Author : Travis Gregg

Ryan took one last look around the greenhouse. The expansive row after row of flourishing plants had been his home away from home for years. He knew every inch of the space, from the greywater feed lines to the UV lighting panels. There were kilometers of trays and he’d had his hands deep in every one of them, churning the soil, making sure the seeds were sprouting correctly, and working in the nutrient tabs. He was going to miss the place terribly.

Years ago when he’d first gotten the greenhouse assignment he’d balked. After graduating from primary, part of the ceremony of finally becoming a full member of the station was receiving your assignment from the overseers. This was the thing you’d be as an adult and the contribution you’d make to the greater whole. Several of his friends got assigned to engineering and one even qualified for operations. Some of his other friends had gotten stuck with maintenance but even that had seemed more interesting than watching plants grow all day. His parents could see his disappointment but it would have been childish to pout and unthinkable not to follow the role he was ostensibly best suited.

As he got older and learned more about the station, he realized just how important the greenhouse was. In addition to providing supplemental food, it acted as an ancillary oxygen system, and provided nutrient recycling. Probably the most important function of the greenhouse, in Ryan’s mind at least, was that it reminded people of what they’d left behind. The space station was huge, holding nearly a hundred thousand people. It was cold and stark, built for efficiency and reliability. The bulkheads and passage ways were grays and whites, harsh and utilitarian. When the necessity of the stations became evident, stations like the one Ryan lived on were built as quickly and efficiently as possible, and this was reflected in every aspect of the station. The greenhouse was the one exception with its warm air and fecund aroma. Ryan encouraged everyone he knew to visit the greenhouse and often made small gifts of plants for people to keep in their quarters. In his mind, the greenhouse was the essence of what they’d had to leave behind.

As Ryan grew into the role, the greenhouse had flourished. Whether it was just luck or the overseers had a way of knowing, the greenhouse was exactly where he needed to be. He was going to be sad to leave it behind and there was still so much work to do. Just that morning he’d managed to work out the nutrient deficiency issue that had plagued the radishes for months.

As when he was young, the overseers again had called on him to put aside what he wanted for the good of the station.

Hundreds of years ago humanity had fled to the stations orbiting the planet. The pollution and radiation had become too much to fix and so humanity had packed up, giving the planet time to renew, the pollution to dissipate, and the radiation to subside. Every few months probes charted the progress and finally the radiation had dropped to reasonable levels, at least around the poles. What was now needed was for humans to once again go down to the planet and restart the terraforming in earnest. Only so much could be done with the probes and it was time for humanity to come home.

Ryan knew he’d never see the station again; this was a one way trip. He didn’t mind though, if anyone could get life going back ground side it was him.

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