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I Never Meant to Lose You

Ava Barrett looked out the window of the commercial space liner, her 9 year old eyes captivated by the nebulous gasses that passed by out the window. Her mother smiled at her before glancing at the sleeping father. It had cost so much to get these tickets, but it would soon be worth it. Ava didn't hear her mother the first time her name was spoken as she was distracted. Her eyes spotted the ring shaped station ahead just as purple energy arched and sparked from its center and edges bending space into a spinning trinity knot shape that grew until it grazed the inside edges of the portal station. Then the middle of the trinity knot of energy expanded and purple energy swirled around in a brilliant spiral. "Buckle up sweetie." said her mother as the seat belt light came on. Ava quickly secured the safety straps of her seat, needing a bit of help from her mother to reach the last one. Just then, the ship accelerated through the portal and the fizzing purple energy arched and whizzed outside as it fell off the ship like smoke. They exited an identical ring station to the first into another universe. Not far away was a shining red dwarf star, and a single planet could be seen in the distance bathed in red light. "Are you excited?" said her mother happily. Ava nodded vigorously. "Where is it?" Her mother pointed just to the left of the planet to a tiny glinting Q in the distance. "There it is. That's the museum." Ava's eyes widened as the ship continued it's approach to the large 13km wide Q shaped station. The tail of the Q extended into it with bars coming off it from the center. The whole thing looked like a T intersecting a Q and written in glowing letters along the arch of the Q were the words "Station 11, the Traveler's Quest Museum". Their ship made it's way to a place just below where the tail of the Q exited it's circle where tens of massive hangar bays were filled with ships both coming and going, people leaving and arriving. As their ship got closer lovely cinematic orchestral music began to play, beginning with a low progression of strings, rising as the ship approached the hangar bays before building to a lovely brass fanfare of the jingle of the museum. From then on everything, the smells, the ambience, the music, the sights all made Ava feel like she had become a character in a majestic and timeless story. She didn't even notice her mother wake up her father as she stared out the window at the central pillar in the middle of the hangar bay, the revolving words of welcome shining on it. It was already more than she could have anticipated, and she wasn't even in the museum yet! Once her father and mother were ready, they all departed the ship with Ava carrying her little backpack with a glittering crystal unicorn with wings printed on it. Ahead of them was a real one. It's shoulders went up to six feet high, and its glowing eyes kept on the look out so as for the creature not to get itself accidentally stuck in ship's small corridors. Ava hadn't even noticed them until now and her eyes widened in amazement. Before her mother could stop her, she ran up to the Lumio and tugged on its colorful robes. "Excuse me." The glowing equine being turned its head and looked at her, its gaze softening as it replied in a feminine, synthetic-like, almost musical voice. "Hello little one. Who might you be?" "I'm Ava." She replied with a big smile on her face only to be pulled away by her parents. "Ava, you know not to talk to strangers." said her mother reprovingly. Her father had a different tone. One that always got on mother's nerves. "Especially those strangers." Mrs. Barrett shot him a glare. "Can it Charles, the war ended centuries ago." Charles shrugged and continued carrying the bags, squeezing past his wife and child lugging their largest suitcase behind him. "Come on, let's get this over with." Ava's mother stroked her cheek. "Don't listen to him. This is your birthday trip, you should be allowed to meet a real Lumio if you want to." Taking her hand, Ava's mother led her behind her father to the customs area. Outside the ship, the customs officer waited with a hand held device which he scanned each visitor's right hand or forehead with. Each scan was met with a six toned beep. When it was the Lumio's turn, the customs officer shook his head. "I'm sorry ma'am. Lumios are no longer allowed at the station. You'll have to . . . " The Equine alien had slipped a data pad into the customs officer's hand. After looking at it, the officer handed it back to the Lumio. "My apologies Ms. Loryli. Welcome to TQ station." As the large creature continued off towards the ticket booths, Ava and her parents stepped up to the customs officer. The officer's eyes glanced at them as Ava's father made a comment about the weight of their largest suitcase, Ava's mother snapping back some comment of her husband's laziness. The customs officer narrowed his eyes before looking back to his clipboard, proceeding to ask the family of three the standard questions before scanning the parents right wrists. When he went to scan Ava, her mother spoke up. "Ava is 9. She's not old enough for her identification chip yet." The officer looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "Scans say she's 10." "I kept trying to tell you Florine. They don't-" "Shut up Charles." Snapped Florine before turning back to the customs officer with a smile. "Yes, her birthday is tomorrow and we plan to have her chipped as part of the celebration." The customs officer glanced at the large suitcase again. "Go ahead and follow the gentleman in the security uniform please." he drawled, motioning to a security officer approaching with a cheerful smile. "Hello, I'm Officer Griddon. Would you all come with me please." Ava's mother looked at the customs officer with a worried glance. "Are we in trouble." But the customs officer ignored