Yehr fathers not the teachin sort?
Jims name was called, and amidst enthusiastic applause he walked up to the podium. The Interstellar Academy headmaster handed him his diploma and shook his hand.
No. He was more the taking-off-and-never-coming-back sort.
As he sat with the other graduates, Jim looked over the vast, multi-species audience. He knew that his mother would not be there. Sarah had explained so in her last letter to him. Still, he imagined her and how she might look, had she been able to come. There would have been a beaming smile on her face, looking only at him. She would have clapped loudest of all for him. She would have been immensely proud of her boy.
No big deal; Im doin just fine.
* * *
Jim returned to his dorm under the premise of being bored with the post-graduation festivities. That was part of the truth. He also wanted time to pack up his things and get a decent sleep before he left for home the next morning. His canine roommate of four years, Chris, was already there, stretched full-length on his bed and reading a magazine. Jim tilted his head to see which magazine it was, but could not make out the title. Most likely it was something to do with science, so he paid it no mind and instead hunted through the room for his suitcase.
Hey, Hawkins! Chris yipped from the bed, placing the open magazine on his stomach. Upon meeting Jims eye he continued. Is the party really that boring? Jim chuckled and shook his head inconclusively.
I dont know. I didnt stay for very long.
Why? the dark-colored canid inquired as Jim located his suitcase under his bed and heaved it out. Are you packing already?
Thats why I came back here. The lad unceremoniously shed his cap and graduation gown, dropping them on the bed. In black pants and T-shirt, he swept through the room, gathering his belongings together and dumping them around the suitcase to be packed in a somewhat organized fashion later. Chris watched in very mild interest for a short time, then returned to his magazine. What is that, anyway? Jim asked as he began the actual packing, for want of a conversation. The canine shrugged and grinned. He didnt answer right away. Not the best sign, but Jim said nothing about it.
Think your moms gonna throw a party when you get home? Chris began, purposely changing the subject, I know mine will. Jim shrugged. He thought a little before replying.
Probably. Business has been better at the Inn the past few years. It should have been. The Benbow Inn was bigger, had better accommodations, and was in general a wonderful improvement over its predecessor. Mom might want to splurge on an occasion like this. He looked up from folding his clothes into the suitcase, thinking about home. Far too much time had been spent away from the Inn. He continued to put his belongings in the suitcase, triumphantly zipping it shut when his bed was otherwise completely cleared off.
So, before you left the party, was there any life to it? Chris asked, rephrasing his initial query upon his roommates entrance. The humanoid considered the question.
If you like getting raving drunk, I suppose its worth going, he finally said. Chris made a face and returned to his magazine.
Okay then. Im staying in tonight. When are you taking off tomorrow? He watched as Jim rummaged through one of the pockets on the top of the suitcase, looking for his tickets. Finding them, he checked the miniscule print.
The ferry leaves at nine, so
Im thinking somewhere between 7:30 and 8:00 AM. You?
The canid shrugged again. My ship takes off at 10:30, but Ill go with you to the port, if you want. Ill be someone to talk to. Jim nodded in agreement, putting his tickets away and hefting the suitcase onto the floor by his bed. It was getting late; the graduation ceremony had taken forever and a day to end. Not even changing his clothes, he fell onto the bed and nestled under the covers. He turned off the lamp on his nightstand and settled into a more comfortable position.
Dont stay up too late again, Chris. I wont drag you along with me if youre going to complain about how tired you are.
Got it. Good night.
Night. Some minutes later, the other lamp in the room clicked off, but Jim was already asleep.
* * *
The port was busy, with alumni from the Interstellar Academy scrambling to and fro to check in with registrars for their ferries back home; parents of all kinds were here and there, saying farewell to whichever former students intended to set straight off for the rest of their lives without taking a layover at home. Jim and Chris edged around these various inhabitants of the port, taking pains not to interrupt any tearful goodbyes or otherwise tender moments. The hour passed with little event, and Jim waved to Chris as he boarded the ferry that would take him to a halfway point back to Montressor. The dark-colored canid returned the farewell, and watched the ship leave before leaving to find a new way to pass time.
