“Lof was a metropolis, uh, you know the type where the whole planet is covered in a single city?” Qin asked not expecting any reply more than a nod of acknowledgment from his companions. “Well, anyway, it was one of those.” He seemed to analyse his drink for a moment as though not convinced it was virtually there. Once sufficiently convinced that his Virtual Orange Refresher was virtually within his hands, he continued.
“It’s odd the things you think of though. When I first left home, the things I missed most were the junk food and restaurants they didn’t have on other planets. Weird, right? You would have thought it would be your friends or family but all I wanted was a burger from Shields. They made the best burgers and had this relish which was so-” he made a gesture with his hand, his fingers brought together to his thumb facing skyward, that Midalyn didn’t recognised but understood to mean that the relish was delicious, “-and I just can’t find it anywhere else.” His eyes looked almost wistful for a moment before he dropped their gaze and added, “And now I never will.”
He smiled sadly at Kara and Midalyn. “Oh well, I now remember everything else since it exploded though. Funny how that works,” he sighed with a melancholic laugh.
“Like the trees. You don’t get trees anywhere else like we used to on Lof,” he said with a touch of patriotic pride. “You know, I didn’t even see the sky until my wings grew out and mom took me flying in The Avi Peaks. We lived in one of the city centres, so all I knew of the sky was that it apparently was somehow above the roof of branches and leaves which covered the city, which made no sense when I was a kid. How could there be something above the roof? But then I saw it. The sky was just so… open and went on forever. It just never ended.” Qin laughed suddenly as if he realised how wistful he sounded. “Mom pointed out the moon to me for the first time as I spread my wings, and well, anyway, that’s when I knew I wanted to go.”
“Go where?” Midalyn asked with a sniff.
“Above the sky. If the sky was above the roof, then I needed to see what was above the sky. It’s why I eventually left Lof when I was older, although my mom wanted me stay, of course,” Qin explained.
“Not your father?” Kara asked impulsively before instantly realising it could be a touchy subject and tried to backtrack. “That is, I didn’t mean to imply-”
“It’s alright,” Qin cut her off. “Never really knew dad. He left my mom pretty early on and remarried to a lovely lady who I guess made him happy, I dunno.”
He deflected with a smile as warm and sincere as homemade cookies. “It was just my mom and me, which is all either of us needed,” he finished.
“So what happened? You said Lof was blown up?” Midalyn asked with as much tact as she could muster despite her obvious curiosity.
Qin gave a melancholic sigh that seemed to dim the light in his eyes for the splittest of seconds. “Yeah, an administrative error,” came his soft reply. Picking up the confusion on Kara and Midalyn’s faces, he let out a heavy sigh far wearier than his cheery face should have been able to give.
“Uh, you know those planetary demolition firms like Planet Busters? Well, one of those made a typo and blew up Lof by accident,” he explained.
Kara looked a bit stunned but the look on Midalyn’s face was one of pure shock.
“Oh zersflit… I’m so sorry Qin, that’s just, I mean, it would have still been terrible, but to have been an accident-” she tried to put her shock into words.
“Eh, things happen,” Qin shrugged with quiet acceptance.
“But all the people you knew, your parents…” Midalyn gasped.
“Oh, mom’s fine. After I left, she decided to take a trip to the floating retreat resort on Cumulus. She apparently enjoying a wing rub when it happened.”
He paused for a second.
“You never know where you’re going to be when something like that happens, but you certainly seem to remember where you were and what you were doing. Even if my mom, who never let anyone touch her wings, like ever, said she was getting a wing rub at the time, then that’s what she was doing,” he shrugged again but this time with his trademark buoyant smile as though the inconsistencies of traumatic memory were somehow amusing. “Dad wasn’t so lucky. But I never really knew him, so yeah,” he finished.
Midalyn’s cup stood largely empty on the table between them. It still had the sad remains of discarded tea, the type which became cold due to forgetfulness and takes on a utterly distasteful flavour. While science had mastered transdimensional light and lightspeed space travel ages ago, it had still to determine why being forgotten added an additional texture to a warm drink gone cold than the mere loss of temperature could account for. Kara had long since finished her Affogato and had listened to Qin’s tale with her arms folded and eyes narrowed. She shuffled and made moves to leave.
“Let’s get out of here,” she directed the pair still sitting at the table. Smiling sympathetically at Qin, she added, “This is Midalyn’s first space station pit stop after all.”
Qin brightened up, or rather returned to his natural level of brightness. “That’s right, let’s get out of here.”
Midalyn shook herself and stood up with them.