Part V

Pytheas stirred from bed late that morning, as was his custom these days. He crawled forth from the confines of his slumber, and slipped into some loose fitting clothes. Lethia had not left any out for him, as had been her custom in days past. Pytheas noticed this, but it no longer concerned him. He stepped out into the main room of his house, and saw that Lethia was there cleaning up after their children who had already past their tenth years.

Lethia did not say a word to him.

Pytheas chose to break the silence, "Good morning, my Lethia."

"Morning? It is afternoon." She declared her voice one of rebuke. "You have slept away the morning once again."

"So what of it?" Pytheas asked in annoyance. It was his right to spend his pathetic days as he saw fit.

"You barely see your children anymore." Lethia pointed out. "What of me? What of our family? All you do is spend your days down at the launch pad standing outside looking like an idiot."

At the mention of his habits, Pytheas glowered at her. "Don't you know what this means to me? Don't you know how much the stars are a part of me? Don't you know how much they need me? After all this time, and you still do not understand?"

"I understand that you value them more than you do your family." Lethia spat back at him, her eyes that of fire.

Pytheas screamed at her then, his patience with her and all the others in his life worn down to the bone, "So your professed love for me is only scale-deep then! You are just like Aromas, holding the fact that I don't have the proper genes over me to taunt me! You have no conception of who I am, and by what I am defined. If you cannot respect my passions, then why are you still in my house?" Pytheas felt his blood boil and he has nearly hoping up and down. His tail was curling up in the anger that he had pent up inside him over the course of his days.

"Your house? You no longer work; this is my house, the house in which your children will be raised. I mean, my children. Hanno, Thales, and Aletia are mine, not yours." Lethia declared hotly, gesticulating with shaking hands and grasping claws.

"You would take my offspring from me?" Pytheas was outraged at such chutzpah.

"You have taken love and joy from me!" She accused. "I will take my hatchlings and we will live here. You may leave to stay by your precious launch pad all you want!"

A thought struck Pytheas then and there. If there was one thing he valued, one group of people who would not abandon him or his passion it would be his children. "Why not let them decide who they would rather stay with? Let them decide whom is right."

Lethia seemed to cool down a bit after hearing Pytheas's words. "All right, if any choose you, they may go with you wherever you go, but those that choose me will stay here with me, and we will live our lives accordingly. But you will leave this place, you will not return here for any reason; you may consider our marriage over. I can't stand to live with you anymore Pytheas, I can't stand it."

Those words struck him straight to the core, for she had been one of the few people he had valued anymore in his life. She had been his sole source of joy in his later days, and now she wanted nothing more to do with him. What had happened in his life? Why must he be perpetually made to suffer, not only did the stars stop shining, but now his sun and moon were drained of their life. Was there any heavenly bodies left that would give unto him any solace? Perhaps the planets, but they were just pale imitations of Earth, nothing more than objects circling the sun, which was now dead.

Pytheas stood across the room from Lethia, not looking into her face, for the absolute hatred that sat there was too much for him to stomach. His three children stood somewhat laconically in the center of the room. They looked in fear at either of their parents, not sure what to make of this situation. Both of them had explained the situation to them, and each claimed that they understood what they meant, and the significance of this act. Yet they remained unmoving.

"You have to choose, do you want to go with your unreliable father, or I who laid your eggs and watched over them carefully?" Lethia asked. Pytheas snorted in contempt at the loaded question.

"I have provided for you all since before your hatching. I have a passion, and it will be fulfilled, I want you all to share it with me." Pytheas pleaded with them, and they all looked back and forth between them.

The first to move was Hanno, who took a step back, and circled around the room to stand by Lethia's side. She looked proudly at her son's choice, and then stared triumphantly at the horror-stricken face of Pytheas. "Hanno, why?"

Hanno looked at his father and then back at his mother, "You don't love us anymore." he replied simply, his voice already beginning the change into adulthood.

Pytheas trembled at those words, for they were untrue he knew that. He said he loved them, and he had slaved in misery for so many years for them. How dare the turn their backs on him on account of his passion!

"Thales, Aletia, please, I love you both with all my heart." he pleaded with them, imploring of in a very submissive fashion that was not typical of a father.

Aletia then retorted snidely, "You don't love us, you love space!" She stormed over to her mother's side, and took hold of one of her arms proudly, glaring defiantly at Pytheas in much the same way that Lethia had been.

All eyes turned to Thales, who stood with his eyes to the floor. Thales kept his muzzle pointed at the ground, not daring to turn in either direction. Pytheas wondered what was going through his mind, what could he possibly be thinking. Thales rubbed his tail much the way Pytheas did when he had a tough question to mull over, letting his claws trickle over the scales and to caress them as if to squeeze an answer from them.

"Thales, please, you are my son, and I love you." Pytheas told him, extending his arms out to him in entreaty.

Thales then looked up at his father; his eyes showed the hurt more than any of his siblings had. He opened his mouth to speak, but remained silent for a moment as if the words hurt too much to utter. Pytheas coaxed him along by opening his own mouth in a friendly gesture. Thales looked over at his mother, and then back to Pytheas. He finally managed to speak in a choked voice, "I love you, my father, and I know that you love us as well deep in your heart. I just cannot go with you, because I also love my mother and brother and sister. I want you to know that I love you, and I pray that you will find peace, but I cannot go with you."

Thales then turned and stood by his mother's side, and Pytheas crumpled to the floor in anguish. All of them, every single one had deserted him, and chosen Lethia who had mocked his passion and declared him a foreigner in his own house. What had she used to call him when there had been love in this household? She had called him, "My poor Pytheas." Well she had made sure that he was poor in spirit all right. She had destroyed everything that he had ever hoped for or desired. She had even turned his children against him, how dare she; how dare they to believe her!

