Author : J.Loseth, Staff Writer
It was good money. Everyone said so, on the newscasts and the Internet, repeating the slogan from the billboards: Everyone’s Rich in the Colonies. Drake had read over the contract, and the money was indeed good. The wealth in the colonies was so abundant that the contract even included a subsidy for his house, and it was a real house, not a cramped pod or even a flat. Drake had seen pictures. It looked like something out of a storybook. “I’ll get to see real grass,” he’d told Delilah, but still she frowned. It was good money, he reminded her. How many people in their neighborhood could boast that kind of salary? None, that’s how many.
His parents had been relieved. All their relatives congratulated him for passing the screening. Drake was proud of that; he’d been lucky to miss out on the genes for anything debilitating, and though he’d only barely squeaked by the vision test, he still had the green light. Not many could say that nowadays. “It means there aren’t any diseases,” he explained to Delilah, but she rolled her eyes. “It just means you aren’t bringing any diseases to them,” she told him primly. “There’s nothing in there about the type of diseases they might give you.” Drake had to admit she had a point, but it was good money, so he let it slide.
For four months Drake sold off his possessions, slowly liquidating his old life to make way for the new. He couldn’t take more than two bags, after all, and he’d need the startup cash. Delilah recognized the necessity and even scraped up enough to buy a few items from him. He didn’t tell her how much he appreciated it, but he was sure that she knew. It was just like her to know. As the departure approached, though, tensions rose. They fought more. Sometimes Delilah would stalk out at the end of the night without saying a thing, and sometimes she’d fix Drake with a look of reproach that was worse than words. It made it hard to pack, but he thought of the money and was resolute. “You could have applied too,” he reminded her once during one of their bitter fights. “Then we’d both be going. They even let couples live in the same place.” He hadn’t gotten a response to that, just the slam of the door in his face. She’d always come back the next day, though, so Drake shoved the fights under the rug and always let her in.
“Will you visit?” she asked. The question made Drake uncomfortable. “I’ll write,” he promised, holding her hands on the landing pad, eyes on their interlocked fingers. “It’s a long trip, Del, and they don’t pay for that much vacation time. A message can get here in just a few hours. It’ll be fine.” Delilah didn’t seem to like that, but she nodded anyway. The conductor called for all aboard, and Drake began to extricate his hands, but Delilah gripped them suddenly and leaned forward to whisper in his ear. “When your two years are up, I’ll be finished. I’ll be done with school and we can start a life together. We can find a place when you get back.”
Drake felt his throat closing up. He squeezed her hands by way of answer, then slowly let go, heading up to the stasis pod door. It was the only facility of its kind, the only method for suspending human life well enough to protect the travelers on their journey through sub-space. The colonies might be rich, but they could never muster enough technological minds to build and maintain such a thing. Delilah didn’t, couldn’t know, but the money was good, so Drake didn’t tell her. He watched through the porthole until the pod filled with gas and knew she would never forgive him.