After finishing "Space Girls", I thought I had broken the glass ceiling and would be able to finish future novels more easily. This turned out to be a delusion. After my creative energy/work ethic fizzled out on an attempted sequel, I decided to turn my attention instead to an anthology of prequel short stories, each focusing on one of the main characters. And I wrote like twenty sentences, tops, before that too was more or less abandoned. But now I have to write two stories for Advanced Fiction Writing and the pressure of not flunking has enabled me to finish one. In three days I will be turning this story in for my professor and classmates to helpfully tear apart. So of course it's an early draft and I hope you will cut me a little slack. Having said that, reading the other submissions so far has given my confidence in my own future since no one else is even attempting to fill the same niche as me. Everyone else's stories are way more serious and uptight. So we can all coexist and not have to kill each other.
Since I used characters I'd already created, I thought the brainstorming session in class would be redundant, but I was mistaken. As I wrote about Jane Padgett I had the epiphany that she's an Aspie. How had I not realized that before? She has weird interests and nobody at school liked her. I never consciously wrote myself into her but it turns out to have happened anyway. On another interesting (to me) note, in the original novel (other than in some flashbacks), she is 25, her companion Lillis Hawker is 26, and their military supervisor guy Mike Peterson is 32. When I came up with them I figured Jane and Lillis were respectable "adult" ages and Mike was super old. Now that I'm approaching 25 myself, I realize the truth - Jane and Lillis are just kids, and Mike is super old. But in this story, Jane is still in high school. It was meant to be sort of patterned after a story that I can't remember the name of where two feuding guys get stuck under a fallen tree together and decide to call a truce and then (SPOILER ALERT) it becomes moot when they hear wolves, but it evolved in a kind of different direction.
The one downside (or should I say dark side) of all the new and upcoming Star Wars movies is that they'll make it increasingly harder for me to come up with my own original sci-fi ideas. Maybe I'll have to end up working for them. I could live with that.
Jane Padgett thought for a moment that the slow motion of the rover flipping upside down through – well, not through the air, actually, but through where the air would have been if there had been air – was merely a trick of her traumatized perception. Beside her Chantelle Anderson, the last person in her class or the galaxy she had wanted to partner with, stopped trying to wrestle the steering wheel away from her and just screamed something Jane couldn’t hear. She liked to imagine it was “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”
She quickly remembered the gravity circumstances, however, and relaxed as the ground came up to meet them. It probably wouldn’t hurt a bit. Indeed, the rover hit, bounced, and repeated the motion five more times before coming to a rest upside down with her Chantelle sprawled on opposite sides.
Jane struggled to her feet first and tried not to topple over. She hated this suit, hated how it reminded her that her awkward teenage body wasn’t all growing at the same rate. Chantelle had taken great delight in pointing out, as if she hadn’t noticed, that it was loose in all the wrong places and tight in all the wrong places. Its arms in particular stopped at least six centimeters before hers. She had hoped the helmet, at least, would be opaque enough to obscure her acne, but no luck there. At least if the visor wrapped all the way around it would have shown her blonde hair, the only feature that didn’t make her self-conscious, but what could you do?
The landscape was as dry and dead as a human skull Jane had seen once – a darker shade though, and far bumpier, as if the skull had been dipped in soot and dropped on the ground. Looking at it sent a chill down her spine, even though the temperature outside her suit was at least 100 degrees Celsius.
Chantelle got up a moment later, swaying like a disabled ship in a meteor storm. Her red bangs swished above her green and currently enraged eyes. From the way she moved her lips and gestured with her arms and fingers, Jane inferred that she was still yelling about something. She pointed to her wrist radio to indicate the frequency she had set.
Chantelle paused, moved over to look at it, set her own radio to the same frequency, and resumed yelling. Jane picked out the relevant nouns and verbs from among the superfluous curse words and got the message.
