The weeks following Angela’s escape from Strangetown were bittersweet at it’s best. For the first time since I graduated I had a reason to wake up in the morning even if was just to check if there was a green flashing light on my phone.
Every time I’d get a message it was like there was still some hope there. Like I didn’t completely miss the boat with her.
Honestly I was running out of excuses for her about that though so I didn’t know how much longer she was going to waste her time talking to me. Unfortunately I wasn’t really making much progress on the career front. Mauradia was one of the older SEED planets and as a result was highly overpopulated so jobs for even skilled workers can be hard to come by sometimes. Especially here on the southern continent of Evrien there was virtually no farm industry thanks to the arid climate.
“If I could just get my foot in the door somewhere maybe I could make something of myself. “ I lamented again at my stupidity for not taking my secondary education more seriously.
“Bastian? Are you up already?” My dad’s usual morning wake up call resounded through the silent house.
“Yeah I’ll be out in a minute.” I replied pulling myself out of bed. “Man I’m never going to get out of this damn town.”
“I must say Bastian your recent efforts to be more productive are quite impressive. Normally I am practically having to assault your sheets to get you out of bed at this hour.”
“I guess I’m just getting used to it.”
“That is unlikely, you’ve always seemed partially nocturnal even when you were an infant. It was nearly impossible to get you to sleep at any sensible hour. So tell me, has there been a change in your motivations? Are you formulating some long term goals? I truly find this sudden drive curious and promising.”
“Oh yeah cause ‘just getting older and needing to get my shit together’ isn’t a good enough reason dad? How about we just get on with your list for today?”
“Well if you insist, I suppose we can carry on, no need to take offense. Whatever the reason I am pleased with your progress. Anyway, on to the task at hand, you’re coming in with me today.”
“Wait what? Like to work? On the base? Is that allowed?”
“I requested a special exception for you in this case but yes that typically is not permitted, particularly where we’ll be going.”
“Okay way to be vague, but why would they allow that?”
“The reasons are irrelevant. Just mind yourself and follow my direction and everything will be just fine.”
“Well okay but I don’t really understand what help I’d be for your drills and shit. That is what you do right?”
“No I am not a Drill Sargent, my particular skills and personality are not ideal for those sorts of positions. ”
“Oh okay I just thought cause you’ve never been deployed off-world maybe you were in training or something.”
“There are many administrative and non-combat roles within SEED’s military infrastructure. I must say I’m a bit put off that you don’t know this. I’ve been enlisted since before you were born. Are you really this clueless about what I’ve been doing all these years?”
“Honestly dad, outside of what happens in this house I don’t know really anything about you. Hell before I met Uncle Bren I wasn’t sure you even had any family aside from us. I mean you never talk about them if you do.”
“I apologize I suppose I am not prone to sentimentality. Admittedly it’s been some time since I’ve even thought of them.”
“So you don’t care about them at all? Where is everyone? Do you have any other siblings?”
“I have six intolerable sisters. Trust me I am sparing you much in not exposing you to them.” My father sighed and looked at his phone, “I am sorry to cut this short, you seem genuinely curious about this but we have places to be.”
As we made our way out to the base I couldn’t help think about how much my dad probably was holding back. Six sisters I had never heard of? And what about his parents? My mom mentioned that she met them once but said she thought it was odd that they never came to visit after that. My grandmother was supposedly very doting on dad while they were there and she was surprised she wouldn’t have wanted to be involved with her grandchildren.
“So are they around still?” I caught myself thinking out loud.
“That wouldn’t be logical considering my age don’t you think?”
“Well it’s just I don’t know.”
“Fair enough, yes they passed a long time ago.”
“Was it before or after I was born?”
“After I suppose.”
“So you don’t know?”
“I most certainly do know but time tends to blend together as you get older so exact details are starting to escape me. All you need to know is that my mother was an excessively compassionate person that would have held you in the greatest regard even if you didn’t deserve it. As for my father well that’s not as simplistic. I am afraid we didn’t share much in common and I harbor a great deal of resentment towards him.”
“I’d rather not say, it’s not wise to speak ill of the dead.”
“Really dad? I didn’t think you were superstitious like this. Mom’s going to get a good laugh out of this conversation if I tell her considering how much shit you give her for believing in her gods. ”
“Your mother is a sensible woman, I do not understand her observance of that ancient Nactlafae cult. This is different though, I have good reason for my beliefs, it’s just difficult for me to explain.”
“Kind of sounds like a question of faith. That sort of thing is always hard to share with others.”
“More like reality changing. I don’t believe you’re prepared to hear such things. Too young, too unstable. Perhaps when you’re older and have more experience with this universe you’d be more open to it but for now you know what you need to know.”
That pretty much ended the conversation, I had more questions of course but I sensed he was uncomfortable talking about it and would probably just get annoyed with me if I pressed the issue. It was disappointing because I actually felt like for once maybe I’d get a bit closer to understanding the man.
So I just shut my mouth and followed him through the winding halls and corridors at the base. The place seemed like a fucking maze but knowing the government they probably liked it that way. I wouldn’t know at all how to get out of here if I had to on my own.
After what felt like an eternity we made our way into a large nondescript whitewashed room with the same sort of equipment I was used to seeing at the hospital my mom worked at.
“So is this where you work?”
“For the most part yes.”
“Is this a lab? This seems a little-”
“Out of place?”
