White falls through the emptiness above the domed glass ceiling of the commune. Residual streaks dissipating in seconds. The frigid winds of the planet batter the glass with a low, constant howl. Elbows planted on a long white counter, she scans the room. Watching others mingle, awaiting their departure. Identical from their pale, bald heads through to their white body suits. Always ready to go. To a new planet. A new persona. Ready to not be here, in the only place they are ever forced to live in their own skin. Where they are no one.
D rubs a hand absentmindedly across her arms, tracing the ever present goosebumps of their glacial planet. Remembering the heat of her last assignment. She revels in her work. Interfering with fate. She embodies her assignments. But there's something here, in these pristine bodies with no sex, no differentiation that makes her feel clean. These short moments are her reset button. A continual slate wiping.
Beside her, leaning back on his elbows, stands a man she's known for years. One of the only travellers she's bothered to know. A glass of opaque white liquid hangs from his fingers tips, as it always does when he's here. Frantic energy emanates from his stillness. His gaze glued to the ceiling; he watches the light of others rushing off planet. Wishing to be anywhere but here.
"You have that look." She holds her hand beneath a pale glowing panel and waits while a glass materializes in her hand.
"What look is that, D?" He downs half his drink, not shifting his gaze.
"That one you always get when you've been home too long." She sips her drink. Misty and cool against her tongue. It has no flavour. Only temperature, like drinking cold steam. She feels the relaxing effects immediately.
"Don't call this home. It's nothing more than a weigh station." He sighs, throwing back the rest of his drink before reaching for another. His almost translucent fingers wiggle impatiently.
"That's bullshit, Q." She watches his white eyes dart around, following other travelers heading off on assignment. When she's not working, she worries about his anger. His impatience grows with every flash across the sky. She can't reassure him. Not really. Not when minutes can feel like days.
"This is active torture." He chews the corner of his lip. The fingers not holding his glass tap a focused rhythm against his thigh.
"It's not so bad. It's sterile. I like that. Planets are always so... smelly." D smirks when his eyes finally land on her.
"I miss the smells. Senses in general, really." Q downs the remainder of his new drink without breaking eye contact. As he slides his hand below the panel again, she inhales softly. "D, don't. Please. Not this time." He stops her before words of concern can spill over her lips. He sips slowly. "I just want to get to it. I never feel whole here. It's just so... here."
She slides her gaze away, supressing her urge to fix things. To do what she does when she's working. She knows he's not interested. That telling him to slow down will make things worse. She takes another sip to hide her displeasure. She's never understood why he hates the commune so much.
The crystal totem on her bodysuit begins to glow. The call to a new assignment. She glances at Q, placing the remainder of her drink in the disposal, worried how he'll react if she's assigned before him.
"Finally." He exhales, calming noticeably. His totem a blazing white light. His glass already empty again.
She smiles a closed lip smile. The minutes before an assignment are always a strange mix of excitement and nerves. Silently, they stride down the assignment room hallway. The sixth door on the left swings open once the five selected travellers are present. D knows the other three only by appearance. They nod at one another politely, but no one speaks. Now is not the time. There are more important things beginning.
YOU ARE READING
Letters From NowhereScience Fiction
D has lived in The Commune for decades. Travelling on assignments to ensure certain events don't happen. On her most recent assignment, she is partnered with a fellow traveler she almost considers a friend. She always knows what to expect, but thing...