Jim searched through the compartments for an available seat, eventually choosing one already inhabited by a mouse-like girl named Sophie. The two had been friends since their third year at the Academy, and lab partners on a great many occasions. A little small for her species, enthusiastically intelligent, the girl was actually quite cute. However, neither was interested in the other. She offered a smile as he sat down, absently scratching a round, pale gray ear. A strand of straight black hair had wrestled its way out of one of her pig-tails and she tucked it behind said ear. Hey, Jim, she grinned, black eyes dancing. Are you heading home? Jim nodded. Sophie continued, Im going to the planet Veir for the summer. I hear the plant life there is quite extraordinary this time of year. She nudged her glasses farther up her pointed nose and returned to the book she had been reading. Are you still going to be captain of your own ship?
Yeah, he said casually, shifting his gaze toward the window. All of Jims friends at the Academy knew that he wanted to be a captain. Sophie was just the only one who ever got away with asking him about it multiple times. Again, she was cute. You want to be a botanist, right?
Mm-hmm, the mouse-like girl made a note in the margins of her book, tongue between her teeth in thought. Or a biologist in general. Preferably botany, though. She closed the book and stored it in her messenger bag. Leaning back in her seat, Sophie proceeded to carry on conversation with the young man sitting across from her. The subject jumped around from summer plans to what planet they would most like to visit before they were old and wrinkly, and everything in between. The hours passed quickly, and they did not notice their first leg of the journey had ended until the announcement came over the loudspeaker. Jim and Sophie departed the ferry side by side, taking a brief hiatus from each other while locating their next ships and checking in with their respective registrars.
Jim had forty minutes before he had to board the ship that would take him to the Montressor spaceport. Sophie had less than twenty minutes before her ship to Veir left. She bid goodbye and good luck to Jim and disappeared into the crowd. Left alone, the young man dropped off his luggage and strayed into the narrow streets of the port town. Lomnus was a boring planet, being fairly small and therefore not taken to be much use other than what it had been for Jim the past four years. For him and many others, Lomnus was merely a place to wait for the next ferry to come in. Very few people other than those who worked daily on the planet actually lived here. The population of the planet changed frequently, depending on the time of year and whatever events happened to be going on across the universe. It was really very depressing, if one thought about it.
It was also a gloomy planet, with the sunlight shining pale blue through the atmosphere. However, if one liked nothing more than getting drunk and initiating bar fights day after day, the place was akin to heaven. Jim was always on his toes here because of this reputation, but he had, fortunately, only been dragged into one fight that had been broken up by the bartender before things became too brutal. He had gotten a dark and painful bruise on his chest as a result of the battle, though. From then on he had been careful to avoid eye contact with anyone in a dangerous mood.
With caution, Jim entered one of the bars. It had decent lighting coming in from the windows, even if the décor was rather shabby. The furniture was dark and scarred; the walls were grayed with age, and the floor needed a sweep. There were only a few people inside, most of them fellow Academy students and alumni. A man who could have passed as a younger Billy Bones hunched over his rum at the far end of the bar, occasionally bellowing short-lived tales to the bartender.
Thanks, Bill, Jim couldnt help thinking. If that old turtle hadnt crashed his ship near the Benbow Inn
Well, things wouldnt be quite the same.
Whatll it be, sir? the barkeep drawled, wiping out the inside of a tumbler with a dirty cloth. Jim was startled back to awareness of his surroundings, and quickly recovered.
Nothing, thank you. The barkeeper nodded and went on his way. As the terrapin being called for more ale, Jim casually took a seat at the bar counter. He gazed around, watching the turtle, watching other students from the Interstellar Academy. On this planet, Jim was old enough to legally consume alcohol, but he had heard about the happenings at one too many teenaged parties during his stay at the Academy to want any part of it. When he finally cared to look at the clock, thirty minutes remained before he would be off the planet. Sighing in borderline frustration, Jim slid off the barstool with the intent to go pass the time elsewhere.
