Chapter 10: The Voyage Home
We were sitting there for more than an hour now, waiting for, something, to happen. Eleanor was busy calculating the consequences for the nearby systems. Only the Sol system is known to bear life in the surrounding one, so we only had to calculate how much energy the explosion caused and what we can do to protect Earth. Which should be touched in about 4 to 5 years from now due to the speed at which the energy was released. Thanks god, this star in particular was low on time crystals concentration, the last thing we needed was an FTL gamma shock wave in Earth's direction.
- "Aria, do you want some tea? Mint." softly said Sarah, Sylvia's mom, beside me, she should have been making tea when I was thinking about the situation, unfortunately, there was nothing I could do, but I couldn't help myself from thinking.
- "Yes please" I smiled, taking the hot mug of tea she tended to me, and resume my thinking, eleven other systems had gone supernovae a few minutes apart. Of course, it was a few FTL minutes apart, the stars themselves were hundreds of light years away. Something wasn't quite right though, and we couldn't just go there and investigate we were highly researched criminals in the eyes of the Union from now on
A sound resonated in the mess and lounge area, indicating Eleanor finished the calculations,
- "The majority of the gamma emission is on the other side of Earth. The total energy released in the direction of Earth is enough to cause some high-atmospheric perturbations. I estimated the light trace to be visible only at night."
We all were instantly relieved, Earth would not fry in the sheer amount of energy released, that was to be expected due to the relative small size of the system's stars, but it was a trinary system, nothing could be sure before measuring and computing the simulation. I was getting puzzled, and I think Aarin was becoming frustrated too, judging by his expression, and then he spoke,
- "We need to investigate." All of our eyes went huge. It was weird this many stars exploded roughly simultaneously, given that the average star's life-span is a few billions years, but it was just a coincidence. Aarin, however, then said something that had my blood turned instantly cold as I forgot about this detail.
"A star like Proxima's should not turn into a supernova, a nova at best and even that is not sure, they were simple red dwarf stars not regular stars like your one or even super-giant stars."
- "First we need to dump my parents back home, you said it Earth is clear of danger, as of Eleanor she can't leave the ship, you and Aria are researched Union's citizen, and I'm not staying anywhere else than in my lover's embrace." Said my lover, as determined as ever, so much that when their parents tried to argue they could come with us, they refused stating the level of danger of the mission, my and Aarin's researched status, and a glare to their parents. That makes sense we would likely be out there in the stars for months trying to investigate what happened with those stars, Sarah and her husband have things to do on Earth, and they need to update our status, after two years on Union Central I'm likely dead in the papers.
They nodded, and we all scrambled back to the bridge and initiated the jump back home.
A few minutes -- I would never habituate myself to this new drive we made the jump between Wolf 359 and Earth in mere minutes a more than seven light years jump! -- later we activated the cloaking and phase devices of the ship to avoid any kind of detection by the surface, made the little trip to the shuttle's bay and strapped ourselves in the main shuttle. Eleanor came by downloading herself in place of the regular shuttle AI. She left one of her subroutines in the ship to monitor her while we were away. Once again I was piloting.
- "You're fairly good at piloting this shuttle Aria! Even better than I remembered! Did you take some flying course back on Union Central while we were developing a drive to save you?" My lover said, a grin on their face and their arm around my admittedly small waist and their head buried in my hair.
- "No, but if you continue clinging to me, I'll land us on London airfield instead of New Paris, so quiet partner!" I said grinning and half hugging them while still piloting the shuttle.
I think I heard Sarah whispering something about "cute couple" and "wedding" to her husband, but I was not sure, and I had a shuttle to safely land after all.
Safely landed on the outskirts of New Paris and the protection activated, we wandered in downtown, I knew it only been two years, but those years felt like a lifespan to me. The never ending buzzing of Union Central shuttles was gone, replaced by the slight sound of birds and drones chilling around like nothing happened. The endless column of students running (or rolling, or whatever their species was known to) to be on time for their first class of the day at Union Central University were nowhere to be seen as we passed by the New Paris University campus and saw the lazy students casually and slowly walk towards their respective class.
However how alien the situation seemed to me -- which was pretty ironic considering I was home -- I was surprised by the plain-old familiarity I still had with the city, it made sense after all, I lived here for about a decade, almost since its foundation, the skyline of skyscrapers was the same as it always was, the Earth sky was flawlessly blue, only for a cloud of to appear here and there. This city, this planet, was my home, I was suddenly feeling angry towards the Union, they kept me in their place for so long! Separated from my other half, my chosen family, and even Aarin who I came to love. I was now obliged to live as a fugitive, always running from planet to planet, hopping from system to system, hiding from the Union, a life of running, a life as a renegade, without ever settling home with my kind.
