Celia Perchant

Part 5 - Nicholas: part 3

Nicholas - Part 3


Merch was not a man of his word, or maybe he'd stopped by the commissary and bought something to drink. It wouldn't be the first time the old man had finished the alcohol before getting back to the cube and left the door standing open. That or he just didn't want to be woken by Nicholas leaning on the door alert when he couldn't get in.

Nicholas shook his head in amazement, his long blond hair swishing across his shoulder blades, and checked the small sitting room and kitchen to make sure none of the marginally valuable items had been taken. His sector housed mostly non-military, small families of lower ranks and wasn’t policed nearly as well as the sectors of the higher ranks. Drug addicts and other homeless people flopped in unassigned cubes or wandered the halls looking for opportunities such as that left by Merch to rob an unattended cube. Any roving drug addict or even one the undocumented boys in Nicholas’s own gang of opportunists could help himself to the nutrition generator or any of the family’s personal items..

Everything seemed in place so he dropped onto the couch with a nutrisnack bar and rolled out his data sheet.

He synced his personal sheet with the cube's unit and brought his class info up on their entertainment screen. Holoscreens in the classrooms had the added benefit of evaluating objects and data in three dimensions but generating a holographic, three-dimensional image large enough for an entire class to observe required huge amounts of energy. A three dimensional simulation on the flat entertainment screens was more than adequate for the confines of a family’s cube.

Nicholas brought up the classroom schematic. He hated to admit it, but the other boy's addition to his data was a real benefit. Not only did it give him visuals of the girls in the class, it gave him the girls' names as well. Too bad it didn't give me the rest of their bodies.

A shiver ran up his spine when he considered how many really good looking girls there were in the glass and how many of them had responded so favorably. Nicholas had probably missed as many days of class as he had attended. What could he accomplish with these girls if he was there every day? Then his eyes fell upon the girl who sat in front of him.

"Celia Perchant," Nicholas said, bringing her face forward to fill a larger portion of the screen.

Though her mouth was narrow, her lips were full and turned up slightly at the corners, giving her the appearance of enjoying a secret joke.

"Are you smiling, or did someone tweak this picture?"

In the image her reddish brown hair parted down the middle and fought to escape where she'd tucked it behind her small roundish ears. Though her oval face tended toward the shape of an egg with a small, rounded chin, her bulging hair made her head look much larger than it should be on the narrow stick of a neck. She appeared to have brushed her hair in preparation for the image, though enough strands flew free to give her the appearance of wearing a halo.

"What would you look like with a real hairstyle?"

Nicholas liked the color of her hair. It reminded him of the trees in the redwood park.

The trees on the base couldn't grow as tall as their ancestors did on Earth, but the park reached twenty full levels in height, giving the trees 100 meters of vertical space to grow. Designed to remind the base's inhabitants of their connection to their home planet, the park was one of the few places a person could observe the curve of the base. Two kilometers in width from fore to aft, the park stretched seven kilometers in length, nearly half the circumference of the base on level 46.

Trees planted when the base was first commissioned had been growing for over 200 years. Climbers who had scaled the simulated granite walls on the fore and aft borders of the park told Nicholas some of the trees were as tall as 60 meters.

He imagined taking Celine to the redwood park to show her how the bark matched the beautiful color of her hair. But it wasn't really her hair that attracted him. Partly it was how she isolated herself from the other kids. Nicholas didn't picture himself as a part of the class or of any group of young people on the battle base. Consequently, he felt kinship to a girl who kept herself apart from others.

Her small, round nose gave her a childlike look, matching her ears.

What shocked him was her eyes; emerald green and glowing as if they were backlit to stand out especially bright, like warning lights on a panel on the bridge. What made those eyes burn? Was there an emotion suppressed behind them fighting to escape?

A noise through the wall behind him alerted Nicholas that Merch was stirring. If Nicholas was within reach when the old man came out the consequences could be painful. He scrambled to shut down the viewer, grab another nutri bar, and roll his data sheet at the same time. He dashed to the corner of the sitting room opposite the kitchen. Doors to his bedroom, the bathroom, and theone to his mother's bedroom formed a small alcove just big enough to accommodate a single person. If Merch filled the space before he did, it would cost him.

