KEYSTATION shimmers brightly over the gas giant of Talon Mede. The space station is all glass and dark metal glimmering under the brilliance of the star system's near sun.
Night side faces the planet, and a young girl, perhaps in her early twenties, stands near the glass about at dusk, where she can look out toward the other stations, shy fingers nearly touching the glass. She is tall with dark hair and fair skin, as that of most spacers. She is a Mede. From here, she can just glimpse the sweeping curve of emerald brilliance that is Talon Mede. More, her gaze catches the sharp edge of Darkstation.
They know. It is the only possible conclusion to draw.
The girl is Kayda. She turns to meet the weary gaze of the old woman behind her. She lifts her chin and her bright grey eyes darken. They are too bright. Spacer she is, unaccustomed to atmospherically filtered sunlight. "Mother in my house." A respectful and even beginning. They do not speak standard here, but chide each other softly in a Medean tongue. "I was promised." She will not allow herself to plead. She is too proud for that.
The old woman stands sweltered in shadow, facing already toward nightside, already prepared to leave her apprentice, already prepared to take the task which was promised to Kayda.
The old woman sighs. Though she is old, she has few wrinkles. Her hair is blackened with the dye of the Medes. Yet in the heaviness of her breath, she clearly feels her years. "Stay home today, little one," the old artificer says. "Stay home, little one. I will go alone."
Darkstation is where Evan lives. Evan. A Talon. They know.
"Leave then," Kayda says, brushes at the smarting tears, and turns away to press her fingers again to the glass.
Yelkhté, she is. Abandoned. Kayda, artificer of glass, bright with the promise of greatness, was promised this trip to Darkstation to spread out her wares before their uneasy rivals, to show the deepness of its dark color as nanobots shifted within the fibers and hardened it, to reveal the clear brightness of its transparency, to be beautiful in the way of the Medes. One glass for the day; one glass for the night. She is the artificer, and she is yelkhté.
She could spit the word, but she lifts her chin instead. Her bright grey eyes dart back and forth, taking in the sweep of cosmos. The coolness of the glass is soothing against her palm. This is her glass and none can take it from her—not even the old one walking away, forsaking her for Darkstation to sell their wares.
The Medes and the Talons are enemies. All spacers know this. All those who live and mine the gaseous seas of Talon Mede know this.
She thinks that if she could step outside the glass, then she could love and be loved by Evan with his red hair and brilliant smile. She thinks if she steps outside the glass, there will be no air to breathe.
It is the glass. It is more about the glass than any in the watchful Human Alliance Council guard can imagine.
Evan Darke waits with his own for the delegation of Medes, coming with their glass. He avoids looking at the guards his people disdain. He hopes, and is grateful, when he sees an old woman and her two escorts arrive through the great bay doors. Kayda is not with them.
This meeting should have occurred on Waystation, the one permanent space station where Talons and Medes meet freely in uneasy tension, where they work together as needed, where the long, free-flowing robes in pale colors and pastels mingle seemingly indiscriminately with the dark colors and severe lines of Talons serviceable spacewear. The fact that Iyven, the senior shipbuilder of Evan's clan, demanded the meeting to occur here in Darkstation, on home territory of the Medes' sworn enemies, does not bode well.
The old Medean artificer inclines her head to Iyven and his complement of guards and Evan. Evan is both an interpreter, having learned Medean at an Alliance school on an Alliance station, and a nanotechnologist. His requested presence did not please him any more than the location of the viewing.
Iyven gestures expansively toward a viewing table, and the old woman moves to lay out her glass. Her two enforcers follow closely, their physical bulk, black guard sashes, and shortened robes leaving no doubt as to their purpose.
It does not matter. Evan wants to tell her, for Kayda cares for the old artificer, considers her a mentor and a mother, but he is no traitor. They are in Darkstation, and there is no place of safety here for a Mede.
Kayda looks up sharply when a bright, thick cry pierces the station air. For a second, her heart freezes at the sirens, a hypnotic electronic beat taking on the nuance of Medean music and the fierceness of war.
Abruptly and silently, she remembers her training and flees the window. As she runs, she yanks against the silvery chain around her neck just under her robe. One tug with her warm palmprint and the nanobots unshape to become something else. Kayda's hand comes away wet, as if with silver blood, and when she presses it against the hidden doorway into the control center, the panel gives away, then melds shut again behind her.
Moving in seamlessly beside her brothers and sisters, and a flick of a dozen bright switches. Distress signal.
Location? red letters ask her.
Kayda glances over at her brothers and sisters, each doing their part in preparing for invasion.
She looks over the buttons indicating each and hits 'Darkstation.' She cannot breathe.