- "They really do think I might be able to make a difference to the galaxy."
“I thought I’d find you here.”
Keera Naraymis looked up with a start as the voice cut through her reverie. The moment of shock was tempered by recognition, and she let out a long, slow sigh, controlling her reaction as she looked up with a smile. “Dad. Everything OK?”
“I think I should be asking you that,” her father countered as he gestured to the grassy tussock she was sitting on. “Mind if I join you?”
Keera inclined her head in invitation, and he settled beside her. “How did you know?”
“Your mother may have been the one to imprint you, kid, but you do get some of your behavioural traits from me. And you always come and hide up here when you have a lot on your mind.”
Keera looked out over the bay, watching the boiling pale green fury of the waves dashing themselves against the base of the silver-white cliffs for a moment, clinging to the sense of peace the vista always evoked. “It’s soothing,” she offered as half an explanation when the silence had become too heavy. “The sea, I mean. Just watching the water helps me empty my brain out.”
“I thought the point of education was to fill your brain up,” her father chuckled. “But I know what you mean. So what’s got you needing the brain-space?”
“Everything, I guess.” Keera tried for a careless shrug, but she could tell the gesture lacked any conviction. “Getting the offer made me realise that it’s not just an abstract idea any more. They really do think I might be able to make a difference to the galaxy. Me.” She looked up uncertainly. “I’m not sure I’m ready for people to think that of me.”
Her father chuckled lightly. “Your mother and I already think that, little Kee. We’re happy to have more people subscribing to the idea.” He shifted beside her, draped an arm around her shoulders. “Listen, love. Your mother and I were happy to move to Oceanhill. It was a good opportunity, and it meant we could afford to give the family we planned on having a better life. You and your sibling were at the forefront of our thinking. I know the government’s planning must seem cynical to you, but we took full advantage of it to give you the best upbringing we could.” He waved his free pincer at the rolling ocean. “I love it here too. I fell in love with Marinaris as soon as we landed, and so did your mother. We’ve been happy here, enjoyed a good and fulfilling life, so you don’t need to feel as if we gave anything up for you.”
“OK,” Keera said slowly, letting her father’s words sink into her awareness. “I guess that’s been bothering me, feeling that you might have given up on a chance to live more normal lives for the sake of my potential future use to the Consortium.” She took a deep breath, steeling herself, then confessed the rest of it. “And that if I hadn’t made the cut, or if I decided against it, that you might feel you’d wasted your lives for me.”
“Never,” her father assured her. “The Consortium is patient, and the Consortium plays a percentage game. There are no guarantees for them, but they view the expenditure as necessary infrastructure to maintain their political operations. There is no expectation that you will choose to enlist in the Diplomatic Service. Not from the government, and certainly not from your mother and I. If you decide you want to stay here and seek employment, maybe look for a nice human or neomorph or ercinean to settle down with, we’ll be just as happy for you, probably happier. You’re under no obligation, Kee. It’s your life, and it has to be lived for you. We made our choices with our eyes open. All I ask of you now is that you do the same. If you want to go to Eva Arielle and study, then take on a government position, that’s what you should do. But if you don’t, then please don’t think you have to go in order to fulfil some social expectation. You won’t be reneging on a deal, or letting anyone down if you decide it’s not for you.”
Keera laid her head against her father’s shoulder, snuggling into the embrace. He nuzzled his beak against the back of her head, then caught one of her tentacles, preening her gently, and she giggled at the ticklish, soothing sensation of his beak against her sensitive skin. “You haven’t done that to me for years.”
“You haven’t needed me to,” he replied a little wistfully. “I’ve missed being allowed to, but you’re far too grown up to need such comforts now, aren’t you?”
“Apparently not,” she sighed contentedly. She looked out over the bay again, her thoughts buzzing. She loved Marinaris, and she loved her home and her family. When she’d filled out the application form for a place at Eva Arielle’s most prestigious law school, she hadn’t thought for a moment that she’d actually be selected. A nobody from an expatriate family could hardly expect to be considered alongside the elite of changeling society, and yet the response had come back quickly and with overwhelming positivity, that yes, they were delighted to offer her a place, backed by a full scholarship from the Diplomatic Service. Then an officer from the Service had called her to discuss potential career options, painting a dizzying picture of a universe on the brink of flying apart, held together only by patient diplomacy and the service of dedicated individuals able to set aside their personal goals for the greater good of all the citizens of the galaxy. It had all sounded like a dream opportunity, but sitting here listening to the familiar, timeless boom of the surf on the shore, enjoying the sensation of being wrapped in the sure safety of her father’s presence, it seemed far more terrifying.
“What do you think I should do, Dad?” she asked.
“That’s not for me to say.”
“But I want to hear your opinion. I know Mum doesn’t want me to go.”
“Your Mum would keep you here forever if she could.” Her father barked a short laugh. “So would I, if I’m honest. But that wouldn’t be fair.” He sighed. “I think you should enrol. There’s no better law school in Changeling space, and I think it would be valuable to you, to experience your home system and its culture. You might love it. It might make all this,” he waved a hand at the view, “seem provincial and backwards.”
“I don’t think anything could ever make me think that.”
“And if you hate it,” her father continued, “I’ll come and get you and bring you home, OK? Anytime. All you have to do is call me.” He craned his neck to look down at her. “We’ll support you whatever you do, Kee. Let that give you the courage to take the leap into a bigger universe.”
Keera took a deep breath, feeling a twinge of excitement in her belly at the thought, the reassurance dissipating the last of her doubts. For the moment, anyway. “Then I think I know what I want to do.”
“Good,” her father replied. “I love you, and I’m proud of you. And that won’t ever change.”
Where to find it?
|Board games||Burning Suns|
|Books||Conflagration (Book One) • Conflagration (Book Two) • Conflagration (Book Three) • The Art of Burning Suns|
|Series||Conflagration - Issue 1 • Conflagration - Issue 2 • Conflagration - Issue 3 • Conflagration - Issue 4 • Conflagration - Issue 5 • Conflagration - Issue 6 • Conflagration - Issue 7 • Conflagration - Issue 8 • Conflagration - Issue 9 • Conflagration - Issue 10 •|
|Snapshots||A Hellfire Drop • Jennifer Bronwen • Keera Naraymis • Kiith Kohath • Pitch Dark • Shan'Chael • The Sweet Science|