The thing with having your dreams constantly crushed before they could completely form was that it was easy to become… complacent. You stopped trying. You did what you had to to get by. You got old. It was tiring to rise up all the time and get pushed. All that energy? It could be used to put food on the table or to replace those old work boots that rubbed your ankle raw. It was easier to help someone who could get their dreams off the ground while keeping your head down to avoid getting hit down again.

So it was odd to Maurice to catch herself dreaming in her room at the warehouse. She was supposed to be sleeping in preparation for tomorrow’s Mind’s Eye surgery. But something about last week’s announcement by the future Queen Rahima Hakimi haunted her every spare thought. Ambassador for the planet. Those opportunities for someone with that position. The idea of going to space, to different planets, and be among the stars? It would be life changing.

An alert from her data tablet distracted her from imaging what it would be like to float in zero gravity. She rolled over in bed and grabbed it from its dock on the floor. The home security app had detected abnormal movement outside. She cycled through the few cameras around the warehouse, but didn’t see anything with the green night vision. She tossed the tablet. It must have been a-

The alert popped up again and this time brought up the camera that had spotted the activity. She scooped up the tablet and tried to zoom in, but the quality only worsened. No enhance mode on a budget. That came with the premium package for the low price of nope.

Maurice took an uneasy breath and hopped out of bed, slipping on her work boots. A good sized metal bar she had found in some closet, just for this reason, was grabbed from next to her bed. She tossed the tablet to hold the metal bar in both hands and pressed the door switch with her shoulder. It swished open… only to stop part way. The lights of her room and the main warehouse flickered before going completely off followed by a loud snap and pop.

“Stars,” she whimpered, and clutched the metal bat tighter. Had something blown? They had paid their electricity bill this month. Maybe whatever outside had cut the power? A few seconds of complete silence passed and then came a click click click of the backup generator. It started with a squeal of complaint and dull yellow light, enough to carefully creep around by, flooded around her. 

She shoved open the door with her foot and tiptoed out. The security app dinged from inside her room and then dinged again. A new sound alert went off, one she recognized as authorities have been alerted. Ready to sigh in relief that she wouldn’t have to creep downstairs all alone to investigate, a sound from outside her room window stopped her heart. Thieves? Scrappers? It was no secret a mecha unaligned with the Monarchy sat outside town. Sure, only an idiot would try to steal a Roboter tethered to a Pilot, but they had a few nice tools and tech scavenged from clearance shops strewn about that would be worth a good chunk of credits. But it was stuff Zo needed for the Games.

Maurice swallowed the baseball sized fear with a dry throat and continued along the metal platform to the metal stairs. Going down stair by stair, foot by foot, felt like hours, but then she was on the main floor in the dim yellow light in a blink. Zo’s Roboter, Bertrand, loomed over her at the back of the warehouse like a great metal god. It would have offered her any bit of relief if it truly had her back, but without Zo? Bertrand was a sleeping behemoth. An oversized paperweight.

The loud sound came again. With more urgency to keep their gear secure, Maurice headed to the green emergency exit. She used her hip to open the door, keeping her hands free for potential metal bar hitting. It creaked way too loud. If someone was lurking around, they’d be running. So Maurice charged, yelling her mightiest yell, at where she had heard the noises.

Rounding the corner with weapon held high, she swung with all the confidence she could fake. It was only when she heard the shrieks and skitts of not a person did she a) open her eyes to b) find sandy brown Cosmos, a racoon-like creatures, rushing into the nearby tall grass. Foolishness almost floored her. It was scrappers of a sort… but instead of precious metals and tools, it was garbage they wanted and garbage from a securely sealed container. Maurice heard the banging sound from earlier and saw that it was one of the oversized Cosmos with its head stuck in a packaging tube from a recent delivery.

Maurice cautiously went to the Cosmos. It chattered with a mighty and adorable anger through the tube. She grabbed the other end away from its claws to give the Cosmos an opportunity to pull out its fat head. It blinked at her in surprise and waddled to its pals into the grass. For a brief moment, Maurice felt like a hero. The savior of Cosmos. Too bad she had no Mind’s Eye to capture it for prosperity. She could have had the video going viral for a day in a feed of constant media. Though, thinking about it more, did she really want everyone to know the panic she had went through over some Cosmos? It would have gone viral for comedic reasons if she didn’t edit it right, and that sounded like a lot of effort for a video to be forgotten about in half a day.

She tucked the tubing behind some other bins to avoid another Cosmos debacle, and rolled the fallen garbage container back to its spot. She remembered suddenly that the app had called for authorities, and started to dash back. There was no way she was going to get slapped with a fine with her account already flirting with zero credits. And what had caused the electricity to go out? Cosmos didn’t make it a habit to chew through wires, but it was likely that the one in the tube had pulled something while it was freaking out. Ugh. Another thing to fix.

Rounding the corner, her head met metal. The pain was so blinding that she didn’t even remember hitting the dusty ground. The stars above her slowed and she felt them laughing at her. As she fought to stay conscious, she heard Zo calling her name. That couldn’t be right. Zo was cozy in bed at Uncle Wareho’s apartment.

The stars went into fast-forward and rewind and forward again. They swirled too fast as the ground swallowed her up and everything went back.


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