Title: Vignette: Tsunami
Part One: Cody's POV
The rains on Pandora were constant for most of the year. Some of the time it was a light drizzle, and on those days the city council left the environmental shields open and let the rain come down on Pandora City, or “the Box,” as most of the residents called it. It was always cool and moist, and after a year of living there, Cody could barely remember what it had been like back on Olympus, where the air was hot and bright and smelled like blossoming flowers.
Occasionally, when it was Garrett’s turn to tell Cody a bedtime story, he would talk about some of the planets he had lived on. Paradise was Cody’s favorite, because it was so strange there, nothing but rock and sand and sun. Garrett would load pictures of Paradise into the walls and they would lie together on Cody’s bed and watch the brown, barren landscape fill the room. Sometimes Daddy would join them, just for a while right at the end. He’d pet both of their heads, maybe lingering just a little on Garrett’s, like he was worried about something and didn’t want to say it. Cody knew enough about his dad to know that he worried a lot about Garrett, but did his best not to show it. It had been…not bad, when Garrett had gone away, but quiet. Sad.
It was a lot better now that Garrett was back. He and Daddy talked a lot, and they laughed and touched and they kissed, gross, even in front of him. Someone was always home when Cody got out of school, and Garrett would play games with him after Cody finished his homework, and Daddy usually cooked dinner and made fun of Garrett for burning water, which was weird, because Daddy had to know that you couldn’t really do that. It must have been some kind of dumb grown-up humor. Anyways, they were all happy most of the time. Daddy might worry, but Cody never did.
Well, almost never. Today at school the alarm went off a half hour before classes ended. It was the first time it had ever gone off for real, and Mister Hugelin-Padin explained to them all that it wasn’t a drill this time, the alarm meant that the shields were being brought up for an emergency, and so they were going to get out a little early and had to go straight home. One of the aides offered to walk Cody back, but his house was really close and he didn’t want to be a baby about it even though it was kind of scary outside, with the sky going dark as the shields engaged. He walked until he was out of sight of the school, and then broke into a run the rest of the way. He was out of breath by the time he made it home, but it had to be a record. Cody was the fastest runner in his class.
When he got home after school and found the living room empty, Cody was kind of confused. It was Garrett’s turn to be home with him, and he always met him at the door. Yeah, Cody was early, but only by a half an hour.
“Garrett?” Cody dumped his backpack at the door, conveniently ignoring the fact that he’d be scolded for leaving it there as soon as one of his dads saw it. He kicked off his shoes and remembered to hang his dripping coat on the little hook that was his, then jumped from the tile to the carpet in one big leap, so he wouldn’t leave wet footprints on the stone. His socks were kind of damp, but no one would be able to tell on the carpet.
“Garrett?” Cody looked to make sure Garrett wasn’t taking a nap on the couch, then walked down the hall. The bathroom was empty, and so was his room. Cody frowned, puzzled. Garrett had been back for almost six months, and he’d never not been here when it was his turn. Cody took the stairs two at a time, making his legs stretch way far, but that was how Daddy usually went up them. Someday he’d be tall like Daddy, and then this would be easy. Everything fun was easy when you were an adult.
Cody checked the upstairs bathroom, and then he checked Garrett’s room too, although he didn’t really think Garrett would be in there. It was just a place for Garrett to store the stuff he didn’t want to keep on his ship but that there wasn’t really room to put out here. A lot of it was clothes. Some of them were really weird, made from light, shiny fabrics with all sorts of hooks and buttons and zippers, that Garrett called his clubbing clothes. Cody asked if he could have some clubbing clothes too, but Daddy had very firmly said no, while Garrett laughed.
Finally Cody checked their bedroom. He was only allowed in when the door was open unless he knocked, and the door was closed right now. He knocked, but there was no answer, so Cody gingerly opened the door and looked inside. No Garrett. The bed was a mess, which totally wasn’t fair because they made Cody fix his covers every morning, and there were a couple small bottles and something long and bumpy and shiny out on the bedside table. Cody kind of wanted to go look, but Daddy had been really clear about him coming in and poking around without permission, so Cody sighed and shut the door again.
