“Fucking airplanes.” Samantha Carter wasn’t fond of flying, but in her mind, it beat being stuck on the tarmac. Their flight was delayed not long after they boarded, and they had been stuck on the ramp since. There had apparently been engine trouble when they tried to take off–it wasn’t anyone’s fault, but she couldn’t help but feel bitter anyway. What made it so frustrating wasn’t that the plane was still in Tokyo, but that they had been stuck in their seats for over an hour. Had they been let off the plane, she would have hit the bar.
She pulled her phone from her pocket and hit speed dial. It only rang once before her father answered it. “Hey dad,” she said, her voice more than a bit snide.
“Princess,” Carter said, “I’m glad you called.”
Staring out at the runway, she took a bite from a stick of her daughter’s Pocky. “Oh yeah?” she asked. Her father being happy she called generally meant she was going to get bad news–it wasn’t that he hated her, she just typically called to complain.
“Fuck me,” Samantha said, staring over at her daughter, who was busy drinking a bottle of kuchika tea. She mouthed, Come here, and placed the phone on speaker.
“She… she killed herself sometime this morning.”
“Well shit.” She looked over at Pepper, whose eyes were wide with shock. “Is Ash….” she said, trailing off as a flight attendant pointed toward a light above her seat. Kind of important, she mouthed, before returning to the conversation. “Sorry, rude stewardess. Do you know when the funeral will be?”
“We’re not sure just yet,” Carter said. “Probably not for a few more days.” There was a brief pause, and he said, “I’m sorry this happened during your vacation.”
“Don’t worry about us,” she said. “As soon as our shiny new airplane takes off, we’ll be on our way home.”
“That’s good then,” Carter said. “Any idea when your flight leaves?”
“We’re in between flights,” she said. “Engine trouble. There’s another leaving in a few hours, but we’re going to see if we can find something a bit sooner. If they ever let us off the plane, that is.”
“Take your time, we have a lot to do here.”
“When do I ever take my time,” Samantha asked, “and what makes you think this is what will get me to do it?” She noted the No Phones sign pop up on the dash, and said, “Dad, I’m sorry, we’re getting ready to take off. Gotta go.”
“Call me–” She hung up, cutting him off.
* * *
As the plane finished its ascent, the lights on the runway slowly disappeared beneath it. The passengers were all asleep, save for Samantha, who was her head against the window. A tremor of turbulence jostled her. She turned to see Pepper dozing beside her, leaning her own head on her mother’s shoulder. Her expensive headphones had large cans that were custom-fit to her ears, but even then she could hear the rhythmic grinding of alternative metal over her daughter’s soft snoring.
Her daughter was taller and heftier than her, with a thicker coat and piercing green eyes. A splash of white was visible on the back of her left ear, but other than that she was a perfect tuxedo. In fact, she had more of her grandfather’s traits than her mother’s, a rare feature among hybrids, and like her grandfather she was naturally built for strength.
Known as Princess to her family, Samantha had a red tabby coat, vibrant green eyes and short, neat fur. She was of average height and had her mother’s slim build. Not counting color, she resembled her younger sister quite a bit. She considered herself a catch and was open about it, much to Fiona’s annoyance.
Another jolt of turbulence woke Pepper, who rubbed her eyes and removed her headphones. She gazed with weariness at the cabin around her, watching as each passenger slowly began to stir.
“Enjoy your vacation?”
Pepper sneered. “Oh it was fabulous, mom,” she said. “Of course, I would have preferred Tahiti, or Buenos Aires, maybe Bermuda or the Bahamas. Or possibly Cancun. You know, someplace that isn’t absolutely freezing in December. Not to mention that coming here to fill your place at your god-awful boring meetings is just plain delightful, especially when you are busy roaming the streets soaking up as much attention as possible. Sure, it’s fun for you, but from where I was sitting it wasn’t exactly what any sane person would call a ‘vacation.'”
Samantha sighed. “You know, you are the one who came up with the concept. Really–no one ever even thought to use 3D memory in a consumer processor.”
“That’s because without the new silicon, it wasn’t possible,” Pepper growled. “And it was a joke. You came up with the actual idea, and you made it practical. It’s your design.” Pepper leaned back in her seat. “Besides, I really don’t give a damn about the company anyway. I’d rather be back in Miami right now–as it stands I’ll probably have to retake organic chemistry, which will only put me behind by a full semester.”
“You don’t have to be a bitch, Pepper.”
“Well it takes one to know one, doesn’t it?” Pepper sneered, pulling a box of Pocky out of her pocket.
Samantha sighed. Pepper was a brat, but she herself was no angel. Since childhood, Samantha had been a preppy, mean girl, and she had willingly carried the traits over into her adult life. She had earned the nickname “The Wicked Bitch of the East” from those who knew her by reputation, and while she quite liked it, her nickname “Princess” was itself a snide comment on her attitude. But Pepper’s nasty streak was much colder, and it had gotten her kicked out of a few schools before she learned to reign it in. Even afterward, she took the crown, and was caustic enough even to her own family that serious concerns were still being raised about her behavior.
Still, she had to admit that her daughter had a point, at least when it came to her behavior while traveling. Most hybrids preferred to limit themselves on international trips, due to the likelihood of attracting unwanted attention in a place where they may not be welcome. There were even problems outside their preferred cities–many individuals who did not grow up around hybrids often found them unsettling, placing them either in the uncanny valley or seeing them as monsters. It was to be expected. Hybrids were not natural, at least not originally; the first generation were originally experiments designed to test the human genome, and they were only freed from laboratories after the public found out how they were created. At that point, many of them were already in their twenties, and they were unprepared for life on the outside. It wasn’t until the late sixties that they started gaining rights, and that was only because both sides of the Civil Rights Movement used them as pawns to further their agendas. There was still quite a bit of resistance to them–many clergy did not appreciate hybrids attempting to join their ranks, and no hybrid had ever been elected to a federal office.
“You know, you’re adorable when you’re bitchy,” Princess said, rubbing the top of her daughter’s head. Pepper recoiled in disgust. “Awe, don’t like me anymore?”
“I don’t like public displays of affection,” Pepper said. She lifted her headphones back over her ears and pressed play.