Her first sense upon waking was the smell of smoke. Next came the uncomfortable warmth, all-encompassing and restraining. She opened her eyes next and saw only darkness. She soon realized the virtual mask over her face was still around her. Slowly, she reached her weak arm to the controls at the base of the chair and deactivated manual control. The chair transformed back to normal, the helmet over her head now retracted back into the seat. She turned her head to the right, a painful emptiness swaying within her as she did. She moaned at the pain, reaching her not so painful left hand up to her head. She felt the thick sludge that covered her forehead and looked at it, annoyed to find that it was blood.
"Ugh." she groaned, wiping the blood off on her leg. No doubt the visor for manual control had been broken, explaining the gash in her head. She felt as though she weighed five hundred pounds. She didn't think she could move if her life depended on it. She looked down at the console in front of her. "Emergency power," she muttered quietly to herself, realizing main power had been cut off and the ship was barely running at all on emergency power.
She shook her head to try and wake herself up, immediately regretting it as a sudden headache stabbed at her. "Ah! Damn it!" she said, pressing her hands to her forehead as though trying to smother the pain. She cringed as the pain finally leveled off. She eased forward, pealing her sweaty body from the black, leathery chair. She was about to look over the controls, assess the damage, when something more prominent struck her suddenly.
.Michael.
She swung around in her chair to face the bridge behind her and saw everyone lying on the ground. There was blood scattered about randomly, smoke was billowing out from various consoles, and a small fire in the far back was burning peacefully. She had gasped at the sight of Michael lying on his side beside the tactical console, blood covering his right cheek. She anxiously removed the restraints to her seat and jumped over the others lying on the floor to get to Michael. It was as though she hadn't even seen them. Michael was her first priority. Michael was what mattered. She crouched to the ground over him and picked him up in her arms.
"Michael," she spoke desperately. "Michael! Wake up," she repeated, her voice cracking, her eyes welling up with tears. Trembling, a terror within her, she checked his pulse though she was afraid of what she'd feel. Placing her fingers to his neck, her writhing heart eased and she took a deep breath of air, relieved, as she'd felt a pulse, though weak. "Michael," she said again, brushing the hair from his brow to behind his ear. She took care not to touch his cheek where old wounds from the grarthan had been reopened.
Slowly, but to her heavy relief, Michael's lungs came to life suddenly, gasping for air and then coughing. A smile creased Trystan's face, a tear streaming down her cheek as she continued to caress Michael's fragile face. Laughing hysterically with relief as he opened his eyes, she dropped her head to his and looked into his eyes. "Hey, Baby," she whispered to him.
A slight smile came upon his face, very fragile and only momentary. "Wo-Wolsifier." he managed, barely able to get his voice to work. His eyes scanned her bruised face. ".You bumped your head again," he said lightly. "How many times have I told you to be more careful in the shower."
Trystan burst out in laughter, tears pouring out from her face as she collapsed into his arms on the floor. Michael held onto her tight. Patting her hair, he leaned up into her ear and whispered, "I love you, Sweetie."
She laughed again shortly. "I love you, too, Mikey," she said.
They lied there like that for a good while before Michael finally fully realized their situation and slowly leaned up, still holding Trystan in his arms. She pulled herself from his chest and he brushed her hair from her face and gently took hold of her by her neck. They both looked straight into the other's eyes and smiled. Michael leaned in and gave her a quick kiss, reluctantly let her go, taking his hands from her soft, velvet skin and they got up together.
"Check everyone," he said, stepping lightly over them to reach the front of the bridge. "I'll assess the damage." Trystan looked down over the floor and found the nearest person. As she knelt down to wake them, Michael found the console Trystan had awoken at and ran a systems check.
With so much damage being reported on the screen, Michael had to sit down to read it all. Behind him, the others started to wake groggily as Trystan helped them up one by one. As Vanessa and Derl stumbled over to Michael, Trystan went to Selene, Claire still lying next to her. "Michael!" Trystan called as Selene leaned up slowly, "Selene's got a broken leg, someone's gonna have to get her to sickbay."
Michael sighed. "No one's going to sickbay," he exclaimed wearily. "It's been ripped out of the ship."
Vanessa helped Michael look over the readouts next to him as Trystan's eyes slowly crept their way back to Michael, astounded by the information he'd just given her. "Looks like that wing took out most of the lower decks," Vanessa said. She shook her head. "Michael, I'm so sorry."
Slowly, Michael shook his head to her. "No, it's not your fault."
Trystan helped Selene up against one of the walls and then took her attention to waking Claire. As she moved over her however, the horror crept slowly back to her chest. Claire had been lying on her stomach and when Trystan rolled her over she whispered, "My God." Half of Claire's face had been shredded and the blood was everywhere. Trystan's lips trembled at the sight, trying to gather the wits to break the news to Michael. "M-Michael," she stuttered, looking away from Claire's lifeless body to him as he turned to face her. Trystan had taken one look at his face and instantly her eyes fell to the floor. She couldn't look at him as she told him. ".She's dead."