So, no Garrett. Maybe he would be home soon. Cody went back downstairs and made himself a protein-spread sandwich as a snack, mixing the banana, chocolate and chalaberry flavored ones so it was like eating dessert. He munched away and watched the clock tick over to when he’d normally have gotten home, and still Garrett wasn’t here. It was unnaturally dark outside, the environmental shields muting all the light, and after a few more minutes of waiting Cody decided that he’d better call his dad.
He fished his com unit out of his jacket pocket and tapped it. “Call Daddy.” A second later the light went green, which meant the link was open. “Daddy?”
“Cody?” Daddy sounded kind of distracted. “What’s goin’ on?”
“Garrett’s not home yet.”
There was a pause. “Are you okay?”
Cody rolled his eyes. His dad always asked that question, like Cody was still six instead of just turned seven now. “I’m fine.”
“Did Garrett leave you a note?”
“Um…” Cody checked the countertop, then the fridge. He turned on the holoscreen just to make sure Garrett hadn’t left a message there, then shook his head.
“You gotta speak up, bucko, I can’t see you on this thing.”
“No, he didn’t leave a note.”
“Okay.” Daddy was speaking kind of slow, like he was working something out in his head. “I’ll be home real soon, okay? We’ll figure it out.”
A sudden, awful thought struck Cody. “He didn’t leave, right Daddy?” Garrett had promised he wasn’t going to leave again; he had promised.
“No,” Daddy said immediately. “He didn’t leave. Probably something came up with work. I’ll figure it out. Stay inside, bucko. I’ll be home in a few minutes.”
“Okay.” Cody ended the call and felt his stomach do a little flip-flop. All of a sudden he wasn’t hungry for the rest of his sandwich, even though it had the best flavors in it. He left it on the counter and went over and sat on the couch. Space Rangers vs The Haunted Mansion was playing, which was kind of a dumb episode, but it was better than nothing and so he watched it until he heard the door chime. His dad came in still talking on his com, and he sounded kind of angry. It made Cody nervous until he realized his dad wasn’t talking to Garrett.
“It’s important because I’ve got a kid at home who needs supervision, and if one of his parents can’t be here then the other one needs to be informed…no, I didn’t get Garrett’s message, I’ve been ferrying supplies up to the Indigo all day, but you should have forwarded it to—no, it is a part of your goddamn job description.” Cody listened with wide eyes as his daddy said a curse word. That meant he was really mad. “You work for Resident Services, it’s your job to facilitate communication between families. The regular ground coms still haven’t been expanded to cover low orbit, which is where I’ve been for my entire shift…yeah, well next time, think about it.” He disconnected the call and took a deep breath, then turned toward Cody. “Hey, bucko.”
“Hi Daddy.” He waited for his dad to take off his jacket and shoes before asking, “Where’s Garrett?”
“Apparently he had to go fix some things Outside this morning. He wasn’t supposed to be gone long, and he did leave me a message, but I didn’t get it until just a few minutes ago.” Daddy got that worried line right between his eyebrows. “He was supposed to be back over an hour ago, though. I talked to the lab, and they haven’t heard from him since his shuttle landed.”
“So he’s still Outside?” “Outside” meant outside the city, outside the environmental shields, which were closed now. “But how’s he going to get back in?” Ships couldn’t permeate the shields when they were up. Cody felt his stomach roll over again. “The alarm went off at school and we all had to come right home, that means something’s wrong, right?”
“Tsunami alert,” Daddy said, coming over and sitting down next to him on the couch. Cody burrowed into his side immediately. “One of the big waves is coming in, kind of by surprise. It wasn’t supposed to be big enough to reach the city, but the scientists upgraded it and sounded the alarm. We’ll be fine in here.”
“But Garrett’s Outside!” Cody protested. Of course they’d be fine in the Box, it was always safe in here, but Garrett wasn’t with them.
“Yeah.” His dad took a deep breath and let it out slow, then tried a smile. It wasn’t a very good one. “But he’s in a good shuttle with a good pilot. I’m sure they’re holed up somewhere safe. They’ll wait the wave out and then they’ll come back once the shields are down.”
“Why didn’t they come back before the shields went up?”
