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As long as we stay together (if we just stay together)

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The thrum of the plane engines makes Adora’s teeth buzz as she sits slumped against a cargo container. She might as well be the only passenger to Amundsen-Scott in this cavernous plane; two middle aged women boarded with her, but they immediately curled up together on the other side of the plane and fell asleep. The rest of the plane is crammed with storage containers. Her Bluetooth headphones ran out of battery a couple hours ago, and her phone is on 8%. Adora brought a Kindle on the recommendation of a friend, but she got it out of the packaging the night before the flight from Christchurch and it only has the user’s guide downloaded (which she’s already read. Twice.).

Adora’s not sleepy but she is bored, so she punches her duffel into a more comfortable shape and lies down, staring at the ceiling. This is her second plane ride in as many days, after the one to McMurdo, and she’s full of pent-up energy from not being able to do anything except sit. There’d better be a decent gym down at Amundsen-Scott, otherwise she’ll go stir-crazy.

She’s been excited to go to the South Pole for months but now her stomach is a bundle of nerves: She’s realizing more and more as each hour of the plane ride ticks by that she’s traveling to one of the most isolated places on earth. What if nobody likes her? What if they all hate Swiftwind?

As if he knows she’s thinking about him, Swiftwind’s ears twitch in his sleep. He’s been well behaved in his crate this whole plane ride, and Adora sticks her fingers through the grate to stroke his head. He cracks his eyes open and tries to lick her hand. They don’t normally allow dogs at Amundsen-Scott, but an exception was made for Adora once her advisor pulled some strings and explained the situation. A vet had evaluated Swiftwind’s health and declared him to be in perfect health for a Samoyed (and most importantly, free of any transmittable viruses). It’s lucky that Adora will be collecting data on neutrinos instead of any kind of animal. Though if she has the opportunity, she’ll be signing up to go see the penguins as soon as possible. She sighs, turns to stick her face into Swifty’s thick fur, and closes her eyes. Maybe she’s a little tired after all.

It’s an hour later when Adora is woken by a change in the timbre of the engines. She blinks groggily and sits up. The interior lights of the plane are on, and outside it’s past sunset. She moves to the window and peers out into the twilight. And then she sees it. Her first glimpse of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. It’s a warm cluster of lights in an endless expanse of ice, and for some reason, every bone in Adora’s body knows that somewhere down there is home.

“Pretty amazing right?” someone says beside Adora.

Adora glances over at the woman peering out the window next to her. She’s pale and curvy, with a cascade of magenta hair falling down her back. “Yeah…” she says, full of awe.

“I remember the first time I saw it. Oh, what, fifteen years ago? I felt like it had cast a spell on me.” The woman fiddles with what must be her wedding ring.

“That was me, goofus!” the third passenger, a dark-skinned woman with a froth of blue hair says, coming up behind her and wrapping her arms around her wife’s waist. This woman turns to Adora. “Sorry, we haven’t introduced ourselves! I’m Netossa.” She offers her hand and Adora shakes it. “And this is—“

“Spinnerella, nice to meet you, uh…”

“Adora!” Adora exclaims brightly, a little more enthusiastically than necessary. She blushes, and realizes she’s still vigorously shaking Netossa’s hand. She lets go. “Sorry! I’m a little nervous about meeting everyone.”

Neither of the other women seem particularly perturbed at Adora’s awkwardness. Netossa grins, “Don’t worry about it. I think you’ll make friends in no time. We like to say that one week of South Pole time is like a month anywhere else.”

Adora can’t think of what else to say, so she just smiles some more.

Spinnerella asks kindly, “So, Adora, what team will you be working with?”

“The IceCube Lab, ICL? It’s a neutrino detector, I don’t know how much you know about that, um…”

Spinnerella laughs, “I’m a climate scientist myself, so not much, but I’ve been given the spiel before. Neutrinos come from the sun, right?”

Adora relaxes a little. These two seem genuinely friendly. “Yeah, we’re looking for extra-solar ones too, but those are rare.” At Netossa and Spinnerella’s confused expressions she adds, “Neutrinos that come from outside the Solar System, I mean.”

“Very exciting,” Netossa says, “We both work on ice cores, but I’m more of an environmental chemist.”

“Wow that must be interesting!” Adora says. One of the things she’s been most looking forward to about this trip is rubbing shoulders with people across scientific disciplines.

