Monday, December 21, 2009

The Hermit of Iapetus, Part IV

NOTE: Earlier installations are here.

“Iapetus, this is Saturn Seven. Iapetus, this is Saturn Seven.”

It’s Steve on the radio. He’s a flight officer for one of the regular shuttles from Mars to Saturn. I use him often as a courier. He drops supplies, relays messages, sometimes just calls to chat.

People have the wrong idea about hermits. We like humanity plenty. When Steve calls, it’s a rarity for me to make him wait. If he calls me more than three times and I don’t answer, he says, he’s ready to jump ship and descend to find out what’s the matter. I don’t know why he likes me. He says he’s envious, but I don’t believe it. I live on Iapetus, and I’m not envious of myself. But I’m not envious of Steve, either.

“Steve,” I say when he calls – it rankles his superiors to hear him talking with someone who won’t follow normal comm. Protocols, but I am a hermit, after all – “this is Iapetus. What ya got?”

“Just wanted to warn you,” he says most often. “We’re getting ready to do a waste water dump and thought you might want to get outside where you can see the rainbow.”

Code, of course. Officially, they’re not allowed to drop stuff to me. Although sometimes the spacers do perform their dumps over Iapetus or Persephone when they pass nearby, just so gravity can take care of an errant hunk of ice that otherwise they’d have to report to ships that follow. He’s getting ready to drop something for me. Electronics I can’t manufacture here. Orange juice. Spares from socks to sprockets.

This time, a letter in the jumble:


I still call you Dad, even though Mom doesn’t want me to. I’m supposed to call Dennis ‘Dad,’ but it doesn’t feel right. I call him Daddy Dennis when Mom is around. It pisses him off, but it makes Mom happy. He’s Dum-Dum Dennis when Mom’s out of earshot. At least that makes him laugh.

I want to tell you I’m coming. I’ll be eighteen in a month and there’s no way Mom can stop me. I told her I’m joining the Marines, so she doesn’t know. I’m actually signed up as a propulsion trainee on one of the Moon to Mars milk runs. I figure six months there, if I do my work right, I’ll get my certificate. Arthur – he’s the guy I signed with at Mars Missions – says they’re always looking for propulsion operators on the runs to Jupiter and Saturn. He thinks after a year or two with him, I can get out there. Tell me what you want me to bring, although I’ll bet you don’t need much. Better yet, tell me what I need, because I’m coming. And if Mom can’t stop me, neither can you.

Your son,

Company coming after thirteen years. And I don’t have a thing to wear.

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