One for Sorrow

The debris fall is light today. 

Most scrappers would find that a bad day, and, therefore, won’t walk the miles out into the debris field for just a few chunks of space trash. Why expend so much energy on something worth so little, right?

That’s what Qrow Kay’ya thinks as she trudges out into the fields nonetheless. A waste, she’s sure, she’s certain – but still she goes, through the mires of exploded rocket boosters and shredded fuselage. Garbage left over from a thousand – a million – failed attempts to leave the tiny putrid planet of Cloud Nine. The whole planet looks like a junkyard. 

There’s no good reason to be out the debris fields on a day like today, when so few fragments from the shells of debris in the upper atmosphere crashed to the surface. A scrapper like her ought to be waiting for the lucky, lucky days when entire space stations fall to the ground – that’s where the money was. Qrow shouldn’t be out here. In fact, she should turn around right now and just go home and wait for the Meteorologist’s forecast on the radio tomorrow. 

Qrow stops walking. Curse Madam Samar! It’s all her fault Qrow is out here, on a day when every sane scrapper is taking a break, hitting up the arcade or the casino or the bar… Or sleeping, which is what Qrow would be doing if Madam Samar had not ordered her to check out the new debris. 

Kicking a piece of wreckage, Qrow starts walking again. The easiest way for a scrapper to make the most money they can is with a designated reseller, but honestly she’s beginning to doubt Madam Samar’s actual value. The woman is a nightmare to talk to, much less work with. 

The sun blazes high in the sky, but some of the wreckage is still tall enough to cast long shadows. One particular chunk – the shredded fuselage of a vast exploration vessel – is impressive enough to have become a landmark in the wastelands: the Cathedral, the scrappers called it. It had been stripped to bare bones long before Qrow could remember. Several bonecrows nest in its towering spires, sunning their shiny black feathers and the glistening white carapace on their heads. 

Qrow counts them, as goes the rhyme:

One for sorrow

Two for mirth

Three for a funeral

Four for a birth

Five for heaven

Six for hell

And seven is for the Devil himself

Qrow almost laughs aloud to herself as she counts. There’s seven, the unluckiest number to see. What irony, right? Seven bonecrows isn’t just unlucky, it’s downright uncommon – the birds usually flocked in groups of even numbers, for one reason or another, so it was strange to see seven rather than six, which was usually about the maximum. 

Qrow has barely stepped out of the shadow of the Cathedral when one of the bonecrows lets out a hideous shriek, an obnoxiously loud and horribly piercing noise like nails on a chalkboard. Qrow whirls around in surprise, seeking the cause of the disturbance. All seven bonecrows join the chorus, taking flight and circling the Cathedral like vultures. 

Expecting to see a sandcat prowling the falling archways, Qrow’s eyes immediately skip to the Cathedral. But the wrought metal is unmoved, the chipped paint untouched, the twisted spires looming silently. 

Until something punches through the hull and smashes into the debris-covered earth, rolling several feet until it flops to a stop against a starfighter wing, just outside the shadow of the Cathedral. It sends up a burst of dust, causing Qrow to cover her eyes and stagger backwards. 

It’s abnormal to get pieces falling that fast, but Cloud Nine’s one and only significant feature is the debris fall, so it’s not a cause for concern. Qrow is a scrapper, so it’s her job to investigate, strip, and resell whatever miscellaneous space junk just fell from the exosphere. She approaches it with only the barest hint of concern – this is only routine, after all – when, before Qrow can even make out what it is in all the dust, the fallen debris moves. 

Qrow immediately ducks beneath a nearby piece of rubble and peers out over the top of it. It could be some miraculously still-powered robot, maybe? 

Or it could be alive. 

Qrow dismisses that thought immediately, shaking her head with a scoff. Nonsense. It can’t be alive – it’s clearly from off-world, based on the speed. It can’t be alive. 


As the dust settles, and Qrow finally gets a good look at it, she can’t believe her eyes. 

The thing – because it can’t possibly be what it looks like, right? – very much looks like an entirely ordinary human little girl. 

The girl props herself up on her elbows and then stands up, brushing dust off her plain black and white jumpsuit. She combs her hands through her long, dark hair, removing debris. For a moment, she just glances around, taking in her surroundings, and then her eyes shoot straight to where Qrow is hiding. 