Hey, Hawkins! a male voice called to the right of the entrance. The addressed turned to see who had hailed him. Alex, a ginger-colored felinid who was one year from graduation, grinned at Jim from a half-occupied table. The two had met at the beginning of the year, when Al had lost his balance and tripped into the human boy. The impact had sent supplies flying from both sets of arms, forcing them to communicate as they worked out whose math textbook was whose. The feline had hastily explained his racially curious inability to keep his balance, saying it was because of a congenital defect of his inner ear. Somehow, in those quick moments of conversation, the two had clicked. One thing Jim found particularly interesting about the cat was that, for all his ungainliness, Al was unbelievable on a solar surfer.
Jim waved to Alex and came closer to the table. The cat gestured to the empty seat next to him, and Jim slid into it. Howre you doing, Al? he said as he settled comfortably in the chair. Alex shrugged and grinned.
Same old. Are you enjoying your first day of freedom?
Im on the only planet thats more boring than Montressor; what do you think? He said it with a laugh, though. After all, Montressor was still his home. Alexs grin faltered and he returned to his drink. Although he was still a year from graduation, Al had started school a year later than most of his peers. The fact annoyed him at the best of times, but there was nothing he could do about it now. However, he did enjoy the bonus of being able to order alcohol on Lomnus a year before many other students in his class.
I take it youre going home first? Al said matter-of-factly, taking a sip of his ale. His companion nodded, folding his arms on the tabletop. One other person was at the table; Alexs shy younger sister. She waved feebly, and Jim returned the gesture. After a few minutes of scattered conversation, Jim checked the clock again. Twenty-five minutes left.
* * *
Only the barkeep noticed when a dark man in his late thirties sauntered into the bar. He brushed past a table on his left occupied by two felines and a humanoid male, continuing straight on to the fountains.
Whatll it be? the bartender asked in his usual drawl, though he felt a touch of nervousness at the mans haunted features. The customer sidled onto the nearest barstool, leaned his forearms on the countertop, and thought about the question.
Give me a beer, he said, with the air of a man who knows exactly what he wants. His order was carried out swiftly. The man maintained his perch on the stool, not looking around. Instead, he thought about where he was headed next. The work on his most recent planet of residence, Cayoon, was too menial for him. He had only been there for a month, doing pointlessly simple jobs for not enough money. Now, he was at a point of uncertainty in his life. Of course, he had had many of those in the past ten years or so, many of them deeper than this. Good work was just difficult to find nowadays; it was a matter of searching hard and long enough.
A sudden uproar at a table behind him prompted him to look in that direction. The male felinid had just told a funny story, and he was presently joined by the other two in his mirth. However, it was the human amongst them that caught and held his attention. He was young, but not so young that he seemed afflicted with the awkwardness that accompanies adolescence. Somehow, the boy was familiar to him. The man quietly finished his beer, observing the rowdy group out of the corner of his eye. Could it be
? No. Of course not. The boy was wearing an Interstellar Academy jacket. It wasnt possible in the least that he was
Hawkins! someone called jovially behind him. The addressed turned in his seat to face the tall, lanky man approaching him. Who would have thought I would find you here?
Hello, Thomas, the man called Hawkins said, surly at the others rambunctious tone that was so out of place in somewhere as seedy as the bar they were in.
How long has it been? I dont think Ive seen you for close to six years now.
The talk continued as such, much more quietly now that the two men were at a reasonable distance from each other. However, the initial statement had not gone unnoticed by everyone.
* * *
Jim jumped at the sudden loud hailing from right behind him, and whipped around to see who it was calling his name. However, when the unfamiliar man who had spoken made no notice of him, a strange, sick feeling welled up from the pit of his stomach. He followed the tall mans trajectory, landing his sights on someone hed never thought hed ever see again. Alex did not give him much time to think about it.
Someone you know, Jim?
Jim shook his head distractedly. Its a common name, Al. Oh, but he knew. He knew, but he refused to believe. His mind was spinning.
Jim? Are you okay? Alex inquired, feeling a touch of concern for his friend. Jim nodded uncertainly, standing up.