Netossa continues, “You’ll be working with some great people, Adora. Do you know who your supervisor will be?”

“Angella Brightmoon! I’m so excited to meet her.”

Netossa nods decisively, “Angella Brightmoon is a great Research Manager. She also supervises our team, so we have firsthand experience working with her. She’ll make sure you always have the best drivers when you go out into the field. At least if the weather cooperates…” She glances out the window, biting her lip.

Spinnerella adds, “And the other researcher you’ll be joining is amazing. Every time I talk to her I get my mind blown. You’ll love working with her.”

Adora is smiling so hard her face is starting to ache. It all sounds amazing “I couldn’t believe it when my PhD advisor told me my application for the ICL had been accepted! It’s kinda been a lifelong dream to come here.”

“Well you’d better get ready for a wild six months, kid.” Netossa says. “And like they say…what happens at the South Pole stays at the South Pole.”

That’s…cryptic. Adora feels a twinge of her earlier nerves come back. “Uh, thanks?”

But all Netossa does is smile a little. “I imagine you’ll catch on pretty quick. I wouldn’t want to spoil things for you.” She glances at her watch, “I think we should be landing soon, so strap yourself in!” And with that, Netossa and Spinnerella walk back towards their bench on the other side of the plane, leaving Adora with even more questions than before. Just what is she getting herself into?

A voice comes over the PA a moment later. “We’re getting ready to land, folks, so fasten your seatbelts please!

It’s only a minute later that Adora feels the plane descending, and then with a bump they land on the ice runway.

As the plane slows, Adora struggles to put on the giant red coat that had been issued to her back in Christchurch. She knows that as soon as the doors open, she’ll be exposed to the freezing temperatures of the Antarctic. It’s even colder here than at McMurdo, which in her twelve hours at that station never broke -10 C. A few minutes later she’s slinging on her heavy duffel bag and clipping Swiftwind’s leash on (He had also been issued thermal booties and jacket at Christchurch) before she takes her first steps on the most uninhabited continent on earth.

The icy air burns her lungs as they walk down the stairs, but fortunately a truck is waiting for them. Another person in a red snowcoat stands by the cabin door, and opens it as the four of them approach.

Adora clambers up into the cabin and Swiftwind leaps up after her. When she clicks her tongue, he obediently comes to sit between her knees. Netossa and Spinnerella hoist themselves up after her, and then the driver’s side door opens and the driver slides behind the steering wheel. He throws his hood back to reveal terrible terrible hat hair and the most outrageous mustache Adora’s ever seen. “Sea Hawk,” he says, reaching over to shake Swiftwind’s paw.

Swiftwind obediently lifts a paw, and sniffs the man’s hand curiously.

Adora blinks. The next moment the guy (Sea Hawk? Is he introducing himself?) offers his hand to Adora as well. She shakes it dazedly.

“I’m Adora,” she says. “Uh so…Sea…Hawk? That’s your name?”

The man releases the emergency brake and shifts into gear, then glances quickly over at Adora. “HA! Yeah that’s what folks call me! It’s a nickname, obviously. But you’ll have to beat me at arm wrestling to learn my real name.” He grins and winks. “I’m pretty good at arm wrestling.”

The truck rumbles across the snow tarmac, heading towards Amundsen-Scott Station and the next half a year of her life. Adora’s gut twists unexpectedly, and she turns in her seat to try to get one last glimpse of the plane that brought her to the coldest continent on Earth. But it’s already been swallowed up by the twilight.

Adora barely has time to feel squished in the cab with three other people and a dog, before they arrive at a loading dock. Dirty snow meets up with the dull grey steel garage door, and Adora pulls her coat tighter around her as they pile out onto the loading dock platform. Sea Hawk extracts a walkie-talkie from one of many pockets and holds it up to his mouth, “We’re here, open up.”

A pause, then the walkie-talkie crackles, “Oh! Be right there, just hang tight.”

A few seconds later they’re momentarily blinded as the door is hauled up, warm yellow light spilling out from inside the station, silhouetting a tall, muscular white woman with a shock of short snow-white hair. She beckons them to come inside and instantly starts talking a mile a minute. “Hey y’all! Let’s see, hi Netossa, hi Spinnerella, good to see you guys, oh and hi! You’re new!” She sticks out her hand and when Adora takes it the other woman shakes it in an enthusiastic, but crushing, grip. “I’m Scorpia, I’m your resident Gear Guru and Safety Trainer! Who are you?”