“I don’t know,” Daddy said quietly. “We’ll have to ask him when he gets back.” He ruffled Cody’s hair, then tried to stand up. Cody clung to him like a monkey, and his dad took the hint and picked him up too. “I can’t cook dinner when I’m holdin’ onto you, bucko.”
“’M not hungry.”
“Not even for mac and cheese?”
Oh…that was Cody’s favorite, all gooey and cheesy and crispy on top. Daddy usually only made it for special occasions, or if Cody was feeling sick. He was feeling kind of sick right now, so it made sense that Daddy would want him to be better. “Okay,” he agreed finally, and his dad let him sit on the counter and help grate the cheese.
By the time they ate Cody was really hungry, and he finished two servings, but his dad hadn’t eaten very much of his own. “I’ll save it for later,” he said when Cody asked about it.
The com unit suddenly activated all on its own. “Advisory alert: wave impact in five minutes. All residents are required to remain indoors for the duration of the wave. Again, five minutes to wave impact. Remain indoors until you hear the relief bell sound.”
“You wanna watch it?” Daddy asked Cody after the com turned off. They had a big picture window at the top of the stairs that gave them a good view of the shields.
“Sure.” They put the dishes into the autoclave and then Daddy picked Cody up again, without him even having to ask, and they went upstairs. Usually Cody liked to watch the waves wash over the shields, but this time, as the faint light was replaced by no light at all and the thunderous crash of so much water filled his ears, all he felt was sick again. Garrett should be home, with them, and instead he was Outside where anything could happen. He could get washed away. He could fall into the ocean and never come back. He could die.
“Hey now, don’t cry,” his dad murmured, kissing his cheek. “Garrett’ll be fine. He’ll be back real soon and he’ll tell us all about it.”
Cody wasn’t stupid, he knew when his daddy said things just to make him feel better, but it did help a little. He sniffed and wiped his face on his dad’s shirt, and they stood quiet for a while longer until the thunder died down and the water washed away again.
“They’ll open the shields soon, and they’ll send another shuttle out to look for him if he doesn’t call,” Daddy said soothingly.
“Could you go look for him?” His dad was a real good pilot, the best. He’d find Garrett super fast.
“Nah, bucko, I’m stayin’ here with you.”
“It’s gonna be fine.” Daddy walked them back downstairs and sat on the couch. Cody spread out but kept his head in his dad’s lap. “You look tired. You want to go to bed?”
Cody shook his head vehemently. “I want to stay up with you.”
Daddy didn’t even argue this time. “Okay. But go wash your teeth and get into your sleep clothes just in case. Maybe take a quick shower, too.” He sniffed the air and wrinkled his nose. “You kinda smell a lot like a little boy right now.”
“I am a boy!”
“I know, and phew.” His dad waved the air in front of his nose theatrically.
Maybe it was the glue. Cody had kind of gotten some of it on his shirt during art. And then he fell in the mud at recess, but the aide had helped him wash most of it out of his hair. But okay, maybe he did smell, just a little. “Fine,” he said with a huge sigh. He pushed up off the couch and headed for his room just as the relief bell sounded.
As he picked out the sleep clothes he wanted to wear, Cody could hear his dad on the com with someone, but he was talking too quietly for Cody to hear. Well, if it was important, his dad would tell him about it later. Cody finally decided on the blue sleep set, because it had ships and teddy bears on it, then went into the bathroom and got into the shower. He conscientiously put his clothes in the cleaner before he got in, and then remembered that he’d left his backpack by the front door. And Daddy hadn’t even noticed it. That meant Daddy was really worried, because he always noticed when the backpack was there. Usually because he tripped over it.
Cody washed fast, bounced up and down while he waited for the sonic cleaner to finish with his teeth, then ran back out into the living room. He jumped on the couch and snuggled close again, and his dad covered him with the blanket that Garrett’s stepmom had sent them. It was the softest thing Cody had ever felt, and had a warmer built into the fabric. Daddy turned the holoscreen on but turned the volume down, and stroked his hand through Cody’s damp hair, slowly untangling the curls.
Cody didn’t want to sleep yet, but the show was boring and his eyelids just got heavier and heavier. He wasn’t going to sleep, though. He was just going to close his eyes for a while. Just…for a little…while.