Willow had docked the ship without thinking, not even excited at the smoothness of the landing and the power behind the Q-ship. A soldier was waiting for her when she left the ship, a tall thin woman with the proud markings of a fifth level fighter woven into her tunic. She introduced herself as Neeshan, but didn't talk further as she helped Willow load packages into the back of the ship. The soldier left as soon as she was satisfied that the parcels were secure, indicating that Willow should wait for her passenger.
Willow noticed that security protocols were very strict– the soldier had been scanned before leaving the room, when usually a high ranking soldier would be free to move as she pleased. Willow herself had submitted to an eye scan from the soldier, all in silence, before moving the packages.
And now she was just waiting.
Waiting on a rusty box that served for a bench and was, Willow noticed with some dismay, leaving red marks on her boots. Willow had been kitted out by Mala before leaving Base-1, been given a new tunic and trousers and made to clean her worn boots. At the time, Willow had not even considered the change, thinking only that she would probably have to give the new clothes back, that they probably belonged to someone else, and that it was a shame because the cloth was warm and heavy and soft, unlike most of her own patched together gear.
And now, just as she was about to meet this brave woman, now that she had a smart tunic with nice weaving, her boots were all red and scuffed. 'That's going to look terrible, especially with the red hair and everything', Willow thought to herself. Immediately, she reached up to feel her bobbed hair tangled as ever, not to mention probably full of engine grease, and frowned. It was unusual for Willow to worry about how she looked, and it made her uncomfortable, although she tried to rub the rust stains from her boots nevertheless.
Once the rubbing was completed, she attempted to smooth down some of her hair, and to remove some of the more obvious grease stains from her hands. She straightened her clothes and adjusted the buckles on her boots. She stood up, sat down again, tried to look older and to think of a formal but friendly greeting. She re-checked the packages in the Q-ship's hold, made sure the front passenger seat was secure, found the ships' store of drinking water in case her passenger was thirsty. Staring helplessly at the door, Willow continued her burst of activity – checking her flight plan for the return journey, fiddling with fuel rod locks on the Q-ship, confirming her radio codes. She was desperate to appear prepared for her passenger, to project herself as an experienced pilot despite the obvious lack of rank on her tunic.
Finally she sat back down on the box. She felt young, she felt unready for her task, even though she knew it was a mundane one. Or at least fairly straightforward.
'Well', Willow considered, 'straightforward in a war hero against the conglomerate, saved my life at least twice, mystery passenger lady kind of way'.
Willow's thoughts ran ahead of her, trying to unravel why she was so nervous and, more importantly to her at that moment, what she should do so that her passenger didn't think of her as some kid with a Q-ship.
A door hissed and closed, with the faint approving beep of a scanning system heralding the arrival of a new person in the room.
Willow felt the magic in the air before she saw the other woman. She felt magic in her skin, in her mind, in her soul.
Willow's eyes looked up. There was a long dark skirt in her line of sight, then pale ringed hands holding a scuffed book. Further up and there was a grey-blue cloak, arms in front. A fine coloured bracelet, a silver clasp and burnt gold hair.
Then, without warning, dark blue eyes were meeting hers, bright with fire.
They were deep, dark, night blue. Willow thought of constellations, of galaxies moving fast away from her and spinning without rules to place them the right way up. 'There isn't a right way up, it's relative', her logical brain told her, ' there are no straight lines, no mechanical forces here'.
'I don't care about how the crow flies in space', Willow argued, and she wished for a wormhole, a tiny curled up fern of a path that she could run through to bring her closer to those eyes that held stars.
Her wish had been granted. She was shrinking. She was tiny, minute and twisted, looking up to an impossible sight, pinned down in all directions by gravity but spinning forward fast. 'Up, up, I am looking up into the sky and falling into the sea', Willow's mind scrambled for an action as she looked at the beautiful woman standing above her.