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Sterling's Days Off
It had been a while since she had gone to the University to look up heart defeats.  It had been even more time since she posted the video looking for her family.  There had to be family.  But Sterling had heard nothing from anyone.  Not a peep from the web.  Again she'd gotten lost in the cracks.  Lost in the data of the world.

And even worse was she was dying in bed of a fever and chills.  She couldn't move.  Couldn't eat.  Sleep was even hard.  Not a thing in the world was working.  Her mother kept her on anti-inflammatories.  And she was drinking her weight in cold water.  The fever persisted.  

Sterling had a visit with her doctor.  He said nothing was wrong with her heart.  So they kept Sterling home from school.  She watched movies and read books.  Video games were too taxing.  Sometimes even holding the book was too much.  And not only was she alone in her room - she was under quarantine.  Parent initiated quarantine - nothing like a WHO investigation or anything like had been in the news.  Whatever had made Sterling sick wasn't related to her birth.  

But there was nothing she could do but sleep the pain and fever away.  Sleep was so hard when you were so drained, and hot and when it did come it was strange dreams filled with images she didn't understand.
Sterling was still feeling under the weather but the fever had broken and she wasn't shaking anymore. She could eat a little. And her parents were concerned. Her doctors had come in several times while she was dilerous and checked on her. But Sterling didn't remember seeing them.

Risha had tried to see her many times but her parents had sent her away. And Sterling was craving personal contact. She sought out her parents and her brother, but that wasn't the same. They fawned over her and wanted to make sure she was alright despite the fact that she was up and walking again.

That didn't matter. So Sterling spent most of her time back in her room - alone.

Her wallet pinged often with messages from Risha, so when a social media platform kicked up a ping she sighed and resigned herself to another indignant post from her best friend looking to know when Sterling would make her appearance again. But the message was simple was not Risha.

She stared at the anonymous post with wonder. A relative?? For real? The post was anonymous, but he left his name. Nox. Sterling assumed Durante and he was in the hospital. Why?

And it was sort of sad, if they were the last of their family line alive? What happened to his parents? Did he have any siblings? What about grand parents on his Mom's side? Surely someone else existed besides them. How did this happen? How had he come to be in Moscow?

There were so many questions running through her mind. Even silly ones, like did he know he was named after the Roman Goddess of Night. That made her giggle. Or maybe his mom thought dropping the K was cool! Some parents were weird.

Sterling tapped away at her reply and hit sent. If they were both in bed, maybe they'd have a conversation worth having and not having to wait. She had so many questions.

[[ Conversation thread. ]]
What was this guy some goodie goodie? He kept asking about my parents. She wasn't some little kid. What exactly did he think was going on here.

But as she read the actual words Sterling blinked at them over and over. And she was already getting up from her bed when he said he'd trust her. Which made her sit down. There was something else going on here. Sterling didn't understand what a Channeler was and the Atharim. Sure everyone was talking about it, how they knew this channeler or that, or how they'd seen the arch being made by Ascendancy.

The fact that this supposed cousin of hers admitted to being not part of one but two very recent developments meant he was playing with her, or he was way too honest to be a terrorist.

Sterling got up again and grabbed her favorite stuffed bear and took it into the living room. "Hey Mom, Dad, I got a hit on my video I made."

"Oh that's nice, honey. What did it say."

"Here." She handed the wallet to her mother and let her read the initial comments and the text conversation. Sterling watched the concern on her mother's face grow.

And then she looked up at Sterling and frowned. "I don't care if he's your long lost cousin. We aren't going to associate with people who had the sickness. It might be contagious and you are already sick enough. And he tried to kill the Ascendancy. That's who sent the nuke, you know that right. Babe,", she scooped Sterling up in her arms, "You don't need family like that, you got us."

Sterling's mom handed her dad her wallet and Sterling watched helplessly as her father typed furiously away on her wallet. He handed the wallet back to her with the number deleted and blocked. Did he really think that she didn't know how to undo all that. He growled. "You are not to speak to him again!"

Sterling knew better than to argue with them. And they knew better than to forbid her of doing things. She would just do it anyway. And Nox would never know. Except Sterling didn't know what he'd sent her cousin.

And she never would.

Back in her room with her teddy bear strung up between her arms and neck she tapped away in the hopes that he'd still talk to her. But there was no immediate reply. Her stupid parents messed everything up.
Sterling pulled up all the hospitals in Moscow. She knew her cousin was here - somewhere, and while he was stuck in bed, he couldn't say no to seeing her. She only had to find him. He hadn't given her his name, but she knew his last name. And she'd learned how to track people's birth certificates down. That had been easy. A name was easy and she found it quickly. Nox Durante. But there was nothing else except he had a twin sister - Aurora. But he never mentioned his sister?

Maybe it wasn't the same guy.

Sterling didn't care. She climbed out her window. "I'll check ever hospital until I find him if I have to."

Sterling snuck out of her bedroom window. She'd done it several times with Risha before. But this was the first time she'd done it alone, and by her own willingness. Risha had always had to talk her into leaving when her parents said no. But this time she had a reason.

Sterling would look at the closest hospital first - Moscow University.

Name in hand, Sterling headed off to look for her long lost cousin and hoped he could share some thing about her parents to her.
Once she'd gotten away from her neighborhood Sterling hopped on to the metro and took a train to Moscow University. It felt strange riding the train without Risha, but it wasn't that unusual. Her friend was usually loud and obnoxious, and Sterling had her wallet with her. She stared at the message thread she'd shared with her cousin. Her father had ruined everything. Nox wasn't talking to her anymore. This was the only way.

She'd been to the University many times. She knew the way. But she was alone this time. And it was a little scary traveling to meet a stranger alone. Maybe she should call Risha before she went in.

But the university pulled into view and she knew Risha wouldn't understand. This wasn't her life. The bus stopped at the library and Sterling got off the bus and stood on the sidewalk by the bench that no longer held anyone who was waiting for the bus. Was this even a good idea? Sterling stood frozen staring in the direction of the university hospital wondering.
[[ continued here ]] -

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