“Not my fault,” she said, putting up her hands. “There’s a problem with the steering. Look, I’ll show you.” It was true, but she couldn’t help feeling guilty anyway, and she knew that Chantelle knew it.
“Of course there is now, you stragging idiot,” Chantelle said. “The whole thing’s busted up. Stupid Mrs. Havelock making me let you drive! You couldn’t follow fifty other people and you somehow managed to hit the only sizable rock for kilometers around! I’m actually impressed. But I’m still going to kill you.”
Jane was almost too exasperated to be scared of her threats. Chantelle was being her usual self, but at least now had an understandable reason for being upset. She could live with that. “Look, it’s fine. We’ll just flip it over, keep an eye on the steering and catch up to the class before they even notice we’re gone.”
“Oh yes? And which way should we go, Copernicus?” Chantelle gestured at the landscape around them.
Jane looked at it and felt a lump in her throat. Their rover had left unmistakable bounce craters, and beyond that must have also left tracks for them to follow back, but so had every other vehicle that had come through this area in the last twenty years or so, including several of the exact same model. No rain, no wind, no animals had come through to erase them. They created a mismatched grid pattern that would have taken days to unravel.
“I suppose,” Chantelle continued, “you happened to track the positions of the stars as we were moving? Well, at least radio to let them know we’re lost.”
“I’m not on the same frequency anymore. See, I started sampling the lunar radio stations, but they were all just playing the same crap as on Earth. So then I just found a silent frequency so I could experience the landscape the way it was meant to be experienced. If it was meant to be experienced at all, I mean, which is debatable since humans didn’t evolve here, but…”
“And you made me switch to your frequency?” Chantelle sputtered.
It would have taken a few minutes of trial and error to find the correct frequency again, but Jane wasn’t concerned enough to worry about it, and saw no compelling reason to explain it. “You weren’t on the right one either, were you? Mrs. Havelock would have heard you screaming at me as we veered off course. Then again, she’s so used to it she probably tuned it out.”
“I was listening to music,” Chantelle said with a sniff. “I’ve got no interest in rocks. So now they can’t hear either of us, and we’re screwed, thanks to you, you stupid –”
“They’ll notice we’re gone. I’m sure someone will find us. I’m going to savor this moment!” Jane started skipping, bounding even higher than the rover had bounced, and sang: “Giant steps are what you take, walking on the moon! I sure hope my legs don’t break, walking on the moon!”
“Jane Padgett,” Chantelle said, with the air of one struggling and failing to control her temper, “you sound like a bull moose having an aneurysm in the middle of his mating call.”
Jane stopped bouncing and made a face at her. “Last time it was an elephant,” she said, “so I guess I’ve improved.”
“Don’t keep practicing.” Chantelle reached into a pocket of her suit and removed the lighter she had smuggled onto the rocket. She couldn’t actually use it on the moon, as it turned out; if she tried to smoke in Luna City she would face a two thousand galactar fine, and if she tried to smoke out here she would quickly die. She flicked the lighter anyway and stared at the flame, a small blue globe clinging to its precious fuel source in the vacuum and low gravity. She snorted, rolled her eyes and put it away again.
“Where’s your sense of wonder?” Jane said, throwing up her hands. “You and the rest of the Philistines who didn’t want to come on this trip! Boring, they said! We’re on the stragging moon! Luna, if you’re pretentious. How can you not be excited?”
“I guess these rocks remind you of the ones in your head.”
“I’ve never been offworld before. I mean, technically I have, since I was born on Mars, but I don’t remember it at all. And it never really registered in my brain that I am now, that I’m here, until this moment now when I saw this sight… but why am I talking to a Philistine who can’t appreciate it?”
“I’d appreciate it more if you’d shut up.”
Jane sighed and walked back over to the overturned rover, propped herself up against it, and sat down, smirking because her bottom would leave an imprint in the dust for millennia to come. She smirked again, because the computer system in Luna City would notice when their rover failed to arrive, and the tracking beacon would lead a search team in a beeline right to them. Chantelle obviously hadn’t been paying attention when Mr. Briggs, the tour guide, had explained that, and Jane saw no compelling reason to tell her.
