!” Fjibii took another step forward, threatening another strike as she raised her fist. “Leave Chi alone. Never come near her again.”
As Quil’s vision uncrossed he took another look at the golden ribbons that wrapped around the little girls arm. He looked at the illumination produced by the gold lights that bled from her eyes. He watched as her hair waved and warped behind the warm wisps. “I was right.” The words left his mouth in a whisper and yet penetrated Trisha’s ears like a shout. Trisha managed to pull herself to her feet just in time to see Quil flee the scene. Her eyes shifted from where Quil once was to where Fjibii remained poised, the ribbons continuing to spiral and dance around her arm. Trisha’s eyebrows parted. She grabbed Fjibii’s raised fist and gently lowered it to Fjibii’s side. The ribbons frayed into tiny threads before ultimately disintigrating, leaving Fjibii as just a normal girl once again. She didn’t even need a moment to catch her breath from all of the excitement and released energy. As soon as the ribbons and illumination had left her, she snapped right to Trisha with childish excitement and parental-like concern. “Are you okay, Chi?”
Trisha couldn’t take her eyes off of Fjibii, standing shocked, dazed, confused, and most of all worried. “I wish you hadn’t done that.”
“No.” Both Silje and Trisha protested, grabbing Sena to stop her in her stride. Trisha crossed her arms as an eyebrow cocked in perplexity at Silje’s protest.
“It’s better to leave him alone.” Silje stepped toward Sena.
“I’m not -” Trisha tried to interject.
Sena twirled around, arms crossed. “Look at what that piece of shit did to Trisha. He can’t just get away with hurting whoever he wants.”
“I don’t -” Trisha attempted to interject again.
“But, you’re just doing the samething he did to Trisha back to him.”
Trisha pulled Fjibii close to her, “I’m more -”
“Uh, duh?” Sena leaned in. “That’s kinda the point. He’s not gonna learn anything until someone punches him right back.”
Trisha sharply interjected, “I don’t want you to hurt him. I can fight -”
Sena only briefly turned her attention to Trisha, “Stop taking the lopp’s side.” Her gaze turned back to Silje. “Has she told you how much his abuse is hurting her? How can you just stand by and let Trisha get hurt, literally! Look at this bruise!”
Silje grimaced, grabbing her arm for support. Trisha tried to interject “It’ll clear up soon -”
“But, do you really think violence is going to change him?”
“Oh give me a break. He started with the violent path, not to mention all of the mud-slinging he was doing before fist slinging. You don’t even care about Trisha’s own mental stability, and now you don’t even care that she’s getting physically abused.”
“You’re wrong!” Trisha and Silje interjected at the same time.
Trisha crossed her arms, yet again, cocking her eyebrow as she looked at Silje. “Will you two stop?” Trisha was finally able to get her word in. “I can fight my own battles, Sena. Silje, stop. Stop -” she became flustered for a moment. “Stop being you. Stop saying what I am saying. I’m not worried about Quil right now. I’m worried about Fjibii. Show them what you did earlier.”
Fjibii tilted her head to the side, “What did I do?”
“You know, the glowing, magic thing you did with your eyes and fist.”
Her eyes lit up (metaphorically), “Ah! You’re talking about doing spaku-spaku!”
Trisha cocked her head to the side. “Huh?”
Silje mirrored Trisha’s confusion. “It’s baby Telkian speak. Spaku is sort of a Telkian basterdization of ‘sparkle’.”
Fjibii gave a rather assured nod. “Yeah. Mama’s spaku-spaku is so super pretty and big. Can I see your spaku-spaku? What is your spaku-spaku like?”
Trisha looked from Fjibii to Silje and to Sena, letting the air fill the gap between them. “I can’t do that.”
Fjibii jumped with a boisterous energy, clenching her fists ready to cheer on anyone. “Yes you can! Mama and Papa can do it!”
Each person looked across each other, Trisha and Silje with a grim concern, Sena confused.
“Oh!” She jumped again at her realization, releasing her fists. “Maybe you don’t know how to turn it on and off like me.”
“No,” Trisha shook her head, “It’s not that I don’t know how to do it, it’s that it’s,” she paused a moment to restructure her thoughts, “It’s just not - not,” she sturggled to find the correct word to describe it.
