“Welcome, all! Please, step in out of the cold and make yourselves at home. We’ve got some cocoa and mulled cider to warm everyone up,” Yuki says from the far corner of the room, ugly Christmas sweater doing its job and being absolutely jarring.

“These weren’t meant to come out until the holiday,” explains her assistant, carting the drinks, “but we weren’t expecting that cold snap either. So it’s the least we could do to accommodate you all for coming out.”

“Exactly. And that’s kind of on par for our excursion tonight,” Yuki says, “It’s not the kind of craziness we’ve seen in recent weeks. This one is more of a subdued vignette of a young woman needing to get a new start.”


The whistle of the Desert Link train cut through the quiet of the morning, signaling its arrival to Columbia Hills. Not that it was necessary, its inhabitants often murmured, the twice daily loadings of incoming and outgoing passengers were always on schedule—at the same times—every single day. Eight o’clock in, nine-thirty out, every morning and evening. The high-pitched wail was perfectly in sync with the Town Hall clocktower a few blocks down.

Five minutes after the arrival notice, the doors to the carriages opened and the passengers disembarked. Train staff, already at their post outside the luggage car, ticked receipts and handed over bags and suitcases. Very few passengers only had a single carry-on case, and, even rarer, did they only come in with just a backpack or smaller.

Stacia Hawkwind was one of those rare creatures.

The brunette stepped onto the station platform and adjusted the strap of the bag slung over her shoulder. She tapped the plastic train pass to the gate reader and exited the concourse. Walking out into the warmth of the sun, she raised her hand and glanced over the top rim of her sunglasses.

It was beautiful, Stacia had to admit. The morning markets of what appeared to be the central business district, were bustling (a number of new arrivals were queuing up for drinks and snacks). All the streets were lined with trees. None of the buildings (all inspired by 18th and 19th century architecture) rose over five storeys. The sky was a deep blue that she was unaccustomed to seeing. And while the city was sizable, it certainly was not the metropolis she was used to living in.

A brilliant realisation came to mind, she would actually be able to see the stars at the end of the day! An experience that light pollution had robbed her of back home.

No, Stacia corrected herself, this was home now.

She smiled at the thought…home. Speaking of which, she fished a folded piece of paper from her jeans pocket. On the tattered scrap was a scribbled map of the city, complete with street names and address of the small flat in which she would be staying.

Stacia ambled to her destination a bundle of nerves; she was both anxious and excited. The place was a perfect combination of city-dwelling and country-living; the latter frightened her to death—she had no idea how to cope with full-on forests and valleys and wild animals. Her thoughts kept getting interrupted; every block in the city was filled with stopping points and things to gawk at. She wasn’t the only one, either. Plenty of locals stopped in their tracks to stare at the tourist (to be fair, it wasn’t every day that a 6’4’’ woman made way down their neighbourhood streets—even when wrestling came to town, none of the men came close to hitting the 6’ mark).

The brunette wasn’t lanky, either, her limbs and midsection were thick, but toned…the best way anyone could think to describe her upon first glance was Amazonian. Before she could notice anyone staring in her direction, they were already going on with their day.

Stacia kept on her way and made it to the first stop, where the property owner was waiting with a key and a smile.

‘Ms Hawkwind?’ the agent said.

‘Yes, that’s me.’

‘Hi, nice to meet you! I’m Robert.’ He extended his hand upward.

‘Nice to meet you, too.’ She accepted his hand and shook it.

‘I welcome you on behalf of the Columbia Hills Council. I expect you spoke with the chairman already?’

‘That’s right,’ she confirmed, ‘we had a video conference while we were stopped over Eberswalde—oh!’ Stacia interrupted herself and pulled her bag ‘round to her front and produced a packet from the inside. She handed it over. ‘And here’s the relocation and processing forms.’

Robert took the paper and skimmed over the pages. ‘Excellent, excellent. We’ll get this processed today. Now,’ he smiled and handed over the keys, ‘let’s have a little tour and get you settled.’ He looked around and noted there was no taxi and no bundles of luggage at Stacia’s feet. ‘Is there nothing else?’

Stacia shook her head.

‘Oh my…Forgive me…you’ll be okay, though. The council has already opened a bank account in your name. You’ll be able to get yourself some clothes and other essentials. Don’t worry about food; your ‘fridge is already stocked.

Stacia kept back the tears and simply nodded.

‘Come on, let’s take a look at your new home.’

And they did.

A few hours later, after Stacia had a nice hot bath, she fixed herself a cup of tea and had a sit out on her balcony She decided that the rest of the day would be spent relaxing. Clothes shopping could wait until tomorrow as her first shift as a baker’s assistant started the day after.

Stacia gazed at the rolling green hills in the distance, in awe of the simplistic beauty. Nowhere she ever lived held this much non-human life. At the same time she realised her fortunate emigration was, in large part, the luck of the draw. So many people barely getting on in what they call ‘life’, being poisoned on a daily basis and dying painful, prolonged deaths.

The starscape was as brilliant as she had hoped; the milky way spread magnificently across the night sky. Her eyes searched and searched until she spotted the pale blue dot she’d once called home.


“Don’t worry, everyone, that won’t be the last we see of Miss Hawkwind, I can assure you,” Yuki says with a smile. “I’ve seen snippets of her timeline, best not to get too heavy before Christmas.”

“You can trust her on this one, guys,” her assistant grimaces at the thought. Next year, Boss?” He turns to her.

“Next year,” Yuki assures. “We’ll see you all next time! Take care out there.”


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