Andromeda and the Moon : Part 5- A Short Story by Leona

Andromeda panted as she made her way through the training course. Her sergeant’s voice rang in her ear com. 

“Let’s go team B! I want to see you move it!”

Any sort of motivation from these words was lost on Andromeda as she heaved herself over the climbing wall. She and her “Team B” mates had been training non stop for 3 days. Each morning she would get up at 4:30am to shower and be ready in the mess hall by 5:00am. After role call and the quickest most unappetizing breakfast, everyone would haul themselves to training. Andromeda was so tired that by the time dinner rolled around, she was usually too tired to eat. She had not expected for training to be this intense and it was only day three. 

Because Andromeda brought Sparky along, she was required to spend extra time in the “Flight Animal Training Facility”. Here, she and Sparky would perform exercises and training maneuvers that would supposedly help in the future. Andromeda had been lucky that Sparky was already fitted with the Speech Collar. Because of this, he was accepted into the flight school along with her. Apparently, animal companions could replace the need for a safety robot that usually accompanied any space pilot. 

“Move it galaxy!” the sergeant shouted her favorite nickname for Andromeda and she picked up speed. She had been trying to beat her previous time through the training course but her sore legs protested. 

“You got this Andromeda!” she heard from the sidelines. It was Callie. Callie had also been placed in team B and per her request, had been made Andromeda’s roommate. Callie waved enthusiastically from the sideline. You could always count on Callie to have a smile and wave. Her friend was always cheering on her fellow teammates and encouraging everyone. Andromeda focused back on the training course. There was just one more obstacle before the finish line. It was to army crawl over a sand pit. The great equalizer. Many of Andromeda’s  faster teammates struggled on this course. Partly because many of them had never experienced a large expanse of sand before. On Planet 678, the ground consisted mostly of rock and other solid material such as ice and mineral deposits. Andromeda was one of the few people on her team on Earth and from amongst the Earthers, she was the only one who had been to the beach. She loved this obstacle. For it wasn’t about your quickness, but instead your diligence and energy in each movement. Slow and steady won in the end with the sand obstacle. 

Why did they need to learn how to crawl on sand to become a pilot? Andromeda had no idea. But it sure was a difficult obstacle. She crawled on her stomach and slowly inched forward on the sand. At last she made it onto the other side, every part of her was covered in sand. She heard her sergeant’s voice from her left ear. 

“Good job Galaxy, you’ve shaved off 15 seconds from your last run. Making good progress to make a passing time for fighter crafts. In the space force, the faster and stronger you were meant that you handled the better faster crafts. It didn’t particularly make sense to Andromeda, but many things of Planet 678 didn’t make sense. Andromeda just went with it.

Callie ran to the end and gave her a big squashing hug. 

“You did it Dromeda!” She squealed. Andromeda returned the hug and gave her friend a squeeze. 

“I’m so sandy, Callie! I wish there was an ocean to swim in!” Andromeda said. They made their way to the dorms. She would have to quickly get cleaned up to make it to the mess hall on time for lunch. Callie sighed, “I wish I didn’t have to do my training class in the afternoon. It just stinks. Literally. All the boys in Team B stink. Smelly shoes galore.” 

Andromeda laughed. Everyone on base smelled and the base soap that they used didn’t really help their cause to create a ‘better smelling world”. She quickly showered, changed and went down to the mess hall. There she grabbed the typical slop from the space force chefs 9if you could really call them that) and made her way to the team table. She was greeted by a rag tag group of Team B members. Team B was made up of a lot of Earthers and others who didn’t make the cut for the elite Team A. But the force could use everyone that joined recruitment, so they were put together and labeled “Team B”.

Andromeda set down her tray. Callie was already there and chatting to their friend Ceylon. Ceylon was from India. Her parents had moved to the planet when she was little so she had lived almost half her life in space. They were chatting about new uniforms. Next to them sat Remus and Romulus, twin brothers from Planet 678. When they first introduced themselves to andromeda, they told her that they had been grown in a lab. The first twin lab babies. She was pretty sure this wasn’t true but apparently having twins in space was very uncommon. They were arguing over which spacecraft was the fastest and why.

“You don’t just “boing” along with a SFX-900.” Romulus said. His pale eyes glinted in the fluorescent light. “You can actually fly with that piece of machinery. Everything I’ve read says its better at maneuvering.”

His brother, who at this point was fed up with the conversation, took his brother’s napkin and rubbed it in his face. “We’ll See who’s faster when we actually start flying!”

“Get of mee!” The boys started to scuffle.

“Hey you two, cut it out.” Andromeda turned. It was Harvard. He smiled and took a seat next to her. Harvard had made it into Team A but had ended up spending all the down time with Team B. Andromeda didn’t mind as Harvard was one of the few boys on base she felt actually wanted to talk about more than just “the fastest ship in the galaxy”. Over the past 3 days, Harvard had asked her a lot of questions about her life on earth. It was fun to talk about and even funnier that Harvard didn’t know basic things like McDonalds and IHOP. The pancake house had become a recent fascination for him.

“So back to our conversation yesterday, you really have a restaurant where all you eat is breakfast? People actually sit down and pay money for that?” Harvard looked at Andromda quizzically. She laughed.

“As I said, it’s normal for people to not eat in their houses or at big mess halls. And people on Earth don’t just eat for sustenance, they eat for fun.”

“I’m not sure I can understand that.” Harvard said, starting to eat the mess hall food.

“Yeah, I noticed. Here on 678 no one seems to care how the food is prepared, just if there are enough vitamins in it.” Andromeda said. She missed her mom’s cooking and the yummy jollof rice. Then Callie welcomed another team member,

“Hey C-fix! C’mon over to sit!” 

C-fix was a larger Earther from San Francisco. He was half Korean and half black american. Andromeda didn’t really know much about him except that he loved American football and pizza. She knew the pizza thing because when they first met he started his introductions with “Papa Johns or Dominos, that is the question”. When Andromeda admitted that she was lactose intolerant, C-fix seemed very disappointed. Also she knew “C-fix” wasn’t his real name but it was how Callie introduced him. Andromeda was pretty sure that he had a slight crush on Callie. He seemed unable to say no to the random things Callie asked him to do.

“Hey Callie” C-fix said, “Team” he nodded to everyone else. The twin boys had finally stopped grappling with each other and were quickly scooping up food into their mouths.  Callie said to the group “I think after our final evaluations in 2 days, we should have a party! Like with soda and cake and maybe even karaoke! What do you guys think?”

But their response was drowned out by the first warning bell, alerting them that there was 5 minutes left to lunch. Everyone quickly finished their lunch and started cleaning up. As Andromeda put her tray away, Harvard said next to her “What do you think of the party idea? Is that a thing you do on Earth?”

Andromeda said “Of course! Parties are the biggest on earth! Every year we celebrate our birthdays with presents and cake! I think a party is an awesome idea. Maybe we could even try to bake something for it!” 

