Birthdays Part 4

((Part 1))


A man stopped in the doorway of hydroponics bay 3a and glanced around the interior. He was perhaps 183cm tall, handsome in an unremarkable, regular way, with gray eyes and short cropped brown hair. His uniform identified him as a Warrant Officer attached to an assault wing in the Watch. He stood apparently lost in thought for several minutes, until the room's other occupant approached him.

"Can I help you with something?" The man who spoke was heavily built, with sad, pale blue eyes. He stripped off a pair of gloves as he approached and crossed his arms across his chest.

"Possibly. I'm looking for Janirinen Matakima? He is a researcher here, I was told he was working in this section? I'm his brother."

"Spirits, Val? Is that you?" The heavier man's eyebrows threatened to reach his receding hairline.

"Jan? Ancestors man, it's been ages. I finally got enough leave to come back for a couple days. This place hasn't changed a bit, you know."

"Really?" Jan chuckled, a sparkle in his eyes, "It has you know. I've managed 1.3% better efficiency, plus I'm working on extracting more nutrients from the ice they process at the refinery so we can expand without having to import so much from off-station. Means we've got more plants, now."

Val held up his hands in mock surrender, "Forgive me for not noticing the difference. Now that you mention it, greenery is practically bursting from the duct work. When I was asking after you, your underling did say that this bay must be a special project of yours. Apparently they think you have some sort of hidden lab in here, because you're always here, and always come out with new and greater ideas."

"No, no secret labs. I just do my best thinking in here. Calms my mind, I guess, I'm so familiar with it now. Some of my happier memories too. When we were..." Jan turned and busied himself organizing a clutter of tubing on a nearby workspace as he trailed off.

Val's smile disappeared, "I went to the memorial, you know. They just had the one, for her whole unit."

Val leaned against the door frame, suddenly looking tired, as Jan turned back to him, eyes red, "All she did, making through the accident, through OCS, her last letter said they might have been considering her for Captain... Do you know what happened to her Val? They wouldn't tell me anything. I'm lucky I even found out, and it was just 'Asset missing, presumed deceased' in some database. I didn't even know there was a memorial."

Val shook his head, "No idea. I tried to find out, but it's classified way, way above my pay grade. It's the Watch though Jan. Whatever it was, if there was anything they could have done-"

Jan interrupted him, "I know, of course. They did whatever they could, even if it wasn't enough. I know, but it doesn't bring her back." Jan rubbed his hand across the back of his neck, "Want to get a drink? I don't know about you, but I could use one."

Val looked like he wanted to respond, but then just nodded with a weak smile, "Yeah, sounds about right."

"Let's go." Jan headed for the door, gesturing for Val to follow him as he walked out of 3a, "You remember Valenin? He runs a bar down in R section now."

Two days later, Val sat aboard the transport that would take him away from the station. Returning, seeing Jan again, and knowing he would never see Ami again made him realize he had been making a mistake. He should have come back sooner, made the time off however he had to. He made a promise to himself to keep in touch with Jan, to make sure it wasn't 17 years next time. Life was too short to only see family at funerals.

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