What follows is, I kid you not, a piece of Hate Plus fanfiction. I cannot believe I’m doing this. On the other hand, I blame Holland (the real one) and Trav (who I think is real, or at least a reasonable analogue simulation of himself). When I wrote it, Google Docs told me it was exactly 1,000 words, and to my mind, effectively the same as a piece of fanart. Since double-checking, it Google-docs thinks Hyun-Ae’s name is two words. Anyway.
“I know my own kitchen, *Hyun-Ae,” she said, clucking her tongue, trying to not to scold a woman who could not hear her. Instead, a moment, frustration at the silence. Ah, silence – silence that had been so comforting a friend before the Mugunghwa. Now that silence meant she didn’t have that sweet, chirping voice, the face appearing on the monitors as she moved around the ship. It meant that she didn’t blink, looking to one monitor and seeing a trail of hair in the corner, turn around suddenly to see her Detective Sidekick smiling and biting her lower lip behind her, making a proud ‘Caught you’ expression. It meant that she didn’t see *Hyun-Ae ask for her to turn away while she changed outfits, even though it just meant fading out – changing from scientist as they sifted data from the star charts to court a path that avoided gravity slinging, to her detective outfit as they sorted out the depths of the Mugunghwa‘s obscurer historical logs.
Emergency Power rationing was not something that had factored into her past relationships, but then, history showed her that past relationships had lacked whatever it was about *Hyun-Ae that brought that most mysterious of sights: an Investigator’s smile. Most of the monitors were dark right now; a little corridor of panels, away from the engines, the deflector array, the bits-and-pieces engineering bay with its slide-in, slide-out trolley.
*Hyun-Ae had loved watching her repair the comm array – commanding the system to hand over tools as they were requested. The Investigator was no engineer – she knew a little, and that was enough.
Since changing over to Emergency Power, the Investigator had made some changes. The living quarters – with its small host of now-dark screens, had been briefly gutted. The mattress, pulled out of its alcove, was now piled up against the base of the pilot’s seat. If there was only one place to be around *Hyun-Ae, then… in case she woke up, in the middle of the night, and wanted to be sure that the Investigator was still around. If the recordings still worked, if the camera eyes of her sweet pale bride could watch her, it felt right to be doing it by the monitor. The place to reach out and brush her hair against her cheek.
Kyaa, what a silly thought. Still… whether it was that thin film of plasma and technology that separated them or not, or just *Hyun-Ae’s unique story, the way this beautiful girl had yearned for a voice, longed to understand the world… curiosity. Was it curiosity? Was it just her youth? Whatever it was… *Hyun-Ae brought smiles to her ship.
The blanket and mattress huddled up around her still. She hadn’t bothered to get out of bed before booting up, reaching out, and saying good morning to *Hyun-Ae. Lips twisted in a little smile, fingers drummed on the panel and she considered jamming her finger down on the “Yes, really” answer.
*Hyun-Ae couldn’t hear her, though. And with years and years of silence, here, now, as much as she wanted to insist that no, in fact, she did know what she had in her kitchen, that she did know whether or not she had vanilla or cocoa because you couldn’t exactly make vanillin sugar that tasted right with a synth program, the Investigator waited. *Hyun-Ae couldn’t hear her right now, and so she should be patient. When *Hyun-Ae asked a question about her future, she should let her make a choice for herself. Support and listen.
Outside, stars whirred past, vast, old and impassive. The pale blue tinge that signified the deflector shields still working – mostly working – turned the gamma radiation from those stars into something less likely to cook the faster-than-light ship. Ship – if nautical terminology mattered, she’d be calling it a skiff, really. Hah – maybe *Hyun-Ae had a sailor outfit. First Mate *Hyun-Ae? Millions of light years between the edges of human-colonised space, the stuttering first steps taken by the Generation ships like the Mugunghwa… and what made those tiny points of light tolerable, people kept telling her, were the people you met between them.
Wiggling her toes out from under the blanket, the Investigator lowered the brush, smoothly applying another line in the coat of paint. She hadn’t done this since… since ever. It had been the log with Heo Ae-jeong, talking of painted nails on bare skin…
Well, it was lovely to think about. Like how she’d dug through her old files to find the cake recipe her mother had given her. The buttery, fluffy cake, which took chocolate icing well. The cake that could keep for quite some time in a vacuum, the cake that maybe… maybe could last until Earth, until the shell. Was that an ambitious idea for a little cake? Well, romantic gestures were important. The logs of the Mugunghwa showed that much – playing with a lover’s perception, teasing him with his ignorance of classics, cooking favourite meals.
A cake from the stars… maybe that was a good place to start.
*Hyun-Ae’d asked for a recipe made by her mother. Cooking this cake – with its buttery texture and its creamy filling – was a tiny selfishness, like that bitemark on the actress, the stolen security guard’s clothes. When the time came, she’d make that recipe, and she’d make it perfectly. This cake however, was not a cake about the past, but a cake about the future.
Cake of the future. The Investigator put her hand onto her forehead, before awping helplessly and almost sticking the nail brush into her hair. Huffing fumes, she shifted her sitting and blew down at her toes. Cake of the future, she seriously had just thought that. Well… love made you thoughtful.
The only other light in the skiff glimmered, the minutes counting down. In the little kitchenette, the oven’s red glow shimmered, buttery goodness turning golden brown under its heat lamp light.