This short story originally appeared in Jump Point 8.08.
BEGIN RECORDS: 2950.08.03_21:48 SET
The subject of today’s lesson was “enjoy that which is set before you.” I needed to learn this one. Glad it found its way to me.
A bit of a recap. Last night, I headed over to the Twyn’s stand right as they were setting out a fresh batch of merguez, so dinner wasn’t all bad. Those definitely go down as one of my favorites on long hauls. Caught the stall cashier giving me a long look and got self-conscious about my arm, even though it was covered. Didn’t think much of it when I went back to the same broken chairs in the Covalex hub to catch some sleep.
I woke up this morning to find another Twyn’s sandwich next to my rucksack. There was a note written across the packaging:
Keep an eye out for the Ithaca, CapEzura
Spent the morning on the observation deck and was about to give up when I saw a Reclaimer tagged Ithaca come in true and smooth. Made my way to arrivals as the ship’s crew exited an elevator and spread across the station. I followed the one heading to the TDD and eavesdropped on his conversation. He seemed nice and polite, so I staked up outside. He took one look at me and immediately asked if I was Church of the Journey. Said I was and he introduced himself as Captain Ezura. Didn’t even flinch when he shook my cybernetic.
He invited me aboard Ithaca and made introductions. The crew was welcoming and seemed used to having sojourners aboard because they didn’t ask the usual barrage of questions, like where I was going or question why it was called a ‘church’ when it’s really just a set of beliefs, etc. They just accepted that I was along for the ride, wherever it took us. All of ‘em had been with the Captain for a while, which is usually a good sign. I offered to help with dinner, but Captain Ezura (everyone onboard calls him “Cap”) said it was his turn to cook. After, I began cleaning dishes but was ordered to get some rest. I almost protested, but orders are orders and it’s been awhile since I’ve slept in a bed.
Feeling thankful my Journey has brought me here.
Today’s lesson was “home is where the Journey takes you.”
I’m exhausted, but still buzzing about everything that happened. I’m thankful Cap is ok and the rest of us, including this big, damn ship are all in one piece.
I piloted today. It’s so strange to say that. Didn’t think the first time since the crash would be like this, but the Journey sets its own course, right?
I’m getting ahead of myself though. First, Ithaca’s beds are surprisingly comfortable. Way better than what I had on Vigny. Don’t know how long I slept, but I awoke to the crew helping Captain Ezura onto a nearby bunk. He looked sick and couldn’t keep anything down. They gave him an injection of hydro-gel and put him to bed. Everyone hoped it was food poisoning and not something contagious.
The crew held a meeting and let me sit in. We’d traveled to Pyro while I was asleep. Cap got a tip that some kind of fight went down and there was scrap to be found. The debris field was massive and the pickings good. Only problem was Ithaca now sat smack dab in the middle of it, with no one excited to fly us out.
Bakka was the usual co-pilot but left technical flying in tight spaces to Cap. Got the sense Cap liked flying through scrap and Bakka liked collecting it. From across the table, I could see Bakka’s sweaty hands at the thought of having to fly out of here. Devadiga wanted out of Pyro fast. Even though the scrap was fresh, she’d seen signs that someone else might have started salvaging the claim. She was convinced that whoever it was would be back any second, and this being Pyro, there was a good chance they wouldn’t be friendly. Taisei, the engineer, wanted to leave, but knew that damaging the ship would make things worse.
They debated a bit and, I don’t know what made me do it, I mentioned I used to be a pilot. Talked about my time with Vigny and some of our more memorable hauls. Didn’t mention the crash and all it took from me.
Crew put it to a vote and decided to give me a shot. Even though none of ‘em are members of the Church, they seemed convinced the Journey had brought me here for a reason. If I could navigate out of the wreckage, then we could safely leave Pyro and see about getting Cap some help. That’s when I started to get nervous, but it was too late to explain that I hadn’t flown since getting my new arm.
A shiver ran up my back when I first grabbed the sticks. It was strange. The cybernetic made it feel like it always did, but it was somehow new. Could sense the crew watching anxiously, so I started slow and steady. Captain Ezura had left Ithaca in a tight space between hunks of a Merchantman and a Hammerhead.
I held my breath as I brought the throttle up. There wasn’t much room for error with my first few moves. Thankfully, Devadiga helped by calling out crucial adjustments from the scanning station. This thing is so much bigger than Vigny, but I started getting used to it. Somehow I navigated away from those massive pieces without damaging the ship. Soon I was making accurate adjustments and picking up steam. Everything felt good and normal, like it used to be.
I wanted to say that I didn’t think about you during it, that what happened was out of my mind, but I couldn’t stop remembering. I never would have thought it, but I think that’s what kept me focused.
After clearing the field, I relinquished control to Bakka. Felt drained both physically and mentally, forgot how much that can take out of you. Came down here and checked on Cap. He’s sleeping now. Gonna get some sleep then check on Bakka. See if he needs me to take over.
Well… I knew it would happen eventually, but not sure I’m ready for this.
While I slept, Bakka brought us to Prime. Guess Cap and Taisei are from here, so it was an ideal spot to rest and sell scrap. Cap’s feeling better already. He thanked me for stepping in, even offered me a cut of his take, but I politely declined. Could use the credits but it didn’t feel right. Told him his ship and crew had already given me more than he’d ever know. He didn’t press me on what that meant. Just told me I was always welcome aboard Ithaca and that they’d be launching in two days. Part of me wanted to stay aboard to see where they go next, but I know the Journey brought me here for a reason, like how it delivered me to that ship. Before I disembarked, Cap made sure I had details on how to reach him directly.
Now I’m sitting in the spaceport lounge debating if any of the crews here would take me with them to somewhere far away, even though I know I should stay and deliver your personal effects to your family. It’s what I should’ve done months ago but I’m still scared. Scared of what they’ll think of me, the person who failed to bring you home safely. Scared that I won’t be able to keep my shit together when I talk about you.
This is the stop I’ve been fearing the most. Part of me even hoped the Journey would somehow avoid it. But here I am, building up my courage to do what’s right and telling myself that “one must reflect on where the Journey has brought you and how the path has changed along the way.”
Think I’ve done enough reflecting for now. It’s time to visit your parents. Not sure if this sojourn was all about bringing me here or helping me figure out what comes next. Guess there’s only one way to find out.