Notes: My brilliant man has slapped the tech equivalent of a band-aid on my computer, which enables it to work until I get the right thing to fix it for real. Thanks for the suggestions, darlins, I appreciate it! Also, this is the last purely schmoopy post for the story for a while; I know it’s cute but we need some conflict, right? Yez, yez we do. I couldn’t resist one more, though, Cody kind of demands cuteness when I write him.
Also thank you for being patient with my technological challenges. I need a rugged, outdoorsy laptop, not the slim, trembling waif who lured me in with her smooth lines and delicate keyboard. Curse you, shallow human nature!
(PS-I got the info I needed to do ebooks now, so where's the best place to start? Bonded? Anna? Anybody want the Shadows and Light series? Chime in, let me know what you want most out of my free library.)
Part Four: Gettin’ There
“How close are we now?” Cody demanded, staring intently out at the blackness beyond the viewport.
“Close,” his dad said for the millionth time as he checked the gauges that monitored the ship’s velocity and angle. Cody knew all about those. He could name every single gauge on the flight console, and he could read most of them too.
“Can’t we go faster?”
“Nope,” his dad said cheerfully. “This is as fast as it gets until we get a little closer to Paradise.”
“And then can we speed up?”
“Then we slow down, bucko. Gotta be safe.”
Cody flopped across the back of the copilot’s chair with a sigh. “Safe is so boooring.”
“Poor kid,” his dad crooned. Cody frowned. Whenever his father used that tone of voice, Cody knew he was being sarcastic. “Doomed to a life of dullness and despair by being forced to obey all the safety rules and regs. Angels weep for you, my son.”
“You’re not funny,” Cody pouted. It was a dumb joke, his dad wasn’t funny at all. He stared ahead again. “How close are we now?”
His dad made that slow, special sigh that Cody knew meant he was running out of patience. “Not close enough for you to be askin’ me that again. How about you go finish gettin’ ready to land?”
“I’m ready,” Cody replied quickly. He was, too; he’d showered and brushed his hair and dressed in his best clothes, the ones Garrett ordered him that made him look kinda like a Space Ranger. They were blue and green and so cool. He even had shoes to match.
“Then how about you go help Garrett get ready? I’ll holler as soon as there’s somethin’ to see.”
“Fine,” Cody huffed, rolling his eyes. He knew a dismissal when he heard it. He jumped down from the chair and marched off towards his daddy’s room, where Garrett was probably still picking what to wear. He had more clothes than Cody and his dad combined, and it took him forever to get dressed.
The door was closed. “Garrett?” Cody asked as he knocked. “Are you ready yet?”
“Almost,” Garrett called out.
“Can I come in?” Cody had learned a long time ago that he had to ask before entering their room when the door was shut.
He pressed his palm to the door and it swung open immediately. The room was kind of a mess; there were a pile of clothes on the bed, another heap thrown over the chair, and the whole place smelled moist, like the shower had been going for a really long time. No Garrett, though. “Where are you?”
“In the bathroom.”
Cody picked his way across the floor and squeezed into the tiny bathroom next to Garrett, then looked up at him. His mouth dropped open. “Wow.”
“Wow, huh?” Garrett teased, smiling at Cody through his reflection on the mirrored wall. “That’s nice.”
“You look really pretty.” He did, too, in some kind of bright blue suit that was just as soft as it looked, and sharpened his corners so much that he almost looked like a Build-A-Bot toy. He’d styled his hair into weird criss-crossing layers that reminded Cody of waves, and his skin was almost glowing. And he smelled good, like some of the flowering trees in the arboretum back home.
“Pretty. Well, that’s acceptable, I suppose, although I was going for stunning.”
Cody frowned. Stunning? “Like you want to knock people down?”
“Metaphorically speaking, yes.”
“Oh.” Cody considered that for a moment, then patted Garrett’s back. “Maybe you will, then.” He didn’t want Garrett to think all his work was for nothing, but Cody didn’t really think he was going to actually start knocking people down. “Um, what’s a metaphor?”
Garrett opened his mouth to reply, but before he could say anything the ship’s com sounded. “Passenger vessel, this is Paradise towel 115, please identify yourselves.”
“We’re here!” Cody yelled. He ran out of the bathroom and almost fell over a pile of shoes on his way back to the cockpit.
