Friday, March 05, 2010

Fiction Friday: No Choice

Welcome to the last "chapter" of my story arc. Hope you enjoyed it!

Previously:
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15

* * * * *

"I'm sorry Mr. Kodachi, there is nothing else we can do."

It was the thirtieth time that day I had heard someone tell me that and I was so sick of it I felt like punching someone.

I was too tired to think about what my father's curt message really meant when I got back to my room and I simply took some pain relievers and crashed into my bed. Ten hours later I popped some more drugs and had a long hot shower to clear my thoughts and wipe away the lingering smell of my brother's burned flesh. I threw out the clothes; I figured I probably would never get the combined stench of my unwashed body and his injuries out of them.

Finally coherent I pondered what to do about my father's message. I tried a return message but it came back unread and informed me I was blocked at that end point. I then messaged my mother to try and get a feel of what was going on but her reply held no comfort for me. She told me how my father was furious and raging about our ineptitude and how he had no sons anymore. I could feel her sorrow at being unable to help her boys but truth is my father was a tyrant and held complete control of all the family's finances such that my mother was for all intents and purposes his slave.

I was wondering how long my father's wrath was going to last when I received the message from the infirmary about our insurance coverage being revoked and asking me to come to them as soon as possible. My stomach lurched and I then knew just how furious my father was.

* * * * *
"I'm sorry Mr. Kodachi, there is nothing else we can do."

That sums up my first conversation with the infirmary official. My brother was in stable condition but without the insurance coverage to pay for further care I had two very unattractive choices: I could allow them to remove the advanced life support and transfer him to a public ward where he would most likely linger for a few days or weeks before dying from an infection or blood loss, or as his closest living relative I could sign the contracts that bind him to serve the infirmary's parent corporation once he was healed until such time as his accrued bills were paid, in essence turning him into an indentured servant.

I stalled for a bit while I tried to contact my father and mother to explain the situation, but my father refused to answer and my mother's endpoint was blocked as well, probably my father exerting his will over my helpless and enslaved mother. I tried contacting friends of the family in order to hopefully get a message through or elicit some monetary goodwill but the reception was cold or rebuked at every turn. My father was a powerful man back home and the news of his displeasure at his sons had traveled faster than the speed of light it seemed. More than ever I felt very alone and so wished I could talk to my brother, but he was still locked in a coma for his own good.

I couldn't let my brother die and the faceless bean-counters behind the infirmary's caring facade knew it. Reluctantly, I signed my brother's freedom away.

* * * * *
Not only was the insurance coverage gone, so was access to what little funds I had left in my account. I discovered this upon returning to the hotel and being told to pick up my things in the loading dock when my key pass didn't work anymore. I swore profusely at the desk clerk and was quickly and roughly escorted from the premises by security guards that looked more like Sarum Plains Buffalo. Unsurprisingly, most of our stuff had been rifled through while unwatched on the loading dock access corridor, and I was only able to salvage a single suitcase of clothes. "It doesn't matter to Korannon," I thought bitterly, "the corporation that owns him will provide for him now."

So that is how I found myself wandering the station's promenade with a single case of clothes dragging behind me on wheels, practically oblivious to my surroundings and with no where to go. My legs got tired after an hour and I found a bench to plop myself down on. I felt numb. I just didn't know what to do.

"Hi there."

I looked up numbly and saw a man in a naval uniform smiling at me. It wasn't full dress uniform like you saw at formal occasions, but it was perfectly creased and clean. I wondered what he was doing here. "Hi," I mumbled.

"You look like a man whose lost his way."

I was about to snap back an angry reply but suddenly realized I had walked far from the main promenade and was in an offshoot where a lot of small companies had offices where people worked. Behind the military man I saw a State Navy recruiting office that was brightly lit and empty.

I sighed. "Yeah, I guess you can say that."

He sat down beside me and took on a fatherly tone of voice that I had heard in holos but never heard from my own father.

"When you're lost, you can either go back the way you came even if it means crawling through shit you can't stand and giving up stuff along the way, or you can stay where you are and hope someone finds you. Or you can go forward and not look back."

I looked at him. He was in his mid forties, grey at the temples and face lined but content. I knew he was trying to see if he could recruit me, but I appreciated his laid back approach. I was alone and any friendly face was a welcome site.

"You look like hell son."

I gave a rueful smile and tried to keep from breaking down. "I've been through hell." He nodded and pulled out a card from one of his pockets. "Here, take this. Its the address of a hostel on the surface. Tell them Randal sent you, they can set up up for a while until you figure out what you are going to do." I took it.

"Now I have to do my job," he said in a joking voice. I was cheered by his kindness and responded, "go ahead."

"State Navy is looking for strong young men. We pay a decent wage, giving you training in advanced technologies, and.... "he looked at me conspiratorially, all part of the act I assumed, "there is a new program for volunteers looking to become a capsuleer."

I perked immediately up at that last part, thinking to Barak Vorn and the other pod pilots I had heard of, immortal and respected the cluster over. "I'm listening."

He saw he had a foot in the door. "A regular tour is five years of service. One year training, four years on duty. You can apply to the capsuleer program after the year's training and then its another year of training and evaluation if you get accepted." Extra emphasis on the 'if' I noticed. "Then you spend six years serving the navy as one of its pod pilots, then you're free to go."

I thought for a minute, and being a good recruiter, he knew when to shut up and let me convince myself. The pay was better than living in a state welfare complex in some backwater moon, and the prospect of becoming a capsuleer was too enticing to pass up.

"I want to know more."

He affected surprise. "Don't want more time to think about it, consider options?"

"That's not necessary. There is nothing else I can do."

6 comments:

  1. Kirith-

    As always, great fiction post. I'm sure Max loved it :)

    Good luck this week, nice to see you squeezed a post in with all the prep going on for the little one's arrival.

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  2. Great finish to the arc!

    Good luck to you and your wife.

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  3. "I want to know more."

    +1 for Starship Troopers reference.

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  4. Great story man. Did Kirith ever track down these guys once he became a capsuleer?

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  5. \o/ I <3 fiction fridays :)

    I look forward to reading each one.

    Grats on the new baby, wish mommy well for me and will see you when you have the time.

    Max

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  6. I seriously hope your not leaving it there, great story! Please keep it going!

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