Adora blinks. “Adora Sherman. I’m working on the IceCube?”

“Ohhhh my best friend works on IceCube. I bet you’ll work together, that’ll be so great! And oh my goodness you have a dog!” She gets down on Swiftwind’s level and offers her hand for him to sniff. He licks it and wags his tail, and she gives him a good hard scratch. It’s clear that Adora has a new competitor for Swiftwind’s affections. “Oh man, you’re such a good dog, aren’t you?” Scorpia grins, and Swiftwind flops over to expose his tummy, the traitor. She gives him a quick belly rub then gets to her feet. “Let me know if you ever need someone to watch him for a while, or walk him. I’m good with animals. What’s his name?”

“Swiftwind. Or Swifty if you want. And I’ll definitely take you up on that.”

“Great! I’m looking forward to it.” Scorpia says and walks back to heave the garage door down again with a thunk. She runs her hand through her hair, making it stand straight up. “The pulley system is broken right now, but our mechanic is supposed to get around to it tomorrow I think,” she says in response to Adora’s questioning look. “Now lemme just go help Sea Hawk with your bags, and then I’ll show you to your rooms!” She opens a side door next to the bay entrance, and disappears into the cold, only to return a minute later carrying a duffel bag on each shoulder like they weigh nothing.

Seahawk is right behind her, panting under the weight of Adora’s one overstuffed bag, and he dumps it with a thud at her feet. “Adora, you are an amazing and brilliant scientist I am positive, but what do you have in your bag? Rocks?? How do you even carry this thing?”

Adora laughs nervously, “Oh, sorry! I packed everything as tight as possible and I guess that made it really dense?” She steps on Swiftwind’s leash, hefts her bag off the ground and slings it onto her back, fumbling for the second shoulder strap for a moment.

“I just met you but I respect the hell out of you already. See you three at dinner!” Sea Hawk gives a little mock salute and flips his hood up before heading back to the truck.

Spinnarella and Netossa exchange amused glances. Netossa says, “Forgot how much I missed Sea Hawk.” She addresses Adora, “There’s a lot of pretty weird people down here, but we’re like a family after you get to know everyone, you know? We have your back.”

That’s kind of what Adora has been counting on.

Scorpia leads the way through several hallways, explaining that there are two dorm halls that house everyone at the station, but in the winter, they consolidate into only one since there are so few people. “People like to cozy up in the winter, you know?” She wiggles her eyebrows in such a blatantly suggestive way that Adora blushes. And decides to ask someone what exactly happens at Amundsen-Scott in the winter, as soon as possible.

“…Netossa, Spinnarella, I put you guys in your usual room, here’s your key!” She digs out a key attached to a fob shaped like a penguin and tosses it to Spinnarella, who catches it and tugs her wife towards the stairs.

“C’mon babe, we gotta settle in,” Spinnarella says and plants a smooch on Netossa’s cheek. Netossa lets herself be led up the stairs, and turns back for just a second to tell Adora that if she ever needs anything, they’re in room 204.

Scorpia beckons Adora down the hallway and leads her to what she assumes will be her home for the next several months. “And this is you! Room 115, and here’s your key! I think this keychain thing is supposed to be an elephant seal?” Scorpia holds the keychain up to her face and squints at it, “…yep pretty sure that’s what this is. You’re roommates with Glimmer Brightmoon; she’s an Amundsen-Scott veteran. She’ll show you the ropes.”

Glimmer Brightmoon? She must be related to Angella Brightmoon! Adora is definitely going to ask Glimmer all about her relative.

The room is clean and tidy and looks comfortable enough. There are two neatly made twin beds and two sets of closets and dressers and desks. If anything, it looks like Adora’s dorm back in college. One of the beds must be Glimmer’s; the pillowcase has a lavender pillowcase, and a colorful pink and gold crocheted blanket covers the plain comforter. Adora spies the hems of several items of clothes sticking out of the bottom of the closet. It seems like Glimmer must have cleaned up in quite a hurry but she appreciates the effort.

Adora walks over to the second bed and heaves her bag onto the floor next to it. Swiftwind leaps onto the bed and Adora has to grab him by the collar to pull him off. She turns back toward the door, “Hey Scorpia, could we stop by the kennel they set up for Swiftwind really quick?”

