Part 6 - Celia: Part 2

Before we get started...If you've read the previous five episodes you should be getting a mental picture of what the Battle Base is like. I've tried to introduce aspects and information about the base without loading you down with information dumps. Would you please leave a comment after this episode and tell me what you think the Battle Base looks like? What is it shaped like? Does it look old or new? Well kept up or run down? How many people live on the base? And what is it's function? Thanks for helping me make the story better for when it will be released as a book.


Celia – Part 2


Celia walked up to her cube and waved the door open. She stood on the threshold, listening. After a minute, the door closed and opened again. Twice more the door closed and opened before she actually entered, and stopped just into the room, listening.

Her mother was not home.

If she was, Celia would have heard music from her mother's room or the entertainment screen, unless she was in the hot tub.

Though, the tub's filter and the air jets were loud enough to hear from the sitting room, as well. She took three silent steps down the hallway and stopped short of her mother's room. She listened again. As quietly as possible, she drew in a long, deep breath, and stepped forward, peeking into her parent's room from the corner of her eye.

No one, she thought and ran the last few meters to her room, closed the door behind her and locked it.

She slipped out of her baggy, gray jumpsuit and pulled on a pair of cube-shorts. She stared at the awful jumpsuit lying on the floor like a dead creature and her chest tightened, like someone had shoved a screw between her ribs and turned it. She breathed deeply imagining the screw turned back the opposite direction and rising from her skin. She pictured the sudden trail of blood running from the hole left by the screw and trickling down across her breast. The pressure in her chest eased.

Celia couldn't believe a jumpsuit could be so short that it exposed her ankles and wrists when she walked, and crept up her backside when she sat, yet it was so baggy she could easily fit both her legs and an arm down one leg of the suit. She wished she could ask for a new one. She dropped it into the laundry shoot, added a few other items and pressed the send button. The items would be returned to her before bedtime.

She sat cross-legged on the floor with her back to her bunk and ran her fingers across the raised, hash-mark scars on the inside of her right thigh. Some still tingled with pain like tiny electric shocks, though most were old and well healed. The most recent cuts, those which were scabbed over or still bled, were on her left arm, high up, close to her arm pit. She didn't look at these. The sight of the dark, red crust or where they had pulled apart and oozed brightly often triggered her to cut again.

At times her life became too threatening to avoid by hiding behind the veil of hair concealing her eyes and her anxieties mounted in her chest. They pounded in step with her heart and filled her body with pressure until her skin felt taught and stretched like the head of a drum. Then, the need could only be relieved through the fine slice of a razor through her skin.

Today Celia didn't look.

She didn't feel the need to cut, didn't want it.

Today her heart pounded with a new rhythm.

Along with the resonating fear of exposure—the fear that someone may discover her shameful self-abuse—something new pounded inside her, something thrilling. The simmering excitement overshadowed, even eclipsed her fear.

She didn't want to lose this new sensation brought on by such a simple thing—something which she had only observed in the past, something which caused the other girls in her class to giggle and smile—a boy wanted her attention.

He may have been in class before. She wasn't sure. Normally she tried ignore most of what was going on around her, isolate herself from it. It wasn’t hard to do, as most everyone in the class was ignoring her. Hiding behind her frizzy fringe of mousy brown hair, she studied. Class time went much faster if she kept her mind occupied. The faster class time passed, the sooner she could get back to her room—her corner of the family cube where even her mother would leave her alone.

Today, when he spoke, Celia couldn't focus on what she was reading, though she stared at the words and images on her data sheet. His voice filled her mind, crowded her thoughts. At times it was friendly and confident. At others an undercurrent of rebellious humor flowed along with his words.

A chill ran through her as she remembered him smiling at her and she had to rub away the goose flesh which rose among the parallel scars. He had a beautiful, wide smile that reached to his dark brown eyes and the confident tilt of his chin. And still there was something about the way he carried himself that seemed gentle or vulnerable, like he would understand her and what she might need from him.

But he wouldn't care for her. Who was she? Just an ugly, hateful, hate-able, stupid, girl.


He said he was going to make her smile. Why would he want to make her smile if he didn’t care about her? Celia wanted him to care. She tucked her hands beneath her arms and squeezed, hugging herself, imagining what it must be like to have his arms holding her.

She walked a razor's edge of possibilities between potential happiness and despair. The desire for someone who would understand her, someone who would hold her like couples do on the entertainment screen, pushed her toward the edge of a precipice. Anxiety threatened to unbalance her and send her plummeting into the bubbling, smoking magma of sadness.

Celia froze, listening for a sound that was not there. Was her mother home? No. It was only her imagination. She looked at the chronometer: 06:85.

Like most civilian workers on the battle base, Celia's mother worked the second shift from 03:01 to 07:00. This was an advantage because the shift overlapped the last hour of the first shift and the first hour of the third shift.

Celia almost laughed. She couldn’t picture her mother doing any actual work anymore. Maybe she did when she first started at the shipping company. Now, she was in charge. Something her mother found great satisfaction in reminding Celia about almost every day.

Amanda Perchant managed a division of Galactic Shipping and Transportation.