The bridge fell silent as everyone had turned to gaze into the body that was Claire. Michael had only looked at Trystan though, before turning completely around, his mouth open wanting to deny what Trystan had said but couldn't. He stepped closer to them and finally looked to Claire. He recoiled suddenly at the sight. Quickly he took his gaze from her. His lips sealed tightly and he finally stuttered, "We.er.we should begin repairs." He looked back down at Claire where Trystan still knelt, watching Michael and full of worry. "Everyone needs to look over the damage and pick a job. Here." He bent down next to Trystan and picked Claire up with him as he stood up. "I'll get her out of here.for now." He stepped out of the bridge with the body, leaving behind nothing but silence and wandering eyes.

Just as easily as opening a door and stepping through, horrifying evil can bestow itself upon one's life like a soft breeze from the farthest horizon. At times, the good parts of life are fleeting, replaced by the bad things that overtake all that it can. It can seem so good at first, so easy, but before you know it you're writhing in agony on the ground, praying that something will swallow you up into a new and better universe.
One has to have what it takes to get through such a tragedy, however. It's another test of life, testing you, the person that you are. What most people in the universe don't understand is that the reason for life is to make yourself the best person that you can be. One can only become the best that they can be by overcoming the worst. Life is being good by bestowing such horror upon your life. Life is giving you a gift, the opportunity to improve the person that you are. One has to prove to life, prove to everyone, that you are the type of person who can nobly stand up to the vanguard of evil and slay each one without grimace. Keep smiling, keep laughing, and always show that you have taken on the army of wrath, of darkness, and obliterated it by proving how good a person you really are.
It is exactly why people have the right to be angry and upset with someone's complaining, no matter how horrible what they're going through really is. Some people can actually put up with it and smile as though they were sympathetic. Some would even feel guilty for being annoyed at the person who's complaining because they think what they're going through really is horrible. Guilt is only a state of mind, though. One should not feel guilty; they have a right to be annoyed. No one, no matter the situation they may be in, has the right to bring someone else down with them. Someone could be having a great day, but then this person who's selfishly and arrogantly complaining about their own life will go complaining to them and suddenly they aren't having such a good day anymore.
This was exactly the reason that Michael did his best to mask himself with a smile as much as he could. What he didn't want to acknowledge was that despite his attempts to smile, there were times when he allowed his complaints to leak out. What he especially didn't wish to acknowledge was that this happened more often than he thought. He felt guilty for it of course, but he still allowed it to happen. He wanted to stop of course, he told himself he would and that he would try, but it would come out eventually. He could remember times in the past when he'd listened to his sister do it or his mother. Some people would blame the fact that they do it on their family because they grew up around it. Michael knew he didn't have that excuse though, because he paraded around, proud of the fact that he'd accomplished being as unlike his family as possible. Being that his entire family drank often, his mother and sister smoke and had both at least once been involved with drugs, and even his brother had done just about every drug from earth to the Delta Pavonis system. Michael had been asked on multiple occasions by friends to join them in their activities, and each time, no matter how tempting, he'd somehow, unbeknownst to himself, had been able to decline. So he had accomplished being unlike his family, so he had no ability to complain and say it was his mother or sister's faults because they did it all the time.
Like everyone, Michael had his flaws. Trystan had her flaws, Vanessa had her flaws, and even Derl had his flaws. Michael had accomplished a lot, but so had everyone else. There's a bad and good to everyone. Just as there are bad and good things to every situation, to everything, literally, in the universe, Michael of course was bad and good as well.
It takes a real person, a good person, to stand up and admit that and then do something about it. One can't ask someone to help them or do it for them, one has to do it on their own because it's their life and their choice, and they're supposed to be doing it for themselves and not anyone else. One doesn't do it for their spouse or their parents or their friends; they do it only for themselves. Only then can one achieve it completely, by showing that, not only could they overcome that, but also they were a good enough person to do it on their own and for themselves alone. That is the way life is to be handled, because it gave that test, that opportunity, to you and no one else. That is the reason that life is so hard. That is why the door is unlocked and opened every now and then to allow that hideous monster behind to step through and reign wrath. Life may seem malicious or even demented at times because of this, but it is honestly trying to help.
For this same reason, it is necessary at times for someone to be angry, loud, and perhaps even mean to their friend to get them to understand and see what they must do. Just as life must be "malicious" at times, so must a true and honest friend. A true friend can tell their friend when they have egg on their face. A true friend can tell their friend when they are being selfish and arrogant. Life is a true friend. Life is our own. We are alive because Life gave us life. It gave us part of itself and holds us as dear to it as its own self. We owe it to Life to stand up to its opportunities and overcome the monster it unleashes upon us.
The crew of Wolsifier was facing one of such monsters.
