21 March 2019

He Worked On A Starship

     C. Jay left the USAS Lupine for the last time today.

     He'd given notice two weeks ago, as soon as it became clear the trouble we had here on Frothup was the result of small groups of violent malcontents and not a broader conspiracy, but he'd liked the looks of the place even before he took a shuttle down.

     "It's a brand-new world," he'd told me the day he gave notice.  "Well, not brand new--"

     "Way not.  The first group of farmers landed here in 1964, " I said.  "You were six."

     He'd given me the look he reserves for people who point out the obvious.  "Yeah, and I was living on a farm my family'd owned for a hundred and fifty years.  It's all suburbs now.  Here, there's room to stretch out."

     I had to admit he had a point.

     He wasn't done.  "And there's room to stretch your brain, too!  Hell, you were hanging out with the people at the Science Co-op, you know what it's like here.  If I stay aboard Lupine, I'll end up like Minimum Andy, fixing the same stuff over and over, three hots and cot, getting into arguments with Conan the Objectivist out of boredom!  It's time, and this is the place."

     There was no talking him out of it.  Better people than me gave it a try, even The Chief and Dr. Schmid.  I don't know what went on between him and The Chief but it involved the hatch being shut tight and a lot of shouting; he never did have much use for our secretive boss.  A day later, Dr. Schmid hauled him off to officer country and talked soft soap at him for half a shift over a fancy lunch.

     Neither encounter made the least bit of difference.

     C. Jay's mind was made up.  Frothup was going to be his new home, a rented house in the capital to begin with and then, who knew?  There were a lot of possibilities.

     We saw him off at the shuttle bay passenger lounge today, everyone from Engineering except The Chief.  Even Jonny Zed showed up, out of sickbay after his stroke but not back on duty, a bit slower than before.  There were hugs and handshakes and I teared up when I tried to tell him how much I'd enjoyed working all these years with a tech who was as sharp and smart as he was, with a man who read the kind of same books I did.  C. Jay and I both have big vocabularies and it's been a relief to chat with someone who didn't stop and say "Hunh?" and have to have words explained.  But in the end, words failed us and we hugged wordlessly.

     Final boarding call for the shuttle came over the PA then, and he turned and walked away to the airlock, carrying a bag of last-minute gifts, not looking back.

     Starship routes and time compression being what it is, I've probably seen my friend and shipmate of these past thirty years for the last time.

     Fare well, C. Jay!

     I'm sure going to miss him.