Off the port bow the great station hung amidst the stars, glowing softly in the radiance of a thousand portholes glistening in the void. Verica had never felt so much excitement and trepidation in all her life, and to actually see Alpha station so tantalisingly close caught the very breath from her.
“It’s a dozy ain’t it? I never get tired of seeing her personally.”
She looked at the old timer sitting next to her at the steerage seat window, all lines and wrinkles. With a tip of his hat the old man saluted the glinting leviathan growing ever closer,
“Of course in my day we had none of this funny business, simply let all folk mingle amidships, but now them there citizens want to hog the fancy stuff to themselves. What is the galaxy coming to?”
Verica pictured him in a rocking chair on some asteroid past the ring cycles, chasing comets away with his cane, and let out a snicker. “You’re funny mister, I mean, surely us folk have never had access to citizen stuff.”
He sucked in a deep breath, and for a moment she thought he was going to launch into another ramble, but he simply let out a long sigh.
“Young lady while I may look like phooey to you, but there was a time before all this guff started when solnir kinde, stajne kinde, and all manner of free beings could come here to congress freely. Now…”
He shook his head and went back to his wistful musings out the window.
With the moment gone she turned back into the cabin and looked at the gathered throng sitting neatly in the seats provided. The disembarking lighter has enough steerage room to accommodate treble the number of passengers, and it said something to her that even those who had made the trip were not doing so by absolute choice by their weary demeanour. Hell, her folks would not have sent her all the way to Alpha if they felt she was safe on Rynth. Juju her cousin had called it, something spooky in the air.
Behind and to her left sat a placid ashvrin, mou’s eye equally contemplating the stars beyond, taking in the whole panalopy. Off to the right a blossoming ang-kay perfumed the room with a rich bouquet of scents, all floral and sweet. A dour looking eltasian poured through a data pad, his daper suit at odds with the utilitarian attire of most of the other passengers, and his orange fur lustrous in the cabin’s light. Back home her local quarter was full of travellers from all over the core worlds hawking their wares, but father only ever let her talk to the regulars lest she make some cultural faux pas and upset a delicate quillian or keigh doing business with him.
“Excuse me Miss, but would you mind awfully if my wee one has a gaze through the ‘ole?”
Verica looked up into the hopeful eyes of a salamid mother holding a squirming young one in her arms. The little reptile was clearly not impressed by the majesty in the aether beyond, but non-the-less with a nod she acquiesced. With a thrust forward the grateful mother gave her the burbling infant, and for two long minutes she held the wriggling bundle of joy up to behold the vista beyond. It then let out a long wail, and the flustered mother gladly took it back.
“Thank ‘e muchly Miss, I’m sure he’ll remember it always.”
The tang of wet diaper hung in the air as the mother hurried to facilities to change her child. Verica laughed at the oddity of it all. A veritable star mix of stajne kinde sat around her, and all she could think about was pitying the poor mother changing her child’s nappy.
With a ding the cabin light changed to a vibrant blue, and the strap sign came on. Reluctantly she buckled herself into her seat, which auto tightened to fit her shape. The mother retook her seat, and the infant cooed happily on her lap.
The lighter made a sharp pull to the right, and her vision was filled with a dizzying array of lights and colour as Alpha station came up close and personal. They skimmed along the outer surface, she felt within touching distance, and with another bank the craft landed with a jolt in its assigned bay.
A holo of the Captain popped up in front of them, “On behalf of the crew I thank you for travelling Magrisian Voidways, we hope you had a safe and pleasant journey, and we hope to see you again soon.”
Minutes later the safety release clicked in and people began to get out of their seats. Verica got up, pulled down her dress, and took one last look at the myriad of folks around her. With a grunt she got her kit back down from the overhead locker, slung it over her shoulder, and shuffled to the exit behind an excited pair of quillian males talking about the next season’s fashions on Venasia.
She stepped out of the arrival lounge all bright eyed into the clearing station beyond. Sights, sounds, and smells from a hundred different cultures hit her, all the wonders of the core worlds, and for the first time since leaving Rynth did she feel like she was home.