The greenroom was nothing more than a graveyard filled with hopelessness and the reeking carcasses of dead plants. One of the Drowsy Vines Sid had spent half her life nurturing slumped across the floor like an exhausted reptile. She stepped over its thick trunk; her chapped lips parted as she took in the state of her once prideful garden. The familiar rustle of leaves was barely audible and the carbon dioxide tanks sounded like they had developed a wheezing cough, struggling to filter air with each pump. Sid could barely manage full breaths herself so she could imagine what the plants must have felt in that terrifying moment. The ones that hadn’t already died were in rough shape, their leaves crumpled in batches of brown tones.
She blinked rapidly, trying to wet her eyes without success. Everything on her body felt like it was covered in scorching hot sand. Sid had never set foot on Aria before — one of the twin moons that orbited Jericho alongside Neostar — but she imagined that this is what life must have been like there. Colton had told her that the reason his people never settled on Aria was because of the moon’s uninhabitable desert-like atmosphere. It was the exact opposite of Ceon, the second moon, which consisted entirely of water. Sid always said that they should smash the two together; it seemed pointless to have two perfectly good masses taking up space without being at all useful.
“Well, at least you match your name now,” she smiled, tugging at the faded yellow stems of the Yellow Tongue bush. “Looks good on you!”
If Sid’s eyes weren’t so dry, she’d be bawling. She couldn’t stand what was happening to her plants. Aside from Colton and the ship, they were her only friends. Losing each one was like losing a limb - painful and crippling.
The valve gave out another rough groan and she shot a slanted glare in its direction. “Trust me,” she said to no plant in particular, “I’ll stardamn fix this.”
With that, Sid turned on her heels and marched out of the greenroom, determined to save everyone on board.
* * *
Sparks the color of fire shot in all directions as Sid twisted the last wires of the comm device together. She jolted back from the shock, quickly recalling that she was immune to the heat of electricity. The perks of having the star’s magic coursing through her blood. She pinched the metal coil and stepped back.
“Give it a shot, Rusty.”
There was a crinkled sound, like someone had crumpled a piece of paper in the next room, then smoke billowed from the device and the wires ripped in opposite directions; tearing apart the work she had just put into them.
“Oh, for the love of star, Rusty! Just this one time, can something work on this heap? We need this! We all need this!”
Sid fell to her knees, forcing the two wires back together again. She slowly coiled the exposed metal and planted a small kiss on the twist. For luck, she thought and crawled away. “Try it now!”
Crinkle, crinkle, crinkle.
The wires repelled again, this time almost ripping out from the comm device entirely.
Sid wanted to scream. No, she wanted to chuck the stardamned device out of the dock bay. Why was it so hard to get a comm operational? She had been fixing everything on this floating junkyard for over a decade. There was nothing that Sid couldn’t fix. Except, it seemed, a box of wires the size of a water jug that broke by simply being on the wrong side of her anger. “Rusty! That’s it!”
Sliding on her knees, she shifted herself closer to the comm, stubbornly coiling the wires back together. “Broken by magic, fixed by magic!” She hollered and continued to twist.
She landed another soft kiss on her masterpiece, “Now, Rusty! Do it now!”
This time, as the ship tried to turn on a fried comm, Sid squeezed the metal coil tightly in her fingers. Her blood shimmered beneath her skin, the vessels electrifying with power. Sid had no idea how the magic within her worked. Colton had refused to teach her anything about it and if it wasn’t for a happy accident unloading a shipment when she was eight, she never would have found out. All she knew was that when she let her mind clear, let herself feel the gravitational pull of Neostar, her blood somehow reacted to it. It wanted to be free of her body’s vessel, wanted to come home. Once the electrical energy flowed within her, she could direct it anywhere she wanted. And right now, what she wanted was for the stardamned comm to work.
Smoke started to form at the base of the spiral and Sid directed her magic into her clenched fingertips, fusing the coil and sending a wave of electricity into the wires at the same time. She closed her eyes, “Please…”
Sid had never understood what praying was when Colton explained the concept of religion to her. All she could think of was a bunch of people in a room talking to air. It seemed very impractical to her. Though at that moment, floating in an abyss of doubt and counted days, she could do nothing more than ask for help. She had no idea who she was speaking to but if there was anything out there other than her, her ship, and Neostar; now was the time for it to make its mark. “Please, please, please,” she repeated in a whisper.
The wires sparked again, this time staying put in their place and Sid yelped with glee as the comm device powered up.
“It worked! Rusty, it worked!” She shouted, hopping in giddy twirls around the observatory’s starlit floor. “Connect to Colton!”
The ship was silent.
“Sorry, connect to the NSO general’s line please.” She corrected herself, biting her lower lip hard enough to draw blood.
The comm’s screen projected in front of her. It flickered grey for a brief moment before shutting down.
“I AM UNABLE TO FORM A CONNECTION WITH THE RECEIVER.”
“What are you talking about? Try again!” She yelled.
The screen appeared once more and once more it shut down in front of her panicked face.
“I AM UNABLE TO FORM A CONNECTION.”
“Rusty! Why can’t you connect to him? The comm is working perfectly fine!”
“THE COMMUNICATION DEVICE IS FULLY OPERATIONAL. THE RECEIVERS LINE IS NO LONGER ACTIVE. THE NSO GENERAL’S LINE APPEARS TO HAVE GONE OFFLINE. I AM UNABLE TO FORM THE CONNECTION.”
Sid’s legs buckled and she found herself sinking into the grated, metal floor beneath her. Her face flushed as small drops of sweat ran down her back, steadily soaking the base of her suit.
“Rusty, I don’t want you to panic,” she whispered, “but you might want to think about this thing called ‘praying’. It’s supposed to help in times like this.”