Fiction: The Realization Sets In...

Athena stared out the open port of the Rock's observation deck. She saw them off and volunteered to stay behind with the Rock's only other crew member, the 12 year old Lisan Riket. She stared at the blue planet in front of her— Ninjar. This was the closest she's ever been to Zhodani space, and this is the farthest she's ever been from Imperial borders. Assuredly, she's been in the Army the majority of her years, and now at the age of 38, she's only now seeing the wide galaxy. Only this time, there's no peace. 

She watched the ship's boat fly back, remotely controlled by Lisan in the bridge behind her. The realization that no one would be on that boat hadn't hit her yet. She flipped the toggle on the observation deck, allowing the shutters to close, letting the Rock turn back into what it was meant to look like— an asteroid. 

Athena marched past the brown headed girl without saying a word. She looked back at her and before she was able to even speak, Athena disappeared around the hallway behind the bridge. Her instincts kicked in to clear out the Pebble, making sure it didn't bring back any unwanted visitors, despite the fact that she was unarmed. She knew no one came back on the ship's boat— it was just absolute habit. 

No one was in there. She stared up at the bridge of the boat. If she stepped foot she'd have to readjust to gravity there. She poked her head back out and shut the door of the ship's boat and went back to the bridge. 

There, Lisan sat cross legged in front of the chairs for the crew. She looked at Athena a little confused and stood up, walking toward her. "What was that about?" 

Athena shrugged. "Wanted to make sure no one came back."

Lisan cocked her head to the side. "But…" she scratched her head a little, "no one was on the ship, Ms. Plouffe." 

Athena cringed a little. Miss Plouffe. That made her feel old. "I'm just making sure." 

Lisan nodded and pursed her lips a little. A few minutes of silence passed with both Lisan and Athena staring at each other. It wasn't awkward. It just was. Lisan opened her mouth as if to say something, then shut it. 

"We should probably jump." Athena finally spoke up after what seemed like an hour of straight silence. Lisan nodded and got into the control couch. Athena moved over to the toward console and scratched her head a little. She watched what the others did on these consoles. She could only extrapolate what they did from memory. She went to touch a few buttons but stopped herself. 

Lisan looked over at her. "Do you know what you're doing?"

"U-uh…" Athena cocked her head to the side a little, and paused. "Sure!" She swore she could feel herself sweating. Lisan giggled a little and punched in the last coordinates for Gougeste. The ship lurched forward as it automatically piloted itself into a jump position. Athena raised her hands away from the console and let the autopilot take over.

The first two days of the week long jump were uneventful and silent. It donned on Athena how boring and dull jump space really was without the company of real people. She also began to notice that she'd been wearing the same clothes for at least a month with no chance or ability to wash them. She stunk. And the fact that the Rock would occasionally heat up for no real reason, she kept showering in renewed water. Lisan on the other hand, had clothes upon clothes. She had been hand washing them, and she had enough to cycle through without washing them down to threads. Kind of made Athena jealous.

Athena kept her distance from Lisan, though she took care of her enough. Made meals, and checked up on her from time to time. Lisan kept herself occupied with books and videos of random cartoons that she may have picked up in travels back to the Imperium. 

The third day in jump, Athena sat eating her regular breakfast of rehydrated bread and preservatives. She let Lisan eat the better MREs. They both sat in the observation deck with the view screen playing one of Lisan's favorite cartoons Mich and Roary eating in relative silence. 

"Ms. Plouffe. How old are you?" Lisan finally broke the silence. 

"Uhm… I don't know, sweetie, how old do you think I am?" Athena looked at Lisan a little weird, then stuffed her face with another piece of stale bread slathered with 'hint o' peach and sadness' jam. 

"Well, you look like… you're 18 or 20, Ms. Plouffe." 

Athena nearly choked on her piece of bread and coughed, sipping some water to wash down the disappointing bread. "I'm flattered, sweetheart, but I'm 38."

Time went on in jump space. Lisan did what she had always done, and Athena sat, cleaning her gun meticulously. More than she ever had in fact. It's all she could do. In all her years operating in different theaters in the Imperial Calvary, Artillery, and eventually the commandos, she never thought she'd be stuck in jump space by herself with a child that wasn't even her own. Hell, she hadn't even thought about having her own. 

But there she was, alone. She counted every screw, every battery, every spring. Then when she got tired of cleaning her gun, she got up, washed her face, and went over every single pipe, screw, and wire she could see on the ship. It's not like she really understood what each and every thing did in the ship, she wasn't a pilot, and she definitely wasn't an engineer. She would go up to an access panel, open it, and keep a look out for Lisan. If she wasn't around, Athena would just shut it and move on. If she was, Athena would try her best to look like she was deep in thought about it. 

Around 'night' time, Athena was doing her regular rounds. She wanted to keep occupied. Athena tugged open an access panel and began studying the labeling under each switch and breaker. For once she decided to actually look over them and the diagram inlaid on the panel's lid. As she finished, she closed the panel door and turned to move on to the next panel when she bumped right into Lisan.

Lisan and her were at about the same height. Athena didn't really do much growing past 18, and it was wonders that she was able to attend the branches she did. Lisan looked at the top of her head. Athena then became aware that her vestigial ears were down. 

"I didn't wanna be rude, Ms. Plouffe, but why do you have two sets of ears?"

Athena blushed a little. Embarrassed. It was where she grew up. The planet had some strange radiation flowing through the air there, and a lot of children started developing strange vestigial traits. She got little cat-like ears. They didn't work like cat ears, though they would act based on her mood, flap, and the like. "Well… it happened when I was born, I think."

"Are you a Solomani?" Lisan cocked her head again and reached up to touch her ears. Athena lowered her head.

"Of course, I am. As human as human can be!" Athena could feel Lisan's tiny fingers rub her ears. She pretty sure she was at least. 

"Do you hear from these? Oh.. they're so soft." Lisan was enamored by her ears. Methodically stroking the outside of them, and rubbing the inside and outside of them with her thumb and index finger. 

Athena shook her head.

"Are there others like you?"

Athena thought about it for a minute. "I would think so." 


Fiction: The Realization Sets In...

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