[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 84
Vic looked at his crew; no, not his crew anymore. His friends. He didn’t know how to break it to them. How did he tell Argmon that the shipping business would close its doors? How did he tell June, a woman who would rather spend time in space to help her forget about Earth, that he didn’t want to fly any more? And Dexter, hell, he didn’t really even understand Dexter or the tri-ped’s motivations. Joey would probably take the news best. He’d only been with them for a short time.
All of them rushed, but Vic held up his hands. “No hugging! No hugging! I’m still in bad shape. I don’t need any rib crushing hugs right now.”
In all honesty, he did. Even though he wore new clothes, he noticed that June and Joey wore new clothes as well, and he looked good, he wasn’t certain as to his condition.
The smell of food, real food, not hospital food, entered his nose. All thoughts of telling them anything faded until he could eat a decent meal.
“Is there anything to eat?”
June smiled and led him to the table where the remains of breakfast sat. “I can order you something. The government is picking up the bill.”
“I don’t want to wait that long.” Vic put his hand to his stomach. It rumbled in response.
“Well, there’s plenty of left-overs.” Joey picked up a plate with a half eaten omelet.
Vic sat and ate. He only paused when he finally looked at Argmon and noticed the bandaged left side of his friend. As if feeling responsible for June and Joey being here wasn’t enough, now his father had gone and wounded Argmon. Another burden he’d have to carry thanks to his father.
“How are you doing?”
Argmon patted the bandages and shrugged.
“I’m sorry that happened.”
Argmon shook his head and chuffed.
Even though Argmon didn’t blame him, Vic still felt guilty.
But why should he? He hadn’t made his dad pull the trigger. He’d tried to stop him as best he could. No, he shouldn’t feel guilty for what his father did.
He couldn’t shake the feeling. He hadn’t gone back to see if his father had survived. He hadn’t come searching for his father sooner. He hadn’t stopped when everything his father had done to try and stop his shipping business. He had driven his father to do what he did.
“Vic, stop,” June snapped at him.
“Stop what?” Vic looked at her, confused.
“Feeling sorry for yourself. Like all this is your fault. We’re all big enough to make choices for ourselves.”
“I’m sorry, Vic. I just don’t want you to take the blame for everything that happened. You weren’t there when I pushed the button in your father’s machine.”
“But it was my father’s machine that sent you here.”
“Vic,” Joey said. “I did the same thing. I went in there and pushed that button.”
“Yeah, but my mom put you up to it. How do I not take blame for that?”
“Because you’re not your mom,” said June.
“I understand that. I should have never come after my dad. I should have stayed home and torn that machine apart.”
Joey sat up. “The hell you say. I mean, I didn’t have a bad life, but I always dreamed of something better. I never thought I’d end up in outer space. Granted this isn’t anything like what I had expected it to be like, but I’m here. I’m alive. I didn’t die a nobody back on Earth like everyone else.”
“But you didn’t get to live out your life either. You’re here instead.”
“And maybe I’m supposed to be here.”
“You two calm down,” interceded June. “Now this isn’t getting us anywhere. We’re not going to talk about who’s at fault. Vic, I wanted to talk to you about the business.”
Finally it was out. Vic put the fork back on the plate, wiped his cleanly shaven face with his napkin and looked up. He looked from one to the next. Argmon, Dexter, Joey, and finally June. He had to word this carefully.
“I’m getting out of the shipping business.”
June gasped. Joey wrinkled his brow as if he hadn’t heard right. Dexter blinked his eyes out of synch. Argmon barked and yowled.
“Stop! Stop. Stop. I’ve had a lot of time to think about this. After what my dad said and after he stuck a knife into me, I did a lot of thinking about what he said.”
June held her hands up. “He’s wrong.”
“Just give me a minute to explain. I don’t think he was wrong. I mean, he’d built his machine to search the galaxy, to answer the mysteries of life, and to discover the unexplored. What did I do when I got here? I went to work. I didn’t go seeking any greater good. I didn’t do anything my father would have. I’ve wasted time I could have spent doing things for the benefit of people, not just for myself.”
“But Vic, you have.” June shook her head. “Look at the people here on Planchar. They worship you. You’ve brought them a shipment of something that could save their people and their planet from possible destruction. When no one else would help them out, you took a risk and you did.”
“I nearly got us all arrested.”
“But you didn’t.”
“Then I took us on a bet. A dare. And I nearly got us all killed. I acted irresponsibly.”
“If I even knew what that meant…”
“You make snap decisions. That doesn’t mean you should stop the shipping business. It just means maybe you need to take some time before making a choice and maybe even a little input on those decisions. That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Huh?” Vic sat up in his chair. “What do you mean?”
“What I mean is I wanted out. I almost left. On Munchkada I had an appointment to buy my own ship. I thought I could do this job better than you. I don’t need to do this job better than you. What I need is for you to listen to me. And not just me, but all of us. I need you to stop being so headstrong and listen to us. Your crew. Your friends.”
Vic looked at the food on the table, not really seeing anything. He had to process all that. Was she right? Did he just need to listen? Had he really been doing what his dad would have been doing? No, but then he wasn’t his father, was he? He’d grown into his own man. He’d started a business with Argmon and they’d done quite well for themselves. They’d done quite well for everyone on the crew.
He looked up. June crossed her arms. She didn’t look stern as if she’d intended to be mean, but she looked ready to counter anything he could say against not staying in the shipping business.
Joey, his innocent face still bruised from his battle with Mike, looked more grown up somehow. As if the week he’d spent in space had somehow brought him into manhood. He had an edge now and didn’t look like the soft creampuff Vic met.
Dexter, well, he was still Dexter.
Argmon narrowed his eyes at Vic, waiting for an answer.
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