sister stories

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 9

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How to get by in the Galaxy Part 8

How to get by in the Galaxy

Part 9

By Jamie Burns

It was early Christmas morning, I woke up feeling awful and promptly ran to the bathroom to throw up. I felt a hand rub my back and then put a wet washcloth on the back of my neck. I expected to look back and see my mom but it was Nathan. I was only seven years old but then again so was he. When I was feeling ok to move he helped me to the living room, he put me on the couch, gave me a blanket, turned on the Christmas tree lights and made me a cup of tea. We sat there looking at the twinkle lights of the tree, some blinking slowly on and off, others steady. I drifted in and out of sleep. Nathan all the while sitting beside me making sure I didn’t need more tea or a bucket if I had another bout of sickness. Two hours later when my parents woke up they asked why we hadn't woken them and I remember saying “Nathan took care of me.” That’s all I can remember from that particular Christmas.

I hadn't thought of that in over sixteen years. As we sped in the Lamplight toward the rendezvous point the words stuck in my head. “Nathan took care of me.” Throughout primary school, high school and well into flight school Nathan took care of me. I helped him with homework, studying and even would cover for him with mom and dad on occasion. It was what we did. We took care of each other and I was determined to keep the tradition alive.

I landed the Lamplight a few miles from the rendezvous point. Clara and Lu both walked on to the bridge. Lu was dressed in some of Clara’s clothes and they had pumped up the volume on Lu’s blond hair. “Alright, this is the best spot.” I said to Clara and headed to the back of the ship expecting her to follow. When I realized she hadn't I turned back around. Clara and Lu faced each other awkwardly. Clara held out a hand, “Thank you for your help.”

Lu took Clara’s hand and gave it a firm shake. “You’re sure it’s worth all this?” She asked.

Clara said nothing just gave her head one firm nod.

Clara and I walked to the back of the ship, she opened the hatch to the cold air outside. We both looked out then at each other. “Remember watch your back at all times. She’s going to be a lot heavier than the Lamplight so don’t be timid. Don’t be afraid to push her around, just get her in the air and head to the place Lu setup.” I told her.

“It’s gonna work.” Clara said it as if she was trying to convince both of us.

I dropped the hard tone in my voice, allowing myself to be genuine and vulnerable for a moment. “Please just be careful Clara, I don’t want to have to come save you too, but I will if I have to.” I gave her a weak smile but it was all I could muster. Clara pulled me in for a hug. “We’ll get him back.” With that she turned and set off.

I closed the hatch and the moment it was sealed the Lamplight rose back into the air.  On the bridge I found Lu at the helm, looking confident and at ease.

“No wonder they could never catch you.” I said as I sat in the co-pilots seat. Lu just smiled and pulled back on the helm sending us higher into the gray clouds.

We arrived at the rendezvous ten minutes ahead of the dead line. How we managed that  seemed like an act of God or a lot of happy accidents all in a row. Either way I was grateful. Instead of landing the Lamplight in the spot that had been clearly left open for us it dipped low and I tossed the rope over the edge of the hatch and slid down to the ground. Once my feet had touched I raised my hands showing I was unarmed and the Lamplight quickly gained in altitude again. I walked to toward the crowd.

Turned out the rendezvous was yet another shipyard, but this one had far more security and was much busier than the one we had been in earlier that day. The ships in this yard didn’t look like the junk that was in the other shipyards.  Here they were larger, well built, with weapons, no rust and some I would even call shinny. It felt more like a showroom than a shipyard. I recognized the ship the crowd was gathered around. The last time I saw her she was flying away from the planet Cierra with the Thestrious flying away beside her as I could only watch from the ground.

Hands still up I kept walking toward the crowed. Some of the men had their guns raised while others looked on relaxed, in the middle of them was Cryton. He was wide in the shoulders and seemed fit for a man that looked like he was in his late forties.  All the others seemed to look to him for cues on what to do next. It made me wonder how bad a man you have to be to have others fear you on a planet like Exodus. I pushed the thought down because it made me more nervous than I liked. Cryton on the video had seemed charismatic and likeable for a kidnapper. That's what made me so nervous about him. He was a kind of bad man made worse by his good lies. Not that I didn’t have a lie or two up my sleeve.

“Well there she is boys, the little sister.” Cryton called out. With a flick of his finger the men with guns advanced towards me.

I watched as they encircled me. “Yep that’s me… where’s my brother?”

“Oh he’s close by.” Cryton said, him and his men chuckling at that. I instinctively took a step back.  Cryton eyes narrowed in on me, “What’s your little gal pal doing up there? Tell her to land.”

I had to laugh at this one. “So you can kill all three of us and keep the ship. I don’t think so.”

“You know I could just shoot that match box out of the sky if I wanted to.” He was getting more frustrated.

“I’m sure you could, but you don’t want to.”

