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Jan 27, 2023 12:55 PM
Margaret among space debris
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(“I think it’s an old timey word for ‘sisters’?”)

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"Why did you come to this station?" she asks. "Did you know there was someone here?"

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"I didn't know, actually. In fact, up until half a cycle ago I wasn't even sure where this station was." The word he uses--cycle--isn't familiar from the movies Margaret watched. "The other scions and I used this place as a staging area not long after arriving in the system, but we had to beat a hasty retreat when the devastators assaulted it. We left things behind. Some of them quite precious." Leon lowers his hand from Margaret's brow and places it lightly on the laptop she carries. "We rebuilt elsewhere. Lifetimes passed. Then, half a cycle ago, a relay probe picked up EM chatter from this stretch of the debris disk that matched Old Heptarian frequencies. I grabbed a couple of trusted pilots and set out at once."

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"It wasn't easy." One of the pilots speaks up. "Such a faint signal, washed out by background radiation far more often than not."

 

She clasps her fellow pilot by the shoulder. "But Trinket here still sniffed you out."

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Trinket gives a small nod and smile, almost blushing with pride.

 

"Glad to be of service."

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"Thank you," she says, to Trinket and the rest of them. "I would have--was going crazy here alone." Yes, it would have been nice if they hadn't injured her quite so badly on showing up, but they didn't mean to.

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"The infection has run its course by now. Can you move?"

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"Yes, I'm alright. Let me do one last pass of healing--" her various damaged parts flicker out of existence and back, replacing themselves with healthy versions. "Okay, I'm good to go."

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"We've no reason to linger here longer, then. Follow me back to my ship, and we'll get you to a medical facility as soon as possible."

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(To the soldiers: "We've secured the archives. Prepare to move out.")

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("Understood.")

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Leon leads the way back through the airlock, with his escort covering the withdrawal in practiced tandem.

 

The ship beyond the airlock is cramped, its single interior room cluttered with instruments and equipment.

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Margaret stares around curiously. Her vision isn't quite as good as it was; if the medical facility can't fix it she might want to sit down somewhere and see if she can fix the nearsightedness she's given herself. She pulls her wings in close and holds her skirts against her legs so they don't catch on anything.

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Everything has a proper place, clipped or strapped up to prevent it from drifting weightlessly into the cleared central expanse of the chamber. One clutter of machinery has the look of a work space, with a desk and a computer interface, while another has racks and racks of little drones in all shapes and sizes. A bed and other essentials are recessed against the back wall of the space, furthest from the airlock. Right beside the airlock is a probably excessive wardrobe--clothes wedged tightly into their storage crevasse on hangars that fit together like puzzle piece, a carefully curated makeup kit and a few combs slotted in beside. 

 

(The portal to the room closes behind Margaret with the two soldiers still inside the airlock. The pair were fitting helmets into place as the double doors seal airtight.)

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"Welcome to my home away from home."

Leon kicks off the doorframe and glides over the the wide mattress across the way from it.

"You'll want to join me by the back wall for the initial acceleration..."

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Margaret parks herself on the mattress and awaits the return of gravity. She wonders if she's had enough muscle atrophy to make it worth putting some more bulk on the quick way. Probably not; starscape muscle is less efficient than the ordinary sort.

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The room rattles slightly as the ship disconnects from the station. It turns over once near weightlessly and then begins to accelerate, creating a facsimile of "down" in the direction of the wall the two of them have braced against.

"So. An alternate Earth, you say?"

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"I think so. You had different versions of some of the movies. And no references to the magic stuff from my Earth--magical girls like me, and the swarms that attack us."

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"You picked up on all that from a millennia-old archive... are you also a student of the classics then? Or, wait, maybe you're not just from an alternate Earth but also from much earlier in that Earth's timeline..."

 

"Magical girls? Swarms? How do those work?"

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"Yes, I'm from the twenty-first century. Magical girls . . . a couple percent of girls, never boys or adults, we don't know why, get the ability to change their appearance. If they change it to something not human, they can't go back to totally human ever, but they get magic, and the ability to change their clothes, and the magic is stronger the prettier we are. Different people have different things, I have danger sense and seeing a little way into the future and uncontrollable prophecies and some people make ice or shoot lightning or heal or grow plants or whatever."

"Swarms are black stuff that appears out of nowhere. Smarter than bugs but dumber than people. They start out like a swarm of bugs but if you don't kill them they merge into monsters and get bigger and bigger. Magical girls can sense them; the ones with good combat powers fight them. The ones that start near people are easy to find and kill but the ones that start in the ocean get huge."

That's the most words she's said without stopping since she got eaten by the snake cryptid and now her voice is kind of worn out.

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