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Lovers Of Your Sad Tune

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Eire was as much a revolutionary as she was a product of the broken past, as much a lover of danger as she was a coward. She sang in dusty bars and danced in deserted corners of the starship, watched only by security cameras. She yearned for the land they had all left behind and rejoiced that she'd managed to escape. She charmed her acquaintances and frightened her friends. She was myth and legend, rock and roll. She was free.

For all that the country she had been no longer existed, her inhabitants having been scattered across the escape ships like the inhabitants of every other country, Eire still felt the strong pull of duty. She sang because her people needed her to, and everyone on this ship was now one of her people, out of simple necessity. She could hope that those who had come from her would be similarly treated, but she had no way to help them if that wasn't true.

She was a muse, inspiring words of love, and a Queen, demanding poetry as her tribute.

She was the heart of Colony Ship 7.

Eire sat in the bar, staring at her ship-brewed excuse for beer and wishing for a Guinness and some garlic chips. It had been a dozen decades since she'd had either, and it looked like it would be hundreds of years more until the ship landed on a planet capable of supporting life.

"Excuse me?" The speaker was a young man; Eire didn't think he looked more than twenty-five. Neither did she, but there wasn't anyone like her on the ship. A hundred years ago she might have said that he looked Japanese, but now he was just one of hers.

She glanced at him with eyes which only barely avoided glistening with tears. "Yes?"

He didn't look concerned at her appearance, but then, the red-rimmed eyes had been a part of her for almost as long as she could remember. "I was hoping you could help me."

Eire shrugged, a move she couldn't help but make look elegant, so she chose less ornate words to balance the effect. "What's up?"

"My mother is dying."

Eire's response was as fast as she could make it. "I can't save her."

He blinked at her, like he hadn't been expecting her to try. There had been a time when Eire would have, and a time before that when she would have succeeded. She'd burnt herself out fast working like that, and she knew that if she wanted to still be here when Colony Ship 7 found a place to land, she needed to look after herself.

"She just wanted a chance to talk to you before she went."

It was a simple enough request, nothing Eire hadn't done before. She hadn't done it recently, though; for the last five years she'd kept to this level of the ship, with the bar and brothel, the engine room and wrestling gym. Anyone who wanted to talk to her - and there were enough of those that they would have kept a human fully occupied - met her down here. Eire considered the man. "Sure."

"Thank you so much."

Eire was pleased to see that the living quarters hadn't degraded since she'd last been up here. The current captain, a man who called himself Yeats, had promised her that they wouldn't and she'd trusted him enough not to be constantly checking. Eire was always so pleased when people justified the faith she'd had in them.

Eire had been expecting disease and recriminations, instead she saw a healthy-looking fifty-year-old who smiled as soon as she saw Eire.

"Your son said that you were dying," Eire said.

The woman's smile broadened. "We all are, we're just at different points in that path. Except for you."

Eire took a wary step backwards.

"I'm not going to hurt you." The woman sounded amused. "I don't think I could."

Eire didn't say anything, but it took a strong effort not to point out that statement as the lie it was. Of course the woman could hurt her; everyone could. Her heart broke ever second she was on this starship.

"I just wanted to give you this." The woman held out a piece of actual paper. Eire would be appalled at the waste if she wasn't busy being curious as to the contents. "It's a little something I wrote."

Eire grinned then, fierce and beautiful. She took the paper from the woman's head, and scanned the handwritten lines. It was a poem, written in an Italian form so it was less powerful than it could be. Still, the loss and longing sprang from every word, and Eire clutched the paper to her heart. "Thank you," she said.

"I had to," the woman said. "Women like you were always supposed to have love poems written about them."

Eire frowned. "This poem isn't about me. It's about the land."

The woman shrugged. "I wrote it for you. Which makes it about whatever you want it to be."

Eire considered that. "Thank you," she said again.

Eire had been gifted with good poems and bad ones, with raunchy sonnets and longing ballads. She'd received odes to her eyes and hymns to her breasts. The poems had driven her to laughter and to sobs.

And from every single poet, and every single person she considered her responsibility, she could feel how much they loved her.

Eire was the heart of Colony Ship 7, but they were her soul.