Aboard a transport shuttle headed for Farpoint, cluttered among personnel newly assigned to Rogue Squadron, a young recruit intensely scribbles down words in a small, black journal:
It's kind of like…It's like cruising down the streets of the metropolis in your luxury, top-of-the-line landspeeder on a bland everyday afternoon that has no difference from yesterday, or tomorrow, or a week from now. But this afternoon, you hear a jingle from under the seat and upon inquiry, find a few, long-forgotten credits. Misplaced ages ago, thought lost to some expense. But there they are, like a surprise you inadvertently planted for yourself. Then you sit back up to the wheel just in time to watch your high-end, very expensive vehicle smash head-on into another one. It's like the comfort of a happy accident, but the abrupt jolt of a tragic one.
And you're wondering if the credits were worth the crash. It's like all of that, but more meaningful, more pertinent.
Initially, I thought it strange to hear my name for the mail call. Who would be writing to me? I know my mother couldn't. My father certainly wouldn't. Maybe Driggs…but this isn't really his style.
What's more peculiar, is the package. Just a tiny, ordinary looking holopad. No name, no return address. But as soon as the article touches the skin of my hand, the mysterious workings of my empath ability kick into overdrive. The sense is going crazy reacting to this thing. Everything else drifting around in the tiny, cramped space of the shuttle disappears. From the staff sergeant passing out the mail to the private sitting across from me reading it, they – feel – dead. Nothing. Nothing but this miniscule item in the palm of my hand.
Let me tell you, I've never felt an emotion from an inanimate object.
Let me tell you, I've never felt so many emotions from one source.
And let me tell you, I've never felt another's clear, sentient presence.
I play the holo and the image that appears is a snowy night on the rear deck of the Archaeon lodge overlooking the mountains and valleys of Ammuud bathed in moonlight. A brilliant and bright light flashes from the sky, blinding me, and when the burning pain in my retinas subsides…I'm there. On the deck. On a snowy night in Ammuud. I can taste the cold air on my lips. I can feel the snowflakes on my face.
"Did you know…" I hear a voice quietly say.
My eyes trace the source and I see, standing full of grace and beauty, Mara…
…my little sister.
"Did you know that mom gave me a middle name?"
My stomach drops to my knees and my heart jumps into my throat. I don't know what this is. I don't know where I am. But none of that matters right now because she's the only thing that does.
"Of--of course she gave you a middle name," the words can barely squeeze out of my throat. "Why wouldn't she?"
She appears thoughtful in the quiet night, the moonlight playing soft upon her pearlescent skin while snowflakes glitter her brunette hair. Reflective, and yet compassionate green eyes stare off into the distance, and a subtle smile plays upon her lips.
"No, silly," she replies, looking over at me, and I swear something in her eyes pierces through and I can't hold their gaze. "I mean a virtue name."
"What?" I return, trying to look up at her again but failing. My breath comes in gasps, and a deadening weight sets in upon my shoulders. This is conviction. This is guilt. My mind struggles to focus to continue this dialogue. "Only..only men are allowed virtue names in our family."
She nods. There is an air of righteous innocence that seems to radiate off of her, and somehow I think it's why I feel the way I do. And somehow I think she knows this, but her eyes portray only love. "Mom never told dad about it, but she wanted me to have one… Want to know what it is?"
With mustered something I look up, managing to give a small nod.
"Mara Guidance Archaeon…" I say, more to myself than to her. "It's beautiful."
There's fluid elegance in the way she steps over to me, the fresh snow upon the deck lightly crunching under her feet. "Mom said that you would bring about a new future for us…for our family."
A weak smile crosses my lips. "Visionary." I reply with a reminiscence of mother's explanation to me ever so long ago.
"But I would be your backbone. Your support."
That remorseful weight turns too much to bear and I crumble. Tears welling up in my eyes. Knees going weak. Collapsing into my little sister's arms. Heartfelt apologies rolling off my tongue between the sobs upon her shoulder. Yet somehow this feels like something long overdue…Like a belated catharsis of stranger than fiction circumstances.
Her hand lightly moves up and down my back with a feather's touch, and there is a strange, soothing quality about it. A calm spreads over me. My breath eases. Tears dry up.
"I wanted you to know, that I'll always be there for you." She says with her chin resting on my shoulder, her words coming in peaceful whispers dancing delicately across the inner recesses of my ear. "Whenever you're in trouble, I'll be your guidance."
"Please…please forgive me. It's my fault you died." I say, confessing latent burdens that were hidden for so long.
Her hand stops somewhere between my shoulder blades and a subtle warmth seem to emanate throughout my body. For a moment's time, in the twenty years of life and the three years of guilt, in this surreal world, in the enveloping and loving embrace of my dead sister's arms…
I – am – at – peace.
The comforting warmth cradles my eyes and slowly a white, fogging light creeps from the edges of my vision and enshrouds everything I see, wrapping it like a veil that grows more and more opaque until all that is left is whiteness. Suddenly dark replaces light, and I'm back in the dim interior of the shuttle, the world working as though nothing had stopped, and I had never left. Yet in the monotony of this reality, I am changed. A piece of that peace lingering. And I bury it in the depths of my being in a place no one will find it, no one will ever take it away. All of it's like the comfort of a happy accident, but the abrupt jolt of a tragic one.
And the credits are worth the crash.
The specter presence once embodied in the holopad is gone, leaving it a cold, lifeless device. But I can still hear the fading whisper of a voice that sounds something like Mara's: the voice of guidance. And I know she's not departing, just leaving me to my normal, run-of-the-mill undertakings. For she knows that only my death will relieve my guilt, but I've too much for live for…and her ever-present presence would just hang over me like a dark cloud on a sunny day.
But she'll be there when I'm at my worst, when my tribulations are at their best.
And then she will manifest her namesake.