With the ship itself barely alive, left drifting lonely in space, the crew was overwhelmed with the work that had to be done. Their injuries treated as best they could without a sickbay, they dragged themselves to what was left of the ship and did everything they could. Hours had gone by since they had awoken from their drifting sepulchres. After each taking a job all their own, they had decided to meet in the briefing room and discuss the situation.
The five of them sat scattered about the room, Trystan and Michael together on one couch, Vanessa in a chair, Derl in the other, and Selene sat at the couch across from Trystan and Michael. All of them had their own bruises, most of which had been healed mostly with dermal regenerators. Selene's leg had been bandaged with an emergency medical kit that resided in each room aboard. The medical kits weren't much of a substitute for the medical bay nor the medical robot drones that resided within them, but they had managed to suffice.
They each bore grim faces, saturated by the troubles of their days. A few of them were actually sweating from the work they'd been putting forth all day. Trystan, who'd yet to take a shower, was greasy and blackened. It was a look that Michael was used to for all of the years they'd worked together aboard Wolsifier. Michael, in fact, had always found the look rather attractive.
"I'm almost afraid to ask," Trystan said after everyone had taken their seats and gotten through the formalities, "but how'd everyone do?"
They all just sighed and looked around at each other. They were all reluctant to inform of her the bad news they each held and had hoped that someone else would start off.
Trystan sighed, taking their silence as a bad sign. "Alright," she said finally, "let's start with priority one, the engines. Who had the engines?"
Michael had been watching Trystan closely, but had turned after hearing her question. He rubbed at his forehead, eyebrows raised. He was tired as hell. "Well, let's see," he said reluctantly, "we have, er, four repairable fusion reactors, the rest are completely destroyed. I've spent all day walking through engineering, or rather, stumbling around engineering what with all of the crap laying around everywhere. The ODN network is fused. I spent the last few hours working with the propulsion modules, with very little luck I might add. I figured tomorrow I'd get to work on redirecting the damaged exhaust directors through the working ones." He let out a sigh before his next statement. "As for entering the Tachyon Field anytime soon, you can forget it. We're leaking as we speak. Sealing it is impossible now that most of that end of the ship is gone. Suffice it to say, we aren't going anywhere for a very long time."
"Wonderful," Trystan said sarcastically, taking her gaze from Michael as her despondent eyes befell the floor.
"I could help with my ship, you think?" Selene asked them, trying to help.
Michael nodded, having not thought of that until then. "Possibly."
"Or even the Lachronostar vessels," Vanessa offered.
"Ranner," Derl said, "should likely be left alone for the time being. I took it upon myself to inform him of Claire's loss. He was.saddened."
"Of course," Trystan said, understanding. "What ever help you can get them to give, Derl, will be greatly appreciated." Derl nodded reply. "Selene," she said, looking straight across at Selene, "what did you have?"

"I was working on the computer core," Selene answered quietly. "I repaired everything I could. The trouble is with the isolinear rod medium. The entire system has been shorted out. Everything in the databanks is gone. I'm sorry."
Trystan and Michael had exchanged worried glances. Trystan breathed in deep, trying to stay calm after hearing all of this. "Is there no way to repair them?"
Selene shook her head. "I'm afraid not."
"Replacements?" Trystan asked direly.
"The rods can, the memory can't," Selene answered. "They're fabricated from multiaxis chromopolymer lithography techniques. Ships aren't equipped with such abilities. We'd have to stop at a fleet yard."
Silence, as Trystan's mind meandered about sadly. Her eyes were glued to the ground and the pain this news was inflicting upon her was more than obvious. The Wolsifier was her ship. Just as much hers as it was Michael's. She held it as dear to her as her own right arm. Each bit of bad news was like another dagger in her back. She knew she had to go on. Like a mother asking a doctor what was wrong with her child, Trystan asked, "Sensors?"
"Sensors are coming along actually," Vanessa answered, unable to look at Trystan's heartbreak. "The network was quite damaged and we're still drifting blind, but they should be ready by at least tomorrow evening."
Trystan nodded very lightly and finally looked up; smiling briefly, as she believed was necessary for at least some bit of good news. "Derl and I have been working on the primary systems. We should have it back online by morning," she exclaimed.
"I've taken Claire to the morgue on mid-deck," Michael said, although reluctant. "I figure we'll have to give her a burial at space rather than the tradition burial."
"Actually, Gentleman Hillman," Derl said, "Ranner has asked that Claire's body be taken to him. He has told me he will launch from your docking bay as soon as she is aboard. He will dispose of her body appropriately and then return. He has offered to take anyone with him. Therefore, if you wish to go with him, then you may."
"Oh," Michael said, nodding and a tad dumbfounded as Derl had caught him quite off guard. "Alright."
"Okay," Trystan said, getting back to business, snapping herself out of despondency, "I guess that's it. Anyone up for dinner in the primary cafeteria?"
