“Are you sure this is going to work?” Ellie said, forcing the handle of the wrench downwards once more, just to be certain. She couldn’t risk the navigation system coming loose during flight. This would be the furthest she’d ever flown – even without the portal covering most of the distance.
“I’m certain. I wouldn’t let you do this if I weren’t. Steve and I have gone over the calculations more times than I can remember – this will work, Ellie. That is, if you still want to do this?” Lor looked over at her, frowning slightly. “You can back out, you know? It’s not too late.”
“Oh, I’m going. You’re not stopping me that easily,” she said, glaring at him.
Lor laughed, turning back to his work. “I thought you might say that. Can you pass me that hammer?”
Time passed quickly when you were focused, Ellie found. It seemed like only a few hours since they’d started, but looking at the colour of the sky it had been closer to nine or ten. Her fingers were cramping and her eyelids were drooping, but they were done.
“I’ll get my suit,” she said, putting the tools back into her bag. Her head span when she bent over, and she stumbled slightly. It wasn’t her fault that the stupid floor kept moving.
She turned to look at Lor, trying to ignore the way he kept going in and out of focus. “Yeah?”
“I think you should get some sleep first. If you fly like this, it’ll be dangerous. I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“I’m fine, papa.”
“I’m not asking, Ellie, I’m telling you. If you don’t get at least four hours of sleep, I’m not letting you into this rocket.”
“Goodnight, Ellie,” he said, smiling as he started to tidy up. “I’ll make sure everything is ready, I promise.”
Well, maybe she could do with a nap after all.
“Shooting Star to Blue Fire, is everything in order?”
“Affirmative. Do we really need these silly names, though?”
Ellie tutted. “Yes, papa. It adds drama to the occasion.”
He sighed, but she caught his grin as he walked back around to the desk she had dubbed ‘Ground Control’. She’d stopped short of naming the computer, at least. He should be thankful for that.
“This is Blue Fire to Shooting Star, co-ordinates are locked in and all systems are functioning at full capacity.”
He looked at her and shook his head, amused. “I thought you wanted this to be dramatic. I hardly think ‘nice one’ qualifies.”
“How’s this?” she said, then cleared her throat. “Good work, Blue Fire. The mission will proceed as planned. The exchange shall be completed.”
“Affirmative. Good luck.”
Ellie had never seen anything so beautiful. From the moment the door opened and she stepped out into onto the planet’s surface, she was overwhelmed. She checked gravity and oxygen levels on her suit’s monitor. The atmosphere was breathable, with only slightly more gravity than she was used to. Movement would be a little harder, but nothing her body would struggle with.
“Blue Fire, I’m leaving the ship. I see the meeting point and I’m on my way. By the way,” she added, slipping back into her normal speech, “what did you make this thing out of? It’s so light! What is it, anyway?”
“It’s another portal. We’re trying to create a safe link between our planets – the previous system had a rather depressing body count.”
She slipped the suit off, holding her earpiece in place as she ran her fingers through her hair. She wanted to make a good impression, and helmet hair wouldn’t help her cause.
“Do the sims know you’re doing this?”
His silence was answer enough.
“Papa… they’ll send you away if they find out.”
“I’m not doing it to bring more Sixans here, I’m doing it so that they can return home. It’s not safe here for us anymore, Ellie-baby. If people want to leave, the least I can do is make sure that they don’t die doing so.”
“Grandma didn’t die.”
“Grandma was lucky.” She heard him sigh. “In Newcrest we’re protected by the law, but we’re fair game everywhere else. It’s not a life that most people would choose.”
“What if one of us want to leave?”
For a moment, there was only silence. “I won’t stop you,” he said, voice shaking slightly. “If any of you are happier away from here, then what kind of parent would I be to keep you?” His voice cracked at the end, and the microphone cut out.
It switched back on. “Yes?” It turned off again, but not quickly enough. She heard him crying.
Her throat closed up, and she was surprised to find her own cheeks damp with tears.
“This isn’t my home. I’m coming back to you, ok?”
Ellie put the portal down, glancing around with her hands on her hips. Someone should be here to meet her.
“Maybe we got the time zones wrong?”
“Hang on, did you remember to put the clocks backwards an hour?”
“You didn’t, did you?”
“Nope. Sorry, lass.”
“What am I meant to do for the next hour?”
“Well, I guess there’s no harm in you looking around a bit. Just make sure that you stay in sight of the portal at all times. We don’t want it vanishing, ok?”
