Ferg set his tray on the table, sat down, and put on his visor. The room around him was still the same, cold white walls, a white table, and a, well, it wasn’t a bad facsimile of mashed potatoes, but it still wasn’t quite past the uncanny valley. Whatever detail was missed with the meatloaf though, that little detail wrong, made it taste almost twice as good.
He sighed and took a bite.
A prompt flashed on his visor to close his eyes. He smiled and complied. He said, “Finally.”
He opened his eyes and suddenly the room was completely different. The table was wooden, and across from him was his sister Beatrice, her hazel eyes wrinkling with her smile. “Ferg! It worked!” She took a bite of her eggs, part of a full English breakfast.
“It’s so nice to see your face sis.” Fergie smiled and unrealized tension left his shoulders.
With her mouth half full of hashbrowns she said, “I’m so glad.” She swallowed. “We weren’t quite sure if we got the right cameras, and then mom and I spent god knows how long just finicking with the dang things and making sure we got them in the right place. Sorry I’m a bit late, we had to adjust them like five times before we got a green signal.”
“You were like maybe five minutes late, it’s no big deal.”
“It is a big deal! Only the best will do for my Ferg.” She pointed towards him with her fork, a piece of bacon fell off and disappeared inside his plate. “Oh one second.” She motioned as if taking off her visor, and reached for the missing food. With a swift motion she adjusted the visor back down.
“Well the feed looks perfect honestly.”
“Maybe too good!” She waved her hand in front of her nose as if to blow away an odor. “I think I’m getting your stink loud and clear.”
“I think that’s just on your end, ya massive goober.”
“Me? Couldn’t be.”
Beatrice leaned her weight on her right elbow and smiled. “Missed you.”
“Missed you too sis.”
“I’m glad it all worked out. We were worried that the lag would be an issue, but you respond to my teasing just as quick… Mom will be happy to hear it all shook out. She spent so much time on the website checking out all the specs and fretting about if it would work and just, just glad it all worked out.”
Fergie adjusted his weight. “Where is she?”
“Oh, yeah, she just left for work right before I called. Early day at the office, but tomorrow we agreed to get up a bit earlier and call as soon as possible.”
For a second the two silently ate. Ferg heard a mix of the hum from the feed and the consistent clicking and settling of his dragonfly.
Beatrice looked up from her plate. “Do you still, like, have days up there? Like…what’s that all like, time wise I mean.”
“I’m on a planetary dragonfly, so I still have days. It’s the ones that just orbit stars that have it all really weird. In our message boards I made a friend with a dude placed at a star, and they use shutters on the ship to mimic day and night I guess.”
“Do you still, like, have 24 hours?”
“Nah, not really. Works on a cycle of 33 hours here. Days would be closer to 40 if I was on the surface, but hurtling around the planet shifts things a bit.”
Just in the corner of the simulations was the edge of an easel with a painted canvas. Fergie asked “Is Mom still painting?”
“Yeah, she is making that one for an art show tomorrow.”
Fergie adjusted his seat and leaned forward as if that would change the placement of the cameras back home. “Could you, could you bring it into frame? It’s just out of view.”
“I’m sorry Fergus, but mom will get mad if I touch it. You know how she is.”
Ferg settled back down into his chair, his shoulders low. “Yeah, yeah, I get it.”
Beatrice took another bite of her toast, and then a forkful of eggs, followed by a bite of bacon and a drink of orange juice. Ferg followed suit, slowly eating his “meatloaf and mashed potatoes.” The only sound between them being that consistent hum in the background.
Ferg broke the silence. “Could you turn up the sensitivity a bit, on the mic?”
“Sure?” She took a remote and adjusted the display.
“Yeah, that’s it, I can barely hear the laundry, and…idk, it’s stupid, but it feels nostalgic.”
“There’s nothing stupid about that. But hey, I’m really sorry, I have to head to work. I’ll make sure to do another load tomorrow morning, okay?”
“Yeah… yeah, that works for me.”
Beatrice stood up. “Can I give you a hug?”
Ferg stood up too. “This unit doesn’t have any haptic feedback…”
“It won’t… I won’t feel it. They only shell out for the star relays.”
Bea looked down to her empty plate and picked it up. “Do you know when your contract will be up?”
“Still have another year.”
“Well come home soon. Mom misses you.” Her phone buzzed. “But I gotta go! Love you!”
Ferg received another prompt to close his eyes.
He blinked, and she was gone.
He took the tray and dumped it into the cleaning unit, reached up to his uniform, and rubbed the pink and blue heart pin she gave him right before leaving.
He looked out the window toward the empty sky, and then pulled up his work orders for the day.
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