They said she’d adjust to the sound of shuttles passing by her window every night, that she’d learn to live with the staccato rattle of glass panes vibrating in their weathered wooden frames, that eventually she’d come to ignore the blinding white burst of the headlights blazing through her curtains every morning at 2AM.
But that was nothing new to Flint, so she’d invested in a pair of earplugs and learned to sleep with her face buried in the faded pinstriped patterns of her pillowcase, her breathing slow and muffled where her lips touched the cotton.
If nothing else, Flint had learned to endure — even on a world like Cove.
“The hell did you say it was?”
“A state-funded sanctuary — Cove, they’re calling it. It’s a place off-world for people displaced by the Crusades.”
She’d held the brochure out towards him like a plea, the glossy colors and pigmented inks catching the light from the wall sconces, bright reflections dancing over the pamphlet’s crisp folds.
“I said no.”
Overhead, the lazy revolution of the ceiling fan stirred the corners of yesterday’s newspaper, the pages weighted down by his half-full glass of iced tea. In the sweltering summer heat, watery beads of condensation dripped slowly down the sides towards the bolded headlines below.
“Do you want to die here? Is that it?”
Flint watched as her father turned a page in his book idly, couldn’t help but notice the topography of veins rising from the back of his hands like mountain ranges, flexing and shifting with the slow and arthritic movements of his fingers.
“Better here than whatever hellhole they’ve conned you into believing in.”
“Dad, listen to me — the fight is coming. Believe that those bastards won’t give a damn about some old man living alone on his farm.”
The photograph from Flint’s college graduation hung above her father’s recliner, a thin layer of dust settled over the frame. He always said she looked ready to take on the world in that photo — she wondered when she’d lost that sense of ambition.
“I have no interest in starting over, there or anywhere else. Dammit, Flint, can’t you just let me die in peace?”
“Peace? Blades and bullets and goddamn plasma razing this house to the ground — that’s your idea of peace?”
On the scratched end table next to the couch, the vase of orange tulips Flint brought him for Father’s Day had long since wilted, browned petals and broken leaves littering the wood below. She’d have to remember to throw them out before she left.
“You honestly think this Cove place is going to be any better? You honestly think it’s going to offer some kind of hope? Gods above, Flint — how are you still so naive?”
“Better naive and breathing than bitter and waiting to die.”
She’d left the brochure behind, as if its presence might soften his resolve, as if the saturated color photos could persuade him to relocate away from the war.
But she should have known him better than that. He stopped responding any time the topic of Cove came up, and eventually she learned to let it go.
When she saw on the news that the firefights had moved to Westbridge, the dish in her hands slipped through her slack fingers and smashed on the tiled floor, Flint barely feeling the broken shards that buried themselves in her bare feet. Reporters panned past the still-smoldering foundations of the home where she’d built forts of couch cushions and crocheted blankets, burned her fingertips learning to cook on the old stove, played endless games of cribbage with her father at the kitchen table.
The next day, she boarded a shuttle for Cove.
They were full of promises when it came to Cove—spacious apartments, endless job opportunities—a paradise where innocents like Flint could escape the endless cycle of violence tearing the galaxy apart.
It was meant to be a harbor—a shelter—where refugees could weather the storm of interstellar warfare.
Most of that was lies, too.
Flint still remembered her first day on Cove, hesitantly stepping off the transport shuttle, palms sweaty around the canvas straps of her duffle. Processing for new arrivals had been set up in the brick shell of a defunct train station, railways adapted to handle incoming shuttles, vestibules and ticket booths filled with stone-faced agents waiting to stamp paperwork. Around the platforms, Flint caught the pale-blue faces of immigrants from Solomon, the iridescent wings that marked natives of Ariel, the serpentine scales trademark to the moons of Cassius.
“Dammit, kid, watch where you’re going!”
Jostled against the crowd, Flint’d accidentally stepped on the toes of a woman behind her, the wide webbed appendages a bright shade of turquoise against the chipped white tiles.
“Gods, I’m so sorry — I didn’t see you there.” Flint shook her head. “I just wasn’t expecting there to be this many people. They can’t all be coming from Gemini, right?”
“You think Cove was built just for Gemini?” The woman gave a sharp laugh, the sound lost in the ambient din of the station. “Hate to break it to you, but Cove is the marketed sanctuary for every world that’s been pulled into this gods-curst conflict.”
“Wait...you’re saying that Gemini — we weren’t the only ones affected by the Crusades?”
“Open your eyes, kid. By now, the fight’s spread across a half-dozen different systems, all of them with refugees funneled towards Cove.” The woman looked around the packed station, shaking her head. “Whatever bull they fed you in one of those pretty pamphlets, Cove sure as shit ain’t salvation. Just a place for people with nowhere else to go.”
And as they showed Flint to her new apartment—an eleven by twelve foot cube sandwiched between two other identical units, the dull grey rails of a shuttle track outside the window — it was hard to disagree.
Her father would’ve called her a fool for believing in Cove’s promises, and he would’ve had it right.
But foolish or naive, at least Flint was alive — and she would keep going for the both of them.