Notes: Oh my god, it's the last chapter. It's the end! Almost 70k and one year later, it's the end! Whaaaaaaat?!? It's a bit of an open question, but that's because this universe never really ends. I'm sure I'll return to it after the next story, which will be a continuation of last year's The Train. So! Gimme a week to put myself in order and I'll compile this onto a single post to make reading easier, and...well, wow. Thanks for following along and loving my people so much :)
Title: Reformation: Chapter Forty-Two
Cody didn’t know what to do next.
Ten would say that was a fairly normal state of being for him, but Ten was caught in the same boat. Ze dealt with it by throwing hirself into science: modifying the shield on the hoverbike, testing the fuel mixture, idly designing a better waste management system for the enormous Drifter ship that was still floating above Pandora, riddled with problems and slowly being fixed. Ten had plenty to keep hirself occupied. For Cody, things were…a little different.
Maybe it was more fair to say that he didn’t know what was going to happen next, to anybody. Independent action was all well and good, but sometimes life took over the controls. In this case, “life” was “a huge, sticky morass of political, military, and socioeconomic explosions rocking the Federation ‘verse in all directions.” News reports from Olympus showed the Senate under the direct control of Admiral Liang, a situation unlikely to change in the near future. It was far from business as usual, though. Everything about that business was under review, from the way contracts were assigned to non-governmental entities to the data used to determine allotments and supply status for various Fringe planets. A lot of Central System leaders had protested the changes, to which the Admiral said they were welcome to initialize proceedings for withdrawing from the Federation any time they wanted.
No planet had withdrawn a membership from the Federation for over a century, and the Central System had been entrenched in position and power for twice that. One of their governors decided to push things and try, and the speed at which Liang had signed off on the preliminary paperwork for Monteyo’s exit had alarmed its citizens so much that the government had had to beg to withdraw the petition, weakening their status. Things were unstable, and instability made most people reach for whatever they could hold onto that was rock-solid. Plenty of corporations were folding under the weight of sudden abandonment by their CEOs, and law and order was hanging by a thread in most places.
The upheaval touched Pandora differently, mostly because it was a Fringe planet already used to being ignored, and partly because—well, a good portion of the entire Federation’s fleet was using its resurrected space dock. There were no questions of more piracy, not on Pandora or any other planet within easy jump distance. In fact, for the first time in more than a decade, not a single planet on the Fringe had suffered any sort of external attack for over two weeks. Plenty of people had a lot to say about “state-sponsored terrorism,” but Cody didn’t let himself dwell on that either. His issues all hit a little closer to home.
He'd made it. He’d done what he set out to do, made it to Pandora and found his father in an almost-miraculous fashion. He should be happy. He should be thrilled with the way things had turned out, but it had all become so…brittle instead. Nothing was the way he’d left it. Nothing was the way he remembered it, and nothing, Cody was coming to understand, would ever be the same.
For starters, Miles was going to Perelan. Claudia and the girls were already there, and had been welcomed by the House of Grenn as political refugees. When Cody had asked his grandfather why, Miles had sighed. “I was basically illegally ordered back into the field. The people who put me here are still out there, even if Liang’s got a chokehold on the military at the moment. They tried to kill my family. Until I know for sure that they’re out of power, I’m not going to risk living on a Federation planet, and going into the Beyond isn’t an option, not with the girls. Perelan’s ambassadors offered a temporary refuge, and I’m going to take them up on it until the Senate works out a guarantee of immunity and safety.”
Even worse, Grennson and Darrel were going with them. They were still technically a part of the Academy, but the admiral had personally signed off on a study abroad for both of them. “It will help Darrel further his language skills,” Grennson had said cheerfully. “And give me a chance to educate my people about the incredible complexities of Federation life. Our matriarch had wanted to push for Perelan to become the first non-human world to enter the Federation, but now she’s thinking it might be better to form an alliance with the Dorn and the Maazi. Humanity has turned out to be rather unpredictable.”
A long-term stay on Perelan wasn’t really an option for Cody, though. The atmosphere there was so toxic to him that he hadn’t been able to spend any time outside, not without taking major precautions. So instead of going with his friends and the rest of his family, for now Cody, Ten, Jonah and Garrett were staying on Pandora. Ten didn’t really care, as long as ze had access to a lab. Jonah was just happy to have all of them together at last. But Garrett…
Garrett had been different since he joined them on Pandora. He seemed subdued, less talkative than Cody remembered, less inclined to join in their conversations. A week ago, Cody had asked his father if Garrett was still mad at him, even though his stepdad had assured him that he wasn’t. Jonah had shaken his head. “He’s a little off-kilter right now, but he’ll come around. Just give him some time.”
