“Here we go,” Trevor said. She already had the system tuned to the satellites in Daion space and was keying in the final code needed to start the sweep.
“Oh, wow. You’re really good at this,” Leo complimented. He watched her fingers ticking quickly on the controls.
“My grandpa kept a couple of consoles this old when I was little. I learned satellites on this stuff.” She tapped a final tick and a progress bar appeared at the bottom of the screen of readouts. “You really don’t think of Daions as being other, do you?” It was a question, but she said it like a statement. Her fingers remained busy on the pressure pad and touch screen, pulling up more options and initiating a background scan so the sweep would be monitored for interference once it started, keeping her eyes busy so she didn’t have to look at him while she was talking to him. Leo hadn’t known the old equipment had the ability to monitor and verify itself; he wasn’t that far into reading the user manual.
“I guess not. I mean, people are just people, right? Coalition history is only one version of what happened back then,” he said, completely absorbed in what she was doing and not really listening to what she was saying.
“I’m not talking about in the broad, historical meaning. You – yourself – you really don’t see Daions as being other, do you?” Her hands stilled on the controls as she waited for his answer. He looked down at her fingers, his grip tightening on the back of the seat she was sitting in as he assembled the thoughts of his own truth into something he could verbalize.
“I can’t see someone as other from having lived inside the same glass jar with them. You know my parents never grew up with anything, and what they could afford after having us kids was more of the same amount of nothing. We’re lowest caste. We got by, but it meant we lived the same caste and class and in the same Central World purlieus as a lot of displaced Daions. I even got standard education with a few in my school and classes. To my family, me getting a scholarship that paid for my Academy education was a really big event. Me coming out here on explorations as Analyst even more of one. I mean, I wear this uniform and suddenly I don’t have security vidcams following me through markets.
“Back at home, though, without my uniform, I’m still lowest caste. I worked the entire time I was in Academy so I could afford to eat and rent a room to sleep in because the scholarship only paid for direct school costs. It’s just buckets on buckets of bolts that Daion survivors were scattered around Coalition space as lowest caste rather than being granted access, rights, and free passage back to their home sectors carried on a big apology. That treaty of equality or agreement or whatever it was… it might as well have been written with water on a hot stone. If Coalition had ever actually honored it, Daion descendants would have returned to their homes on their worlds rather than getting to the point right now where they’re disappearing from my parents’ purlieu and going… away, I guess. They’d be living on Daion worlds and this mock-up ‘exploration’ wouldn’t even be here, in Daion sectors, pretending we’re looking at uncharted worlds. We wouldn’t be here. We shouldn’t be here.”
Trevor was breathing heavier than he could understand when he finished what felt to him like ranting. Her bottom lip was firmly pinched between her teeth and her eyes were searching his face. Her expression stayed pinched even when her lip popped free of her bite.
“You really mean that?” she asked quietly.
“Well…” He paused and did a quick internal scan. “Yes. I firmly believe what I just said.”
“Would you still believe it knowing I was an eleven month gestation? And that my kids will have eleven month gestations?” she asked.
Leo looked at her in confusion. Standard gestation for Coalition babies was ten months. Something in the early forms of space hibernation, during the historical phase of utilizing Advanced Cryo before the technology for over distance travel was developed, altered the genetics of those first explorers way back when explorations were one-way trips. Because of the altered genetics, Diaons had longer gestations for pregnancies. It was theorized as being a main part of the reason for their immune systems being stronger.
Suddenly it all clicked. Trevor had talked about her transient family life and they’d both laughed about her grandfather’s distrust of modern technology despite being a shipside installer. How tightly knit her shipside family and community was. The strange celebrations and slang they had. All those things she’d easily passed off as differences in shipside verses landside cultures because Leo had only lived landside until his assignment to Dockland.
“You’re Daion?” he asked. He kept his voice to a murmur because they hadn’t bothered to close the door and, although this specific room was usually unused, this part of the ship wasn’t. Even trying hard, he also couldn’t keep the note of hopefulness from sneaking into the question.
“You’re asking that like you have some kind of fetish,” she stated.
“What? No!” He held up both hands as if trying to ward away her words. “It’s just… never mind. This would sound so bad outside my head.”
“Sounding like a bolt has never stopped you before,” she reminded him.
“True,” he agreed, straightening up and shoving his hands into his pockets.
“Don’t let sounding like a bolt stop you now, Leo. It’s currently just a fact about you,” Trevor said.
Leo nodded reluctantly. “All right... I guess what I was thinking, and it’s going to sound bad, but you being Daion are makes ‘us’ easier for me,” he said. “I mean, my family isn’t much in the galaxy. You were, and remain, way above my class. You’re this awesome, smart enough to be honors level, beautiful woman from middle castes, and I’m the lowest caste scholarship winner who starved and barely slept for six years while working full time on nights, taking extra classes to keep my points up, and surviving on the hope I’d get to wear this uniform one day. I only got the scholarship because my mom’s work runs a lottery and I met the requirements to enter the draw. I won my scholarship out of a corporate lottery. It’s the only way anyone from my caste gets into Academies,” he explained, folding both hands into a ‘thumbs up’ and tapping the ends of his thumbs into his chest. “We might be the same caste if you publicly admit, I guess, but when it comes to class you and I aren’t in the same one at all,” he added with a shrug, his hands falling to his sides.
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!