Chapter 10

Ætherglow #186


A few hours later, you strap in again for docking. The shuttle’s roll slows to a stop and the stars in your window stop moving. Right ahead of you, TLA colony’s long white radiator panels shine brighter than the Moon. And you can also see a few other nearby vessels--too small to make out beyond a little star in the sky, but you see the bright plumes of gas from their maneuvering thrusters reflecting the sunlight.

It’s a busy day at the TLA docking port. After a brief pause, it seems your shuttle is going in first. The stars start to move again as you spin up and approach. Inside the cylinder, the magnetic robotic arm takes hold and pulls you out from the central axis toward one of the docking ports. Minutes later, the light goes green and you release yourself for departure.

Half-walking and half-floating, you drift down the long docking tunnel with the few others from Korolev. At the end, Synth turns back to you.

“See you around,” they say, hurrying off without another word.

Ana passes by you. “Everything alright, Aydan?”

“Yeah! Just glad to be home.”

“Have a great semester. If you need anything, you know where to find me,” it says.

An elevator takes you down into the spaceport, to a familiar gravity around 0.16. You scan your hand and the secure door opens for you.

Through the corridors ahead, you emerge into the open area by the main elevator. There’s a growing crowd waiting for it already. You keep your distance. But as you lean back on a wall to wait for the crowd to thin out, you see the next shuttle’s passengers arrive through the corridor opposite yours.

One stands out to you with her light blue hair and distinct magenta eyes. She takes graceful, gliding steps on the thick soles of her black boots. Above them on her black skirt, embroidered grey lines form a branching fractal pattern. Her black shirt features only one character, in pink: .

Your eyes meet for a moment before you both look away to different sides. “Hi, 7,” you say.

“Aydan...” she says.

“Um, how was break?” you say.

“It was normal.”

“Where do you live, anyway?” you say.

“Um, I live here. But we went to Cybernautics headquarters on some business of my mother’s... I don’t remember it very well,” she says.

More people start filling the room from behind you. The next shuttle at your port must have docked. One of them pokes you in the back of your head. You spin around to see Akiko, dressed in a long grey skirt made of thick fiber, with colorful floral patterns that stand above the rest of the fabric. It looks a little irregular like it was handmade. She has a semi-transparent brown jacket of the sort that Professor Reina wears. Her hair is in its usual long braid, with strands of neon green intertwined with its natural black.

“Akiko!” you excitedly form her name sign.

She signs hello with one hand and reaches out to you with the other. You reach to touch your fingertips together. She closes her eyes and smiles. When she opens them, their LED irises flash pink against their silver sclera, before returning to their usual green.

Akiko leans over to peer around you. You turn around to see 7 doing the same, both of them halfway hiding behind you from each other. Akiko’s eyes glow teal.

What do you do?

1) Try to introduce them to each other: 6 (75.0%)
2) Contribute to the awkward stillness and silence: 2 (25.0%)
Expired 10 months ago (2023-05-23 03:16:31)