“Addy?” he called, ducking through the door into what they’d affectionately dubbed as the dining room (in actuality, it was far too grand a title for the tiny space of the modular metallic home in which they had simply shoved a table). Addy was standing over an array of blueprints, talking through them with a man named Petro who would be taking over for their duties while they were gone. Cyrus was supposed to helping, but he was distracted.
“Addy, have you seen the purple boots? The ones with the — y’know — ” Cyrus was looking for the word ‘fluff’ but he couldn’t find that either so he just made a poofy motion with his hands.
But Addy just shook her head. “Sorry, sweetie. Have you checked under her bed?”
Cyrus mumbled a vague response before sliding past her to look through the wall cabinet as she went back to explaining, “So we need to make sure the team designing the main square leaves room for this unit.” She tapped the blueprints. “They keep fighting us on it because they want the space for, I don’t know, another restaurant or shop or something.”
Petro tilted his head at her. “How are they expecting to power any of these restaurants and shops if they don’t have the energy inlet?”
“Exactly!” said Addy. “They’re being stubborn and greedy. The coalition heads likely won’t make a decision ‘til after we’re back, but we need you to keep putting pressure on them so this doesn’t slip through the cracks, okay?”
Petro nodded, typing a quick note on his tablet. “Of course. It’s ridiculous though. You and your husba–I mean, partner, sorry–you’re New Genisi’s energy experts, and yet they really continue to fight you on this?”
On his knees on the floor, as he dug through a cubby hole(that held everything from Concordia decorations to miscellaneous bits and pieces he’d ripped out of their shuttle), Cyrus snorted. “If people just listened to scientists, this whole city would have been completed a year ago.”
It was probably an exaggeration. In truth, New Genisi had come an impressively long way. After the terraform had stabilized a few years back, the surface of Archeti had been an empty, untouched landscape, rough and wild and devoid of animal or human life. Today, it was home to some three hundred thousand people, mostly refugees, sprinkled with a handful of aspiring families and business-owners looking to start fresh and of course the ever present vultures looking to feed off the struggling vagrants. But where Genisi once stood a proud and sturdy city, it was now mere clusters of prefabricated portable buildings amidst neverending construction sites. It had come a long way, but it still had a long way to go.
Cyrus had been involved with the project from the get-go. Rebuilding Genisi had been on the table from the day it fell and he had known, even then, that he was going to lend his knowledge and experience towards it. He hadn’t known, however, that he was going to end up jumping in head-first. If they were going to do this, they were going to do it right, which meant New Genisi would not be the smouldering pit of a city it once was, but rather a shining beacon of technology, efficiency and modernity.
Energy was Cyrus’ ‘thing’, so to speak. It had been his area of study all through school and continued to be his focus at Sonnete. He knew the fastest, cleanest, most efficient ways to spread power through any ship you put in front of him. A city, he was a little less familiar with, but really, he’d thought four years ago, how different could it be?
Very different, as it turned out. It wasn’t just the planning that was difficult, it was the bureaucracy. Everyone had an opinion on what went where and how and why and unlike a ship where Cyrus had the power of final decision, New Genisi was a public beast. Those other opinions mattered. Even if, as far as Cyrus was concerned, they didn’t make any sense.
Fortunately, he had Addy. “They’ll listen,” she was saying, smiling down at him. “Eventually. We might just need to stop appealing to their heads and take a few shots at their credits.”
She was his rock, to say the least. He hadn’t known what to expect when he’d told her that he wanted to go to Archeti as their energy consultant. But if he had to choose a reaction, her actual “Let’s all move there and I’ll be a consultant with you,” would be the one he picked. And after three years living in this tiny little tin can of a house together, he didn’t know what he could have done without her.
“Noted,” said Petro, jotting more on the tablet. “You two don’t have to worry at all. I’ll handle everything while you’re away. Hell, when you get back, the whole thing will be installed already, just you watch.”
“Then you’d be a miracle worker,” Addy laughed, grasping his shoulder. “If you need anything, we’ll be a call away, alright? Don’t even hesitate.”
“Nonsense, I’m not going to spoil your family vacation,” Petro shook her off as he headed for the door. “Have a great time, I’ll see you when you get back!”
“Thank you!” Addy called as he walked out and Cyrus stood up to join her at her side. They stood there in silence for a moment, watching his back, before Addy turned to him at last. “You still can’t find them?”
“They’re not here,” Cyrus insisted with a heavy sigh. “I’ve looked everywhere.”
“They have to be, where else would they be?” Addy pointed out, crossing into the living room to check the closet he’d already checked three times. Cyrus hovered, defeated, in the doorway, ready to say ‘I told you so’ when she came up empty.