Sylvia, my sunshine on this dark world, fortunately saw my mood and clung a bit more to me, I was once again reminded of the height difference that now existed between us, I was really tiny compared to my old body and to them. This fact alone warmed me a bit, then they held me by my waist and slipped an arm protectingly around me, reducing the distance between us to virtually nothing. This was heaven, and I relaxed, even if I end up as a fugitive all my life, I would have the wonderful and beautiful Sylvia with me, Aarin would also be there, I would not be alone. Never again.
I basked in the embrace and lost the meaning of time, just walking, hugging, exchanging the casual glance at Sylvia's parents, and hearing them giggling each time Sylvia kissed me, held me and just toyed with me, I loved that! I was exactly the right shape for my understanding of myself and Sylvia knew exactly how to handle me! Those years of lesbian training proved to be efficient after all.
We kept on walking just admiring the city and the neighbourhood, all of us were on another planet or ship for more than two years now, so it was new for all of us. Fortunately Sylvia's parents had kept contact and were on unpaid leave, they could just integrate back their lives just as nothing happened, and working to sooth things with the University for Sylvia and figuring out the issue of my... death. Eventually as I was staring into the beautiful eyes of my stunning partner, I heard a voice, my brain recognized it but didn't directly connect the dot, calling out to Sarah who stopped and put my partner and me behind her in a protective maneuver. It was then I saw the face of the voice calling out and my eyes went huge as my brain finally connected the dots.
The voice was my mother's.
I did not know what to do. Running away? Calling her out ? Make myself as small as possible ? In the end my brain did not let me decide, I fell on my butt on the cold floor of the suburb's streets. Sylvia came immediately to my rescue and hugged me so tightly I was not sure if breathing was still an option. But the support was much needed now. My mother, the woman that despite birthing and nurturing me for years, abandoned me when my father and her decided my gender was their business and not mine. Sylvia gently helped me to sit more comfortably than I was a few seconds ago, and we decided to let the talking between the adult. I was not sure that I could even talk to be honest.
- "Sarah! You're here! And with your husband too! That's your daughter behind you? Hi Sylvia! You remember me?" she started and every one of us cringed at the same time, she managed to misgender Sylvia in less than ten seconds. "You're finally back! Geez it's been so long! Like two years now, time fly heh." She surprisingly ended on a sad note, two years ago was the moment her "son" was declared dead. She may have abandoned me before it happened but maybe that my death had an impact on her
Sarah's husband was about to answer, he probably thought of a good way to answer this and flee fast to avoid detection, I was confident she wouldn't recognize me, fortunately, to be honest I lost more than twenty centimeters and thirty kilos, my frame is completely different, my voice is completely different, my face still looks like mine, but she should just be confused and should not connect me with who I am.
Just as I thought that her eyes fell on Aarin's
- "Oh! He's handsome! He's Sylvia's boyfriend, isn't he? Oh! She scored well with this one! I was sure her lesbian... thing was just a phase" she spat the term lesbian, and with that all my, admittedly small, hopes for a better birth mom vanished as she once again showed her bigotry. To be honest she knew Sylvia was a lesbian, and they was clinging to me soothing me, stroking my hair, kissing me, whispering to me, kissing me again, all while Aarin was a few metres away analyzing the situation. How can she think in a non-bigoted way that he was their boyfriend? I was small but not invisible!
But when she stared at me, I kinda wanted to be invisible. Her glare was unsettling to say the least, as if she tried to undress me with her eye. She was likely trying to figure out who is the new girl who shared a resemblance to her deceased son. Adding to the fact she knew I was transgender and likely to be transitioning because I was not living with them anymore and as a bigoted cisgender person is likely to be uneducated on HRT and the effect of it I was becoming really frightened by the fact that she could guess who I was, and I would have to be convincing.
And then yes, she connected the dot, the textbook comic reaction with big eyes and mouth opening and closing in a seemingly endless cycle, I said nothing still clinging to my partner while I watched my in-laws coming to the same realisation as I had, even Aarin seemed ready to intervene if a situation that would make us or more specially me, in immediate danger. I knew he was very protective of me and it reassured me knowing I had someone quite intelligent and strong to rely on. We all watched her, as she carefully tried to approach me, only to be stopped by Sarah and her husband, but they let her close to me when I signaled it was okay.