"You mean the only cafeteria left?" Michael said, in his usually cynical nature.
Trystan glared back at Michael. "Whatever," she said menacingly to him.
Everyone began to stand up. "I believe I shall continue repairs on the primary systems," Derl said.
"Are you sure?" Trystan asked, a hint of worry in her tone.
"Positive," Derl answered and left with the rest of them, although going separate ways.
Following behind Selene and Vanessa, Trystan caught up with Michael to talk to him directly. "Hey," she whispered softly to him, "are you going to go with Ranner when he takes Claire?"
Michael's eyes grazed the walls of the corridors as they walked, himself still quite despondent. "I suppose," he said quietly. He hadn't really wanted to go, fearing death as he did. He didn't like the idea of facing it in the eye like he had earlier on the bridge.
Trystan's eyes fell to the floor, understanding and glad to hear that he'd chosen to go. She linked arms with him and leaned her head against his shoulder. "I'll go with you," she said, assuaging him once again with her smile-the smile Michael had always found so enchanting and beautiful. It even made him smile then.

The dark corners were there. As they always are there. It matters not where a person goes, nor what they do. It doesn't even matter what kind of person they are. All walk in one corner, a dark corner. We walk, but we do not step, we do not move from that one place, in that one corner, that one, dark corner. The light is just outside. We can see it. It's there, within our grasp, but the darkness brings tears to our eyes. We struggle. We fight. We scream. We yell for help, but we get none. We are there alone. In the dark corner is where we all stand. Eternally our thoughts are there. Eternally we are smothered. We lose our breath. We lose our thoughts. We lose control. The dark overcomes us. We're overwhelmed. We lose control.
Trystan lost control.
She sat aboard Ranner writing her newest poem. Her head had fallen to the desk at which she sat, crying. She wasn't sure why she cried. She felt trapped. She felt as though she'd been buried alive. The tears poured out endlessly like falling stars in a distant galaxy. Her mind didn't wander; it was in but one place. Her head hurt. Her stomach twisted and ached. Still her puffy face pouted. She sobbed uncontrollably into the display pad on which she had been typing her poem.
Michael was asleep on the bridge in the room behind her. There were only three rooms aboard the small craft that Ranner was. In the room ahead of Trystan, the door just next to the table at which she sat, was the body of Claire. They'd left early that morning. Ranner hadn't been entirely clear on where they were going, but he assured Michael and Trystan, the only two that had gone, that they'd be back at Wolsifier by morning of the next day. Ranner informed them that he'd announce when they arrived at their destination.
Trystan had gone with Michael and Ranner to console Michael. She knew he'd need someone to hold him then more than ever. As sensitive a person as Michael was, she knew times like that would come often. It was a trait she'd once found rather annoying in Michael. At first, it had seemed excessive. After she got to know him a little, she found the trait quite admirable and even a rather attractive quality. After a few years, however, she'd discovered how annoying it was. He often sounded too feminine for her. She enjoyed the tough, take-charge kind of guys she used to date back in high school. She enjoyed the comfort of a strong guy to hold her and warm her. It was a rather pleasing comfort from the usual pains of her life.being the orphan that she'd been. Trystan's parents had given her up for adoption when she was born. Only after she was adopted, those parents died, and her biological parents were both senior officers aboard Fleet-Command vessels. They didn't have the time for her. They didn't even have a home for her.
Trystan had hated the orphanage. The children were always so.happy. They ran around playing games all the time, laughing, smiling, and having fun. They didn't know the truth of life, that life was a horrible and dark place. Or at least it had been for her. None of them had ever understood. Michael had found many girls before that he connected with, girls that were like him, but Trystan had never found any guys that even came close to her. She couldn't even find another girl that thought the same way as she did. So when she was adopted again, into the worst family she'd ever encountered, things only became worse. The father was abusive, the mother took it out on Trystan, and they both told her that she'd amount to nothing. Why they'd ever adopted her in the first place, she'd never know. So she ran away. She lived off the street for a few weeks, and then she got lucky and found a job in a small shop. The old man who'd owned the shop had never asked her about her past. He knew she had no where to go though, and he left her life to her. He did, however, allow her to sleep in the shop. She took the money she got from working and used it to pay for her way through school. Upon graduation, she joined the cargo-shipping academy, the only place she could work other than the military without having to have a home or a past to explain.
She hadn't really liked the idea of shipping cargo all over the galaxy, but she decided it was the best job she could find in her situation. Even better was the fact that she wouldn't have to put up with too many people during the job. She knew she'd only have one partner.
She just didn't know that partner would be Michael.
