Author : J.D. Rice

When they described this planet to me, rogue, free from its orbit, adrift in space, I pictured a world of devoid of light, a world enveloped in darkness. But to my surprise, as I walk through the ruined city, protected from the vacuum of space by an environmental suit, my way is lit by the glistening of a million stars. With no atmosphere, the starlight passes unrefracted to the surface. It’s like looking up into a populated metropolis, like seeing an echo of what the city had once been.

I pull my eyes away. We have no time for stargazing. The planet will soon drift too far for our ships to follow, and we have a mission to complete. I order my team to canvass the large buildings to our left and right, while I walk, somewhat nostalgically, through the park in the center. I can direct the entire operation here, alone with my thoughts. I wonder. Who were the people who once stood here? What were their names? Did they know that their planet would one day be torn from its sun, sent drifting in space like a wandering vagabond?

The ruins of a great obelisk lie before me. The man it was meant to honor is now forgotten. All that effort to honor a single person, wasted. I shake my head. I’m getting sentimental.

Turning my back on the ruins, I see a member of my team approaching. I can’t even tell who it is until he speaks. The helmets make it impossible.

“Sir,” he says. “We found the document, or what’s left of it. It was nothing but dust. It appears some rubble from the ceiling shattered the glass seal meant to preserve it.”

I sigh into the breathing unit in my helmet. So that’s it. Another piece of history lost. One stray rock, a twist of physics, and our mission is a failure. It took us months to find this site, years to plan the expedition. And it’ll be decades, maybe even centuries before our propulsion technology advances enough for us to return. I try my best not to look disappointed as I order everyone to salvage what they can and get back to the lander.

As I watch the planet drift away from our ship, I say a silent prayer for the people who died on that planet when disaster struck. I thank God for my ancestors, the people who were off world, the people who were spared the catastrophe. And I say goodbye to Earth, the rogue planet, doomed to drift forever in the vastness of space.

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