He pushed into his room and flipped the latch down in one fluid motion in time to hear Merch open his door and shout, "You in there, boy?"

"Yeah. Don't worry about me. I'm just going to bed," Nicholas called from where he had leapt onto his bunk.

"Worry?" Merch sounded aghast and continued speaking, though most of what he said was lost to the insulation in the walls.

A single child room associated with a low status, marriage contract cube could not be described as spacious. This cube was assigned to his mother and birth father after six weeks of marriage preparation classes and filing the requisite paperwork. By the time the contract was signed it was apparent Nicholas was already on his way.

A married couple may contract for one or two children and are obligated under the contract to remain together with complete fidelity until both children have reached the age of twenty. At that point they may dissolve the contract if they decide they are incompatible. Violation of the contract would result in monetary fines and possible incarceration.

A couple may choose when a child will be born, the gender of the child, and who will carry the child. If a couple is unable to carry a child to term and aren’t able to find an appropriate surrogate on their own, a newborn child would be provided.

For couples who weren't interested in raising children, cohabitation contracts were available and were much more flexible. The contracting couple could specify contract length, platonic or conjugal relationships, and varying degrees of fidelity.

Nicholas's actual father found out in the first year after his son's birth that he wasn't interested in fatherhood and purchased falsified papers and payments to take a shuttle off the base. He boarded the station for a jump gate to distant systems before anyone realized he had skipped out. His mother filed charges against her estranged husband, but without enough cred to continue an investigation across several light years she turned to a man who promised to provide emotional support for her and her son. A man who would only sign a cohab contract and not one for marriage.



Part 2 - Silver Perchant, A Monster, and A Drug Addict, "Who".

Claimer: (Not a disclaimer. I’m not trying to protect myself. I just want you to know something.)


A ‘Trigger Warning’ is a psychological term warning to a reader, listener, or viewer of content that something in the following information may set off (trigger) a severe emotional reaction in some people who have experienced trauma in the past or who suffer from a variety of mental illnesses.


The story, “Trigger Warnings” is about several people who have suffered mental, physical or sexual abuse, or are suffering from other mental illnesses.


If you are triggered by non-suicidal self-injury, emotional abuse, sexual assault, or child sexual abuse you may want to proceed with caution, if at all. While sexual abuse and child abuse are not presented graphically, they are addressed.


If you find you are triggered by these stories—have a desire to self-harm, become depressed, have suicidal thoughts, etc—please contact your physician, a school counselor, a trustworthy family member, or the suicide hotline. I am presenting these stories to raise awareness of mental illness and create support for those in need, not to cause harm. You have value, you are loved and there is help if you can bring yourself to look for it.






Silver Perchant


Silver waited in the link aft from his cube and watched his daughter trudge off to school. Once she had passed through the distant link he hurried to his former residence.

"Amanda?" he called from the sitting room. There was no reply.

At the doorway to the master bedroom he barked, startling his estranged wife, "Amanda. Wake up. Don't you go into your office anymore?"

Slowly, she rose on one elbow, blinking her eyes. "Don't you ever ask a question in a reasonable tone of voice?"

He walked a few steps into the room and said, "I watched Celia leave. She looked like she’d flown through an electrical array without a magnetic dampener. You need to spend some time with her, teach her about grooming, try to help her fit in. It’s hard enough being a teenager without the other kids thinking you lie in a recycling bin."

"If a single word of what I told her stayed in her vacant head it might be worth my time. But it doesn't, so it's not. She's an embarrassment. If I take her anywhere, or if a friend comes to our cube and sees her, it reflects poorly on me."

Amanda sat up, throwing off the covering and shook out her mane of deep red hair. Thick strands cascaded past her shoulders and formed small, half-circle curls just short of her bare breasts.

Still groggy from sleep, her hair in disarray, she was still the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. Fire burned in him as it had years ago. He fought the desire to cross to the bed, throw off the sheets and take her in his arms. He'd learned the last time lust superimposed itself over his memories of love; it would do little to restore their corroded relationship. He pushed back his natural urges.

