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I Had a Cat, Once

Posted on 14 Apr 2021 @ 2:47am by Syrial J'naii

Mission: History
Location: Starfleet Academy; Earth
Timeline: 2257, Day 1 of the Battle of Earth

Syrial awoke to a hand on their shoulder.

"What?" The tired J'naii barely managed one word, pulling the blanket around them and rolling over just a bit to face whoever was there. As they rolled, their notebook fell to the floor. That was what they remembered most about that day: the notebook. They remembered the quiet sound it made when it hit the ground, the page it fell open too: equations and letters, hastily scribbled in J'naii shorthand. But mostly they remembered their strange, sudden panic. They were worried about losing their page. That's it. Compared to what would come, that little worry seemed alien, out of place, small and inconsequential, but right then it was their biggest concern. It was the last time that Syrial would have the chance to worry about something as a cadet at the Academy and so they remembered the feeling well.

"We need to go."

Syrial looked up at the fellow student in confusion. They didn't know many of their classmates, not even the ones they shared a bunk room with. Really living up to that same studious no-life nerd reputation they had back on their homeworld. But although Syrial didn't know their classmates, they trusted them. Immediately, the J'naii sat up and began putting their shoes on. A small black cat jumped off the bed, indignant about its resting place being disturbed.

"Why?" Syrial asked. What time was it? Had Syrial overslept? Had they missed class? The fact that that could be their first worry would be the subject of regret and sleepless nights, many years later. Oh how Syrial wished they could return to such childish worries like missing class.

"What is it?" As they spoke, they leaned down to pet the cat. The Earth creature always did make them feel a bit better, and nervous as they were about oversleeping, they needed the cat right then. And the cat needed them. The black creature pressed its head into Syrial's hand though its eyes were wide as if it had been awake for some time, watching the chaos but not daring to leave its owner's side.

A better person than Syrial would ever be, that cat.

"Earth lost. We lost the war." The other student repeated themselves. Syrial detected a hint of disbelief in their voice. "There's a ship, J'naii; we got to get there before it leaves."

Only then did Syrial notice all the other students, some of them packing themselves out of the door, others hastily grabbing whatever belongings they could. By instinct, Syrial grabbed the black cat, holding the small creature against their chest.

"We, no, Earth didn't lose. Didn't lose what?" They asked. But even beyond their asking, their superficial disbelief, a part of them knew. A part of them always knew and it was that part that let them grab their smallest bag and leave with a shred of competence and self-control still intact.

Syrial didn't remember the walk out to the ship half as well as they remembered the notebook. They walked in silence, with the cat pulled close inside their coat. The other students were desperately trying to get ahold of their family, too preoccupied with the wellbeing of their parents or siblings or lovers to worry about a lone, quiet J'naii. Syrial had nobody to call. It was a long way from here to J'naii, and there was no question about the peace there. Syrial was lucky. They were Starfleet; and of course there were ships docked near the Academy. Of course they would be safe, Syrial thought with the same sense of immortality that a child might have, not quite yet come to terms with the fact that everyone dies.

Back then, Syrial didn't realize just how they lucky they were. Syrial had never truly worried for their life. They had a lot of time to think that first day, crammed into the ship like sardines. They wondered about their other classmates. They wondered what ship the others were on. They wondered if their other friends, the other ships, had such a sudden departure. No warning. They didn't realize, then, that were no other ships holding their friends. They didn't realize just how few made it out because to them this was the only reality they knew - escape.


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