As they made their way to training, Andromeda felt her muscles strain. Everywhere hurt and she wasn’t sure she could make it through, so maybe a party is just what she needed to motivate herself. She dreamed that if she got through training, there would be the biggest piece of cake waiting for her on the other side. 


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Andromeda and the Moon : Part 4- A Short Story by Leona

Mom’s silence was never a good sign. It meant she was thinking of the right way to say what she wanted to say. Andromeda was sure what she wanted to say was, “Are you crazy? My daughter is enlisting?!?”

Andromeda had just brought up her desire to enlist to her parents at dinner. It seemed like the best time since everyone was there to listen. She could ensure that her father and mother would be in the same place. Dinner was the one thing they both had not missed. Although their schedules had kept them away from the house for most of the day, they always came back for dinner. It kept some semblance of normal going for Andromeda and Maffei. At that moment, her younger brother was eagerly eating his dinner, not caring what was being said.

Her father began, “Well, I think it’s a fascinating proposition.” Her mother jerked her head in his direction.

“Fascinating, hon? That’s the word we’re going to use here?” She turned toward Andromeda. “Honey, I know you want to fly and learn to be a pilot but, no. Absolutely no. You are not enlisting.”

“But, mom,” Andromeda said.

“Well,” her father said. Andromeda could tell the tension in his voice rising.

“It’s just that Callie is going and I’ve always wanted to be able to travel space more.” Andromeda interrupted. “Think about all the places I could go!”

“You don’t know what the base commander has planned for the flight teams. What if they send you to your death” Mom said.

“What if we all die in 7 days?” Andromeda stood up from her chair. Her mother paused.

“Well Andi,” her father said. “I am of a similar opinion to you. Tanya,” He turned to her mother. “We should give her a chance. Enjoy these moments on the base. You’ve seen how she and Maffei are stuck at home. I heard that in a couple days they are going to shut down the market and deliver food. Do you want your daughter to be a prisoner?”

Mom signed. 

“Time for another yummy meal!” Sparky called from underneath the table. He had gobbled up some of Maffei’s food that scattered the floor around his seat. Her dad smiled. Andromeda giggled and her Mom smiled too. The air didn’t feel as intense. 

“Ani,” her mom said, “I think that I could take Maffei with me. He could become my little assistant.”

“What’s an assistant?” Maffei interrupted. His mouth was full of food.

Mom continued “You might only have 7 days left. So I guess it would be good to forget your impending doom. Learn how to fly a craft.”

“Really?” Andromeda couldn’t believe her ears. Was this really happening? Her dad smiled. “Just make sure to bring us the paperwork by tonight so you can start right away. I think tomorrow might be the last day of recruitment.”

Andromeda quickly finished her meal. Shoveling food into her mouth as fast as possible. Her mother and father were talking quietly about what had happened throughout their day. She couldn’t believe it. She was going to fly.

“Andromeda!” Callied shouted down the hallway. “What did your parents say?”

Andromed grabbed her friend’s hands and started jumping. “They said yes! And I am going to recruitment just like you!”

The girls squealed together, giving eachother big hugs. Callie pulled from their embrace and said. 

“We have to go! I don’t want to be late” she started running full speed down the corridor. Andromeda followed with Sparky hot on her heels. Her parents had left early for work, Mom taking Maffei with her. She was glad that no one was going to drop her off because this felt like the first adult thing she had done since turning 16. I guess imminent destruction did that to people.

Andromeda weaved her way through the unit passages and into a whole new part of the base. She had never been to the space carrier wings. Callie was in front of her keeping pace and running from one big room to the next. Everywhere people who were part of the flight operations walked about with purpose. Everyone seemed to have a place to go. Some people did glance at Sparky and Andromeda wondered if she would be allowed her pet companion. They were running through a huge hanger that helped multiple space crafts. Andromeda hadn’t seen such larger planes before. They were indribile. Their very presence is formidable. Then Andromeda heard a siren. People on the floor around her responded by moving away from the center. Then with a loud thud, Andromeda saw the floor open and slowly a lift moved into view. On the lift stood a striking team of space pilots. They wore sky blue jumpsuits with red helmets. She noticed that one team member looked to be her size and height. She wondered if they could be the same age. One person didn’t have their helmet on and she saw bright red hair and bright red glasses. The woman was clearly the leader and motioned for her team to follow her to the other side of the wing. After another siren, the people around her kept moving along and Andromeda realized she had lost sight of Callie. Sparky kept close to her with all the moving people and expansive spaces. She looked around to see if she could find Callie or any indication of where she was to report to. Then someone tapped her shoulder.

It was a boy with brown hair who clearly had been born on 678 with his blueish nose and ears. He looked extremely nervous and his hand gripped the bag on his shoulders like it was a life saver. He coughed.

“Are you a recruit too? I am looking for where to sign up.” he said

“As a matter of fact I am.” andromeda said. “What gave it away? My confused look?”

“Actually it was your dog.” he said looking at Sparky. “Everyone knows that no animals are allowed on the hanger.”

“Oh” andromeda looked down at Sparky. Her dog had grown quiet but was alert to all the happening in the hanger. “Also, I don’t know where I am going.” she said

The boy smiled “Maybe we can go together. I’m pretty nervous with this being the first day and all. Also my name is Harvard. Nice to meet you.” 

Harvard lifted his palms to face Andromeda and bowed his head. She returned the greeting and remembered how Danny and her dad greeted each other in “678” fashion. 

“My name’s Andromeda and this is Sparky.” she said.

“And I run very fast. Don’t forget.” Sparky added, sniffing Harvard’s shoes. “Mhh you smell like petroleum and forests.”

“Okay, Sparky that enough” Andromeda said before he had more time to say weird things. “Let’s find that office together.”

She and Harvard walked alongside each other looking around the hanger. A crowd had gathered on the far side of the expanse and they started walking toward it. As they approached Andromeda saw a screen sign with the words “recruits” glimmering in neon blue. It took a few minutes to reach the sign and the group of people since the hangar was so large. She and Harvard walked in silence as Andromeda’s nerves started to rise the closer she got. This was it. This was the beginning of her flight training. 

“Alright” a voice at the front of the group said. “It’s time to officially register. Once we have your name down and your paperwork filed, we will send you off in teams to go down to start training. Let’s get in orderly lines, people! Make it quick!”

Andromeda and Harvard were at the back of the group and followed as people started forming different lines. 

“Andromeda!” a familiar voice called. She turned to see Callie waving at her in a separate line.

“Where did you go? Oh it’s so exciting! Make sure you tell them that we want to be bunk mates! Then we can be together in our rooms!” Callie said.

Harvard spoke from behind her “So you know that girl?” he asked

Andromeda waved and smiled at Callie. Then she said to Harvard “Yeah she and I are from the same unit.”

