In the desert, the night air is kind and very soft. The edges and the urgencies of the day have vaporized, opening up some real time for fun, maybe the sweetness of love. Which is why the guys, Omega, Petey and John-John, and their friends were outside, late at night, after midnight late at night, talking and laughing around a campfire.
"I want to go there," Omega said, pointing to Osiris, a galaxy far, far away.
"How come you say stuff like that?" Petey asked. "That's why some of the kids think you are plum weird".
"I am plum weird, Petey," Omega said. "You have no idea just how weird I am."
"Yeah, but you're still in high school and some weirdness is expected and necessary," Petey laughed.
"At least you were in the last time zone we were in," John-John said. "We're in a new one now."
"Still high school, although we're in a whole new country," Omega said.
"Do we know these kids?" Petey asked.
"Yep," Omega said. "I know 'em all."
The other kids started to filter into the circle around the fire. Some of them had long sticks and hot dogs and marshmallows. There was a big jug of lemonade. Omega was hoping it wasn't laced through with alcohol.
"It's safe," Petey said.
"You tried it out without knowing?" John-John said, a little judgmental. He was always a little judgmental.
"I tried it out — to learn and to know," Petey said.
"You don't get to drive. . . anywhere," Omega said.
Suzie and Rick, the solid couple in the group, were looking around. "Hey, is everybody here?" they asked. "We can't find Larry."
Larry was the younger kid everybody adopted. Kids stood up and walked the spaces around the campfire, the cooking stuff, the pickups, and the dune buggies. No Larry.
'I know he was here. I saw him about an hour ago," Omega said. "How could he just disappear?"
"Hey, look here," John-John said. "Tracks. Larry's cowboy boots. Looks like he just walked
away. Maybe an hour ago. If he was just going for a potty stop, he'd be back by now."
"Maybe," Omega said. "We should go looking for him. See where he went?"