Saving light

The soon finished citadel now housed many people who, like us, just had moved in. For months there had been a steady stream of ships docking and people coming in. We had been among the first.

As work on the stations for the four empires largely had come to a standstill, the citadels built by capsuleer run corporations provided a new opportunity for people like my parents, who were construction robotics controllers. The main work on stations and citadels was done by robots, working after pre-programmed 3D-blueprints. But people were needed to supervise the construction and monitor the robots to ensure things were correctly built and put together. And when the citadel was fully completed they would have work keeping the systems and maintenance running, making this a permanent new home for them and us, their two daughters and one son. I, who was ten, my sister Saríle who was eight and our brother, Rémi, being five years-old.

We were all together in the main room of our appartment. My parents were sitting on the sofa, me and Saríle on the main bed with our Ferrus-cat, and Rémi on the floor by the entrance door.

Suddenly the whole room around us reverbrated. It was a deep, hollow sound, followed by the muffled sound of metal creaking.

We looked at eachother.

Then we felt the whole room shaking. A warning signal began beeping rhytmically. I knew it meant that everybody should go back to their rooms or homes. We were luckily already here.

‘Rémi?’ my mother asked, looking desperately around the room. ‘Rémi?’ my dad repeated louder.

‘He must have gone out through the door’, my mother said worringly and went out to find him.

‘Stay here. Don’t move. We will be right back.’ My dad said as he went after them.

We nodded and held tight onto eachother as the warning signal increased a level in intensivity. Then there were several loud noises, like something heavy collapsing, resonating through the floor and wall we sat leaning against, growing stronger and closer.

Saríle began to sob. ‘I love you, Jeni.’

‘I love you too, Saríle’ stretching my arms further around her.

Suddenly the ceiling next to us fell down on the floor with a loud clang. Our pet slipped out of Saríle’s arms because of the noise, running in panic out through the still open door. She immediately got up to try to catch him.

‘Saríle! No, wait! Come back!’ I shouted.

I went after her. Outside of the entrance door to the appartment, I saw her just as she reached the end of the corridor and ran after, but coming to a corridor cross-section I had already lost her.

‘Saríle!’ ‘Where are you?’ ‘Saríle! Come to me!’

With her being gone and not knowing which direction to follow, I despaired and began to panic. But I couldn’t wait, I had to decide what to do. I chose one corridor to follow, running to the end of it and pressing the door button that would lead into the next.

Smoke billowed out into the corridor I was in as the door opened.

‘Saríle!’ I screamed through the dense smoke.

I thought I heard her voice and took a deep breath, closing my eyes, holding close onto the wall. ‘Saríle?’ ‘Mom?’ ‘Dad?’ I shouted as I walked through, now noticing how afraid I was. There was no answer and I realized if there was any answer, I likely wouldn’t be able to hear it through all the noises. When I almost couldn’t hold my breath for longer, I had reached the end of the hall. I felt franatically for the door opening button that would be next to the door. I had to breathe a little but managed to press the button, stumbling into the next corridor which was free from smoke. The door closed behind me, as I fell to the floor and coughed. After some moments I got on my feet and looked around. There were no one to be seen, just the warning signal and monitors on the walls showing emergency messages. I knew I had likely lost where they were and I couldn’t go back through the corridor, the door had self-locked from this side.

I walked on heavily, not knowing what to do. Continuing past a metallic wall, my reflection showed in the mirror-like reflective surface, making me stop to look at it. My long blonde hair, face and plain dress were tousled and smudged with soot. My light gray-blue eyes were the only things that stood out. My expression showed the helplessness I felt.

A minute later the lights flickered and went out and were followed by red emergency lights turning on. I remembered that there were emergency capsules. I looked around if there was a plan of the sector on the wall that would show the direction.

Having found a map, I ran to the escape pod area, fortunately there were no obtrusions on the way. Getting there, I waited outside of a pod for as long as I dared, hoping they would make it here, before there was a strong shake making me fall down on the floor. Knowing I couldn’t stay and wait any longer I leaped into the capsule, connecting the seat buckles around me and pulled the lever that I had been taught would close the door and initiate the escape launch sequence. I leant my head back against the headrest in resignation, hoping they would make it to one of the other areas where there were escape pods. The voice countdown to release began. Ten… nine… I knew that the capsule would have had pre-programmed a route to the nearest station or colonized planet. I hoped that I had activated the capsule in time… five… four… The pod shook strongly from what must have been an explosion nearby. Two…

One…

There was a massive push as the pod left. There were no windows so I couldn’t see the citadel or where the pod would be heading to. I began to cry. The citadel had become a dangerous place to be and I had lost Saríle there, not knowing if she had found her way to safety. I felt so guilty and sad. And my mom, dad and brother, where were they now?