“Woah, you must have some smart parents. Cause Callie’s dad is the nuclear bio-engineer on the base, I’m sure they live in the nicest parts on the base.”

“Well we’re all going to be flight students now, so I guess it doesn’t really matter where we come from.” Andromeda said. The line moved forward. 

“NEXT” a voice called.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Vanity- A Short Story by Leona

There was a mirror on my vanity table. It has a large golden frame and scalloped edging. It leans up against the wall because I am too lazy to hang it up properly. Every morning I sit in front of it around 7:30 am or so and put on my make up. I never really thought of myself as a makeup kind of girl but recently I have been putting it on just because. Because I want to feel pretty and because it feels nice to pamper myself each morning for about 30 min. This morning I was listening to some music and my dog was sitting on my bed behind me. My dog usually joined me for my morning routine. I put on some eyeliner and was about to apply mascara when I noticed a black smudge on the mirror. I bunched up the cuff of my sweatshirt and wiped it away. The black smeared a little. Probably just some make up from yesterday. Then my phone buzzed. It was my friend sending me a funny meme. I smiled, responded with an emoji and started to apply mascara again. The black smear had re-appeared on the mirror. Didn’t I just wipe that away? I grabbed a paper towel and wiped away the black. However this time, I noticed that the smear was more liquidy than before, almost like sludge. 

My dog barked. This made me jump and knock over some things from my vanity. I cursed slightly under my breath. And my dog barked again. I leaned over to look through my bedroom door. I think my dog heard one of the neighbors leaving for work. When I looked back at the mirror, I saw that the black smear had reappeared and dripped down the mirror. I wiped again. This time with much more intent. The smear immediately started to swell back up. Almost like an oozing wound. I grabbed more paper towels and kept wiping. But the more that I wiped the mirror the more the black liquid seemed to seep from it. Soon there was a black stream of thick liquid flowing down the mirror. It started to pool on my vanity. I was horrified and picked up my brushes and lotion bottles. I kept putting more paper towels down, trying to boot up the black liquid. My doorbell rang. My dog barked again. 

I glanced back at the mirror and noticed the stream of liquid was pulsing. There was almost a beat to the liquid that leaked from the mirror. My phone rang. It was an unknown caller. My hands still clenched dirty paper towels and my make up bottles. The fire alarm went off. I looked at the mirror and the black liquid was streaming over everything. It had pooled on my vanity and was dripping off creating stains on the carpet. My dog parked louder. The sound of the alarm blared in my ears. I tried to scream. I tried to leave my vainite. But my voice didn’t come and my body didn’t move. When the black liquid touched my skin it was hot. It started to burn. This time when I screamed, my voice ripped through my apartment louder than the barking and the alarm.

I screamed and jolted upright. 

The morning light slowly filtered through the blinds. The clock on my bedside table read, 3:07am. I heard my dog shift in his cage. My heart beat fast, my blood pumped. I quickly got up and looked at my vanity mirror. There was a black smudge on the bottom. I turned on the lights, my eyes watered and I started looking for cleaning supplies. I cleared the mirror and hoped the smear would not reappear. I scrubbed the mirror until the varnish started to rub away. When I lifted my hands to see if the spot was clean, I noticed that the slack smear started to pool with liquid and slowly dripped down the mirror.


This is a small break from “Andromeda and the Moon”. I was inspired to write something more horror and spooky. My dog was barking at sounds coming from outside my apartment while I was putting on make up. This piece was born.

Andromeda and the Moon : Part 3 – A Short Story by Leona

The alarm buzzed. Sparky shouted. Andromeda groaned. 

She had to be up two hours earlier than her normal schedule to join Dad at work. Her excitement from last night didn’t feel as powerful when she really wanted another few minutes in bed. 

“Time to GO!” Sparky shouted and liked her face. He needed to be let out so she could get ready for the morning. Andromeda turned over in her bed. “A few more minutes.” But sparky wasn’t having it. Hewas jumping on her and sniffing in her hair, making it so uncomfortable that in fact she was very much ready to rise.

“Gettof Sparky” she said. They both got down and their morning flew by. Andromeda took Sparky out. She changed and helped her mom get breakfast ready. At one moment her dad made some comment but Andromeda didn’t  hear. She was a mix of too tired and excited. She drank her cappuccino, a special treat from mom.

“Alright daughter of mine, let’s head out.” Dad said. His wrist com buzzed with incoming messages from his team. He touched his ear.

“Danny, I’m on my way. Bringing in my daughter with me. Show her the ropes that kind of thing.Okay. Andi? It’s time to go.“Dad said. At that moment, Maffei walked sleepily into the dinning room. Dad caught him up in his arms, gave him a squeeze and set him down. He headed toward the door with Andromeda and Sarky close on his heels.

“Ani,” her mother called. “You really going to bring that dog?”

Andromeda and Sparky looked back but her dog responded first “Of course I am going! I’m going to see a tree today!” Andromeda shrugged her shoulders and they were off! She and her dad (and Sparky of course) went to the large elevator on the base. This was new territory for her and she couldn’t wait to see more. In her short time on the base, Andromeda had been able to explore only very close to the family unit. That meant she had seen the hallways, her neighbors and even the unit garden area where she took Sparky. But beyond that, she hadn’t been allowed to go any further. Since the base was an outpost, there were certain protocols that had to be followed. Andromeda noticed that certain rules felt like old rules from the days when the military was in charge of the base. Currently, the Scientists of the Allied Nations (SAN) were in charge of the base.Hence why her dad was given the opportunity to work there for a year. 

The three of them worked their way through different hallways and rooms. It seemed like a maze. Sometimes Dad would use his ID to access different doors or stairs. By the time her father said, “We’re here” Andromeda had lost all sense of direction and couldn’t tell which way was up. She blinked.

“Here” referred to the large farms that her father helped maintain. It was the largest room she had seen on the base yet. She and her father stood in the doorway of a huge open space. It reminded her of the gymnasium at her school on Earth except this space was at least 4 times that size. 

“Dad! It’s huge!” Andromeda said. She loved how high the ceilings were here.

“Yeah, I thought you might like how big this place is,” he said.

Sparky couldn’t contain his excitement. With a quick “The TREES!” He had bolted from the door and was wandering through the rows of vegetables and crops. 

“Sparky!” Andromeda started to chase after her dog. He had just snuck between two rows of tomato crops. She heard her dog start to growl. A voice from farther down the row said, “Now look what the cat dragged in. Oh come on pup, you don’t think you can hurt me, do’ya?”

Her father laughed from behind. “Hey there Danny!” he called out. “That’s my daughter’s dog Sparky and this is Andromeda.” Danny had come into view between the rows and was smiling down at the dog who was circling his feet. 

