I was scrolling through Pinterest, a SciFi page, and saw the above picture. It looked so lovely. A place I wanted to go. But a story about a beautiful place with lovely, generous people who would help a bunch of refugees sounded like a boring story. So I came up with this. If it reminds you of The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells and Morlocks, well, yes. Read on.
It’s So Beautiful
We gathered around the monitors as if around ancient campfires.
“I thought it was a lie,” my best friend Jazana breathed softly, as though she didn’t want to break a dream.
“They said it was true.” My response was lame but I was too fascinated with what was on the monitor to think of a sharper comeback. Jazana was right. None of us had really believed what our board of governors had told us. Oh, yes. They’d shown us pictures. Both of Helicity, the new world, and of our old world, Earth System One, Ganymede.
The old world, which I clearly remembered, was a pit of corporate greed and too many people in too small a space. The ship, Rebellion, was put together secretly, though the details we were given were fuzzy. I mean, how’d the leaders of the rebellion hide a whole space ship? But anyway, we were loaded on in secret, shoved into cryo-pods and frozen. They’d woken us two years ago and began teaching us skills.
Jazana wrapped an arm around me. We were both orphans. Somehow both of our sets of parents had died in the pods. I sighed. The world looked so good on long-range. Modern, clean, beautiful. There wasn’t a trace of smog on the screen. As the planet rotated and our ship drew closer, we could see that the whole planet was like that. I dashed the tears from my eyes.
Jazana and I were in the same track, engineering with a minor in leadership. We were going to be management. There were lots of engineering lessons. We were the ones taking care of this ship. But there were also lessons on leadership and government. Economics, too, and social engineering. One day one of us could be the governor. Leader of our rebellion colony. Helicity was a stopgap home. We’d learned that the info about Helicity had been stolen. None of our data had indicated if Earth System had ever visited the planet. It was a risk, our teachers had told us. But one worth while if we could find a planet of our own.
A week later our leaders shuttled down to Helicity, their capital city of Tatham, to meet with their planetary leaders. I could hardly concentrate on our pulse engine power coupling lesson as thoughts about what was going on whirled through my head. A spanner banged down next to my hand on the cover of the coupling.
“Bang, Zuri. Congratulations. You’ve just killed us all.” Sergeant Aranyo glared at me.
I blushed to the roots of my blonde hair. “Sorry, Sergeant Aranyo. I lost my concentration.”
“Pull your head out. Start again. All of you. Thank Zuri for it.”
I had a sympathetic look from Jazana but the other five cadets gave me a glare. That was going to cost me. Probably my dinner. My stomach growled. We’d been on short rations for the last six months. I couldn’t afford to give up my dinner, but it looked like Jaque, the Captain’s son, biggest bully in our age group, was going to make me pay. The others went along because it was just easier that way. No one wanted Jaque’s attention on them. No one would stick up for me against that, despite all the training that said otherwise.
After dinner, the board of governors shared pictures of Tatham as they rode in hover cars from the landing pad to the Council chambers. It was so beautiful. There was no word on whether they’d let us stay, give us supplies, or even give us the address of another planet. It was too early, the Governor Prime said. I believed him. He was such a kindly looking man.
We worked all week, different engine systems each day, with combat training tossed in to keep us in shape. Somehow, I was always paired with Jaque. I had the bruises to prove it. The seventh day I limped to the medic. She took a look at my knee.
“It’s not broken, just bruised. I don’t have any pain meds. I have to save them for serious cases.”
I nodded. That’s the way things went on our ship. Too little of everything.
“Keep a cold pack on it when you’re not working.” She handed one to me. “Bring it back in three days.”
On the tenth day, the Governor was back on the monitor. A deal had been struck. We were going to be allowed to move into the city—get jobs, while the council of Helicity decided on a home planet for us.
The cheering could be heard all over the ship.
Off-loading began on day twelve. I had everything of value I owned in my duffle. Jazana and the other girls from my cabin were in line with me. We couldn’t stop grinning. We talked about what new food there would be and how much of it. We talked about walking in the sunlight, breathing fresh air, getting pretty clothes instead of ragged ship suits.
Off the ship we were loaded onto transports and taken through the downtown out to the countryside. I was so excited. Even when we entered a tunnel, I didn’t think anything of it. We were off loaded into a cavernous space with cement-looking walls. We were escorted to various halls, separated into different rooms in some random-seeming fashion. I was separated from Jazana.
I was led to a conveyor belt and shown how to attach one strange widget to another. Then the belt started. We worked for hours, then given a dry ration and a bottle of water in a room with at least a hundred cots. I was too tired to eat and fell asleep.
The same happened the next day and the next. It’s been fifty years. I haven’t seen Jazana. There are rumors, of course, that we’d been sold to save the rest. And the shock collars, to keep us in line. I haven’t seen the sun in all that time.