“It was in that same

“It was in that same rainy season when Marcus left for the first time; he’d been assigned to another survey, this time in the archipelago on the far side of the planet. He told me as soon as he knew, approaching me cautiously and apologetically.

“‘You’ll be all right?’ he asked, sitting across from me at our midday meal. I nodded, although there was this little knot of anxiety building in the pit of my stomach. I think I even asked, in a burst of youthful optimism, whether I could go with him.

“‘Does’t work that way, dear.’ (He had taken to using a nickname I had taught him, an affectionate term for a child or younger sibling, which roughly translates to dear.) The wry smile told me a little more; over those first few months, seeing him interact with the bureaucrats and military folk, I knew his disdain for them, and for what he obviously saw as useless rules. And that smile was an acknowledgement of that uselessness, and, I think, of his own powerlessness to subvert the rules.

“Over the long years since Marcus first spotted me, crouched in the sand, grasses, and driftwood of the beach at Tanu, I’ve often wondered why he fought so hard for me to go with them, and later fought for me in other ways as well. Most of the time, his wry smile was the best answer I had — at least, for the reason why he’d brought me there in the first place. It was something which could not be done, ought not to be done, and in his mind, in this case, not to do it was far more horrid than to do it. That’s one explanation, anyway. Others may bubble up over the course of this story, for as I said, I often wonder about Marcus’ motives, and more so as I grow older.

[but I digress…]