Back to Deep Time
The waitress approached again. “Just wanted to let you know that my shift is ending, but we’re staying open during the shadow hours, and we have a few specials.”
Anders looked up in the sky as she flitted away, and realized the sun had been growing dimmer.
“This part of Rondella Duo has a daily eclipse. Lots of people use it to take naps. At least, they did the last time I was here,” Claribel said.
“How long ago was that?”
“I think our waitress’s great-great-great grandmother was probably still in diapers.”
Anders chuckled. “Did they always drink this stuff?”
“On this continent, at least.” Claribel shuffled the half-empty cup in her hands. “Listen, there’s something you should know. Father offered me a captainship.”
“Greywing.” Anders sat silently. “I know that’s your ship-wing, and you probably had your eye on it.”
“You obviously have more experience. It’s fine. Expected, really.”
“I told you that you’re a bad liar,” Claribel said. She looked at her cup. “Something about this slop. Goes right through me.” She stood up. “That or I’m just getting old. I’m going to go see if I can find a bathroom. Say a prayer that this culture still uses knee-high toilets and gives a woman some privacy.” She smiled and walked back to the building adjacent to the wide patio.
Anders watched her go. She still felt like his sister, but she seemed very different, in more than just age. She seemed… worn.
“I think it’s sweet to take your mother out for a cup.” Anders turned to look at the waitress. She seated herself where Claribel had just been and rested her face on a hand. “No nice chaps like you around here anymores. My mother said I should find a man who respects his own.”
“She’s actually my sister,” Anders said.
“Your father’s got quite the loin, then.”
“That he does.”
“All the same. I said get off here in a few minutes. You going to stay up? You said you aren’t from here; if you need a spot to sleep, I got a pad nearby. What do you say, dolly-wa?”
Anders had to stop from shaking his head at the proposition. “Thanks for the offer, but-”
“I’m Iwata. What’s your name?”
Anders smiled. “Anders. Anders Macbeth.”
“Now you’re bulling,” the waitress said, and stood up. “If you didn’t like me you could have just said so.”
Anders withdrew a small datapad from his pocket and handed it to the waitress. “If you are leaving, I probably ought to pay you. All the financial info should be on there. You can just put the whole café’s tab on there, if you like.”
“Pah!” The waitress said, and ambled off.
Anders looked up at the darkening sky, growing to a pale shade of green as the moon began to move into the path of the sun.
Anders heard his door chime. He pulled his eyes away from the window, through which he had watched the slow turning of Rondella duo.
“It’s me.” He recognized the voice of his father, Malcolm Macbeth, the head of the clan and leader of the fleet-ship.
Anders flicked over a control screen next to his chair and unlocked the door. “Come in.”
“You took your time getting back.” His father, fit for a man of sixty-five, settled into the chair opposite and looked out the window at the water-filled planet below. A round dark shadow cast by the planet’s moon hung in the middle of it.
“I wanted to see at least a few sights.”
“You sure you weren’t spending your time indoors?”
Anders smiled at his father. “You talked to Claribel.”
“I did, but not about you. Perhaps I just know my son.” Anders nodded. “Was it an arcade, or a woman?”
“A woman, but I discovered that sleep – and I mean sleep, father – is a rather casual social experience in this culture. It’s like having a drink to them.” Anders sighed and looked at his father. “Are you upset with me?”
“I’ll not tell you how to live your life, other than how it pertains to the ship and the clan.” Malcolm looked out the window for a few seconds. “Claribel wanted to come back. With Michael’s decision to stay planetside on Delinda, I have need of a level-headed, experienced commander.”
“I don’t fault your judgment,” Anders said. “Claribel was always smart and capable, and now she has experience. Almost as much as you do.”
“It will be strange having my daughter as a peer,” Macbeth said. A silence settled in and they both turned their eyes to the planet.
“Would I have been ready for command if Claribel had not wished to return?” Anders said, not looking at his father.
“Because of what I did with Moses?”
“I saved a life, father. It was the right thing to do.”
“Yes, it was.”
Anders turned to look at him. “Then why punish me? You tell everyone onboard to think independently, and then you punish me when I do exactly what you say you expect.”
“I ask you to think independently, not act independently. Your job as a commander is not to do whatever you think best, even if it is best. Your job is to convince me of the correct course, and remain open to convincing yourself. When you defy orders and act on your own, you put the clan at risk, those under your command at risk, and undermine the social structure that keeps our family functioning.”
Anders remained silent as Malcolm stood up.
“I love you more than words, Anders. My responsibility to you is to make you into the best man you can be. That’s not always an easy task, for either of us, but I want to leave this clan in good hands. I have no doubt you will live up to my expectations.” He gripped Anders on the shoulder. “When you’re done moping, we’re having a welcoming party for Claribel in the Greywing mess.”
Anders nodded, and continued staring out the window.