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Dust in the Wind


Irina Pavlova
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Dust in the Wind




“What’s wrong mommy?” Katya asked as Irina sat on the edge of the bed unmoving.



“I’m scared” Irina replied.



“But you aren’t afraid of anything. You said you are stronger than the monsters and bad people.”



“I am Printzyessa, but it isn’t monsters or bad people I’m afraid of.”



“Then…”



Irina placed her finger to the child’s lips and then reached down and picked up her daughter.



“Come on Printzyessa, we’ll be late. You want to go down to Ba’ku with the other kids, right?”



“Don’t you want to go down to Ba’ku? mommy?



“Yes, very much.”



Irina walked out of her quarters on the Thunder and made her way to the transporter room. Like her daughter, she wore civilian clothes, though rather than the pretty dress and the correctly matched red socks (Katya matched them), Irina wore a pair of faded bluejeans, a black sleeveless shirt and the same brown leather marine bomber jacket that had survived over two centuries on the harsh planet of Kjenta II with her, patched bullet holes, road rash and all. Black leather boots and dark sunglasses completed her visible outfit, with nobody having a need to know about the 500+ year old Walther PP pistol its holster concealed within the jacket’s lining. She didn’t expect to need it, didn’t expect anything or anyone to remotely care about or even think about her on Ba’ku, but she was still convinced that this was, perhaps, the most dangerous place for her in the known universe.



As she stepped onto the transporter pad her eyes caught those of Colonel Tyr Waltas, and right away his words from just over a year ago echoed in her head.



The regenerative effects of Ba’ku were very well known to Irina Pavlova despite the fact that she’d never stepped foot on the planet. Ba’ku was a word that just about everyone brought up when they learned Irina’s true age. At 247-years-old, the only frames of reference anyone had was either stasis, or Ba’ku. Ba’ku was an idyllic fantasy to most humans. Eternal life in a place that they imagined as paradise. Gentle climate, lush vegetation and a rustic, peaceful society focused on the arts, philosophy and a simpler way of living.



Of course, nobody who thought about Ba’ku could imaging that there were other worlds with similar regenerative effects that didn’t also have similarly paradisiacal climate, vegetation and lifestyle. Kjenta II shared Ba’ku’s regenerative qualities, but that was where the similarities ended. Unlike Ba’ku, Kjenta II was a post-apocalyptic wasteland, barely L class on a good day. 2.8G gravity, frigid winters and merely freezing summers along the equatorial belt, with anything North or South so cold as to be inhospitable. Then there was the near infrared radiation of the Kjenta star, so powerful as to fuse the cones in the eyes of most humanoid species in a matter of weeks, irreparably within a year.



To the environmental pleasures of Kjenta II are added the joys of a sentient humanoid species that, five centuries before the arrival of the NX-class USS Columbia in 2171 had blasted themselves back to the stone age in an ionic and nuclear war, the residual ionization of the atmosphere, much like Ba’ku’s Briar Patch, made the planet both impossible to scan and extremely difficult to approach or depart, with the upper ionosphere serving to suck all power from anything and everything that passed through it. No communications, no sensors, and most importantly, no transporters could penetrate that ionization layer, which is why Irina Pavlova and the other 31 members of Columbia’s away team couldn’t leave for 219 years.



No, the regenerative properties of Ba’ku didn’t scare Irina Pavlova, nor did the idyllic lifestyle and temperate climate, which she quite looked forward to. Not even the nefarious plans of Starfleet some 40 some odd years ago to claim the planet. No, it was the words of Tyr Waltas, former captain of the USS Discovery, just over a year ago after he had successfully rescued Irina and far too few of her shipmates from Kjenta II that scared her to her core.



“My sons are mixed race" Waltas had said, "and somehow the radiation that normally regenerates the cell structures accelerated theirs. They went from infants to teenagers in several weeks’ time. My daughter removed them from the planet when she learned that a Federation Doctor was intent on studying them as they aged. I fully intend on bringing this to Starfleet’s attention as well. My point is, with as much outcry as the Ba’ku, my sons, and now you will create, the Federation will have little choice but to leave you alone. And if they don’t, then I will make sure no one can find you. You have my word.”



It wasn’t Waltas’ promise or anyone messing with her that concerned Irina now. The other three survivors from Kjenta II were already dead and at least one attempt had already been made to grab Irina, but she doubted anything like that awaited her on Ba’ku. No, it was his words. “The radiation that normally regenerates the cell structures accelerated theirs” Waltas had said of his sons, aging them from infants to teenagers in several weeks. Irina was 247-years-old, and had lived that long due to the metaphasic radiation of the Kjenta star, as filtered through the second planet’s heavily ionized atmosphere. Would Ba’ku regenerate Irina’s cells like it did almost everyone else’s, or would it rapidly correct her cells to their correct biological age, which would most likely be a quite unpleasant, not to mention instantly fatal experience.



“Energize” Fleet Captain Turner said clearly, and then Irina felt the transporter beam take hold.



The sensations were very familiar, but somehow far slower, as though she could feel each and every molecule disassembled, separated to the atomic and then the sub-atomic level. Then there was a strange stillness that seemed to last hours as the atomic particles moved between the transporter pad of the USS Thunder and the surface of Ba’ku. Then came the familiar feeling of recombination, but something was wrong.



She could feel, and then see the outline of her body appear and was happy that Katya had a big grin on her face as Irina held her in her arms. The tingling subsided, but the five-year-old was getting heavy. That wasn’t supposed to happen as she only weighed 40 lbs and Irina had the strength of a strong Klingon after 219 years in high gravity. Still, it was unmistakable, the little girl was getting heavier by the second and Irina was forced to put her down as the last of the transporter’s tingles faded.



Katya looked up at her mother first with concern, but then screamed when their eyes met. Irina was briefly shocked, but as she looked down at her own hands, hands that were withered, spotted and frail, she knew instantly what her daughter must be looking at and quickly turned away.



“Take her” Irina said pleadingly to anyone who would listen as she turned away, and saw Tyr Waltas quickly move in and take her child. Looking back to her hands, she saw the skin was cracking now, taught and brittle against aged bones.



She felt someone take hold of her and heard shouting, but couldn’t understand the words. Her sight faded, the lush vegetation replaced by the void of the transporter and then the sterility of sickbay, but even that was fading as the damage had been done.



She could only see shadow now, her eyes completely clouded, and couldn’t hear anything. She tried to speak, to call her daughter’s name, but even her tongue felt dryer than dust, and as her mouth opened to speak the name, that was the last thing she felt, her tongue crumbling to dust as her conscious did the same. The last thought in her mind was that there was no light, no tunnel. Her lips cracked as she forced them into a smile, satisfied that at least Katya would be taken care, and secure int eh knowledge that the struggle was finally over. It was time to rest. She felt a soft breeze across her face and could literally feel the dry and dead skin blowing away from her skeletal remains, just dust in the wind.




Major Irina Pavlova

Chief of Strategic Operations

Duronis II Embassy / USS Thunder



As always, I am inspired and moved by music. This story shares its title with a song that I loved when it first came out in 1977, quickly grew tired of as it was horribly overplayed, and now finally enjoy again almost 40 years later. As with everything to do with my character, it deals with the passage of time.



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