From the Story Arc: The Fading Flame: Meanwhile

Previous Story in the Arc: Necessary Measures by Petrograd (Thursday, May 31, 2007)

(posted Friday, August 10, 2007)

Red Star knew as soon as Astra entered the CCCP Headquarters. Red Star could feel Astra as a presence in her mind which grew slightly stronger as Astra slowly moved through the base towards her. They’d arranged to meet here and Star was currently waiting at the front of the meeting room, dominated by its imposing dais and wall hangings. However, the more Star thought about it, the more she felt Astra would prefer to sit in the 'break out' area towards the back. It seemed likely Astra would appreciate the softer looking chairs which were located near the small library – Astra also liked books - and the coffee and tea that were made to comrade Thea's special recipe. Her decision made; Star began to move down the hall when Astra came into view.

The exhaustion that was present in their link filled Astra's face and body but relief and something else, something that was quickly pushed down, were communicated to Red Star when they made eye contact. Whatever inclination that Star may have had to identify this was lost in the wave of relief she felt at once more being close to her sestra.

{ It is good to see you again, sestra. } Pleasure rang in Star’s thoughts. Astra may look like she had not slept for a week, but Star didn’t care; Astra was here and that was all that mattered. { You are well? }

“I... I’d didn’t think we would get back.” Exhaustion and another emotion Star couldn’t identify filled Astra’s voice. “I didn’t think we’d make it at all.” Astra said as she stopped next to Star

{ I knew, one way or another, we would find each other again, sestra. } Of that Star was certain; there was no way she’d have stopped looking for her Clan sister but it looked like her sestra had returned not a moment too soon. { Come, sit down and rest. } Star guided Astra towards one of the sofas.

“It was horrible...” Astra murmured as she sank into the cushioned seat. Star teleported a cup of tea to the table beside the couch and sat down next to Astra, but Astra didn’t notice and sat staring into space.

There were a few minutes of silence while Star and Astra just sat next to each other. Star could feel her sestra’s thoughts and emotions constantly whirling around, too frenzied to settle in one place for long. When this showed no sign of abating, Star gently prompted, { What happened, sestra? Tell me. }

There was another moment’s hesitation, and then Astra said, “I will show you.” With a harried expression, Astra turned her head, stared into Star’s eyes and opened her memories, allowing Star to see all that she had gone through.

There was silence for a time as Astra and Star stared at each other, reliving everything that had passed; the shock of the Portal explosion, the trauma of the alternate dimension and its version of her father, the Fallen and the deaths they had caused and, most painful, the deaths she had caused, that she had been responsible for.

“... horrible...” Astra repeated, breaking eye contact and staring through Star. “...I killed someone.” She said dully.

Star knew that this was the first being that Astra had killed and, for the umpteenth time, wished she could have been there to protect her sister, to save her from this trauma – even if it was only to postpone the inevitable. { ...and if you had not killed them? } she asked.

“I didn’t want to, but I had to. It wasn’t... I couldn’t...” Astra said and her voice began to tremble and tears welled up in her eyes.

“Sestra...” Star said, once more wishing there was some way she could help Astra - but maybe there was. She’d seen humans do something like this when they were upset so she reached out an arm towards Astra and tentatively embraced her. For a second, Star thought she’d done something wrong, as Astra quickly returned the embrace and held on to Star like she was trying to crush her. However, when Astra continued to cry, Star put both arms around her sestra and held her close.

“You did the only thing possible. You had no other choice and made the right decision.” Star said.

“I know I did.” { We know we did. } Astra said, between sobs and with Kyne’s voice mirroring hers. “But that doesn’t make it any less...” { horrible. } Kyne finished wearily. { We felt her die, Star. }

{ As you should do.} If you killed something you should feel it, certainly if you were killing for sustenance. It showed respect. However, Kyne was a Peacebringer and Astra was Human; they were different. { Killing something is easy, anyone can be a killer. Fully understanding and appreciating the need for it, and still being able to do it, that is another matter. } For a brief moment; a flicker of a dust filled landscape, dotted with columns of sparkling clouds of energy rising up towards the star-strewn sky, shone through in Red Star’s memories, then it was gone. { Anyone can be a killer, sestra. If they had died without you feeling anything, then that would be cause for concern. }

Astra continued to cry. “And those... things...” she sobbed. { The Fallen. } Kyne clarified.

Regret again filled Red Star. { I should have been there with you, for you. }

“And that poor man... Sarge.” said Astra, picturing the version of Murdock she’d met. An image of Murdock, alone and full of self loathing and guilt came to Astra's mind as she cried, full of fear for him. Red Star just sat there, holding Astra and attempting to be of some comfort to her.

"I thought it would be all right when we got home, and it's all wrong" Astra cried.

{ All? } Unbidden, the thought sprang into Star's mind and she stiffened.

"... Not you...” Astra sniffed, “...but Father...”

Red Star relaxed and said, { ...yes, he has... changed. } Murdock certainly wasn’t the person she’d thought him to be. The way he'd given up, left Astra and the others to their fate, this was not the Murdock she had come to respect and trust. At least he had partially redeemed himself by, finally, attempting to extract revenge on Garvey – even if he hadn’t thought to ask for her assistance.

“He... he fused to... something.” Astra continued. “It’s got Kheldian energies but... but he horrified by it. He’s just... he’s just so... broken.”

{ ...If you wish, sestra, I will talk with him. I would not worry, does not Petrograd say that to make something better you first have to break it? } This did not have the reassuring effect that Red Star had hoped as Astra began to cry again.

“I don’t know if he’ll ever get better.” She sobbed.

{ I… I will try and… help him for you. } Still holding onto the upset youngster, Red Star pushed her personal feelings about Murdock aside; Astra was her sestra, what she wanted, Star wanted. { It will be alright, sestra. } Red Star promised. { You are safe now and need to rest. You are staying at Sanctuary for the moment? }

“Mom is staying with Dad on Sanctuary,” Astra said, between sobs, “Aedan and I are going home.” { We came home to a wreck, sestra. } Kyne finished, sounding as worn out as Astra.

{ Things can be made anew; the important thing is you are back. Now, come and rest. I’ll be with you, should you have need. } Star said. Wordless gratitude flowed from both Astra and Kyne into Red Star as she drew forth a cloud of energy to surround them and teleport them back to Astra’s apartment, her home. Any further conversation could wait until they were rested; the important thing was there were back and, for now at least, nothing else mattered.