“Language both bridges and creates gaps between people. It shapes our understanding of the universe around us. When we encounter someone with a different perspective than our own, we may not have the linguistic capacity to describe and overcome our differences. When we encounter someone similar to ourselves, we may not have the language to understand that this similarity exists. Language hides the self and fragments the other.”
-from Philosophy of Translation by Najie Jamison
Sylva had a difficult time adjusting to life as a crew member aboard the Iron Dreams. It wasn't for lack of trying; she had effort in spades, but she lacked the basic skills that even children aboard the Dreams had. She had no idea, for example, how to put on a suit to perform a spacewalk. She found herself panicking the first time she was inside an airlock and all the air went out of it. Maxes took her out to teach her the fundamentals of flying a shuttle, and she almost sent them into a spin that would have caused them to pass out, had the shuttle's safety system not kicked in just in time.
She came back to her little guest bedroom every day sore and frustrated. She tossed and turned at night, completely unable to sleep from thinking about every small thing that had gone wrong during the day. She had taken a weird piece of advice to heart somewhere in her childhood, so every day she aimed only to be one percent better than the day before. Even if she could just improve a little bit, that would be progress. But she was beginning to feel like one percent of zero was still zero, and she would never amount to anything.
It didn’t help that everything aboard the Dreams was designed for freakishly tall spacers, and she was slightly below average height for a normal grounded person.
There were a few things she was feeling successful at, and that gave her a little comfort, anyway. She was enjoying once again being the cantor for the Iron Dreams. It was pleasant, to be able to sing and hear everyone else join in. It was a wonder that spacers weren't more religious, considering how much they loved to sing their own little songs constantly. But the rote words of the prayers, no matter how pretty they were, and no matter how good the call and response was, did not lend themselves to either being work songs or party songs- and those were the main types of songs that spacers sang. Sylva was learning those, too, and she amused everyone as she first stumbled her way through the choruses. There seemed to be an endless number of these songs, she wondered how everyone on the ship seemed to know so many. Occasionally they would sing one that Yan had hummed under her breath years ago, and Sylva would recognize it and pay closer attention.
She was also fairly good at anything that required her to use her brain. When someone asked her opinion on a problem that didn't require intimate knowledge of some esoteric system aboard the ship, Sylva could puzzle through and come up with a good solution. The cargo reorganization project that had been cursing the ship since the summer (or even earlier) was still ongoing, and it was made even worse due to the main architect behind it leaving to be the council representative. Loading and unloading cargo would routinely turn into a logistical mess, but Sylva always volunteered to help coordinate it. If only she could transfer that spatial awareness to a better ability to navigate in the zero gravity parts of the ship.
At least aboard the Iron Dreams she almost never had reason to use the power. No one sat her down and demanded that they meditate together, and any time she was asked to do a party trick she deflected the question by saying something profound sounding about responsibility. In the back of her mind, Sylva was a little worried that if she didn't keep up her regular practice, she would lose even the meager skill she had. She justified it by saying not using the power was practice for when she would be undercover on the pirate ship and would have to hide the fact that she was a sensitive.
She spent a lot of time with Maxes and his family. She came to know his wife rather well, as they bonded over being relative outsiders to spacer culture. Jalena gave Sylva a crash course in basic medicine when neither of them were busy with other things, and she put up with Sylva's barely passable (but improving) Terlin.
Sylva also tagged along with the two boys, Sion and Jaden. Though it was embarrassing to feel behind a ten year old in terms of practical skill, she thought both of the boys were sweet, and they tolerated her presence. Their friends (cousins? Sylva couldn't keep track of all of the complicated family relationships aboard the Dreams) didn't love when she tagged along with them because she was a dreaded adult presence, but she ingratiated herself with them by being funny and clueless. Adults were more tolerable when they could be laughed at.
The days blended together. It was partially due to the weird out of time sensation that being on ships gave, without the outside influence a day/night cycle provided by planetary rotation. This out of time feeling was compounded by Sylva working multiple shifts, at random times, every day of the week. She found herself being everywhere, doing everything, always. The only day that was different was Sevensday, where she ran the worship services. She barely seemed to sleep, and rarely had a moment to herself to stop and think. Perhaps that was the best, because it stopped her from falling into despair about Yan.