‘Huh?’ I chokingly let out as the computer’s voice suddenly stated ‘Course and velocity locked’, breaking off my thoughts. The push stopped, which I guessed meant that the capsule had reached the programmed speed and direction. It made it become absolutely quiet. It was just me, alone, inside the capsule.

I don’t know how much time passed but there was a new push in the capsule, maybe it was slowing down again. It was soon followed by a sound that I recognized, docking clamps locking on to a ship. It must have meant the capsule had reached its destination.

As the door in the pod opened, several people stood behind waiting. They had uniforms but I didn’t recognize where they were from other than that they possibly had Gallente markings.

‘Come out. You are safe here’, one of them said, offering a hand and helping me out.

I was lead to a large hall. There were many people there, more than I could count directly. They guided me to one of the chairs where I sat down.

‘We will be back in a minute.’

I nodded and watched them go back to the docking area where we had come from.

Looking around the room, I saw people were sitting alone or in small groups, quietly or talking. Someone was calling and someone was crying. I recognized the uniform that some of the people had, it was staff from the citadel, which meant they also must have left and come from there.

I noticed a news message showing at a screen on the wall nearby.

“A citadel in the Yvangier system has been destroyed. Those who made out using the escape shuttles arrived at the Charmerout VII Federal Administration Center in the neighbouring system.”

Shocked, I realized that was the citadel we had lived in. The images showed something that resembled a citadel but it was almost broken to pieces. I began to cry as I realized what had happened. People who had been still inside when it was destroyed had died, the news message said. I barely understood what someone dying meant. I understood that they wouldn’t be here anymore but found that impossible to understand and so strange.

“It has now been confirmed that all 104 survivors have arrived with the escape pods directed to the station.” The news broadcast continued.

‘All survivors, here, now?’ I thought. ‘Those who did not die are here, now?’ I looked around. ‘But my mother, father, brother and sister are not here.’

I stood up and began to call out into the room. ‘Mother?’ ‘Father?’ ‘Rémi?’ ‘Saríle?’ First in a calling voice, then again shouting as loud as I could. Some people turned to look but most didn’t react to me. I began running around franatically looking to see if I recognized those who were covered up enough that I couldn’t be sure it wasn’t them, becoming more and more desperate as I didn’t see them, crying tears until I could not see clearly anymore, before I fell to my knees burying my face in my hands.

A person came up to me and put her arms around me, hugging me and rocking me slowly.

After a while she talked calmly into my ear. ‘I am from the emergency centre on this station. I understand what has happened, let me take you to a room where you can be alone and rest if you want to.’

I nodded, wiping tears from my face.

Entering the small room, I was guided to the bed and helped up on it, lying down on my side.

‘Here is something to eat and drink, if you want.’ She gestured towards the table next to me.

‘When you want we can talk about what has happened. I will be right outside. Just call for me or come see me there.’

I nodded, still having my head on the pillow. I had never felt so lonely and so sad.

When I woke up I only remembered from last night having cried before falling asleep. I felt so lonesome. I looked up at and around the room I was in. It was a bright yellow colour and empty apart from the bed and the table next to it. I noticed soot from my face had rubbed off on the pillow.

I put my legs over the edge of the bed and onto the floor.

Returning to the large hall, it had now become emptier. Only a few remaining groups and lone people were still there.

I slumped down into a chair when it came to me again what had happened, making me cry again. I heard footsteps coming my way and felt someone sitting down beside me. I looked up and it was the same woman who yesterday had guided me to the separate room. She put an arm around me.

‘I know this is awful for you and that there is nothing I can say that will make it better. But remember, you are here.’

After a while when I had become calmer, I asked in a quiet voice.

‘Where is everyone?’

‘Gone to where they have home or familiy. Some have rented a place to live in on this station.’

‘What is your name?’ she asked.

‘Jeni.’

‘And your familiy name?’

‘Boutry.’

‘My name is Dominique Cardot.’

‘Do you have relatives or friends close?’

‘No, my closest are far away, in the Iyen-Oursta system. It was only my familiy that moved here.’

‘I see. We will be able to arrange the journey for you there, but there will be needed a few days to get everything ready. But you are free to stay here until that is in order. There is a washroom over there that you can use and where you will find a clean set of clothes.’

She pointed in the direction.

‘Just come see me, okay, whenever you want.’

She smiled reassuringly to me before she continued to some of the other people remaining in the room.

I slowly stood up and went to the washroom.

Before leaving the room I looked into the mirror above the sink. The trousers and longsleeved top had an even light-gray colour. I brushed my hair out a bit where there had become knots. Looking at my face, I looked as if I was unwell.

