Not sure whether I actually plan on keeping this as part of her story, because I don't know how long they would wait before icing her over this - but it felt right tonight (and maybe I needed something angsty), so I wrote it.
In the middle of the dinner hour when she thought no one could see or hear, a six year old redhead lay buried under the covers on her bunk, sobbing because her dream of coming out into space had failed her. Had failed to be as beautiful and perfect as she had always dreamed; had, in fact, met her only to reject her, though it had been her biggest and most dearly held dream since she was old enough to dream at all. She missed her family and her friend back home, had been shut up in a round box without sight of the stars or the Earth shining from the darkness, and was failing daily to adjust to zero gravity. She had heard stories about others being sent home for this - for the battle room was everything, and if she could not perform there, what good was she? She could never do combat in space if she could not fly across one short room without the nausea that accompanied every entry.
When she was finally able to get a grip on her sorrow, Emily wiped her eyes and rose, all the fear and sadness and anger a child could hold mixing with the stubborn refusal to back down that had been part of her ticket up here. She had skipped dinner, but perhaps it was just as well; forcing her breathing back into some form of normality, she headed for the battle room gate. She ignored the looks of the soldiers who had finished eating early or were heading out late, young pride forcing her to hold her head high and glaring outright at the few launchies along the way. Those who had already met her did not dare chance this mood, and for those who had not the glare and red circles about her eyes were warning enough. At the gate she had to wait a few moments before the wall opened and the room stood empty before her.
Emily slipped in carefully and clung to a handhold, swallowing down the sick that threatened to rise in her throat while the room flip-flopped around her suddenly directionless body. She had fought it just so every time her launch group had come in to practice, fought it the entire time and flown and fired along with everyone else, but she was already falling behind and knew it. It was hard to focus on aiming your flight and not getting sick from it at the same time, hard to force herself to grab and hold and push off again, roll, land, keep moving when her body wanted to freeze up and panic. This time, alone, she did not force herself into movement. Instead she moved carefully, hand over hand along the wall, into a corner of the room and sat ‘down’ on the floor with her shoulders pressed into the two meeting walls. It was enough to take her hands off the handholds, after making sure she was still enough not to drift, and wrap them around her legs instead while burying her head in her knees.
Eventually the lack of movement did the trick. It provided the outward calm Emily needed to mentally talk her body into relaxing. Standing brought back the feeling of falling, and at first she just walked around the perimeter with her hands passing along the lowest handholds one by one. She did not bother counting how many times she went around. She would know when it came close to lights-out; other than that, she did not care. She forced herself to believe that ‘down’ still existed, and walking around and around, feet on the floor, made the illusion almost real. Finally, knowing that she would have to leave soon, Emily took her biggest chance. She looked up at the ceiling, raised her hands above her - like Superman! - and pushed off.
What happened next was more than Emily had hoped for after only one evening. Though a thrill went through her as she flew up, it contained little of the fear that she had known every other time. Until she actually hit the ceiling and grabbed hold, causing her body to flip and her newfound sense of direction to flee, Emily was flying. She had an easier time controlling her fear once up on the ceiling as well, though with her newfound orientation insisting that letting go would cause her to drop and hurt, she had a harder time pushing off sideways to go to the wall, then down back to the gate.
Still, walking back to her barracks that night, Emily knew she had made a breakthrough. The dream was still broken; she did not like weightlessness the way she had imagined she would, did not take to it like a bird to the sky. But she would come back often, and learn not to feel the fear. She would be able to work in weightlessness, to catch up with the other children, to do her job. And she would stay, despite the broken dream, and protect her world back home. Emily entered her barracks that night facing the curious eyes with an elated smile. ‘I am as good as you,’ she mentally whispered to each bunk she passed, or ‘I will be better than you,’ to those further into the barracks, until she reached her own bunk, unmade the tangled bundled mess from earlier, and fell asleep.