Eternity’s Liftoff (6/7)


The notices, messages, and blinking red alerts were piling up on Claudia’s desktop. She had delayed and delayed, even fought at times, but they simply refused to let the last ship leave without her valuable brain on board. So here she was, not only wading through the standard Departure paperwork, but also the Council confirmations, engineer’s certifications, Departure-employee bonuses, special room arrangements, private party invitations, emergency contact protocols, and the many personal assurances to friends like Adela. A younger Claudia might have had the energy for all of it.

A younger Claudia also might have simply refused to leave her home planet, she reflected. For decades her life had been consumed by the Space Push, but she had never forgotten how she’d nearly walked out on the whole thing, how perverse she’d initially thought Adela’s proposal was. Claudia was not Adela. Her heart had never been with the Departure, but with the left-to-die.

Deep within her, Claudia still believed her planet could be saved, too. Despite her age, she still had a decade of work left in her, and her knowledge of the Fleet’s unprecedented large-scale life support would be invaluable to any Earthside revival attempt. Which she had plans for, too—plans that could only be made and understood by the successful Fleet’s head scientist.

But the red alerts kept blinking and Claudia passionlessly turned toward her paperwork, all of her thoughts drifting back again to some distant corner of her mind. She had just over forty-eight hours to seal herself in her first-class Departure suite before the liftoff gates closed. She had done her bit, played her part, fought her battle, for fifty years…