Prose and Prosody

A serial fiction archive by Chris Rodriguez.


Graduation


[IDS] #01 The daughter of a newly-established colony’s former captain graduates from university and prepares for her first day of real work. 1293 Words, ~6:28 on average Published on Mon, 26 Feb 2018 21:18:04 -0500

Landing on a spacecraft is always dodgey.

After a year as a community 300 strong, we were finally landing on our new home: Istara, the latest of the human colony worlds. Looking at the screen in front of us, the bluish-brown mottling of color was overwhelming beneath a mix of dingy grey clouds. Every pair of eyes, young and old, were looking with joyous apprehension at what would soon be standing ever presently beneath us.

Most of us were from Earth: That beautiful, overcrowded mess of a planet we left behind through a lottery over one year ago. It was a bit of a relief at first, to leave that world behind. Aside from the radiation from multiple centuries of warfare none of us were alive to have a say in, and the constantly shifting weather supplied by our functional-but-synthetic solution for the global temperature problem, there were just too many people living there.

Having Your family’s number called by the space lottery was exhilarating, but also terrifying: It meant You had 6 months to prepare to leave everything—friends, extended family, property, wealth, jobs–behind for a new existence so far away that You knew You would never be returning, no matter what. The science-fiction dreams of space-wide taxis were still a long way off… So far off, Earth would likely not see them. And we realized this a half-century ago, when we all voluntarily registered for the selective relocation mandatory under global law.

The Earth, at long last, was about used up. Get out while You can.

The few colonists picked up en route were so different from us already: Dressing in strange clothes, with heavily distinct accents developed from speaking with the same people for many years, on other worlds. They were human, there was no doubt… But they were as different as humans could be.

Is that what awaits us on Istara? Will we… Will I change that much before I pass? Or do You have to be born into it? I look around, at the faces I’ve lived amongst for the last fifty-four weeks, and I see good people. Once we’ve founded Istara’s colony, how many will stay the same? How many will change to the point of non-recognition, without a single memorable feature about them, aside from that face?

Will I be the same? Should I have accepted my family’s calling to the stars?

Hope springs eternal below us,

A new world, a new place

seperated by space and stars,

without a way to return home,

forever to set our own pace,

Alone.

» Cpt. Casey Jewel, 01-01-0001 IY


» 14-25-0052 IY 0821

Petya Jewel slid a heavy yellow vest over her shoulders with a sigh. She buried her brown hands in thick, bright yellow gloves to match the new vest she was wearing. A helmet followed, completely covering her short-cut hair.

“All ready here.” She said in an automatic tone of voice.

Her mother, the Captain, stepped forward to inspect her. She fussed a bit with certain parts of her armor, but in the end, nodded. “You are all set. Today’s the day, like it or not, anyway” A sad smile was crawling its way across her face as she spoke. “I am proud of You, Pet, for taking this mantle from me. Never forget the service You do for all of us, no matter how hard things get out there. You are the reason we, Istara, can continue living as we do.”

Petya smiled at her mother as she continued on her speech, but her mind was elsewhere: Out in the vast and uncharted fields beyond their domed settlement, in the areas hidden from their people’s experience on this planet. Discovering and documenting new things for the future, allowing us to understand the world around us ever-so-slightly more than they already did.

And then, she saw the diploma her mother had in her left hand.

“Here it is. Happy Birthday, Pet. Here’s to many more.” She handed over the metal diploma, already framed and ready to be left behind. It read:

This diploma recognizes Petya C. Jewel’s accomplishments in the fields of Xenobiology and Xenopology, as noted by the First University of Istara on this, her 25th birthday, 14/25/0052.

She smiled at it for a moment, setting the plaque-like diploma down.

“I’ll make You proud, Mom. I promise.” She said.

The Captain embraced her, holding on for a moment before suddenly letting go and returning to her usual, stoic state. “I’m sure You will, Pet.” She turns away. “Now get going. I’m sure Your troupe is waiting for You.”

She takes one last look at the diploma, and aa longer one at her mother. Then she salutes, turns, and leaves the office, shutting the door behind her.


In the midsummer’s heat outside of her mother’s office, Petya can feel the nerves she’d had before melt away beneath her newly acquired armor. She takes a long breath—in… and out…—before regrowing her usual carefree smile. Thumbing her right wrist with her left hand, an image appears in front of her face. Small voices begin to fall from it, ones she recognizes nearly as well as her own.

“How’d it go, Pet?” asked one voice, quickly followed by a brighter one asking, “You pass the final final exam?”

“You bet! It’s in the bag… or, on the desk, anyway. No sense bringin’ a big hunk of metal along with us, right?”

“Yeah, I’d prolly end up carryin’ it anyway.” The brighter voice said, with a laugh shared all around. “You eat yet?”

“Not yet,” responded Petya. “How about You two?”

“Nah. Come on down, we’ll find somethin’ near the SEZ.”

“Aight. Seeya-soon!” Petya dropped her cupped hand on her wrist, closing the call. Her gloves felt heavy and foreign on her hands, as though someone else had closed the call for her… Something she would have to get used to, especially with her friends having their own armor as well. She looked around, finding the nearest railway.

With a palm on the ticket desk, she spoke the words “South End Zone.” Numbers flashed in front of her for a moment, and then a ticket popped out. This, of course, she immediately dropped on the floor. She cursed her newly blocky fingers, but knew she’d have probably dropped it either way. Retrieving it from the ground, she notices an abandoned leaf of paper.

Paper? Here? Even the card she now had cradled in her palm was made of plastic; paper was something used sparingly—if even then—because of the great need for plants of all kinds in Istara. A large part of the job she’d just gotten was trying to find new plants to grow, or at least new ways to grow them. To think someone casually littered with something so precious…

She had to pick it up. Wrinkled, torn, and weathered as it was, she could still make out the letters written on it… Or at least, she could have, if they were letters. The strange symbols on the sheet of paper before her were unlike any letters she knew. Was it one of the old languages, the ones from earth?

Or maybe someone was just doodling… But on paper? What a waste that would be.

She stood contemplating the writing before her for a few minutes, before the ringing of the train’s bell brought her out of her own curiousity. She flashed the colored piece of plastic ticket to the guards, and managed to make it onto the train before it left the station.