People roam throughout the long, metal hallways of Exodus Sol, clad in drab blue and grey jumpsuits. Terrans, mostly, though there are a handful of outer galaxy species wandering the halls. They stand out like sore thumbs amidst the Terran masses.
Delilah pays them the same amount of attention she would offer any Terran. That is: a bright smile, a polite greeting, and a dainty little wave.
Ironic really, that the outer galaxy species respond better to her brief attempts at conversations than most Terrans do. One of them - a tall, thick Ulmaat that is perched awkwardly on a nearby bench - even tries to start a genuine conversation. Though Delilah declines as politely as she can. Any other day, she would be thrilled to speak to a member of one of the outer galaxy species. Especially an Ulmaat, who seem to draw the ire of Terrans more frequently than the rest. Delilah imagines they must have extravagantly interesting tales to tell. They were the first spacefaring species, after all.
Unfortunately Delilah is in a bit of a hurry.
Today’s the day! she thinks, a grin blossoming on her face, bright as Terra’s sun. I finally get to make the jump!
Many people dream of leaving Terra, of leaving their ancestor’s solar system, in favour of travelling across the stars to planets uncharted. Not many of them ever make it out though. The jump to Tau Cerberi is expensive as it is for a short vacation. Actually staying there, permanently? You either have to be rich or have a job waiting for you.
Delilah falls into the latter category; having a nice and cosy Officer Cadet position with the mighty Cerberus Fleet. It will be her way in, offers a tonne of experience with intergalactic travel as one could hope for, allows her the chance to build relations with other Terrans or, if she’s being honest, the other spacefarers.
So she will show her worth, get scouted for a discovery mission, and make her name in history as a great Terran explorer. Alongside the greats, like Ziegler or Sinclair or Sainz.
That’s the plan, at least.
Lost in thought, Delilah doesn’t see the person in front of her until she walks straight into the back of them. There is a collective gasp, one from Delilah at the shock of having collided with something solid, and another from the stranger, who almost topples to the floor. Delilah makes to grab at their arm, or maybe their waist, in some attempt to steady them, but another stranger beats them to it. A man in a suit and tie, clothes a little too scruffy for him to be a proper businessman. He shoots her a glare.
“Watch where you’re going, jackass,” he growls.
Delilah opens her mouth to respond, mind already halfway through a sincere apology, but the stranger she had walked into raises an arm. It stops Delilah in her tracks and, though the man is still glaring at her, he doesn’t keep mouthing off at her.
“Really, Peter?” the stranger asks, tone soft despite the berating disappointment etched into the edges. Far lighter than the man’s too. Now that Delilah has a chance to give the stranger a once over, she notices the shorter stature and hourglass frame, a mess of bushy, untamed hair curling down their back. They - she turns around, frowning at the man. “Is there any need for that?”
“Don’t you dare. Why don’t you cool off and go pick up our tickets?”
If Delilah had to guess, this Peter guy really does not want to go play fetch with some tickets. Despite his pout and subsequent glare that he aims Delilah’s way, he relents fairly quickly. Delilah can still hear his muffled mutterings as he walks away.
“Apologies for that, dear,” the woman says, gaze flickering from Peter to Delilah.
“Oh! It’s no trouble, really, I’ve had people call me worse than jackass.” Delilah laughs it off, offering the woman a timid smile. “I should be the one apologising though, since I’m the one who bumped into you.”
The woman shrugs off the apology, offering a gentle smile of her own. The kind that comes with soft creases at the corners of her eyes. “It happens to the best of us,” she says, accompanied by a wink. “Where are you rushing off to so quickly, anyway?”
Delilah brightens. Her smile widens, becomes a little toothy, as excitement rushes through her veins. “I’m making the jump today! So long, Terra. Hello Tau Cerberi!”
“I take it this will be your first time?”
Though the woman seems happy enough to inquire further, Delilah catches an odd note about her tone. A sourness, well hidden beneath curiosity. Strange, Delilah thinks.
“Yep,” she eventually replies, popping the ‘p’. “Got a job with the Fleet, so it’s a permanent trip for me.”
That gets the woman to frown, which Delilah finds even stranger. The Cerberus Fleet is every Terran’s pride and joy. To see someone react so negatively is a rarity; Delilah wonders if perhaps the woman has had a bad experience with them, or maybe even in Tau Cerberi in general.
“Well, do be careful with the Fleet, dear.” She pauses, lips pursed. As the seconds pass Delilah almost makes to intervene and question exactly what the woman means with that cryptic statement, but once again the woman beats her to the punch. “I must be off - my fiancé and I have a research expedition to attend - but it was nice meeting you.”
“You too, uhm, miss…?”
Trying to pry a name out of the woman by playing naively coy has no effect. The woman just smiles and walks away, off in the vague direction that Peter had gone. Delilah is left standing alone among a crowd of people passing her by, confusion bleeding into her prior excitement.
What a strange last day on Terra...