Mila bends down on her knees and tucks one of Gaila's curls behind her ear. Nobody knows how Gaila got red hair like this, but it makes her special. She's worth more because of it, and she's going to go to Starfleet. Not because she has red hair, but because she's special in lots more ways than that. The masters don't know that yet though; they just know they can sell her for extra one day. But her sisters do know about Starfleet, and they were supposed to make a picture of it for her naming day, but they had gotten it wrong. It's a bad omen.
“I'm sorry, Gaila.” Mila really does look sad. “These colors were all we had. The goddess knows what we mean.”
“And look, the stars are gold,” Lyara says. “Just like the captains.”
“Like you'll be one day.”
Mila looks so happy now that it's scary. Gaila doesn't know as much as her sisters do, but she knows that leaving this planet and going to Starfleet will cost a lot. She isn't scared that it will cost too much for her to go; she's scared that it will cost too much, but her sisters will pay it anyway. Slipping out of her sister's embrace, she scoots forward till she can put her chin on the windowsill right next to her present. A little forcefield buzzes against her nose, and Gaila smiles. Her sisters aren't supposed to know how to make forcefields, but they do. One day they'll teach her.
“Do you like it?” Mila asks. “I was worried that the glitter would blow away if the climate control unit ever came on again.”
Gaila nods and the forcefield flickers against her chin. The colors aren't exactly right, she likes the way they glitter in the starlight.
“Thank you,” she says. Even though she's little, she knows some place deep and dark that she is thanking her sisters for more than these little glittering stars. Things that she can't imagine, things that are awful, things they do willingly to keep her safe.
Eight years later, Gaila switches off the forcefield and sweeps the tiny pile of glitter into her waist pouch. The room is empty. She hasn't seen her sisters in days. With a single fluid motion, she pushes the broken climate control unit away from the heating duct and slips inside.
“Thank you,” she says to the silent air. She hopes her sisters can hear her.
Then, without looking back, she begins her climb to freedom.