“It’s not normal.” Sena interjected.
“That’s not how I would have put it.” Trisha grimaced.
“Then how would you describe it?” Sena cocked an eyebrow.
“Not like that.” She turned her attention back to Fjibii. “So you’re saying you don’t know how to use your - “ she scratched the back of her head, a bit embarassed, “your ‘spaku-spaku’?” The words left her mouth uncomfortably.
Fjibii shook her head. “Sometimes I get this funny tickle in my tummy, and then suddenly I’m like fwaaa, and then things are all glowy and spaku-spaku. I don’t know why.”
Silje leaned down to Fjibii’s level, “What about your papa? We’ve never heard you talk about him.”
Fjibii’s eyes fell flat, “I don’t like him. His spaku-spaku isn’t very spaku-spaku. It’s ugly.”
Silje shook her head, “But we’ve never heard you talk about him until now. Don’t you miss him?”
Fjibii moved in closer to Trisha, leaning her weight against her. “He’s not nice. He always says mean things, and sometimes he uses his ugly spaku-spaku on me and it hurts.”
Sena crossed her arms as her hips shifted with her weight. “Speaking of abuse, that doesn’t sound like a very functional family.”
Silje stood up to look at Trisha. “I wonder if returning her to her family is the right thing. It sounds like there’s a lot of problems at home.”
Trisha looked down at the little girl as she kept her weight pressed against Trisha’s thighs. “I wonder how much of it is true.” She grimaced. “I think Quil is right.”
Sena shifted her hips to the other side. “Forget him. I don’t think he has anything to -”
“No,” Trisha cut off Sena. “Listen, that’s why Quil and I got in a fight. Fjibii didn’t show up until after the refugees from the INTAL campus were rescued. Quil’s line of thought was that apparently INTAL was working on another Lilli, and that Fjibii is that other Lilli or something. He had no proof of this until she started doing her magic thing.”
Sena shrugged. “I don’t get it.”
“I don’t know anything about whatever INTAL was working on with Lilli, but couldn’t they just - I don’t know - implant memories or something?”
Silje nodded. “Maybe it’s possible. They used some sort of neural therapy to convert Lilli to become their tool, she seemed to have forgotten her life before INTAL. I guess there’s some sort of chance that -”
Fjibii leapt forward. “You’re wrong!” She clenched determined fists as she stepped toward Silje. “Mama is definitely real.”
Trisha sighed, “Needless to say, I don’t think her mother is even aboard any of the ships in the Corp-Two fleet.”
Silje pawed at her left arm, her eyes moving away from Trisha. “Then I’m not sure how we are going to be able to find her mother.”
Trisha shook her head, “Right now, that’s not what I am worried about. As long as Quil is near me, I’m worried he might do something drastic to her.”
Sena cracked her knuckles, “That’s why I said I’ll break his fucking arms. He’s gonna have a tough time doing anything without -”
“No.” Both Trisha and Silje crossed their arms.
Trisha was quick to unfold her arms, turning to look at Silje. “Why do you keep doing that?”
Sena leaned into Trisha. “The only reason you’re taking her side is because you lov-”
The panic settled into Trisha quick, making her leap towards Sena, pressing her palm into Sena’s mouth to silence her.
Fjibii tilted her head confused. A wondering finger of hers stroked her chin only for a moment before she managed to find the conclusion to the thought, lighting her eyes with brilliant delight. “Ah! I know what she was going to say! She was going to she loves you!”
Trisha froze. Her jaw dropped. It was as if all the color rushed out of her skin and straight into her cheeks. She swallowed the knot in her throat before trying to shake away the embarassment. She hid her eyes from everyone, though most importantly hiding her eyes from Silje. She clenched her fists. “I have to go.”
Trisha began her march away from the group, though only managed to make a single stride before she felt two hands pinch her jacket to stop her in her tracks. The lightest and small hand that held her back called out to Trisha in a concerned and innocent cry “Chi!” The strongest hand, though still delicate with how it gripped onto Trisha called out her name in a solemn chant to halt her.
“Trisha,” Silje spoke softly behind Trisha. Trisha still could not look back. “I,” she paused uncertain if she was doing the right thing. “I know. I love you too.”
Trisha shut her eyes tight. She could feel the fire igniting her cheeks.