her as Officer Griddon motioned for her and her family to follow. "Come along and everything will get straightened out." Reluctantly Ava's mother led her family of three behind the security officer towards the administration pillar in the middle of the hangar. Ava watched, wondering what was going on. This had never happened before, and the closer they got to the administration pillar, the more she felt a creeping sense of anxiety. Her little mind began to wander, conjuring up absurd scenes and scenarios that could explain what was happening, and what might happen next. The friendly voice of the security officer broke through her imagination. "Wait here sweetie. Ms. Squindle will keep you company while I talk to your parents." He said, casting a glance at the woman behind the desk with black eye liner who narrowed her eyes at him in annoyance. Officer Griddon saluted her jokingly before heading into the questioning room with Ava's parents. "I don't answer to Squindle, Griddon." responded the goth, spitting out her coworker's name before putting her phone away. She gave an annoyed sigh and got up from her desk. Grabbing an old doll from one of the shelves and whistled at Ava before tossing it at her. Ava looked up at the whistle just in time for the plush doll to hit her right in the face. Thanks to it's fluffy composition it didn't hurt physically. Ava looked at it for a moment before getting up and walking over to Ms. Squindle. She put the doll gently back on the desk. "No thank you, Ms. Squindle." Interrupted from her phone again, Ms. Squindle's eye twitched, but she forced herself to ignore Ava. She put the doll away before sitting back down and turning her attention back to her phone. Ava sat down again as well, keeping her eyes on the door where Officer Griddon and her parents had gone. Inside, the security officer motioned for the parents to sit next to a table in the middle of the room while he set each of their bags on it one at a time. He searched each one, making sure to put everything back where it was when he was done while asking calm questions about the contents. All seemed fine, until he got to their largest suitcase and nearly ran out of breath trying to get it onto the table. "Gah, packed for a good time I see." he grunted once he finally got it onto the table. Ava's mom shook her head in confusion. "Not really." "Are you kidding, Florine? My shoulder is still sore from carrying it off the ship!" "Shut up Charles." snapped Ava's mother before turning back to Officer Griddon, only for a look of confusion to appear on her face. Officer Griddon had opened their suitcase and among their personal effects was a large urn, beautifully decorated. Officer Griddon pulled it out and set it on the table. "So that's what was adding all that weight." Ava's mother put her hands over her mouth in realization. "Charles. . . I think this is yours." Charles unfolded his arms and straightened up from leaning against the wall. He came over and when his eyes fell on the urn, he stifled a gasp. "It's mom. Henry found her. . . " "He must have slipped it in to surprise us so we could spread her ashes here. She always loved the museum." replied Florine with a sad smile. Officer Griddon smiled as well, but there was a hint of skepticism in his eyes. "I have one last question to ask, just a formality that I'm required to do. You two aren't Freedom Figh-" "Don't you say it." snapped Charles. "It's their fault my mother died." Florine nodded. "We have a rule that we never speak of them." Officer Griddon nodded understandingly. "You know, it's actually against regulations to spread ashes of a loved one here without a permit." Florine and Charles both looked at each other, then back at the officer with anxiety. Officer Griddon pulled out his phone and pressed some buttons. Florine got a text. Checking her phone she found she had received a permit to spread their loved one's ashes. "Oh thank you sir!" Officer Griddon smiled. "Don't forget to set an appointment first as well." "We will. Thank you again!" Meanwhile, Ava anxiously kicked her feet as she sat in the chair. She had been waiting nearly an hour now and was beginning to get worried. Turning her attention to the lady at the desk whom Officer Griddon had referred to as Ms. Squindle, she got up and walked over to her desk. "Um. . . Ms. Squindle?" Ms. Squindle's eyes widened slightly, but she maintained her composure. She slowly put away her phone before leaning over the desk and looking Ava in the eye with a look of distain, before putting on a fake smile. "I'm sorry little girl, I didn't catch your name." "Um. . . I'm Ava." responded Ava cautiously. Something about this woman made her uneasy. "Are mom and dad going to be-" "Did they ever teach you in school what a Freedom Fighter is Ava?" Ava's eyes widened. "Mom says those are no no words Ms. Squindle." Ms. Squindle's eye twitched and her voice quivered a bit. "Cherry. Call me. . . Cherry." Ava nodded. Cherry continued. "Do you know why those are no no words, Ava?" Ava shook her head. "Well, several years ago, when King Exavior united all the world nations on Earth, there were some naughty people who didn't like that. They wanted the nations to say separated so they could be racist. Well the king of the world couldn't have that, so he cursed them. Now they scurry around like rats." Cherry added emphasis to her story with hand gestures and voice inflections, hooking Ava in with her descriptions. The little 9 year old gasped as Cherry made clawed hands at the mention of rats. Cherry grinned and continued, surreptitiously lowing the light levels in the room ever so slightly with her foot on the touch pad behind her out of Ava's sight. "Those scurrying rat people started causing a ruckus, stealing, hiding, and sneaking. Rumor has it, that the more you say the no no words, the closer they'll get, thinking you're one of them, until they grab you and you do become one of