She was heading home.
Pan stood in the spaceport only half-believing it.
Five years was a long time to be away.
The certificate awarding her qualification in astrotransport design and engineering, sat on her profile so she could see it every time she checked her link. She needed it there as it was still something of a struggle to accept she’d not only completed the course successfully but aced the grades to get a top tier ranking.
An arm sneaked around her waist and squeezed.
“I’m going to miss you.”
She looked up to see Tolin, his gaze drawing her in as it always did. She had never seen anyone’s eyes actually sparkle before she met him. Turning into the embrace, she slipped her arms around his neck so she could pull his head down for a long kiss.
“I’m missing you already,” she said when their lips finally broke free.
He smiled, making her think of every romantic hero of her teenage years. He had the body of an athlete and the chiselled good looks of a male model. Each time she saw him she felt a weird disconnect deep in her solar plexus. They had been together for the last five cycles, nearly half a year, but she still couldn’t quite believe it.
Tolin had walked into her life quite literally. She had been heading out of the simulator suite after one of her sessions testing a design theory she was working on, and he had walked in through the door, so lost in his augmented links that he nearly barrelled into her. At the time she had been completely caught up in the work she still had to do, so she hadn’t paid him much attention. But he had insisted on a fulsome apology and keen to escape so she could write up the results, she had agreed to meet him for a meal in the student cafeteria.
That was when, somewhere between the soup of the day and the fruit salad, they had fallen in love.
Tolin was there to upgrade his pilot’s licence. He was a freetrader and had just made enough credits to be able to up his licence from Class D – restricted cargo and no passengers – to the Class C which allowed freetraders to carry most regular cargos and occasional passengers. It was the baseline for making any kind of decent living.
They moved in together a few days later and shared bills and a bed for the rest of the semester which was Pan’s final session and Tolin’s only one.
But all good things come to an end and here they were. Pan wondered where this left them now. She had a whole stack of job offers to consider, one or two even in Central. Those were the ones she was most excited about. A job in Central meant she would have the right to live there, the right to bring her family with her. It was something she was going to have to work on and she wasn’t sure where Tolin fitted into things. He seemed to sense her mood and pulled her close again.
“I already told you not to worry about me, Pan. I’ve got a business to build and you’ve got a career to start. Let’s see where we are this time next year.”
A whole year.
She opened her mouth to protest and he covered it with a kiss.
“Or maybe less. Tell you what, soon as you have your first vacation time, we’ll take off somewhere. Wherever you want.”
His eyes sparkled and her heart was lost.
“If you do.”
“I love you Tolin Dreen.”
“And I love you Panvia Dugsdall.”
Mulligan’s Reach was a planet in the Periphery of the Coalition that had very little of its own resources to attract the rest of the galaxy but was perfectly placed to be a trade hub for the further hinterlands of the Sector. As such it had a reasonable tech level, lots of space, but not much by way of wealth trickled down to the locals.
Home was a small house on the outskirts of the one major city. The land here was dry, as rain seldom fell. It needed constant irrigation from the well-maintained network of waterways. The best land on the banks and floodplain of the wide Reach River, had been bought up for intensive farming by one of the corporations long ago. But a few small farms struggled on the marginal land between that and the city, then beyond them some even smaller holdings which allowed their owners a chance to supplement whatever income they might make by other means.
It was to one of these that the groundcab took Pan. In a row of identical buildings, all of an age to need ongoing repairs to stay sound, it stood out as the one with the most foodstuffs growing around it and the least well-maintained facade.
There will be more Roguing Thieves next Sunday…