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The Taste of Hope

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‘We made it!’

The first words she’d uttered in a new galaxy. Sara inhaled shakily, blinking furiously to try and shake off the lingering fuzziness of cryo-sleep. Damn, always hoped my first words in Andromeda would be better than that, she thought ruefully.

‘Ryder. Excellent, you’re awake.’ Lexi T’Perro whipped out her omni-tool and proceeded to give Sara a thorough medical scan, assisted by a pair of human medtechs. Sara grinned, allowing them to fuss over her, as the reality of her situation began to sink in.

‘Andromeda. We’re finally here. It’s real, it’s all… real.’ She laughed softly to herself, glancing eagerly around. The medbay was familiar at least, all gleaming white and chrome, with the Hyperion’s medical personnel already smartly dressed and fully alert. If she focused, she could feel the very faint hum of the ship’s eezo thrusters, still propelling them smoothly through space. Clearly, they hadn’t docked anywhere yet.

‘What’s going on, doc?’ she asked, eyeing the bustling medtechs interestedly. ‘We haven’t landed, right? So, what’s going on? Why is everyone hustling?’

As if in answer, her father’s voice crackled over the comm. ‘Attention. This is Alec Ryder. I want the pathfinder team to the bridge immediately. Repeat, pathfinder team to the bridge.’

Lexi raised her brows good-humouredly. ‘It sounds like you’re about to find out.’ She tapped her omni-tool a few more times, checking Sara’s SAM implant, before finally clearing her to leave the bay.

Shortly after, all hell broke loose.

 

Aboard the Tempest; several days later...

 

‘Fuck it.’ Sara slammed her fist against the wall, wincing as the movement sent a jarring pain through her skull. She slumped into a chair, picking up the datapad that she’d begun to turn into a haphazard diary, narrowing her eyes and snorting mirthlessly at its contents.

Dear Diary,

Well, we’re here. We’ve arrived. Six hundred years in cryo-sleep has passed, and it feels like I only closed my eyes for a few seconds. I suppose I should be grateful for that. No weird dreams or anything. But as for everything else, well… all I can think of is the fact that we’ve been basically rocketing from one disaster to another. For example:

Fuckup number one: the Hyperion almost gets totalled arriving in Andromeda. Something they’re calling the ‘scourge’ I think? Science teams already busting ass to figure that one out.

Fuckup two: Scott’s slipped into a coma. Not even in Andromeda a few minutes and he’s already gotten into trouble. Overslept on Day One, typical. Lexi and Harry had better get him back in the game soon. I need him. Badly.

Fuckup three: Habitat 7. What a bust. Toxic air, creepy tentacle-plants, and super-aggressive, ugly bone-faced gun-toting aliens. Yeah, a real golden world all right.

Fuckup four: first contact. Back to the ugly gun-toting aliens again. Still trying to decide if that was my fault or not. Still, we followed protocol, and they fired on us first. I guess there’s always going to be assholes, even in a new galaxy.

Fuckup five: dad.

But here, the diary ended. There was nothing more that she could say. The loss was still far too raw, far too real, to put words around her grief. Even though she and Alec hadn’t exactly been close over the years during her mother’s illness, he’d always been there somehow: confident, calm, assured, in control. And now, he was dead.

She grunted in frustration, hurling the datapad away from her and resuming her pacing around the Pathfinder’s quarters. Her quarters, now. It was certainly an elegant space, with a spectacular view; not that she was in any mood to admire it. For her, Andromeda was no longer a place of adventure, magic, and wonder. For Sara, it was rapidly becoming a small slice of hell.

She stormed into the en-suite bathroom and slammed the door, leaning heavily on the sink and glaring at her reflection in the mirror. ‘Damn it,’ she muttered. She looked like a ghost of her former self. Dark purplish shadows had gathered beneath her pale eyes, and her skin was even more pallid than usual, with no hint of colour flushing her cheeks. Her lips were compressed, drawn into a tight frown that stared accusingly out of the mirror from beneath a wildly tangled mass of sky-blue hair.

Snorting irritably, Sara grabbed a brush and began working through some of the tangles, glad to have something to do with her hands. Back in the Milky Way, her hair had been her pride and joy: her crowning glory, her mother used to call it. It was soothing, in a way: working out the knots, smoothing the full length of it into something at least vaguely manageable.

But no amount of brushing is about to smooth out all these bullshit problems we’ve hit since arrival, that’s for damn certain, she thought venomously.

Pathfinder Ryder… hah!

She glowered at the mirror, a surging bitterness rising to grasp at her throat. She remembered the disappointed and scornful expressions of Tann and Addison when they learned that her father was dead, and she’d been made Pathfinder in his stead. It made her feel sick to her soul.

Got no faith in me, huh? she thought viciously. Well, get in line to join the fucking club. We’ve got jackets. She laid down the brush, breathing heavily. She needed Scott. Her twin brother: so alike, and yet so different from her in many ways. Not that he was the rational one of the pair – far from it, in fact. But he’d always known what to say; how to calm her, to chase away her fears, preventing her from bottling up her worries into a tightly knotted coil of tension that sat in the middle of her chest and made her want to scream.

‘Fuck,’ she repeated; but more quietly than before. Her anger was slowly draining away, leaving only a dull, hollow ache in its place. She was exhausted. Her head was pounding, her limbs ached, and she knew without even looking that her hands were trembling, sparking with faint biotic flashes as her nerves reacted to days of near-constant stress. There was nothing she could do. She was the Pathfinder now, like it or not, and she had a duty. There would be time later, perhaps: time to weep, and to grieve. But it was not now. Not when so many lives were resting upon her shoulders.

‘Well then, SAM,’ she said aloud, straightening her back and smoothing her hair back, trying to breathe slowly and deeply, just as her mother would have told her to do. ‘It looks like it’s just you and me now, huh?’

‘Indeed, Pathfinder,’ came SAM’s serene, calming tones. Except now, they were coming to her from inside her own head. ‘I am aware that much has changed for you, over a very emotionally stressful period of time. I wish you to know that I will do everything within my capabilities to assist. You will not be alone in the tasks that you face.’

‘Thanks.’ Sara swallowed hard, nodding in agreement, even though she knew the AI did not need to see it. ‘Better try and catch a wink of sleep, I suppose. It won’t be long before we reach Eos; and something tells me it’s not exactly going to be sunshine and flowers.’

‘According to the research logs, I must inform you to expect sunshine in plentiful amounts, Pathfinder,’ replied SAM. ‘The flowers, however, will likely be in short supply.’

Sara rolled her eyes. Of course they would be.

*