And so time passed. Somehow, Maxes managed to get in contact with that woman, Iri Maedes, and she made her way to meet with the Iron Dreams at Byforest Station. The place was a crossroads for so much of the business within the Empire, and the Iron Dreams had a route that had them docking there approximately once a month.
Maedes came aboard during the middle of third shift, just after all the cargo that was going to the station was done unloading. It was a tight dance, navigating all the massive shipping containers from the Dreams to the station, and docking them in neat lines to await pickup. Sylva helped out outside, dressed in an ill fitting spacesuit and staying far away from the massive, slow moving boxes. She was tethered to Maxes, as a child would be, but Sylva didn't mind that much. Some of Yan's fears about this process had lodged deep in Sylva's brain.
She and Maxes worked for hours off the side of Byforest Station. The process of moving the containers around was a tedious one. Aboard the Dreams, containers were outfitted with a modular control system, which was operated remotely to send the container to its destination on the station. Once the container was tethered in place, a process handled mainly by Byforest Station employees, Sylva and Maxes detached the control system, and it was sent back to the Dreams to be reattached to another container, or refueled, if necessary. Though there were many pairs of workers on the operation, detaching each controller took about ten minutes, and every other step of the process had to be carefully directed by the traffic control around the station to avoid accidents. Loading and unloading cargo was always a process that took a long time and the participation of everyone who was able.
When they were done working, Sylva and Maxes entered the airlock on Byforest Station, rather than taking a shuttle to the Dreams. They waited until the long tunnel connected the ship to the station was attached, and then they made the trek back along with all the boarding passengers, holding their helmets under their arms and kicking tiredly off the floors and walls to send themselves sailing. Sylva wanted nothing more than to collapse into bed. Her fingers were twitching with the repeated memory of unscrewing hundreds of bolts that fastened each control system to the containers. Her arms were sore from the shaking of the high powered drill.
It was only after they arrived back aboard the Dreams that they heard the news that Maedes was aboard. Sylva was struggling to pull off her suit and hang it in the dressing room with all the others. Maxes had to help steady her as she kicked her way out of it, and it floated away. He grabbed it and hung it up alongside all the other suits.
Sylva retrieved her phone from the locker she had stored all her non-spacewalk supplies in. It was flashing with a message notification; Captain Pellon wanted to meet with her and Maxes as soon as they got back to the ship. While that was exciting, it was unfortunate that Sylva wasn't going to get to sleep the rest of third shift away as she had originally planned. She showed the message to Maxes, who looked resigned. He was just as tired as she was after a long day of manual labor outside the ship.
They both had to clean up a little after their long shift outside. Maxes messaged Pellon to tell them they would meet him soon, and he and Sylva headed back through the ship to the gravity section where they could shower. After getting cleaned up, she reunited with Maxes outside the meeting room off the bridge. They walked in together.
Pellon was there, talking to the woman who must be Iri Maedes. They both looked up as Maxes and Sylva entered. Maedes was tall for a non-spacer woman. She was pale, with brown hair that was tied up in a frayed bun. Her casual sweater did very little to disguise the thick cords of her arms, or the stiff arch of her back. She wasn't precisely pretty, but Sylva's eyes were immediately drawn to her. Maybe that was just because after spending a while on the Dreams, Sylva was as anxious to see and meet new people as every other crew member was. Pellon gestured for Sylva and Maxes to take seats.
"Ms. Maedes, this is my cousin and logistics man, Maxes. And Sylva Calor, Yan's friend," Pellon said. Sylva took issue with several of the things in that sentence. For one thing, calling Maxes a logistics man when he was more of a jack of all trades was a bit of a stretch. Just because he had contacts didn't make him good at planning. Sylva also resented being referred to as only Yan's friend.
Maedes shook hands with Sylva and Maxes. "I'm sure that I'm more acquainted with you both than you are with me," she said. Maedes had a rich voice, but she was quieter than Sylva had expected.
