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Resources Development Administration Extra-Solar Colony 01 (RDA ESC 01), better known as Hell's Gate to its residents, is four point three lightyears away from Earth. Information, however, travels instantaneously.

When it is sent, anyway.

Once it is sent, it gets sorted out and passed along to the relevant department. Reports of deaths in the family – usually passed along by living family – are forwarded to the medical department. There are more of these than one might expect. Almost by necessity, anyone who is willing to be spent seven years into space for a six year tour and another seven year trip back has to have a certain ability to step away from family, be it from death or estrangement. But there are others who still have family alive and who still care. Siblings, parents, children: all messages are directed to the medical staff for the simple reason that the company trusts them to be the best judge of whether to tell, when to tell, and what telling will do to the staff member involved.

When Trudy reads her inbox after her shift, she blinks twice before reading the politely worded summons again. She hasn't had any tests done lately beyond the standard ones, and she's already passed those. No reason to ask her to come in.

Except-

Except that last time she got summoned randomly to the infirmary, it was to help a blank-eyed, blank-faced Izanami Dakura back to the barracks, and to be told very firmly to keep an eye on her because her son and ex had been killed in a landslide on Mars.

(Like Trudy had needed telling.)


It's not an irrational dread if you have sound reasons for dreading whatever the hell they are going to tell you.



What Doctor Cohen does is simple enough: take her to an office with a closed door, be all please, take a seat, look her straight in the eye and assume an apologetic expression.

Alicia.


Frankie.


Gene.



(“You can't be dead.”)


“It's about your brother.”

(“Sure I can”)


“He's dead, isn't he?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” And Trudy takes a deep breath and says, “What else?”

The doctor says Tibet (“-peacekeeping mission. Didn't you break your leg on one of those?”) which is what Gene said, and nine days ago, which is when she'd had that dream. And maybe Doc Cohen says other things, or maybe she doesn't, but either way, Trudy can't really hear anything over the roaring of blood in her ears.


(“I don't recommend death by mob.”)



“Okay,” she repeats, and then she thinks that she says, “thank you for letting me know,” all softly spoken like a southern belle. She gets to her feet and says that she'll be in gym if they send anyone after her, so logically she was asked a question about where she was headed.

She doesn't remember being asked where she was headed. But it's logical that she was asked, otherwise she wouldn't have answered.

Logically.





She can't tell if the way she is feeling is logical or not, but she hates it. Even when she's flying, she needs to be grounded in the mechanics of it, in the creaks and groans and smells and sensations of the machine. Nothing scares her in dreams so much as when she flies without an external reason, because flying without wings and engines and gears is just a fancy way of saying that you don't know that you are falling yet.




Right now, she's falling. So, she might as well start feeling so she can crash and get the whole thing over and done with.


She takes off her flightsuit and pulls on her shorts, she wraps the boxer's strips around her hands and heads over to a spare punching bag.

She can feel the bag as she hits it. She can feel the way her muscles move, fluid and well trained. She can feel her breath and the mat under her bare feet. She can feel the sweat starting to bead on her skin, but everything else is worse than flying through a cloud.

Falling.

Falling through a cloud.

If she were flying, she'd be able to feel things.





Yeah, she's just going to stay here for while.

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Trudy Chacon

November 2011

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