- "Art-- Ariana? Is that you? You are alive? Please tell me you're alive" and then the mask fell. She wasn't only using my name -- the real one -- but she was glad I was alive? She abandoned me! But maybe she knew it was wrong? Either way her mask fell, revealing the sadness she felt and the hurting she lived as she looked at me with the purest smile ever possible, a smile of a mother, a smile of a loving parent to their child. She didn't need answers she knew the answer, but I nodded, I nodded to cement the fact that I had my mother, I don't care for my father, but my mother is here for me.
As the second I nodded she embraced me tightly, Sylvia let her take me, and she began gently whispering to me while starting to cry
- "I'm sorry Ariana, I'm so sorry I let him do that to you, I'm so glad you're okay, I'm so glad. I'm sorry, I know you were hurting, you're my child, but I didn't know how to react back then, I'm still lost right now, but what I did was wrong, so wrong I'm sorry you had to face that yourself, alone" She continued her speech for a few minutes, all of us were too stunned to speak, of the millions of ways this could have happened this one was not the one we would have thought of first.
- "Yes, it's me." I managed to say, crying loudly, in my new voice my mother couldn't miss. She let go of me and Sylvia immediately came back and hugged me
- "Oh my god Ariana you're beautiful, I'm sorry I should have known this was possible, you look so... stunning" I knew she was trying not to say normal and thanked her for the attention. "And your voice it was so... soft and high and beautiful, you take more after me now! Your facial structure have changed just slightly that's incredible. I'm so sorry I was like that back then I would have love seeing you becoming the beautiful young woman I have before me" Really not what we expected, to say the least.
- "Also, ma'am" said Sylvia, capitalising on this to say what they had to say "I'm not a girl, I'm non-binary, I use they/them, Sylvia is still fine" we all watched her as she genuinely tried to take the information and process it, in the end she gave the tinniest of nod and Sylvia continued "also i'm still really much a lesbian, I do agree with you on your daughter though, she is beautiful, and so much more, that's why I'm proud she is my girlfriend" they said grinning. I was so glad to have them as my partner and I clung a bit more in the hug to feel their warmth. "Lastly, you said you were sad you didn't get to see your daughter becoming the woman she now is, that's right, but you can decide to see the wonderful woman she will continue to be you just have to stay in her life. To love her for what she is, a woman, a girl, your daughter, but more importantly her own human being capable of doing her own decision" she finished defensively, hugging me and holding me by my waist, earning a "yelp!" out of me.
My mother smiled, she smiled I never saw her smiling before! That was new! I need to know what happened in those years now.
- "I will try my best, I swear, I'm not gonna let anything else forcing me out of my daughter's life now. I learned from my mistakes."
I think I never hugged my mother this much since the first grade. We exchanged communication informations (Aarin setted up some FTL connected email adresses thing and connected it to the Internet with a hidden relay in orbit) for us to communicate about our situation, her still living with dad, even if I'm quite sure she will leave him, and me because after our little tour I'll leave on a god know how long mission to investigate supernovae and avoid the Union battleship armed with states of the art canons and other frightening high-tech weapons our ship currently do not have. We have a plan to source and build some weapons but for now we're heavily counting on our raw speed, which is dangerous in case of an attack as a jump have a minimal time necessary to prepare it safely, and as they can target our field generator rendering us unable to enter the sub-dimensionnal space of the black-hole without being reduced as a piece of paper.
The University passed we decided to head to Sarah's home to end the tour, and to drop them before leaving to our investigation of weird supernovae, maybe we could win a Union equivalent of a Nobel Prize if we discover why so many stars turned supernovae? Well to be honest I think when Aarin and Sylvia would get one for their multidimensional FTL -- it is the final name we decided to give it the full name of the discovery was, sub-spaced multidimensional field-stabilised black-hole-generated Faster Than Light Travel, which is a mouthful and can be shortened to multidimensional FTL or even FTL -- so this one should be for me! Before that we actually needed to discover the why though. And this would be later as we arrived at Uin's home.
- "Bye Sarah, be well, and we should be back in no time! Thank you for the help with the deceased situation." I hugged for the last time Sarah, after an hour-long emotional goodbye session.
We used our short range personal transporters to travel back to the shuttle, I let Eleanor pilot this time, I was seriously tired after all this walking and emotional breakdown. But I was really happy to have my mother back.
I decided to check the little box Sarah's gifted me saying that I should do that in private, the others were busy in the cockpit so I sat on the couch and opened it
I want you to have that, it is a ring used to propose to someone you love,
It has a nice name in French : bague de fiançailles
It is in my family for generations and I want you to have it
Oh! How cute is that! She gave me a ring to propose! But why?. I decided to check the other side of the paper to find more instruction to follow