"Nice to meet you," Sylva said.
"Did we ever talk while we were both on Olar?" Maxes asked.
"I don't believe we did. It's not, well, it wasn't my business to talk to Yan's family unless she asked," Maedes said. The correction that she made in her speech had an obvious note of pain. Sylva almost felt bad for her. She couldn't divorce the understanding that Maedes clearly cared for Yan from the fact that Yan had been taken while under her watch. It was a confusing mess of emotions that sat deeply in her stomach. That and the hunger and tiredness from a long shift. Sylva wasn't really in the mood to be having this conversation.
"I understand," Maxes said. "I'm glad you're here now. Did you tell her anything?"
"It's Sylva's plan. I believe the honor should be hers," Pellon said. Great. Sylva was not prepared to give an extemporaneous rendition of her plan, for all that she had attempted to refine it during her stay on the Dreams. Maedes looked at her curiously.
"Uh, so I guess the first thing is, thank you for coming," Sylva said. "I know you weren't given a lot of detail about why we wanted you here, but we think that we could be of mutual benefit to each other. You're planning on searching for Yan, right?"
"As much as I can," Maedes said. "I originally resigned my post because I didn't want to cause any problems by remaining in it, and I fully expected to be brought before a tribunal after that."
"You weren't, though."
"Someone high up decided that I was not at fault," Maedes said. There was an odd tone in her voice. Did she feel like she should have been brought to trial? Did she have some sort of complicated feelings about the mysterious 'high up'? Sylva couldn't tell. That one line contained as much mystery as anything.
"Well, that's good. Because I've been developing a plan to try to get Yan back, and I think that you could help."
"I'm obviously willing to listen. What've you got?" Maedes asked, spreading out her hands in a 'come at me' gesture. It could have looked intimidating, but Maedes' eyes were so sad and tired looking that it just came off as pathetic. Sylva was struck with doubt about the whole operation, looking at her, but she was the only person they had a hope of cajoling into this plan.
"We know that Yan was taken aboard a pirate ship somewhere, correct?" Sylva asked. Maedes nodded. "My idea is to infiltrate a pirate ship, that whole way of life, and listen out for any clues on who took Yan. That's the short version, anyway. And I would do it myself, but it would be better to have a partner, which is why we got in contact with you."
Maedes looked Sylva in the eye. "You know there are already Imperial agents doing this exact thing, right? There are spies all over black stations, gathering as much information as they can, and feeding it back to First Sandreas. What makes you think that you can do it better than they can?"
"I assumed people are looking for her. Of course they are. And maybe I won't have any luck. I don't know." Sylva said. "But I have to try. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't."
"And you?" Maedes asked, looking at Pellon and Maxes. "What do you think of this?"
"I think that it's dangerous," Pellon said cautiously. "I don't know what the chances of success are, especially as time passes, but Sylva has said she's going through with this with or without my help. I'm sure she would say the same to you."
"I can't leave the Dreams and the rest of my family to go out on a search like this. I am grateful that there is someone who can," Maxes said. He conveniently failed to mention that Pellon had forbidden any off the crew of the Dreams from going out after Yan. "For all that there are Imperial agents out there looking, I'm sure they won't share any of the information they find with us. And if I had my way, it would be to pick up all the clues myself."
"I see," Maedes said. "And how long are you prepared to try this plan for?"
"Until the situation changes," Sylva said firmly. She knew that was a vague answer, but it was the only one she could give. "I'm not going to put a time limit on finding Yan. I think, I know that she's alive."
"And how are you just able to rearrange your life to go out and do this?" Maedes asked, sounding more curious than anything.
Sylva felt slightly guilty, now. "I told my boss I was taking a leave of absence, and I left."
"And your family?" Maedes asked.
"Uh. I don't really talk to them that often." That was a non-answer.
"Do they not know you're gone?" Maxes asked. "Oh my God, Sylva."
"It doesn't matter," Sylva said with a huff. "I'm an adult, and they can't stop me."