“Excuse me,” the girl says loudly. There’s a strange lilting, musical quality to her voice. “But I don’t suppose you, hiding behind that debris over there, would be able to tell me where I am?”

Qrow hesitates, and then stands up warily. “You tell me what you are first.”

The girl stares blankly at her for a moment, and then looks at a silver band on her wrist. “I am ‘JU-N1A’,” she reads. Her eyes move back to Qrow’s. “And you?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Qrow dismisses. “What are you doing here?” 

JU-N1A cocks her head.  “Just work.” 

“What kind of work?”

“Nothing of any particular interest.”

“That’s too vague.”

“It’s enough to answer your question.”

“No, it’s not. You fall from the sky and somehow survive and you look like you’re nine years old or something.” Qrow steps out from behind her rubble shield and approaches the strange little girl. “You’ve gotta tell me something more than that or I – I’m going to tell the police.” Cloud Nine has profoundly incapable police, who do barely more than any other citizen and just flaunt their apparent authority, but Qrow makes the threat nonetheless. 

Clicking her tongue, JU-N1A looks away from Qrow. “They said there weren’t going to be any people out today.”

“Well, no one should be,” Qrow says idly, before realizing something. “Who’s they?”

JU-N1A doesn’t answer. 

“Hey,” Qrow demands roughly. “Answer the question, kid. Who sent you here?”

Once again, no answer. 

Qrow sighs heavily. “I don’t have to deal with this,” she grumbles. “Good luck out here, Junia. You’re not my problem anymore.”

“Junia?” JU-N1A finally speaks. “W-what’s that?”

“I’m not calling you J-U-N-one-A,” Qrow remarks. “Too long, too much work.” She stalks off, but is uncomfortably aware of Junia’s eyes on her back.

“Where’s the nearest town?” Junia calls. 

“This is Cloud Nine!” Qrow hollers back. “There aren’t any towns!”


Qrow continues to scavenge, as she always does and as she came out to the wastes to do, but the entire time Junia is dutifully following after her. To be fair, Qrow did lie to her about where civilization is – there’s one large city on the opposite side of the world, and Qrow lives in a small marketplace village a few miles west – so maybe it’s only karma. 

Stripping a satellite of its power system, Qrow carefully cuts the wires with her glowing lightknife to get the valuable solar cells and batteries free. Junia peers over her shoulder to watch. 

Eventually, having an audience begins to get to Qrow. She glances back at Junia with a frown. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“Nope.” Junia settles on a nearby piece of debris. “I’ve gotta find a town, but you won’t tell me where one is. But you’ve got to live in one, so soon enough you’ll return to it and I’ll just follow you there.”

Qrow huffs and turns back to her work. “What do you want on this planet anyway? There’s nothing here. It’s the solar system’s landfill.”

“I don’t want anything,” Junia says slowly. “I… it was an accident. I just had to leave. I couldn’t… I couldn’t stay there anymore. And I happened to end up here.”

Qrow’s hands still. “Junia. What are you?”

The girl doesn’t answer for a long time. Then, “I don’t know. There’s only one thing that I can tell you – I’m supposed to be a human being who doesn’t have greed.”

“You don’t have greed?”

Junia bites her lip. “No, I don’t… or at least, I’m not supposed to. I don’t want things. I can’t.”

The sun is beginning to cast long shadows. Qrow gazes up at the sky to gauge the time, and then stands up. “Come on. Let’s go – it’s getting late.”

“We’re going to a town?” Junia asks hopefully. 

Qrow snorts. “Not a chance – the town’s ten miles west, and I’m not walking there in the dark. I’ve got a place out here where we can stay. It’s not far.”

“A place?”

“Yeah. And, my name’s Qrow. With a Q.” 


The Midday’s Honor used to be a starship, for interplanetary battles. It’s old now, and Qrow has never been able to make it fly, but the pilot’s seat reclines and the cockpit has climate controls, so it makes a good place to stay when Qrow scavenges out this far east. It’s pretty spacious too, designed for long-term inhabitation as a scout ship. 

