For an easier life Circulation: 197,075,226 Issue: 961 | 3rd day of Relaxing, Y24
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Brothers in Stars: Homecoming

by precious_katuch14


AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is the follow-up story to my series, Brothers in Stars, first published in issue 915. There WILL be spoilers. You have been warned.

     Rain poured from the bleak grey clouds up above, a steady torrent that soaked everything in its path – a large tree, a worn-out picket fence, and even a stone statue of a beautiful Blumaroo with curly hair and a cheery smile that seemed to welcome the rain. The remains of flowers lay at her feet, gifts left for her below the base where she stood, and amidst the flowers was a small box, open to expose the contents to the pouring rain. There were files secured in folders, a few pens, and an old worn journal. Atop the pile was a brass nameplate that said, “General Reynold” in engraved block letters.

     Despite the rain’s relentless onslaught, and several wet, muddy footsteps later, a white Blumaroo crouched down in front of the statue almost reverently, before picking up the box. He bent down to shield the box from the torrents coming down before turning away from the statue and making a mad dash back toward the house.

     In the open doorway, another white Blumaroo was waiting. He raised his voice to be heard over the squall. “Rohane, what are you doing? Get back in here!”

     Rohane didn’t answer as he ran, still more concerned about the box than himself. Once he made it into the house, the other Blumaroo promptly shut the door and stared at him and the precious cargo he carried.

     “I…I didn’t want Dad’s stuff to get wet, Reuben,” said Rohane, breathing hard.

     Reuben frowned. “But…” He grimaced before whispering somberly, “Dad’s gone. He wouldn’t mind. Besides, didn’t we place that box there, next to Mom’s…”

     “I know, but…”

     “Wasn’t that your idea in the first place? You even said it would be like…Dad being with Mom again. Here at home. Her memorial would be his, too.”

     Rohane hugged the box tightly to his chest; it was hard to tell whether his face was wet from the rain, or from oncoming tears. In any case, he crumpled to his knees on the floor, and his shoulders shook as he began to sob. The box fell from his arms and spilt everything – files, journal, nameplate, and other miscellaneous knickknacks – at their feet.

     “I can’t do this without Dad! And we already lost him – I don’t want to lose any of his stuff, too!”

     * * *

     The door opened with a creak, and Reuben and Rohane were instantly greeted by a musty smell, several pieces of furniture covered by canvas and old blankets, and a fine patina of dust on every uncovered surface. After setting down a box and his knapsack on the living room table without a care for how long the table had gone without a proper cleaning, Reuben immediately moved to open the windows, and the sun highlighted motes of dust dancing in the air, alone in the house until two white Blumaroos came along.

     “We’re here,” said Reuben. After managing a short laugh, he added somewhat awkwardly, “The real thing. Better than any simulation I could whip up.”

     At first, Rohane said nothing, merely walking into the bedroom he once shared with Reuben while the latter started opening cupboards in the kitchen to find plates, cups, spoons, and forks. Reuben’s eyes widened as he held the plates up to the light streaming in from the nearest window and sighed.

     “We should eat first,” he called out as he inspected another cupboard. It had fruit preserved and dried in various ways, as well as a few cans of food. But again, there was no response.

     The Blumaroo looked from the tableware to the direction of the room Rohane had entered. Finally, he set down the plate and joined his younger brother.

     Like the rest of the house, everything in their bedroom was organized and tucked away in its proper places, albeit with the usual dust. The beds were covered, but the sheets felt rough and were in need of laundering. The closets were shut, and Reuben wondered what was left in them.

     No doubt Rohane was not wondering about that at all. He was seated at the foot of his bed, his things next to him on the mattress. He held something in his fingers – something shiny, gold, and star-studded, and he looked out the window pensively.

     Reuben took a deep breath before crossing the room to sit next to him.

     “Thinking about Dad?”

     “Yeah. The last time we were here…he was with us. We stayed here for a few days after he managed to get a vacation from the Perseus Sector, remember?”

     Reuben nodded slowly. “Mm, I remember. That was just before I was promoted to IT Chief.”

     “It…it doesn’t feel right, being here at Trestin without him.”

     “It’s been weeks since Dad died, and it still doesn’t feel right. Not to mention, we had to deal with you and your team being trapped in my simulation afterwards.”

     At those words, Rohane made a face, clenching the gold badge tightly in his fist. “I still can’t believe it was Hal. All because he was jealous of you. Of us.”