Scorpia pokes her head in and glances around the room. “Huh, I told Glimmer when you’d get here, but she must have gone to dinner already! Leave that stuff for later. Yeah let’s drop off your dog and then I’ll show you where the cafeteria is. Glimmer will probably be there!”

“Ok.” Adora says, and closes the door behind her. She pockets her room key and follows Scorpia back out of the dorm. The woman is unlike anyone she’s ever met. She seems to have a boundless supply of energy and enthusiasm, and Adora has a feeling she’s a pretty kickass training instructor for that exact reason.

Swiftwind’s kennel turns out to be a converted supply shed, with an enclosed semi-heated area attached to one side to allow him to run around when Adora can’t walk him. They’ve made a sort of doggie door mechanism to allow him to get to and from the yard by himself, and there are a couple brand new toys inside, along with a recent-looking heating unit that keeps the temperature tolerable. Swifty will be perfectly fine; all that fur will finally be useful. Adora knows he’ll love it, and she might end up spending time here instead of her room if her roommate turns out to be terrible. She’ll just have to wear her coat.

She gets Swiftwind settled with Scorpia’s help, then heads back towards the main part of the station. They enter in a whoosh of warm air, and Adora can smell something mouth-watering. She hadn’t realized how hungry she was but at the prospect of food her stomach growls loudly.

Scorpia laughs and glances at her with a knowing look. “Hungry, huh? That plane ride really gets ya. Good thing we’ve got the best cook ever! Razz is as old as bones but she’s smart as a whip and makes the best chili I’ve ever had. And her granddaughter is adoooorable. Hah, wait, do people ever say you’re adorable? Adora—ble?”

Yes, Adora has heard that one. (She avoids thinking about who exactly used to call her that.) But Scorpia just met her, so she grins sheepishly and says, “Yeah I might have heard it once or twice.”

“Love it! Let’s get some food and then I’ll help you find Glimmer.”

They head towards the line. Someone bumps into Adora’s side and she glances down.

A young girl, ten or eleven maybe, looks up at her and mumbles an apology, then immediately fixates on her iPod. She huffs in frustration.

“No worries, just watch where you’re going kiddo.” Adora says.

“Ok sorry. Ugh I lost the Bulbasaur!” She groans, “I was so close!” The girl narrows her eyes and pokes a finger at Adora. “Next time, don’t get in my way.”

The girl wanders away again and Adora stares after her. “Well that was rude.”

Scorpia just shrugs her head and smiles. “Kids! What can you do? That’s Frosta by the way, Razz’s grandkid.”

That’s the adorable kid??” Adora asks in disbelief.

“Yeah! She’s really great when she warms up to you a little!”

“Uh, whatever you say…”

The line moves quickly and next thing Adora knows, a steaming pile of pasta is poured onto her plate by an extremely old, extremely short cook who can only be Razz. The old woman studies her as she piles on a second scoop. Adora is grateful that this woman has gotten at least one thing right about her: her stomach feels like it’s about to eat itself. Razz mutters something as she turns away, and she stops. “Sorry?”

Razz glances up from serving Scorpia. “Don’t mind me, dearie. But do come visit me if you need an ear to listen. You might need one.”

“Um, ok, I’ll, uh, do that. Thanks.” Adora says. She grabs a fork and looks across the cafeteria at all the unfamiliar faces. The feeling is too familiar. It was the same at every new school she started (And there had been a lot). Her steps slow as she frantically scans the room for an empty table, or a friendly face. And she does see someone familiar! A face she’s seen countless times on the website, and on news articles since deciding to come to Amundsen-Scott. Angella Brightmoon.

She hurries over. Angella Brightmoon is sitting alone, occasionally eating a bite of pasta as she frowns slightly at her laptop. She looks exactly like she does in her author photo in all the articles.

“Dr. Brightmoon! Hi!” Adora says, holding her hand out, “I’m Adora Sherman, I just arrived here today.”

Dr. Brightmoon looks up at her, and her eyes take a second to focus on Adora (Not surprising, she’s probably been hard at work for hours already). She gets halfway up from her seat to shake Adora’s hand. Adora nearly passes out from excitement. “Yes, Adora…I remember your application.”

