We met at our usual place, under an ancient soft maple ringed by the deadwood of a particularly violent spring. It stood alone on the shore of a clover field precisely halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. We often used the fallen branches for our campfires, and as I prepared to land I decided to gather some before Susie showed up. I touched down among the drowsy purple clover heads, absorbing the shock in my calves and thighs. I was hunting firewood when I saw her streaking in from the north. I almost waved, but then on a mischievous whim I crouched down among the gently swaying plants. Susie swooped overhead once and then dove, her glossy brown ponytail billowing behind her. She spread her arms and touched down beneath our tree. I watched and waited from my hiding place while she searched the dusk sky for me, squinting towards St. Louis. I sprang up and growled, my fingers hooked into claws. She jerked and then smiled as she bounded over the uneven rows of cultivated clover into my arms.
We got the fire going and watched the sparks drift upward toward the stars, their glow dwindling until we lost them against the brilliant points spattering the prairie sky.
“So how are things in Chicago?” I asked. My lips brushed against her hair as I spoke, my nose filled with its scent. Tonight I was feeling the distance between us and I nuzzled my face deeper into her hair. I closed my eyes and silently repeated the old mantra. Susie was really here with me, not 1,500,000 kilometers away. She was really here in my arms, not just a phantom composed of data beamed through space and filter-washed by a tacklebox of haptic-neural interfaces. She was here.
She nestled deeper into my embrace, obviously sensing the void just as keenly as I. “I just want to be here with you, Erika,” she said. “Don’t make me think about it.”
I nodded and waited, listening to the crickets beginning to cycle up.
Finally she sighed. “Chicago is…well, very martial at the moment. We’re fabricating missiles.”
“To shoot at us,” I said.
“Yes,” she said. “And at Indianapolis, but you’re the primary target since you’re right behind us in the convoy. God. You don’t know how hard I’ve tried to stop it. It’s like this avalanche of fear that just swept in and buried every thinking person. Everyone is in favor. ‘Regretfully in favor’, that’s how the resolution was worded.” I could...