"Surely you didn't come here to talk about your daughter's hair and stare at my breasts."

Her sarcasm brought him out of his trance.

She’s only my daughter now? He thought.

He cleared his throat and said, "Anyway. I'll be away for the better part of the next seven days to a week. We've got some long routines to run on the..."

"You don't need to bore me with the details. I know it must be important to someone. Just go take care of your routines and give me a heads up when you think you might be coming by for more than a quarter hour. You made your decision to stay away and you know how I hate surprises."

Another kind of fire burned in him from her casual dismissal and he fought back the urge to wring her neck.

"Tell Celia I love her," he said turning back to the door. A sparkle on his wife's dressing stand caught his eye. He picked up a jeweled stick pin and twisted it between his fingers. Light glittered off a tiny replica of a rare alien flower with diamonds set among the delicate blown glass petals.

"You make good wages for a middle manager at that shipping company," Silver commented dryly.

"I do. Many of my customers recognize my value. Their compliments get paid forward and my bosses are pleased. Unlike someone I know who fails to advance in his admirable career. If it wasn't for my connections we would be living in a cube a fourth the size of this one."

Silver laughed, "Your connections? I could have you living in a closet by mid-second, today.”

His ridicule touched a nerve and she stood, the thermal sheet dropping to the floor. Clearly her most valuable business asset stood before him--every cubic centimeter of her body was finely tuned and toned. Ugly rage etched her face and contrasted the elegance of her frame.

Unwanted feral heat returned to his loins. He laughed, though. "There is much more supporting this expansive cube than your hard work and your family name. Maybe ten years at the university earning my degree has something to do with it. But then, that's nothing you can take credit for, so it's naturally of no account."

He growled and threw the pin back to the table. He raised his fist into the air, then shook his head and bit on his knuckle. He turned away again. "I don't know why I always let you draw me in to this same old argument."

"I think you draw yourself pretty well." Her anger quickly changed to a cutting smirk.

He jerked his hand away from his mouth, teeth marks made a dashed line in his skin. "We made our agreement that I would stay away and you would take care of Celia. If the quartering division learns I've moved out..."

He raised an eyebrow, waiting for a response. When none came he added, "You don't want the inconvenience a cube reassignment would cause you, and I don't want to disrupt my daughter's life any more than I have to. Just take care of her and I'll stay out of your way."

"If you have a problem, you'll need to handle it yourself. I have a meeting to prepare for," Amanda said gliding toward the bathroom.

"Is that all our child is to you, a problem that needs to be handled?"

But the door slid closed and Silver only heard distant, tuneless humming from inside.



The Creature


The creature stretched a pseudopod from its central mass.

If its spore had originally lodged anywhere else on the battle base, its growth would have been limited by the amount of water vapor in its location and may never have gotten large enough to be observed by any of the 1.2 million people aboard. Finding its home on the water treatment floor, its growth was essentially limitless. It was comfortable at its current size of a meter in height and slightly less than that in diameter, but it was hungry.

The tentacle stretched along the expanded plastisteel catwalk. Taking on water from below its perch, the creature could extend the tentacle for hundreds of meters without decreasing the size of its central mass. Fine hair-like projections on the surface of the pseudopod detected brainwaves of a potential meal and oozed toward it.

Hundreds of years old, yet only recently self-aware, it felt a loss. The creature couldn't register this emotion. It had dined on sewer rats for the last century and knew only the reasoning of such animals; hunger, satiation, fear, and security. Though the rat was big and had numerous tumors throughout its system to give it flavor, the creature wanted something larger and more complex.




The drug addict, ‘Who’.


In a passage five meters from the closest link, a man leaned against the wall for support. His tattered jumpsuit, which may have once been tan, showed bare calves above worn base-boots. His cheeks hung hollow below equally baggy eyelids and his thinning hair hung like grey spider-webs over yellow, thickened skin.

He had disabled three of the illumination panels above the passage to prevent the simulated sunlight from hurting his sensitive eyes. He hovered on the edge of the resulting semi-circular shadow on the floor.