     “I always knew Dad believed in us, but…it never occurred to me to think about whether he was playing favourites in Perseus. I got the IT Chief position, you got promoted to Captain.” Reuben rested his elbow on his knee and looked at a framed picture on the wall of four Blumaroos. He and Rohane were smaller in the picture, but also happier. “And now that he’s gone…”

     “It feels wrong to think about that.”

     “Exactly. Dad loved us enough that he’d…”

     Rohane winced. “I know. We should be grateful that he gave us a second chance to complete our mission. But after you told me about Hal and how he betrayed Dad and the rest of us, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

     “Neither could I.”

     “It’s why we asked for a leave from Perseus, right?”

     “Personally, I’d rather not see space for quite a while. Two weeks should be enough till we get back to work.”

     All traces of conversation faded away, like the last of the dust motes swirling into nothingness. Rohane continued to fiddle with his badge, while Reuben tapped his knees as though he were typing on them before gazing up at the picture of their complete family.

     Rohane saw what he was looking at.


     “Yeah. Dad and Mom…”

     “Her statue,” said Rohane abruptly, standing up and pocketing his captain’s badge. “Her memorial. What if, instead of keeping Dad’s office things, we placed them at Mom’s memorial? So, it’s like the two of them…”

     “…Would be together again,” Reuben finished. He nodded slowly before smiling ruefully. “It’s a nice day, too. A nice day…to visit Mom and leave Dad’s things with her.”

     * * *

     Reuben swooped down and hugged Rohane tightly, blinking back his own tears as the storm continued to rage outside. Strewn on top of the scattered files was the “General Reynold” nameplate, amidst splotches and spots of water.

     “I’m sorry I suggested that we leave Dad’s things out next to Mom’s memorial. I didn’t think it would rain! His files, his journal…oh, sweet Fyora, the journal he shared with Mom! We can’t lose it. We can’t lose any of it! Not after we lost Dad!”

     “Shhhh, neither of us knew this nice day would turn into a rainstorm,” Reuben reassured him, remembering the days when Rohane despaired at their father leaving them in Trestin for space and needed an older brother’s comfort. Those days had been all but forgotten as he watched Rohane grow up to become one of the Perseus Sector’s best officers.

     Now, those days had come back, except that this time, Reuben felt that pain, too. But he quashed it inside, imagining himself taking a blaster to it and obliterating it into bits.

     Unfortunately, with each mental blast, the pain would reform and return, and Reuben sniffed, tears rolling freely down his cheeks, holding his brother in his arms.

     “We have to go on without Dad,” he whispered. “I don’t want to, either. I was hoping he’d continue to teach us. But after that day…we don’t have a choice.” The white Blumaroo finally let go, only to begin picking up all of Reynold’s things that had fallen to the floor. “Hey, we did our best to finish the mission he gave us, didn’t we?”

     Rohane sat forlornly at first, watching Reuben, before scrubbing the back of his hand across his eyes and lending a helping hand. “But we were trapped in the simulation, and we had to return to the Perseus Sector after you helped us regain control of our ship. The Stellar Ray of Precision plans still need to be delivered to the Orion Sector.”

     “They will.” Reuben paused to place his hands on the other Blumaroo’s shoulders. “And, it’s not just me. It was my entire team, and you, and your team. We all foiled Hal’s plan…and Dad would have been proud. Super proud. You said you couldn’t do this – be Captain and lead your own squadron – without Dad? But you did. It was hard, and well, you kind of nearly died, but you did it. And now…we can finally take some time off. And…”

     “Remember Dad?” Rohane asked, opening the journal’s soaked pages.

     Reuben sighed softly as he laid out the files and papers to dry on the floor. In the lull that followed, lightning flickered in the window.

     “Yeah. Now we can remember Dad. Everything he did right, everything he may have done wrong…we’ll miss all of it.”

     “What’ll we do with his stuff now? We can’t leave any of it outside…”

     “No, but we don’t have to. I’m not saying your idea wasn’t a good one, but…” Reuben chuckled sheepishly. “I think…before we leave them in a more waterproof box next to Mom, I want to read all of it first. Especially the journal he shared with mom. Let’s just soak in all these memories while we’re home.”

     Slowly, but surely, the corners of Rohane’s mouth moved up into a small smile.

     “That way…even if we lose them…we’ll always have the memories.”

     “Just like how we will always have our memories of Dad. And Mom. Still, I wouldn’t want to lose these things either, so when we’re done, we better start looking for a waterproof box.”


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