“Oh!” Trisha could feel an excited jitter from the small hand yank on her jacket. “Me too! I love Chi.”
Trisha swallowed another knot in hopes of putting out the fire. She opened her eyes to see Sena giving her a rather smug smile. “What did I say about family?” She gave a heavy pat on Trisha’s shoulder. “Looks like you don’t have a choice.”
Trisha groaned, struggling to break free of the two hands that held her back. “Fine!” She jabbed a finger towards Sena, “Sena, I already told you I don’t want you to hurt him. So don’t. I’ll be angry with you if you do it.” She gave a furious twirl towards Silje. “But Sena is right, why does it seem like you are being protective of Quil, Silje?”
Silje’s ears lowered, her eyes drifting away from the group. She wandered over to a bit of railing to sit against. “It’s not really something I think Terran’s can truly understand.”
Sena tilted her head, unconvinced. “Well, especially if you are just going to be cryptic about it, then of course we won’t be able to understand.”
Silje’s eyes still did not meet the group. Her eyes looked at nothing particular, but it was clear that in her mind she could see something important to her, perhaps something lost that was now found. “Boys are just an important part to Telkian.” She spoke softly.
Fjibii cocked her head confused at first, but then quickly launched forward with boisterous certainty. “Yeah, but that boy is bad.”
Trisha put a hand on Fjibii’s shoulder, pulling Fjibii back to her.
“They’ve always been an important part of our races survival.” Silje kept her focus on the images in her mind. “The old Telkian legend says that the Father King and his daughter arrived on the beautiful land of Nijon in their hollow boat - the Utsurobune - and together they founded the entirety of the Telkian race.”
Sena plopped right to the ground, slouching as she rested her chin against her knuckles. “Hmm,” she replied unconvinced by Silje’s story. “So what does that have to do with boys? Sounds like both the boy and girl can take equal credit, if not the girl more so for -” she paused, coming to a realization. “Did you say the king’s daughter? Founded the whole race?”
Silje bit down on one of her nails, giving a slow affirmative nod.
Silje sighed, and still unable to focus on the group. “That’s why I said, it’s just something the Terran’s will never be able to understand.”
Sena’s brow raised. “What’s not to understand about incest?”
Trisha shook her head, sitting down next to Sena. Fjibii flopped her whole weight into Trisha’s lap, making Trisha recoil for a moment before adjusting Fjibii to a more comfortable positon. “Never mind that, I don’t see what this has to do with you looking out for Quil. Like Sena said, both sound like they are equally valuable to the Telkian.”
Silje shook her head. “There’s more to it than that. A genetic disease affects one-third of all Telkian women that leaves them either sterile or partially sterile. Boys, on the other hand, are unaffected by the genetic mutation, and therefore have been heralded as the saviors that keep the race alive.”
“Hmm,” Sena scrutinized Silje, leaning forward. “Yeah, but that boy has nothing to do with the Telkian, so who cares?”
“Like I said, it’s just not something Terran can understand.”
“Silje,” Trisha leaned over Fjibii. “Are you part of that one-third?”
Silje froze for a moment. She grimaced, taking a moment to check her watch. “Don’t worry about me.” Her eyes shifted from the watch to Trisha. “Do you guys still plan on searching [[SHIP NAME]] for Fjibii’s mother?”
Fjibii tilted her head back to look at Trisha.
Trisha shook her head. “I don’t see any point in doing that now that we know about Fjibii’s ‘spaku-spaku’ thing.”
Sena bumped Trisha with her shoulder. “No, no, no. It’s not just about the kid’s mom. You said we were going to meet April.”
“Is she going to meet us at the port?”
“That’s the plan. She’s probably already waiting for us.”
Silje stood up. “Well, I have work to attend to before my boss comes yelling at me. Do you still have the ferry pass I gave you, Trisha?”
Trisha fished the card out of her pocket. “Yes.”
“Good,” Silje smiled, “be safe, girls.” Her eyes drifted to Trisha’s eyes, locking in on her. She still had a warm smile on her face. “I love you, Trisha.”
Trisha hid her face from view, hiding behind Fjibii’s head. “Mm,” was the only acknowledgement she could give, muted, from behind her barrier.
Thank you for reading EVERSTREAM. See you when it's finished.
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