1 - Mall
April 18, 2373
Seth squeezes his mother’s hand, looking up into her dark, green eyes as they step away from the travel node. He glances to the right, looks at the building and its huge symbol, looks back up at his mother’s badge, and smiles with anticipation as they walked through the entrance.
He loved the mall. Every Saturday, she would bring him here. They lived in Brooklyn, so it wasn’t necessary to use the gates. They could easily walk to the mall, but Seth was fascinated with gate travel, so they always took a route that involved two jumps.
They enter the crowded mall and walk down the crystal-clear ramp. Seth lets go of his mother’s hand, stretching his arms out to his sides, looking down as he walks, pretending he’s flying. Reaching the bottom of the ramp, he smiles and waves to a group of police officers.
Arriving at the restaurant, Seth takes a seat at his favorite table, the one with the best view, and waits anxiously as his mother speaks to Mark, the man at the counter. He pulls his gaze from his mother, looking around at the mall. Such a great place, and so many people. He watches the people, walking, running, sitting, shopping … and he looks at their badges, seeing some of his mother’s friends. He looks back as his mother sits down, the smell of the pizza she puts on the table bringing a wide smile to his face.
As he takes a large bite of his second slice of pizza, Seth stops chewing, looking to his mother as one of her friends approaches and leans down to whisper to her. He swallows the pizza quickly, watching his mother’s eyes. Something appeared in them. It was deep inside, almost unseen, so unfamiliar … she was afraid.
The friend speaks quietly. Seth probably could have understood his words if he really concentrated, but the fear in his mother’s eyes draws all his attention. The friend’s message is short. As he finishes, and takes his mouth from his mother’s ear, Seth hears one word, a name … “Jennifer”.
A soft smile comes to his mother’s face. “Finish your pizza, Seth.” She takes one of his hands in hers, giving it a little squeeze. “I just have to pick something up at the market. I’ll be right back.” Another little squeeze and she stands, nodding to her friend as they walk toward the marketing terminals. She glances back at Seth, giving him a smile and a wave.
Seth sees his mother’s smiles, but in her eyes, he still sees the fear. He looks down at his unfinished pizza. He wasn’t hungry anymore.
He looks across the mall to the marketing terminals. His mother and her friend meet up with two more people. It’s hard to see their badges clearly from so far away, but it looks like they’re more of his mother’s friends.
He thinks about the badges, his mother’s, and his father’s. When he was old enough, he would have one. Which one? He didn’t want to hurt his mother’s feelings, but he really hoped he would have a badge like his father’s. The stories his mother had told him about his father’s work had always excited him. He would be a police officer, like his father had been.
He watches his mother and her friends talking. She glances in his direction from time to time. The three friends turn from her, walking past the terminals and up the ramp. She stands alone for a few moments, staring ahead. Seth is surprised as she turns and heads back toward the restaurant. She didn’t buy anything. Maybe she remembered that they already had some.
He watches her carefully as she sits back down … watching her eyes as she looks at the pizza and gives him a smile. “Not hungry Seth?”
He shakes his head slightly. “Nope.” He returns her smile, happy to see that she didn’t look scared anymore.
He always looked forward to the ‘after pizza’ time. They would sit and watch the people and he would listen to his mother talk about things, sometimes, about his father.
Seth always got to choose the topic of conversation. For the last couple of weeks, he had been looking up into the night sky, watching the moon and wondering. He had asked his mother about visiting, but she had told him it would be best to wait until he was a little older. Until then, he was happy to ask questions and listen to her talk about her visits there.
“ … and you can look right out into the stars. That’s where I was when I first met …” Seth’s mother stops talking mid sentence, looking past him. He sees the fear return to her eyes and feels a shiver run through him. Before he can turn to look, she stands, taking his arm, guiding him up from his chair and putting her hands gently on his shoulders.
She smiles “How about a surprise, Seth? Let’s visit the moon.”
Seth beams a wide smile, nodding vigorously. “Yes! Please!” He moves to pick up the left-over pizza. It was always his job to clean up the table when they were finished.
“That’s alright Seth. Mark will clean up this time.” She takes his hand in hers, looking down at him and smiling. “Let’s go.”
Seth is happy to find that his mother is as anxious to visit the moon as he is.
They walk toward the ramp. Seth catches his mother taking a quick, worried glance back toward the restaurant. He turns, looking back, seeing a few people sitting, a few standing, and the cold pizza.
Seth raises his arms, ‘flying’ back up the ramp. As they reach the top, he hears someone call his mother’s name.
He stops, looking back. A smiling woman looks up from the bottom of the ramp. Seth looks at her badge … one of his mother’s friends. He looks away to find his mother ahead of him, entering the travel gate room. He races to catch up with her.
Seth smiles, watching some police officers while his mother purchases tickets. He feels a hand on his shoulder and looks up into his mother’s eyes.
“Next stop …” she smiles, giving his shoulder a little squeeze, “the moon!”
If the fear was still in her eyes, Seth didn’t notice it. His mind was full of thoughts of flying ... flying on the moon.