As long as they were stuck together for a while longer, though, it would be worthwhile to see if she found the bully any more amiable without her cronies nearby. “Tell me, Chantelle,” she said, “why are you so unkind to me?”
Chantelle cocked her head in disbelief. “Have I really failed to explain that in terms your feeble little brain can understand? You’re weird, you’re annoying, you talk on and on about stupid things that nobody else cares about.”
“Yes, so I’ve heard,” Jane said, “but what’s the real reason? Why do you act like all that is a personal attack on your honor? Let me guess, you have self-esteem problems?”
“Shut up,” Chantelle said, and turned away from her.
“I have self-esteem problems too, but you don’t see me becoming a monster. Trouble at home? My parents don’t love me either, but you don’t see me becoming a monster.”
“I’m warning you, Jane,” Chantelle said, still facing away.
“Right, we’ll start with less personal questions. Is it true you dye your hair every morning with fresh hamster blood?”
Chantelle turned around and took a step toward her. “What?”
“Just curious,” Jane said, deciding that this avenue of discussion was an unhealthy one to pursue. “Never mind.”
“I will kill you if you keep pissing me off,” Chantelle said, taking another step forward. “You think I’m speaking figuratively, but I’m not. I’ll kill you and take your oxygen tank to improve my own miserable odds on this stupid dust ball.”
“Relax. We can last out here for hours as long as no lunar wolves show up.”
Chantelle frowned. “Lunar wolves?”
“Like arctic wolves, but lunar.”
“There’s no native life on the moon, you freak. I know that much.”
“Who said they were native?” Jane leaned back and folded her arms behind her head. “It all started, as these things often do, when a government-funded scientist had a stupid question. If wolves were on the moon, would they howl at the Earth? So they built a laboratory on the outskirts of Luna City and started breeding wolves there. And then some even bigger idiot thought hey, why not modify them to survive in a frozen vacuum and eat rocks with teeth as hard as diamonds? Without taking away their taste for meat? None of that research group survived.”
“I’m not as stupid as you seem to think I am,” Chantelle said.
“No?” Jane said. “Ah, well, you can’t blame a girl for aaaah look out!”
“What?” Chantelle spun around so fast that she lifted a meter off the ground.
“Ahahahahahahahahaha!” Jane forced herself to stop laughing so as not to waste all of her oxygen supply, and also because a less than amused Chantelle now loomed right over her. She had known this was unwise, and yet the seductive siren song of revenge had been too strong. Still worth it, she decided.
“Get up, you fool,” Chantelle said. “Face me like a real woman.”
“Fine, fine, whatever, I was just kidding, sheesh,” Jane said, hopping to her feet. She gestured at the spot where she had sat. “Would you look at that? Maybe I haven’t made a good impression on you, but –”
“Aargh!” Chantelle lunged at her, flew past her and face-planted into the ground.
“Ahahahahaha!” Jane said. “Now do you understand the gravity of the situation? Did you forget that it’s only seventeen percent of Earth’s? You’ll need a little more finesse than –”
Chantelle grabbed her ankle, pulled her to the ground, and climbed on top of her, pummeling the entirety of her suit and helmet with fists. She yelled, “You – think – you’re – funny – but – you’re – not!”
Had the girl gone mad, or was she just mad, Jane wondered? In any case, she found herself flailing to defend herself, although none of the blows had hurt yet. Chantelle showed no sign of letting up and would probably keep her pinned here until they both died. Jane craned her head, picked up a rock lying nearby, and started hitting Chantelle with it as hard and as many times as she could, startling the latter enough for Jane to push her off and get to her knees.
“Let’s try to behave like civilized people,” Jane said, but Chantelle lunged at her again. “Hey, wait, your oxygen tube’s got a leak!”