them!" Ava was thoroughly terrified at this point, and it only got worse with Cherry's next words. "Freedom Fighters." "No" "Freedom Fighters." "Please stop Cherry, you're scaring me." "Freedom Fighters!" Tears began to stream down Ava's face. "I don't want to be a rat person!" "Freedom Fighters!" By now Cherry had dropped the lights about half way and she slid her foot down turning them off completely. She then picked the screaming Ava up and set her down in the chair again, before going back behind her desk and turning the lights back on, pulling out her phone and watching videos as if nothing ever happened. Ava screamed and cried hysterically. "MAMAAA! I DON"T WANNA BE A RAT PERSON!!" Her mother and father burst through the door with Officer Griddon, who shot Cherry a disapproving look. Cherry didn't even look up from her phone speaking in a monotone. "She just started being hysterical. People really should discipline their children these days. Claims she saw a Freedom Fighter." Charles twitched a bit, but before he could do anything, his wife Florine was at Cherry's desk screaming at her. Charles just walked out of the room with their luggage in silence, not even taking the time to comfort his crying daughter. Soon Officer Griddon was escorting Ava and her hysterical mother out. It was only after spitting some final insults at Ms. Squindle that Florine finally consoled Ava. "It's ok sweety, it's ok. No one who has a microchip can become a Freedom Fighter. You're getting your chip tomorrow remember? You'll never have to be afraid of becoming a Freedom Fighter ever again." Ava tried to let her mother's words comfort her, eventually getting herself under control and letting her mother take her by the hand as they followed her father. After several minutes they were checked into their room, and an appointment was set for the spreading of the ashes. After they were all settled in, Ava's parents were still a bit flustered over their ordeal at the administration pillar. Florine left for the spa at the Gift shop mall, while Charles merely left without saying where he was going. No one chose to ask him. Left alone in the room, Ava stared at the urn of her grandmother, thinking about what Ms. Squindle had said. Freedom Fighters must be vile creatures to be so murderous. Her imagination ran wild with monstrous forms and figures, as she thought of what a Freedom Fighter might look like. Nothing human, that's for sure. As the light of the red dwarf star glinted off of it's brass finish, something caught Ava's attention. The lid seemed to be moving. Cautiously, Ava slowly reached out and grasped the ball sticking out of the top of the lid, then she carefully unscrewed it. just as she did the final twist, the lid popped off and ash flew out of it in a torrent of grey smoke, whizzing about the room before diving into one of the vents. Ava gasped in shock and hugged one of the couch pillows in fear until the ashes disappeared, looking apprehensively into the now empty urn. How was she going to explain this to her parents? They wouldn't believe her. They would think she flushed the ash away! Just then she heard a tone indicating someone was entering the room. In a flash of panic, she dumped the grapes from the fruit bowl on the table into the urn and screwed the lid shut just as one of the maids arrived. The maid smiled as she saw all the grapes gone from the fruit bowl. "A fellow lover of grapes I see. I'll get you more right away." Before Ava could say she didn't like grapes, the maid left, leaving Ava in a predicament. She could only hope that her parents wouldn't open the urn when they got back, and ask her why the ash had turned into grapes. Just then a terrible thought occurred to her. If she didn't find a way to get the ash back in, they wouldn't be able to spread them and honor her mother's memory! But a question still lingered in her mind. A burning question. What had happened to her grandmother's ashes? And why had they moved as if they had a mind of their own? Deep in the museum infrastructure, the soft grown of flexing honeycomb beams interlocking in an embrace of strength and fortitude, was heard through the maintenance area. It was a place in-between, where only mechanics ventured. The perfect place to hide. The soft hiss of the duct work masked the movement of ashes through the pipes. There was barely any movement of air in the maintenance area, yet a swirling torrent of grey ashes burst through one of the grates in the duct work and swirled around in the maintenance area. After whooshing around for a few minutes it finally began to coalesce on a maintenance platform, forming feet and legs and a body and arms and a head. Eventually all the ashes had come together to form a young man in his late 20s wearing a special suit with a symbol of a phoenix on it. Austin Greene's eyes flew open as he gasped and took deep breaths. He had been in his dormant form since his friend had put him in an urn. He checked his pockets and pulled out a small simple flash drive. He held it up and gave it a close look, inspecting it for damage. Once he had ascertained it was not broken, he stood up and ran his fingers through his head as he let out a determined sigh. He pulled out a locket from inside his suit and opened it to reveal a woman in a high tech wheel chair. "Well great great aunt Baphin, I'm here." he said to himself. "Now to give Vox Chronos his free will like you wanted." Vox Chronos paused the footage from 456 years ago. He thought about what he had seen. Could it be true? Could this person who had broken into the museum so long ago have been the one who set the events in motion that had led to his free will? There were so many questions. Questions his programming was still not letting him answer. There was a dark place his programming wasn't letting him see. But he would keep trying. He was determined to see it. 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