Had she known when she went into the academy that she'd end up aboard a ship alone with Michael, she probably would have gone into the military instead. After she got to know him, however, even now as the thoughts grazed her mind, she realized how much she'd be missing. As much as it was hard to admit to herself, she enjoyed having Michael in her life now. There she was, just years before she hadn't even known he existed, and now she couldn't imagine a day without him. It was funny how love worked that way. The person of all your dreams could be the person you least expected it to be. Almost much the way life works, full of surprises, always taking you on a roller-coaster ride, and always with a new loop to go through. Every now and then, after you've vomited your entire lunch, you wish you could go back on. Whether it's for the feeling it stirs within your stomach or the pure thrill of life, you always want to go back on. Otherwise you end up doped up on drugs with your head in the toilet.
Of course, in that situation you're either dead or drunk. There's a very fine line between the two. At least, in experience.
As her eyes dried up and she cleared her face, Trystan slowly lifted her head and allowed the light to once again flood her vision. It did nothing to cure the disease of blackness within her, but it would suffice for now. She plopped her elbow onto the table and dropped her chin into her hand. Her thoughts wandered about like fireflies in the late evening. Often they landed upon Michael. Why had she cried? She was confused. She was so tired of being confused. She was so tired of life not making any sense. Suppose it was Wolsifier, the way it had been torn up so. Her ship, her only child.her only child..
Gently, she looked down upon herself, placing her hand to her stomach. Nightmares came from the past like stalking shadows. The night in the alley in downtown New York City.stumbling along, drunk and just clambering down the stairs from a stranger's apartment after a good fuck. Her hand was to her stomach then as well. She was about to pull her communicator and contact Michael to come down and get her. But as she did, from the darkness came a faceless figure. Savagely, the masked beast struck her twice in the stomach and then once in the face when she fell to the ground. Her money stolen and her face bleeding, the thief had left her there, running to hide back in his corner of darkness like the coward of life that he was. With all of the money gone, all of her property, all of the gut-wrenching pain, and even her dignity, all she could think about was the murdered innocence that had resided in her womb until that brutal attack. The innocence which she had kept a secret to herself then, and had since.
Where would she be now were it not for that horrifying night? She would not admit the truth within her. She would not admit that she would have been as clueless as her own biological parents had been with her when she gave birth. Deep down, she didn't want to admit that she would likely have done the same thing that was done to her. The thought of her situation then had paralyzed her in terror. She had always known herself the loner in life. She went through it alone. She enjoyed it alone. And children? She didn't know them. They were aliens to her. Even when she had been a child, she knew not of their existence. Her child would only have turned her into one more bad thing, a poor mother. She didn't want that. She didn't want that for herself or for her child. She knew then that she wasn't ready. In reality, the thief that night had been like a savory dream. Life had given her what she truly wanted, given it to her so she could see how truly evil she was. It had taken what she did not want so that she could writhe in the agony of being wholly wrong. The child would have made her a poor mother, but what she got made her a poor human.

Why did she cry? She didn't want to know. She didn't want to know why she cried then anymore than she wanted to know why she had thrown up the night before.
Michael came walking in right about then. He took from her the worries and thoughts so she could be her normal self around him. She could focus herself on him, focus her thoughts. She would not have to sit there alone, in that dark corner.
"Hey," Michael said, strolling toward her, nonchalant and yawning after his little nap. "Whatcha doin?"
Trystan kept her back to him as she struggled to regain her complexion. The last thing she knew Michael needed was something else to worry about. She suppressed the emotions, pushed back the force within her, breathed in deep, and relaxed as best she could. "Hey," she said, a little nervously, glancing back at him. As he reached her and leaned down on the side of the desk she sat at, she answered, "Oh, nothing. It's just another poem is all."
"Ah," Michael said, delighted, "that's great! Can I read it?"
It had only just hit her then, the decision of whether or not to allow him to read it. Typically she expected that question whenever she told him she was writing a new one. This time, however, she'd been completely worried about her composure.and Michael as well. She wouldn't have honestly cared if he read it, only it wasn't yet finished, and they both knew how much she hated to have her stuff read before it was finished. "Uh.it's not finished," she said finally.
Michael, smiling, had noticed her rather nervous behavior. "Are you alright?" he asked, eyeing her suspiciously.
"What?" she said, more nervous now than before. She kept glancing at him and then looking away toward the display pad on the table. Her neglecting to look at him didn't help her look anymore relaxed. She brushed her hair back behind the ear facing him, and said, "Yeah, yeah. I'm fine." Her feigned nonchalance wasn't as convincing as she'd hoped.
Michael continued to eye her suspiciously and smiling. He chalked it up to her being her usual self and just forgot about it. He stood there for a while just staring at her and smiling. He couldn't help but be happy that she was there, there for him. He moved around the table and kneeled down next to her seat, taking gentle hold of her arm and leaning into her. "I'm glad we're together now," he said, closing his eyes blissfully.