“Hiya there Miss Andromeda. Welcome to have you.” Danny said. He was a big man with a friendly smile. Andromeda didn’t believe that it was possible for humans to be that big, but there Danny was standing in front of her. She smiled up and noticed a slight blue tint at the tip of his nose and ears. She wondered if it were the effects of the antiviral medication that everyone on base took. Apparently if your skin was light enough and you took the medicine long enough, you could develop discoloration in areas where there was low blood flow. On people with darker skin, such as her family, you wouldn’t see such results. Andromeda had read about this happening in books, but it was a surprise to see it happening in real life. 

“Hi Danny. It’s nice to meet you.” Andromeda stuck out her hand for a handshake. Danny looked at it a bit confused and then awkwardly shook her hand. 

“Don’t worry Danny, you didn’t just sign your soul over to be cursed for a thousand years. It’s just that on Earth we still do handshakes for greetings.” Dad said.

Danny smiled and said “Yeah, I remembered your Earthen ways. I find myself to be a cultured man. So here I am shaking your daughter’s hand. Now that we’ve done the Earthen greeting let’s do the 678 one. Come-on Philip, let’s show her.”

Andromeda didn’t know there was a separate greeting for this planet. She watched as her dad and Danny faced each other. They lifted both hands , palms facing forward. Then they each bowed their heads and lowered their hands. 

“Comes from the old “I see what you are holding in your hands, you nasty bastard.” Danny said and her father laughed. Then motioning to Andromeda he said,“Let’s go an-get round this old place so we can show you everything.” 

Andromeda realized something. “You were born here. Weren’t you.” she said

Danny sheepishly shrugged. “Caught me red handed, miss. Born ‘n raised on 678 It’s why I got a touch of the ‘blue’ and an accent that I’m told sounds like I’m from a place on Earth called ‘Tex-ass’.”

Andromeda giggled. She had never heard someone pronounce Texas like that. Hearing Danny, the biggest man she’d ever met say it, made it all the more funny. 

Her dad, Danny and Andromeda walked through rows of crops. Every few yards, her father would inspect the robotic sprinkler arm. Sometimes he made notes into his wrist com. Sometimes he and Danny discuss mechanical things that didn’t really make sense to Andromeda. Luckily Sparky seemed a bit spooked by the large expansive space so he stayed close to her. Andromeda marveled at the rows and rows of food. Each crop had its own irrigation system and monitors that helped maintain the quality of the food. It was a huge operation. She had not thought about how important it was to make sure the food for the base was properly maintained. 

“Who picks the tomatoes when they are ripe?” Andromeda asked. Danny turned and said “Luckily we have robots who do that. We might even meet one later today. Bez-ez, I call ‘um. Cause they are busy Beez.”

Sparky barked. Then Andromeda felt a buzz from her wrist com. Both Danny and Dad were looking at their wrist com’s too. She tapped her ear.

“Attention all residents of base 678. Code AGAVE. I repeat Code AGAVE. Return to your family  units until further information can be supplied.” Andromeda gasped. Something was wrong. The message in her ear repeated “Attention all residents-” it said. She looked at her Dad and Danny. They were both still listening to their message, apparently given a longer explanation due to their security clearances. 

Danny swore. Her father swayed. 

“Alright, Cap” Danny said. “We’ll expedite the harvest Beez and let you know the total. Not sure there is much else we can do. Over and out”

Her father looked at Andromeda then glanced at Sparky. “I need to get you home asap.” he said.

“But Dad” Andromeda said as she and her dog followed her father back to the entrance. “What’s happening?”

Danny had followed along. “Something that shouldn’t have happened for another 500 years. There’s an asteroid on a collision course with 678.”

Her Dad looked back at Danny. “I’ll leave it up to you boss. I’ll take Andromeda home and then back to help.” he said.

Danny clapped a hand on his shoulder. “This is a first for you Philip. Make sure your family is safe. Come back when the Captain announces the code CAPER.”

Her dad shook his head and they headed out the door. 

An asteroid headed to crash into Planet 678? Andromeda couldn’t believe it. Sparky followed at her heels, aware of some sort of danger. He had said nothing. What did this mean for everyone on the planet?


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Andromeda and the Moon : Part 2 – A Short Story by Leona

The alarm buzzed. Sparky shouted. Andromeda groaned. 

She had to be up two hours earlier than her normal schedule to join Dad at work. Her excitement from last night didn’t feel as powerful when she really wanted another few minutes in bed. 

“Time to GO!” Sparky shouted and liked her face. He needed to be let out so she could get ready for the morning. Andromeda turned over in her bed. “A few more minutes.” But sparky wasn’t having it. Hewas jumping on her and sniffing in her hair, making it so uncomfortable that in fact she was very much ready to rise.

“Gettof Sparky” she said. They both got down and their morning flew by. Andromeda took Sparky out. She changed and helped her mom get breakfast ready. At one moment her dad made some comment but Andromeda didn’t  hear. She was a mix of too tired and excited. She drank her cappuccino, a special treat from mom.

“Alright daughter of mine, let’s head out.” Dad said. His wrist com buzzed with incoming messages from his team. He touched his ear.

“Danny, I’m on my way. Bringing in my daughter with me. Show her the ropes that kind of thing.Okay. Andi? It’s time to go.“Dad said. At that moment, Maffei walked sleepily into the dinning room. Dad caught him up in his arms, gave him a squeeze and set him down. He headed toward the door with Andromeda and Sarky close on his heels.

“Ani,” her mother called. “You really going to bring that dog?”

Andromeda and Sparky looked back but her dog responded first “Of course I am going! I’m going to see a tree today!” Andromeda shrugged her shoulders and they were off! She and her dad (and Sparky of course) went to the large elevator on the base. This was new territory for her and she couldn’t wait to see more. In her short time on the base, Andromeda had been able to explore only very close to the family unit. That meant she had seen the hallways, her neighbors and even the unit garden area where she took Sparky. But beyond that, she hadn’t been allowed to go any further. Since the base was an outpost, there were certain protocols that had to be followed. Andromeda noticed that certain rules felt like old rules from the days when the military was in charge of the base. Currently, the Scientists of the Allied Nations (SAN) were in charge of the base.Hence why her dad was given the opportunity to work there for a year. 

The three of them worked their way through different hallways and rooms. It seemed like a maze. Sometimes Dad would use his ID to access different doors or stairs. By the time her father said, “We’re here” Andromeda had lost all sense of direction and couldn’t tell which way was up. She blinked.

“Here” referred to the large farms that her father helped maintain. It was the largest room she had seen on the base yet. She and her father stood in the doorway of a huge open space. It reminded her of the gymnasium at her school on Earth except this space was at least 4 times that size. 

“Dad! It’s huge!” Andromeda said. She loved how high the ceilings were here.

“Yeah, I thought you might like how big this place is.” he said.

Sparky couldn’t contain his excitement. With a quick “The TREES!” He had bolted from the door and was wandering through the rows of vegetables and crops. 