Qrow usually makes a point of not showing it to other people, because it’s something of a guilty pleasure… it’s where she stores all the miscellaneous knick-knacks she finds interesting but can’t sell. Stacked on the dashboard are books missing varying amounts of pages, a small blue figurine of a humanoid figure praising the sun, a snow globe that’s been taped back together, and a crystalline vase of small yellow flowers, among other trinkets. 

Taped to the ceiling are photographs Qrow recovered from abandoned pleasure crafts; a woman and her sandcat, a man playing piano, a boy and his little sister. There’s only one photo that Qrow knows the source of, and that’s because it’s of her. Madam Samar made all her scrappers take photographs; Qrow stole one of the rejects, because she’d never seen a real photograph of herself before. It’s not a very flattering picture – Qrow had come straight off work to the photoshoot, so she’s covered in dust and grime, her blue hair is tangled and missing a pin, and her eyes are sunken and tired. But nonetheless, it is a very important photo.

The sun has just barely set, and the air is still warm, so Qrow climbs up on the ship’s left wing and leans back to look at the stars. Junia crawls up after her. 

They sit in silence for a moment, before Qrow asks, “Do you know the constellations from Cloud Nine?”

“No,” Junia answers simply. “I’ve never really seen a sky like this before.”

Qrow raises her eyebrows. “Really? I see it every night, of course… you see that star there? The brightest one? That’s NEHA-14, and it’s the eye of a bonecrow, the biggest constellation in the sky…”

Once Qrow has described all the constellations in the sky, the pair lapses into silence again. “Why’s this planet… like this?” Junia asks, gesturing to the junkyard around them. “Is the whole thing really all like this?”

“Pretty much,” Qrow answers. “I mean, the climate varies, but yeah, it’s all like this. As for why… well, humans aren’t from this planet, right? But when a couple ships landed here, they couldn’t leave. Couldn’t get out of the atmosphere or something. And so for a long time, we were stuck here, and we kept trying and trying to get out. Eventually we got so desperate that we stopped caring about the environment and the fallout and the human cost… you used to find dead bodies in the debris, you know. Some of it would crash straight down, some would get caught in orbit and that’s still falling down even now. The whole planet was destroyed.” Qrow is quiet for a moment. “After a long time, we eventually succeeded, but a lot of people were left behind, like me. Other planets got colonized and urbanized, and needed a place to dump their junk… so it fell to the already destroyed planet to take it all.”

“I had no idea,” Junia says, voice small. “I… that’s sad, isn’t it?”

Qrow shrugs. “I guess. It’s all our own fault, though… our own greed. You’re probably a better person than everyone else is, Junia, ‘cause you’d never do something like that. Everyone wanted to leave so bad that we forgot about everything else, and everyone left behind. People really just have to stop trying so hard.”

“I guess…”

“I wish I could be like you,” Qrow complains. “It’s so annoying to want stuff all the time… I’m so tired of all of it. It would be nice to live so carefree.”

“Carefree…” Junia echoes. 

“Yeah! You can do anything-”

“I don’t do anything,” Junia snaps harshly. Qrow jumps bolt upright. “I – I just do whatever people tell me to do! I try to pretend that I do want things, that I have goals, but I don’t! There’s this thing that everyone else has, and – and maybe they do bad things with it, but they do good things too! It’s so empty! I’m so empty! I – I can’t – I can’t-” Junia fumbles over her words. She slumps back. “I can’t love anything.”

Qrow can’t find words to answer with. “I- I’m sorry?” she tries. “I was just thinking that – a lot of really bad things have happened because people are too greedy, and I’m… bitter about it. Because I’m the one stuck here to deal with it. But it’s different for you. And I’m sorry.” Qrow averts her eyes. What a mistake… how bad can you screw up? She mentally kicks herself. Junia is right.

Junia has buried her face in her knees. “I’m sorry,” she says, voice muffled. “It’s fine. I’m just bitter too…” She looks up at the stars. “Other people have so many talents, and hobbies, and favorite things, and I don’t have any of it. It’s like the whole world is full of a thousand brilliant colors, and I’m the only thing in it that’s gray.” 

“That’s not true,” Qrow says, but her words fall flat, and eventually they both go to sleep before Qrow is able to offer any meaningful comfort. 


Qrow wakes up blearily to the rising sun and the sound of machinery. She sits up, stretching and grumbling at the aches caused by sleeping outside on a metal surface. Junia is gone, but presumably just inside the ship based on the noise. 

