Fiction Fragment Friday
This week’s story is a sequel to Toran Station. I don’t often return to these stories and I’m not sure if I have ever done a sequel that starts immediately where the last one ended. If this were in a book it would be in the same chapter. When I wrote the original I felt like it could be the start of something larger and writing this second part has really driven that home.
I find that writing these character and this setting flows very easily. I sit down to write and before long I have written a much longer story than intended. I’m not sure this or the first one could really be called a full story and not just slices of life being presented. After this week I think maybe it is time to sit down and outline a much larger story that these scenes fit into.
My room wasn’t the worst I had ever stayed in, but it was in the bottom five. When I hit the light switch the light by the door just flickered on and off. There was a stench to the room that I couldn’t quite place, but I made a note to get disinfectant before touching anything. I also needed new sheets because there was no way I was going to lay down on the bed as it was. After two weeks of sleeping in bunk beds set into a bulkhead though I was just grateful to have my own room again.
When I stayed on station as a kid, I remember the rooms being the nicest I had ever stayed in. It felt like we were the first people to ever stay in that room. It was clean and everything looked brand new. I still couldn’t understand how the air had gotten so poor. Even tiny shuttles with much smaller ecosystems were not this bad. Simple lack of money could not account for just how bad things had gotten. I knew that I was only here to sort out some accounting issues, but I needed to know what had caused this. It hurt too much to see it without getting to the bottom.
It was time to get some answers. I pulled out my tabled and shot off four messages. The first was to my station contact to let them know I had arrived and requesting a meeting first thing in the morning. The second message was to station information. I requested an updated list of all businesses operating on the station and contact information for them. My third message was to my boss back home. I needed him to know what I had already seen. Finally, I messaged Janice and offered to buy her dinner tonight wherever she wanted to go.
After a couple minutes my tablet dinged, and I saw that Janice had already responded. To my surprise she had picked the restaurant I remember my father taking us to as a kid. My first instinct had been to suggest it, but after all the other disappointments of the day I just didn’t want to assume anything at this point. I didn’t know if it was still here or what shape it might be in. I couldn’t help but smile knowing that it was not only still here, but that if she had picked it then it couldn’t be too bad. Still, I tried to keep my expectations low.
With a few hours left before dinner I decided to take a walk. Instead of just wandering around I used the map on my tablet to plan my path carefully. I needed to start getting used to the layout and find all the location I would need for work. Shopping was going to be important as well so I needed to know where the important shops and services were. If what I had already seen was any indication this would not be a short project. What I did not expect was to feel unsafe in certain parts of the station. It felt like I was being watched so I made a point to stay to the more trafficked corridors.
I showed up to dinner about fifteen minutes early. I wanted to make sure we had a table and that I had time to let any disappointment fade from my face. I won’t say that I was as impressed with the restaurant as my childhood self had been, but it did not show the same degree of ware as the rest of the station. Papa Guido’s was clean, well lit, and the food smelled incredible. I was met at the door by a waitress dressed in a red and white frilly top with an ankle length green skirt. I made note of her nametag.
“Welcome to Papa Guido’s. How many in your party?”
Her smile seemed genuine and so far, it was the nicest greeting I had received on station. “There will just be two of us. I’m meeting someone.”
She nodded and grabbed two actual printed menus from the podium. “Right this way sir.”
“I have to say Erica this is the only place on the station so far that lives up to my memories.”
She seemed taken aback at first by my use of her name, but I just pointed to her name tag, and she nodded. “Well, I’m not sure how long it’s been since you’ve been here, but this is a family restaurant. I may be his daughter, but this place is dad’s really baby.”
“Well, it shows. Gives me a little hope.”
She led me to a small table in a corner and set the menus down. Nothing looked new, but the furniture was all very well maintained, and I had not seen a single light fixture that wasn’t fully functional. Mostly I was just grateful that the air didn’t have the grease scent that the rest of the station seemed to linger with. As I looked over the menu, I was surprised that the prices were not as high as I anticipated. No matter the cost though I knew the conversation was going to be worth it.
“Well, well, well. I didn’t expect to hear from you so soon. I thought you were worried I would get you in trouble with your bosses.” I jumped a bit as Janice caught me off guard. She sat down at the table across from me with a big smile on her face. It was the kind of smile someone gives when they know something that you don’t.
“Oh I’m pretty sure you are going to get me into trouble, but I’m hoping you can help me avoid some too.”
“Let’s order some dinner first. This place smells incredible.” I ordered the chicken parmigiana, and she ordered the manicotti. We made small talk while we waited for the food not talking about anything in particular. We spoke about our jobs, and I told her all about my trip to the station as a child. It was a pleasant conversation and I found her very easy to talk to and had to watch myself to avoid sharing too much. Something told me she was a very good reporter who could get people to share without even realizing it.
“So, James why don’t you tell me why I’m here?”
“Well besides finding out what restaurant might be safe to eat at I have a feeling you have a better idea of what is going on around this station than anyone else. No way poor management alone let things get this bad. When I start digging in am I going to be in danger?”
She actually laughed. “Oh James. You were in danger the moment you accepted this assignment.” She took a sip of her wine and game me another smile. “You have no idea how lucky you were to run into me.”