She remembers her application?

“Wow, um, wow I didn’t expect you to…but of course you did,” Adora fumbles to say something at least moderately intelligent, “I have read—so many good things about you Dr. Brightmoon. You’re like. A legend. Um. It’s an…honor…Well. The best that could really be hoped for is a non-negative impression. Adora shrivels up inside a little.

Dr. Brightmoon looks a bit bemused, but says with a faint smile, “Well, thank you Adora. Nothing I’ve done was by myself of course,” Modest, of course she is, “ but I look forward to working with you as well.” Angella raises one elegant eyebrow, “Your credentials are quite impressive.”

“Gosh—um—thank—“ She’s saved from further embarrassment by Scorpia coming up and tugging her elbow.

“Hello Dr. Brightmoon, sorry to interrupt you,” Scorpia begins, and Dr. Brightmoon’s expression darkens perceptibly.

“Adora will be working under me, Scorpia,” She says coldly.

Scorpia tugs more insistently on Adora, “Oh, shoot, you know, I’m sorry, I just came to get her to introduce her to Glimmer.”

At this, Dr. Brightmoon’s momentary drop in expression smooths over, and she stands up, gathering her papers and computer together, and waves them away, “Oh, in that case…it was good to meet you Adora,” she says as Scorpia steers Adora across the cafeteria. Scorpia’s tight grip loosens when Dr. Brightmoon exits the cafeteria.

Scorpia mutters to her as they head toward a table in the corner, “Sorry I didn’t realize you were with Dr. Brightmoon,” which only further confuses Adora.

But a second later Scorpia exclaims, “Ah there she is! Glimmer!”

A young Filipino woman with cotton-candy hair turns fully around in her seat, and Scorpia leads Adora right to her. “Hey Glimmer, meet your new roommate, Adora! She’s cool and you’re super awesome, so I know you’re gonna get along!”

Glimmer stands up and offers her hand to Adora. “Hi, welcome to the South Pole!”

Adora fumbles to try to extract a hand from holding her food, but by the time she’s freed one, Glimmer has already sat back down. “Sit with me and Bow! Here.” She pats the chair beside her and Adora obediently sits, feeling a little bit like a prisoner of social niceties. What if Glimmer is a total jerk? What if she doesn’t like Adora? What if—

Glimmer turns back to Scorpia and says quietly, “I saw what happened just now, you’d probably better leave.” Scorpia grimaces and nods, then heads towards a table of people on the other side of the cafeteria. Glimmer faces Adora, “So. Tell us all about yourself.” she demands, leaning forward on her elbows. “Oh, also, this is Bow, he’s my best friend and we hang out all the time. We work on ice cores.”

The second person at the table, who must be Bow, grins at her. “Yeah we’re pretty serious about dating those ice cores. No time for frivolous relationships when you’re hashtag committedtothecores.” He holds out his knuckles for Glimmer.

Glimmer snorts. “Seriously? That was weak! And you don’t have to remind me about my lack of a love life.” She resignedly fist bumps him anyway.

“What?! C’mon Glimmer you know that was an excellent joke.” Bow turns to Adora, “Aaaanyway we’re talking about you. How’d you end up drawing the short straw on your research team to be down here all winter? What are you going to be working on? What do you normally do back in civilization? How do you get your hair to do that?” Bow and Glimmer are both leaning forward, waiting on bated breath for her to speak.

“I, uh…” Adora clears her throat and starts over. “I went to Etheria University and majored in Astrophysics, and I’m about to get my PhD from, um, University of Wisconsin. I actually volunteered to come down here, my research group needed someone to do some instrumentation tune ups and I’ve always wanted to visit Antarctica. Uh, so yeah I do neutrinos.” She tries to think of what she’s missing. “Oh! I played hockey in college! And a little bit after too, before I started grad school.”

Bow is squinting at her funny. “You played hockey for Etheria?”

“Yeah?”

“And where after that?”

Adora blushes. She always avoids bringing it up when she first meets people, because they get weird about it, but Bow clearly recognizes her. “Um…Sochi?”

Bow’s eyes widen. “Oh. My. God. You’re She-Ra!” he gasps.

Adora scratches the back of her neck sheepishly. “Yeah that’s my nickname…”

Bow is practically vibrating with excitement. “Wow. I can’t believe I’m meeting you. Oh my god. Holy shit!!”

