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A Train to Catch

The hum of the engines lulled him. Another flight, another plane, another plastic cup of soda and another hour without her. Luckily, this was a short hop and he’d be on the ground soon. As soon as they landed, like clockwork, he would access the network and punch her a message. The message winds its way through the net and drops into her reader. If he was very lucky, she would see it soon and punch him one in reply.

Another hop and this leg would be over. He had visited three facilities in two weeks and there was talk about a new one opening on Phobos. He thought about his luck to have found her. She worked planetside while he managed facilities around the inner ring.

The hop to near-Mars would be a big one, but at least it was not an NLS (near light speed) hop. Those sad lot seemed to arrive soon after they left, but dropped weeks for those left behind; all because of Einstein and his relativity. The only way he’d consider an NLS hop would be if she went too.The thought of her missing him for weeks, while he blinked across the wastes of space, was too much.

His ex-girlfriend had done that to him. They had had a pretty good thing going until she got her once-in-a-lifetime chance. She was signed to the second long-haul colony ship, Eve. She was joining one of the best teams of specialists in the world and this was her dream. He was not willing to give up everything and everyone he knew – there was no job for him on the trip, so he would have been just along for the ride. She’ll be back, maybe, in about fifty years. He will not be the same person in fifty years, even if he lives that long, but she will be exactly the same person, only a couple of years older. She has been gone for a year so, for her, only about an hour has passed. Relativity can suck, sometimes.

The burners kick in as they touch down and he wakes, not realizing he had dozed. About six months ago, they’d met. The passion was immediate and the bond strong. Though their jobs kept them apart, they met as often as possible. Now that he is back, he pops open his handheld and begins punching out a message, it says:

Meet me at the fountain at 20:00.
Bring clothes in a backpack, but don’t bring much.
We have a train to catch.

He gets confirmation a minute later that his punch has landed in her reader:

Punch successfully delivered at 13:06

They each have a week’s vacation. They had talked about and decided on his place in the mountains, just being together and no one for kilometers, but he had another idea – a surprise. The new train had been running for a month and through a business connection, he had managed to score two tickets for this week.

At 19:45, he can wait no longer and heads to the fountain. The funny old fountain has a half-man-half-goat at the center and woodland creatures around the edge spitting water. The bottom is littered with the worthless silver and copper coins of the last millennium; cast in to coax a wish or divine favor for a better future. This is one of the last working fountains in all of BAMA, the Birmingham-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis, but it is a kooky one and he likes it.

A few minutes later, a tap on the shoulder brings him back from his thoughts. She stands there in her (and his) favorite red tank top, blue jeans, and black high heels. Her black backpack is slung over one shoulder and she sports a quizzical look on her face.

“Penny for your thoughts, mister?”

With no hesitation, he stands to face her, his arms and face moving to close the distance. They share their customary, and favorite, light lingering kiss for a full thirty seconds before parting.

“You wore the red,” he says, smiling.
“And also the Red,” she smirks in return.
“Come on. We have to catch the twenty thirty.”
“Huh? I thought we’d grab a bite first. Besides, the train is not until twenty-two hundred.”
“Different train. We’ll eat on board.”

He scoops his red backpack off the ground and noting her confused look, takes her hand as they walk to the station.

Two days and two hours later, the couple stand in awe. They are content, well fed, satisfied, and excited as they peer out over the city of lights from atop the Eiffel Tower.

the end.
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