With fifty floors on the base and each level averaging 1.2 trillion cubic meters of space, there was plenty of extra capacity for family members of the enlisted and commissioned staff to use creatively. Amanda oversaw contracting and delivery of containers and passengers from one jump station to another around the battle base's twenty year galactic circuit.

Because of Amanda's high level position she chose her own hours and where she worked them. Though school began at 04:00 and ran until 06:50, Celia's mother might or might not be in the cube when she left for school or arrived home.

Celia slid her door open a centimeter and listened. She had heard the front door and now her mother was in the sitting room or kitchen, sighing and muttering. She closed the door and locked it, slipped out of her shorts and undershirt and pulled on her sleep suit. Though made from softer and thinner materials than daytime jumps the sleeves and legs of the suit completely hid her scars.

"Come," Celia heard her mother call, though it didn't really sound like her mother. She waited, wondering if she had imagined it.

"Come," her mother called again, sounding more insistent and even less like herself. If her mother was getting angry, Celia didn't want to irritate her more by seeming to ignore her.

Celia walked to the sitting room and stood next to a short couch. Her mother was in the kitchen with her back to Celia, holding a data sheet in one hand and a half full glass of fruit juice in the other. Real fruit juice from the orchard levels of the battle base was slightly more expensive than synthetic drinks, but her mother could afford it, and felt that she more than deserved the luxury. She stood with one knee cocked and the elbow of her juice hand braced against her side.

She sure looks good in a jumpsuit. Why couldn't I have been more like her? Celia thought and waited for her mother to turn and acknowledge her. She waited for the better part of a minute and finally asked, "Mom?"

Startled, her mother jerked and spilled some of her drink. She spun around, the color of her face rapidly approached that of the purple liquid in the glass.

"You stupid child. What would possess you to sneak up and startle me?"

"I'm, I'm, I'm sorry. You called me to come."

"Don't lie to me. You are such a liar. I didn't call you. I don't know why you feel you need to make up stories all the time. And what are you doing in your sleepers already. It's another 75 minutes before you'd need to be in bed."

Celia only stood, her throat dry with fear, blinking at her mother and wondering why she always had to bait her this way.

"Tell me. Aren't you going to answer me? Why are you wearing a sleep clothes? Did you ruin your jump suit again? Where is it? Bring it to me."

"No," she started to tell her mother that she hadn't ruined the jump suit, but fury flashed in the woman's eyes, stifling Celia's response.

"Don't you dare tell me no," her mother said and threw the glass of juice at her, stomping forward.

Celia ducked to avoid the flying juice which spattered against the wall and flared into a long comet's tail over the couch. When she looked back up, her mother slapped her, the palm of her hand smacking against her cheekbone. The force of the hit was enough to spin her around to sprawl face down on the floor stretching toward her bedroom. Celia scrambled on all fours down the hallway and into her room.

She climbed to her knees, locked the door, and crawled to her bed, cowering next to it—listening. Her mother hadn't followed.

Celia stretched her arm beneath the mattress until she found a small plastic tube. She spun back around, sitting on the floor and pulling up the loose leg of her sleeping suit and exposed her right thigh. She slapped the inside of her leg, over and over until the stinging pain faded to numbness. She felt the pressure inside of her swelling, her skin tightening until it felt like it would split open. Taking the knife from its plastic sheath she placed its razor edge against her skin and drew it from back to front in the longest cut she had ever made. Blood welled up along the shallow cut, and with it relief.



Part 3 - Nicholas

See note below about trigger warnings if this is your first visit to this page.




The shuttle, recently arrived from the jump gate, docked just long enough to disembark its passengers, do a quick clean, restock the pantry and board the passengers leaving the battle base. Every second that passed meant 66,000 kilometers more they would have to travel to get back to their gate.

Nicholas worked his way up the aisle, keeping his head down, studying the display on his wrist comm while looking for the best seat for his purpose. He found it and crawled across three sets of knees to reach one next to the bulkhead. He hunched down, turned his back on the aisle and acted as if he was asleep.

A voice came over the open comm. "Welcome passengers. I'm Commander Alicia Cordant and will be overseeing your trip to the jump gate. Please have your ID and datasync ready for the flight techs coming down the aisle. If we can get underway in the next five minutes our trip will be less than four days, eight hours, seventy-three minutes and sixty-five seconds. We'll pass out nutrition packs once we are free of the base's magnetic field and you will have two hours to consume them before we go into induced sleep. Of course, we'll wake you..."

Nicholas ignored the briefing and listened for the techs as they moved forward, checking ID's and syncs.

"Would you wake him, please?" Nicholas heard before the person next to him nudged him in the ribs. He rolled over, sat up, blinked his eyes, yawned and gave his best surly-teenager-scowl.

"I need your ID and your sync," the steward said to him.

"Why?" Nicholas asked, rubbing his nose.

"So I can be sure you belong on this ship," the steward said.

He held up his ID and said, "My mom’s got the sync. She's on the back row. You should have it already."

He turned back to the bulkhead.

"Which is your mother?" The man asked with an air of impatience.

