Wednesday, Feb. 17th, 2123; 2:30 a.m.


"So how you feeling, Mitch?" Erin purred in his ear as they lay in bed together in the darkness.

He had to admit it. "Uh... better. What about you?"

"Mmmm... all better now. But you got me drunk, you jerk!" She took a half-hearted jab at his chest with her good arm, but there wasn't any strength in it.

He caught her fist in both hands until she relaxed, then gently took her hand. "I was hoping you'd sleep until morning... this really wasn't what I had in mind for tonight...."

"Nice try, Brogan. Is it really that bad, being with me?" She sounded hurt.

"It's wonderful, Erin... I just figured this would be a working dinner, you know."

"I know, I know...." She controlled her exasperation. "It's all about the work with you."

Mitch didn't reply—he just held her, enjoying the silence.

She spoke again after a minute or so. "It's been going better, hasn't it?"

"Hmm? Oh, yeah. We got Bloody Mary... released the souls of all her victims."

"What?? Mitch, this XSWAT stuff is just weird... what you said before... where exactly did you catch her?"

"Well, like I said... hard to explain. The other side of the mirror. Dreamland. McElroy took us there."

"I'm trying to imagine my Captain's face if I submitted a report like that... the spirit of a dead officer took us to Dreamland where we apprehended the perp, in possession of her victim's captive souls. No way."

"Uh, yeah... you got most of it. Except we had to pay. It cost us a piece of our childhood to cross over."

"Oh, hell. You could've had several pieces of mine. Anytime, Mitch."

He knew exactly what she meant. Lots of screwed up people blamed their troubles on their parents, but just because it was a tired old cliche didn't mean it was never true. Mitch had only met them once, and it was one time too many... he believed everything Erin said about them. She was well rid of them, and her childhood was best left behind her.

"Sorry, Erin. Had to pay my own way." He kept one arm around her, reached up with one hand to stroke her hair. "Have you ever seen the stars?"

She thought for a moment. For most Angelus citizens, it wasn't a trivial question—between the clouds and the city lights, the stars were seldom, if ever visible. "On my second honeymoon, we took a cruise to Australia. Out on the deck at night, we could see everything." Mitch could tell by her voice, Erin's face bore a very uncharacteristic smile. "Why?"

"When we found the Destiny Engine, it worked, sort of. The image of a night sky, stars and all, appeared over us, and in the back of my mind, I had this deja vu feeling—couldn't figure out why. Then we went after Bloody Mary, and had to give up a childhood memory. And I realized I'd chosen which memory to give up without even knowing it."

"Back in 2100, Dad took us on a vacation to Vegas, and we left the city for a day, to go camping out in the desert. We thought the idea was boring... I mean, Trish and I were 9 and 11, in Las Vegas, and he took us out in the desert! Then that night, the stars came out... Erin, I would've traded the whole trip for that one night. It was the most amazing sight I've ever seen... the sky was so pitch black, and so big... all those stars still couldn't fill it up. Thousands of them. Dad told us people used to see their future in the stars... now I wonder if I saw mine. That night."

"When the Destiny Engine fired up... the stars I saw overhead looked just the same... it was the one time in my whole life I ever saw those constellations, and they were all in the same place as before. But I couldn't remember, couldn't make the connection until I returned from the dreamworld, and had to give up that part of my childhood."

"But you still remember it, Mitch... you haven't really lost it." Erin sounded concerned, and a bit confused.

"Yeah... that's a little hard to explain. I do still remember it, just... not the same way. It's like... I used to think about that night sky, so long ago, and see the stars, so bright and beautiful, and wonder what the future held. And now... I look back, and all I can think of are the spaces in between... dark and cold and empty." His voice was bitter.

Erin didn't speak for several breaths. "You're a mess, you know that?"

"Yeah, I know. You've had better days yourself. Gonna be hung over in the morning... I'll get you some aspirin, and a drink." Mitch disentangled himself from her and headed for the kitchen for a glass of water. In spite of having some (very!) temporary company in his bed, Mitch realized that somehow, his apartment still felt empty. Crossing the darkened living room, he noticed Erin had been right—it was cold in there.

He paused halfway across the room, thinking. His future wasn't written in the stars, but rather in the spaces in between, and it looked dark, and cold, and empty.

The stars light a sky on a gutter full of broken dreams tonight
Though I'm not content, that's the way it seems to be
Still, I've been fighting all week though I don't know what for
Hoping someone else, somewhere near knows the score
Won't you please knock me off my feet for a while?
Could you please knock me off my feet for a while?

And there's a galaxy of emptiness tonight
There's a galaxy of emptiness tonight
A whole galaxy of emptiness tonight

Beth Orton/Galaxy of Emptiness (Trailer Park/1996)