65. From Here
Lionel Amity arrives at the Orbital 9 Earthbound Spacecraft Station expecting to find four people waiting for him, but instead he is greeted by only half of that amount. His daughter is there, along with that funny old one-eyed android, whom he recently discovered was actually her boyfriend. (He wasn’t too happy about this, but then again, no father is ever happy to hear that their daughter is dating someone. Either way, he doesn’t have any control over her anymore, so it’s not as if he has a say in it.) Their flight is a late-night one and the Station is relatively empty, so it’s plain to see that only the two of them are standing there, both looking serious and resigned but not at all glum.
“Where are your other two friends?” asks Lionel as he approaches them, rolling along one piece of luggage with each hand. “Les and Ema?”
“They chickened out,” answers Lai shortly.
Alec makes a small, vaguely electronic sound in the back of his throat. “They have decided that they are unsuited to this atmosphere of warfare and will shortly be returning to Earth, just as we are. They aspire to avoid further conflict.”
“Ah. Well. I can’t say I blame them for that.” Lionel clears his throat. “I think I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I did. Anyway, let’s get going. I just received a text feed saying that the maintenance squad has left my division, so it should be all cleaned up and ready by the time we get back. I assume you’ll be sleeping in your old room, Lai?”
“In a frilly pink room full of god-knows-how-many dismembered doll body parts?” she retorts incredulously. “No, thanks. I’ll take the guest room.”
Lionel nods brusquely and walks over to one of the customer service desks in order to claim their tickets. Lai and Alec sink into two empty chairs, and Lai begins to swing her heels absently.
“I believe that your father is unsure of what to do with you,” states Alec mildly. “You have provided him with much more than he ever bargained for.”
“I’ve given you more than what you bargained for, too, haven’t I?” she points out.
“Indeed you have,” he smiles. “You have progressed farther in these past few weeks than you have in all of the years that I have previously known you.”
“Thanks, I guess.” She sighs and flicks her bangs out of her eyes. “If it’s reassuring at all, I don’t think I’m ever going to go back to the person I was before. You know, reading fairy tales and blowing off work and stuff. Pretty soon the whole world is going to know that I’m a nimp, and once that happens, I’m going to have to get serious-minded forever.”
He nods thoughtfully. “Yes, but do not allow yourself to become too austere, for I would not like to see you lose your fiery streak, or your obduracy.”
“Are you kidding? Nothing is going to get rid of my personality. You can call me narcissistic or say that I have a personality disorder, but you know what? That’s just who I am, and I’m not going to stop thinking that the problem is with other people, not with me.”
“So you have come to accept the fact that you are a nimp.”
“Yes, just as long as people realize that I’m not Pandora Amity. I’ll always be Lai Mansen, no matter what.”
A pleasant electronic voice interrupts them through the Station’s loudspeakers. “Flight 67, en route to Human Settlement Number 209, is now boarding. Repeat, Flight 67, en route to Human Settlement Number 209, is now…”
Lai and Alec stand up and gather their meager belongings, heading over to join Mr. Amity where he is waiting in line before the spacecraft portal. They look at each other grimly. Alec begins, “If Lady T discovers our whereabouts…”
“You mean,whenshe discovers our whereabouts,” corrects Lai.
His broken eye grinds uncomfortably. “Very well. When Lady T discovers our whereabouts, you know that it is extremely unlikely that we will be able to overpower her.”
“Maybe so. But we’re still going to try.” Her stormy eyes flash briefly. “Lady T is the one who improved me. She might think that we can’t fight her, but I say it’s time to come up with a few improvements of our own.”
“Last call for Flight 67, en route to Human Settlement Number 209. Last call…”
Lionel, Lai, and Alec shuffle into their spacecraft without incident, and no one waiting in the Station pays them any mind at all. They do not seem abnormal or out of the ordinary in any way, and no one knows who they are or what they’ve been through…
…but their story will be told to the world, and soon.
For now, no one out of the threesome had anything left to say. For now, they were content to lean back into the upholstery of their seats and contemplate where they might go from here. For now, they do not have to think about anything besides strapping themselves securely into their seats, allowing their eyes to fall shut as the spacecraft goes hurtling across the sky, as shining and as special as a shooting star.