Glimmer is looking back and forth between Bow and Adora. “Wait. She-Ra like Team USA? Woah. I watched that final with Bow. You’re like, good.”

Adora is regretting her decision to keep her hairstyle exactly the same for the past five years. She’s too recognizable. Not in her PhD program, sure, but apparently ice core people are a little more into sports. She hisses, “Yeah ok I’ll autograph something for you, just calm down!”

Bow makes a sort of high pitched screaming noise and Glimmer gives him the side-eye. He cuts off. “Oh right. Sorry. I just got really excited. You’re like. My idol.”

“Um. Thanks?” Adora says awkwardly.

All three of them pause for a moment, and Adora takes the opportunity to start eating. The food is amazing. Scorpia wasn’t messing around about the cook. “Wow, this is. So good.” She shovels more penne into her mouth.

Bow grins, “Yeah I think it’s a vodka sauce? The last shipment came in with you, so Razz probably didn’t have time to use the fresh stuff.”

Adora takes a sip of water, “What’s the deal with the kid though?”

Glimmer groans, “Frosta? Yeah she’s a real ball of sunshine, huh.”

“She ran into me in the line, I mean physically. I got the feeling she, uh, wasn’t a fan.”

Bow shrugs. “Eh, she’s like that with everyone.” He pauses, “Well, except Glimmer. Frosta’s the only kid here. And I don’t know the exact details, but I can’t imagine her parents are too great if the next best option was sending an eleven year old to the South Pole with her ancient grandmother.”

Glimmer points her fork at Adora. “Here’s the deal. We’re all nice to her, got it? No matter how annoying she is, don’t be rude back.”

Adora sits up straighter. “Got it. Be nice to Frosta.”

Glimmer looks thoughtful for a second, then glances around the cafeteria. She says, “Actually, we should probably give you a rundown of everyone here. It’s easier if we just tell you now, instead of you trying to figure it out on your own.”

Bow nods. “Definitely. Time for a crash course.”

“Ok,” Glimmer begins, “you know who Razz is, obviously. Brilliant cook. She’s basically all of our crazy grandma’s rolled into one person. Gives pretty solid advice if you ever need it, and she doesn’t gossip. Don’t piss her off though or you’re gonna get green beans straight out of the can for a week.”

Adora makes a face at that. She hates green beans.

Glimmer jerks her head at the table that Scorpia had joined. “Over there you’ve got a lot of technical crew. Scorpia is one of our training instructors, and she’s best friends with Entrapta, with the purple hair, chief engineer. Entrapta can fix basically anything. She’s an actual genius, I’m pretty sure. I’ve never seen someone get a broken CAT back in working order so quickly. Also Kyle, Lonnie, Rogelio. Maintenance and Communications.” After the first gesture at the group, Glimmer, strangely, doesn’t look at them, instead staring rather fixedly at the salad bar.

“Mermista, please, work with me here!” Adora sees Sea Hawk talking to a tall Indian woman. Both are holding meal trays.

“Ugh,” the woman says, rolling her eyes, “We had lunch together. I’m eating with Perfuma.” She carries her tray to an empty table that already has one red coat hanging on the back of a chair and plops down. Sea Hawk trails after her for a few steps, but evidently changes his mind and after a glance toward the cafeteria door, hesitantly goes over to Scorpia’s table and sets his tray down next to her. She smiles and pats his back, hard, judging from Sea Hawk’s expression.

Bow watches her watch the interaction play out. “Sea Hawk drove you from the plane, right? He’s supposed to just be an electrician and welder, but actually he’s the best driver here.”

Glimmer says in a low voice, “Mermista, that woman he was talking to, she and Sea Hawk have history like you wouldn’t believe. She acts like she can’t stand him, but me ‘n Bow have a bet going on when they’re gonna get back together. I say less than a month.”

Bow rolls his eyes. “Glimmer. Mermista won’t even talk to Sea Hawk. How are they supposed to get together?

Adora says hesitantly, “Uh, didn’t Mermista say they ate lunch together though?”

Glimmer grins at Adora. “I’m so going to win this. Ok anyway, the most important part: everyone sitting with Scorpia except Sea Hawk are supervised by Shadow Weaver,” she says, voice dropping to a whisper at the name, “Her last name is Weaver and nobody knows her first name. And she’s hella scary when she’s mad. Call her Dr. Weaver to her face but even her own team calls her Shadow Weaver behind her back…When you see her you’ll know what I mean. Normally C—“

CRASH!