Ive gotta go. See you around, Alex. He left the bar in something of a daze. Jim had never told Alex, or indeed any of his friends, about his father. There was no way he could tell him now, with the man sitting right there, talking to one of his mates. Out of the danger zone and into the clean air, Jim took the time to come to terms with the situation. For the first time in eight years, he had seen his father. Right there. He stopped abruptly and turned his head back in the direction of the bar. A mix of emotions ran through him, taking turns in leading the pack.
The topic of what he would do should he ever see his father again had crossed his mind much less frequently since Treasure Planet. Though the occasional memory jogger would bring the question back to mind during his enrollment at the Academy, it had never occupied his attentions for more than a few seconds. Subconsciously he had concluded that he would just walk away, as he had been doing just now. However, with the knowledge that he and his father were actually within walking distance of each other
Saying was indeed very different from doing.
Jim thrust his hands in his pockets and walked on. Whatever Leland might have to say, if he even had anything to say, Jim didnt want to hear it. He didnt need his biological father anymore. Silver was his father now; the old cyborg had been more to him in just three months than what Leland had been in ten years. That was that.
He made it back to the docking bays with less than twenty minutes left before he had to be on board the ferry. Feeling impatient, he sat on one of the benches in the main room and leaned against the wall to observe the activities of other travelers. Men, women, families of all sizes, all bustling to and fro to find their ferries or the local bars and restaurants. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a certain figure making its way toward him. Jims first thought was that the man had been following him, but logic quickly disregarded that theory. Why would his father want anything to do with him now, after so many years? Leland had never paid a speck of actual attention to his own son at the best of times. Yet, as the figure drew closer, it was ever more clear that he was walking straight towards Jim. Several varying courses of action passed through the young mans head, and he eventually decided to plead indifference, not saying anything until Leland did. The lad crossed his arms and lifted one leg over the other, watching his fathers progress from the corner of his eye while staring straight ahead.
* * *
Leland had seen the lad leave after Thomas hailed him with such gusto. He had seen the incredulous, almost betrayed look on Jims face before he had left the bar. Those eyes were too round; his nose looked too much like Sarahs
The man had bid Thomas a pleasant day before exiting the bar himself, looking for the lad he suspected to be his son. Though there was that snag with his apparent attendance at the Interstellar Academy, all other facts came to one conclusion. In spite of himself, something in him was nagging; he had to know if it was really Jim.
The young man was sitting on a bench, apparently passing time until his respective ferry was due to take off. Leland stopped approaching a short ways away from him, suddenly uncertain of what to do. He stayed standing there, under the pretext of checking the schedules.
* * *
Jim saw his father standing there, trying not to look conspicuous. Typical, he couldnt help thinking. Now that he was able to get a decent look over the older man standing near, but not so near, he was not impressed. Lelands clothes were clean, but not new or expensive. He looked tired, world-weary. Jim had never quite worked out for himself exactly why his father might have left, but if it was to have more money for his own use, that plan had certainly failed. Feeling a little smug, Jim nonchalantly shrugged to himself, waiting for Leland to say something. When he didnt, he gave a small, resigned sigh. Clearly, somebody needed to speak.
Fallen on hard times, Dad? he said matter-of-factly, like there had been no hard feelings at all anywhere in the past eight years. It felt so peculiar to him, to be saying Dad again after such a long time. It had always been my father whenever the topic came up as it so rarely did. The addressed paused, came out of his guise as the average patron of Lomnus, and acknowledged his son.
Its that obvious, huh. It was a statement. Leland was very well aware of his situation. No need to question anothers frank opinion on it. He took a few steps closer to where Jim was sitting. When the younger made no move in favor or opposition of this action, he continued until he was standing an arms length away from the lip of the bench seat. The silence stretched, both of them eying each other. The other occupants of the port no longer existed to them. Leland gestured toward his son. Youre a student at the Interstellar Academy, then?
I just graduated yesterday, actually, Jim replied, his expression and tone unchanging. Silence again.
