Intercosmic Chapter 17 - Just Do It

Patrizo and I didn’t speak much after our night out. I don’t know if it was because I knew part of his life that was previously hidden, or because I was actively avoiding him as much as possible. I didn’t mind that we weren’t speaking much; he’s someone I consider annoying, maybe even dangerous. I did my research on Johan, and Patrizo was right about him. Perhaps people change and become better over time, but in my eyes knowing what I knew meant I struggled to look him in the eyes without disgust. Beatrix didn’t change at all to me, and although she’s a grown woman, she still seems like a kid to me. Perhaps growing up on Pluto, a sheltered environment, didn’t let her really grow into adulthood. I don’t know, I’m not a head doctor. It got harder working in that place each day and I cut out a few days early. Beatrix called to check on me, invited me to dinner with her mom. It was nice, she understood why I was eager to get out without me going into details. I thought I’d check out some of the sights after that, maybe see other cities on Pluto but it was all the same bland dark manicured landscape filled with decorative stones, so I didn’t check anything out.

I couldn’t really be bothered saying goodbye to anyone, not like I knew many people. I’ve got enough for my ticket out of here. I found an online forum with a bunch of other people who ran away from active duty. I could have been using my bank account this whole time, the military doesn’t track it. In fact they don’t do much to track people at all. They just wait until you ruin your own life and then swoop in. A traffic ticket, misdemeanor arrest, viral news clip. I didn’t need to subject myself to this punishment, but I would have found another way to punish myself. That’s just part of my nature.

About twelve other people stand waiting for our chance to get out of this town, and off Pluto. I don’t know anything about their lives but we’re connected by that fact. Some of them have a small bag, others are carrying much more, perhaps starting new lives. This was just a pit stop for me. I’ve settled on my next location being Enceladus. One of Jupiter's moons, apparently the entire moon is like one big resort. I can use a vacation, a real one, not Pluto.

“You really were planning to leave,” I recognize Beatrix voice from behind.

“Looks like you were doing the same,” I joke.

“I don’t think I can go through with it.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. I feel like if I leave, things would be bad.”

“That’s fear. It’s a warning system, but sometimes we get a false positive. Part of being smart is recognizing when we get a false alarm and pushing past it.”

“That all sounds good, but I can’t go.”

“You’ll regret it if you don’t.”

Beatrix doesn’t respond to me right away. Instead, we watch as people begin to load onto the small bus that will take people to the actual transport ship. I try to nudge Beatrix in front of me. She just stands to the side almost as if she’s seeing me off. I’m not good with this emotional stuff. I’m not supposed to show emotion in the face of fear, not to my enemies, not to my subordinates and not to civilians. Right now, I know I should say something meaningful that helps her overcome. I’ve got things I can say, things I’ve said to soldiers in the past. Beatrix isn’t a soldier, she’s just a young adult trying to find her way.

“This is the last chance,” I reach the door of the bus.

“I’m not going.”

“I’m right here with you.”

“I just can’t,” Beatrix wraps her arms around me. “Thanks for being one of the good guys,” and then she walks away before I get the chance to respond.

“Take care of yourself,” is all I can call out to her.

I can’t remember the last time someone gave me a hug. It was probably my big brother, the day before he killed himself. It was a long hug, and I didn’t get why. When I pushed him away, he laughed and kissed me on the forehead. In that moment I thought about how weird he was, but also how much I loved him. It was a sad moment, just like this one. Maybe that’s why I don’t like hugs.

I watch as the bus pulls away and Beatrix vanishes into the distance, dragging her bags behind her. I hope she leaves here one day. She deserves more than this place, especially if she works hard. There’re so many star systems, she can become a big designer in one of them. I don’t know anything about fashion, but I believe in her. She just has to leave Pluto first.

We putter along past two more towns, picking up one or two people. We make our final stop at the military base. Here, we all exit and await the mass transit ship. Several soldiers are already inside waiting and joking as they celebrate their leave for vacation. When I was twenty-two or twenty-three, I would have been there joking with them too. Now I pick a seat far away from them, wanting to avoid their gaze. I know nobody is searching for me, especially not some low-ranking privates. I just feel a great shame washing over me when I see them. Instead, I try to enjoy the accommodations for civilian travel. There’s no other way to put it, they’re just way nicer than those of soldiers. This is the same model ship I’ve entered dozens of times before, but there are less seats, headphones and a movie for the journey. Even a meal to be served at the halfway point. I could get used to civilian travel.

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