“Kate, this is a really bad time, I have a class starting in…”
“John, I’m leaving.” Kate interrupted her husband.
“What? Forever?” He chuckled, but the sound contained complicated nuances.
Kate let the pause drag on too long before clarifying, “No, on assignment, but this is a long one, six months.”
“That is long. Look, Kate, I really gotta…”
“I’m leaving in one hour, John.” Kate interrupted again.
“Oh. Hold on a sec.” She could hear the sounds of his students all around him, asking questions, joking with their favorite teacher, making excuses for late assignments. He announced to the room that they had five minutes of study time before a one question pop quiz. She heard the gasps and groans of twenty young voices and then silence of the empty hallway outside his classroom.
“One hour? What’s going on – some huge explosion I missed hearing about, I guess?”
“Yes, out near the asteroid belt, crippled the WaveRing of a mining station, a bunch of miners and their families all stranded. It’s going to take five months of slow-travel to get out there and at least a month for the Wavers to fix the Ring, so, yeah, six months.” Just explaining the journey to her husband made it all much more real. It occurred to her now that no one, in all the frantic discussions of the morning, had included her investigation time in that ‘six months.’ Did they think she’d have it all solved by the time the Wavers finished the repairs?
“Kate, you hate slow travel! Steve promised he’d never send you out on a long trip again!”
Kate felt gratified to hear his projected anxiety. Proof that he cared, she told herself. “Well, there’s no other way to get out there until the Wavers fix the Ring, is there?” She took a deep breath. “They asked for me, John. The Wavers, I mean. I’m traveling on a Waver ship and the explosion happened on the Waver part of the space station.”
“Crap – that is a big deal, hold on.” She heard the door opening and his voice projecting, “Three more minutes, make sure you really know that chapter, people, this one is going to count as extra credit for your final exam grade.”
Kate waited for the silence, then added, “I’ll be the first Tinwinian on a Waver ship, ever.”
“Wow.” he said. She heard a clicking sound and some mumbling.
“Sorry – I need to figure out what I’m going to ask them.”
“Right – OK, well, see you in six months.”
“Kate, don’t be like that. Look – I’ll pull the assistant principal in to sub, and I’ll meet you at the port, in, uh, an hour?”
“No, they’re picking me in a private shuttle from the office, I’ve got a couple spare uniforms and my extra toiletry kit up here, but the Waver ambassador assures me they’ll have everything I need on board.”
“This is really big… exciting. I just wish the timing could have been a bit better.” He said.
“Yeah.” She tried to hide the disappointment in her voice, “me too.” She knew, logically, there was nothing he could do with such short notice. No magic winged horse or time traveling phone box that could skip through the time and distance, and everything else, that separated them.
“Well, call me when you get to the ship – our com’s should work the whole way, right?”
“That’s what they say. I guess we’ll find out.” Kate answered, knowing full well that the communicators worked fine in deep space.
“OK, well, be safe, love you.” John said.
“Love you too.” Kate said. She pushed the spot behind her ear to hang up, glad to have one more item checked off from her list of things to do before departure.
Part of an ongoing Serial: A Life Investigated