Rejoice Holly hugged her knees as she sat on top of Ocean Shore Boulder
and gazed at the three moonlets, Big Potato and the two Small Potatoes,
proceeding across the evening sky. High tide shushed at the foot of the
boulder and bore the dead scent of salt and iodine. She adjusted her breathing
mask to scratch under it, and studied the lumpy Big Potato, pocked with
craters and grooves. If she had a telescope and a way to measure the distance
between the pits in the grooves, she could figure out the depth of the regolith,
or dust, on the moonlet. Desperately, she concentrated on the dust and pressed
firmly on the door of her mind, trying to shut out the thought that nagged
at her: I'm only twelve years old, and my life is over. She must
not think that, or else -
A sudden poke in her back startled her. She squealed and tottered on the
edge of the boulder before turning to glare at her laughing older brother.
"Stronghold! You know I hate it when you do that."
He laid big-knuckled hands on his hips, squinted his brown eyes above his
mask, and laughed again. "Then don't forget what time it is. I knew
you'd be up here staring at the stars again."
She brushed back her hair. "The stars aren't complaining all the time."
She pushed past him and dropped onto the damp sand below the boulder.
Stronghold leaped over her head, did a head roll on the sand, and stood
up in front of her. Together, they headed toward the apartments, accompanied
only by the sounds of a weak tide lapping and their feet slapping the black
sand. The shore stretched barren before them, and on their left, broken
basalt, the remnants of a volcano ripped and smashed by tectonic forces,
jutted dark against a violet sky.
Rejoice could just barely remember a beach back on Old Earth, a beach filled
with shouting people, its sand littered with glass and bits of seaweed,
rope, and tar mingled with burnt sticks and potato-chip sacks and shattered
clamshells. Seven years ago now. What she remembered best were the screaming
seagulls with gaping beaks that had balanced delicately on the salt breeze,
seagulls that had swooped to steal her hotdog. No, not seven years ago.
Thirty years ago. Just before her family had left Old Earth for New Earth
on a journey that had taken nearly thirty years but had felt like only seven
to the six hundred colonists aboard the Starflower. She stopped and
looked at the Angel constellation backed by the blazing Milky Way. If she
had a telescope, she would be able to see Old Earth's sun on the Angel's
Stronghold turned. "Why do you waste your time looking at the stars?
You'll end up a farmer's wife, so why are you trying to be an astronomer?
You think the history books are going to call you the famous Dr. Rejoice
In The Lord's Salvation Holly?"
Stronghold had griped and nagged at her ever since they had landed on the
planet a month before. "I like it and I'm good at it. You aren't good
at anything except hologames."
Stronghold stiffened, and the anger in his eyes told Rejoice that she had
gone too far.
"I'm - I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way."
"Sure!" Stronghold sprinted toward the domed apartments, his straight
black hair streaming behind him.
Anger and sadness wrestled in Rejoice's heart. "It's not personal,"
Mother had told her. "He's just upset. When he accepts this place as
God's will for him, he'll be all right." Stopping to study the three
moonlets again, she thought, He's upset; I'm upset; the whole colony
is upset. And we have a right to be.
A month and a half ago, just a few weeks before landing on this planet,
the colony had discovered that its dream was shattered.
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