Here we are, another day, another piece of this latest serialised short story following the antics of three friends.
I have a general idea of how this is going to pan out, but the more time I spend with these characters, the more I find out about them. It's one of the best things about writing these longer stories in multiple sections. Each part allows for time to breath, think, and discover between parts.
"You barely know us? I barely know you. Over the last couple of months you've grown more and more distant from us," there was a chill in M'Trada's voice and he barely moved to make eye contact with Andron. "We're supposed to be friends, aren't we? Well, in my mind, you've already made up yours about where we all stand." He continued, slight frustration growing as each word passed his lips.
"The three of us used to be tight. Then the trio turned to a double act," Mari said. "The double act, occasionally featuring the stranger."
"Shut up," Andron hissed, "The stranger?" He muttered perplexed by the idea of him being the one who had changed.
"What would you say? You think we've changed, but it's you who has changed." M'Trada said as he leaned forward with his elbow on the controls of the ship. "You always had big ideas, and would be the first to do anything to earn a few FST's, enough to get the hell out of here. We never stopped, we continued to do what needed to be done, and what about you?"
Andron knew he was above petty money, and understood long ago that weak FST earners were a waste of time - and potentially life. There was no point wasting energy in the pursuit of small earners, especially not if it meant getting into unfamiliar territory.
"Sorry." He said, knowing that there was a reason for the distance; they had grown apart and were now walking in different directions. "I've been figuring stuff out, and working on some plans."
Behind him, he could hear skin-on-skin friction and looked around to see Mari rub her hands together. "Oh yeah, is it a score? Is the old Andron back? Did you find a place to hit? The big one!" She excitedly exclaimed. "It's the big one, isn't it? I knew you were working on something big."
"No," Andron said, trying to stop her from getting her hopes up too much. "I'm leaving." Andron stared down at his legs, and hoped to not need to bring up his departure. Not until after tonight at least.
"Leaving?" M'Trada asked, dumbfounded.
"I applied to college, to study. I want to do something real." He felt short of breath, as though he was being sat on. "I don't want to waste my life. I want a chance to get a decent job, some honest money, and potentially settle down someplace better than here."
The others stayed silent, and Andron could barely look up at either of them. He felt guilty; as if he betrayed them. But, how could it be a betrayal? For him to want something more than what they could hope to achieve out in this place; The Western Wastes. Where the most you could hope for was an assembly line or a life of crime.
"What are you going to study?" M'Trada asked, with a chill in his voice.
"Botonny," Andron replied.
"Botonny? You need to go to college to fill bottles?" Mari asked, as shuffling and rustling could be heard in the back of the transport.
"Botonny, it's like, plants and stuff. You know. I'm hoping to join up with Project Preservation."
"Project Preservation? They're based on the other side of Jex," M'Trada mumbled as if Andron was going to be moving to another world.
"Yeah, but, I'll still be around. Here and there." Andron lied. "Or, why don't you two sign up too? You could study something, we could all join up together, and who knows what could happen."
"Nah, that's not really for me," M'Trada said as he turned to look at the lights of the city in the distance.
He always went quiet when he was upset. No different than when they were kids getting in trouble.
"Wow, look at this," Mari said in awe. "The Mulu was carrying some serious change. I wonder what he's got on his datapad." She continued to rummage through his pockets.
Andron knew neither of them would ever want to leave this place, and he couldn't force them to even if he wanted to. There was no point, and he knew it. It was hard to tell them what his intentions were, but in a way, he felt lighter for telling them the truth about his recent absence.