A young man in a clean technical uniform entered the passage from the opposite, intersecting link 100 meters away and walked with purpose as he fiddled with the portable communicator on the back of his sleeve, just above his left wrist.

When the technician was close enough to hear, the man leaning against the wall took a single step forward, flashed a credit strip in the palm of his cupped hand, and asked in a hoarse whisper, "Hey, Chief. Can you sync me some cred?"

The technician, many years away from the rank of Chief, barely acknowledged the other and shook his head negatively, walking past into the link. When the young man was gone, the beggar looked at his generic credit strip, a glowing green bar indicating it held less than two Galactic credits.

A man blending into the darkest part of semicircular shadow laughed. "You know panhandling is illegal on the Battle Bases, don't you?"

"Yeah. And so is doing dust. But in case you haven't noticed, no one’s arresting me. No one wants to waste their time and creds babysitting a bunch of drug addicts. It's easier to just ignore us and hope we disappear."

The dark man walked a few meters toward the distant link and said, "You'll never learn. Will you?"

The beggar tried to turn his head and most of his body turned with it. The muscles of his neck were taught and rigid, an advanced side effect of the hallucinogenic neuro-stimulant known to space travelers as ”Dust”. He swiped greasy tangles of hair from his face and asked the dark man, "What? What am I supposed to learn?"

"Huh, huh, huh," the man laughed, his face in shadow. "One thing, at least. You've never learned to be a very good beggar. You haven't gotten anything in days. How do you expect to get set up if you don't get any cred?"

"Isn't that why you're here? To set me up? You're never here when I'm constant."

"That's right.” The dark man shifted in the shadow. “I'm here for you when you really need me."

The addict leaned forward. "Where is it then? Where's my dust? Come over here, where I can see you. You're always hiding in corners or standing with your back to me."

"It's the dust, friend. It ruins your eyes."

He tried to close his eyes but the muscles of his forehead were tight as well, another effect of the drug, giving him a continuously surprised appearance. Rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands, he blinked at the dark man, but he was gone.

Hunched over, he leaned back against the wall. His body shook and he felt weaker by the minute. From inside the link he heard a chime telling those waiting at the door to the horizontal transport that a car was about to arrive. He heard a woman's voice speaking to someone cheerfully and spun around to approach her. His momentum was too much and he lost his balance, falling to the floor.

"Oh," the woman gasped and ran to kneel at his side. "Kurt. Come help me. This poor man is sick."

The dust addict raised his shaking hand with the credit strip in it and begged, "Please..."

"Get up, Bekindra. He's just a drug addict. You can't help him."

"Yes I can," Bekindra said and took a credit strip from a self-seal pocket. She punched in numbers with her thumb along the flexible magnetic strip and took his from his shaking hand. She placed the two strips end to end. The green border of his strip lengthened as hers decreased.

"There you go," she said, handing the strip to the man on the floor and stood to look at her companion defiantly.

"He's only going to spend it on more drugs. Look at him, he's almost dead from the abuse."

"That may be,” she said, “But at least he'll be happy and comfortable for a little while. Now, come on and buy me dinner. I'm a bit short on creds."

The couple walked away and the dark man returned to lean over the drug addict.

"Look at that. You got enough creds to last you a week or more. Come on. I know a guy down on the water treatment level who can set you up." The dark man walked toward the link. "Get off the floor, dust sucker. I don't know why I try to help you. You're just an addict, just a useless addict."

"You don't need to call me addict. I got a name," he grumbled and used the wall for support as he climbed back to his feet. He stumbled the few meters into the link and passed his hand in front of the sensor calling the vertical lift.

He had a name. He just couldn't remember it.


Part 1 - Celia: An introduction

A ‘Trigger Warning’ is a psychological term warning a reader, listener or viewer of content that something in the following information may set off (trigger) a severe emotional reaction in some people who have experienced trauma in the past or who suffer from a variety of mental illnesses.


The story, “Trigger Warnings” is about several people who have suffered mental, physical or sexual abuse, or are suffering from other mental illnesses.


If you are triggered by non-suicidal self-injury, emotional abuse, sexual assault, or child sexual abuse you may want to proceed with caution, if at all. While sexual abuse and child abuse are not presented graphically, they are addressed.


