“My brother is going to fly a ship some day.”
“So? My auntie owns three ships already!”
“But she doesn’t fly them herself. She makes other people do it.”
“They’re still her ships! I saw one of them, it was really really big.”
“How did you get to see a proper ship? I bet it was just a shuttle.”
“It was not!”
Seina stomped her boot sharply, but it only caused Imre’s laughter to rise in volume. She hated it when he didn’t believe her; and he never seemed to believe her. She really had seen one of her Aunt Reyna’s ships- it may only have been in a holoreel, but that still counted, right? And it had looked really big next to the other little ship it had been flying with.
The sandy-haired boy poked at some of the nearby dirt in the planter. “Anyway, my brother says he’s going off to training soon to be a proper pilot,” he said, drawing shapes in the loose soil. “He’s got to train for four years before they let him have a ship.”
“Ha,” Seina snorted derisively. “My brother said they kick you out if you do even one single thing wrong. He was only there for a year, and he said it was really tough. They kicked loads of people out when he was there, some of them were really messed up too. That’s why he left and came back to work with my dad.”
Imre was frowning. “All school is hard. And this is a proper school where you learn about wormholes and jump drives and all the cool piloting stuff. Of course it will be too hard for some people. You can’t even remember simple history stuff, so you’d never be able to remember all the things they make you learn about how starships work.”
She felt the heat of the blush on her face. “Well, you can’t even be places at the right time, you’re always late for things. That’s even worse than not remembering stuff, you’d get in way more trouble.” There was a silence; neither could claim the other was wrong, and continuing the argument would just make it worse. Seina flopped down on the bench next to the planter as Imre smoothed away his current dirt-drawing to start a new one. The plaza was still busy, everyone on day shifts ambling home while the night shift crews trudged the other direction, towards their places of employment. Seina’s father was still deep in conversation with Imre’s over near the spluttering fountain, their mothers laughing at some gossip or other as they perched on its edge.
“Are you going to miss your brother when he goes away?”
Imre paused for a minute. “Yes,” he said, a little sadness creeping in. “But he said I can talk with him on comms sometimes. When he’s not too busy.” His head stayed down, now forcibly fixed on the variegated leaves of the shrub. Seina wondered if he was trying not to cry. “Did you miss your brother? When he went away to the training school?”
“A bit,” she admitted, still watching the passing workers and pulling on a lock of ebony hair. “But he’s older than your brother, and I still had my sister to talk to. We got some messages from him, but they were lots of things about the school and what he was learning and stuff. I didn’t really understand a lot of them.”
Imre grunted in understanding. “Did you hear about Elyon’s sister,” he added after a moment. “She actually got killed.”
Seina turned sharply. “That’s not true,” was her fierce reply. “Elyon said he spoke to her. You can’t talk to someone if they’re dead.”
“It is true!”, he defended. “Her ship got blown up, then she got blown up. I heard my dad talking to Elyon’s uncle about it, and he said that all there was left were bits of metal and a couple of storage containers. And she woke up in a station somewhere, and was going to have to write up all the reports about what happened.”
Seina breathed in sharply. “So his sister is a clone now?” she asked with a mixture of wonder and apprehension. “Does that make her really his sister? It’s not the same person.”
Imre shrugged. “I don’t know.” He shuddered before continuing. “It must be really scary to die then come back to life and remember how you died. Like, all the explosions and the pain and stuff. That’d give me nightmares.”
Seina’s face was screwed up thoughtfully. “My sister has a friend who is a pod pilot,” she mused. “I wonder if she’s ever died.” A thought came to her. “Maybe when your brother finishes all his training, you can ask him.”
Imre’s face paled a little. “I don’t want my brother to die! He’s the only brother I have.” Now he really did look like he might cry. “I don’t want him to go to the pilot school if he’s going to end up dead.”
“My sister says they’re all dead anyway,” Seina said quietly. “And Minu’s mother says they’re all monsters, because all they care about is killing and money. I don’t like that. My sister’s friend was always really nice to me, I don’t think she’s a monster. I don’t think my sister would stay friends with a murderer.”
Silence fell once again. Imre went back to making shapes in the dirt. Seina swung her legs back and forth.
This was sparked by a conversation I had with my 4-year-old cousin a few months ago. She was very firm on what was right and wrong – despite every argument starting with “My friend said-” or “My teacher says-”
According to her, being 28 makes me ‘almost as old as nanny’. Our grandmother was in her 80’s. Thanks for that, Emily-Rose.