Brother Hy’so showed them into their living quarters which consisted of six sleeping rooms and a living area with a lounge and kitchen. Entering the main room, Alex saw two individuals sitting on the couch and a third standing just beside the couch. Alex assumed that they must also be on their way to Portis for training. The first individual was a human male who appeared to be in his mid-twenties, with black hair and brown eyes. Judging by his black skin, Alex assumed he definitely wasn’t from the darkspace border. After all, everyone who lived on the border had skin that would make a vampire look well-tanned. Suns on the border were very weak due to the smothering presence of darkspace, and so even someone like Alex who was always outside was still very pale.
The second was a young female who, although she was white-skinned, was, judging from her tan, also not from the border. Alex could not help but wonder where they both were from. The third individual, however, was like nothing Alex had ever seen. His face looked human enough, provided of course the human had just dumped a bucket of purple paint on their face, blue paint on their hair, and had somehow made their eyes completely golden. Of course the biggest difference was the fact that he had two gold metallic-looking wings wrapped around his body. Alex couldn’t help but wonder where he was from as the Dieron Federation was a completely human nation.
At that point, Alex realized Brother Hy’so was talking about something that sounded important and tried to focus on what he was saying. He was explaining about how everything worked in their rooms and living area, and it also appeared he was almost done. In finishing his brief lecture, he told the three of them, “If I forgot or missed anything, the instructions packets in your room will show you how everything works.” With that Hy’so gave his approximation of a smile and walked out of their living area.
At that the young man sitting on the couch smiled broadly and invited them to come and sit with them. He introduced himself as Benjamin, the young lady as Alicia, and the man with wings as Perrin. Alex, in turn, introduced himself, Jonathon, and Sierra, and with that looked at the three of them in general, asking, “So where are you three from?” Benjamin and Alicia it turned out were both from Altair which is the capital world of the Dieron Federation. Perrin, on the other hand, was from the Keener Alliance.
This caused Sierra to comment, “It’s rather surprising that you were allowed into the Federation, then, considering the dislike between our two nations. How did you get permission to enter?”
At that question, Perrin smiled and replied, “The White Falcon does not end at the border of the Federation, and the influence it wields is not limited only to the spiritual realm.” With that comment, he lapsed back into silence, and his expression, such as it was, did not invite further conversation. However, Benjamin and Alicia more than made up for Perrin’s silence and talked the ears off the three newcomers. The primary discussion that evening was about the quarters they found themselves confined to for the voyage and what awaited them during their training on Portus.
The rooms were somewhat spartan but not uncomfortable. Each room had a bed with a feather mattress and simple cotton sheets. They also had a small writing desk equipped with pen and tablet along with the packet of instructions Hy’so had mentioned. In the back of each room was a small recess in which was located a lavatory consisting of a vibroshower, wash basin, and toilet. The communal living area was large enough for six people to use comfortably; in the middle were the two couches where the occupants could sit and talk with each other. These couches, like the beds, were plainly outfitted and simply built, but they were not uncomfortable. On the western side of the room was located a small, rectangular, wooden table that housed four shipboard computers that the occupants were free to use as they wished. The eastern side of the living area contained a small kitchen area which contained enough prepackaged spacer food to ensure the occupants would not go hungry even if they would be eating rather plain and somewhat tasteless food. The description of the food prompted Benjamin to comment on how odd it was that, despite all the advances made in science and technology over the last ten years, spacer food still tasted like a mixture of old cardboard and old wool. This caused Alex to ask him in a somewhat sarcastic tone how he knew what both cardboard and old wool tasted like. This question caused Benjamin to start laughing so hard he fell off the couch. Once he had recovered enough to talk, he said, “When you’re the son of a poor factory worker on Altair, you learn to eat whatever you can find without inquiring too closely as to what it actually is.”
All conversation suddenly stopped as the intercom crackled to life, and a loud voice came over with the following announcement, “All hands prepare for hyperjump in five seconds!” The moment that announcement was made Sierra began strapping herself into the couch. Once she was strapped in, she looked over at her companions, telling them that they probably should do the same as hyperjumps were not particularly pleasant when one was not use to them. Sitting down Alex shrugged his shoulders at that piece of advice. In spite of his seeming indifference to what she said, he, along with everyone else, buckled themselves in securely. When the jump occurred, Alex felt as if his insides had been stuffed inside of a jar and shaken up for several minutes before being returned to their normal position.
From the look of his fellow passengers, he guessed it was just as unpleasant for them; all except for Jonathon who looked rather nonplussed by the whole event and was actually managing to eat a protein cube during the jump. Minutes later the jump was over, and five of the six of them were sitting there trying to collect their breath and hoping they wouldn’t throw up everywhere. Alex looked up at Jonathon and, after taking several deep breathes to settle his stomach, asked him, “How on Calos can you just sit there looking like you just went for a stroll in the park and actually eating?”
Looking over at Alex, Jonathon just shrugged his shoulders and said, “I guess it’s one of the side effects of Kieran’s syndrome,” and went back to eating his protein cube.
The next five days went by so fast as everyone got to know one another. They were restricted to their living quarters; and since they were provided with only a few games, and activities, most days were spent in conversation. One particular topic that Benjamin had wanted to bring up ever since the hyperjump was Kieran’s Syndrome. However, it was obviously a touchy subject, and he felt more than a little awkward trying to bring it up. He finally got a chance when Sierra was trying once more to beat Alex in a game of chess. She had been trying for several days now, and as nobody was particularly interested anymore, it was rather quiet. Looking around at everyone either just reading or sleeping, Benjamin tapped Jonathon on the shoulder and when he looked up asked, “What’s Kieran’s Syndrome?” At that, all activity in the room stopped and looked over at the two of them. Benjamin, seeing the looks on their faves, shrugged his shoulders, “What? I’m curious. I have never hear of Kieran’s Syndrome before.”