“Nice try,” Chantelle said, but her eyes flitted to the spot where Jane was staring anyway, and she screamed.
“This is bad,” Jane said. “This is really bad.” She knew that one of the pockets in each of their suits contained tubes of polymer to make repairs in exactly this sort of emergency, but – she looked at the dial indicating Chantelle’s oxygen supply and noted that it wasn’t moving too quickly – she saw no compelling reason to tell her. Someone would find them any minute and Chantelle could just worry until then for all she cared.
“What do I do? What do I do?” Chantelle screamed, flapping her arms like a canary.
“Calm down,” Jane said, her mouth twitching a little. “Don’t breathe too hard, don’t exert yourself too much… and don’t speak unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Chantelle stared at her. Jane stared back, her face a mask of sobriety. Chantelle sat down next to the rover, hugged her knees to her chest and stared off into space.
“Right, where was I? Ah yes.” Jane leaped as if she could touch the stars. “We could walk forever, walking on the moon! We could live together, walking on, walking on the moon!”
Chantelle’s eyes pleaded with her to stop, but she didn’t until she had finished the song and made seven circuits around their general vicinity. At that point she was ready for a break before launching into the next one. “Fly Me to the Moon”, made famous by Sinatra, or Ernie’s “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon”, or Roxette’s “The First Girl on the Moon”? Decisions, decisions. She stopped on the other side of the rover from Chantelle and looked up.
She had looked up plenty of times since the landing, of course, but only for a moment at a time. She had been so focused on being here, which was incredible enough, that she hadn’t taken in the rest of the neighborhood. Now it held her transfixed. The stars, for one thing, no longer twinkled as their light was filtered through an atmosphere. They looked as dead as this satellite, creating a sense of timelessness, conveying something of the age of the universe. But something else had her attention.
Earth. Terra, if you were pretentious. A solitary infected teardrop in a sterile, airless laboratory. It emerged as if from a sea of ink, its bottom third or so obscured by darkness, the rest a glowing swirl of white, blue, brown and green, like four flavors of melting ice cream coming together. These and a half dozen other metaphors raced through Jane’s mind in an instant. She felt compelled to share this with somebody, even if that somebody was the last person in the world she wanted to have anywhere near her. “Chantelle,” she said. “Look!”
Chantelle turned her head to look for a second, rolled her eyes, and looked away again.
“Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Tell me it’s not the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. Imagine, from this distance you can almost forget that it’s full of lying and wars and rape and murder and poverty and disease and famine and pollution and natural disasters and mindless TV shows and… space spit, now I’m depressed. Well, it’s beautiful, is all I’m saying.”
“If only it could say the same for you,” Chantelle said.
Why did she even try? Jane fell silent and continued gazing.
It was beautiful but, she realized, it wasn’t home. She lowered her gaze to the empty lunar desert once again and this time realized that she could never be any lonelier here than on that blue planet. And what if she did die here after all? Maybe the authorities would have enough respect to leave her body right where they found it, perfectly mummified, never decaying, finally at peace. And maybe her soul would go somewhere that it fit in at last.
She pushed those thoughts back down where they belonged. The lack of sunlight was getting to her already. Why hadn’t anyone come to get them yet? How could no one have noticed their absence? Even if she really was that invisible, a thought that saddened but didn’t surprise her… She started flipping through the radio frequencies. “Mrs. Havelock? Mr. Briggs? This is Jane Padgett. Do you read me?” Nothing. “Mrs. Havelock? Mr. Briggs? This is Jane Padgett. Do you read me?” Another crap music station; she skipped past it.
Chantelle saw her lips moving with increasing speed and gave her a questioning look. Jane ignored it until she came back to the frequency she had been on and Chantelle said, “What are you talking about? They’re coming, aren’t they?”