“Sparky!” Andromeda started to chase after her dog. He had just snuck between two rows of tomato crops. She heard her dog start to growl. A voice from farther down the row said, “Now look what the cat dragged in. Oh come on pup, you don’t think you can hurt me, do’ya?”

Her father laughed from behind. “Hey there Danny!” he called out. “That’s my daughter’s dog Sparky and this is Andromeda.” Danny had come into view between the rows and was smiling down at the dog who was circling his feet. 

“Hiya there Miss Andromeda. Welcome to have you.” Danny said. He was a big man with a friendly smile. Andromeda didn’t believe that it was possible for humans to be that big, but there Danny was standing in front of her. She smiled up and noticed a slight blue tint at the tip of his nose and ears. She wondered if it were the effects of the antiviral medication that everyone on base took. Apparently if your skin was light enough and you took the medicine long enough, you could develop discoloration in areas where there was low blood flow. On people with darker skin, such as her family, you wouldn’t see such results. Andromeda had read about this happening in books, but it was a surprise to see it happening in real life. 

“Hi Danny. It’s nice to meet you.” Andromeda stuck out her hand for a handshake. Danny looked at it a bit confused and then awkwardly shook her hand. 

“Don’t worry Danny, you didn’t just sign your soul over to be cursed for a thousand years. It’s just that on Earth we still do handshakes for greetings.” Dad said.

Danny smiled and said “Yeah, I remembered your Earthen ways. I find myself to be a cultured man. So here I am shaking your daughter’s hand. Now that we’ve done the Earthen greeting let’s do the 678 one. Come-on Philip, let’s show her.”

Andromeda didn’t know there was a separate greeting for this planet. She watched as her dad and Danny faced each other. They lifted both hands , palms facing forward. Then they each bowed their heads and lowered their hands. 

“Comes from the old “I see what you are holding in your hands, you nasty bastard.” Danny said and her father laughed. Then motioning to Andromeda he said,“Let’s go an-get round this old place so we can show you everything.” 

Andromeda realized something. “You were born here. Weren’t you.” she said

Danny sheepishly shrugged. “Caught me red handed, miss. Born ‘n raised on 678 It’s why I got a touch of the ‘blue’ and an accent that I’m told sounds like I’m from a place on Earth called ‘Tex-ass’.”

Andromeda giggled. She had never heard someone pronounce Texas like that. Hearing Danny, the biggest man she’d ever met say it, made it all the more funny. 

Her dad, Danny and Andromeda walked through rows of crops. Every few yards, her father would inspect the robotic sprinkler arm. Sometimes he made notes into his wrist com. Sometimes he and Danny discuss mechanical things that didn’t really make sense to Andromeda. Luckily Sparky seemed a bit spooked by the large expansive space so he stayed close to her. Andromeda marveled at the rows and rows of food. Each crop had its own irrigation system and monitors that helped maintain the quality of the food. It was a huge operation. She had not thought about how important it was to make sure the food for the base was properly maintained. 

“Who picks the tomatoes when they are ripe?” Andromeda asked. Danny turned and said “Luckily we have robots who do that. We might even meet one later today. Bez-ez, I call ‘um. Cause they are busy Beez.”

Sparky barked. Then Andromeda felt a buzz from her wrist com. Both Danny and Dad were looking at their wrist com’s too. She tapped her ear.

“Attention all residents of base 678. Code AGAVE. I repeat Code AGAVE. Return to your family  units until further information can be supplied.” Andromeda gasped. Something was wrong. The message in her ear repeated “Attention all residents-” it said. She looked at her Dad and Danny. They were both still listening to their message, apparently given a longer explanation due to their security clearances. 

Danny swore. Her father swayed. 

“Alright, Cap” Danny said. “We’ll expedite the harvest Beez and let you know the total. Not sure there is much else we can do. Over and out”

Her father looked at Andromeda then glanced at Sparky. “I need to get you home asap.” he said.

“But Dad” Andromeda said as she and her dog followed her father back to the entrance. “What’s happening?”

Danny had followed along. “Something that shouldn’t have happened for another 500 years. There’s an asteroid on a collision course with 678.”

Her Dad looked back at Danny. “I’ll leave it up to you boss. I’ll take Andromeda home and then back to help.” he said.

Danny clapped a hand on his shoulder. “This is a first for you Philip. Make sure your family is safe. Come back when the Captain announces the code CAPER.”

Her dad shook his head and they headed out the door. 

An asteroid headed to crash into Planet 678? Andromeda couldn’t believe it. Sparky followed at her heels, aware of some sort of danger. He had said nothing. What did this mean for everyone on the planet? 


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Part 6

Andromeda and the Moon: Part 1 – A Short Story by Leona

“Sparky! It’s time to get back to the bunk! I want dinner!” Andromeda called to her dog. Sparky was sniffing at a green shrub close to the walkway. He turned and spoke through his “Speech Collar” 

“Missy, I want to sniff this one last shrub. I gotta see who’s been here. Hmph!” Sparky turned to keep sniffing.

Andromeda rolled her eyes. She loved Sparky but ever since she bought the speech collar, she was learning how stubborn her terrier really was. 

“Want some food? A treat?” Sparky’s head quickly turned to Andromeda.

“I want a TREAT! Treat treat tre–eat!” Sparky was singing a little jingle. Andromeda laughed as they both made their way back to the base. She and Sparky had just moved there with her family. Andromeda’s father was a Space Engineer. These people helped to maintain different parts of the machinery that made it possible to have outposts on different planets. Andromeda and her family had just arrived at Planet 678. It was called this because it took 678 days for this planet to get around the Sun. But Andromeda liked to call this planet Aquarius. She felt that this name suited the planet better. After all this hunk of rock was just floating through the air, no special rings or moons and no atmosphere either.

Andromeda’s earpiece buzzed. She tapped it and glanced down at her wrist com. It was her mom.

“Hi mom,” she said.

“Ani, it’s time for dinner! We’re all seated at the table!” her mom said.

“Got it mom! Sparky was just being stubborn.” Andromeda looked down and Sparky winked at her. He was still humming his “treats” song. “We’ll be there asap.” Andromeda tapped her ear piece again.

“Alright Sparky Mom just gave the okay to make a dash back to the house.” Andromeda said and started to run. It felt good to let her legs move fast down the hallway. Sparky was shouting after her.

“Run! Run! Run!” His little leggs quickly gained on her and he sped down the corridor to her family’s unit on the base. When she arrived at the door, her brother, Maffei, was holding open the door. Her brother was 3 years younger but just as fiercely competitive as her.

“Hurry up!!” was her brother’s “Welcome Home” and he turned and ran back to the dinner table. It was a rule in her family that they always waited until everyone was at the table to start eating. Her mom mentioned manners, dad said it was tradition, Andromeda always thought it was nice, unless you were the one keeping everyone waiting. She unbuckled her boots and went into the dining room.

“Ah Andi,” her father said with a warm smile. His shiny bald black head reflected the light from the light over the dinner table. “Let’s get started, everyone,” he said.

