Family First

When Hal decided to call her at four thirty in the morning, it didn’t go the way Carol expected.

 

She awakens not to the familiar shrill of her alarm clock going off, but the trickling song of her smart phone playing a very special ring tone. 

Hal was calling her. 

Carol glares at the phone.

It’ll be four months since she had told him enough, that she couldn’t take being the hero’s girlfriend, tomorrow.  He’d disappeared off the face of the planet the following week, Lantern duties she’d assumed when the second month of no sightings had passed, but she couldn’t help the visions of weepy drunk exes that passed through her mind. 

The phone keeps playing the song over and over.  Once, twice, three times…

She answers on the last ring.

“It’s way too early for this Hal.”

“Ah, hey Carol.  I guess I woke you, huh? Sorry, it’s sorta hard to keep track of the time on Earth when we’re all the way out here in Frontier Space.”

“I can imagine…”

“Yeah, it’s crazy.  There are planets when a day equals a week on back on Earth.  A week! Can you believe that?” He’s babbling.   Maybe the weepy ex routine isn’t too far off.  Drunk ex calling her from space, that’s certainly a new one. 

“Hal.” She cuts in, “Why are you calling me at four in the morning?”

The line goes silent.

“Hal?”

“Aya’s dead.”

She feels her stomach drop.

“What?”

 “Aya.  The uh, the AI on my crew I told you about? You remember her right?” Of course she does.  How could she forget? The way his eyes had lit up as he described the green faced robot to her, like a dad boasting about his baby girl.  The look on his face had made her reevaluate her stance on Hal’s potential as a father.  Carol held her breath as he continued.  “She… she’s gone.  She went after the kid, Razer when he fell behind while we were retreating from the Manhunters and she…”

Hal breaks off, his breathing labored and choppy.

Desperately trying not to break down.

"Tell me about it."

“Huh?” At least he doesn’t sound too close to sobbing.

"Tell me what happened"

"Right, right.  Well you see, we’ve got this situation out here with these things, the Manhunters, and…" He pauses, as if suddenly remembering something, "Oh man, you don’t have any meetings or anything today do you?"

She does.  A big meeting at nine, crucial for getting the necessary funding for the new jet designs she wants to get put into the workshop. 

“No.  Take all the time you want.”

Carol doesn’t need to see his face to know the relieved smile that’s undoubtedly flashing across it. 

—-

She’s nearly half an hour late to the meeting.  Her assistants flock around her in a panic as the men at the conference table glare in contempt at her. They ask her what took her so long, doubt and judgment peppering their tones. 

“Family emergency.  My friend’s daughter just died.”

They don’t ask anything else. 

She gets the needed funding before the hour’s over.