Intercosmic - Chapter 39 - The Brothers Gray

I stayed in contact with Edan after I reached out on Evan’s birthday. It was good talking to him. It felt like I had family again. The military ingrains this idea into your head, that your fellow soldiers are family; they’re all you need. Then when you’re apart you realize it’s not really a family. They don’t call you when you’re gone, they don’t check on you when you’re down your luck. You quickly realize they call themselves a family so you feel bad for going against the grain. A few like Casey might be friends, but family they are not. I was treating Edan the same way, but he is family. It just so happened that we both turned out to be on Nyame. Apparently, he lives in the city, the rough part from what he tells me.

Edan has struck out on his own and built a small crew with a refurbished ship. He named the ship, Pariah because his crew is full of misfits. They specialize in getting illegal Revrell tech into Federation territory or people from one system to another. The whole thing sounds ridiculous to me and I can’t piece together how it would work in secrecy. He offered me a role on his crew, but space piracy, isn’t for me. He makes a point to constantly remind me he’s a smuggler not a pirate as if that would make me reconsider the job offer. I already considered taking up bounty hunter work, I don’t need more ill-advised career paths in front of me.

“So you’re telling me dad is certifiable, so was Evan and he’s pretty sure we should be on meds too,” Edan asks almost dumbfounded.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

He sips from his multicolored drink with the umbrella, “that’s stupid.”

“I said the same thing, but he seemed sincere.”

“Man, if anyone said that besides you I wouldn’t believe it. Mom always said he had a sensitive side, but we never saw it. Maybe you drank him into sensitivity.”

“All those years in the marines managed to teach me something, how to drink an old drunk under the table.”

“Should I be worried,” Edan orders another drink.

“Why would you be worried?

“Because we’ve known each other thirty years and we’ve never had a drink together.”

“Maybe you should be worried. I might find out if you were the one who told mom I snuck Akeem in,” I laugh.

“Akeem and Alissa, you were always so damn greedy. You didn’t need Alissa too,” Edan shakes me by the shoulders.

“So, it was you?”

“Yeah, it was me, but Evan didn’t stop me.”

“I can’t believe this, well I can. My own brother, a rat.”

“I’m not a rat. I was a mouse back then, but I grew out of it,” he laughs.

Its fun sitting here, thinking about old times with my brother. We can laugh about nights when Evan would sneak us into the theater he worked at so we could watch movies we were way too young to see. Nights when he would tag along to parties I was invited to, nights when we’d be invited to the same parties. Edan and I are only 11 months apart; mom calls us her step stool. It wasn’t uncommon for us to end up in the same places even if we tried to have our own friend groups and activities. Inevitably, something would get out of hand when the two of us were in the same place at the same time. It always worked out, I had a reputation of being a really good kid, so I could lie and say I was trying to save my brother from peer pressure. On the flip side, he had a rebellious reputation so I wasn’t pressed hard in situations I should have been. We balance each other out. Just opposite ends of two peas in a pod, but there used to be three.

“You’re wishing he was here, aren’t you,” Edan asks as he notices my silence.

“You always were great at reading minds,” I chuckle.

“Emotions, not minds. Emotions are simple,” he takes a sip of his drink. “But I miss him too.”

“To Evan,” I raise my glass of the Enkan Cachaça.

“To Evan,” he taps the bottle with his glass.

He finishes his drink, “Now, where the hell did you develop a taste for Enkan Cachaça? You’re not cultured like that,” he laughs.

I fill him in on my trip to Mars and how I almost fell in love with Renan. He laughs and says I’m still a hopeless romantic. But he hasn’t had much luck in the love department either. His working theory is we’re afraid to turn out like our parents, or kill ourselves over love like Evan. I think we’re just horribly adjusted to normal society. It’s obvious looking at us, he’s following thirty fashion trends and I’ve got a turquoise prosthetic arm. Some days I miss my real arm, and it bothers me when people stare sometimes, but, Renan keeps making jokes about it, and somehow, I feel better. I haven’t laughed about losing my arm before. I don’t let him off easy, I remind him that he looks like a gold dusted lightning rod. I can’t help but think of all the years we wasted dodging each other for no real reason. There’s so much we don’t know about each other, and all we can seem to talk about is the past.

“Hey, can I ask you something,” I ask as he returns from the bathroom.

“Whatever you want.”

“Why did you choose to become a space pirate, or smuggler?”

“That’s easy, I thought you were going to get all deep on me. The freedom. I can go anywhere I want, work with whoever I want. I’ve got the option to tell people to fuck off and they can’t fire me. I work with a bunch of outcasts because we live on the fringes of society. Society is fucked up, no matter how much fun we have and how much the Federation makes it look like things are perfect there’s people suffering everywhere. I don’t have to participate in that. I can do whatever I want, I don’t have to play the class warfare game,” he’s drunk and rambling, but I can tell he’s passionate about it. “Why the hell should we let some rich assholes tell us what’s best for the world? They don’t live in the real world. War made sure that corporations weren’t ruling over us all but they’ve still got our so-called leaders in their pockets. The Federation doesn’t have an army but they got ships, and they got guns and they got soldiers. Soldiers like you who they lie to and send out to get blown up in some far away war. Who funds that? Who really funds that? Is it the man behind the man behind the throne? Who makes them shiver down to their bones? It isn’t me, it isn’t you. Wee ain’t heirs to no corporations. Why the fuck should we play by their rules?”

“I see you’re still a passionate little anarchist,” I punch him in the shoulder.

“I’m not an anarchist, we just need to destroy and rebuild. We’ve been trying to fix the same bullshit system for hundreds of years. But we can’t fix what’s working as it was designed to. You should know that history nerd.”

“Okay, okay. I’m not ready to start burning buildings yet, but spare me when the revolution comes.”

Edan gives me a slight shove, “I’ll make sure to spare you,” he laughs. Then his face gets serious, “my turn. Nyame isn’t the place for a soldier to take leave. Like I said, fringes of society. A soldier certainly shouldn’t be in Invicta. Which leads me to my question. Why are you here?”

“I quit,” the words come out of my mouth without hesitation.

“You’re drunk.”

“No, I really did run away. They wanted me to go back and fight after I lost my arm. I was going to be a good soldier and go. But, I couldn’t do it. It felt like I was suffocating, my skin was burning while I was sweating through my flesh and freezing cold at the same time. I did the only thing I could think of, I hid in a ship, then ran away. Just like a coward.”

Edan listens to my words with his eyes closed, not saying anything. “Well I’m a criminal, and I run away all the time. There’s no shame in it.”

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