Stepping inside the ship raises the volume. Junia is in the back of the ship… repairing it? Qrow had considered doing that briefly, but the engine had been locked away and Qrow had failed repeatedly to open it, and eventually gave up. Junia, it seems, has not had that kind of trouble.

She says as much when Qrow asks her what she’s doing. “The engine is actually in pretty good condition,” Junia says. She actually smiles at Qrow, and Qrow decides to smile back and put last night’s conversation behind her. “I expect you just had some trouble with the lock?”

“Yeah.” Qrow fishes a glass bottle of orange juice out of the humming, solar-powered minifridge. “How’d you get it open?” 

“I can just do that kind of thing,” Junia responds vaguely, fiddling with the engine a little more. 

“Cool.” Qrow pops the bottle open with a crooked nail sticking out of the wall. “Do you wan- here, you can have an orange juice.” She refrains from using the word want

“Thanks,” Junia chirps. She stands up and brushes the engine oil off her jumpsuit, accepting the bottle. 

Qrow gets herself another orange juice. “So you’re telling me this thing can fly?”

“Kind of.” Sitting in the pilot’s chair, Junia sips her juice. “It’ll hover now, but it won’t be able to leave the atmosphere unless you get a warp core.” She gives Qrow a sly smile. “We can take it back to town, however.” 

Qrow laughs aloud. “Clever,” she says. “I guess we’ll just have to go back to town then.”

Junia’s smile grows. 


The drive back to town is inconsequential except for the incident in which Qrow, who drove, nearly runs over a scavenging sandcat. 

The town – that really is all Qrow has ever called it; if it has a name, Qrow doesn’t know it – is mostly just a big marketplace. There are a few warehouses and little apartments on the edge of town, but most people take a shuttle in, and shuttle out. The rest of the population is mostly homeless. 

Main Street is a dirt road free of debris in between rows of merchants hawking their goods. Strings of brightly colored dusty flags hang over the street, waving in the slight breeze. It’s not too hot today, so plenty of people are out, the crowds spilling through the streets like water. There’s even a couple performers doing tricks, singing and dancing and juggling.

Qrow has parked the Midday’s Honor half a mile outside of town, and locked it securely, to be safe, but the town is surprisingly jovial despite the poor debris fall yesterday. Qrow keeps a tight grip on Junia’s hand to not get separated. 

Junia intends to return to where she came from, and as such needs to board a proper vessel in the capital city, Detritus. To get there, hundreds of miles away, she’ll need to board a shuttle. Shuttles came to the town once in the morning, once at noon, and once in the evening. They’d make it to the station in time for the noon shuttle, with time to spare. 

Qrow is also interested in finding a warp core – they’re uncommon and expensive, but she’ll keep her eyes peeled. 

Everything seems to be going fine, until Junia suddenly stops and tightens her grip on Qrow’s hand. 

“What, what?” Qrow asks urgently, pulling Junia off Main Street into an empty alleyway. 

“They’re here,” Junia says anxiously. “They found me.”

“Well, weren’t you going back to ‘them’ anyway?” Qrow asks, confused. Junia’s feelings towards this unknown ‘they’ varied wildly from moment to moment, but she’d have to decide quickly at this rate. 

Junia hesitates. 

Qrow kneels down so she can look the little girl in the eye. “Do you want to go back to them?”

“I- I don’t know.” Junia gives her an even more anxious look. “I don’t want.”

“Then why are you hesitating?”

This gives Junia pause. “I-”

“And why did you leave?”

Junia clings to Qrow like a lifeline. “I don’t know.”
“You can’t keep not knowing!” Qrow insists. “Junia, you can’t keep running away! I know because that’s all I was doing! I hated this planet but I wasn’t willing to admit that what I wanted was to leave!” Qrow shakes her head, trying to form words. She’d come to this conclusion on the spot, so she’s improvising. “I have all that stuff in the ship, and I never knew why I kept collecting it until now. Wanting to leave is what got me stuck here in the first place, so I was afraid, Junia, and I was running away from my own fear!”

“Am I running away?” Junia asks tunelessly. “Why am I here? Am I going to run away again without figuring out anything?”

“You have to answer that for yourself,” Qrow hisses. “But I can help you! If that’s what you want to do, you can come with me!” 

