“Come on, let’s go.” Ammona picked up her travel bag.
Drea munched on a bag of chips. She said nothing.
“Come on.” Ammona crossed the hall, and stood in front of her. “I have to go or I’ll miss the flight.” Her roommate slouched over the arm of their couch in the common room, downing comfort food.
“I kind of wish you would.” Drea made a face. “Do you have to go? The new roommate is a nightmare and we haven’t even met in person yet. Just saw the profile.” Flavor-dusted chip fragments surrounded her mouth, the remnants of crunchy comrades slain in a snack battle. Drea licked her lips.
“Your fault for not finding someone you like.”
“I didn’t have enough time!” Drea crunched down on a couple of chips she’d just shoved in her mouth. Bits of potato chip popped out, a frag grenade of sour cream and onion exploded over the carpet. “It was like, too fast after you came back from orientation.”
Ammona raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Enjoy cleaning that up later. And I don’t have enough time to sit around here while you’re moping. My flight’s gonna leave without me and you’re not stopping this.”
“I don’t care about cleaning, you know that.” Drea followed this with the projection of a chip piece onto Ammona’s jacket. “Ugh, fine.” She conceded.
“You’re gonna play it like that?” Ammona giggled and picked the chip off her jacket, flicking it into the kitchen. “Put your slippers on, no time for shoes.”
“Hope my next roommate isn’t as bossy,” Drea mumbled. She placed her crinkly bag of chips on the couch.
“Har, har.” Ammona headed down the long, clean hallway to the door. “And didn’t you say you’ve never met her? I doubt she’s a nightmare.”
“It’s not a she, it’s a he.” Drea followed Ammona down the hall.
“Wow, really? That’s surprising.” Ammona turned to the comm on the side of the door. She pushed a few keys on the panel.
“Please state your name and dock destination.” The friendly female computer voice said.
“Ammona King, Docking Bay B-12, the Luna V.” A tiny scrubbing sound emitted from the comm panel, alerting the two girls of the computer’s processing.
“Enjoy your trip, Ammona,” The computer’s voice continued. “Please go immediately to your transport station for clearance. You have one hour before departure. Average wait time for clearance is 25 minutes. Luna V boards in 30 minutes.” The voice sounded disjointed as it stumbled over the numbers in its recitation.
“Joy,” Said Ammona, pushing a button to silence the comm. “I love people digging through my shit to make sure I’m not carrying anything illegal.”
“Let’s go, you only have an hour before it takes off.” Drea stood at the door, which opened quickly to the side when it sensed her presence.
“Oh, now you’re in a hurry.” Ammona followed her roommate. For a moment she stood in the doorway, looking back down the clean, whitewashed hall that had become so familiar in the last couple of years. So strange, she thought, to leave a place I’ve known as home… For the millionth time.
“Please move away from the door.” Said the computer. A subsequent warning beep began its incessant repetition. “Please move away from the door.”
“Okay, okay.” Ammona growled. “No long farewells around here.”
“Please move away from the door.”
Drea laughed. “Duh! Computers couldn’t care less about farewells.”
With one last glance at her old home, Ammona stepped out of the way of the door and it shut. The warning beeps ceased, and the comm screen on the outside of the door went black.
“Don’t forget to format my vocal imprint.” Ammona told Drea as they walked towards an elevator that would take them to B level.
They walked down a long corridor that had apartment doors staggered across from one another on either side. After a few minutes of walking in silence, they emerged from the residential areas on their level and into the food court. Tables were scattered in a lounge area, and even at this early hour there were hundreds of people getting breakfast, chatting, or shopping. 24-hour shops and restaurants lined the walls as they approached a transport elevator. Both girls weaved between tables to skip the normal walkway, which was crowded with people going about their morning business.
“You alright?” Ammona noticed that Drea had yet to respond to her earlier remark.
“I think so.” Drea said. They approached the elevators. Thirty people stood around, waiting to take them to another deck on the ORB. “This is just so new to me. You’re the first roommate I’ve ever had. And now I have to live with some dude.”
“It will be fine. He’ll probably stay in his room a lot.” They stopped to wait in line. All around them the subtle vibration of the base resonated. The quiet hum of the central grav-core, a thrumming heartthrob in the center of the Orbital Relay Base.