“Yeah. I thought this was an ops base.”
“That would be incorrect but I’m unauthorized to explain further.”
“Of course, damn military would be full of fucking secrets.”
“Watch your tone, there’s a certain degree of respect that is expected here.”
“Yes sir. I am sorry.”
“It’s fine , you are a product of your mother, as such rebellious inklings are inherent to you. Shall we proceed?”
“Yeah sure, what do I need to do?”
“Well first I need you to consume this.”
“What the fuck is that? No way that’s safe to eat.”
“It’s an experiment I’m working on. Don’t worry I already have done initial tests using your dna and everything went as expected.”
“How the fuck did you even get my dna? What did pull some of my hair out while I wasn’t looking?”
“Nothing so evasive, I just took a tissue from your waste receptacle while you were sleeping.”
“WAIT WHAT? Dad!”
“You should really consider a sock or something that can be washed and re-used. Your paper consumption is beyond excessive. ”
“You know I’ll swallow your damn horse pill, just stop talking. about this”
“Hey! Actually I feel pretty awesome, what the hell is that? Would another do the same thing or make it better?”
“Calm down, we must first see how your metabolism handles this dosage. I must run some tests.”
“Okay sure, tell me what I need to do!”
The rest of the morning was consumed by various exams and physical challenges to test how my body was reacting to things. Not really sure what it was but man it made me cheerful and damn complaint too which is kind of terrifying when you think about it considering who my father works for.
“So tell me how exactly you are feeling right now.”
“Fucking starving. Can we have cake yet? I know there’s cake at home. We really shouldn’t be late for Del’s breakfast cake. That would be shame. You like cake right dad?”
“No son, I do not have the taste for it. Pie is a more acceptable dessert.”
“Pie is lame old man, who wants fruit in their birthday? No one I tell you! Hey did grandma like cake, you said she was really nice right? Most people who are nice like sweet things.”
“That is a ridiculous statement and there’s no viable evidence to support that inference but I assume she didn’t as I never had any until I moved away from home.”
“What that’s ridiculous, what kind of fucked up childhood did you have that you didn’t have cake?! No wonder you never talk about them!”
“I lived in a secluded colony with limited resources, we didn’t grow sugar cane so we had few confections. Most of our sweet goods were fruits and sometimes sweetened with honey or this special nectar from the world my family originally immigrated from. Actually I wonder how difficult it would be to obtain some of that, I’m not even sure I could recall the name of it.”
“This is cool daddy.”
“Just hangin out like this. We should do this more often.”
“I am not so sure, you seem to be having a bit of a reaction. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this before.”
“Like what before? I feel amazing. You know what would make it better? Ice cream! We should go get ice cream and ride the carousel at the mall. We could go get everyone else, Del would love to have a birthday at the mall! She likes shopping you know. All she talks about is her pretty dresses and girly make up and shoes. Kind of redundant and annoying but it’s important to her ya know. Well dad can we?”
“It is not the time for that now, we have work we are doing here, besides it’s still very early in the morning. Can you get up for me now? I think we’re going to have to have you run this out of your system.”
“Are you okay dad? You seem discombobulated.”
“I’m fine, just do what I say please.”
“hehehe that’s such a funny word.”
“I must request that you please attempt to regain some of your composure. I’m trying to maintain an air of professionalism and you are making it quite difficult.”
“Okay I’m sorry, daddy.”
“It’s alright I know you don’t have much control in the matter. Let’s go up and get some fresh air. You’ll need that change of clothes you brought so you can move around in better comfort. It’s warm today.”
“Perfect for ice cream.”
“Yes perfect for ice cream, now go get dressed and we’ll return to the surface.”
“But I don’t wanna run.” The whine trickled out of my mouth before I could stop it. “What the hell was in that pill? I’m talking like a fucking ten year old now.”
“I am not interested what want to do, right now you must get your fluids moving so that the chemicals will expel more efficiently from your system.”
“But it’s lame, can’t I do something more fun to increase my adrenaline?”
“No you may not. Now do as I say this instant or you will not be having breakfast cake when we return home.”
“Dammit no fair! Running is hard!”
It seemed like he had me running around all morning but eventually I did start to feel more like myself. It was kind of a downer though, that euphoric bump would be hard to forget. Especially as the reality of my current existence and all my insecurities trickled back in.
How long would Angela wait for me? It’s not like I’m anything worth waiting for. Even if I manage to get a job it’s not going to be anything like the life she’s used to. Her father is a well known bot engineer in Las Palmas, he pretty much pays for everything for her. How could I ever live up to that? How could I hope to give her any kind of good life?
“So are you feeling more regulated now? Your demeanor seems more on par with what I’m familiar with.”
“Yeah unfortunately I’m back to just being me, which is far lamer than anything we did today.”
“I disagree, I am quite relieved you are back to being yourself. For a moment there I was worried I had shattered your essence and that would have been a grievous mistake. I am quite content with who you are even if you’re not currently living up to your full potential. I think you will find it eventually though.”
I was kind of taken aback. I knew my dad loved me in his own way but he really was the last person I would have expected to say that to me. It always seemed like he was so disappointed with who I had become and where it seemed I was going. Now I was starting to wonder if maybe he was more patient than I gave him credit for. That he actually didn’t mind having me around still.
“Come son, we should return to the homestead and rescue Morgan from your intolerable siblings.”