If you find you are triggered by these stories—have a desire to self-harm, become depressed, have suicidal thoughts—please contact your physician, a school counselor, a trustworthy family member, or the suicide hotline. I am presenting these stories to raise awareness of mental illness and create support for those in need, not to cause harm. You have value, you are loved and there is help if you can bring yourself to look for it.







Celia dragged a brush through snags of thick brown hair. Her mother would have fits if she went to school without controlling her wild mane. Again. Tears rose in her eyes; her hair refused to let the brush pass and she tore at it, gritting her teeth. She pulled with all her strength, tearing a knotted snarl free to hang from the brush like a hairy spider. Her frustration flared into rage and she threw the brush at the floor hoping it would shatter into a thousand pieces.

Her head throbbed where the hair came free from her scalp, but the pain felt good, justified. Her tears were gone, replaced by anger.

The view screen at her dressing table divided into four sections as she stepped back, showing her head and shoulders from all sides. There was no hope for her hair. She couldn't get it to the level her mother required and still make it to school on time.

She pressed the self-seal strip at her neck and looked down the front of her jump suit. It hung on her like a bag; if her head and hands didn't poke out of it, a person might wonder if there was a girl in there at all. Other girls in her class wore tailored jumps of fine materials. They wore the correct shade of grey to identify them as high school students, and still the material clung to their bodies and emphasized their figures. It was clear their parents cared about them and how they looked; they obviously deserved having families who loved them.

Looking at herself in the view screen Celia raised her chin and checked her neck for evidence of the scar across her collarbone. It was stupid to cut so high where someone might see. She had only done that once and was relieved that it didn't show. She tugged at her sleeves, wishing they would cover her narrow wrists and she smoothed the arms of her jumpsuit.

Hoping to save time by working on her hair as she walked to school, she grabbed the brush from the floor and hurried down the passage toward her mother's open bedroom door. She stopped short of the doorway, intending to tiptoe past--her mother was rarely awake when she left for school. Celia's stomach turned over as the brush slipped from her hand and hit the smooth plasteen floor directly in front of the open door, clattered down the short passage, and slid to a stop at a decorative carpet in the sitting room.

Celia held her breath waiting for her mother's blood curdling scream.

No. She wished for such a scream; then she could scream back, justified to loosen some of the anger built up inside her head like layers of plaque lining her skull. But her mother never raised her voice.

When Celia's heart calmed enough that she no longer felt it pounding in her ears, she heard her mother's soft snores and soundlessly edged past the room. A quick glance into the room revealed her mother asleep on the bed. Her mother, the socialite daughter of lifer parents, filled out a jumpsuit nicely. Her physical attributes had clearly been one of her main attractions when she Celia’s father, also the son of lifer parents, originally signed a cohabitation contract.

In the kitchen Celia took two compact nutrition bars and slipped them into a self-seal pocket on the leg of her jumpsuit. She took her data sheet from the table where she had left it the day before and pinched the edges of the thin electroconductive polymer. With a snap and a hiss the data sheet rolled itself into a tube as big around as Celia's thumb. She slipped the tube into a narrow pocket that ran from shoulder to elbow.

Celia rubbed the back of her hand beneath her chin and probed her neck along the edge of the straight collar of her jump suit. She tugged up on the wide collar, trying to make it look like a straight line instead of dipping down into a deep curve. Doing so only pulled the tight jumpsuit uncomfortably into her crotch.

She smoothed the arms of the suit again, patted her breast pocket, checking for her ID card and Info Synch. She waved her hand in front of the door sensor; it swished open and she walked out into the passage.

Few others were in the corridors of her residential section, most of the cubes being inhabited by higher ranking commanders and other important personnel--people who had no time for children. A large number of retired people also lived in the area, having earned retirement in one of the larger cubes and chosen to remain on the Battle Base for the rest of their lives. Besides, it was only 3.75. The second shift had started at 3.00 and the first shift didn't end for another quarter, when classes began at 4.00.

With each intersecting passage the number of people increased.