Moms fine, thank you. There was a distinct bitterness in the young mans voice now. A miniscule twinge of guilt tugged at Leland, but he quickly disposed of it. Carefully, he pondered what he would say next. Jim was clearly on the defensive; unfortunately, that was to be expected. For what he hoped to accomplish, the last thing the man wanted was for his son be angry. Dad, why did you leave?
The addressed looked squarely at Jim, noting his interrogating frown. At a loss for an immediate answer, the man sat on the end of the bench. There was no movement or sound from the other. Leland placed his fingertips together, searching his mind for a reasonable answer. All alibis he could come up with were just as bad, if not worse than the truth. One could always plead ignorance
Im not sure I remember, son, he said, looking back at Jim. The lad had raised an incredulous eyebrow. He did not buy it. The fact was that Leland knew and remembered exactly why he had left his little family behind. To be flat honest, by that time he found that he just didnt care anymore. He was a rolling stone, so to speak, and rolling stones are not fond of long-term commitments. When the gathering moss became too much, Leland decided it was high time he got rid of it. So he left. For reasons obvious to the casual observer, he was unable to tell this to his son.
Jim was still staring at him; his frown had deepened in his fathers lack of a further answer. The older man remained silent. Neither expression could be read. I think you do remember, Jim said quietly. I think you do remember why you left, and youre ashamed of it.
Why are you even here, talking to me, anyway? His voice was rising; though he was not on his feet yet, his pose on the bench was stronger, more commanding, than it had been.
Can a father not speak to his only son? Lelands voice was growing louder, too. Jim actually got to his feet now with well-suppressed rage.
So Im your son again? Why? Because it turns out that Im worth it? He paused in his tirade to fight the swirl of emotions that flooded through him at his question. Fury, shock, disappointment, even a touch of hysteria. Pacing in front of the bench a little helped to at least partially sort things out. But something kept digging into him, a sick feeling in his stomach spawned from a dormant realization that had finally woken up within him. Leland interrupted his thoughts.
You were always worth it, Jim, and Im sorry I never saw that. That stopped Jim in his tracks. He turned a skeptical eye on his father.
How much? he said simply. Leland hesitated. How much? Jim repeated with more force, turning fully towards the older man now. There was still no reply. How much am I worth to you now?
He knew. Leland felt the blood drain from his face. His son knew what his intentions were; there was no other way to explain it. He too stood up. Though many years ago this might have intimidated Jim, Leland was now only taller than the graduate by inches. Jim, please understand; that was not what I meant. The addressed crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow, unconvinced. Leland rubbed the back of his neck, at a loss. Jim sighed in disgust and walked away. In spite of what had just happened, Leland trailed behind him. Wont you listen to me?
Jim halted. Without turning, he spoke, Start talking.
Leland gave a resigned sigh. It was wrong of me to leave you and your mother behind.
Really? Sarcasm dripped from his tone.
I can make it up to you.
How? The mockery was too difficult to miss.
Ill be a better father this time.
Oh, like I always tried to be a better son for you? Jim wheeled around to look his father square in the eye, defiance burning in him. Dad, all I ever wanted was for your approval. Just once, for something more than a pat on the head or a passing glance. Im proud of you, Jim. Good job, son. Was that too much to ask from a father? Through some miracle he had controlled his voice, but he seethed as he let his argument sink in. Without allowing a rebuke, he continued. You dont even know whats happened since you left. How about everything Mom and I ever had falling apart by the day? Shes trying to keep the Inn afloat, while its all anyone can do to keep me out of trouble. Then what? I find the map to Treasure Planet, and its only at the end of the voyage when Ive saved the ship and crew from total destruction that I have even a remote chance of attending the Interstellar Academy, because the finest captain in the whole Etherium wrote a recommendation letter!
Leland tried to interject at this point, but Jim would not allow it.