“Why can’t we just pack these instead?” she asked, producing a pair of black boots from the abyss, but Cyrus shook his head.
“Those aren’t warm enough. It’s winter there, remember? She’ll freeze!”
“We’re raising her on Archeti, dear, she doesn’t have our sensitive desert blood y’know.”
“Our blood is exactly what she has,” Cyrus argued, “She’ll freeze, she needs the purple ones.” Addy just eyed him a beat longer before he added, “And those aren’t waterproof.”
She couldn’t argue with that. Emerging from the closet, Addy stepped back and put her hands on her hips. “Well. We’ve got to get to the docks. Is everything else ready to go?”
“Of course. Everything’s packed except the boots, it’s–,” Cyrus began to assure her, but was cut off by a sudden shriek from outside.
Both Addy and Cyrus bolted out of the room, to the front door that was wide open, and felt the panic drain. Kalli was standing on the threshold looking up at the sky. Well, standing wasn’t right. Bouncing.
“Ti’hma! P’ahti!” the four year old cried in elation, seizing both her parents’ hands as her dirty blonde curls danced up and down around her face. “Look look!”
Cyrus followed her line of sight to where the dark shape of a ship was descending towards the planet. It was still a ways off and difficult to see, but he squinted his eyes and could just barely make out the rusted patchwork body of the Dionysian.
Cyrus smiled and leaned down to hoist Kalli into his arms. She giggled with delight and continued to bounce as he held her. “You excited for our trip, issyen?” he asked and she only bounced harder in response.
It had become a sort of running joke around the New Genisi settlement. No wonder Cyrus and Addy were the local experts on power, they’d say, when they spent all of their time raising a literal ball of energy at home.
Cyrus felt Addy’s hand at the small of his back. “Sweetie?” she cooed softly. “I think I know where the boots are.”
Cyrus looked over at her in confusion, but Addy was glancing at Kalli’s feet. Her feet which were contained in what looked like chunks of pure mud. But as he peered at them, he could just barely see something beneath the brown gunk: a hint of purple fluff.
Cyrus groaned and Addy sighed, turning back into the house. “I’ll go get the hose.”
“How’d it go?” said Nikkolai eagerly, his voice breaking the static through the COMM device in Leta’s ear. “What happened? Did you fight? Did you win? Did you yell?”
“A little,” Leta admitted, somewhat amused. She held her fingers against her ear as she zig-zagged through the crowded hallway toward the base’s exit doors. She’d already wasted half her morning here, and she was eager to get the clinic. “I’ll tell you everything when I see you. What’s happening over there?”
“Everything’s good,” said Nikkolai, and she could hear distant chattering voices behind him — a busy morning, no doubt. “We’ve already restocked the pantry, and the waiting room is crowded, but nothing urgent. And another round of flu shots came in, tomorrow we’ll … ”
But Leta wasn’t listening anymore. She’d just seen something that halted her in her tracks.
The broad glass window to her right overlooked the ship docks, and unless she was very much mistaken, she could spot a rusted warm orange-brown metal monster lowering into place. It was like a mirage, or a ghost, and Leta felt like she’d been punched in the gut. It’d been nearly a year since she’d seen it. The Dionysian.
” … still have plenty of left, but we’ll never finish –” Nikkolai was saying.
“I’ll call you back,” said Leta hollowly, lowering her hand from her ear. Eyes widened, she crossed toward the doors and stepped outside. Icy wind gusted against her flesh, tossing her hair across her face, but Leta felt nothing but shock as she watched the ship’s ramp lower slowly, creaking and groaning with age.
She was still reeling (what was it doing here? Was something wrong? Why hadn’t anyone told her it was arriving today?) when a high-pitched “Leta!” rang out from the cargo bay and tiny footsteps pounded down the ramp. Leta’s mouth fell open, partly to respond, partly to laugh, and partly in just pure surprise at how big Kalli had gotten as she bounded towards her, but the little girl only made it a few steps before she was snatched into her mother’s arms.
“Hang on now, you don’t even have your scarf,” Addy scolded, though she chuckled as she expertly draped the purple cloth around Kalli’s struggling form.
“Hey, Leta,” was the second greeting, from Cyrus as he strolled down the ramp after his family as casually as if they saw one another every day.
And finally, there was the flash of red as the Dionysian’s captain descended from the ship. Though not as much red as she remembered. The roots of Fiearius’ hair had taken a sharp turn toward grey since they’d last met. He’d only aged a year, but the war and admiralship had taken its toll on him physically. Still, behind the tired eyes and gaunt cheekbones, there was the same hint of mischief she recognized.
Leta could do nothing but stare at each of them in turn, unable to process that these people were actually standing before her, until Kalli, with a wide grin that matched her father’s, shouted, “Surprise!”