Authors: Jamie McFarlane
I shook Sterra’s hand and thanked her for her time.
“It was my honor, Sergeant. You’re a remarkable man and I wish you all the best.”
I was happy to find Lieutenant Irawan waiting in the hallway. She stood as I walked up to her and quite unexpectedly gave me a hug. It was outside of protocol, but I appreciated the gesture. If only we didn't have the whole Lieutenant / Sergeant thing going on. It wasn't until much later that I realized we didn't. I'd missed my opportunity. We released and I stepped back. We both tried to start talking at the same time.
“You go first,” I said.
“How’d it go? It’s good you’re walking free, right?” she asked.
“I think it went like it should. I’ve been given an honorable discharge,” I said.
“They’re kicking you out?”
“It’s expedient. I’m at the end of my tour and was done either way. I don’t want to be a warrior anymore,” It was hard to look at those eyes in front of me. For a moment, she seemed sad.
“So what do you want?” she asked.
“Thank you,” I said quietly. I wasn’t really one for talking about myself. I must have changed gears too quickly because she looked at me in confusion. “You didn’t have to make a statement at my court-martial. I know they’d already interviewed you. You made me sound like a hero.”
a hero, Pete. It's okay for me to call you that now, isn’t it?”
“Sure. I’d like that and I’m no more so than you, Silver,” I’d never said her first name out loud. It was a beautiful name.
“I wasn’t the one being grilled. So where will you go from here?”
“Back to Iowa,” I said.
“My dad’s a tenant farmer, he always needs help. I hated working for him when I was a kid, but after all this, I can’t wait to get back there.”
“Sounds peaceful,” she said.
“It’s short term though. I’ve got my eye on an asteroid.”
Silver laughed like I’d just told an inside joke and when I didn’t join her, she raised her eyebrows and glanced away, cheeks flushed.
“No, I’m serious." I wanted her to understand. I needed her to understand. "I know it sounds crazy, but it’s not that different from what my dad does. You rent out a claim and work it. Nobody to tell you what to do. Unlike farming, though, there’s a decent chance you’ll hit it big eventually. But even if you don’t, there’s a good living to be made.” I’d never told anyone about my big plan and saying it out loud, on that day of all days, cemented it in my mind.
“Well, good for you. It sounds like you’re really going places.”
“I still owe you a drink,” I said.
“Don’t think I won’t hold you to that. Good luck, Pete.” She gave me a final hug and walked down the hallway. I stood there looking dumbly after her. It seemed like I should have done or said something, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what that’d be.
…Three years later…
Iowa, in late September, is the most beautiful place a person can be. The air is clean, the weather is getting cooler and it’s time to bring in the crops. The hard work is done by machine, but there is no shortage of errands to be done. This particular day I’d taken the grav-hauler over to one of the bigger fields we worked. The combines were bringing in the corn and it was my job to haul the giant green bins back to the co-op.
“Pete, where’re you at?” my dad asked over the comm. I’d tried to convince him that he could just ask the AI, but he didn’t want anything to do with that.
“I’m down on the old Jennings stead,” I answered.
“Hold up, I’m coming over.” He knew that I couldn’t leave while the hauler was being loaded. I figured he was bringing dinner out. It was early, but then he was old. After a few minutes I saw his familiar beat-up, old farm-hand runabout bouncing over the already harvested field. I waved and was surprised to see both doors of the vehicle open.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. There she was, standing in a cornfield in the middle of Iowa. I’d thought of her often since I’d left the service, but had never worked up the courage to contact her.
“Is this who you been pining for since you came back?” Dad asked after I got within hearing distance. He was never one to play it close to the vest.
“Good to see you, Pete,” Silver said to me. She looked good.
“How’d you get here?” I asked. Stupid question. I'd lost any ability to make sense.
“Is that the only opening line you know?” she asked, amused.
I don't know whether Dad saved me or made it worse, but he said, “I’ve got the hauler, Pete. Why don’t you take Miss Irawan here back home so you can get cleaned up? She isn’t hooked up, so I reckon you still got a chance.”
“Dad,” I reprimanded.
“Stop your whining and get on about it.” He walked over to the hauler and then called over his shoulder, “Nice to meet you, Miss Irawan.”
“You too, Mr. Hoffen.” She turned her attention back to me. “I think you owe me a drink …
Jamie McFarlane is happily married, the father of three and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. He spends his days engaged in a hi-tech career and his nights and weekends writing works of fiction. He’s also the author of:
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Blog and Website:
To Diane Greenwood Muir for excellence in editing and fine word-smithery. My wife, Janet, for carefully and kindly pointing out my poor grammatical habits. I cannot imagine working through these projects without you both.
To my beta readers; Jeff Rothermel, Dave Muir, Jacob Greenwood, Carol Greenwood, Robert Long, Walter Conrad, for wonderful and thoughtful suggestions.
To Methane and Mulehog, my workmates. You know who you are.
Finally, to Sviatoslav Gerasymchuk, an artist of exceptional skill