“I can’t reach them,” Jane said. “I don’t understand. We can’t be out of range already, can we? Unless… they’re back in Luna City, and they’ve all turned their radios off, and there won’t be another tour until tomorrow… because of spoiled, jaded Philistines like you, I might add, who think this place is boring and make tourism less profitable than it was five years ago.”
“But they’ll notice we’re gone,” Chantelle said. “They have to.”
“They probably want you gone,” Jane said. “I would. It’s me they’re not noticing… but if they’ve reached the city, the computer should have told them they’re a rover short, unless…” A terrible thought struck her. “I’m, ah, going to check the beacon.”
“The what?” Chantelle said.
“Get up,” Jane said, ignoring the question, and without waiting for her to comply she grabbed the rover’s frame and pulled it upright with ease. On the floor between the seats she found the access panel Mr. Briggs had told them about, with the little tab enabling her to pop it open. And inside – “Oh, space spit.”
“What?” Chantelle demanded.
“The distress beacon isn’t lit up,” Jane said. “It must be broken. No, wait.” She would have snapped her fingers if the suit’s gloves had allowed it. “I told you it had a steering problem. It must have been in for repairs. They took it out of the system, because it wasn’t supposed to be used…”
“Distress beacon? System? What? If it wasn’t supposed to be used, then why did they give it to us, genius?”
“Because someone, somewhere, made a stupid mistake,” Jane said. “And thanks to them, no one was notified that we’re missing, and even if they notice, they won’t be able to trace us. Why can’t I turn it on manually? There should be a way to turn it on manually. This is stupid.” She looked at Chantelle, who was paler than she’d ever seen her before, and had another horrible thought. “Hang on,” she said, and retrieved the polymer from her suit. She flicked off the lid and moved toward Chantelle with it.
“Get away from me!” Chantelle jumped to her feet and scrambled backward. “What do you think –”
“I’m trying to fix the leak, you moron! Hold still!”
“If you can fix it, why didn’t you –” But Chantelle, perhaps feeling desperate at this point, fell silent and obeyed. Jane squeezed on a liberal helping of the polymer. Hideous stuff, like fossilized macaroni and cheese, but it got the job done.
“There,” she said. “How much do you have left?” Even as she asked, she looked at the dial and noted that it was in the red. Half an hour left, at most.
Chantelle saw it too. Her mouth fell open a little.
Jane didn’t dare look at her own. It had to be much fuller, of course, but wouldn’t do her any better if they were stuck out here for as long as it was beginning to look like they would be. Chantelle would go much faster – her own fault, of course, since she had chosen not to pay attention to the safety instructions and then she had chosen to attack – and yet – Jane couldn’t help feeling a twinge of guilt. She had some culpability in this, to be sure.
Chantelle’s green eyes seemed as wide as the planet above them. “Jane,” she said in a whimper so pathetic that Jane felt her heart shatter. “I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.”
Jane would have expected a thrill at seeing her worst enemy humbled like this, but it never came. If either of them died, future field trips would be out of the question. Future generations of schoolchildren would never have this opportunity. They would become even less excited about space travel. Jane couldn’t let that happen.
She muttered, too low for Chantelle to hear, “My life would be a lot better if you did.” Louder, she said, “You’re not going to die. Nobody is going to die. Not today, I mean. Look, I told you the rover’s still working, we just have to find our way back somehow. Let’s see.” She looked around; every direction still looked the same. She looked up. “Earth. That’s it. I didn’t notice it while we were driving, so it must have been behind us. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. But it’s worth a shot.” She jumped into the driver’s seat. “Come on.”
Chantelle didn’t look reassured, but slid into the passenger seat next to her. Jane noticed that a little red light had started blinking on the dashboard. “Low Battery” said the label underneath. Great. Chantelle saw it too, and closed her eyes.
