June 27th 2014
When the door opened, bringing with it the chatter of a pair of officers walking past, I expected it was Captain Hennessy. If you would have asked me to guess, before the door opened, I would have never gotten it right. Not even if I’d had until the heat death of the Universe.
In my twenty years of life in the Empire, my father had never left the Golden Horde. Until now.
Upon first sight, I couldn’t believe how gray he’d gotten. And the little tufts of hair in his ears that Mom used to make him trim had gotten out of control.
But his face, it surprised me the most. I expected rage, or one of his patented scowls, but not dead calm.
His eyes had that quality I remembered from Mom’s funeral: glassy and distant, like whatever hard emotions he’d held on to before had been drowned by sorrow and turned to mud.
He stayed standing with his hand on the chair. I’d rarely seen him without a rag or mug in his hand. It’s almost like he didn’t know what to do with his hand, as it flinched each time he touched the back of the chair.
“Sorri,” he said.
“I’m sorry …”
His eyes creased in anger. “Is it not enough that I had to lose your mother? Captain Hennessy tells me you were protecting that thief, whoever it was that put you into this mess.”
I spread my hands across the table for stability. “I swear I wasn’t. I didn’t know what was going on most of the time.”
His gaze drilled into me. He’d always been adept at sniffing out my lies.
“Sorri Abigail Lyrax. I’ve never known you to not know what was going on. You gave the same excuses when you were running with that band. You’re a smart girl, smarter than even your mother, and she could have …” His face scrunched up as he bit down on his feelings, “… she could have done anything she wanted, just like you.”
My heart felt stretched until it was going to break. But as I sat there, reeling in the emotional backlash, my hands, that were splayed out on the table, slowly morphed into fists. I squeezed them until the knuckles were white and my face was red.
“She’s dead, Dad. Dead and gone. I have to live my own life now. Make my own mistakes. I can’t treat her memory like a fragile glass vase. And she wasn’t perfect like you make her out to be. She was as messed up as the both of us. She just made it look better.”
I wiped my nose with my long-suffering woolen sleeve and sniffed. “Yeah, this whole experience was a mess. One bad thing led to another until I was slinging through space hoping not to get blown to fragments. But they were my choices and I made them. I think I did pretty damn well considering the circumstances. You should have seen me, Dad, you should have seen me.”
He squeezed his lips together and picked up the chair with his thick, bartender hands. He couldn’t look at me, keeping his gaze on the stainless steel table.
When he finally looked up, we remained staring at each other for quite some time. Then he dropped the chair and marched out of the room.
I wish I could have said that we’d come to a silent agreement in that moment. That we reconciled our differences without speech, between father and daughter. But like everything else, it wasn’t that easy.
I knew it’d take him a long time to forgive me for what had happened. He might never forgive me, for all I knew. But that was okay. I think I’d forgiven myself.
I’d spent my time at the beginning of the trip worried about what he’d think about my choices, recording the events so I could show him that it wasn’t such a big deal. But that hadn’t been for him, that’d been for me. Somehow, by proving it to him, I’d prove it to myself.
But I guess I hadn’t needed that after all.
Captain Hennessy came in through the door with a questioning look on her face. Her features had softened.
“How’d it go?”
Her concern surprised me until I remembered our conversation the first time we’d met, when I’d gotten held up in Oya Station. I’d briefly implied the difficulties with my father, guessing she’d had her own issues. She must have been the one to contact him.
“He didn’t understand,” I said, shaking my head, earning a low sigh from the captain. “But maybe it makes a little more sense to me now.”
Captain Hennessy gave me a knowing nod.
“Well, you’ll be freed on bond tomorrow, while we sort the remainder of this case.” She gave me a reluctant smile. “Just formalities, I hope.”
“Who paid the bond?”
“FTL.” The captain dug into her pocket and produced a printout. “Here, you can read the message they sent.”
I grabbed the sheet with both hands and read the message. I had to read it three times just to be sure. My head was swimming by the time I understood.
“Congratulations,” said the captain. “I read it when it came through. Full employment after your first delivery. That’s quite a feat.”
“But I didn’t even make my delivery.”
She shrugged. “As they said, you tried to recapture the MobiGlas, at risk to your health, and never gave up any corporate information, and eventually helped them locate a leak in their security system.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Well, you’ll have the trip back to Castra to figure that out.”
The next day, Captain Hennessy led me out of the station and handed me FTL’s voucher for my return trip.
“I’m sorry about your father,” she said before I left.
“I’m sorry about your vacation,” I replied.
She shrugged. “Nothing ever works out as expected.”
We parted ways and I took a hover taxi to New Alexandria’s port. The trip up and onto the ship that would take me to Castra didn’t seem to take as long as it had the first time.
I was sitting in the Solar Jammer strapping into my harness before long. My excitement about being in space had been tempered by the events of the last week, which was fine by me; I was looking forward to some uneventful rest. I’d like to think I’d earned it.
I was settling into my seat, pulling the sleeves of the woolen sweater over my hands to keep warm, when the steward came into the cabin carrying a familiar case. I quickly sat up and started looking around to find Dario.
But then the steward stopped at my row and set the animal carrying case on the empty seat next to me.
“Your pet, ma’am, sorry about the delay,” he said before returning up the aisle.
Great big, golden eyes peered out of the cage, so I unlatched the front and let the red-tailed lynx climb into my lap. Its tiny fists buried into my woolen sweater and as it nudged its furry face against my chin, a box inside the case caught my attention.
I pulled it out. A note on it said, “For Sorri.”
I opened the box to find a brand new MobiGlas. I checked as though I could detect any hidden files on it before I shoved it into my pocket. And then I opened the note that was attached to the box.
The note read: “Thank you for the adventure. I hope we can do it again sometime. You know how to get hold of me if you need to. Your friend. —D.”
A quick check on the MobiGlas revealed a little program with a big red button that said, “For Adventure.” I smiled and buried the program at the bottom of the lists. I didn’t want to accidentally trigger it. For now.
As the Solar Jammer thrust away from Oya Station, the red-tailed lynx snuggled deeper into my woolen sweater and wrapped its tail around my arm. I leaned my head against the cushioned seat and sighed, letting the exhaustion from the last week claim my consciousness. As my eyelids fluttered closed, one last thought settled in my mind:
“I think I’ll name her Abby, after my mother.”
Thomas K. Carpenter writes in diverse genres including: YA dystopia, post-cyberpunk sci-fi, steampunk, dark fantasy, and alternate reality historical mystery. His latest series, the Alexandrian Saga, has garnered rave reviews from readers and critics. His best-selling novels, audiobooks, and short stories can be found at all major online retailers. He lives in St. Louis with his wife, two kids, and one oafishly large labrador retriever. Visit him online at www.thomaskcarpenter.com, or join his newsletter for free books and information about his next release here.