Ashley slammed the screen door separating the cabins from the aft deck of the yacht and sulked over to his older brother, sitting cross-legged on one of the couches, working.
"What's up, kid," said Henry, not looking up from his screen. "You winning?"
"I dunno," said Ashley, slumping onto the couch across from him. "I can see it all in my head; it's obvious. But then when I look for them where I expect them to be, I'm wrong. It's like they see me coming."
"Ash, you've got to be kidding me. It's the middle of the afternoon. You've been running scenarios all day?" He put his tablet aside. "Take a break, my dude."
"Well, yeah. I mean, what else am I supposed to do on this stupid trip? Nobody ever made it as a starpilot by lying around on a useless boat on some backwater planet with terrible network speeds."
Henry laughed out loud. "No wonder you're washing out. Your brain must be fried; you've totally missed the fact this boat has its own pool. Come on. Even I'm impressed by that."
"I can't figure out what I'm doing wrong. Every time I just get picked off."
"So imagine you've already solved it, then," said Henry. "What did you do to get you there?"
"You always do this," said Ashley. "You turn the questions around on me and make me figure out my own problems."
"Yeah, actually. What's something that could help? It's not 'be faster'. I know you're fast. What are you missing?"
"ugh," said Ashley, flopping dramatically over the back of the couch. "Probably actually study the emissions tables instead of just guessing all the time and getting lucky?"
"Well when you put it that way, it almost sounds sensible."
"I'm not allowed to do anything, though. Dad said it's —"
"— rude to come all this way and not spend time with our family, et cetera, et cetera?"
"He didn't get to that part. I mean, maybe I did. I swiched over to the AR when he opened the curtains so I could keep working without glare on the pad. The last thing I got before it filtered out his audio was that I needed to 'get some sun'."
"So he yanked out your cable and kicked you out here to spend some time with me, huh?"
"Yeah. He confiscated my deck and everything. I can't wait to get out of here."
"Sounds like you got off easy. But listen, I kinda agree with him. This is probably the last big break from the crushing weight of familial expectations you'll get for a long time. Starpiloting'll still be there when you get back upwell. If I were you, I'd make the most of it."
"You can talk — you're working right now!"
"Yeah, dude. The moment where my future was full of possibility has long since passed."
Henry's attention went back to his notifications. Ashley got up in a huff, and wandered over to the railing along the stern to spend the next several minutes glaring at the water, trying to come up with scenarios in which he would have all the time in the world to do whatever he wanted. Each one found the idea less and less plausible, working their way from straightforward things, like sedition against his house, to the elaborate but tragic jump drive accident that unmoored him from a linear perception of time.
The boat was anchored a few kilometers off from the island they'd arrived at three days ago, still close enough to see the regular shuttle traffic coming to and from the town that stretched up from the harbour into the hills. His aunts had called it "delightful" and "picturesque", which to Ashley seemed like code for "makes most of its money from off-world tourism". He looked out at the afternoon sun glinting off the bay and, to his immense frustration, actually found it pretty pleasant.
Past the island, the sea stretched out even further, before it eventually - instead of gathering to a peak on the upward side of the orbital Ashley was still half expecting to be on - dropped hazily over the horizon.