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Twenty-six seconds on Tetonia-Three

Illustration of Jacey

It took twenty-six seconds for the freshly terraformed Tetonia-Three panorama to be coated with chemical mud and radiation from the reactor explosion.

Twenty-six seconds to lose every part.

*****

I do know what the report will say earlier than Marcus lets go.

For six months, as they huddled within the habitat, arguing, debating and making determined calculations, I managed to exit on a farm the place nothing however bitter moss and blood-red berries grew. . The place cattle born on Earth bear particular offspring, with unusual flesh, wandering with out concern of pure predators. A five-legged colt singing. Piglets with wandering third eye. Calves with out ears that spend their days within the moss fields watching the blinding double suns. Even the eggs I eat glow in the dead of night and vaguely scent the burning sulfur.

However I do know what to do.

Abandon the mission.

This parcel of land – this farm on this valley that we claimed to be ours – has been poisoned and once more on Tetonia-Three would contain an excessive amount of time, cash, danger. The winds, the clouds, the rotation of the planet itself have already overgrown the contaminants.

"And me?" I signal.

"I cannot depart you," Marcus stated. The implication is there: the others would do it. They even gave me useless a very long time in the past.

Six months in the past, I stood on the hatchway and pleaded for the intrusion, however the automated quarantine locks had been properly stored and people who may get round it had been tens of millions of miles away. When the preliminary wave handed and I used to be nonetheless there, moved with nausea and terror however alive, he was nonetheless there, his hand leaning in opposition to the window. Even now, his face within the convex glass appears deformed by the ache.

*****

It’s his stubbornness that motivated my mission: even those that have of their fingers the way forward for humanity cannot refuse their alternative. That's how I ended up in this system: he wouldn’t let me take heed to my doubts. Lastly, I assumed that every part could be advantageous so long as I used to be with him; absolutely even destiny itself ought to conform to its will.

However the stars above Tetonia-Three don’t line up like on Earth. Not even for him.

Others have set the launch date, however Marcus remains to be pushing all its calls for.

"The lock is not going to open till the air has cleared," I signal, "and you’ve got solely six months left of meals, you will need to go."

"I cannot."

"Why not?"

"It's my fault in case you're right here."

*****

It takes me two days to develop a plan and three extra to get the braveness I’d usually depend on Marcus to bolster. I cannot let the unhappiness of his guilt develop right here, flip into one thing grotesque and overload the house in my reminiscences the place happier moments ought to be.

I cannot watch him starve.

*****

On the morning of the launch, I choose berries, saddle the horse and head for the habitat. The quintaped foal hops behind his mom, singing a tune that nobody will ever hear strangeness.

The shadow of Marcus blocks the sunshine on the window and I increase my hand to greet him.

The horse below me jumps, rears.

My stability weakens. My arms are struggling. I fall.

The hostile floor shakes me, splits and vibrates my bones in opposition to its stone. Purple runs on my face, sting my eyes and stain my fingers. My physique collapses with out shifting and I stay immobile. Completely motionless.

On the sound of a frantic tune, I hear him banging on the window as if from a distance. As if from the opposite finish of the galaxy.

I keep there for hours, till the hammering stops and the silence confirms his defeat. Till the horses get uninterested in attempting to deliver me again to life and nibble on bitter foam. Till the wind rises and a biting chemical rain falls from purple and black clouds, puddling round my chilly physique.

It's a disgrace to recollect a sufferer, not the vicissitudes of house nor the harshness of an inhospitable planet – issues that will have made Marcus' chest swell with satisfaction throughout my eulogy funeral – however from a easy accident that might have occurred Earth. However I lie there, immobile, listening to the distant melody of the foal till the rocket tears me the tune and dries the purple fruit juice that I had spilled on my face.

The foal provides me a nudge, buzzing with bitter foam and vivid eggs and lonely shade of deserted habitat.

It’s only whereas I open my eyes. Solely then can I breathe absolutely. Similtaneously the calves, I hint the good tail of the rocket within the clouds and depend the seconds that move. Till he's gone.

It takes twenty-six seconds for the rocket to vanish, to free itself from the poisoned sky and the sure dying of this corrupt and once-hopeful world. Twenty-six seconds for me to rise up and eliminate the mud and dirt of my deception.

Twenty-six seconds to say goodbye.

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