He paused and let out a breath. “No, I don’t but if you’re up to something fishy I might just change my mind.”

“Where is Nathan?” I asked again.

He looked back toward his ship and waved to the men waiting there. A moment later two men dragged Nathan down the dock and dropped him next to Cryton. Nathan slowly stood to his feet, I was sure he couldn't see much with his face swollen to it’s current size.  I called to him. “Nathan it’s ok I’m here.” I walk a bit closer to get a better look at him. The sound of my voice didn’t put him at easy. If anything it seemed to make him angry.

“April? Why? I told you guys to leave.” He was scared and angry and I didn’t really blame him. He forced his eyes open and looked right to where I was standing. “Why can’t you ever listen to me?”

“Alright now little sis you tell blondie to put her ass on the ground now.” Cryton demanded.

“Give me Nathan, then she’ll land in the distance. You’ll let us go while you head to your new ship.” I called out sounding as confident and forceful as possible.

Cryton stared at me for a moment in shock, I guess at my demands. Then a slow smile spread across his face and he looked around. His men nervously looking back at him. He started to laugh, the men looked at each other, and started to laugh as well. Though it was clear they weren't sure why.

“I don’t think you understand little sis, this is not a negotiation.” He said then he pulled his gun from his holster and turned Nathan toward him. I knew I was to far away but I still lunged forward, Cryton pressed the barrel against Nathan’s shoulder and pulled the trigger.

I could have sworn that I felt that bullet. I felt the shockwave flow through my body and weaken my knees. At least that’s what I thought at first. Then I realized everyone was looking up. In the distance behind Cryton’s ship was a plume of black smoke. The massive explosion had socked all of us. I saw Nathan lying motionless on the ground my heart sank and I looked  back to the plume of smoke now lit by the fire that burn beneath it. My face must have been white as a sheet as I wondered where Clara was.

New School Lucy

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New School Lucy

By Jamie Burns

 

My younger sister Lucy and I had just moved to DC to attend new schools. Lucy was to attend an advanced high school for highly gifted teens and me a local college in the DC metro area. I was mostly there to get a free education and keep an eye on Lucy.  

Lucy was the one that made it all possible. My super prodigy sister had impressed the school so much that they were now paying for my education just so my parents would agree to let us move across the county without them, so Lucy could attend their school. My parents wouldn’t send her by herself so this was the school’s solution.

We all headed off to DC and got settled in, after a few weeks our parents reluctantly went back to Seattle. Lucy and I started our respective schools and tried to adjust to our new way of life. Lucy was instantly thrilled. After years of attending classes she could have done in her sleep she was finally being challenged. I was also being challenged, but I was not so thrilled about it. School was always so much harder for me than Lucy so I spent most of my time in the library studying or in our apartment doing homework.

Four months into the school year I was finally getting used to my course load and had even been earning a passable GPA all on my own, sans Lucy’s help. Since she was totally immersed in her own school work. We started seeing less and less of each other once she told me they had offered her some extra classes with  private instructors for her physical training and her advanced math.  I assumed that she was talking about Fencing and some of the math she handled I couldn't even pronounce.

Since Lucy would stay late at school I started to get more involved in the college scene on my campus. I had never been a social butterfly but I had made some good friends that would invite me out pretty regularly. When Lucy and I were home at the same time she would usually fall asleep on the couch while working on homework. It was the first time in our lives I remember seeing her so tired. She would still get up early and head to the track every day. Once I even went with her and she could literally run circles around me.

Thanksgiving came and Mom and Dad came to spend the holiday with us. It was a great visit, that went all too quickly. Lucy and I both agreed that it made us desperately home sick and we would head to Seattle over the winter break. It was just the thing we needed. It was great to be back and visit with mom, dad and old friends but by the end of the break I found I was excited again to head back to my new life and friends in DC.

The night before Lucy and I left Seattle my Dad pulled me aside and said we needed to talk about Lucy.

“How have things really been going over there sweetheart?” He asked.

“Great, we both really like it. Not that we don’t miss you guys.”

“Really?” He asked.

“Yeah, why? What do you mean?” My dad’s concerned face confused me.

“It’s just that Lucy seems so not herself. I mean I’ve never seen her this tired. What do they have her doing?” He asked.

I thought about the question and was embarrassed I didn’t have a better answer. “I um, I noticed she’s been tired but didn't think much about it. I’m not really sure what her exact courses are. I mean, I know she has extra lessons 4 times a week but isn't that pretty normal for Lucy?”

“Sure it was here but at that school it might be a bit much.” He said.