Jonathon smiled sadly, and was about to speak up when Perrin suddenly spoke up, “It is a very rare disease, found only on darkspace border worlds. It affects about one out of every three hundred thousand individuals; and makes it so they can see darklight, but, they are hyper-sensetive to any other light at all.”
Looking around at everyone Benjamin nodded his head in understanding, “So if that’s all it does why do Alex and Sierra look like a ghost just walked over their grave whenever its bought up?”
That caused Jonathon to laugh, not in a pleasant manner, but rather in a highly sarcastic and bitter tone, “Because, most people believe that the only way to get Kieran’s syndrome is through committing a particualry evil act, and so we are being cursed for our evil and sinful behaviour. And, even if they don’t believe that, they still believe we are bad luck.”
Looking somewhat embarrassed Benjamin continued, “Oh. Well is it contagious? And what’s the real cause for it?”
Jonathon could not help but smile sadly at that response, so very typical of people not from the border, who only cared about getting sick. “No, its not contagious at all. In fact it is a genetic disorder passed down through the paternal line. Basically, just another mutation spawned by darkspace.”
Before the conversation could continue any further, Brother Hy’so walked in and informed the six of them that they should retire to their quarters for some rest. That order caused Alex to wonder why, considering it was only half past ten. Looking around at the other five nodding their heads in agreement, Hy’so informed them that in six and a half hours they would be arriving at Way Station Gamma Four.
Shrugging his shoulders at that comment, Alex asked, “So? We’re confined to quarters so what’s that matter?”
Looking over at him with his approximation of a smile, Hy’so responded, “Well, if you don’t want to explore the station, then stay up. Otherwise, I would recommend going to sleep.”
Suddenly Benjamin spoke up. “You mean we get to explore the Way Station?” When Hy’so nodded, everybody suddenly headed towards their rooms. It did not escape the attention of Hy’so that Alex moved just as quickly as everyone else in spite of his eye-rolling. This observation caused Hy’so to chuckle as he left the quarters.
At seven-thirty, the loudest alarm Sierra had ever heard in her life went off, causing her to jump out of bed and rush to her door. Yanking it open, she moved into the common living area about three feet before realizing the ship was not on fire and no one was dead. Instead, what confronted her were her five fellow trainees and Brother Hy’so laughing hysterically at the site of her standing there in orange and pink striped pajamas. After a few minutes, Alicia managed to recover enough to tell her, “We all were woken up at seven, but no matter what I tried I could not get you to wake up. So Brother Hy’so had the deck officer sound the attack siren in your quarters to see if that would wake you up. Apparently it worked quite well. I don’t think I have ever seen anyone come out of their bed, much less their room, as quickly as you just did!”
At this point, Brother Hy’so spoke up, saying, “At least we know that the siren works, in case of attack,” and, while he spoke, his mouth was split in a wide grin. In fact, even Perrin was laughing, and apart from his one speech about Kieran’s Syndrome yesterday, he had said almost nothing in the last six days, much less smiled or laughed.
Sierra wrapped what was left of her dignity around herself and, turning around, walked stiffly back into her bedroom. The laughter of her fellow passengers followed her as she shut her door.When Sierra was disappearing into her sleeping quarter, Brother Hy’so turned around to the others and told them, “We’re docking in twenty minutes at Gamma Four Way Station. Be here then!” With that he turned and walked out of the quarters. Once Hy’so was gone, Alicia knocked on the door of Sierra’s room, shouted through the door that she needed to be in the lounge by ten till eight, to which she received the muffled reply, “I’ll be there.” With that Alicia went back to eating what constituted breakfast while on board the Ever Victorious, which, oddly enough, was the exact same thing they had for dinner yesterday: protein cubes and a vitamin drink.
Fifteen minutes later, Sierra came out of her sleeping quarters and, being handed some food by Alex, wolfed it down, she finished just before Brother Hy’so came into the room. As he walked in, he motioned all six of them over. He handed each one of them a twenty-five credit chip, telling them, “The batteries will take twelve hours to recharge, so you have until then. Enjoy yourselves, but be back by eighteen hundred hours. If you’re not we will leave without you.” With that warning, he led the six of them down to the way station dock and, pointing out the direction of the market levels, left them to their own devices.
The moment Brother Hy’so walked off, Perrin did likewise. Without even saying a word to his companions, he just turned and strolled off in the opposite direction from the marketplace. Looking at the rapidly disappearing back of Perrin, Alex shrugged his shoulders. Turning to look at the other four, he told them he was going to find some real food to eat. His companions thought that this was a spectacular idea, and so they all set off to find somewhere that sold real food. After roughly five minutes, they made it up to the main market concourse and, looking around, found a vendor selling G’mork shish kebabs along with Palmen tree fruit juice for only eight credits. As they ate, the five of them walked along the concourses of the market levels, taking in all the sights and sounds of the Way Station. Of the five of them, only Sierra had ever been off-planet before, and she had only gone on short trips within the province of Skynar. She had never seen so many aliens in one place before, and she stared around as awe-struck as the rest of them.
While they were walking along, Jonathon spotted a book store that sold old-fashioned paper books and wanted to go and see what they had in stock. He enjoyed reading paper books and they were not very common anymore. However, as no one else wished to go, he went alone. Very shortly after that, the remaining four members of the group broke up, with Alicia and Sierra going to watch a movie and Benjamin and Alex following the signs towards the sports complex. After leaving Alicia and Sierra, the two boys rounded a corner heading towards the complex, they ran directly into a group of three men dressed in red robes.