Original fic taking place in this universe
that I came up with together with my bb. Written for the weekly writing challenge for Game of Cards. The prompt was this picture:
“So, you got them all tucked in nicely?”
Sophia didn’t even turn around to ask that question. Turning around would mean she actually cared, right? No, she didn’t care, she wanted her nice and quiet ship back. That was it. She didn’t want to have any of those little brats running around asking questions, she didn’t want to have to talk to them, to explain everything. That just wasn’t her thing, really not. She liked the quiet.
That was why she was here in the first place. No family, no attachments. No annoying kids with annoying needs.
She knew this wasn’t really fair to those little ones she took in. They had been exemplary children, barely talking at all, and barely making a fuss. But it was still irritating to have them on board. Especially the oldest one, with her inquiring eyes and her demeanor that said that she was better off alone anyways. Really, she was helping them, the least that little brat could do was actually be thankful. Or actually behave like a child so that she would have an actual reason to be annoyed.
But no, she just sat there, looking at her, looking at the instruments. She had tried earlier to start a conversation but Sophia shut it down and made it clear that she wasn’t interested. She did admire her courage and stubbornness but she was still a kid. What did she know about talking to a kid? Nothing.
So she figured it was better not to talk at all. And it had worked until right now, since Imi had been too busy with the other children anyways. But now they seemed to all have fallen asleep and Imi was just sitting there, for at least ten minutes now. It made Sophia feel like she should do something. Say something. That’s why she said that, not because she actually cared about those brats. No, she really didn’t care about them.
“Yeah, they’re all asleep.”
She said it as if it wasn’t even that important. Did she want to talk? Or not? Didn’t children want to talk all the time? Sophia was really at a loss here. But after another ten minutes of silence she decided that maybe the child wasn’t that bad company and maybe she should give her the benefit of the doubt.
“You want to take over for a moment?”
Now, that seemed to get the girl’s attention.
She came up to the helm, standing next to Sophia and looking at her with those huge black eyes. Sophia couldn’t help but notice that she was really cute with her dark, freckled skin and the mess of black frizzled hair.
“Ever steer a ship before?”
The girl shook her head. Sophia raised her eyebrows.
“Really? I seem to recall that you were ready to take it and just fly away. What was your plan, go straight without hitting anything and learn to fly on the way?”
Now the girl’s demeanor changed. She straightened her back and folded her arms across her chest. Her mouth was a straight line, her teeth seemed to be clenched pretty hard.
“I would have figured it out.”
“I’m sure you would. It’s alright, I was just joking. Here, sit down.”
Sophia stood up and gestured to the chair. The girl still seemed a little tense, but less so. Oh yeah, this had been a great idea. Use humor to talk to her, and casually remind her of what must have been a very scary experience for her. So much for talking to children.
But she started it now, so she was determined to follow through. After Imi carefully sat down, Sophia started to explain the most important instruments. And the girl seemed to actually get the hang of it pretty fast.
Actually, she had to admit that this was fun. She had gotten used to having a co pilot when Latisha was still around and now sometimes the ship did seem to get a little lonely. Not that she would ever admit that. But it was nice to have someone to talk to, someone who shared her interest in flying and ships.
After she took over the wheel again, Imi sat down in the co pilots chair instead of in the back where she had been sitting before. She occasionally asked questions about the instruments, but other than that, they shared a now comfortable silence and Sophia started to think that maybe having her and the other children on board wasn’t that bad.
“What is that?”
Sophia had just started to think that Imi had fallen asleep when she heard that question. Intrigued, she looked at the girl and saw that she pointed to the only picture on the dashboard, a picture of a desert road going off into the horizon.
“It’s just a picture.”
She didn’t particularly want to talk about this picture, about what it meant. About Latisha.
“No, I mean, what is that on it. It looks funny.”
“You’ve never seen a road before?”
“What’s a road? Is that the thingie on the picture? Which one, the grey lane or the green things that cover the ground? Is that like a hallway in a really really big station?”
Sophia looked at the girl, thinking that she was joking, but from her sincere expression she doubted that. She was intrigued but irritated.
