Nothing In The 'Verse

Episode 01: Beginnings

Jiangyin, 5 years post-U-Day

Dani stared at the Cortex screen. Still nothin'. She'd been flying with Blue Sun postal for five years now, a mind-numbingly boring route mostly inter-system, sometimes not even breaking atmo. Such short trips were done solo, which often suited Dani's temperament just fine. And she'd put in for one job transfer after another, anything to get her doing some real flying again.

Truth was, she reflected, she was awfully lonely though. She lost Beth three months after war's end, and of course the back-pay arrived a month after that. She enjoyed the hell out of her girls, any time she could spend with them was a blessing, but between them and her job, there was very little time for friendship.

Not that I'd know how to go 'bout makin' a friend anymore, she thought darkly. Seemed nowadays she mostly just kept to herself, even after all this time. God, I need to get out sometime.

And it wasn't like her girls couldn't take care of themselves. Rain was now 19 and learning to fly, she could have been in the Academy by now. If'n they allowed daughters of ex-Browncoats in the Academy. If'n we lived in the Core still. If'n I didn' hate everythin' that the Alliance brass stood for.

She grunted, making an effort to steer her thoughts away from that path that would take her down to the dark place that she knew would never really heal. The pain of it all never really went away, just lessened in severity. Kinda like losin' my best friend to a treatable disease.

Dani exhaled in disgust, and stood up abruptly, heading into the small kitchen to make lunch. She could have afforded a bigger house with the money from her military service. Hell, she could have gotten away with not working for some time. But she couldn't stop flying, even if it were as piddly a route as she usually got…

Dani stopped in her tracks. On the main Cortex screen that the girls were seated in front of (only Cali was watching really, Rain had her nose buried in one of the fics she loved so much scrolling on her personal unit), a commercial was playing. The advertisement was cheesy, and Dani was surprised that the quality rated prime-time Cortex viewing, but that's not what caught her attention. It was the bright letters marching across the screen calling for adventurers of all types to attend the next auction on the moon of Ita, where "Classic" ships of all sizes could be had.

She sat down, hard, in the chair at the kitchen table, and simply stared into space, mind working furiously.

A bang at the door announced the entrance of the girls' adoptive Aunt. "Hey girls!" Kelly called out cheerily as she moved to plant kisses on the heads of the girls.

"Aunt Kelly!" both girls cheered. They seldom got to see Kelly nowadays as she seemed to always be running off travelling the 'Verse in her little one-person skiff. She had a restless soul, she always claimed, but especially since she lost her good friend Beth she made sure to come by for a visit whenever she was in-system.

Kelly spent a little time conversing with the girls, but seemed to eventually notice Dani sitting motionless at the table with a far-off look in her eye.

"Dani!"

She sat upright, startled, as Kelly poked her head into her line of vision. As she only came to a meter and a quarter, she didn't even have to lean down. "Girl, I called your name three times. What's gotten into you?"

"Hey sweetie," Dani replied sheepishly. "Just… ponderin' somethin'."

"Oh," she inquired?

"I think…" Dani said hesitantly. "I think mebbe we need a change."

Later that evening.

"Girls," Dani started. "We need to talk."

Rain and Cali looked at each other with their chopsticks frozen, halfway to their mouths. In the way that the sisters were known to do, they passed volumes of information between them in that single glance, and both brought their hands down. They looked at Dani expectantly.

Dani was momentarily at a loss as to how to begin with the convoluted swirl her thoughts were in. Just start at the beginning, her inner voice chided in a tone suspiciously like that of Beth.

"Okay," she began. "You know I'm not happy with the job. Or things in general."

"We know Kaasan," Cali chirped into the break. "But we're tryin' to keep you entertained when yer home!"

She choked down the lump in her throat at Cali's words, and Rain's solemn nod of agreement. God I love these two so much, I don' deserve 'em none.

"I know honey, but you shouldn't hafta keep my spirits up anymore, I should be over this funk an' movin' on with life. I think what we need is a change. You girls up fer it? You wanna go on an adventure with me?"

Both the teenaged girls grinned excitedly. "You know we'd go anywhere with ya," Rain chuckled. "But that's a loaded question. Where to? Fer how long?"

"Well… fer the where I was thinkin' 'bout up there." She pointed upward. "Into the Black. An' as to the how long… well I was thinkin' about makin' this a permanent adventure."

Cali looked puzzled, and moved her ever-present Panda hat up on her head. Her two long braided pigtails pushed back as well over her shoulders.

Rain, though, seemed to pick up right away as was usual. Girl c'n be too perceptive sometimes fer her own good, Dani thought with a smile.

"You want us to fly with you. On a ship. D'ya wanna leave this home, sell off what we gots?"

Cali's eyes widened, as Dani nodded her agreement. "Yep, that's the idea. Start over, together. Mebbe round up some more of our family scattered 'round the 'Verse. What d'ya think?"

Though she said nothing, Dani could tell from Rain's expression that she was already in wholeheartedly. But she was withholding comment, waiting for Cali to process the news.

"So…. Okay. So we'd pack up what we want, sell off our home? Would I get to see my friends again? What about schoolin'?"

"Well baobei (treasured one), fer schoolin', we can work somethin' out, but I gots a feelin' you might wanna get some real-life experience. Ya love workin' on machines, shoot you take better care of that old junker Rain drives you 'round in than I could. Mebbe you could learn 'bout carin' fer somethin' a lil' bigger?"

Cali's eyes glowed at the thought. She loved taking things apart, seeing how they worked, what made them tick. Fortunately she had a gift for putting them back together again in the proper order, because she could be a little scatterbrained at times. Long as she didn't wait too long on it, she could remember where she put all the extracted parts in question.

"An' as fer Tobi and Choji," Dani continued. "I'm sure you could still Wave 'em, an' we'd get to visit sometimes. They gots their own families though, an' both boys gots their own lives. Yer not gettin' sweet on one of them, are ya?" she asked skeptically.

"Ugh! No!" Cali exclaimed disgustedly. "You know I'm not interested in any of that kinda stuff. They're just my friends. And yeah, I c'n always Wave 'em… I gots one more question, though."

"Yes?"

Both girls turned to each other, grinning, and said in unison, "Where you gonna get a ship?"

Dani returned their grin good-naturedly. "Well, it just so happens," she said, turning around her personal Cortex unit so they could view what she'd been pouring over the last few hours. "They're auctionin' off some nice boats over on Ita. I figure we sell what we c'n an' pack the rest up. Yer Uncle Mike could sell our house fer us, I know the Chengs down the street've been lookin' to get somethin' bigger, mebbe talk to them.

"And then we take a shuttle to Ita. An' start our adventure together. It's a big risk, but I think the three of us could handle anythin' life throws at us. What d'ya think?"

Cali was practically bouncing in her seat, and even the usually stoic Rain had a huge grin splitting her face in two. "Yes!" they both shouted.

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