Garrett wasn’t supposed to need time, though. He wasn’t supposed to get off-kilter. He was always in control, always perfect, always healthy—how could he not be, when he had full access to Regen and was smarter than most entire groups of people? The change made Cody nervous, and he tiptoed around his parents until Ten finally got sick of it.
“If you want to know something, you have to ask,” ze’d insisted one night, after commenting that Cody seemed unusually mopey. “Even if there isn’t an answer to the question yet, it’s better to know, isn’t it? That way you won’t be distracted when I’m giving you a blowjob, either.”
“I’m not distracted!”
Cody had definitely proved it that evening, and the next day he took Ten’s advice and went to Garrett directly. It was kind of hard to find him: he wasn’t in the command center, wasn’t supervising any of the ship repairs or communicating with Perelan or any of a hundred other things that would have been normal for him. Instead Cody found him standing just outside the force field that kept out the worst of the weather, his eyes closed against the cool mist that whipped up into an icy frenzy every now and then.
Cody stopped next to Garrett and stood awkwardly for a moment. “Hey.”
Nope, his dad wasn’t going to make this easy on him. “What are you doing out here?”
Garrett shrugged. “Nothing in particular.”
But Garrett was always doing something! “Why?”
“Because it’s nice.”
“And cold. And wet.” On impulse, Cody reached out and took his stepfather’s hand. “Walk with me?”
Garrett smiled slightly. It wasn’t the beam that Cody was used to seeing, but he’d take it. “All right.”
Cody led him back into The Box, and after a moment steered them in the direction of the playground. It was where he’d run to, back when he first wanted to join the Academy and his dad had told him no. Garrett had been the one to mediate that fight, the one to figure out how to make things work for everybody. It was time for Cody to do the same for him. He tugged Garrett down onto a swing, then sat down beside him. “Are you sick?” he asked point-blank.
“Hmm.” To Cody’s dismay, his dad actually had to consider the question. “No, I wouldn’t say so. Not right now.”
“But you’re acting differently.”
“Because things are different. I’m different, you’re different, the whole universe is different. If that’s not a good reason to change things up a little, I don’t know what is.”
“But you don’t seem happy,” Cody pressed. “Not like you used to.”
“Was I happy, or was I just busy?” Garrett wondered out loud. “I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been breathtakingly busy for over a decade, now. I think…I think everything I am just needs a break from that.”
Cody felt like he’d been punched. “You weren’t happy before?”
Now it was Garrett’s turn to take his hand. “I was, when I was with you and Jonah. When I had my family. But that happened less and less as time went on, and I know that I’m not going to be able to keep everyone within arm’s reach of me forever. Look at Miles and the girls, look at Robbie and Wyl. Look at you.”
“I’m so sorry—”
“I know, I’m not mad about you leaving the Academy anymore,” Garrett soothed. “Although I maintain that the way you did it was tempting fate. But I’ve been taking care of so many people and processes and ideas for so long, I hardly know what to do with myself when all of that goes away. I think now is as good a chance as I’m ever going to get to figure it out.”
“But you’re not going to do it…alone, right?” The thought of Garrett deciding he needed to completely separate himself from the rest of them, from his family, made Cody’s heart race.
Garrett shook his head. “I’m not leaving Jonah. I’m not going anywhere, I just need to take the time to consider what happens next without thinking ten steps in advance. It’s exhausting and it never works out how I foresee it anyhow, no matter how good I think I am at it.” He smiled crookedly. “You’re the one who drove that lesson home for me, and it’s good that you did. My life, my future…they don’t and shouldn’t revolve around your choices. You’re an adult now, for all that you’re still my kid.”
A month ago, Cody would have rejoiced at such a statement of independence. Now, though… “I’ll always be your kid.”
“I know.” Garrett leaned over and kissed his forehead. “Let’s go find your dad and get him to make us dinner, huh?”
“I’ll see if I can pull Ten out of hir lab.”
“If anyone can, it’s you.” Garrett stood up and put his hands in his pockets. “And if you can’t, well…nobody can control everything.” He sounded considerably lighter saying it this time, like he was breathing easier. “And it’s better not to try.”
They walked in silence back to the house, but at least for now, it was a contented silence.