"Oh. Sorry. She's on the back row, in the black and silver jump suit," he said doing his best to sound accommodating, and turned his back on the steward again.

"Let's go, Mick. We've got half the shuttle still to check," another man said.

"Sorry. This kid here says his mother's in the back, wearing a black and silver jump suit. Did you see anyone like that?"

"Yeah. Half the women on the shuttle."

"Get out here kid, now. I think you're trying to do a circuit on me," the steward growled at Nicholas. "You need to come show me your mother, or..."

"Save your threats. I'm coming. When my dad hears about this, you're the one who's going to be in deep space," Nicholas grumbled. When he got to the aisle, the steward grabbed him by the collar of his jump suit and dragged him to the doorway.

The man pressed a plate next to his name badge and said, "Security. I think I've got our stowaway."

Three security officers met Nicholas and the tech at the aft hatchway. As he was handed off to the three, Nicholas waved vaguely at the shuttle bay and said, "Wait. What about my mother?"

"If she shows up before we undock, I'll send her your way," the steward said and gave Nicholas a solid push toward the officers.

Seventy-five minutes later, Nicholas sat in a small, stuffy room at a dingy plastisteel table, blocked from escape by a juvenile representative of the base's civilian judicial system, sitting between him and the door. It hissed open and a man stepped in, filling the little remaining space which wasn't table or bench. The door closed and the man sat opposite Nicholas and the representative.

"Merch. What are you doing here?" Nicholas asked. "I told them to get Mom."

"Now, Nick," the representative started, but the other man interrupted him.

"Don't be stupid," Merch said. "You know your mother's on duty. Is that why you chose to act up now? To waste my time?"

"Mr. Morris, that's not," the representative began.

Merch's face turned deep red. "I'm Frailer. He's not mine. His real father didn't want him either. Can we get this over with? I've got things to do."

"Like sit on your fat butt," Nicholas said. "You don't work for two more days."

Merch made to stand up. As he did, the representative did as well and held out his hand to Nicholas's stepfather. "Mr. Frailer. I'm Lieutenant Posker."

"Sub-Lieutenant," Frailer said with a sneer at the man's collar insignia, and sat without taking the other's hand.

"Right then," the lieutenant said and sat back down. "Mr. Frailer, Nicholas stole flight documentation and boarded a gate bound shuttle. Theft and fraud; those are serious crimes on the base. The case is being forwarded to the juvenile division of Judicial because Nick's still fifteen. Another couple months and he’d be treated as an adult."

"Don't call me Nick," Nicholas grumbled, slouching as much as the confined space would let him and scowling at his stepfather.

"Alright, Nicholas. Mr. Frailer. I've been assigned as your stepson's council."

"Is he going to jail, or do I have to take him home with me?" Merch asked.

"This is his first offense, so he will be released into your custody. It will be your responsibility to make sure he stays out of trouble until Judicial can review his case. My office will be keeping a close eye on where he goes and what he does until then."

Merch squeezed into the open space between the table and the door and stood. "That's more responsibility that I want. You can keep him."

"Mr. Frailer. I'm sure you don't mean that," Posker said, standing as well.

Frailer's sneer widened into a grimace as he leaned over Posker. "You don't think so?"

Nicholas thought the lieutenant looked small next to his stepfather. Posker was a few centimeters shorter and at least ten kilos lighter, though it was obviously because the officer was fit and healthy. Nick was used to seeing his stepfather bully others around and waited to see how the lieutenant would react. His heart raced with hope as he imagined Posker slugging the old man in his gut.

Posker waved the door open, indicated for Merch to exit first, and said, "Come, Nicholas. It's time for you to go home. My contact is on your data sync at the front desk. You can pick it up on your way out."

Nicholas sighed and slid off the bench. As he passed the lieutenant outside the door, Posker said to him under his voice, "Buzz me if you need to. Any time."

His stepfather had already synced for his items and stood in the exit to the outer passage. Nicholas glanced toward Posker and said, "Sure."

He caught up to Merch in the passage. The man handed him his ID card and data sheet without a word.

"What about my data sync?" Nicholas asked.

"I'll hold onto that until I believe you're going to behave. This way, you can't go anywhere you shouldn't."

"How am I supposed to buy my lunch?"

"I don't know. You're the criminal. Why don't you just steal it?" He must have thought that was funny and his stomach shook as he laughed to himself.

"I can't get back into the cube without it. You know you hate it when I wake you up."

"You'll just have to sit in the passage until I wake up and look for you."

"I hate you," Nicholas said and charged ahead, but before he'd gotten out of reach, Merch grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around, his other arm cocked back, his fist alongside his ear.

"Go ahead and hit me, Merch. Right here in the passage for the whole base to see."

Merch looked up at the scanner above the closest link and lowered his fist.

"You're not as smart as you think you are. You're an irritating rash. One I can get relieved and not have to worry about anymore. You've rubbed me the wrong way for the last time."

Merch shoved him backwards. Spinning, Nicholas stumbled down the passage toward the link and, eventually regaining his balance, he jogged on through, trying to ignore his stepfather's laughter.


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.