"You may leave now, Pytheas." Lethia told him. "I don't ever want to see you come back in that door."

Pytheas stood up, the sorrow gone from his eyes, to be replaced by a coldness that he had never before experienced. "Fine, live and die here." Pytheas then walked calmly towards the door, picking up the keys to the hov as he went.

"No!" Lethia growled at him. "You leave the hov here. You walk from here."

Pytheas looked at the keys, and then back at her, and spat at her. "Fine!" He hurled the keys at the family portrait that hung above the archway towards the bedrooms, shattering the glass and ruining the lithograph. He then stormed out the door, not caring what happened behind him. He then started walking out in the heat of the sun. He looked up at it, it was not shining, and it was glaring at him as well, determined to burn him to a crisp before it would give him any solace. He spat a curse at it as well, and continued on his way to nowhere.

He walked, and in his journey he came upon a place that he knew well. It was not unusual for him to find his way here. The last few weeks all his nightly strolls led him here, and it was the reason that he slept in so late. He would not return home until nearly dawn. By the time he had been returning to bed, Lethia was only an hour away from leaving it. He shrugged the thought of her form his mind, and instead let the magnificence of what he was beholding before him be the receptacle of his thoughts.

He stood before the launching pad, looking at it in all its splendor, and felt as if he was the butt of one big cosmic joke. Here he was, the only thing he ever wanted in his life just a few steps from him, and it was beyond his reach. No more would that be the case. Before he always had something to keep him from crossing the lines that the law had set down, now he had nothing but his passion.

He walked into the observatory; it was still open at this time of the day, but nearly empty as no launch was taking place. He stepped onto the moving sidewalk, and waited patiently as he was carried past the site of his first meeting Lethia. He did not even turn to look at it, but instead his eyes were focused on an area that he had never before had entered. There was a checkpoint manned by one very bored-looking guard. Beyond that point only personnel of the observatory and launch pad, as well as the astronauts of course, were permitted. He had been there, the first time he had seen Aramaes off, but never beyond.

He stepped off the sidewalk, and walked directly up to the checkpoint. The guard noticed him coming and stood to meet him. He was armed, of that there was no question, but it was intransient, of no concern to Pytheas. The guard spoke in a very regimented but dull tone, "Let me see some identification."

Pytheas showed him his ID, and while the guard was looking at it - it would only take the guard but the fewest of moments to realize that Pytheas was not authorized past this point - he surged forward through the pass, jumping by the guard's arms. He ran down into the forbidden territory, shouting out regulations and procedures that astronauts needed to know, hoping that those very words would show to them that he was worthy of flight.

Several people came out of doors, startled by the noise of Pytheas shouting as well as that of the guard who was most certainly aiming his gun at Pytheas and commanding him to stop. Pytheas ignored the guard, and continued running, looking for an open door that was empty, but all the open doors had others staring out at him, blocking his way of escape. He looked frantically back, and saw that the guard was pulling out his gun, but Pytheas ripped off his shirt, and threw it back in the guard's face. The guard tumbled to the ground amidst the tangle of Pytheas's shirt.

Pytheas continued to move, his feet taking him down the hallway before a group of men came out from their doors and grabbed him where he ran. Pytheas struggled, continuing to shout out regulations and procedures used in space flight, but to no avail. He felt a sharp rap on his back, and then everything disappeared.

When he finally awoke, he had a dull pain in his head, and he found himself lying on a rather unpleasant slab of concrete. He raised himself up on his elbows, and looked about. The bars on one side of the room were enough to tell him what he already suspected. He had been thrown in jail. There was no hope for him now. Those who went to jail typically were never heard from again.

The stars must be twinkling in the sky now since he was no longer able to see them. Now that he was locked up, they must be shining brightly, mocking his very existence. Even the moons were laughing at him. He tried to sit up, but he was still too dazed. So he lied there thinking nasty thoughts about the stars and how they laughed at him. The cosmic irony was almost too much for him, but he had given up almost everything he had for them, why not everything that he ever had or was?

He wasn't quite sure how long it was that he lied there on that concrete slab, but he eventually got up, and walked about the room a few times before lying back down on the slab. How he wished for some pillows to make himself comfortable. He tried sitting on the slab, but his tail got in the way, so he went back to lying down on it. He was just about ready to try something else when he heard the footsteps approaching in the distance.

He looked over at the bars to his cell, and waited expectantly, hoping that it might be he that whoever it was might be looking for. He lay there, the sounds of the footsteps growing closer and closer, and he wondered whether this also wasn't just a manifestation of the stars come to tease him and ridicule him. This thought sent him back into his brooding, right up until the figures came into sight before the bars.

One of the two was obviously a guard, his blue suit covering his whole body, except for his face, hands, and the tip of his tail. The other wore white, and looked much more refined and intelligent than did the guard. "You have a visitor." The guard told him.

Pytheas looked at the other man, though he didn't recognize him from any of his walks of life.

The man introduced himself, "You may remember me, I'm Dr. Habakkuk. Several years back there were scientists who wouldn't let you stand with your wife in the place you first met back at the observatory. Remember that?"

"Yes, and you were the one who got them to move so that I could stand there." Pytheas recalled. That had probably been the last time he had been happy standing in the observatory.

"Well, Pytheas, I have a proposal for you." Dr. Habakkuk said, looking dead serious, and waving the guard away who quickly left. No need for him to overhear any corrupt plots.

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