"It's common courtesy to tell your family when you're about to do something life threatening," Pellon said disapprovingly.
"And you want me to work with you?" Maedes asked.
"Yeah," Sylva said. She was worried that Maedes's perception was irrevocably colored by this new information about Sylva's family. To be fair, she had left instructions for what to tell her family if she didn't report back after a certain amount of time. It wasn't as though she was planning to vanish completely and never be found, she just didn't want her family to get all weird about it. "I want you to come with me."
"And what help do you think that I can provide?" Maedes asked. She folded her hands together.
"You're a trained professional," Sylva said. "I'm not. You know how to fight, and how to get information, and how to keep things on track."
"That may be true," Maedes said, though the look on her face was an unsure one. "If that's the case, though, what's stopping me from going alone? Why should you come with me?"
"Because I have to go," Sylva said earnestly. "And I'm very, very good at listening."
"Yan said you were a linguist?" Maedes asked.
"Uh, not really," Sylva said. "More like a translator. Kinda." She worked on translations so that they could be checked over for theological consistency. Eventually she would get to make decisions on her own, but that was conditional on her ever returning to her apprenticeship. And that wouldn't be happening until she found Yan. "It's complicated to explain and not really very interesting. But I'm good at learning languages."
"And you can use the power," Maedes said. "Are you as good as Yan is?"
"Uh. Yan was always better at it than I was. But I can do things." That was an over-exaggeration, a lie by complete omission of Sylva's struggles with the power. But she wasn't going to be dissuaded from her course, and Maedes could assume whatever she wanted about how good Sylva was at using the power. "But I'll have to keep it secret anyway."
"Keeping it secret is one thing. Being able to use it to save your own ass is another," Maedes said. Sylva didn't know what she meant by that. They looked at each other across the table, each trying to size the other up.
"I think it's a good idea for the two of you to work together," Maxes said, interrupting the weird look that Maedes and Sylva were giving each other. "Clearly you both want to go find Yan, so you might as well team up."
Maedes broke eye contact. "You're right." She sounded defeated. "I wouldn't be here if I wasn't prepared to go out, and if I wasn't prepared to take something from you."
"It's not taking if we're freely offering our services," Pellon said. "As I was saying, all of us are desperate."
"Desperate people make bad decisions sometimes," Maedes said. "Yan wouldn't want you to rush into danger, especially if you're not prepared for it."
"Her ghost isn't here to tell me what not to do," Sylva said. "She can yell at me for doing dangerous things all she wants when we find her. I don't care. I'm going."
"That's clearly been established," Pellon said, sounding either amused or annoyed. "No one is trying to stop you."
Sylva frowned at him, and he just gave her the same sad smile that he seemed to wear all the time. Pellon was a good man, and Sylva got along with him, but there was a gulf between them that would never be crossed. It was a generational divide and a cultural one- and he was her commanding officer for as long as he considered her a part of his crew. For all the good she did while aboard, anyway. The only thing that had cause to bridge that gap was Yan, or the thought of her. Somehow Yan had managed to bring all of them together: her family, Sylva, and Maedes. In another lifetime, in any other context than tragedy, they may never have met. And yet-
They had a common goal. And they were going to meet it. Sylva was sure. She looked around the table and saw a hint of her own resolve in everyone's faces.
"So, when are we leaving?" Maedes asked.
"I was hoping to keep Sylva here a little longer, just to make sure she knows the ins and outs of ship life. You should learn some of that as well," Maxes explained. "It would be pretty bad for you to go unprepared onto a pirate ship.”
"I'm sure I'll be fine," Maedes said, offering no explanation for why she considered herself prepared.
"I want to leave as soon as possible," Sylva said. "The longer we wait, the worse things are going to get." Maedes nodded. "Not that I don't appreciate everything you're teaching me, but I'm not here to learn the trade of being a spacer."
"No, but that will help you survive." Pellon frowned at her. "You're making good progress, and you're quite helpful as someone who can follow instructions, but that's not going to earn you passage on a pirate ship."
"What will earn that?" Maedes asked. "I'm not really in the mood to become a slave."