Andromeda took a seat and started to pass the food so that her mom could start to serve Maffei. She noticed that they had mac and cheese and some green beans. Yum! The food here was surprisingly good. Andromeda knew her dad was part of the team that made sure the agricultural plants were fully functioning and producing top quality foods. She crunched on a green bean.

“You know hun” her mom was saying to her dad. Mom’s curly black hair looked purple in the weird lighting of the room. Her mom’s skin was lighter than her father’s but they were both proud Afro-Earthers with strong ties to their ancestry. Back on Earth, Mom had been a professor at a college in London. She taught physics. So when Dad had the opportunity to live on Planet 678 for a season, mom couldn’t wait. 

“Hun, I think that you should take Andromeda out on your parole tomorrow. It would be a good way for her to see more of the base. Since I have to teach remote and everything, I feel like she and Maffei haven’t been out of the house that much.”

“True true.” Dad said, rubbing his forehead. “Parole tomorrow should be pretty straight forward. What do you think of Andromeda? Do you want to see where these green beans are grown?”

Before she could answer Maffei cut in “Hey Dad! I want to go too!” She and Maffei hadn’t started school on the base. Apparently there was some paperwork that needed to be sent through. So they both had ample time to get bored of their family unit.

“No bud, you need to be at least 16 years old to enter a worksite farming zone.”

Andromeda smiled. “Yes! I would love to go! I have been wanting to explore more of the base. Maybe even see the flight training deck!”

Sparky joined in her excitement beneath the table. “Yes! We can see the whole place! And Run Run run!!”

“Ani,” her mom said. “Can you turn off the speech thingy while we are at the table?” Her mom said. Her mom hadn’t thought the newest Speech Controller was such a fun device.

Andromeda tapped her  wrist and spoke into her wrist com. Then all you could hear was Sparky’s yips which weren’t as bad as hearing him go on and on about running fast. 

“It’s settled then” dad said. “Let’s get out tomorrow first thing!” Andromeda couldn’t wait! She and her family finished their dinner and retired to their bedrooms. Andromeda picked up Sparky and set him on her bed and then she climbed into the bed. It was a cozy bunk that was in the wall. She turned Sparky’s speech back on.

“What do you think we will see tomorrow bud?” she asked.

“I want to see a bush and a tree.” Sparky said. She giggled and pet his head.

“I don’t think there will be any trees there bud.”

“But maybe I will see a squirrel and I can run fast, fast, fast. Faster than a fox. Faster than a bunny. Faster than a-”

Andromeda smiled and switched off the light, slowly lulled to sleep by her dog’s continuous ramblings. She couldn’t wait for tomorrow


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Sherlock and Dad – A Short Story by Leona

The room smelled like oil. Sherlock didn’t mind the rusty, slick scent that clung to the air. It reminded him of home. A thing that he had been looking a long time for. He remembered when his Dad first invited him to join in the car fixing project. How it felt to get his hands dirty after spending so many years trying to keep them clean. Sherlock walked to his dad who was crouched by the old car’s bumper. His Dad loved old cars and restoring them. Never mind that it took an indefinite amount of time getting them back to their former glory. But Sherlock understood that it was a way for his Dad to be away from the world and get lost in thought. He loved spending time in the smelly garage and welcomed the grease stains that would inevitably smear his pants and shirt.

“So you see” Dad said with no introduction “We have to find a bolt to replace the inner connection between the car and the bumper. I think maybe a bumper bolt from ‘74 should work. Grab the bin and lets see if I can find one to fit.” Dad motioned with his hand to the towing shelf of car parts and thing-a-ma-bobs. Sherlock grabbed what his father wanted and brought it over crouching next to his dad.

“So how’s school going Jim?” Dad asked. He was the only one in the world that called Sherlock “Jim” but he didn’t mind.

“It’s fine.” Sherlock shrugged. Things at school hadn’t been easy but he didn’t really know how to talk about it. 

“How’s Claire? Anything new with ehr these days?” Dad asked.

“Uhh” Sherlock started. “Well I haven’t really talked to Claire recently. So I dunno.” he said.

“Really? I thought you two were good friends? Did something happen?” His father continued sifting through different bolts from the bin Sherlock had brought over. For a few moments, the only sound was the metal screws and bolts clinking together as Dad tried to find the right one.

Then Sherlock spoke.

“I am not sure we’re friends anymore.” He remembered back to the hallway incident where he had helped Claire find her homework. Sherlock shuddered as he remembered seeing Silas walk down the hallway and kick over Claire’s things. How he had wanted to stand up and sock him right there. But he was afraid. Afraid of his anger. Afraid that Silas would start to target Claire. Afraid that his dad would hate him.

“Son?” his dad asked. He had stopped rummaging and was sitting and looking at Sherlock, his head slightly tilted. Sherlock remembered how Dad had said he could talk to him about anything. How the first time Sherlock met his mom and dad and how it felt to be hugged by them. His nose started to water and he wiped his hand to push away mucus.

Dad said “ Something happened at school, didn’t it?” He was sad or angry just asking.

Sherlock nodded. He went on to tell him about the moment with Claire in the hallway. He went on to explain how Silas had been shoving him into a locker last month. He told Dad that he was so angry at Silas for kicking over Claire’s things that he wanted to punch him in the face. But he was afraid that if he got angry, Mom and Dad wouldn’t love him.

Sherlock choked out “I can’t remember a happier family and I don’t want you and mom to go away. So I let those things happen cause I didn’t want you guys to leave me.” He started to cry. Silent tears nothing showy or blubbery. He was really ashamed of himself. And worse of all he knew his dad would be ashamed of him too. Sherlock got up to leave the garage.

Dad put his hands on Sherlock’s shoulders keeping him in place. He looked into his eyes.

“Jim,” He said. “I am really proud of you telling me about what’s going on at school. I am proud of you. But you don’t need to live your life alone anymore. Mom and I always have your back. We will always love you, even if you’re angry.”  His dad paused. He gave Sherlock a hug and said in his ear. “You are my son and I love you forever and always.” Dad pulled back.

“Now let’s talk more about this guy Silas. What’s happening at school? You’re being bullied by this kid?”

“I told him his science project was factually incorrect. He didn’t like that. Also I’m weird and most people don’t like me.” Sherlock said

“Well, that’s not a reason to be treated that way, bud. We need to put a stop to this immediately. And you know, Claire likes you. You’re friends, right?” Dad said.

“I think so.” Sherlock said.

“Let’s go give her a call now and figure out.” Dad said, straightening up to stand.

“No! Dad! That’s super embarrassing! I will talk to her on Monday.” Sherlock couldn’t imagine talking to Claire on the phone. That would just be too much.

Dad said “Alright, but I am coming with you on Monday and figuring out what’s happening with Silas. I am going to talk to the principal.”

