Jetta walked in relative silence, the only discernible sound being that of his own footsteps rising up from the pavement. The outpost was only a short distance up the road. Jetta could already discern its outline—its lit windows shining like eyes in the darkness. It watched as Jetta approached—an old, familiar figure walking in the hour before dawn.
His right knee protested and stiffened between steps, giving Jetta’s gait a slight limp. That was one of many reasons why it took him longer to get to work than it used to. He could remember a time when the walk would quicken his blood, leaving him ready to tackle whatever the day might bring. Now he thankfully sat down at his desk upon his arrival, where he paused to take note of his aches and pains as he waited for his pounding heart to settle.
Age was no one’s friend. Jetta had long since resigned himself to the years and the toll they had taken. He tried not to dwell on it, especially as of late. Now, with every pained step, he was grateful he still had a job to go to. After the incident involving Nadeena’s escape, he was certain the commander would have been furious and relieved him of his duties, but he’d gotten off with little more than a slap on the wrist. 'Odd punishment', he had thought, 'for losing the commander’s only daughter.' But Jetta had thought it best to keep his mouth shut. Above all else, the old man knew his place.
As was customary, he paused before entering the outpost. On the very spot where he used to stretch and challenge the day head-on, he now pulled his sweater tighter around his shoulders and sighed. His shift had not yet started and he was wishing he were headed home. Terrible thing it was, to wish your life away like that, yet he did.
He walked into the outpost and headed down the corridor, so accustomed to the methodical drone of the equipment that he didn’t even hear it. The echo of his uneven steps announced his arrival. They were as much a part of the outpost routine as were the equipment tests and scheduled shift changes. Westly was looking up even before Jetta appeared in the control room doorway. He nodded when the old man entered.
“Right on time, as usual.”
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