Jane started driving as fast as it would go and noticed right away that the steering problem had gotten worse since the crash. It forced her to hold the steering wheel all the way to the right to prevent them from veering off in the opposite direction, letting off just a bit here and there to avoid craters, and even so she noticed the vehicle drifting off course by degrees over the next few minutes. Eventually she had to stop, get out, and push it to face the correct, or at least what she hoped was the correct direction before starting off again.
“We’re making good time,” Jane said, hoping she sounded convincing. “Don’t worry.”
Chantelle stuck out her bottom lip.
The second time they had to stop and recalibrate, the rover went only a few meters before stopping on its own and refusing to start. The little red light went out.
Jane stared at the sky for a precious moment and bit her lip. “I… probably shouldn’t have left it running the whole time we were waiting.”
She expected, and knew she deserved, for Chantelle to go ballistic on her. Instead, Chantelle just started crying.
“Stop it, you’re making carbon dioxide!” Jane said. She hesitated, but she only saw one thing for it. “Get on my back.”
Chantelle gave her an understandable look of disbelief.
“Do it!” Jane snapped, and Chantelle complied. “Funny,” Jane muttered as she looped her arms around Chantelle’s legs, “I usually want you to get off my back.”
She jumped. She jumped farther than she had while singing, farther than she ever had bothered to try. Now her jumps were devoid of joy, fueled by urgency, like a grasshopper fleeing a frog. At the apex of each one she could see for kilometers around, the same landscape, the same rocks, the same craters, the same tracks, the same stars. She stopped paying attention and tried not to think about it, focusing only on the planet in the sky. Of course it never got any larger.
She jumped for several minutes until she thought her legs would explode. Then she screeched to a halt, leaving twin furrows and churning up a cloud of dust that obscured her vision for a moment, and looked 360 degrees around herself.
No sign of civilization or humans. None. They should have been able to see the lights of Luna City by now, or at least a bit of traffic. How could they have gotten so far away from it in such a short time earlier? Or were they going the wrong way now after all? It no longer mattered why. The time to rectify the situation had nearly run out. She had failed, like always.
“Lunar wolves!” Chantelle said. “Look, Jane, lunar wolves!”
“What are you –” Jane turned her head and looked where Chantelle was pointing. Of course she saw nothing but dead landscape, and somehow that alarmed her even more.
“Look, on the ridge!” Chantelle said, pointing. “Lunar wolves, like you said!” She had started breathing harder than a pervert on the phone, and not out of fear, not anymore.
“Shush!” Jane said. “I’ll take care of them. Save your breath, literally!”
“They’re going to mince us with their teeth, Jane,” Chantelle said. “Isn’t that… what’s the word… ironic?” She started to giggle like a cartoon chipmunk.
“For crap’s sake, stop talking, Chantelle!” Jane said, and realized the futility of it all as she spoke. The rest of her reluctant companion’s life could be measured in single digit minutes. She saw no point in hurrying any more, but neither did she see any other – ah yes, the radio! She had forgotten all about it! She decided to go through its frequencies again. “Mrs. Havelock? Mr. Briggs? Mrs. Havelock? Mr. Briggs?”
Music, music, silence, silence, silence, music – wait, what was that? She moved back to it. “–k are you? Jane? Chantelle? Where –”
“Hey, it’s Jane! We’re right here, Mr. Briggs!” Jane shouted. She had never heard a more beautiful sound than his voice, at least not since listening to Sarah Brightman the other day. “How are –”
“Jane! Jane Padgett!” He sounded flustered. How long had he been calling them? “Where’s ‘here’? We’ve sent out two dozen drones and rovers looking for you! Where are you? Why isn’t your beacon working?”
“I should ask you the same thing,” she said. “We’re facing Earth. That’s all I know. It’s beautiful, by the way.”
“You’re uninjured? Enough oxygen? You’re both all right?”
Before Jane could answer, Chantelle released her grip and slumped to the ground, her eyes shut and limbs akimbo. The rise and fall of her chest was barely discernible to the naked eye. In this condition she looked like a sleeping angel, almost impossible to hate, giving no indication of her behavior while conscious. Why was she so unkind while conscious? Her secret seemed as likely to come out now as ever.
