Chapter 48

Zap sidled into the middle seat of the row and kicked his carry-on luggage under the seat in front of him. He settled back and looked at Click, who appeared to be asleep and leaning against the window of the plane.

“I told you to drink more water,” Zap said.

Click groaned.

“I just told you, is all I’m saying.”

Across the aisle, To’mas and his roommate, Michael, buckled their safety belts.

“So there are two of them?” Michael asked hesitantly.

“Yes, T’y and Teak,” To’mas said with a smile. “I’m sure they’ll be really excited to meet you.”

“I have no idea what I’m going to tell my mom about all this,” Michael said.

“I recommend telling her that you’ve just met a lot of really interesting people.”

A few seats back, Steve and Mike leaned against each other. They had taken the window and center seats, and the aisle seat remained open. Steve nuzzled against Mike’s shoulder, and he smiled down at her.

“Do you want to come have dinner with my folks sometime soon?” Mike asked.

“Isn’t it kinda early for that?” Steve asked, but smiled back.

“My folks are important to me,” Mike said. “And I’m sure they’d like you.”

“Well, ok,” Steve said, laughing a little. “I’m not really that great with parents, so far as I know.”

“You’ll be fine.”

The remainder of the employees took their seats without much fuss, chatting to each other as they went. The pilot’s voice came over the plane’s resonator plates.

Securemarket™ Employees, welcome to the return flight for Employee Retreat number sixty-seven. My name is Malcolm Hawthorne, and I’d like to welcome you back and hope that you had a good time at the retreat. We will be departing from the Orleans Installation runway in just a few minutes and will be landing at the Precinct One Skyport approximately three hours later, at 12:30. We anticipate clear weather the whole way. The flight attendants are going to help me out with this safety spiel again, so those of you who actually paid attention the first time can go ahead and tune out now.

The pilot continued talking as numerous conversations restarted.

In first class, Alan smirked at Raimi And The Soft Winds Blow, who seemed to be having the same morning that Click was.

“Do you have any idea what you did last night?” Alan asked.

“Vaguely,” Raimi croaked. “I remember … chocolate.”

“Very good!” Alan said with a grin. “You wrestled Emma Rammek in the chocolate fountain.”

“Did I win?”

“Basil and Paru hauled both of you out before a winner could be determined,” Alan said.

“I would’ve won,” Raimi grumbled.

“I don’t know,” Paru called from across the aisle. “Emma just about had you on the ropes.”

Raimi was silent for a few seconds, then muttered, “I would’ve won.”

Flight attendants, prepare for takeoff,” Malcolm said over the resonators. “Those of you who had too much fun last night might want to locate your barf bags.

A few minutes later, the great silver bird took to the sky, returning to New Washington.