Lyra stumbled down the stairs, rubbing her eyes and blinking in the light. She really shouldn’t have stayed up so late, but there had been so much cake… She saw a figure in the kitchen and wandered over, stopping in surprise when the image finally came into focus.
“Ellie? What are you doing?”
“Making breakfast. Are scrambled eggs ok?”
“I don’t know, are they? You should probably ask them.”
Ellie looked over at her sister. “That is one of the worst jokes I’ve ever heard, sis. Now go and sit over there – I’ll bring the food when it’s done.”
Lyra sat at the table and watched carefully. This was surreal, and she wasn’t completely sure it was safe. Lyra was soon joined by her twin, who looked at Ellie and then turned to her, raising an eyebrow.
Leo grabbed some plates from the cupboard and set them on the counter, but any brownie points he had earned from that action were lost as soon as he spoke. “So, anything caught fire yet?”
“No,” Ellie grumbled. She’d seen the same question in Lyra’s eyes, but at least the girl had had the manners not to say it out loud. “If you’re going to be annoying you can go and sit over there with your sister.”
“You’re just jealous because that hairstyle looks better on me” Leo grinned, running off before she could react. She could hear his giggling from across the room, and she shook her head with a smile. He was kidding himself – it looked way better on her.
“So… how is it?”
It was edible, which was impressive for a first attempt. She must have skipped the ‘Fyres gene’, as Lor secretly called it. “It’s good, Ellie. I’m impressed,” he said, taking another bite.
“It really is,” Mal joined in. If Ellie got even half as good as Lor, then he wouldn’t have to cook anymore – which would be a shame because he enjoyed cooking, but also a relief because he was terrible. Not that anyone had called him out on it. Not even Leo.
To be fair, his sister had put him off fire for life, so he hadn’t really practised much.
It was, once again, collection day at the lab. Once Lor had sorted out the few glitches in his cloning device things would be easier, but for now they had to gather resources by hand occasionally. He didn’t mind, though – there was something satisfying about chipping away at a lump of rock and coming away with something beautiful. Maybe that was why sculptors spent so much time doing it.
Three hours later, his bag was full of the raw metals and crystals that were so vital in experiments. That should keep them going for a while. He walked inside and placed the items in the relevant drawers before wiping the dust off his hands and onto his jacket.
He turned around to see Helen, who was looking much healthier than she had in a while. He’d finally convinced her to take time off (well, less ‘convinced’ and more ‘ordered’) and it seemed to have done the trick. She’d lost her pallor, and the spark was back in her eyes.
“It’s good to have you back,” he said, hugging her. “How was your holiday?”
“It was wonderful. I got married!”
Lor almost fell over. She got married? “Wow! Who’s the lucky guy? Or girl?”
“He’s actually someone I met through you,” she said, smiling at him. Lor racked his brains – who in the world could she possibly mean? She watched his bafflement with barely restrained amusement. “You’re looking at the new Mrs Nugent!”
Ellie put down the blow torch and removed her mask. Now this was what made life worth living. The harsh metallic taste in the air, the heat of the flames and the lovely sound that a hammer makes when it hits the metal at just the right angle. She had thought that the building would just be a nuisance – the thing stopping her from exploring the stars right away – but she loved it. She could see herself building a whole fleet one day.
Lyra watched the two of them and sighed. She wanted to be a teenager, too – it looked so much more fun than all this stupid homework. She glared at the book in her hands, as if it could somehow change into something more interesting. No luck – maybe that wasn’t one of their powers.
Lor was really enjoying himself. He had started out helping because he wanted to make sure that the rocket was safe, but working alongside his eldest daughter was relaxing. The soft hum of the machinery took away the need for idle conversation, so the silence was comfortable. He wouldn’t give up trying to get her to wear protective clothing, though. At least she’d used the mask – the rest could be dealt with when they got to the more complicated (and dangerous) parts.
Leo looked over at his twin, who was looking far grumpier than she normally did – bad moods were his job, not hers. “Ly? You ok?”
“I want to be older already! Then I can do fun things, too”
“We can do fun things! We could go to the park tomorrow and play on the bars – teenagers can’t do that.”
“Leo, we have school tomorrow.”
He grinned, picked up his phone and dialed a number. After a few minutes he hung up, looking pleased with himself. “Not any more, we don’t!”
“Leo, what did you do?”
“We’re ‘A’ students and we have vacation time we haven’t used – well, we’re using some of it.” He watched as Lyra’s face brightened and she began to glow. Mission accomplished. “Al, you too. We’re all off school tomorrow.”
Altair looked up from his homework. That sounded wonderful – especially the fact they weren’t technically skiving. It was totally official. School wasn’t as fun without his only friend.
Even if she did call him ‘short’ all the time.
“Hey, what’re you watching?”
“Sixan cooking show.”
“Can I join?”
“Be my guest.”
“Do you understand what they’re saying?”
“Most of it – when my grandma lived with us it took her a while to get used to speaking Simlish, so I picked up a lot from her.”
Yaritza looked over at him. “Have you ever been to Sixam?”
“No, I haven’t. I will one day, though – I’ll find a way.”
“It’s so strange to think that even on the other side of the galaxy they have cooking competitions…”
Lor heard a familiar humming noise behind him. He turned around just in time to see the tractor beam hone in on his husband and lift him off the floor.
The ship sped off and he sighed. They really didn’t have space for more children, so hopefully it was just a check up. “He’ll be fine, don’t worry,” Lor said. Yaritza stared at the spot where Malik had stood, her mouth open in shock. That had been… amazing.