"Come with me."
Heero stirred the cream into his coffee, focusing on the precise movements
of the spoon along the edge of the cup. Six times around and the liquid took
on the color of fine milk chocolate.
"It's been five years and they haven't forgotten us yet."
Preparing the coffee took all of his attention. He certainly had none to
spare for the news service droning on and on from the vid across the
"We're nothing but prisoners in our own homes!"
One smart tap of the spoon against the rim of the cup before it was placed
on the napkin, perfectly aligned with the edge. Beyond the limit of his
notice, the smooth-faced anchor promised to report the top stories. After a
word from their sponsors, of course.
"What's two and a half years? One and a half out, one back."
He lifted the cup for a taste. Perfect - strong enough that the rich, dark
flavor dominated with just enough cream to mellow the bite. How he learned
the secret to perfect coffee. Well. He didn't need to consider that to enjoy
a good cup. An inconsequential voice in the background chirped on about the
best way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you purchased their product, of
"Howard's got an in. He can get you a berth, too."
He set the cup aside after a long sip and arranged his laptop in front of
him. Pulling up the code for the latest program he was writing, he quickly
picked up where he left off. A notice from his electronic messaging sercice
popped up informing him that he had three hundred unread messages. He
ignored it; the people he wanted to speak to knew better than to send him
email. The journalists and tabloids had simply not realized that yet.
The steady rhythm of his fingers on the keys was the only sound in the room.
Aside from the news service, of course. Reports of a commuter shuttle
accident, lastest financial news from the colonial markets, the news of the
historical tie-breaking game in the world series all passed by without a
"The ESUN Space Agency has confirmed that once again no signal has been
recieved from Project Odyssey for the fourth day in a row."
The tapping faltered for a moment, then continued on, picking up the pace
until it resumed it's previous speed. The news was, as always,
"Where's your spirit of adventure?"
Another cup of coffee. He tried a sip of black, but was unsatisfied. He
scowled at the cup, resentful that he no longer enjoyed coffee straight up
like he used to. But. He really didn't need to think about that.
"Just you and your best friend in a tin can, touring the solar system!"
There was comfort in the familiar ritual of preparing the cup of coffee. A
cup before settling in to work, the news service providing the background
noise. Not that he ever paid attention to it.
"Well, and four other crew members, but who gives a damn about them?"
His job was OK. It paid his bills and being able to work from home made
dealing with the public much easier. His groceries were delivered and he
never had to deal with the reporters who still seemed to think that there
was some story to be had about him.
"The identities of the mission specialsts will be kept confidential. Nobody
will know we're going!
The smooth-faced anchor, the same guy every day (not that he noticed),
started in on the hours top stories.
"Today marks the fifth day since the last communication with Project
Odyssey. Land and space based telescopes have confimed that the braking
maneuver was successful; however, the solar sail has not redeployed and
there is no indication of activity from the main vehicle."
Tuning out the artificially solemn voice, he pulled his laptop over to start
work. His hands were a little shaky, surprising him, but he was able to put
it from his mind and get to work.
"What more could you ask for?"
He didn't even try to drink his coffee black this morning. Why change his
habits now? Instead he prepared his coffee and sat down with a decisive air
and booted up his laptop. He had work that needed to be finished. Almost as
an afterthought, he picked up the remote and turned on the news.
"Mission success rate is projected to be in the high 90th percentile!"
He was deep into his code, trying to finish his latest project before the
deadline. For some reason, his productivity hadn't been up to his level of
satisfaction for the past two weeks.
An unfamiliar voice announced the reporting of the top stories and he looked
up from his laptop, startled. The regular anchor must have the day off. He
took a sip of his coffee, steadfastly ignoring the white-knuckled grip on
the handle of the mug.
"ESUN Space Agency administrators announced that another communication
window has passed without contact from Project Odyssey. In a press
conference later today, ESUN SA administrators are expected to discuss the
probability for the safe return of the six mission specialists. The window
for the safe return of the Odyssey expires in a little over twenty-four
Heero set down the remote with a quiet click and folded his hands on the
table. His heavy breathing sounded harsh in the sudden quiet. Slowly, he
lowered his head until it rested on his hands. He didn't have to listen very
hard to hear the laughing voice that seemed to follow him everywhere these
"If you don't come with me and something goes wrong, I'm gonna haunt you