“Tower, this is the Icarus, registration number PD37592, out of Pandora,” his dad said into the com as Cody launched himself into the copilot’s chair. His dad looked over at him and made a “shhh” motion and Cody obeyed, even though he didn’t want to. He could see Paradise now, a bright orangey-brown circle in the distance dotted with swirls of white.
The air changed scents as Garrett joined them, and when his dad turned to look at him his eyes got wide and his jaw dropped a little. He didn’t even seem to hear the person over the com respond, and Cody wondered if that was what Garrett meant when he said “stunning.” Whatever, it was annoying and they were going to get in trouble if his dad didn’t talk back. Cody nudged him with his foot.
“Sor—sorry, Tower, repeat that last transmission, please?” his dad said, turning reluctantly back to the console. Garrett just grinned, and placed a kiss on the top of his dad’s head as he came around and shifted Cody into his lap so they could share the copilot’s seat.
“You’re cleared for landing at the Governor’s private dock. Berth six. Just follow the coordinates, Icarus, you’ll do fine.”
“Roger that, Tower. Icarus out.” His dad shut off the com and they all watched as Paradise grew larger and larger in the viewport.
“Will they be there when we land?” Cody asked, feeling a little nervous for the first time today.
“Probably, unless there’s some emergency,” Garrett said, like emergencies were just boring, everyday kinds of things.
“Do I look as nice as you?”
“You look great,” Garrett assured him, giving Cody a kiss as well, and even though he wasn’t a little kid anymore and didn’t need kisses, it was kind of nice to get one. “You both do.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” his dad said briskly, but he was smiling too. “Time to strap in, guys, we’re going to hit atmosphere in thirty.”
“You heard the man,” Garrett said. He set Cody down and gestured to the small seat that was specially installed for him at the back of the cockpit. Cody pulled it down, hopped up and buckled himself in. Garrett checked that the fit was snug before going back to his own chair and fastening his harness.
The planet got larger and larger, all the black vanishing from the viewscreen, and then they hit the top layer of clouds. The ship began to rumble. Cody watched the viewscreen go totally white from clouds, and he clenched his hands around the edge of the seat. How could his dad really tell where they were going? It was easy in space, there was nothing to run into, but now there might be something in the clouds and they wouldn’t even see it, and they could hit it and then they’d crash.
“It’s okay, bucko,” his dad said softly, and Cody figured he must have made a noise. “We’re fine. We’ll be down in a minute.” The clouds thinned, going from white to grey to light brown, and then there weren’t any clouds at all, nothing but clear sky and distant orangey rocks and, right in the middle, a silver city.
“Wow,” Cody whispered. It was so different from the Box, so much brighter.
“That’s Rapture,” Garrett told him, craning his neck back so he could look at Cody. “The capital of Paradise. It’s the biggest city on the planet, with around a million people living here. Most of the military’s facilities are here as well.”
A million people? “That’s a big city.”
“Compared to Pandora, yes,” Garrett agreed. The ship turned slightly and headed for a large white structure on a hill. “That’s the Governor’s Mansion. That’s where we’re going to be staying.”
It was huge. “Your dad lives there?”
“Yes, but so do a lot of other people. You won’t get bored.”
“I just don’t wanna get lost.”
Garrett chuckled. “That, too.”
Daddy was quiet all through the landing, guiding them down onto the fluorescent landing circle and settling the ship with a faint hiss from the compressors. Maybe he felt nervous too. As soon as the light went off, Cody unbuckled and went to stand next to his dad. He took his hand and held it tight. Garrett peered out of the viewport and grinned. “There they are! Ready to meet everyone?”
Cody’s heart felt like it would jump out of his mouth if he tried to say anything. He just nodded and held onto his daddy’s hand tighter.
Garrett led the way down the ramp. Cody’s feet felt stuck, heavy and hard to move, and the bright sunlight stung his eyes. He buried his face in his daddy’s side, and a second later he was picked up and held tight. “You okay, bucko?” his daddy asked gently.
“My eyes hurt,” he confessed.
“Yeah, mine too. We’ll be inside soon, though.” His daddy ran a comforting hand through his hair and kept walking forward. Cody kept his eyes closed, feeling tears seep out at the edges. He couldn’t see, but he could hear what was going on up ahead.