Sherlock was surprised. He hadn’t expected Dad to do that for him. But he realized that this is what he wanted Dad to do for him. He wanted Dad to be there on Monday. Sherlock suddenly grabbed the bin of bolts and picked out two identical ones. 

“What about these Dad?” Sherlock asked.

His Dad smiled. “Looks good Jim. Let’s see if we can fix this bumper. Then grab some snacks before mom knows we’ve spoiled dinner.”

Sherlock smiled. He knew he had picked a good Dad. Dad was one of his favorite people. He looked forward to talking with Claire on Monday.

Claire and Grandma – A Short Story by Leona

“Halmeoni” Claire called toward the front door. “I’m coming!” 

She slipped on her sneakers and grabbed her rain jacket. Earlier, Claire had heard from Pa’s radio that there was “a high chance of rain in the greater Chicago area”. She tumbled down the stairs carefully to slow down right as she landed on the entryway. 

“Claire!” Her grandmother said, waiting for her, “You need to slow down when you go down the stairs! One day you’ll trip and fall and end up who knows where.” 

“Yes Halmeoni” Claire looked down at her shoes. Oh shoot! One of them needed tying.

“You ready to go? Our lunch date is all ready.” Her grandmother smiled and turned. Claire carefully followed her grandma, trying not to step on the loose shoelace. They got in the car. Every 3rd Saturday of the month, Grandma and Claire would go out to lunch and chat. Claire enjoyed spending time with her halmeoni and telling her all about school. But today she didn’t want to talk about school or her friends. She wanted to eat yummy food and watch kpop music videos on the big TV at the restaurant. The previous day at school had been one that Claire wanted to forget and especially not talk about. She looked out the car window and fogged up the glass, trailing her fingers to create a sort of pattern. Claire and her grandmother did not exchange words in the car. They were even silent as the waiter sat them down at a table. Her grandmother smiled and looked at the menu.

“What would you like to eat, Claire?” she asked.

“I just don’t want to even be his friend anymore!” Claire said crossing her arms and leaning her head down. “I don’t need friends,” she mumbled.

Halmeoni knew this was how Claire processed difficult things. You just needed to give her space and then she would talk. Her granddaughter was at an age that required freedom but also guidance.

“I think I’ll order us both Yok Gae Jang and then you can tell me about how you don’t need friends.” There was a pause. “Do you really think so? I’ve always found friends to be valuable, in my life.” Halmeoni said. She ordered the food and even a soda for Claire who was still sulking with her head in her arms. Claire sat there, enjoying the darkness that her crossed arms provided. It shielded her from all the feelings and thoughts she didn’t want to acknowledge. She wished she could stay in the darkness forever.

“Your hot tea and cherry coke.” a voice said above Claire. She looked up. Cherry Coke? That was her favorite! Halmeoni smiled. Claire scooted the cup closer and took up the straw and started slurping. The yummy fizzy taste of  the cherry pop made her feel a little better. 

“Halmeoni, you know how I have my friend Sherlock?”, Claire asked.

“Yes, he’s one of your good friends at school. I believe you met this year?” Halmeoni cupped her hands around her tea mug. She knew full well how good of friends Claire and Sherlock had become. Always hanging out together after school.

“Yeah, he was new this year, and well I don’t know how we started hanging out. But you know he’s so…so DUMB. A stupid boy person. And I don’t want to be his friend anymore.” Clarie said with gusto and then emphatically took a gulp of soda. The carbonation caused her to cough and she ended up looking and feeling ridiculous. But Halmeoni didn’t seem to mind, instead she pressed in with the questions.

“Why don’t you want to be James’ friend anymore?” Halmeoni always used Sherlock’s first name. 

“Well, you see we were at school and he basically just said we’re not friends. So there.” Clair took another gulp of her soda. She then decided it was worth telling Halmeoni about Sherlock. She went on.

“You see it was the last period of the day and I had just had a terrible time in English class. Somehow I couldn’t find my homework from last night. My teacher let me go into the hallway to look for it in my locker. Mrs. Bell believed that I did it but she still wanted me to turn it in on time. So I was in the hallway going through everything. I took almost every book out of my locker and was flipping through all the pages to see if it had gotten lost there. All my stuff was stacked a certain way so that I could remember how it went back in my locker. Sherlock came down the hall from his other class and asked what I was doing. I explained how the homework was finished but lost. He started double checking the books I had looked through just in case. You know, a second pair of eyes kind of thing. I thought it was kinda a dumb thing to do but I let him help me. I know Sherlock probably didn’t want to be in class, that’s why he was in the hallway. Then Ptooey came down the hallway and kicked all my stuff!” 

“Ptooey?” Halmeoni asked.

“Yeah “Claire shrugged. “ It’s just what we call the bully in the other class. I don’t remember his real name.”

“You should try to call people by their names, Claire. It is important.” Halmeoni said.

Claire took a long sip of coke; she didn’t want to tell her grandmother that she wasn’t sure that Ptooey even had a real name. She continued “So I yelled and was kinda upset and the bully just laughed in my face and said ‘What are you gonna do about it? This guy help you?’ He laughed in a mean way that is so annoying!! But you know what Sherlock did?”

“James” Halmeoni interrupted. 

“Yes, James” continued Claire. “He didn’t say anything. He just looked at me, stopped looking at my books and didn’t answer. Ptooey asked him straight out. ‘Is she your friend?’ he was pointing at me. And Sher- I mean James said ‘She’s not my friend, I was just helping her pick up things.’ At this point I was really upset, Halmeoni, and I almost started crying. Sherlock, I mean James, says dumb things but it has never been that dumb. Ptooey laughed at us and walked away. He made sure to step on my books as he left. And James just handed me a piece of paper, which amazingly was my lost homework and didn’t say anything!”

Claire had pushed herself to her feet and was standing up. At that moment, a server walked over with their meals, set them down and moved quickly away. Claire stood for a moment longer and then slowly took her seat. Halmeoni handed Claire chopsticks and a napkin. She prayed a blessing over the meal and then said to her granddaughter,

“Do you think James had a reason for not answering this person? As you mentioned, he isn’t kind to other students.”

“Well,” Claire took a bite of food. The yummy spices warmed her mouth. She ate a few more bites of food. The meal was making her feel better. 

“ I dunno, Sherlock just doesn’t want to be friends with me anymore. He didn’t even wait for me in the pick up bus line. So I guess…” Claire trailed off. Her thoughts were so jumbled. She was upset at Sherlock but more at the fact that he was now avoiding her at school. 

“Maybe you and James need to have a conversation.” Halmeoni said. 

“Yeah, about how Sherlock is being a big JERK.” Claire said.

“No,” Halmeoni said. “I think you need to ask James what is really going on. It seems like there is more to the story. You can be upset, but before you think you aren’t friends, you need to hear his side of the story.”