Trystan, though wishing he hadn't awoken so soon, was glad to have his warmth there to hold her. Slowly, she slipped out of her chair and onto the floor with Michael. She melted into his arms and they began to kiss. It was as though the kiss sent them flying at light speed and the rest of the universe just fell away, replacing them in the darkness so that they could actually feel completely happy for once. The light began to form around them, bathing them. The incomprehensible feelings began to flow between them like the air they exchanged. The feeling of their plush lips pressed together, warm and wet as it was, began the trek of their urge to be one with each other. The idea was thrust upon them. Their thoughts, as if they already were one, were both on the same subject.
Their hands reached each other's faces. Slowly, their arms became entangled within each other. There was that hot force, the urge to be closer and closer to the other until finally conjoining, pressing so hard against each other that they literally became one being. Michael made the move; Trystan eagerly complied. He moved in on top of her as she gently lied down on her back. He moved to her neck, giving Trystan that first surge of electricity as the comfortable warmth embraced her. He circled the front of her neck, going up her cheek, nibbling at her ear a moment and then moving across her forehead. He reached her lips again, and they smothered each other for a moment. So enticing and voluptuous as Trystan's lips were, he couldn't resist their come-hither aura. Not long after that, Michael began to move south, stopping for a while, and then moving further down to her deliciously milky-white stomach where he would tease her for an eternity before finally moving down..
The rest was bliss.

Michael and Trystan both stood next to each other, staring out the view screen aboard the bridge of Ranner. They stood tall and straight, respectfully of course, as the body of Claire, encased in a computerized burial pod, was launched gently from Ranner's main docking bay. Michael's eyes watched the pod with every movement it made as it glided through space toward a small, dark brown world.
As Ranner had informed Michael and Trystan just as they got there, that rocky world below them was the homeworld of the Lachronostar Utopium's creators. Long destroyed now after a comet strike hundreds of years ago, it's people long dead, hundreds of more years earlier than that, it is the place where all Lachronostar vessels flocked to send their deceased interfacers. Claire had been interfaced with Ranner for over fifteen years. It was surely not an easy thing for Ranner to do, to watch as he sent yet another person who had become so close to him to their grave.
Aboard Ranner, Michael could look around and almost feel Claire's presence. He could only imagine what Claire's time there had been like. How many times had she sat in that pilot seat? How many times had she taken a nap there as he had earlier that morning? How many times had she sat there having a conversation with the ship he traveled aboard now, as they themselves traversed the galaxy like two soul mates forever together? Michael could only wonder. And he asked himself another question. Had she known Ranner when he knew her back on earth? Had she told Ranner about him? Had he ever been mentioned? Michael truly wondered. He wanted to know. For some odd reason, it was just that important to him. He had once loved Claire. He didn't anymore, especially now that she was dead. But even before then, he had decided he didn't love her. Honestly, he wasn't sure he ever loved her. Perhaps what had attracted him to her was the fact that she was willing to take him when Trystan wasn't. She was willing to give him the attention that Trystan was not willing to give him. Now he had Trystan, though. And now Claire meant nothing to him. So why had he gone with Ranner? Was it to put up an act? Was it to make everyone think that she actually meant something to him? He didn't want anyone to think that he had only thought that he loved her. He hated that. Infatuation, he hated that. He hated it when people would tell him he was infatuated with someone. Whether it had been Trystan or some girl before Trystan, he had hated it. He didn't want anyone to know, to have it proven to them that he truly was simply infatuated with her. If he did that.if Trystan knew.he didn't want her thinking he was only infatuated with her as well.
It was different with Trystan. It was much different. He truly loved Trystan, and he'd never stopped. Not even after Claire had suddenly surprised him the other day had he stopped loving Trystan. He'd only put his feelings on their leash. Now he was letting that leash go once again. Only this time it wouldn't entirely be his fault. This time Trystan had helped to unleash it. This time.Michael wasn't entirely at fault.
At any rate, Michael and Trystan were once again together. How long would it last this time? Only time could tell. Trystan however was left wondering curiously about what exactly it was Derl had meant earlier when he said that Michael would find his soul mate. He wouldn't tell her anything about her. She wondered if he knew he'd find her because she was Michael's soul mate. She was reminded suddenly of her first meeting with the oscilic, and the way that they had referred to Michael as her soul mate. She remembered that odd feeling that accompanied it. She had wondered so desperately what to believe. Was it true? Now she was left pondering that very question again. Or did she have the answer? She had finally said those words to him. She had finally told him that she loved him, and it had come at such a moment in time that no one, not even Michael, had noticed, despite the fact that he'd said it back to her. She remembered the moment so clearly and how the words had just slipped out naturally.
But then Trystan wasn't sure what to think. Her mind was still racing through everything that had been bestowed upon her. She almost missed the way things were before they first encountered the Paradox. And that was saying a lot, as much as she had hated her life before then. Now she had so much more to worry about, herself being the clone of some billion-year-old General of war, with aliens from her galaxy and, god knows what other, chasing her down, and now.now even her ship had been brutally assaulted by this beckoning force that she was beginning to detest with great ire.
