Challenge #02486-F296: Some of PartssteemCreated with Sketch.

in #fictionlast year


They used to meet you on arrival and arrange everything for your stay. Now they find valued jobs as Concierges in up-market hotels. The person who knows where to find experts and enthusiasts for Films and Docos. Inspired by a Thomas Cook employee who used to greet VIP's and smooth their path. -- Knitnan

Some people are best at connections. They just... know people. They know another individual who might have the knowledge of the thing. They know a person who knows a person. They network, and hoard interesting people with equally interesting niche knowledge like a dragon may hoard gold and gems. They gleefully connect the people who want to learn with the people who already know.

Some people are best at finding sources. Where to get that esoteric fiddly bit that is apparently not made any more. Where to find the best examples of some species' delicacy. Who creates those marvellous little art pieces and why they leave them in seemingly random locations. If you want to find something, if you want to know the best place to get them at the most competitive price, if you're willing to pay for it to be made custom... these are the people who help you.

Rarest of all are the people who can do both. They are a beacon of friendly help, a central repository for local knowledge. They know a person who knows a person... they know where you can get that. They are the rock upon which the pillars of community lie. In the Galactic Alliance, they are known collectively as Aunties. It is not a blood relation honorific. It is a title. Those concerned with their gendered variant can also choose from Uncle, the masculine version, and Unty, the agender version. Some folks just can't be stopped from being specific in that one aspect. They know what to do to help almost any problem, and if they find themselves temporarily foxed, they know how to network.

Even the ones who are new at their job. Unty Vrax checked hir pockets, hir carryall, and hir carry-trailer for the useful things, making certain each was in place. Until hir community circle was cemented in hir mind, ze carried a minimap in hir data-reader with up-to-the-minute traffic information. There was location information on there and a list of useful people ze had already met.

Aunties tend to be JOATs by default, even those who just know people who know things. Today was another visitation day. Vrax was making hirself known to all in hir care. Residents of the neighbourhood, regulars who came through on their routines. The buskers who came to the transit stations in the area. Everyone.

In this case, everyone including the Human who preferred to be alone. Vrax found them feeding the birds in a grizzled and grizzly hunch. Mumbling to themself, which was never a good sign.

Vrax slowed into their line of sight, approaching slowly so ze could find this Human's boundaries and therefore respect them. It was in this process that ze realised that this Human wasn't old, just covered in a network of scars that aged them prematurely. There was something hurt behind their eyes. Something that didn't want to risk being hurt again.

"I don't need your help, go away." Their voice wasn't so much a growl as a mechanical buzz. They had an artificial voice box. One of their hands was synthetic. A primitive, bottom-of-the-market model that seemed designed to hurt rather than help. Its resemblance to a hand was at the functional level only. It kept the bag of birdseed steady by arranged co-incidence of their seating position and pressure against their torso.

"Oh, I'm not offering help," said Vrax. "I'm Unty Vrax, and I'm looking after your neighbourhood now. If you know anyone who needs help, don't hesitate to let me know."

"I don't help people any more."

Which implied that there had been a time when they had done so... and given the injuries, it had ended badly. Humans could take a lot of punishment and bounce back spitting, but this one had taken such and come back... broken on the inside. They had chosen these bottom-shelf assistive additions rather than go for biological replacements or even fabricated ones that were just as good as the organic original. There weren't that many Spacers who held religious objections to being fixed up, so...

...this was a self-imposed punishment.

"You failed at helping people," ze guessed. "You escaped, right? And the people you were trying to help... got hurt."

"They died," said the Human. "They died... dragging me into the lifepod. I was willing to die for them and they... they killed themselves for me." Me, here pronounced, worthless garbage. "I was supposed to protect them and... one survivor."

Vrax knew what was expected. The Human expected hir to leave them alone. To shun them like the hideous wreck they thought they were. "They were good people," said Vrax. Ze kept a respectful distance, waiting to be invited in.

"The best," agreed the Human.

"They thought you were worth saving. Their survival didn't mean a thing if you weren't surviving with them."

"I told them I'd catch up."

Oh shit. That one. "People know what that means, now. People who love their Ships' Humans don't let those last words be a lie."

"They deserved their lives."

"They thought the same for you."

The scarred face went through a series of grimaces. This Human had at least partially deified their dead crewmates and therefore couldn't speak ill of them. "Dunno why."

"They loved you," said Vrax. "Pack bonding goes both ways. We all know that now."

"So I did kill them..."

"No. You were unconscious when they died. How could you kill them when you couldn't act?"

"I was there. I shouldn't have been there."

Vrax took a breath. This was going nowhere. "Can you tell me about them? These people you loved and lost?"

The Human stared deep down their memory lane. "Guess I gotta start with Pokki. They were my designated companion, but... it got to be way more than that..."

Vrax got invited to sit with them, and listened to all the stories of all the lost and loved. Healing happens in various ways. This Human was broken in heart and mind, and therefore hadn't much cared for what happened to their body. They maintained their broken state by pushing away any of the society that Humans needed for mental wellness. Humans with what they called a broken heart needed a special kind of care, and it began with basic sympathy and more patience than even they seemed capable of.

The Human would be a long time in recovery, but at least they had finally made a start.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / belahoche]

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This sounds like human Jenkins after probably years of therapy from his severe survivor's guilt from this story. I had been wondering what became of him.

I can see how this could be Human Jenkins. It could be anyone, because this sort of story happens more than once.

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