“Or he’ll be the kind of guy that wants to hang out all the time, and then I’ll stay in my room a lot.” Drea said as they got onto an elevator with twelve other people.
“Maybe. There are endless possibilities. B-Level, please.” Ammona said to a person who was pressing all the buttons for the other passengers.
“If you forget to video chat me every day I swear to god I’ll come find you.”
“I wish you would!” Ammona smiled. “I’d be more than happy to have you there. You know that.”
“No thanks.” Said Drea. Her black locks bounced back and forth as she shook her head, brushing her cheeks. Ammona tried not to think about how much she was going to miss her friend. “You know I’m not that brave. I don’t want to go out into uncharted parts of space.”
“You’re already out in space, it’s not that different.”
“It is when they send you through the Gates.” Drea shuddered. “I’ve heard the stories.” She looked up at Ammona. For a moment, as they rode the elevator, they looked into each other’s eyes. Ammona didn’t want to look, but she had nothing else in the elevator to look at. She didn’t want to look away, either.
“Drea…” She started.
“Don’t.” Drea looked away. “I don’t want to hear about all the reasons you wanna do this. I know them, I’ve been listening for years.”
“It’s not about that.” Ammona started again. “It’s about needing to do it. You know I’d rather have you there with me.” She touched Drea’s arm, but the girl stepped back. Ammona felt a cold chill come over her, as Drea pulled away from her emotionally and physically. Goosebumps prickled her skin and made her even more uncomfortable.
“Here we are.” Said Drea, and they both stepped out at B Level after excusing themselves to several other passengers they pushed through. Ammona watched Drea walk towards Docking Bay B-12, and sighed.
She’s never going to get over this. Ammona thought. Not after our conversation last week.
“Are you coming, lazy butt?” Drea turned, hands on her hips, and waited.
“Yeah, I’m coming.”
The two of them walked through the food court on B Level, past shops for coffee, clothing, furniture, toys, candy, groceries, beauty products, and space gear. The huge glass windows on their left let just enough of the blinding, exposed sunlight stream into the base. They walked down the shopping hall, through some residential halls, and came out into an open space.
There were lines of people getting ready for travel clearance, and signs that pointed them towards Docking Bays B-1 through B-6 down the left hallway, and B-7 through B-12 down the right hallway. Space Travel Security Agents looked through travel bags with orange-gloved hands that matched their bright uniforms. Children wailed as they were forced to walk through the weapons detectors without a parent. Shoes, jewelry, and Personal Tech Devices were removed, and discarded into glass bins that slid through mechanical detection devices.
“You’d think they wouldn’t need this many STSA agents just for civilian travel.” Drea broke their silence.
“I think it’s because of the ship that was bombed last week. Even with all the safety efforts on the ORB, people still die because of violent idiots.” Ammona stood at the entrance to the ramp that would carry her up to clearance.
Drea looked worried.
“But I’m sure that won’t happen to me. It’s just a ship full of students.” Ammona finished.
“Sure.” Drea agreed, and looked away.
“Don’t I get a goodbye, or anything like that?” Ammona prompted. She hoped for some of Drea’s usual cheerfulness, her playful personality. “How about a smile to remember you by?”
Drea’s face twisted into annoyance, confusion, and then back to annoyance. She was unable to smile. “Don’t tell me to smile.”
Ammona looked at her friend and rolled her eyes.
“What? I don’t feel like smiling, and you shouldn’t make me.”
“I guess that’s fair.” Said Ammona, “How about a hug then?”
“I can manage a hug.” Drea said, looking up at her best friend. “But you have to promise to send me a video entry the minute you get there.”
“I’ll try.” Said Ammona. “I’m not sure what the Academy is expecting when we arrive.”
Drea stepped forward and hugged her best friend, and the two of them held on to each other for a moment.
“Everything will be okay.” Ammona said quietly, amid the bustle of other human beings and the hum of the base.
“I’m sure it will.” Drea didn’t sound like she believed her own words, but she broke away from the hug. “Now get your ass on that flight.”
“Sure thing.” Ammona grinned. “I’ll miss you.” She began walking backwards, watching Drea.
“I’ll miss you too.” Drea waved. “See you soon.” She watched as Ammona turned her back, and headed for the security line.
Read Part 1 of the Ammona Series