It takes a month to get a word out from the Garrison. Aleja’s house is quieter all that time, and
frustration stirs under her skin, agony claws at her throat and chest. Her daughters are quieter, her sons, her
nephews and nieces- all quiet. Her
mother died in that month, Lance’s abuelita, his grandmother. How? Heartbreak, probably. Aleja and her husband and her children flew
to Miami, then to Arizona to see him again.
After about a year of him being there.
He was there every year, and every year this was their ritual. Yet, no sign of Lance could be seen, waiting
outside of the Garrison’s gates. They
waited for hours, asked the people inside where he was- no answer.
It took a month of
hard work to get a word out from the Garrison. “Your
son is missing in action.” They say, a likely story seeming as Lance told
stories of missions on Earth to practice for space.
Yet Aleja refuses to believe that her son had disappeared
Another month later, three photos are seen on their news
TV, “A team of three Garrison students
gone without a trace after school year. Investigators suspect foul play.”
Aleja sees Lance’s friend, Hunk and a familiar face side by
side on screen. She overhears their successes,
how Lance was the top fighter pilot
in the Garrison. All three, suspected
dead. Bodies, never found.
She considered suing the Garrison for such a mishandling of
her son’s disappearance, but the months go by, and Lance seems even more dead
Aleja hates looking at the smooth black closed coffin, hates
looking at the flowers and her beautiful son’s face, grinning brightly through
a picture frame. She cannot tell whether
the sensation pooling in her stomach is anger or grief.
isn’t dead- he is missing, and possibly still alive. She wants to believe it, to believe that all
three of those children are alive, fighting for life, somehow so she
prays. She prays to The Father that her
Lance is alive and fighting, kicking and angry about what happened to him. She prays that Lance is safe, that his
friends are safe and that he knows he
A week after the funeral a woman knocks on the door at
their house on Veradera Beach. Aleja
answers and it’s a familiar face- a woman with the missing child’s eyes.
“My Husband and my children were lost thanks to the Galaxy
Garrison.” She says, pushing introductions out of the way.
“The Garrison tends to make the brightest and most gifted
children disappear after a while.” And Aleja listens to her, her
bitterness. She sits the mother down,
offers café con Leche, wonders why this woman flew all the way out to Cuba to
Veradera Beach and their rather small house on the shore.
“Katie was my daughter.” She says finally, “Why she used
the alias Pidge Gunderson is something I cannot fathom.”
Aleja’s mind is clouded- her son’s funeral was a week ago,
her son was officially dead a month ago, Katie’s mother- Jane is sitting in her
house on the shore in Cuba, sobbing when she should be back home, near the
Garrison base in Arizona.
“I can’t go back, not after all I lost. I thought I could gain some closure from you.”
throat is blocked suddenly, Her son isn’t
dead- there is no closure.
“I’m sorry.” She finally says to Jane, “If there were no
bodies, then my son, your daughter his friends, are not really dead.”
It’s stilted, awkward.
Jane sniffles, she’s a stranger in this home. Jane sits there, her cheeks and eyes shimmering
with tears, her form hunched over.
After about fifteen minutes, Aleja convinces Jane to pray
with her. To pray that their closed
coffin funerals were a simple waste of money.
“Dear Heavenly Father.” She starts, and her eyes are filled
with tears, the path of uncertainty widening out before her.
ask that my son, Katie Holt and Hunk Garrett are alive and safe in Your
arms. Angry and fighting against the force
that keeps them missing. We ask that You, Heavenly Father help them fight this
force, and that you keep them, leave them a path to Your glory if the fight is
for naught. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.”
Aleja makes a crucifix with her fingers. Jane whispers Amen next to her and Aleja feels a whole lot less alone.
Jane leaves and Aleja has no idea where she goes. Aleja prays for her safety, for God to keep
her and her daughter.
Aleja looks at the sky on the shore, spanning forever in a
million stars, wonders if Lance really got his wish to be amongst them. She knows that God and heaven lives in the
farthest areas of space, looking upon the universe in his Glory.
She knows her son isn’t dead and that somehow, he is being
Terraced tailings and slag from the Miami Copper Mine in Miami, Arizona. The open-pit mine that yielded this debris was dug by the Phelps Dodge mining corporation, now owned by Freeport-McMoRan, the world’s largest copper producer.
The mining town is situated on the banks of the infamous Bloody Tanks Wash.
