Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ecliptic Rift's Flash Fiction Friday: If Only

Ecliptic Rift is hosting a weekly prompt for fiction from the EVE-Online community. Below is my contribution for the latest prompt: If Only

Jol waited patiently as his comm unit dialed the call.  After a a few long seconds, the connection was made and he could hear kids playing in the background and video of a ceiling.  The view panned down violently, then settled on Gel's face, wide with a smile.

“Hey there, bro.” Jol happily said.

“Hi!  I wasn't expecting a call from you today.  How is my twin brother doing?” Gel replied.

“I'm doing good.  Got some downtime out of the pod.  Seems the Caldari are behaving themselves and not harassing our borders.  FEDNAVY HQ decided to take advantage and lighten up on the rotations, get some maintenance done, that kind of stuff.”

“You still flying that Mega or did you get a new Navy Issue Domi yet?  I worked on that design team you know.”

“I attended the briefing and put in a request to fly one.  It's pending on my upgrade in all of my drone training.   Gotta have top training in all of them before they'll let me fly one.  It's going to be a good 60 days before I'm done but I'll get into one, bro.  Don't you worry.”

“Hey, I wanted to thank you again for picking up Thersa's hospital stay.  She's still talking about it.  All the polite staff.  The vid stars she got to meet.  The hospital grounds were sooo relaxing.”

“Ah, you don't have to thank me.  Thank CONCORD and those poor Serpentis bastards who die at the end of my guns.”

Thersa stepped into view and placed a wiggling baby into Gel's arms.  She placed her hands on her husband's shoulders, leaned down into the camera and smiled at Jol.

“Hi Jol.  How are you?”

Jol could barely say anything.  God damn it she's still gorgeous.  Every bit as Henie was.

Jol forced himself back to reality and smiled back.  “I'm doing good.  Got some down time and thought I'd call to say hi, see how the new kid is doing.”

“Oh, she's doing great.  And thank you for yet another wonderful hospital stay.  Gel and I may have a fourth just so I can go back to the hospital.  It was wonderful.”

All three of them laughed at the crazy idea of enduring labor just to hob knob with vid stars and stay at a hospital that was more like a five star hotel.

Before Jol could say anything, Thersa continued.

“Ma and Papa said you spent the day with them on Henie's anniversary.  That was very sweet of you.”

Jol steeled himself at the emotions which were about to crash over him.  It had been some 10 years since the accident that killed her and took away his bride to be, ruining a wedding that would have seen twin brothers marrying twin sisters.

Jol wanted to say his usual quip that it was just CONCORD and Serpentis fools paying for his way through life.  But that was brother talk, pilot talk, alpha dog talk.  Thersa deserved better than that.

“You're welcome.” was all he said, but he meant it and Thersa knew it.  The moment had grown somber with the three of them remembering Henie's death on a routine surface-to-orbit shuttle flight.

A little head popped up on Jol's screen, blond hair covering blue eyes.  A toy of some type briefly flashed as it was dropped from a hand reaching for the edge of the table.

“Hi uncle Jol.”  said a small girls' voice.  Off in the distance could be heard a young boy shouting out “Uncle Jol!  Uncle Jol!” as he ran into the room to join in the call.

The mood picked up as it usually does when happy, easy going kids enter the conversation.  Jol and Gel, Thersa and the kids.  They all talked for 30 minutes about everything.  Jol was presented with a continual display of new toys and drawings from the kids.  Thersa discussed vacation plans designed to include Jol.  Gel talked about their parents and how they were doing.  Jol told stories of boring patrols that turned into 60 seconds of sheer pandemonium on contact with the Caldari patrols.  Everyone listened intently to his stories even though they'd already heard about it on the news.  Getting it first hand from a pilot was always more exciting than some press release read on the news.

As the call started to wind down, Jol snapped a few screen shots of his brother and family all together on the screen.  After the final goodbyes were said and the call ended, Jol brought up one of the pictures.

He stared at it for a long time.  It was like looking at himself in the life he should have had, he and Henie, living planet side with kids and a regular job at an engineering company, spending the weekends with their twin siblings, and having the same in-laws.  His eyes moistened at the sight of this perfect life completely out of reach.

If only Henie hadn't been killed in that accident.

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