"Drugs, if you have them. You can pay your way as passengers by that. Or any specific skill set that you can bring. Pirates are always looking for specialists," Maxes said.
"I assume languages aren't one of the things that they often need?" Sylva asked.
"If you already knew all the languages in the galaxy, then sure, you'd probably be a valuable asset," Maxes said. "Do you?"
"No, I can just learn quickly."
"Well that isn't enough. Most people know either New or Old Imperial, or sign, so there's no dearth of communication," Maxes said. "You'd have to go above and beyond to stand out there."
"Fine. Then I offer myself as a regular old crew member."
Maedes looked her over. "There's no specialization you can even pretend to have?"
"Wait," Sylva said. An idea was going off like sparks in her brain. "What if I pretended that I could refresh stardrives. Make them last longer? I wouldn't have to do anything, no one would be able to check."
"No," Pellon said immediately.
"Why not?" Sylva asked.
"Once a stardrive is dead, it's dead. No one has ever heard of them being repairable, and anyone who would take you at your word for it is an idiot. And if you reveal you have the power, they'll want to have you making new ones. That's where the profit is, I'm sure."
"He's right," Maxes said. "Besides, the likelihood that you'd get pressured into actually touching a stardrive, then blowing yourself and everyone else up in the process, that's too much of a risk. Your goal is not to make yourself known to every pirate in the galaxy, it's to keep a low profile and your ears to the ground."
"Do you have any mechanical skills?" Maedes asked. "Medical skills? Anything?"
"My dad was, is, a pediatrician. And Jalena's teaching me some stuff. She's the ship's doctor," Sylva added for Maedes's benefit. "I could pretend to be a doctor."
"I'm beginning to take Halen's opinion that all Academy students are completely useless," Maedes said.
"Halen?" Maxes asked
"My old boss," Maedes said. "He has some words about what type of people the Academy tends to churn out."
"We're not supposed to learn practical skills until we get our apprenticeship." Sylva was feeling a little hurt by the insinuation that she was useless. She may well have been useless, but it probably wasn't the fault of the Academy.
"Do you actually think that you could pretend to be a doctor well enough to survive on a pirate ship?" Pellon asked. "Really think about the answer to that question."
What was there to think about? It couldn't be any worse than pretending to be something else. "Sure."
Maxes and Pellon exchanged looks. Sylva watched them intently. It wasn't as though they could technically stop her, but she respected both of them. Pellon was the one who finally spoke, sounding resigned. "Well, if there's no alternative."
"I'll keep thinking about it until it's time to go," Sylva said. "And I'll try to research it."
"You're with Jalena from now on. All your other duties are suspended," Pellon said. "At least you're suit trained now. That's something, at least."
Suit trained, sure. She could go out in space. Technically she was still supposed to be tethered, but if Pellon was going to say she could do whatever, Sylva wasn't going to complain.
"And you?" Pellon looked at Maedes. "I know you have skills, but what skill are you going to say you have?"
"I can pretend to be a natural born pirate," Maedes said. "I look the part well enough."
"And what ship are you from?" Pellon asked. He looked her over, appraising her stature to see if it could match that of a pirate's.
"The Bluebeetle," Maedes said without hesitation. She seemed so assured that Sylva half wondered if she wasn't actually a pirate.
"And why did you leave it?" Pellon asked, probing her.
"My mother and I left the ship when her husband… displeased her. I've been without a permanent place since then."
"And your mother?"
"Found a new husband," Maedes said, injecting disdain into her voice. She was a pretty good actor. "I decided to go my own way after that."
"And your father?"
"The Bluebeetle was destroyed by Imperial forces many years ago. I don't know if he was on it at the time, and I have no reason to care either way."
"And what's your name?"
"No-Evil Vinright, but my friends call me Evie."
Pellon laughed. "Yeah, that'd stand up to inspection. You're a little young to have come off the Bluebeetle, though. You could have picked a less famous ship."
"I'm not that young," Maedes said. "I'm stealing parts of the life story of someone else I know. It's not as though I have an extensive catalog of pirate ships at my disposal."
