Cramped into his economy class seat, Barney glumly reflected on the events darkening his temperament. Being separated from his co-workers, due to the lack of available seats, provided him the chance to indulge his melancholy.
Despite not enjoying the diversion, he was thankful that the flight between Berlin and Geneva was less than two hours long. He had managed to get a window seat, letting him see much of Europe laid out beneath the plane’s fuselage. Everywhere was a thick forest green he rarely saw, laced with the black and grey tendrils of roads and the emphatic stamps of urban centres. In comparison to the lands surrounding his home of Nhulunbuy, even nature had embraced density. The view made him long for the sparse foliage and ochre tones of Arnhem Land even more.
As he thought of his desire to return home, Léana invaded his thoughts. She had longed to return to her homeland as much as he, and now she was lying comatose in the Quarantine Area of an interplanetary freighter. That he had not contracted her illness was a comforting realisation, though he did not understand what it was that had incapacitated her. Her noting of the sudden change in the nature of the diamond grains she had extracted from the damaged AMRD unit had played a part somehow, he thought to himself.
He looked down at his tablet computer, where he had called up the street map for Geneva. The city itself lay at the western-most tip of the crescent-shaped Lake Geneva, with his destination a street away from its shores. The density of the city layout was not to Barney’s preference, but there was not a city where he did not feel some degree of claustrophobia. Being in such an unfamiliar environment, and the likelihood he would stand out, added to his sense of dread.
The sounds of the attendant trolley rattled behind Barney’s view. Looking to the aisle, he looked at the passengers sitting between him and the passageway. They were a middle-aged couple, in the style of clothing that indicated a modest degree of wealth. The grey-haired man dozed, his tie loosened and his collar undone, and sleeves rolled to his elbows. The wife sat quietly, reading an in-flight magazine. Her dress was the lengthened version of a little black dress, accompanied by a ruby-coloured silk shift around her shoulders. She turned to look at Barney, gave a polite smile and returned to her reading.
The trolley arrived, with the attendant asking if they required anything. The man opened his eyes, gave a quick shake of his head before returning to his doze. The lady requested a bottle of sparkling water, which was promptly provided. The attendant looked to Barney, her demeanour showing professional friendliness. He asked for peanuts, and received two packs. He noted that her lipstick was the same shade of crimson that coloured Woody’s Oklahoma University jersey. The attendant gave a brief smile before moving on to attend the other passengers.
– X –