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Center City, 3085
In a corner unit on the east side of Center City, Sasha Carter stood looking at the little box which had belonged to his father.
It was Sasha's seventy-second birthday today, but he didn't feel like celebrating. He wondered if his daughter would call him. Then again, why should she?
He ran a wrinkled finger over the initials on the box, M.C. Meehan Carter .
Sasha put the box down. As a boy he had fantasized about what was in that box, imagining it would reveal something to him about his father…thinking that if he knew, it would bring them closer. But he never dared open it.
His father handed him the box on his deathbed. "This is yours now," he'd told Sasha. "You must never allow it to fall into the wrong hands."
Sasha had clutched the box close to his chest, blinking at his father curiously. "What do you mean…the wrong hands?"
"It contains priceless information," his father breathed, hardly hearing him anymore.
"What do I do with it?" Sasha had asked urgently.
"Keep it. Keep it sealed until the right moment." He was struggling to speak. "Don't open it until you are sure."
"But when do I know...?" Sasha had pleaded desperately, feeling his father slipping away from him.
"You will know," his father whispered, his voice barely a ghost.
Sasha moved closer. "How will I know when the right moment is, Father, if I don't even know what's in the box? What is in the box, Father?" He wanted to cry.
"You will know one day. Everyone will know," his father managed. "Now, leave me, boy. Leave me to die alone," his father told him gruffly,the words coming out in spurts.
Those were the last words his father said to him…leave me to die alone .
Meehan Carter had lived his life alone and he died that way.
Tears fell now onto the little blue box.
His father had said Sasha would know when the moment came. He'd been right. When Olina Emerson put out the call for information on the broadcast network concerning the Compound and the 3015 Rebellion, he knew the time had come. But then, she never made it to Sasha that night. When he heard that she'd been murdered, his blood ran cold. He was afraid-for himself and for Andrea. He had taken the box then and almost thrown it into the river. Something prevented him. For some reason, that little box had become precious.
At home, he'd sat staring at it for hours. Then that night on the news, he saw Olina Emerson's husband, a man in his thirties with thick auburn hair and sad eyes. He was reading a memorial to his wife, surrounded by her friends at the Educational Center where they both worked. There was something about his sincerity. There was something in his eyes that made Sasha think that maybe, just maybe, this fellow was the one.
Sasha was dying himself now. Doctors told him he had only a few months to live. The box couldn't be allowed to die with him. Or worse yet, fall into the wrong hands. Stone was his last chance.
Still, he had to be sure.
So for days he'd sat in the nourishment Court at the Educational Center, watching Stone Biltis. The first thing Sasha noticed about Stone was the sadness. It hung over him like a heavy coat one would wear to keep out the cold. Although he greeted the same people day after day, he often ate lunch alone at an isolated table.
He was a handsome man, though not aging well. Deep lines were already setting into a face that was far too young to be host to them. He had a nice smile.
Sasha felt the revival of feelings he thought had long ago died. It took him by surprise. Of course, he was far too old now to act upon them. After his relationship with Andrea's mother ended, he'd simply let the time slip by. He'd defied his heritage, rejected his destiny. He spent his life alone. For years he blamed his father and the Compound for that. But he supposed he himself was the one ultimately responsible.
He felt in his pocket for the small box suddenly, moving his fingers over his father's initials. It was no larger then a box one might use to keep a small pendent or a broach. He closed his eyes. Taking a breath, he stood up and moved toward Stone.
Copyright © 2006 Laura Davis.