Jane swallowed. “Do you have extra air supplies?”
“Of course, but –”
Jane switched her radio off. She needed to think through her options, and fast, without distractions. She didn’t have any particular desire to live – did she? Yet she certainly wasn’t willing to sacrifice herself for one of the people who made her life not worth living – was she? A compromise, she decided. They would both survive or both not. Maybe a drone had already spotted them, and if it hadn’t, maybe this wouldn’t work, but… she decided not to think about that.
She rummaged in the pocket where Chantelle had put the lighter and took it back out. With her other hand she grabbed the connection point of her oxygen hose. Unable to believe herself, she pushed the sliding mechanisms in opposite directions with her fingers, took and held a deep breath, and yanked it out. With that disconnected it was only a matter of seconds to slip the tank off her back and begin swinging it in a circle, her hand clamped around the free end of the hose to keep it from emptying too quickly.
Faster and faster she swung it, like a yo-yo, except that it didn’t get tangled around her fingers. When it had reached a steady momentum and her lungs felt like they were full of hot coals, she activated the lighter and touched it to the end of the hose as she let go.
Starved flame shot up its length like a bolt of lightning into the tank, which exploded, sending a streak of fire at least twenty meters across the sky. With no air resistance it spread outward and dissipated in the blink of an eye. Jane flopped backward with a gasp as it swept overhead, and decided this was as good a time as any to take a nap of her own.
The rescue passed in a blur, as did the two hours in the Luna City Medical Center, but by the end of it Jane had fully returned both to her senses, such as they were, and to her class with all her internal damage repaired by fastidious nanobots. Mrs. Havelock was too busy yelling at Mr. Briggs to notice her and Chantelle coming in to the mess hall where the students had gathered, an environment as sterile and drab as the one they had just left. The other kids looked at them and murmured, but didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned or even curious about what had happened.
Jane looked at Chantelle, and knew she would never get a chance like this again. Noticing for the first time that the nurses hadn’t bothered to take off her suit below the helmet, she stuck out a gloved hand. “Friends?”
For a long moment Chantelle looked at the hand as if it might shoot her. Then her face softened and her mouth opened to speak.
“Chantelle!” came the voice of McKenzie Hicken, one of her the cronies who usually followed her around. The other, Darcy Stewart, trailed behind her as they approached. They had partnered up before Chantelle got a chance to grab one of them.
“We’re so sorry we left you alone with the Loser Queen,” Darcy said, giving Jane a contemptuous glance and then ignoring her. “Poor dear, you’re lucky you didn’t die of boredom.”
“Was she as annoying as ever?” McKenzie asked.
Chantelle stood frozen. Then her mouth closed, and then it opened again. “Of course,” she said. “I wish I’d left her out there to die. The only thing she’s good for is to fertilize dead soil like this miserable rock.” She turned on her heel and walked into the crowd, raising her middle finger behind her. The other two laughed and followed.
Jane’s stomach churned. Maybe it would have been better if she had died. Her life, in any case, had not improved.
But, she realized as she contemplated the events that had brought them back here, she was still a hero, and nobody could take that away. A space hero. Like a normal hero, but in space. She liked the sound of that.
“Jane!” Mr. Briggs said, rushing up to her. “Jane, that was a very brave thing you did, I’m so terribly sorry, we wouldn’t have had this happen for the world, heads will roll when we find out who let that rover back into circulation, please don’t sue us, we’ll give you a lifetime pass to all the tours and facilities including a casino when you’re older… er… do you think you ever will be coming back?”
Jane only had to think about that question for a moment. She knew it had to be her imagination, but she fancied she had grown more into the suit already. She hardly noticed her earlier discomfort.
“You can count on it,” Jane Padgett said. “And that’s just the start.”
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.