Who weeps for Cadmus?
Cadmus pulled into his usual port on the humble Terminal of Draco.763.4. After sweeping the floors of their living quarters, collecting the trash and garbage, and gathering up his personal things into his old 3D backpack, he looked around the cabin to make sure he hadn’t missed anything. He picked up the picture of Kaly from the ledge of the picture window and put it lovingly into his backpack so that it wouldn’t be scratched or crushed.
Lonesome bounded off to the elimination room and after a few moments raced ahead of Cadmus to the portal door.
Cadmus set the systems to power down in five minutes. He looked around the cabin one more time and opened the portal door. The dagu jumped through the door followed by his good friend.
4 Terminal was not nearly as big as 3 and there was not nearly as much passenger traffic. The signs displayed only Standard and the avatars on the screens were friendly looking Sapiens. He knew the way to Entry Control. There was no central hub in this terminal so he just had to walk along the outer rim and would eventually run into it.
When he got to Entry Control he found an available screen. The avatar who appeared on the screen looked familiar. “Hello Cadmus,” the avatar said. “How was your trip?”
“Fine,” Cadmus answered.
“Will you be returning your ship to us now?”
“Yes thank you.”
“Will you need a shuttle down to 4g?”
“Yes, for my dagu and me.”
“You’ll be leaving from Gate 29 in one hour.”
“Don’t you need to scan my dagu and me?”
“No, that won’t be necessary. We’ve seen you around.”
Cadmus and Lonesome arrived at Gate 29 well before the shuttle. When it finally arrived after some delays (there had been a snow storm in one of the sectors), they stood in line and filed aboard. The shuttle was half empty so Cadmus found a seat half way between two people with the largest space between them. His dagu preferred to lay down at his feet. Cadmus hoped the flight attendant wouldn’t make a fuss about that.
There was an announcement that the portal door would be shut and people should take their seats. The attendant demonstrated some of the safety procedures in case we miss the flight window and skip off the atmosphere into space or come in at too sharp an angle and burn up in the atmosphere.
The door was shut and the shuttle detached from the terminal, drifting away from the portal slowly. The retros fired briefly and turned off. The shuttle glided all the way into orbital insertion around 4g.
When the shuttle finally entered the upper layer of atmosphere it began to vibrate and shake. When it hit the middle layers it suddenly plummeted, soared up, and plummeted again.
The shuttle ignited the retros solidly when they entered the lower layers and arrived safe and sound at their first destination. A few passengers filed out of the shuttle.
The shuttle lifted off and flew to another sector and another sector, at each destination more passengers filed off, until only Cadmus and Lonesome were left.
Finally, the shuttle landed in an open field near an intersection of two long and narrow roads. Cadmus thanked the flight attendant and stepped gingerly out of the cabin onto the grassy meadow, with Lonesome jumping out after him. They walked quickly off the landing pad toward the road.
The shuttle thrusters rumbled rising slowly into the air. He followed it with his hand shading his eyes like a salute. Soon it was lost in the clouds and the rumbling was replaced by silence.
They stood by the side of the road waiting for someone to stop and give them a ride home. Finally an old truck pulled off the road near them. The farmer asked Cadmus where they were heading.
“Up the road by the lake.”
“Hop in. Your dagu can ride in the open bed in back.”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll ride in back with him. He wouldn’t climb in otherwise.”
Cadmus pulled down the door flat against the chains and Lonesome jumped up onto the flat door into the bed. Cadmus climbed up into the bed and pulled shut the door. The truck started to move forward. The farmer stopped at the stop sign, looked both ways twice, and the truck continued up the road toward the mountains.
When they reached the large lake, Cadmus tapped the rear window of the driver’s cabin and mouthed the word “stop”.
The farmer slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road. Cadmus and Lonesome jumped down. He waved at the farmer’s face in the side mirror. The farmer’s mouth twitched slightly and the truck moved on.
They walked through the field to the edge of the lake and over to a ram-shackle pier, careful to avoid the missing planks. He looked over the edge and found his faithful row boat tied to one of the pile logs. They walked carefully down the stairs to the platform and climbed into the boat. He loosened the thick knots and pulled the rope free of the pile.
He let the boat drift away from the pier and mounted the oars. He dipped the tips of the oars into the lapping lake water and started to row toward the small island in the center of the lake.
When Cadmus reached the island he ran the boat onto the grassy shore. It was late afternoon by now. Lonesome jumped out of the boat onto the grass. He pushed an oar into the mud until the side of the boat was flush with the shore and stepped out onto the lush grasses. Lonesome ran up the hill to the porch that ran around the log cabin. Cadmus followed his dagu to the door of the cabin. He pulled a key out of the planter near the door and opened the door with it.
He opened the window shutters to let in some light and air. The air inside the cabin was stale and dusty but, otherwise, everything was pretty much as he had left it.
He rinsed out Lonesome’s dusty water bowl and pored a helping of kibble into his food bowl.
He took the picture of Kaly out of his backpack and set it, just so, on the window sill.
That was when he heard a strange bleeping noise coming from his backpack. He rummaged through the pack until he lifted out a strange looking device that seemed to be making that unfamiliar noise. There was a round button flashing green on and off.
He pressed the green flashing button and lifted the device to his ear.
“Hello?” he said into the thing.
He heard a vaguely familiar voice come from deep inside the thing in his hand. “Hello, is that Cadmus? Cadmus? It’s me, Galen. Please say something!”
from Out of Time