Author: David Henson
Valeria knocks down Devis and scores. The 10-year-old girl then stands over the boy and laughs.
“Your daughter plays to win,” Enzo, captain of the Noah 500 says to Valeria’s father. “I like that.”
Later that day, Valeria is having supper with her parents. “Don’t play with your food, Sweetie,” her mother says. “We don’t get vegetables from the hydro garden that often.”
“I hate fresh food,” Valeria replies. “Can’t we have replicated?”
“Please eat up,” Valeria’s father says. “I don’t want to be late for the next installment of The Evolution and Devolution of Earth. I’m sure there’ll be a crowd.”
“I don’t wanna go.”
“Learn all you can about Earth, Sweetie,” Valeria’s mother says. “It’s where you’re from.”
“You’re from earth. I’m from the Noah 500.” Valeria crushes a carrot with her fork. “Never even seen earth,” she mutters.
“Congratulations, Valeria,” Captain Enzo says. You’re the first in the entire evacuation fleet to make ensign at 17.” The captain turns to Devis. “Maybe next time, son.”
“I’m glad you could have supper with me, Sweetie,” Valeria’s mother says. “Since you moved into your own quarters, meals are terribly lonely.” She sighs. “I miss your father. I always hoped I’d live long enough to make it to NewEarth. Now I don’t really care.” She places a plate in front of Valeria and frowns. “No more fresh the rest of the trip. Who would want to sabotage the ship’s hydro garden?”
“I broke up with Devis.”
“Why? You were a lovely couple.”
“I shouldn’t be with an ensign now that I’m a lieutenant … Mmm, this is delicious.”
“Congratulations, Valeria.” The years quiver through Captain Enzo’s hands as he pins another star on Valeria’s collar. “Your parents would’ve been proud.” The captain turns to Devis. “Sorry, Lieutenant, but there can be only one commander.”
“Yes, Sir,” Devis says. “I understand.”
The captain leaves the bridge.
“Commander, a word?” Devis says.
“I’m busy, Lieutenant. Be quick.”
“There’s discontent among the shipborn,” Devis whispers. “The captain’s too old. All the earthlings are. If you … make a move, we’ll follow you.”
A white-haired man in a lush garden appears on the viewscreen. “Captain Enzo, finally you’re in range. I’m Dr. Arpad, NewEarth Board of Governors. We’re looking forward to your arrival next month. You’ll love it here.” Dr. Arpad drones on about how wonderful NewEarth is. As he talks, two coal-black horses lope past him. Finally, he motions to a young man who’s been standing silently at his side. “I suggest Braoin and your commander begin coordinating the logistics of your arrival.”
Dr. Arpad and Captain Enzo excuse themselves.
“Is NewEarth really so great?” Valeria asks.
Braoin looks around then speaks quietly. “It’s horrible. Nothing but fresh food.” He sneezes. “Flowers everywhere … Ow! Damn bee … And every kind of creature imaginable since Noahs 200-300 arrived. I wish I’d never gotten off of 150.” Braoin’s shoulders slump. “I so miss falling asleep to the soft rumble of engines, the way the gravgens tickled the soles of my feet.” He closes his eyes.
Valeria does the same.
Captain Enzo draws his weapon, but Valeria easily slaps it away. “Change of plans, Captain.” She nods to Devis. “Tell the shipborn to move now,” Valeria says.
Devis reaches for his communicator, then stops. “First, there’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.” He steps menacingly toward Enzo, but suddenly turns and snatches Valeria’s weapon from her.
“Please resume command, Captain Enzo,” Devis says. “I’ll escort this traitor to the brig.”