Kip Caspar just wouldn’t stop crying.
He sat on the edge of the pier jutting out over Regreb Bay, face buried in his arms where they crossed over his knees. Tears spilled onto his pale skin as the Sivadian sun set below the eastern horizon. His companion orb bobbed just behind his left shoulder, thrumming softly.
He felt the vibration of his mother’s footsteps through the pier’s wooden planks before he heard her voice: “We won’t be gone all that long, Kip.”
He didn’t look up.
“I don’t want to leave,” the boy grumbled.
Lillian Caspar sat beside him, dark hair falling over her shoulders as she dangled her legs over the blue-green water of the bay. “We’ll only be gone six months. It’s important to father. It’s important to me.” She gestured at the skyline of the bayside city of Enaj. “This will all still be here when we get back. But can you imagine what we might find on Sagittarius? The Hiver homeworld, Kip. A civilization millions of years older than ours. Think about what we can learn from them. The OtherSpace Drive is just the beginning. Father’s sure of it.”
Kip shook his head. “My friends won’t remember me. I’ll miss camp. School.”
She sighed, wrapping her left arm around his shoulders. Stars shimmered in the darkening sky. “The ship’s AI will tutor you when I can’t. But when you come back from this voyage, Kip, you’re going to have such a wonderful story to tell all your friends and teachers.”
He’d never left his homeworld of Sivad in his whole life – all nine years of it. Now his parents wanted to haul him off to some strange planet dozens of light years away just so his father could collect old junk for his boss.
“It’s not fair,” he sobbed.
More vibrations. Heavier this time. His father’s boots. “Time to go,” Jack Caspar said, his deep voice crisp, his words clipped. “Ship’s loaded.”
The boy knew better than to argue with his father – a man who knew what he wanted and usually got it, by any means necessary. But Kip wished he could make him understand how so very much he didn’t want to go on this trip. It wasn’t just missing school and friends, though. That mattered a lot to Kip, of course. Something else, though, troubled him about leaving Sivad. About *going* to Sagittarius.
He just didn’t know what. And if he couldn’t explain it in some persuasive way that made sense – first to himself and then to his stubborn father – then he knew he shouldn’t even bother.
Lillian squeezed her son’s shoulder. “Come along, dear.” She drew her legs up and then stood, extending a hand toward Kip. He looked toward her with his blank, sightless eyes, rimmed with tears.
“Okay.” He took her hand.
Jack Caspar’s footsteps thumped away toward the bayside wharf.
Kip clutched his mother’s hand and followed the whirring signal of the orb to the waiting hovercab.