I was reading one of Einstein’s old papers on my holo when Rio showed up at my bunk pod.
“Why aren’t you packing?” Rio asked. “You know you have to finish before the Celebration tonight.”
Rio is the golden child of the Vida. Everyone loves him. He’s first in our class, he’s a third-gen rep on the ship’s council, and he makes everyone he talks to feel important. He’s even good at sports.
If he weren’t my best friend, I would hate him.
“I don’t have much to pack. All my books are on here.” I waved the holo at him.
“Look, I know you’d rather stay in your room and read about time travel than go to some fancy dinner. But ‘the Landing Day Celebration marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another. All colonists are required to attend,’” he recited. “Don’t you read the morning bulletins? You read everything else.”
“You sound like my parents.”
His expression turned serious. “You know they just want what’s best for you, Astra,” he said.
You mean they just want what’s best for the ship, I thought.
My parents were a big deal on the Vida. My mom managed the ship’s food supply, and my dad was in charge of hab pod maintenance. People put their survival in my parents’ hands. Then there was me. I could never remember my chores or where I was supposed to be—even when my dad posted the ship’s schedule in my bunk pod. I knew they loved me, but I think all three of us wondered whether I’d snuck onto the ship from another planet.
“Astra marches to the beat of her own drum,” Oma once said to my dad. That was the time I was making dinner but got so wrapped up in reading I forgot the reheater was on and our protein caught fire. Food is our most precious resource on the ship. Wasting it is one of the worst things you can do.
“I know,” my dad had said with a sigh. “Astra, I just wish you’d tune in to our frequency once in a while.”
The only time I felt like myself was when I was in the ag module with Oma. The ag module was where we kept the seedlings that would become our food crops on Rubin 23V. Oma had designed the module as well as the seedlings, which were a hardy grain called teff.
The best part of the ag module was the flower garden. Oma had used real soil from Earth. I used to love running my fingers through the dense, loamy dirt, catching a whiff of a planet I’d never see. I’d spend hours and hours there, talking with Oma about Einstein and time travel while she tended to her plants.
But after she died, I just couldn’t bring myself to go to the ag module anymore.