Growing Pains

    Kyle hated the disinfectant they used to clean the capsules. The nose wrinkling hint of long dead lilies tugged at his awareness. Being on the edge of a sneeze was distracting and itchy. He rubbed at his nose. Took off his glasses and scratched from the bridge to the end. Great, now in addition to the floral reek filling his nostrils, his face hurt too. Also, he still needed to sneeze. He stretched his long, stork like legs. Pressed with his feet on the far end of the pod. If he pushed hard enough it would lose pressure, explode, scattering his atoms across the next five parsecs. It had happened before, at least that’s what he’d heard. 

    Leaving home was upsetting. The familiar curves and arches, hidey holes and cargo bays. He loved the station. When he’d been small he’d followed the comforting shape of his mother, tugging at her skirts, demanding hugs in the imperious voice only a small child can hope to effect without consequences. Later, there had been tutors. A long procession of stern faced young diplomats pressed into service by his mother. He’d heard them, they thought they were so sneaky, whispering about being stuck babysitting Proconsul Nicolette’s brat. 

    Always up for a challenge he had taken an aggressive stance on his homework. That is to say, he’d stopped doing it. His keepers would frown and tut and insist that if he wanted to grow up and be in government like his mother it was imperative that he apply his nose to the grindstone, or put a shoulder to the wheel and a number of other manual labor metaphors that meant nothing in a an age where machines performed those functions. 

    He stopped showing up all together, hovering just out of sight of his quarters, listening, watching, waiting with patience for their looks of consternation and dismay. They did not disappoint. Their expressions were troubled, rattled even. The Proconsul was a strict mistress. She had expectations. He knew he should be working, he should be making her proud, but wiping the smug looks off his tutor’s faces was the most fun he’d had since he’d hidden under the buffet table, gorging himself on cake and canapes at the station commander’s wedding. The music had been fast and jangling and, he had bounced under his hiding place until his eyes fluttered shut, his fingers sticky with white and yellow frosting. 

   When you were older, that was not acceptable. It was, grow up, be a man, attend to your studies, listen to your tutors. Boring things to prepare him for a boring life. He was too old to hide under tables, and eat cake until he burst. Tall enough that he would knock his stupid head on the underside of any table the was foolish enough to hide beneath. You really couldn’t go back to being a child, no matter how much you wanted to. At some point, growing up stopped being optional. 

   That’s what had brought him here. The encroaching plod toward adult status. Taryn Academy would chew him up and spit out a polished, studious, dutiful man. Someone who never played under tables or danced to alien music. They would grind out his fun, his delight at the torment of his teachers. The deep joy felt when the airlock opened, the vaccuum of space pulling at his hair. He’d had to grip the arch tight, force his eyes open, try to count as many stars as he could before it shut him back tight in the confined spaces that became definitions. If he allowed it, he was certain they would steal his joy from him. He nestled his glasses on the bridge of his nose, stretched his legs once more and pondered expulsion level mischief.

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