I went back to my private room and ate the food and drink that had been put there, before deciding to go out into the nearby area.

Even as there were lots of people walking around and many nice places in the halls, I felt so lonely and had little interest in anything of what was or happened around me. I felt as if I was meaningless and so did everything around me. After walking around for a while, I wanted to go back to my room.

I woke up, apparently having fallen asleep. I sat up in the bed, leaning my head against my knees. I had been told yesterday that I would stay here three more days, as that was the time before the transport ship would leave. I’m not sure what I wanted the most, to stay or leave. They cared for me here and it had been almost two years since I had seen my uncle and his wife, so I didn’t remember them well.

It was day I was leaving. The three days had passed by in the same way with me mostly sleeping, looking around the closest areas of the station and talking to the staff.

Having come with me to the dock, Dominique took me into her arms.

‘Good luck, Jeni. I hope you find your relatives. Please, manage.’

‘Thank you’, I replied.

I had been given a small travel bag, containing some things and two extra sets of clothes, in addition to those I had worn which they had cleaned.

The transport was a small ship, being like a shuttle in size.

‘Did my uncle and his wife know what had happened?’ I thought as I sat down after having been guided to my place.

After a while, there was a message coming from the comms system: ‘As the next part of the journey will be through Caldari systems, passengers will need to be registered at the border control.’

I had learnt some Caldari. My parents thought it was important when living in border regions to the Caldari, which we had did for the last three years. Apparently when Gallente spoke in Caldari with Caldari, it made them friendlier, they had told me.

The staff said something as it was my place in the queue.

There was a hand symbol on a console and I saw a light flashing next to an eye symbol, assuming it was something I was supposed to look into.

I placed my hand on the console and looked into the flickering light.

‘Where are you going to?’

I understood that question, as it was one of the sentences I had learned.

I spoke as best as I could in Caldari, ‘I am going to the Iyen-Oursta system planet seven.’ But it was so difficult to pronounce and I stuttered with the words. It felt as if I spoke Gallentean but used different words.

There seemed to be no friendly response. Maybe they didn’t understand me or I pronounced the words wrong.

I didn’t understand the next question and looked down, unsure, making the person ask again differently.

‘Why are you going there?’

I caught some of the words, so I answered what I thought was right.

’Family’, as it was a word I remembered.

‘What is your name?’

‘Jeni Boutry.’

The gate in front of me opened. After I passed through the control, I and other passengers were directed aboard another ship that would continue to the Iyen-Oursta system. It was a very large ship compared to the one I had left with from Charmerout. I thought that this is what is called a liner.

‘Next destination, Iyen-Oursta VII spaceport’, the voice said.

When the ship had landed, a person from the spaceport personnel brought me from there to one of the small vehicles parked in line nearby.

‘This is a self-driving vehicle. It will take you all the way to your address’, he said.

I nodded and entered into the one seat that was in it.

After the door had closed down beside me, the vehicle lifted slightly before moving forward.

I looked out of the windows of the vehicle as it drove. It was evening and dark but the lights in the city made the roads and buildings bright. I closed my eyes and rested my head in my hands, Dominique had told me they had got the message I was coming. I wondered what they would say.

‘Destination address reached. Press the door button to exit vehicle. Thank you for using our services’, the automatic voice said.

I pressed the door button and picked up the bag I had got.

Their front door faced the street. I rang the door com and a moment later the door opened.

‘Jeni!’ ‘Noel! come here quick, she is here!’ Arlette, my uncle’s wife, called into the hall behind her.

My uncle came running.

‘Jeni! You are here!’

They held around me and I began to cry.

‘Oh, Jeni. We heard about what happened. We knew you had made it but didn’t know where you were’, Noel said.

‘Yes, I… I…’ I tried to speak through my tears

‘We are so sorry. This is so horrible for you. Please, come in.’ Arlette said.

‘Let me take your bag’, Noel said tearfully as he picked it up.

Arlette guided me to the sofa they had in their living area and sat me down and herself beside me, placing her arms around me and leaning her head against the top of mine.

Noel put down the bag and sat down on my other side, laying an arm around both me and her. We sat there for a long while.

‘You must be very tired.’ Arlette said. ‘You take our bed. We can sleep out here.’

Noel stood up and got a soft drink from the refrigerator, opening the can and handing it to me.

‘You must be thirsty after the long travel. Here’, he offered.

I took a sip from it.

‘You can bring it with you to the bedroom.’

Arlette lead me there and after I had settled into the bed, she sat down at the edge of it beside me.

‘You sleep now’, she said, stroking my hair. ‘If there is anything at all, come into to living area and wake us up.’

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