They were children. That was tens of years before she died. They were on the balcony of her room. Earlier, she'd woken from a nightmare she didn't want to describe and pestered Micah into watching the sky with her. It was late, perhaps later than they both knew. She pointed to the numerous dots in the sky and named each speck of light.
"That's Megara Colony's star. You can see Megara just below, very, very faint. Now look over there. You probably won't see it, but in that direction is Sol."
"Earth's sun?" he asked.
"Oh, yes. Earth's sun. How peculiar, don't you think, Micah? They named a planet that's two thirds water 'Earth'. Terribly silly of them, wasn't it?" She laughed and flicked her hair, then pointed in another direction, to the brightest star in the sky. "And that, Micah... That's Kattara. From this very system. That's where I'm going to see the stars twinkle out from."
"Don't talk like that!" he pleaded. She looked at him with a gaze completely devoid of understanding, but she didn't bring it up again for years.
They were the youngest in their family. Out of seven children, six were boys, though that never seemed to daunt her much. She clung to Micah because he was only a year older than her and he knew how it was to be the smallest in the room.
Her passion was the sky. She could name constellations or particular stars, she memorized the periods in which these appeared in the night sky and she always, always knew where or when you could see Kattara.
The layout of the Damkina system was simple, really: Marduk, with its three moons, Eshara, E-Saggila and Etemenanki, the neighbouring food-supplying planet Fatima and Kattara, which thrived on prividing entertainment for the inhabitants of the system.
It was a perfect system to live in, requiring minimal terraforming. Marduk had a tropical climate, made bearable through the numerous rivers and lakes that dotted its surface. Fatima had a temperate, though occasionally dangerous, climate, making it perfect for agriculture. And Kattara, despite being farthest from the sun, maintained a bearable, though fairly cool, avarage temperature.
Damkina was entirely self-reliant, though they traded various goods with Megara Colony, the nearest other inhabited system. Earth was too far away now and nearly no contact was had with it for fifty years. Last the Damkins heard, Earth had thrown itself into another war of succession, bickering over a rock that long since lost its value.
He received a call from her.
"Micah, I'm going to need a ship. This is perfect. The timing is perfect."
It took him several moments to realise who was talking, and even then, Micah only recognized her by the conspirative giggle. It had been years since he'd last heard anything from his sister, ever since she dropped out of school and disappeared into parts unknown. Not one note, or a call, or even leaving word with friends, and for some time, the family thought she'd been kidnapped or worse.
They were ready to notify the police when one day, one of Micah's brothers turned on the news and pointed to a group of young people, protesting against a government-funded mission to Earth. Out of all the people in the crowd, Micah could see her, waving to the camera and staunchly holding up her sign.
For years, she never contacted him. He'd moved on. He owned a docking bay for starships. He lived fairly well, though the working schedule would one day send him to an early grave.
He couldn't truly blame his sister for leaving the way she had. She never realised how much Micah depended on her during childhood. She couldn't have left out of selfishness, because she probably never realised how important she was to everyone.
And now this? What was it all about?
"Micah! Do you hear? I'm going to Kattara. It's perfect. That's where Mazgor Upber recorded their last album."
"I didn't even know you listened to Mazgor Upber," he replied dryly. "Sometimes that happens, when you don't speak to people for years."
"Oh, cranky, aren't you? I figured you'd be a bit cheerier to hear from me."
"And why do you want to go to Kattara now, anyway?"
"To see the stars twinkling out. Don't tell anybody else you heard from me. Get a ship ready. I'll be there as soon as that's done. Kattara, Micah. Finally."
And she cut off the link.
He couldn't make sense of her words until days later, when he received an unusual influx of ships from Kattara.
"Why is Marduk suddenly such a popular attraction?" he asked grouchily.
"Because Fatima has all those pollution bans," one of the captains replied. "And we have to go somewhere safe AND close. Not much fuel to go around, since so many ships are leaving at once."
"But why?" Micah asked.
"Haven't you been paying attention? Kattara's about to give a nice fireshow for the whole system."
Micah blinked at that comment. "Kattara's about to explode?"
"Hoo, boy. Is it ever. Entertaining to the last moment, neh?"
It suddenly made a lot of sense. His sister was suicidal.
Strange things happened after she called. Other people contacted him. Strange people. Some asked to see a person named Nanshe Rangi, someone who he was pretty sure was a rich, excentric writer from Fatima. Sometimes, these people talked in mangled Earthspeak which he couldn't make sense of. In Damkina, the languages spoken on Earth were pretty much dead, save for a few words which were integrated into everyday language.
