Thank you for choosing QuanTel Communications. Your call request is currently being routed to the nearest hyperlight relay. It can take several minutes to establish a connection with your requested party. You will receive a notification when the comm-tunnel is ready.

Darren set the phone on the bed and slipped his shoes on. A glance at the clock by his bedside confirmed it was four hours until Start of Business on the station. Plenty of time for a chat and a stroll. He picked the phone back up and headed out of his berth to the nearest lift. Garden level.

It was peaceful here, so early. The soft sound of flowing water permeated the background of the verdant display. Red, violet, and yellow flowers stood in finely ordered rows, alternating with small shrubs and trees. Occasionally there were plaques offering information or dedication.

Connection established.


Darren! Hi!

Her voice had a weariness in it.

“Hey! I’m not catching you too late planetside, am I?”

No, you’re fine. I just got home about an hour ago. It’s still early evening here.

“Good. I’m in the garden, if you want to holo?”

Ah, hey, do you mind if we just do audio? I’m—it’s one of those days, you know?

He smiled, even if she couldn’t see it. “You’re still beautiful.”

You’re sweet. You seeing anyone right now?

They both laughed, and the warm sound blended in with the rest of the garden.

It’s probably… what? Biz minus four on the station?

“More or less, yeah. No rush.”

Docking bay strike still going on?

“Geez. Is this a date or an interview?” Darren rounded the corner on one of the paths and saw several flyers demanding more leave time scattered on the ground. He knelt down and framed a shot of them against some amaryllises.

Mmm, sorry. Hard to turn the reporter off.

“It’s fine. I’m just teasing anyway.” He sent the image.

Nice! Let me guess, they’re still making you work?

He leaned down to sniff the red petals of an amaryllis. “Of course.”

Bastards. Not even getting shipments till Astra grows some humanity, but you have to go in? What are you going to sell? Bare shelves?

“Yeah. I know. Not much choice though. I need the credits.” He heard her sigh. “I agree.”

You doing okay, Darren?

He thought about it for a moment. His account was a bit lean, and work was stressful. It would have been nice if his own workplace were unionized, but that was a bit of a pipe dream. He sat down on a bench beside some bright yellow flowers, blooming off long stalks reaching toward the ceiling. Forsythia, the plaque read. There had been some of them growing outside the café he and Kara met at, during Cedurat-IV’s spring.

“Yeah. I’ll be okay.” He reached out with his free hand and let the yellow petals brush against his skin. “How about you? I miss you, Kara. Did you pick up a new beat since the championship is done for the season?’

I miss you too. But yeah, I’m covering a wine festival right now. Cedurat tradition, over four hundred years.

“Sounds great! Any air time?”

A bit! Had a few interviews. The thing’s running for two weeks. Still trying to dig up something juicy. Maybe a local scandal. Poisoned grapes. Who knows?

She laughed.

“If there’s something going on, you’ll find it! I’ll have to check it out during the next Packet.” One downside to station life: download time. Non-emergency data from throughout the Union was distributed roughly weekly to any civilian stations. Planetside, you could just send a text.

Hey, Darren?


You’re cute.

“Same to you.” Silence passed for a moment between them. “What’s the winter like on Cedurat-IV?”

At this latitude? Pretty mild. Why? You thinking about coming back to seeee meeee?

“Always. I can probably save up enough to hop on a ship by then. Maybe I can even stay at the same place as last time.”

Well, maybe you… She faded off, and he could tell she was rethinking it.

“It’s okay. I can book a place and we’ll play it by ear.”

He thought about sending a photo of the forsythia. Too sentimental, probably? It could be difficult, wanting to be loving and vulnerable, but he worried about being cloying. All the same, he captured an image and sent it.

Flowers? In a garden? Lovely!

He chuckled.

Wait… I know these. Outside the café.



“I’ll make it there soon.” He reached up to wipe the tears from his eyes.

I’m holding you to it.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Now, about that strike…

The next two hours passed much too quickly.