He was right Lucy wasn’t her usual self during the trip home. Now that he said it I replayed the holiday from the previous year in my head. Christmas was Lucy’s favorite. She had always insisted on making cookies, playing nonstop Christmas music, going out caroling and was basically the Christmas spirit embodied. This year she had done none of those things. She was so subdued by comparison I couldn't believe I didn't notice sooner. Quite, subdued, and a bit run down. Other than her usual 6 am run she just lounged around the house. I suggested maybe she was feeling sick since she had been so busy since the beginning of the school year. My Dad hesitantly accepted this as an explanation but made me promise to keep a closer eye on her in the coming semesters. I was happy to make that promise. How had I not noticed how diffrent she was. I guess I was too busy having a good time in my new college lifestyle.

Once we got back to DC and school started up I stopped going out with me friends as much and started to stay home. I would wait for Lucy’s return in the evening with dinner at the ready. After two weeks I realized she usually didn’t get home from school till 8 or 9 at night. I asked if I could come with her to a lesson and see how amazing she had become at fencing but she quickly shut me down, saying that her instructors wouldn't like it, that I would be a distraction and she would just show me sometime on our own. The semester continued and I made it a point to really take care of my baby sister, by making sure she ate well, got as much sleep as possible and giving her a ride to school on all the days I didn’t have an early class. It seemed to make us both happier and it gave me more glimpses of the Lucy I remembered her to be. But I was still getting no where on what Lucy’s school was like. My Dad and I started talking more often about Lucy and the school and we were both feeling more and more concerned for Lucy’s well-being.

We reached April and the cherry blossom trees around the tidal basin were in bloom. My afternoon class had been canceled and I decided to head over to try and see Lucy during her Lunch hour.  

That was the day I found out that the school was not just a place for educating gifted teens. It was much more than that. Much more sinister. Because my sweet, kind, little sister Lucy was training to be the ultimate weapon.

 

 

Copyright JAMIE BURNS 2016 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Little Lucy

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(Story prompt is Italicized) Little Lucy

Even as a young girl, my little sister had always seemed older and wiser, as if she had glimpsed the future and was going to keep it all to herself, she knew things you just wouldn’t expect a young girl to know, like… the contents of different museums throughout the world or the world's different regions for agricultural developments.

I would always have her help me with my history assignments despite the fact she was four years behind me in school. I would say I would help her with any other subjects if she needed it, but she never did. She always had a much better academic mind than I did. Is it odd to look up to your little sister? Even though Lucy was obviously far more talented, smart and charming than I was, she never made me feel that way. She still looked up to me like any other little sister looked up to her older sister. She would follow me around, ask if she could hang out with my friends and I. She would try and do everything I did. Usually she did it better than I did. I didn’t mind, Lucy was special and having a sister that was so amazing intrigued me.

When I was eighteen and in my last year of high school, Lucy was fourteen and just starting her high school years. It was less than a month into the school year before one of the teachers took a special interest in her. He talked to my parents about her amazing potential and soon after that my father and Lucy took an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. so Lucy could do some specialized testing for “Gifted” children. When they returned Lucy told me all about how they wanted her to come stay in D.C. to attend an advanced school, but mom and dad didn’t want her to move across the country, at fourteen with little to no supervision. No matter how much the school promised they watched over their students.   Thankfully Lucy agreed. Although it was exciting, the thought of leaving Mom, Dad, me and Seattle in general was to intimidating for her at the time.

As an alternative they set up twice a week private lessons for her at the local university, where she studied things that no one ever really elaborated to me. All I know was that she seemed to enjoy them and as always she was exceeding expectations. By the end of the school year she was having four lessons a week. I was getting ready to graduate, and thanks to Lucy my GPA was just high enough that I was accepted to a few colleges, nothing in the Ivy League, It’s not like I let her do all my homework. Not that she wouldn’t if I had asked.

When mom, dad, and I sat down to look at my options the sad truth was that we couldn't afford any of the colleges, without me getting a scholarship or an outrageous student loan. Then Lucy’s fancy D.C. school stepped in.

They offered us a deal, they would pay for my education if... Lucy and I moved to D.C. for school. They would pay for me to go to a local college in the D.C area while Lucy attended their advanced school, solving the problem of sending Lucy by herself across the county and the problem of how I would get an education without crushing debt. All so they could have “The best and brightest!” at their school. My parents were elated by the offer even though the thought of sending both their daughters off to the nation's capital didn’t seem ideal. Lucy and I on the other hand were more skeptical. Why would this place be willing to shell out tens of thousands of dollars just so their potentially star pupil's older sister could get a degree? Was getting Lucy to their school that important?

The whole family took another trip to D.C. where we were shown around the beautiful college campus I could potentially attend, the advanced school for Lucy, the heavily secured apartment just a block away we would live in, and the national mall, where Lucy fell in love with the museums. If we started off skeptical that was quickly overshadowed by the fancy campuses and highly educational museums.  With the promise that mom and dad would fly out to see us as much as possible it was decided that in the fall Lucy and I would move to D.C. and start our higher education.  

I wish I knew at the time what I was leading my sweet baby sister into.