Outside the window, the world falls away, growing ever smaller as the shuttle flies higher. Nathaniel Valentine sits in his window seat and watches the clouds obscure his view. Annoyance curdles in his gut. Thirty hours earlier, he’d been planning his return to Precinct Nine and his job as one of Miami’s finest. Then the letter had arrived and changed everything.
If he’s honest, Nath knows that things weren’t ever going to get back to normal just like that. He got shot. For all that the hospital released him four days ago, he’s not better. There’s metal holding his hip together. He’s on enough medicine to stock a drug store. The doctors have warned him that he might never walk probably again. He thinks it’s the latter that brought about his transfer.
He drains his cup of vodka, then crushes the plastic in his fist. It gives with a snap that makes the passenger opposite glance over. He glares back, challenging the grey business-suited man to say anything. Is disappointed when the man swallows and goes back to reading his broadsheet. And doesn’t that say everything? No one other than snobs and wannabes bother with newspapers these days. Nath snorts and eyes the letter, unfolded on the drop-down tray.
No one bothers with letters, either, unless they’re about official business. This one speaks, in glowing terms, of Castor Beta space station. Out of the rim of the solar system, Castor Beta is the gateway to the rest of the universe, the doorway to the stars. As Head of Security he’ll be better paid, get to meet new life and experience new civilisations, and blah, blah, blah, whatever – Nath knows a payoff when he reads one. He’s too young to be offered retirement but too broken to be given his old position back. So he’s being shuttled off to Castor Beta; a golden handshake he doesn’t want.
© Misa Buckley 2012