She clapped her hands together, grinning. This was going to be fun.
She caught sight of a spiky plant just a little way off, and she hesitated. Surely she’d be able to take a quick peek. She’d only be out of sight for a moment.
“Excuse me, Miss? What are you doing? Those are hardly appropriate clothes for botany.”
She looked up, pulling her hands out of her plant-filled pockets with what she hoped was an innocent expression. The man looked her up and down, eyes widening in recognition. “Ella? I haven’t seen you since you were a child, and now look at you. You’re so tall.”
“I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t remember your name.”
“I wouldn’t expect you to. We only met once, after all. I’m Gideon. You’re more likely to remember my husband, really. He spends a lot more time on Earth than I do, though he does wear ridiculous clothing.”
Gideon laughed, quiet but genuine. “What gave it away?”
“The trousers, mostly. I mean, they are a bit weird.”
“They are, but he saw them on a Sim show and fell in love with them. There’s no chance of talking him out of wearing them, especially now we’re old. I’ve given up on that.”
“I haven’t seen him around, recently. Is he ok?”
“He’s well. It’s just… you know.”
Ah. She supposed it wouldn’t be wise for him to be out and about while the hunt was still in full swing. An old, mentally ill Sixan wouldn’t stand a chance when he was caught – and with his memory fading it really was more of a case of ‘when’ than ‘if’.
“I understand,” she said, nodding. “Lyra is sorry for what happened, if that means anything.”
“She just wanted to be treated fairly. There’s a limit to how angry we can be over something like that, even when it backfires so catastrophically.” He sighed. “How is your sister?”
“No, I can’t imagine she would be. Come on,” he said, walking towards the portal, “enough heavy talk. There are some boxes in the lab with your father’s name on them. I should have known that man would get himself into something strange from the moment I met him. A sentient machine, of all things…”
This wasn’t just a laboratory – it was a work of art. Had she not been carrying an enormous interstellar portal, she could have spent an entire day admiring her surroundings. As it was, she could only manage a few minutes before her arms felt like they would fall off. Lightweight, as it turned out, was very different to weightless.
The moment they had entered the underground building, her connection with Lor had been lost. She’d quickly hurried back upstairs to tell him not to worry, but it was strange not hearing his voice in her head as she looked around. She’d have to remember as much of this as possible – he’d have loved it here. Maybe he could redecorate the lab he worked at to be a bit more Sixan – from the way it had been described to her, the colour scheme was bland to say the least.
Her eyes came to rest on a pile of half-packed cardboard boxes, but before she could take a closer look, Gideon reappeared, two mugs of a sweet smelling juice in his hands. He placed them down on the desk and gestured to one.
“Quill fruit juice. You probably haven’t had it before, but it’s quite a popular drink here.”
She tentatively took a sip, eyes widening as she swallowed. It was delicious – like a mixture of berries with a hint of cinnamon. “Thank you. What’s a quill fruit?”
“That pink fruit I saw you put in those pockets earlier,” he said, lips quirking up slightly. “You aren’t very sneaky.”
Ellie hauled the last box into the cargo bay, wiped her forehead and grinned, admiring her work. It was a good thing she’d spent that money on an expansion last month, otherwise there might have been issues.
“Are you sure you won’t stay for a while? It’s nearly lunch time, and I can easily make enough food for an extra person.”
“I’d love to, but I should probably get back. Papa will worry if I’m gone too long.”
“I’m not that bad,” a voice said, and she jumped. She’d forgotten she was still wearing her earpiece.
“Are you ok?” Gideon asked, one eye-ridge raised.
“Yeah, sorry. I’ve got signal back.”
“Ah. Hello, Lor.”
“Hello again, Gideon. Thank you for looking after my daughter.” Ellie relayed the message, and he smiled.
“It was a pleasure. Now, I’m glad I got to talk to you. If you get that portal up and running, is there any chance you can send us some vegetables? I want to see if they’ll grow in our soil.”
“Of course. I’m hoping to have it working properly within the month, so I’ll make sure I have some ready for you.”
Lor saw the rocket before he heard it. As a low rumble filled the air, he switched off the computer and untangled himself from the wires. She was home.
“So,” Lor said, placing the last of the boxes down on the floor, “how was it?”
“It was incredible. I never knew that a planet could be so beautiful, but…”
The lab can be found here. It’s stunning, isn’t it? I love it.
Moving Day Set by mustluvcatz