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17 Billion part 1 – by S

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Earthling 721. My home.  I watch our three suns peak over the rocky horizon, the thin atmosphere an array of azure, as if the sky were made of blue diamonds.  The ground is like a cauldron, as the red dust swirls in a gentle breeze, sending ruby gusts eddying across the surface. It’s hard to believe that there are 17 billion other planets out there like this one that could one day be inhabited. Even the other thousand we humans already possess seem something of a fairy tale to me, only seen through the clear glass bubble of STA436. Could they really all be out there, or are they just some kind of illusion? There could certainly be none as beautiful as this place.

Mum always says earth was beautiful too once, even more beautiful perhaps, full of life and colour and stunning creations. Until we ruined it. But I won’t let that happen here; this place is too precious. I don’t want to have to leave my home, like Mum and dad did 30 years ago, after the Event. They always go on about the glory of space travel and how privileged they were to be selected among the pioneers of space homes, but I know they didn’t really want to leave, despite all that happened. I sometimes catch mum off guard looking through the albums, tears pricking in her eyes, but the minute she notices me, she becomes her usual abrupt self, shoving them away with a muttered excuse about dust in her eyes.

But I know. They try to shelter me from all that happened on that planet, before they were torn away from it, but they couldn’t hide it all. No matter how hard they tried. I had a right to know, it was my history as much as theirs. How I ended up being born on this planet, 25 trillion miles away, one of the first humans to be brought into this life beyond the borders of what used to be thought of as the entire world.

“Star! Star! Are you awake? Get ready, quick, the Williams will be here any minute!”

I gasp, my thoughts scattered in a flurry as I scramble away from the window. How could I have forgotten? This must be one of the most important meetings for us in our pioneer group. And of course there is the side matter that Rob would be coming. Not that I care. Why would I care that the only person my age on this place, who also just happened to be good looking and a guy, was coming over. Of course not.

I empty my wardrobe on the floor, tossing each item aside after a moment of inspection, unsatisfied. As the pile grows behind me, I become more and more frantic, delving in to the soft fabric with urgency. Nothing. Finally, I give up with a sigh as I hear clattering footsteps on the stairs and the doorbell, and grab my jeans and hoodie. They will have to do. I pull them on quickly, and then scrape my hair back into a ponytail, glancing sideways in the mirror as a leave. I look a mess. As usual. But that can’t be helped, there is no time left. Why do I care anyway? It’s just a space meeting, and it’s not like he hasn’t seen me like this before. In fact he has seen me far worse, in my overalls as I help Dad work on the telescope, with grease in my hair and black dirt-stained hands. Unflattering doesn’t even begin to describe it.

I trip down the stairs and arrive in an extremely undignified manner at the bottom, shaken and a little out of breath, bumping right into Rob as he stood there, looking gorgeous and impeccable as always.

“Woah, steady there.” He reaches out a hand to steady me, his hazel eyes fixing on mine with intensity. “You should take life slower, be a bit more careful, or you’ll get hurt one these days. If I hadn’t been here you would have fallen right over.”

I blush a deep shade of pink, as my skin prickles under his touch. “Thanks,” I mutter softly, looking away. “I guess I am a bit clumsy.”

With a short laugh, he brushes the comment away, and in the way only he can, soon has me smiling again, the incident forgotten. We walk slowly into the conference room, where the group are already waiting, round the intricate plans on the table. It is finally beginning.

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