“No, it’s a road on a planet called Earth. It doesn’t look like that anymore, but this is how our ancestors used to get around before there were spaceships. They build those roads into the landscape and then drove around on them with cars. There are still some of those left on some colonies were they did the same.”
Imi seemed fascinated. Her eyes were wide.
“What is the green stuff? Did they build that too?”
“No, that’s grass.”
Sophia expected her to know at least this but when she only got an irritated look, she continued.
“It grows on the ground. When there is soil and some seeds and then it rains and the sun shines, you’re gonna have grass. And all sorts of plants.”
“What are plants?”
“They’re like grass, but bigger. There are some plants that have fruit. You can eat it. Or plants like wheat that you can use to make bread or whatever.”
“Really? Food that actually grows? That’s so cool. We only ever had what the guards left for us, mostly dried stuff. Sometimes I managed to get some bread when they had a lot. Not often but sometimes. And once, this one guard had a birthday or something and he got cake. It was huge and they didn’t eat all of it so they threw out a lot of it. That was a good day. Marissa still talks about it.”
Imi sat back, her eyes still glowing from the memory, a small smile on her lips. Sophia thought to herself that this had been the longest story the child had told about her life. It felt good that she trusted her enough to talk to her about it. She briefly thought again that she didn’t know how to talk to kids, but well, this had been easy, just give her a starting point and then she did all the talking herself.
And for some reason, Sophia didn’t even mind it. It was interesting and not the childish babbling she had expected. She felt like she could actually talk to her like an equal. And yes, she admitted to herself again that that was something she surely missed. Quite a lot.
She also made a mental note to tell Shaniqua to take Imi and the other children to a planet one day. She knew they had their whole hydroponics garden and grew food and even had a park with grass and trees, but the children deserved to see the real sky at least once in their lives.
“Is that where you lived? Is that why you have the picture?”
Sophia looked at the girl again. And there it was, the questioning. This should feel uncomfortable, shouldn’t it? But instead of becoming annoyed, Sophia felt an urge to share her life with this little girl. To give back the trust she had been awarded a minute ago.
“No. It was a gift from a friend. She had it to remind her that what she was doing was important.”
Imi was quiet for a minute or two and Sophia thought about Latisha. She wouldn’t have minded having children on board. She had always loved children. She had always been sad because she had not been able to be there to see her sister’s children grow up. But she never regretted doing this. She always said that what they were doing together was the biggest adventure and that that was the best life she could imagine to have.
Even when she knew something would happen to her, she never wavered. She always just said that as long as she didn’t for sure know that she died, who knew? She could just have taken a break for twenty years or something and then return and continue the adventure.
And that was why she had this picture in the first place. Because of some old movie that compared the future to a road in the dark. And Latisha comparing it to a lone country road where you know most of the road ahead but at one point it takes a turn and you just don’t see it anymore. So you have to make the best of what you actually know while hoping that all will turn out for the best.
Sophia had always thought that was a bit far fetched but she never said anything against it. Latisha had her beliefs and she had her own. For her part, knowing the future was just making life boring. It took away from the fun and adventure, instead of adding to it. After all, why even do it, when you already knew exactly how it would turn out?
But Latisha always believed the opposite, that knowing how it would turn out made her more determined to actually do those things in the first place. For her, it added to the adventure instead of taking away from it.
This had always been the only thing they disagreed about. They talked about it a lot and Sophia kept the picture as a reminder that Latisha was not dead. That she only had to wait fifteen more years and then she actually had a chance to find her. Fifteen years of knowing that there was nothing she could do, no way that she could ever even find out what happened. Sometimes that time felt longer than others.
She sighed and looked at Imi, who had now actually falled asleep in the co pilot seat. Maybe it wasn’t that bad to have these kids on board. At least she had someone to talk to. Fifteen years without having anyone seemed like a damn long time right now.
Yes, maybe this hadn’t been such a bad idea after all. And maybe she would have some more chances to learn how to talk to children before they reached the Independence. Maybe.