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You're Allowed Two Hours

Posted on Wed Aug 31st, 2022 @ 6:12pm by Quinlan Barrett Poe

Mission: The Xiao Jin Chronicles
Location: Xiao Jin, Bridge, In the Black
Timeline: Mission Day 37 at 0300

"Two hours," he reminded himself as he settled into the pilot's seat. He had stopped in the cargo bay long enough to make sure that the ramp was closed, the door was locked, but even that, being out in the open, made him itch along the back of his neck. The bridge felt safer. More secluded. Once he'd settled into place, he went through the checklist, the way he'd been taught, and then took the ship up into the black and set them on course for Persephone.

The mechanics of it all, focusing on the specifics helped. It just didn't last long enough. The moment came when the work was done. He set the ship on autopilot and allowed the thought that everyone was safe for the moment to settle into his mind. But of course, with that, also came the rest of it and so, he settled back in the seat and closed his eyes. Let it come. Let it burn.

Two hours he would never get back. Two hours that he would never share with another soul. Ever. Two hours that felt like an eternity while the tornado swept him up and hurled him through memories and thoughts and pain that clawed at his insides with talons that shredded his hard-won peace and chewed mercilessly on the fragile hopes he'd been building for their future. Two hours in which words couldn't form and what thoughts he had were private things. Difficult to think about, impossible to share. Two hours and then, some seventy-two hundred seconds later, Quinlan Barrett Poe crawled out on the other side.

And he wasn't alone. He dragged himself into an awareness of his surroundings and brought with him thoughts that needed examination.

Business first. He opened his eyes, his breathing shaky, as he automatically checked the readouts. Still on course. All readings looked good. Everything was quiet though that was a lie. The Weysmiths also were dealing with a great deal right now. Poe knew from personal experience how fast a childhood can die, and he suspected that none of them would ever be the same after the night's events.

The new thoughts begged for attention, and he hesitated for a long, shameful minute. They hadn't wanted his help, she hadn't trusted him, so why should he do anything more than drop them off somewhere and move on? Because, one of the new thoughts suggested, they'd been taken in by high-pressure sales tactics. And none of them are experienced enough to withstand something like that. They've all had a lifetime of being cowed by a tyrant. Win would have caved same as them if it wasn't for my particular brand of stubbornness.

He sighed and in the releasing of that breath, accepted responsibility for the family. And with that, came a whole lot of other thoughts. The beginnings of ideas and plans. There were things he could do. Even in the wreckage of their relationship, there were things he could do to see them all safe. See her safe. And he meant to do them.

Help them. The way his grandfather had helped him back when his life was a bleak misery from one end to the other.

 

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