Then a representative for a local childrens home came and visited him, asking if he'd by any chance know where his sister was.
"Why are so many people interested in her whereabouts?" he asked. "Has she... done something?"
"Oh, heavens, no," the representative replied. "It's just that, every once in awhile, Nanshe comes and visits the children. She brings them stories, sometimes."
"My sister's name isn't Nanshe," he replied drearly.
"I'm sorry, then," she apologised earnestly. "But that's the only name we know her by."
Micah was quite confused at this point and asked for details. When he received them, he wasn't sure what to think. His sister, apparently, had lead quite an active writing career under the pseudonym Nanshe Rangi. It was quite surprising that, up until that point, nobody knew who she was and where she came from.
"Is writing all she did?"
There was a hesitancy in her voice. "...No."
She never came after her ship. Perhaps Nanshe had her own resources and had found a captain insane or loyal enough to take her to Kattara. Or, perhaps, she knew Micah hadn't prepared any ship for her.
Kattara, under the strain of volcanic activity and a power plant exploding in the wrong place at a very wrong time, ended up in pieces, many of which reached Fatima. There were casualties, and it seemed that it was the only subject on the news for days. When it all mellowed down, Micah received his final visit from a stranger.
Her lawyer came to see him. He brought a recording from his client, "Miss Rangi".
"You are perhaps unaware of her condition. The last few days were especially difficult for her," the lawyer said evenly. "Be prepared."
Micah didn't take any note of the man's words, and when he played it. She was sitting down, on a bed by an open window. The sea could be heard nearby... This was undoubtably recorded on Fatima.
Her hair was white in colour, which surprised him. He knew that shade meant she had treated her hair with a particular bleach and that, in contact with certain substances, it would change colour almost instantly, with minimal damage even if used extensively over a number of years. He thought that maybe this was a sign of vanity, but if she truly was as famous as some people implied, maybe it was a sign of how much she wanted to hide her identity.
"Micah," she said, looking dreamily out the window, "I didn't come. You never prepared the ship. But I have my own, waiting in a dock here on Fatima. The Economy. Her captain's an old friend of mine." She turned and looked at the camera. "I want you to know that my life-- my entire life-- I've shaped it exactly how I wanted it. I made friends. I'm famous. I made an impact, though I doubt anybody will know for years to come. Now I want to end it. I want to end it before my little bubble bursts. I'll end it on Kattara, where I'd like to see the stars twinkle out. I've scripted my life and now it's time for the final scene. Now... I'm leaving you my notes." There was a pause. "They're the dearest thing I have. I'm just saying goodbye, Micah. I hope, after reading the notes, you'll better understand why I need to do this."
The message ended there, abruptly, just like her disappearance.
Micah was silent for a long time after that.
"I didn't want to help her kill herself," he said, finally. "She's been talking about stars twinkling out since she was a kid. I thought she did it to torment me."
"She was terminally ill," the lawyer replied. "She was under aggressive treatment just to keep the pain under control. She would have lived a day, maybe two more. It wouldn't have mattered."
"Did she die in pain?"
"She flew the ship right into Kattara's core when it exploded."
"And the captain?"
"The captain was found at the docks with a mild concussion."
Micah nodded thoughtfully. Nanshe Rangi. That was Nanshe Rangi, not his sister. A completely different woman who wanted to end her life the same way. She wasn't happy. She couldn't have been happy. She couldn't have planned for a fatal disease. She couldn't have lived enough when she died so young. He didn't believe her. This wasn't about quality of life, even. This was about a lost little girl who desperately wanted her death to have meaning.
Later, he'd be on the balcony, looking at the stars. And even though he wouldn't have known where Kattara was on the night sky, he'd know that somewhere there was a gap, an empty space in which his sister disappeared, wanting to see the stars twinkling out.
Author's note: This story, despite having turned out absolutely heinous compared to how I'd wanted it to turn out like, is basically the anthology of me. It has so many of the themes that I like using: relatively obscure mythological refferences? Check. Death-centric? Check. Poor confused character who has no idea what's happening? Check. Exploding planet? Check check check.
It's actually based on a dream, which I KNOW got brought on by watching "Andromeda" re-runs of season five (as a tangent, I'd like to say Andromeda's finale is so disappointing... "Dissonant Interval" made me cry, but "The Heart of the Journey" was pretty "bleh").
Besides those themes, there are numerous other inside jokes and self-refferences littered all over, which I tend to include in everything I write, but occur in this story in higher-than-avarage numbers. If anyone's curious, I could theoretically edit this later to include a list, but it's not all that interesting.