The thought of her ship made her shudder and brought a knot to her stomach. The pain was almost unbearable. Her poor little ship.she gritted her teeth at that moment. The Wolsifier was hers, and not only that, but it was hers and Michael's. It was the home they'd shared. It was the place where they'd shared their most intimate moments. To Trystan it wasn't just a ship; it wasn't just a collection of advanced technology and engineering. No, to Trystan it was the very earth itself. The Wolsifier was her entire world. The fact that someone was now threatening that, wasn't only a threat on her, it a was a signed death warrant from the attackers.because she would not give up until she knew that all who threatened to take what little she had of her life left away were dead.

They reached Wolsifier early the next morning. Luckily, Lachronostar vessels were incredibly fast, as they'd been built for, the small, sleuth vessels that they were. In either case, the Wolsifier wasn't moving very far anyway; it was still drifting in practically the same coordinates that it had been before they left. Trystan had taken it upon herself to do a quick inspection of the hull before docking. Michael was still in the room just through the exit of the bridge, sleeping, as usual. Michael had never been much for waking up early.
Trystan hadn't honestly been very eager to look over the hull personally. She was afraid to. She both did, and she didn't, want to inspect the hull, afraid of what she'd see; yet she had to know as any mother would. The part that really clutched her heart was as she did a flyby of Wolsifier's ventral hull and saw the horrifying gash in its belly, ripped through the hull as thought it had been zipped open. Through the breach was a darkness of such ominous appeal that Trystan actually had to shut her eyes and look away. Looking back again, just seconds after, forcing herself to, she could see faint signs of light that flickered from one section to another on the inside of the ship. They were the lights as they still struggled to stay alive. The fires had already been long extinguished in the vacuum of space; the flames' deprival of oxygen was like the only angelic caress her ship had received, in that, with the fires gone, the damage would not progress.
Daring as Trystan was, she asked Ranner to get closer to the breach. He got as close as he could without actually entering the ship. She could now actually distinguish the separate decks. The framework and circuitry aboard all hung out from the inside, and Trystan half expected blood to be dripping from their ends as though the Wolsifier were a living, organic creature. This time she did not turn away. This time her eyes were still and unmoving on the indignation before her eyes. She had never done anything, nor had Michael. And Wolsifier surely had not done anything to deserve such atrocious damage. All they had wanted was to get away from the crazy things going on in their galaxy and live their lives normally.
Trystan knew then that seeking peace elsewhere was futile.and cowardly. She could not fight what she was. She could not fight her destiny. She would have to face the universe as anyone else would. She could no longer even attempt to outrun her problems. This hit her now, a slap across the face as she stared into her injured vessel. As anyone whose home had been attacked would do, she would have to fight back.
Upon docking, Vanessa and Derl met up with Trystan and Michael in the docking bay. The two of them informed Michael and Trystan on the status of the repairs. Not much change, as Trystan had expected. Being back aboard Wolsifier was like being inside a torn home. She almost expected awkward glances from everyone onboard, as though everyone was mad at the other. Or if not that, she expected Michael to come around the corner, yelling and cursing at her. Everything that she had once referred to as a "family" before Michael had turned into a perpetual hell. Michael was her family now, and for the first time, it wasn't so bad. Now her home was being attacked again, and instead of it being her father abusing her or her mother, or her mother abusing her.it was an alien threat that loomed over her like a reaping shadow.
Derl had offered Michael some help in the engine room, and the two of them disappeared down opposite ends of the corridors as Vanessa and Trystan took a stroll toward the cafeteria to grab a bite to eat before doing a final checkup on the computer core with Selene.
Vanessa hovered over the protein resequencer, tapping into its operational computer just above it in the wall, preparing a stack of pancakes for the both of them. Trystan was reaching into the refrigerator for some ice water.
"So," Vanessa began, pulling two plates of pancakes from the resequencer and heading toward a table, "Derl tells me that Claire was a friend of Michael's back on earth." She placed the plates down on opposite ends of the table and took a seat at one.
After pouring two glasses of water in silence and putting the water back up, Trystan finally strolled over to the table and sat down as well. "Yes," Trystan said, any sign of emotion utterly lacking in her tone, "apparently, they were quite close."
Vanessa took a bite of her food, watching Trystan with a glint of worry in her eyes. She seemed to look at Trystan as though she was watching for a shy little animal to poke its head from its hole in the ground. "How close?" she inquired.
Trystan kept her eyes on her plate, obviously pretending that the subject wasn't really important to her. "Close," she said finally. "Beneficial friends, you might say. They, uh." she frowned, "they were intimate together. Michael wasn't even aware of her true origin until the other day. Her showing up came as quite a surprise to him."
"Yes," Vanessa said. "Derl says that you two.ended your relationship?" Quickly, she added, "Temporarily?"