Now here I am, graduated from the most elite school of the elite, and all of a sudden you show up and want to be in my life again. Just how am I supposed to react to that, Dad? Desperate confusion had found its way into Jims voice, muscling in to walk alongside his wrath. Suddenly he went back in time; he was once again that bewildered little boy on the docks, trying to get his daddy to look back as his boat disappeared into the cold sunrise. The overwhelming feeling of helplessness he had felt then came back to him now and he turned away furiously, brushing his sleeve across his eyes. He was not going to cry, not in front of his father. Indignantly he set his mouth and stared at a little white stone on the ground, focusing on that only. His composure came back to him in due time and he faced Leland again.
Leland had borne Jims outburst with thinning patience, barely reacting to the very apparent passion that had come through at its end. Though the feeling of guilt had managed to resurface and grow a little stronger, it was still not enough to turn his head. Treasure Planet, he said deadpan, lifting an eyebrow.
Yes, Jim muttered, relaxing his arms. Its gone now; Captain Flint booby-trapped it to explode within minutes of anyone locating his treasure.
Did you get any of it?
We used the money from what we managed to get to rebuild the Inn. There isnt any more.
Huh. A touch of disappointment afflicted Lelands voice, and Jims original skepticism returned.
So why are you here, Dad? Are you going to answer that for me? All of the lads anger had been spent. He folded his arms over his chest and glanced at the clock. Soon, now, he would have to board the ferry. His father did not answer his question at first, merely shrugging.
You were always a bright kid, Jim. I think youve figured it out already. Well, at least the man had paid enough attention to his son to have picked up on that. However, it did not improve Jims opinion on the matter. He raised an eyebrow and smirked wryly, making a short sound that could have been a scoff. Shaking his head, he turned on his heel and made his way for the ferry that would take him home. He only just caught the last words he ever heard his father say.
I know I wasnt there for any of it; but I am proud of you, son. Jim paused and looked back over his shoulder. Lelands voice was pure, but his eyes betrayed that the statement was merely a last ditch attempt to make peace.
I dont need your approval anymore. We dont need you. Good-bye, Leland. He never looked back as he approached the ramp onto the ferry, never searched the crowded port town for a glimpse of Leland once he had chosen a compartment in which to spend the ride to the Montressor spaceport. A sense of self-fulfillment came over him, and he was content to sit quietly while he waited for the ferry to finally take off. He had said all that he had to say. There was nothing else that needed to be done.
* * *
Hours later, Jim arrived at the spaceport. Anticipation leapt into his throat as he took yet another ferry that would occupy his last leg of the trip back home. On the way back home he changed into the rest of his captains uniform, feeling that his mother would expect nothing less from her young graduate. When he set foot back on his home planet, two constables were waiting to escort him back to the Benbow Inn. As they approached the Inn, Jim could faintly hear music and chatter coming from within, and he smiled. Sarah was throwing a graduation party for him after all.
The robot policemen entered first, to gasps from the guests. However, when they rolled aside to place Jim in clear view, the crowd burst into applause and cheers. Morph caught on to the occasion and changed into a medal, pinning himself onto Jims jacket. Through the wall of guests, Jim caught sight of his mothers face; she had that same glowing smile from his imagination at the graduation ceremony at the Academy. Genuinely proud of her son.
After a few brief minutes of socializing, Mrs. Dunwiddy put her many arms to use, playing a popular dance song to liven up the crowd. Everyone took part, with Jim and Sarah taking the first dance, followed closely by Doctor Doppler and Captain Amelia. BEN even entertained them all with his own unique dance style. Amidst the laughter and clapping, the enormity of what was going on finally hit Jim, and he became lost in his thoughts. For the first time in a long time, he was truly content.
What do you see off that bow of yours?
Something prompted Jim to look out the nearby window, up to the clouded Etherium skies.
He could have sworn, that in a mass of clouds he saw the face of John Silver. He was wearing his crooked grin, with a bright star acting as the light of his robotic eye. Silver seemed to wink at his old cabin boy, before the image disappeared from all but Jims memory. As the cloud blew away in the Etherial wind, Jim Hawkins could almost hear the old cyborgs voice affirming his powerful faith in the boy.
Look at yeh; glowin like a solar fire. Youre somethin special, Jim. Yehre gonna rattle the stars, yeh are.