“The wash was named after an 1864 battle between Colonel King Woosley’s troops, his Maricopa Indian allies, and a band of Apaches. The two sides had met in peace to exchange gifts, but the whites, on a prearranged signal, pulled their weapons and opened fire on the Apaches. The nineteen Indians shot in the encounter crawled over rocks to the creek, staining its water and banks crimson with blood and giving the wash its tragic name.”
This quote is from a travel guide, Scenic Driving in Arizona, by Stewart M. Green (Falcon Guides, 2009). Wherever you drive in America it seems you’re never far from a scene of
cruel oppression or unspeakable violence.
Arizona had left the house early that morning, coming in to round on some of the previous day’s surgical patients before her shift actually started, and so the first time Callie actually saw her wife she could only stop and stare.
The peds surgeon was standing at the nurses’ desk, tapping away at her tablet, with reindeer antlers (complete with ears) perched on top of her head. And not only reindeer antlers, but reindeer antlers with lights on them – tiny rainbow coloured lights that were blinking in a slow, twinkly kind of rhythm.
The blonde glanced up at the familiar voice and a smile broke out on her face, but Callie’s eyes were still trained skeptically on the twinkling protrusions on top of her head.
She set the tablet back into its dock and turned to face the other woman, adjusting her headband slightly.
“They’re reindeer antlers.”
Callie met her wife’s eyes with an eyebrow raised and a slightly amused smile tugging at her lips.
“Yes, I can see that, honey. But why are you wearing them?”
“Because it’s almost Christmas. Sofia and I picked them out yesterday – there’s a pair for you too.”
“You’re seriously going to wear those things at work all day?”
Callie just laughed as Arizona put her hands on her hips, her brow furrowing and blue eyes narrowing slightly. She knew the other woman was trying to look stern, but with those things on her head she couldn’t look like anything other than an adorable marshmallow.
“I work with children! And babies! They appreciate my holiday spirit.”
“You’re missing a red nose though.”
The brunette reached up, tapping the tip of her finger against her wife’s nose, and Arizona wrinkled it slightly, her face scrunching up.
“Well I’m not Rudolph, obviously, Calliope.”
“Which one are you then?”
The blonde was actually completely adorable in her ridiculous holiday garb, Callie had to admit. And as much as she loved teasing her about it, she absolutely loved the lighthearted spirit she brought to everyone at this time of year – Callie especially. Christmas had changed for her when Arizona came into her life – no longer the serious, designer-decorated, dressy and overly elaborate celebration it had been growing up in Miami. Christmas with Arizona was filled with bright colours and holiday pajamas and homemade ornaments and Santa hats, and silly traditions that belonged to them and only them.
Arizona beamed slightly, and Callie couldn’t help herself. She ran her hands along the smaller woman’s waist and grasped at her open lab coat, leaning in to drop a soft, quick kiss on her lips.
“So does that make me Dancer?”
A wide smile spread across Arizona’s face as Callie pulled back, and something akin to a childish delight lit up her eyes. And they, in turn, held the power to light up the entire hospital.
“Absolutely. And your antlers are in your locker.”
The shy tomboy of the group, Kelia B. Cortez — “Kelby” to her friends — is the new gill in Miami. She has curly dark brown hair, big brown eyes behind a pair of reading glasses, and caramel-colored skin; in her mermaid form, her tail resembles that of a tiger shark, a beautiful dusty rose in color.
Kelby is revealed to be an Atavist, a rare genetic throwback who grew up as a human but discovered her ability to “turn tail” after moving from Arizona to Miami Beach and meeting the Rescue Sirens. Sporty and tomboyish but unsure of herself, Kelby’s shy around the other girls, and she’s still very much getting the hang of this whole “mermaid” thing.
Despite growing up in a landlocked state, Kelby was always drawn to the water, and the only time she felt truly comfortable in Arizona was when she was doing laps in the pool. In her new form, she’s gaining confidence, and she’s teaching the mermaids as much about being a human as she is learning about being a mermaid — something Kelby secretly delights in, since she was never particularly popular or influential in her life back west. She’s the only one of the Rescue Sirens who owns a car (a beat-up old Hyundai Tiburon), a cell phone, and a computer, so she becomes a main source of the Sirens’ knowledge of human culture.
Kelby lifeguards at the local water park, where she stashes her surfboard after her morning surf session and before her evening fix. She reads a ton of true crime novels and shares Pippa’s macabre fascination with horror movies, but Kelby’s real love is marine biology, which she studies at South Florida University.