"Yes," Trystan said, oddly looking to her side for a moment and then, finally, at Vanessa. She smiled, though it was short-lived. "And now we're together again." She looked back at her plate and hacked away at the unfortunate bit of edible matter before her. "Couldn't be happier," she said.
Vanessa had also smiled.shortly, trying to ease the tension. Now her watchful eyes were on Trystan as one would eye a troubled, near-demented person on the verge of complete insanity. "I'm sure," she said softly.
Before Vanessa could say another word, Trystan made a horrible sound from within her mouth, recoiling, and placing her hand to her stomach as a sickened face took form upon her. "Oh, god," she said in a disgusted tone.

"What?" Vanessa asked desperately, her eyes snapping wide open. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Trystan made two more sounds, practically convulsing as she did, and Vanessa soon realized she was fighting the urge to vomit. "Excuse me," Trystan muttered quickly and ran off toward the bathroom. Vanessa had made a move to stand up but hadn't been sure whether to run and help Trystan or to be disgusted herself. Finally making up her mind after about a minute of waiting, Vanessa decided to move into the restroom and see that Trystan was all right. As she entered the annoyingly white and clean room that the restroom was, the echoing sound of Trystan throwing up into a toilet in one of the stalls suddenly materialized in Vanessa's head.
Vanessa's face distorted suddenly in disgust as the revolting sounds continued. "Oh god!" Vanessa said, surprised at how violent it sounded, "what, are you drunk?"
Moaning, Trystan breathed in deep as the horror ceased for the moment. "Ugh." she began quietly, ".I'm late on my period," she admitted reluctantly, "and I've been crying, and I don't know why."
Vanessa's eyes had suddenly opened wide, mimicking her mouth as she stood there in awe. "My god." she whispered instantly slapping her hand to her mouth as soon as she did. She took a big gulp. "Trystan," she said slowly, "are you telling me.what I think you're telling me?"
Trystan didn't answer. She very easily walked out of the stall and to a sink where she washed off her mouth and hands. Vanessa watched her, astonished still. Trystan would've laughed at the sight under more normal circumstances. Drying herself, Trystan said, "I've got this medical thing I keep in my quarters that I use to test myself after I've had sex." She'd stepped next to Vanessa, her eyes trailing off toward the door and still breathing heavily, lapping at the roof of her mouth in an attempt to get rid of the terrible taste still reminiscent in her mouth. "I haven't checked myself at all since Michael and I." she shook her head, wiping her hands over her face as she did. She sighed and tears began to well up in her eyes. "Damn it," she said, her voice cracking, "I don't want to bring a child into all of this." She reached her arms out to Vanessa, desperate for something to hold her. Vanessa quickly took the invitation, consoling Trystan as best she could.
"Oh, I know, I know," Vanessa said, still in awe. "But don't worry. What ever happens will happen. And I know you, Trystan, I mean, I get a good idea of the type of person you are thus far, and I know you'll do your best to protect this baby."
As if suddenly waking up to the weakened state she was displaying, Trystan quickly let go of Vanessa's friendly embrace and laughed, wiping the tears from her eyes. "God, look at us," she said, "haven't even done the damn test yet, and we're already talking about a baby."
Vanessa watched Trystan, a slight bit of intrigue in her eyes as she did. She almost admired the way Trystan kept up her reputation in such considerable situations. She smiled at Trystan and tried to make her feel a little better. "Alright," she said, "well then let's go take that test."

Trystan nodded and led Vanessa down to her quarters where they took the test and then stood by the door of her bathroom in her bedroom as they awaited the results. Trystan had stood there, bemused as she was; her eyes were laid down upon her bed, although completely ignorant that they were in a bedroom at all. Her mind was racing through the future, imagining what it would be like.having a baby. What it would be like.with Michael as the father of her child.
Vanessa still watched Trystan with admiration. She was examining her, staring into her eyes so far away. She could see Trystan's body not a foot from her, but she knew she was galaxies away in her mind. Despite the admiration, she couldn't help but feel sorry for Trystan and the position she was in. She didn't know then who's life was worse.until the obvious answer hit her, the same one that hit her every time she asked that question about her and someone else. Neither was worse.
Suddenly the thought hit Vanessa to look at the clock. She took in a deep breath as she saw the time. "That's five minutes," she said finally.

Trystan's eyes had shot at Vanessa suddenly as though just remembering she was in the room. In fact, that was exactly what had happened. She uncrossed her arms from her chest and held the results out to Vanessa. She sighed. "You look, I can't," she said looking away toward the ceiling.
Vanessa had refrained from looking up to that point. She took in a small breath, took the results from Trystan's hand, and looked down at them. She sighed again, smiling as she did. She held it out to Trystan to look, and Trystan finally succumbed to the urge. Trystan's eyes reached the results.she had her answer. She made the same sigh with a smile that Vanessa had and they both flew into each others' arms, tears flowing and giggles dancing along the silence.