Glimmer is interrupted by the sound of breaking glass, and they all twist around to see what happened. A woman with long blonde hair pulled back into a thick braid has one hand over her mouth, and at her feet are the remains of a drinking glass. She says, “Oh gosh, I’m sorry!” She turns towards the kitchen, but Razz is already hurrying out with a broom and dustpan.

The cook shoos her away and starts sweeping. “Oh don’t worry about it dearie, just go get a new glass, and try to remember to get plastic this time?”

The blonde woman nods, face red with embarrassment, and carries her tray over to Mermista’s table. Slowly the cafeteria fills with noise again.

Glimmer shakes her head. “That’s Perfuma. She’s always breaking stuff, but she’s the nicest person you’ll ever meet. She’s the other training instructor, so you’ll see her tomorrow! Mermista and Perfuma are super close. And I’ve seen her hanging out with Entrapta sometimes…but keep that last part on the DL. My mom would go nuts if she knew they were friends.”

“Wait. Dr. Brightmoon is your mom!?

Glimmer winces, “It’s my personal burden to bear.”

“She’s brilliant! I’ve read her papers!”

“Yeah, well, when you’re related…” Glimmer presses her lips together in a way that seems to indicate she has more to say, but isn’t going to in such a public setting. “Anyway. Moving on, we of course are your beloved ice core crew, plus Castaspella, Netossa and Spinnerella also work with us.”

“Oh!” Adora interrupts, “I met them! Netossa and Spinnerella I mean.”

“Yeah they and my mom go waaaay back. All three of them are basically my aunts at this point. Well, Casta is actually my aunt. It’s nice, most of the time,” Glimmer says, then mutters, “although sometimes I wish I had a few less relatives in this place…”

Bow pipes up, “I wish I had as many gay aunts as you.” He turns and leans toward Adora and lowers his voice, “But seriously. The most important thing you need to know right now is that there is a feud."

“A what?

“A feud. An age old disagreement! A tale as old as—“

“Don’t be dramatic.” Glimmer cuts in.

“It’s so dramatic though. So basically, Shadow Weaver and Dr. Brightmoon are like, rivals. They’re always applying for the same grants, and there’s some major bad blood between them from way back when, but nobody’s totally sure what happened.” Bow checks over his shoulder to make sure nobody is close by. “The point is, they hate each other. They each oversee half of the staff, and if they notice that you’re fraternizing with the enemy? Let’s just say…we don’t see those people any more.”

Adora’s eyes widen.

Glimmer rolls her eyes. “Ok now you really are being dramatic. Adora, don’t worry, nothing bad will happen. You just…um…might not get invited back?” Her voice pitches up at the end.

Adora frowns. “That doesn’t sound like nothing.”

Bow says, “It’s not nothing, that’s why we’re telling you about it. But don’t worry, none of us actually hate each other, we just…can’t hang out? When Shadow Weaver or Dr. Brightmoon might see us? Or act friendly towards each other. At all.”

Things are starting to make a little more sense. “Is that why Scorpia got all weird when she was talking to Dr.—er, your mom?”

Glimmer grimaces, “Pretty much. She must have thought you were assigned to Shadow Weaver, but then you weren’t…anyway. It’s pretty easy to avoid each other in public spaces.”

Bow winces. “Weeeelllll sometimes it can…”

“But that never happens.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Whatever you say...”

Glimmer’s eyes widen. “Oh! I forgot someone! You’ll be working with her, how could I forget? Adora have you met…“

But Adora’s eyes are locked onto a figure that just appeared at the doorway to the cafeteria. She’d recognize that silhouette anywhere. Her heart is racing, and she stands up so fast she knocks her chair over with a clatter. The woman at the door pushes her hood off, revealing a mane of curly brown hair and familiar mismatched eyes that somehow find Adora instantly, and widen in shock. Then the woman’s face is a mask of indifference.

It’s the face that Adora saw the last thing each night and first thing in the morning for four years, and the expression that broke her heart. Adora breathes one word. “Catra.”

Glimmer looks up, startled at Adora’s sudden move. “…yeah, Catra, how did you know? She works on the IceCube too!”