After Overture

“Mind if I sit?”

Lyla considered the question for longer than was polite and then caught herself. “Yes, of course.” It was a semi-ambiguous answer, which was how she meant it, but she motioned to the seat across from hers anyway.

“Thanks.” The young man smiled cordially, set down his little tray of packets and bottles, and started about the business of mixing together the various post-cryo cocktails: one for stiff joints, another to rebalance electrolytes, one to combat nerve burn, one more for memory loss, and others. It was little wonder that everyone lost weight on interstel; who could be bothered to eat food after filling up on meds? “Hudson,” he said.

“Hmm?”

“I’m Hudson.”

Lyla sipped one of her med-shakes and nodded.

He diligently removed the materials from his tray and laid them out impeccably on the table before him. The labels all faced the same way. The spacing was uniform. They were arranged from left to right by recommended ingestion sequence. This guy was more high strung than a treble violin. Never should have let him sit.

Lyla must have been gawking because he tried to ease into small talk. “I’d ask you where you’re headed, but everyone I ask seems to have the same answer.” He laughed lightly. “To be expected, I suppose. Interstel’s all destination, no journey. So where are you from?”

“Place called Sumner. On Overture.” She sat very still with her hands in her lap.

Hudson, for his part, froze mid-drink, his med-bottle tipped back. Slowly, he set down the bottle, dabbed at the corners of his mouth with a napkin, and began to ask the inevitable. “Is that where—”

“Yes.” Of course it was. He knew that. Everyone knew. Her eyes had lost the ability to tear without the help of cryo, but they still burned, and she locked them onto Hudson’s.

“I’m so sorry.”

“Why?” Everyone was sorry. Always so sorry. It was infuriating. Sorry for her loss. Sorry they couldn’t do more, hadn’t done more. Sorry they hadn’t believed—but who could have? Sorry she’d endured. Sorry they’d brought it up. This was precisely why she was starting over; alone. The look on his face right now. “What are you sorry for?” she pressed.

He held a hand to his forehead, massaged it with his thumb. “Still recovering,” he said, the tone of his voice suddenly different in a way she couldn’t place. “Post-cryo memory loss.” He started piling his meds back on his tray, packing up. “Sorry I didn’t recognize you. I thought I was the only one on board.” He stood hastily, almost knocking over the tray.

“What do you mean? Only what on board?”

“From Overture. Find me when you remember the rest.”

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