"Who?" Pellon asked, just curious now.
"A man who had the unfortunate name of 'Hail-and-farewell' Vinright."
"Do all pirates have such ridiculous names?" Sylva asked.
"If you thought us spacers were insular, you haven't seen anything yet," Maxes warned. "Pirates are on a whole different level. But no. Some of them have weirder conventions."
"Do I have to pick a crazy name?" Sylva asked.
"You're not going to pretend you've been a pirate your whole life, so no," Pellon said. "As far as anybody knows, you're a nobody. You'll probably need some sort of fake documents to prove that you're a doctor, though."
"I could say I dropped out of med school right at the end."
"Do you want people to think you're incompetent?" Maedes asked. "We'll get you some fake documents."
Maxes looked at her with a slightly impressed expression but didn't say anything.
"So, we're back to the question of timeline," Pellon said. "How long will it take you to procure what you need?"
"How long is your route before you're back to Byforest?" Maedes asked. "If I send the request for the appropriate documents, they can be delivered here."
"About a month. Emerri calendar," Pellon said.
"Then I'll send an ansible message before we jump out, and the documents will be here by time we get back."
That was fast, given what Sylva knew of physical mail between planets. Byforest was a major destination, but mail was such a rare thing and so low priority on most ships' manifests. Such a thing might even need to be delivered by courier. She wondered how much such a service would cost.
"You're intending to stay on the Dreams?" Pellon asked.
"I was under the impression that you would want me to," Maedes said. "Of course, I could remain on Byforest until you return."
"No, not at all," Pellon said, realizing his mistake. "You're welcome to stay. I had just assumed you would have business on Emerri to attend to before you left."
"I have no intention of going back to Emerri any time in the near future." There was regret in her voice, but she stared straight ahead. "Clearly my responsibilities lie elsewhere."
"I understand," Pellon said. "I suppose that will give you time to adjust to ship life, and get to know your future travelling companion." Maedes and Sylva looked at each other.
"At some point we should discuss our story for why we are travelling together," Maedes said.
"I figured we could just explain that it's safer for unmarried women to travel in groups."
"That may be true, but admitting to weakness is not a great idea," Maxes said. "You don't need all the answers right now. You have a month to think it over."
"Yeah, I'll think it over, alright. Got a whole lot to think about," Sylva said. She didn't know why she delivered it with such hostility, and everyone looked at her, somewhat shocked. The tiredness from working all day hadn't really left her. "Sorry." She yawned.
"Well, if that's all settled, then I suppose we can stow this matter until later. Ms. Maedes, go send whatever messages you need to. I'll have someone arrange a bunk for you," Pellon said.
"Thank you," Maedes said. Pellon stood, and everyone else followed his lead. After spending time under his command, Sylva could understand better the gravitational force that Pellon seemed to have. It was vital that a crew trust and respect their leader, and that involved following his every move.
"Maxes, I want to talk with you tomorrow. Find me during second shift," Pellon said.
"Good night, ladies," Pellon said, nodding to Sylva and Maedes as he exited.
Sylva yawned again. "I think I'm going to get to bed as well. Long day."
"Agreed. I'll let Jalena know you'll be joining her from here on out," Maxes said. "Goodnight, Sylva."
"Thanks." Sylva paused at the door, then turned back around. "Maedes, uh, you can follow me and I'll show you where the guest rooms are, since I'm headed in that direction."
Maedes nodded and followed Sylva out. They were mostly quiet on the long journey to the other rotating section of the ship.
"So," Sylva said awkwardly as they floated in one of the elevators that would bring them onto the other ring. "Are you and Yan good friends?"
Maedes smiled. "Yan tries to keep a professional distance."
"She can be a little awkward, I guess," Sylva said. "She's nice, though."
"I know," Maedes said. "I didn't mean that I didn't talk to her."
"Oh. She never mentioned you to me."
This made Maedes laugh. "I'm offended. We spent quite a lot of time together. Maybe she thought you'd be jealous."
