"First time in the core worlds?"
The girl was seventeen - maybe eighteen. She was peering out of the viewport and didn't turn to answer, but the officer of the watch could see the passive-aggressive expression on her face.
"Never been to space before. I've never even flown", she replied with a heavy sigh. "Part of being a colonist. They don't exactly encourage you to leave a lucrative venture behind by having cruise ships around."
"Yet here you are. Do you know what planet that is?"
She threw an angry glance back at him, as if the question had been an insult.
"Let's think. We did point-five during the last jump. That's pretty fast, but you don't climb out from the gravity well of an interstellar bridge at that speed. That means it was a short-range jump, probably from a checkpoint. So, you're protecting something important here, most likely a hub world. And given our destination, there aren't many to choose from."
The man, surprised, was about to say something, when the girl continued, with fire in her eyes.
"Or, I could look out of this window here, see the amount of traffic and the shape of the city that's been on the cover of the standard secondary school history book for as long as I can remember. We may be dirt farmers, but that doesn't mean we're idiots. This planet is Caledonia."
"Okay, look. I didn't mean to offend you", he said. "We've had colonial passengers before, but no-one from quite so far in the Frontier as you. Some people need help with these things."
The girl had fixed her gaze through the viewport again. Without glancing back she asked:
"This is an old world, isn't it?"
"Yes. Yes it is. Everything's old here. The planets themselves have an odd feel to them - this... almost physical sense of agelessness. The people who live here seem to consider themselves as old and immovable as the worlds they're standing on, but I think that's just their way of coping with it. Can I ask you something, just out of curiosity?"
"I've noticed you a few times before - in the galley, mostly. You mope around, you don't talk to anyone. We might as well be of different species, for all you seem to care. Why do you ostracize yourself like that?"
The girl sighed again, leaning on the corners of the viewport.
"You know how a colony world is established, do you?"
"I... know the basics, yes."
"Then you probably know that when a colony ship leaves, there's no gate to aim for. We pick a star and punch it. I mean, deep space ships have fold drives, but there's a limit to how much you can bend the laws of physics. By the time you reach any of the Frontier stars, no-one you knew back home is alive. And even then, a shipful of people can't build a stargate. Not in a generation. When you're hundreds of years removed from the rest of the galaxy, you tend to forget it even exists. It just becomes the night sky."
"Well, I hope you'll find something else than just night sky here."
There was a long silence, interrupted by a crackling voice on the intercom.
"Attention, all hands! Caledonia spacedock, E.T.A. twenty minutes. Prepare for docking procedures!"
"I'll give it another week", she said just as the man stepped out.
I really, really hate painting city lights. Or at least now I do.
TG2, with some modelling in Max.