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Bad Trip

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Rowan’s astonishment at other worlds, at being on starships, earned him amusement or, sometimes, odd looks from those around him. They’d been here all their lives; this was nothing new to them. But he was actually on another planet, breathing its air, able to see and touch the plant life that still seemed unreal even as he stood next to it.

He didn’t blame them for thinking it was weird, after the first time someone pointed it out to him. To them, it was just “where we live”. Nothing unusual about it. Sure, some parts were pretty, some parts were dangerous. But it wasn’t anything to rave over.

The first visit to Groundbreaker? He was on a space station! A real, true, space station! It was just like in shows, seedy bars and dark alleys and strange places where a hero would go to a shady character for information, or get mugged.

Rowan did not go down those alleys or into the bars, not without Parvati or the Vicar along. He knew all too well which result was likely to happen to him, because he was no hero, despite Welles saying it was up to him to save the colonists. Why Welles had picked him to do all this, Rowan had no clue, and sooner or later Welles would figure out that Rowan was just fumbling along, and then wouldn’t the sprat hit the fan.

…that was how the phrase went here, right?

But that first visit to Groundbreaker was thrilling, just because it was new. Because the promises that Rowan had signed for had come true: he was finally on another planet, finally on a space station, far from Earth.

When Felix had asked to join the crew, Rowan wondered why at first, then realized: Felix had the same sort of dream. Probably? To see something new. Especially if he’d lived all his life on Groundbreaker.

So when they returned to Edgewater, Felix was wide-eyed and open-mouthed, and Rowan was happy for him, because he must’ve looked that same way when he first got here. (After the initial shocks of landing, Hawthorne’s death, dealing with Spacer’s Choice security, the whole thing.) He couldn’t wait to show Felix the countryside, but Felix wanted to explore the town first, and –

“Uh, Boss?”

Rowan turned from watching a sprat in an alley to see Felix against the building wall. “Felix?”

“There’s no ceiling.”

Rowan looked up, same as Felix. Open sky above, planetary rings, some dark clouds passing over.

“You’ve never left Groundbreaker?” Rowan asked.

Felix nodded, still nervously watching the sky.

“It’s okay,” Rowan said. “It’s… there’s a word for it, but I don’t know it.” He crossed his arms over his stomach. “It’ll be okay.”

“It’s just, open to space like that?”

“Yeah. But gravity’s working, it’ll keep us on the ground. And the air on the ground too, around here, where it needs to be.”

“It doesn’t look right.”

Rowan couldn’t answer that. It was open sky. Even he had seen that now and then before he’d left Earth. “You’ve seen sky in shows, I mean aetherwave, right?”

“Yeah, but… that’s serials. You know it’s still just a set.”

“Oh.” Rowan hugged himself tighter, unsure. “It’s just sky. It’s okay. Nothing’ll happen. It won’t fall, and we won’t float off.” He looked up again. “It’s the first alien sky I ever saw. I mean… another world. And it’s beautiful. I miss mine, I guess because it was home, but this is just so much color, and so many things to see. Up there’s some ship,” he pointed out, the contrail white against the sky. He stood alongside Felix, backs to the wall.

They watched for a while, and Felix began to relax. “I guess you’re right,” he said. “I mean, you’re the captain, you’d know about these things. I bet you’ve been to lots of worlds. This is nothing new, right?”

“No, it’s… it’s still new to me. Still amazing. I didn’t know what it would be like here, but I’m so glad it’s here for me to see. And you too.”

“I get it. You got a way of saying it,” Felix said. “Better you should explain it than that preacher you got with you. With us,” he corrected. “Since I guess he’s part of the crew.”

Rowan shrugged. “He’s looking for some answers. I hope he finds them.”

“They in Edgewater?”

“No, we have to travel to somewhere else.” Rowan couldn’t remember, but the Vicar would be sure to
remind him. He wasn’t looking forward to that. He wasn’t really a Captain, ADA ran the ship, Rowan didn’t even know what all the planets were in this system or where the capitol was.

“Zorch!” Felix grinned ear to ear. “I can’t wait! We’re gonna fight marauders and take down a mantiqueen, aren’t we!”

“Uh… I hope not.” Rowan didn’t want to fight anyone, but he’d already had to deal with that. It wasn’t getting any easier. “I – that’s why you’re here,” he improvised. “I’m not used to combat, and – “

“Boss, you’re the greatest!” Felix looked about to give him a big thumping hug, but stopped, possibly because of Rowan’s terrified expression at that possibility. “I – “ He stopped, blinking. “What’s that?”

“What’s what?” Rowan looked around. They were alone.

“Something’s leaking,” Felix said, looking up. Rowan did the same, and saw the rainclouds above them, just as a drop hit his cheek.

“Oh. It’s just rain,” Rowan said. “We’d better get inside.”

“That’s rain?” Felix now grinned at the sky. “It just happens?”

“I think there’s science explaining it,” Rowan said, starting to step away. “But we’d better get in now, before it gets bad.”