Her classroom was up two floors and a long walk fore on one of the longitudinal corridors. At an intersecting link of passages she opened a door and entered the stairwell. Each door in the stairwell displayed the link coordinates and a chronometer. Celia saw she had plenty of time to get to class.

Two floors up, she stood at the door to the main corridor, took a deep breath, checked her breast pocket for her ID card and Data Synch. She wouldn't be able to enter the school without them, and once at school there wouldn't be time to go all the way back to her cube to retrieve them.

Celia smoothed the arms of her jump suit and waved open the door. The corridor was packed with people on their way to their duty station and other students going to school. Folding her arms tight across her stomach, she bowed her head and stepped into the flow. She squeezed along the wall and paced herself behind the others going her same direction to avoid touching anyone and drawing their attention.

Following the corridor for several hundred meters she reached the shuttle bay where the solid wall of the passage was replace with transparent plastisteel. Celia moved toward the center of the corridor to work her way past people standing along the window, watching others arriving or departing. She didn't mind this in fact, this 100 meter stretch of corridor was her favorite place on the entire Battle Base. People here were arriving from other Battle Bases or departing to distant systems, places she hoped to visit one day--places far away from her mother.

A shuttle must have recently arrived from a jump-gate the base had passed the day before. Travel weary people, still shaking off induced sedation, entered the waiting lounge from vertical transport doors at the far side. People in military jumps walked through without baggage while others wearing Support Service jumpsuits often carried bags. Then there were families wearing casual jumps--parents dragging irritable children in addition to their belongings. Finally, two men directed a long oval cylinder about the length of an adult. The cylinder lay in a supportive cot and rolled on three sets of wheels.

Celia smoothed her sleeves and kept pace to reach the lounge exit as the men and cylinder drew close, opposite through the window. The leading man stepped into the corridor and held his hand up to stop traffic, right in front of Celia. She pressed her arms tighter against her stomach, tipping her head down, but watching as the cylinder pushed passed. A window in the upper third revealed a man inside the tube, his features slack and his skin as grey as her uniform jumpsuit. Traffic resumed, pushing her forward, alongside the isolation tube.

This kind of tube wasn't an uncommon sight coming from the shuttle bay. Anyone from off the battle base with an unknown or contagious disease would be transported to the base hospital in one. She patted her breast pocket and surreptitiously peeked through the plastisteel window to get a better look at the sleeping man. Data panels on the tube were blank and nothing in the man's appearance revealed where he had come from or why he was in isolation.

Traffic moving both directions came to a stop again as the men turned off the main corridor and pushed the isolation cylinder toward the base's principle hospital. Celia followed a few steps into the side passage and watched the men push the tube away. She patted her breast pocket absently as she considered how similar the man's plight was to her own; sick, maybe dying, unable to communicate with those who could help, and though they each were surrounded by millions of people they were isolated and alone.

Celia turned back to the high school. She had to hurry now to be on time. She pulled at the sleeves of her jumpsuit, the cuffs barely reaching past midway on her forearms, and weaved between others in the passage. Reaching the front double doors to the grid of rooms used by the school she had a moment of panic, afraid she had left her ID card back at her cube. The few students ahead of her flashed their cards at the sensor, barely looking up enough for the retinal scan, and she dug in her breast pocket to fish out a thin, transparent card. She held it flat on her palm and blinked up at the card reader in the ceiling above the doorway and worried the device wouldn't read the card properly if she angled it incorrectly. The sensor recognized crystals imbedded in the card regardless of its angle, confirmed it against her retinal scan, and passed the information to the central computer reporting Celia was in class and on time.

The rest of her class was already seated when she slipped into the room. Celia smoothed her sleeves and folded her arms as she ducked toward her seat. No one looked up from their data sheets or broke off their conversations to greet her. No one even looked her direction to notice she had joined the class. She sat, slid her data sheet from her sleeve, and unrolled it onto her desk, smoothing it flat until it held its shape. Shifting on the seat to find a more comfortable position, the hairbrush fell onto the floor with a clatter and she remembered that she hadn't finished her hair. She knew it must be sticking out at embarrassing angles and if she only had the courage to look around her she would find the rest of the class sneering and laughing.