Sylva's brain immediately started twitching. True, she was jealous, but why did this Maedes lady have anything to say about it?
"Should I be jealous?" Sylva asked.
"Maybe," Maedes said with a wink. They left the elevator and walked down the slightly curved hallways towards the guest areas of the ship. That answer didn't make Sylva feel better at all. In fact, it made her hate Maedes, just a little bit. What did she mean by that?
"Did Yan ever talk about me?" Sylva asked.
"Not really. She mentioned you in passing, but I never had reason to inquire about her personal life."
"Oh." Sylva had talked about Yan to all her coworkers- even playing a prank on them. It wasn't as though she precisely wanted Yan to have spread her name far and wide, but a little bit wouldn't have gone amiss.
"Yan is a private person. In a few years, maybe I could have been a closer confidant to her, but I-" Maedes sounded slightly wrecked, her so far even voice cracking.
"Yeah." They were quiet again for a little while longer. "Yan's been my best friend since we came to the Academy."
"What was she like, as a little kid?"
"You'd be better off asking Maxes about that."
"I get the feeling that you know her better than he does."
"I don't know about that."
"All of us know different parts," Maedes said. "The Yan I know is a professional. The Yan Maxes knows is a child. The Yan you know is a friend. None of us can see the whole picture."
"I guess. I don't know. She's just always been in my life. When she came to the Academy she didn't speak a word of New Imperial. She could only read and write in Terlin. But we were in the same dorm room. Maybe it was just lucky that we were together. I don't know if I would have known her otherwise. And she would follow me around, just because, I don't know. She shouldn’t have bothered with me. But I thought she was funny, the way she was so tall. Most other kids were kinda scared of her."
"She was tall even as a ten year old?"
"She was already like… A hundred sixty centimeters tall. She was a beanstalk. I don't know if she had ever even been on a planet before that."
"Well she was just so obsessed with all the plants and bugs and stuff. She would catch bugs and keep them in jars in our dorm. It was creepy and weird, but I don't think she cared. And she would pick up the leaves off the ground when they fell and string them together to put around her bed."
"That's really cute," Maedes said.
"And she didn't know that not every plant was edible, so she'd try to eat anything that looked like a berry."
"Shouldn't someone have stopped her?"
"I think she learned her lesson after getting sick a few times. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, I guess."
Maedes leaned in close to Sylva, and her low, sweet voice whispered in her ear. "Don't let anyone else know I said this, but I think that most spacers lack common sense."
Sylva laughed. "You'd better throw yours out the airlock, then, because we're going to have to pretend to be among them."
"I’m beginning to understand what my boss used to talk about. Spacers and Academy graduates are both noticeably lacking in understanding how to live a balanced life. It's a wonder that Yan survived to adulthood."
"Not funny," Sylva said. Joking about Yan dying was a line that not even she was willing to cross, and that was saying something, considering her typical sense of humor.
"Sorry, I didn't mean it like that."
"Who is your boss that gave you such a grudge against Academy grads?" Sylva asked, choosing to forgive and forget the earlier comment.
"I'm surprised that Yan never mentioned him to you. Halen. He's in charge of First Sandreas's security."
"If she did mention him, I've forgotten," Sylva said. "When we talk on the phone, it's always late for me. So sometimes the details of things slip my mind."
"You'd better learn to correct that," Maedes said. They came to the guest rooms. Sylva's door was right there. She pulled out her phone.
"Let me check if someone's assigned you a cabin yet." Sylva scrolled through the ship information system to find the guest directory. Someone had given Maedes a room. Sylva pointed it out; it was right down the hall. "Check your messages, someone probably sent you the keycode."
"Not a problem, Maedes. See you in the morning?"
"Sure. It's just Iri, though."
"Goodnight, then, Iri." Sylva turned and opened her own room. Maybe she could learn to get along with Maedes, Iri, after all. If she liked Yan enough to come here, even if that made Sylva jealous, she couldn't be that bad of a person, could she?
Bio: hi I'm noodle, I studied aeronautical engineering in college, then I taught high school math. now I'm [redacted] and [remainder of message lost].