Chapter 7

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Dall rode the Flume toward the east side of Akoya. He felt numb, barely registering his environment. The car was filled with people on their way home from work. He tried to memorize the face of the person he was about to meet. The name sounded familiar. His mom said he had been his father's best friend. But he knew very little about his father. Most of what he knew related to the way he died and all the honors repeated about him.

Thinking about his mother brought pain anew. A big part of him just couldn't accept her being gone. The dissonance between his longing and reality was hurting more than he thought was possible. Different parts of his mother's recorded message kept playing in his head. As she promised, the message self-deleted so he couldn't view it again. Instead, he had to rely on his memory to conjure up her face and words.

...Ever since you were young, I knew you are special. Beyond what every mother thinks about her child, I realized you have a strength about you, a force that will take you very far. Your ability to control complex and subtle systems is remarkable. You no doubt find it very useful while handling a ship. In this way, you are very similar to your father. However, your ability goes far beyond flying in space. You have sensitivity and empathy far stronger than most, but you must keep yourself open to it. You need to trust your intuition and your feelings....

Dall wasn't sure what to do with that. He knew his interface sense was more developed than most. His instructors commented about it on a few occasions. But he didn't know exactly what she meant by "sensitivity and empathy". Maybe she was referring to how in the past he could feel when someone around him was angry or scared. He told her about it when he was a kid, but it had been a long time since he felt it.

His thoughts went back to the rest of the recording. To the part about the vigilance organization that her ancestors started. Started after a vision his great-grandmother saw. It was hard to believe he was descended from Kaishi Jantis herself. Everyone knew about her story - being the only one saved from the destroyed ARC ship on its way from Earth. The entire story seemed insane to him, but his mother told it so seriously. He had to believe her. She was dead because of it. They killed her and somehow made it look like a suicide. No matter what that detective said. She was about to come and get him, and they killed her before she could. Anger filled him; it was a strange sensation. He never felt so angry before. Lost in these thoughts, he almost missed his stop and had to run to the exit.

Dall left the Flume station and made his way up to the top level. He was wearing light-gray pants and a white thin long-sleeved shirt. His mother cautioned him to try to be as inconspicuous as possible. Not knowing what that meant, he chose simple clothes. His destination was the SunStone Circuit Tram station, where he was supposed to meet this friend, Themis.

The sun was on this side of the Cloud, a small ball of fire at this distance. From the height of the tram platform, the dome opaqueness at this time of the day was raised to block most of the star's light. There were several people on the raised platform, but it wasn't busy.

A man stood with his back to him. He seemed the right age Themis would be. When Dall got closer, he saw the face was wrong. How strange it was trying to meet someone he didn't know. Without having a way to contact and check if he was even coming. What if Themis didn't show up at all? Then what? It wasn't like he could go back home. His mother was adamant about that. The only person he trusted was Fai, but he didn't want to put her at risk. Besides, Dall didn't know if he could explain everything his mother told him without sounding like a lunatic.

A hand suddenly pressed his shoulder, and Dall almost jumped. He was glad he managed not to scream. Quickly turning, he saw a man whose face matched the image his mother showed him in her recording. Themis had wavy light brown hair, with some areas turning white. His eyes were light blue, almost gray. The man was about Dall's height but had a much sturdier body.

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