Ensign Aidan Bane is about to start his new life onboard The Dauntless. But first, he must attend a secret appointment.
The Dauntless was the first Explorer-class starship in the fleet. It was designed for long-haul space travel, equipped with state-of-the-art engines, captained by the war hero Sharon DeSouza, and manned by the best crew the Planetian fleet had ever produced.
So, what was he doing onboard this ship?
Aidan Baine, his belongings in a small backpack slung across his back, found the room he was looking for. And like he promised, the most distinguished Admiral of the fleet had kept his visit quiet.
They stared at each other for a long time before Admiral Edward Baine said: “Hello, Aidan.”
“Sir.” He stepped into the room.
“Your mother told me that you received your orders today. I see you wasted no time reporting for duty.” His father gave him a small smile.
“The Dauntless. Congratulations, son,” he said, slapping him on the shoulders.
Aidan stiffened, taken aback by the sudden contact. He immediately regretted his reaction because his father quickly took away his hand to clasp it behind his back. Edward pretended that he didn’t see Aidan’s reaction, but he obviously did.
For both their sakes, Aidan played along.
His father headed to the cabinet near the windows and began looking through the shelves, searching for something.
It was still strange to see his father smile when all he remembered was disapproval. His father had been making a conscious effort to be genial and warm since Aidan returned four years ago.
He did not wear it well.
Aidan wondered what the psychiatrists told him to elicit such a change. Perhaps having his son nearly die in his arms was a game changer.
After the war, Aidan barricaded himself away from everything he knew. He fled to the Outer Worlds, and drowned himself in Synth, trying to forget. But one memory stuck: The one with his father holding him with tears down his cheeks.
They told him that his father had tracked him down only to find him minutes away from death in front of a dark alley bar on a planet not even on the star maps yet.
Perhaps it was the memory of his father crying, but Aidan cobbled his life back together and against all odds or logic — he was accepted into the Academy.
That was four years ago. But Edward Baine still seemed unsure about how to conduct himself with Aidan. He felt the same, so they both danced around each awkwardly, trying far too hard not to dig at unhealed wounds.
“Wine?” The Admiral lifted a bottle up. The light from the nearby moon made the label sparkle. He recognised it immediately.
“Mantoran vodka?” Aidan lifted an eyebrow. It was a brand particularly coveted by soldiers during the war. “You got your hands on contraband?”
Edward chuckled. “Come now. Mantora is now a trade partner. Although I must admit — this one required a favour from an Outer World ambassador I know.” He handed Aidan his glass.
Aidan settled on the couch.
“Frankly, I find it puzzling,” Aidan said, taking a sip.
“With my record, I would have been glad to get a posting on a patrol ship cruising the asteroid belts. But The Dauntless?”
The question hung between them.
His father frowned heavily, and for a moment he was transported back to the many times when he was called up to his father’s study to endure a lecture.
“If you think I have anything to do with your appointment, Aidan, you’re quite mistaken. Captain DeSouza personally handpicked the crew and would not tolerate any interference. Even from me.”
“I didn’t mean to accuse you, father,” he said quickly.
“Aidan….” Then his father cleared his throat. “So, your mother was wondering if you need help packing?”
“I don’t really have much. Just a couple of clothes and my slate and I’m done.”
Another awkward silence.
“I’m proud of you, son,” his father said suddenly.
Aidan stiffened. He stared at his glass, running a finger around the rim. Then, he shifted his eyes to his father. He grinned when he saw that his father was also staring at his wineglass.
“Thank you,” Aidan said softly.
Edward looked up, surprised. He nodded. Took another sip.
Too much had happened between them for them to be best buds, but he could at least leave with the knowledge that he had earned a fraction of his father’s approval — something that had eluded him all his life.
“Here’s to new adventures.” Aidan raised his glass.
His father smiled, and they clinked their glasses.
The Appointment is set in the Distant Stars universe. You can download the novella, Heretics of Thran, free, and buy the first book of the series, Shadows of Corinar.