Claire didn’t want to listen to her grandmother. She was angry and sad. She thought of Sherlock as her best friend so it hurt her feelings when he didn’t say it. But as she ate more of her food in silence, Claire realized that her grandmother was right. She wanted to still be friends with Sherlock. She wanted them to explore that house at the end of the street. Sherlock was surprising and it was always fun when they got together. She sighed.

“Halmeoni, I’ll talk to him on Monday.”

“You promise to ask James his side of the story?” Halmeoni wanted to drive this point home.

“Yes I promise. I just want to be friends again.” Claire said, looking out the restaurant window. Hopefully Sherlock would be willing to talk to her.

The Call : Part 4 – A Short Story by Leona

“Hey Tim, give me a call when you get the chance. I’d love to catch up.” I said into the telephone. I put the phone back on the receiver and leaned back against the wall of the phone box. I had tried getting in contact with my brother but we seemed to be playing phone tag. Always leaving messages but never talking in person. I wanted someone familiar to talk to. After my conversation with K-Tig, I felt out of place and disjointed. Was the sun going to explode in my lifetime or centuries from now? I had no idea. 

The phone rang.

“Uhh, Hello?” I asked

“Hey, sis” A familiar voice said “ I finally caught you.” It was my brother Tim. “What’s going on? Why the sudden calls?”

To be fair Tim and I only chatted on holidays and birthdays. He could tell something wasn’t right. 

“Uhhh” I started. Trying to think of a way to explain how I talked to someone lightyears away. And said person told me our sun would explode sometime in the future. 

 “I think I need to get away from the observatory.”

“Some time off, you mean?” Tim sounded surprised.

“Yeah, something like that” I said. “Time to get away. Maybe even more permanent.”

“I mean, we all need time off. You’ve been so focused the last 5 years, it will do you some good!” Tim said reassuringly. It was what I needed to hear.

“Maybe I could visit you and your family. Get away from this jungle.” I paused. “I am just not sure I want to think about the stars anymore.”

“You’d love it out here. West coast is the best coast, as they say.” Tim responded. “And Mary?”

“Yeah?”

“Is everything at work going okay?” he asked.

“Yeah” I lied. “It’s just some time off that I need.”

“K’ay” Tim said “Cause you know that wherever you go, there will always be stars. You can’t get away from them.”

I repeated “Never get away.”


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The Call : Part 3 – A Shory Story by Leona

I hesitated when I got to the door of the observatory. It was the evening after the K-Tig incident and I did not really want to work. I wanted to rest, maybe call my brother. Forget some of the dullness of my job and my existence. But I opened the door anyway and went inside. Swinging almost comically on its hinges, the door announced my entrance to whomever was inside. I looked but there was no one. Bridge must be late. I had timed my entrance just so as to miss the previous shift and minimize conversation with Bridge.  I started setting up for the evening shit, ardently pushing the record putting on the tape machine just to spite Jensen. If he wanted to listen to hours of silence, so be it.  Bridge bustled through the door.

“Hey Mary! How’s it going.” His greeting was more of a statement than a question. He was carrying far too many things; coffee, water bottle, a stack of papers and his glasses. Bridge slowly, and if I might add, comically started to rest his things on the desk by leaning way over the ledge and carefully setting each item down. I laughed. 

“Do you need any help, Bridge?”

He smiled and continued his process. “No, I think I am good. But I’m glad you’re in a laughing mood. I thought you might be more bummed after what happened yesterday.”

“Well, I am trying to not let it get to me.” Isaid. The reality of it was that K-Tig’s conversation unsettled me more than Jensen. 

“It’s because Jensen knows you’re smarter than him.” Bridge said, settling in a chair. He started rummaging his papers. “He’s afraid you’re out for his job and so keeps harping on your mistake cause it’s the first one you’ve made.”

I blinked and waited. Bridge continued, first taking a sip of his coffee. “You know, I always thought Jensen was full of himself. He is too afraid to admit that you’re a better scientist, Mary. Your lunar module stuff is pretty innovative. Might call you an inventor.” He smiled.

I had not heard compliments like this from my coworkers before so I sat in a moment of shock. Then I mumbled thanks and turned to my paperwork.

“It’s true” Bridge continued “And I like having you on my team.” That seemed to be then of Bridge’s thoughts and we settled into a comfortable silence. I couldn’t help thinking there must be an angle Bridge was trying to play. But maybe the compliment was genuine. As I made the regular logs for the evening, my mind started to drift to the previous night.

“My planet is very different from yours, I believe” K-Tig said. His voice had started to sound calm and conversational as opposed to the stilted beginning. 

“We have no atmosphere or polar caps, the way your Earth was said to have had. Our bodies have evolved to need less oxygen. So we have cites, towns and even farms. But our lives exist inside large caverns that were built underground. Only rich people live close to the surface where you need expensive gear to keep out the radiation.”

I marveld at K-Tig’s description of his planet. His world. I asked, “How do you retain and collect water? This has been the biggest issue I’ve found in constructing my lunar module.”

“Our water is constantly being regulated and our air is monitored. We do not breathe as humans used to breathe on the Earth. That is, freely. We have packs that are fitted to our bodies that supply us with oxygen and take out moisture from our bodies. Our bodies act as little engines and each day we collect water that is then removed during our sleep.”

I paused. Something was bothering me about the way K-Tig was talking about Earth. “K-Tig?” I said his name more as a question than a moniker.

“Yes, Mary?” K-Tig responded.

“Why do you keep referring to Earth in the past tense. I noticed you keep saying ‘had, was’ in Earth English that indicates something that has happened i.e. “is finished”. What’s that about?”

My hands moved around the microphone. I had been able to verbalize what was wrong with the conversation. As amazed as I was about learning about K-Tig, I had finally put into words my discomfort. The use of past tense felt like a bad omen.

“Oh” K-Tig said plainly, “That is because from my planet, Earth no longer exists. You are part of a star’s death and subsequent matter compression. As I said, my department is all about documenting historical galaxies. Even though we can see your destroyed star, it still exists because of the lightyear model. We use dying star energy to harness speed and velocity for our  message frequency and are able to make contact with past living planets.”

I didn’t respond right away. I shut off the mic. Was K-Tig telling me that we were talking and communicating in different timelines? No, the same timeline but at different points? K-Tig was talking about the future. I was the past for him. He had said ‘Historical Galaxies’.

I shivered. Took a shaky sip of my coffee and pressed the microphone to turn on again.

“K-Tig, do you happen to have a timeline on when the Sun, I mean, the star died?”

There was a long pause. K-Tig’s responses were usually quick and responsive. Surprisingly so because of the distance of their conversation. The speaker crackled.

“Well,” K-Tig sounded apologetic. “It is against my department’s protocol to tell past galaxies of their own timeline. We’ve found that it can cause a lot of, how do you say, turmoil.”

“So you’re telling me, that you can tell me about my galaxy’s death but not when it happens?” my voice rose in frustration.

“Precisely” K-Tig said. Short and sweet.


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