The rational side of Qrow’s mind shrieks at every word she speaks. Nonsense, nonsense! You can’t do that! But it’s too late now, and Qrow has made her own choice already. She’s going to leave this planet – that’s what she wants, and she’s going to embrace it because she can!

Junia stares at her with wide eyes. She seems on the verge of tears. “Do I only ever run away and abandon things?” 

Qrow shakes Junia’s shoulders. “I don’t know! I can’t answer that! But you can! Answer it! And if you don’t like the answer, change it! That’s – that’s how we all live, isn’t it? That’s what you said. That’s what you taught me!”

Something clears in Junia’s eyes. She opens her mouth to answer, and then, Qrow hears the terrible, menacing click of a charging phaser gun, right behind her ears. 

“Step away from the girl,” a voice says. It has a similar fluting quality to Junia’s own, but sounds out of tune and threatening instead of pleasant. “You’ve gotten in over your head, Niner.” 

Qrow raises her hands and steps away from Junia. She turns to face the source of the voice – a tall, pretty woman, carrying a phaser gun, followed by a similarly tall and handsome man. Both wear black and white jumpsuits similar to Junia’s. 

“What do you want with Junia?” Qrow asks. Junia herself seems too petrified to do anything beyond stay still. 

“Junia?” the woman asks, laughing. Her gun stays locked on Qrow. “Is that what you started calling her? Aw, so sweet. Unfortunately, ‘Junia’ will have to come back home with us.”

“What if she doesn’t want to?” Qrow steps back against the wall of a towering warehouse, keeping her hands in the air. “What if she wants to stay here?”

The woman’s laughter grows. “Oh, she didn’t tell you? JU-N1A doesn’t want. She’s designed to be the next stage in human evolution! Imagine a world without greed – doesn’t it sound fantastic?” The woman spreads her arms, finally taking the gun off Qrow, who lowers her hands. “Most Niners here agree – after all, it was want and greed that got this planet into it’s predicament.”

“That’s not true,” Qrow says. “In fact, you’re the ones who-” Qrow moves suddenly, pulling her lightknife free of its sheath and lunging at the woman, who shrieks and staggers backwards. Qrow manages to drive the knife straight through the phaser gun, and pushes herself free of the woman. 

Qrow stumbles backwards and grabs Junia. The man jumps forward to grab Qrow, but she ducks beneath his hands and runs out of the alleyway, towing Junia. 

Running back on to Main Street, Qrow finally spies what she’s looking for – a warp core. They’re not very big; handheld, blue, lantern-looking engines capable of generating enough energy to break orbit. Qrow snatches it straight from the hand of the merchant selling it, and bursts free of the crowds, beginning the half-mile run back to the Midday’s Honor, pulling Junia along with her. 

Qrow finally reaches the ship, wheezing and attempting to catch her breath. Junia still stares at her with panic-stricken eyes. Opening the glass over the cockpit, Qrow slots the warp core into the slot and starts the ship. 

Finally, she turns to Junia. “Do you want to come with me?” she asks. “You can go back with them. If that’s what you want. But you can come with me, too.”

“You would give me a chance?” Junia asks softly. 

“You deserve a chance.” Qrow watches the distant approach of that man and woman that had come for Junia. “Don’t be afraid.

“I… want to go with you. If you’ll give me a chance.” Junia’s voice, soft and musical, ripples in the midday breeze. She meets Qrow’s eyes. “Please.” 

“Now you’re sounding like a human.” Qrow offers Junia her hand. “Are you ready to go?”

“Yes. I want to go.

“Then we’re off!” Qrow spreads her arms. “And we can go wherever we want to.”
The ship hums warmly and invitingly. 

They launch. 

The stars are even prettier from the upper atmosphere. 

Qrow finds the bonecrow constellation spiraling across the starry sky. “And you said I’d be unlucky,” she murmurs. One for sorrow, two for mirth… “I’ve been given a new chance myself.”

Junia glances at her curiously, but Qrow doesn’t mind. “Where are we going?” Junia asks.

Qrow plucks a photo off the ceiling. A thousand places she dreamed of but was too afraid to see. A beautiful glimmering city. Cloud Seven, the City of Lights. “How about here? After all, we can go wherever we want now.”