“Gare!” There was a slapping sound, like someone getting a really hard hug. “Finally! You know you’re almost a day late, right?” It was a light voice, not high like a girl’s but excited. Wyl’s voice.
“Don’t pretend you learned how to tell time,” Garrett teased him. “Where’s Robbie?”
“Last-minute disciplinary session, some moron accidentally discharged his rifle into one of the tanks. No damage done, but he couldn’t put off dealing with it. He’s making us all dinner tonight as an apology.”
“Does he know that?”
“I’ll tell him when he gets here,” Wyl said cheekily.
“Wyl, stop monopolizing him,” a woman said. “Gare, welcome! And Jonah, Cody, don’t hang back!” Slender arms enveloped both of them, and then soft hands touched his face. “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”
“The sun’s makin’ his eyes tear up,” Daddy explained for him.
“Oh, poor thing, of course. Here, give him to me, we’ll go to the terrace and get into the shade.” Daddy passed him over and Cody found himself tucked against a very different body. He couldn’t remember the last time a woman had held him, but it was nice. She smelled even better than Garrett. He heard his daddy explaining things to the others while she walked until the intensity of the light and heat suddenly vanished. Cody blinked his eyes open, and the first thing he saw was Claudia’s face a few inches from his. She was wearing a long white dress and had her dark hair loose around her shoulders. It made her look younger than she usually did over the holoscreen.
“Hi,” she said with a smile. “Better now?”
“Yeah,” Cody replied, wiping his eyes on the palm of his hand. “Sorry.”
“Oh, you don’t have to be sorry, sweetheart. I’m sorry I didn’t think ahead.” She kissed his cheek and set him down, but kept one hand on his shoulder. Cody let her pull him close. “You are even more handsome in person.”
“Thank you,” he said, still shy but starting to feel better. He looked at the table they were next to. There was a bassinet on top of it, rocking itself gently. “Is Renee in there?”
“Yes. She’s sleeping right now, but you can still take a look if you want.”
“Sure.” He stood on one of the chairs and leaned over to see into the bassinet. There was Baby Renee, hair wild around her head and one foot stuck in her mouth. She was sucking on it as she slept. “She’s eating her foot,” Cody whispered.
“Maybe it tastes good,” Claudia whispered back. “Like chocolate. You could lick it and see.”
“Or maybe she’d like yours better,” Claudia suggested. “You could let her use it for a while, see if she thinks it tastes good too.”
“Not these feet,” Garrett said, suddenly behind him. Cody used his hand to help jump down and looked around for his dad. He was heading towards them, still talking with Garrett’s dad, Miles. “They get spontaneously covered with dirt, it’s like magic. Even on the ship, I don’t know how he does it, but I find fresh grass stains on his clothes.”
“But not today,” Cody argued, “’cause I just took a shower!”
“It doesn’t matter, Cody needs his feet,” Wyl cut in. He was a little shorter than Garrett, a little skinnier, with dark hair and dark eyes and a wide grin. “Remember what I said we’d do when you got here?” he asked Cody.
“Go for a bike ride?” Cody said.
“Exactly! And you can’t ride a hoverbike with a baby attached to your foot.”
“You keep your bike away from my baby,” Claudia scolded him.
Cody finally began to relax. It was just like talking to them over the holoscreen, just as funny and kind, except it was better because they were really here now. He reached out and took Wyl’s hand. “When can we go?”
“Only after you put your things away in your bedroom,” Daddy said as he and Miles finally caught up. Cody didn’t know Miles very well; he was working a lot of the time when Claudia called. He looked a lot like Garrett, except grey instead of blond, a little taller and a little less polished. He held out a hand to Cody, who shook it.
“Welcome to Paradise, Cody,” Miles said warmly.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Not sir. Just Miles. Ready to see your rooms?”
“I get more than one?” Cody gaped.
“Oh, son,” Miles said, turning him towards the mansion, “have you seen the size of this place? You could have ten rooms in you wanted them, but I thought we’d start with three. Want to take a look?”
“Yes,” Cody said, following him towards the door.
Three whole rooms all to himself, hoverbike rides and Claudia and a huge house to play in…
This was going to be so much fun.