“Who’d you leave behind?” Navigational Crewman Preston Jennings asked as he looked out a viewing portal at the Paradise System, where sandy beaches and blue oceans beckoned.
“Hmm?” asked Tactical Crewman Luke Donnelly as he tucked into his dinner. It was Taco Night.
“Back there, out there,” Preston gestured vaguely in the direction of Earth. “Before all this.”
“Say, this procul is pretty good,” Luke referred to an amphibious squid found on Amity. Procul were dumber than a bag of hammers but they made good eating. “Chef and Lili really outdid themselves.”
“You listening? Earth to Luke! Who’s out there? Or was, or will be? Kicked back in time, heh, the verb tenses are all screwed up.”
“Nobody in particular. Listen, I don’t wanna fight. It’s out there, the past or future or whatever, and it’s too distant to have any meaning anymore.”
“Was he better looking than me?”
Luke looked straight at Preston, who had not been his first choice. That had been Dave Constantine, but Dave was with Frank Todd. Preston was friendly enough – usually – and he was decent-looking, but his hair was mainly history. Luke figured that was sapping the younger man’s confidence. “Like I said, all of that is the other side of the universe.”
“So he was.”
“I never said that. Preston, let it go.”
“If you’re unhappy with me, Luke, you don’t have to stay.”
“I never said that,” Luke repeated. “Nothing – and nobody – matters but you.”
“You’re just saying that because you got no other options. Todd and Constantine are forever, but you and me, eh, not so much.” Preston got up and left.
Luke watched him go, and the few meters to catch him seemed more distant than the entire Delphic Expanse.