The boy took aim and threw yet another pebble from the cliff face into the deep, blue Orthean sea. Gliese 900.1 A shone brightly as he skipped over the grass looking for another. He often liked to play out here on Marshall’s Point despite his father regularly telling him that it was dangerous. The winds up on the overlook could easily sweep a full grown man to his death onto the sand and rocks below on bad days, never mind an eight year old boy. Today, the breeze was light and the air warm. His older brother was out tending to the crops at home, while his mother was busy preparing the evening’s meal. His father had been called to an emergency meeting up on the orbital star port, Leckie Gateway, and the boy was bored. Launching another rock over the edge and into the ocean, he noticed that today he had company up on Marshall’s Point and stopped in his tracks.
A man sat on the short grasses at the edge of the drop, arms folded around his knees. He appeared not to have noticed the boy’s approach. He was dressed almost entirely in black, his clothing a little dishevelled, his short dark hair blowing slightly in the gentle winds as he stared out at the sea contemplatively. The boy’s curiosity was piqued and he began to walk towards the strange man who had trespassed on his playground.
“Go away, kid, you bother me.” said the stranger, not even looking at the boy. His voice was commanding, raw, yet there was a softness behind it that belied his sincerity. The boy, unafraid and eager to know what the man was doing continued to draw closer.
“Who are you?” he asked, stopping a few metres from where the man sat.
“I am no one, kid. Now run along before I get mad. You dig?” he answered, eyes still locked on the rolling waves.
“What are you doing?” asked the boy, edging closer.
“Trying to be alone, and clearly not about to succeed any time soon.” the man sighed, finally turning to look at the boy directly. “What’s your name, and what are you doing up here?”
“Jus’ playing. My dad says I shouldn’t be up here though ‘cos its dangerous. My name is Jaysan. Why do you want to be alone? Don’t you get lonely?” said the boy.
“Being alone and being lonely are two different things,” replied the man with a hint of a smile. “I like to think. I cant do that with people and kids bothering me.”
The boy crossed over and sat down next to the stranger, imitating his posture. At that moment, overhead, a wing of three Security Vipers screamed over their heads and out towards the Orthean, probably on a recon mission, or training drill.
“Whoaaaaa! Awesome!” cried Jaysan excitedly, “I want to fly one of those when I’m older!”
“Yeah? Nice ships. I own one too. Its down there on the beach.” said the man, pointing at a small craft barely visible in the distance.
“Cool! Has it got a name? My dad always names his ships! He says it helps to better connect with them, whatever that means.”
“Indeed, your dad is a wise man. That ship over there is the called the Bad Example. She is one of my favourites.”
“She? Why is your ship a she? I hate girls. They are stupid. I wouldn’t have a girl ship.” said Jaysan, disgustedly.
“Your opinion will change as you get a little older, kid, believe me.” the man laughed.
“Whatever. What do you think those ships are doing?”
“There is war coming, son. Those pilots are probably in training. The System Authority have been stepping up their patrols. Gliese 900.1 is about to become pretty hot.” the man answered.
“Oh the war. It’s been on the news. My dad got called back to work at the station. He’s in the Leckie Gateway Security Force too. He told me he is gonna kick some pirate butt. What do you do?”
“I am a……purveyor of rare goods….I guess you could say.” smirked the stranger, taking a small sip from a silver hip flask.
“You are a trader?” Jaysan asked, “I thought traders used big transport ships, not Vipers.”
“Yeah, a trader, and sure, I have bigger ships, I just like to use the Bad Example from time to time. She is fast, manoeuvrable and great for low flying around planets like this one. A8 has some beautiful sights.”
“Whats your name and where do you live?” the boy asked.
“Furieux. But you can call me Deu. When I was your age, I lived far from here, about 90 light years away. A terraformed waterworld called Darwyn in the Zeta Tucanae system. But I haven’t been there for a long time. I travel a lot now.”
“That sounds great! I’d love to be an explorer like my uncle, but I think my dad wants me to sign up for the Leckie Security Force when I grow up. I am meant to start training when I am twelve but that’s ages away.” said Jaysan, sadly.
“You should do whatever you want, kid. You have a strong curious spirit. You remind me of myself. You want to be an Explorer? You should do it. A far better way to make a living than fighting all the time.”
“I’ve told my dad I want to be an explorer, but he wont listen. Says it doesn’t pay the bills, I wish he was here to meet you. Maybe you could convince him!”
Furieux laughed heartily, and took another swig from the container. “I don’t think I could. Your father sounds a lot like mine.” he winked.
“Well if you and dad meet up in space when the war starts in Gliese, will you say hi from me?”
“Sure kid, but for both our sakes, Jaysan. I really, really hope that we don’t…”