Steve stepped away from the bed and walked back over to the clothes that were strewn across the floor. He put on his pants and quietly left the room. He descended to the first floor and went into the living room. The room was illuminated by the ghostly starlight that flooded in through the wall of Plexilum that looked out over the verandah. He sat down on the couch and picked up Lydia’s personal communication device and turned it on. He looked through her ‘sent’ messages and found the one she had sent to Harry Salem earlier that evening inviting him to stay with them on the estate. He also read the one from the Directorate detailing Harry’s itinerary and his expected time of arrival. Steve smiled. They dovetailed with his plans perfectly.
Lydia hadn’t been the only one to receive a personal message. He had received one, too. Only his hadn’t come from Harrison. Using Lydia’s communicator, Steve composed a message to Harry that he would be duty bound to carry out. He tagged it as ‘personal’ and then sent it off. The coded message would travel to Magnum-4’s communication’s hub and then be broadcast into space to be picked up by the MYRMIDON and then passed down the line, ship to ship until one of the ships could access the intragallactic hub and allow the message to work its way to Harry.
Steve replaced Lydia’s PCD on the end table. He then stood up and went to fetch his own. He composed a message to his daughter, Jane, who was returning home from a visit to Earth Prime and other planets. He sent that message off under his own name. When that was done, he walked over to the humidor cabinet and took out a cigar.
Standing there, he looked at it and smiled. Such a simple little thing, he thought. Made from a weed that’s grown in climate controlled warehouses on the outer-most planets and illegal on the inner-most. He rolled the cigar in his fingers and felt the freshness of the leaf. Then, he raised it to his nose and inhaled the fragrance of the outer wrapper. Satisfied as to its quality, he cut the end and walked out on to the verandah. Standing in the dome-enhanced starlight, he lit up and savored the tobacco’s flavor. He allowed the smoke to slowly escape his lips and curl around his head. He watched the vapor rise vertically above him. There was no breeze. They must be working on the air scrubbers, again, he thought. Without a breeze, he could feel the hot, humid, tropical temperature and for a moment he felt as insignificant as an ant living in a terrarium. In a few hours, if the scrubbers weren’t turned on, moisture would condense at the top of the LifeShield and fall back as an unscheduled heavy, rain. Steve stood staring out into the dark and looking up at the stars. As he smoked his cigar, he began to play his game of “What if?” Just like the old days, he thought. Plan for everything and then expect the unexpected.
When he finished his cigar, he went back upstairs and climbed into bed satisfied that he had thought over all the possibilities. Hugging Lydia, he spooned into her and reached around to cup her breast with his hand.
“Where did you go?” she asked sleepily.
“Downstairs,” he answered. “I felt the need to send my daughter a message and I figured that Harrison’s ship would still be within range.”
“When is she coming in?”
“She’ll make it to Emerson-5 in time for the next scheduled freighter.”
“That’s the same ship that that Harry Salem will be on.”
“Maybe they’ll meet.”
“I’m sure they will. In-bound freighters only have one class and limited passenger space. There’s no way they won’t meet. Do you think they’ll hit it off?”
“Good Lord, I hope not.”
“Maybe she’ll convince him to go home.”
“I should be so lucky.”
“Luck and beauty go together,” Steve said brushing her hair out of the way with his nose and kissing the back of her neck.