YA Science Fiction Thriller
Screams hit me when I entered our room at Relocation Bunker Number Four. Gritting my teeth, I typed in the code and the door slid shut, locking Joe and me inside. What was wrong now?
“They’re doing it again, Lesha.” My eight-year-old brother huddled on his bed, brown eyes focused on the televid hanging from the cinderblock wall. He clutched his worn, stuffed rabbit to his face, and dented his lower lip with his thumb. He’d promised not to suck it again, but stress made him forget.
Dropping the backpacks I’d retrieved from the storage unit onto the floor, I stood beside him, staring at the screen. A roving camera flew above the protesters racing through the streets, zooming in, highlighting the lines of fear on their faces. From the buildings around them, I recognized an area near us in South Boston. So close. Had they moved into the city already?
Tear gas canisters tumbled on the ground, spewing chalky smoke. Police dressed in full SWAT gear stomped behind the protesters. Deportation vans rumbled in the distance, ready to haul those caught to some undisclosed location. Never to return.
“Run,” I hissed. Joe’s thumb slid into his mouth. He still had nightmares. I’d shut the vid off if I wasn’t so mesmerized by the scene myself.
I fingered the end of my braid, and the inky strands coiled tight around my fingers. I gnawed on the tips like I was five again.
“Riots.” I shuddered, scattering the images. Even if you played no part in them, it was easy to get swept away with the crowd. They were pointless. Picketing and throwing homemade bombs at government buildings did no good. You couldn’t feed people if you couldn’t grow food.
The vid cut to a ReGreen commercial. I stretched, releasing my tension with the pop in my back. Sitting on my bed, I unzipped my bag. “Start packing, Joe. We have to leave soon.”
A dreamy, computer voice drifted from the televid ad. “First the bees died, followed by much of our plant life. But this doesn’t mean Earth’s end has begun.”
The leaders of ReGreen needed to stop inhaling the hovertram fumes.
No amount of wishful thinking on their part could change the facts. Years of drought had been followed by endless floods. Wildfires burned whatever remained, leaving next to nothing for plants to take root in. Or kids, for that matter.
“Thirty percent of our plant and animal species are extinct,” the voice said. From what I’d learned during Orientation, they’d better round that up to fifty.
“Never fear.” The words burst through a crescendo of uplifting music. A picture from Earth’s history flashed on the screen. Fields of lush, green vegetation swayed in a light breeze, nestled under a clear, blue sky. What a joke. No one had seen blue sky for years. “This is just a phase in our planet’s never ending life cycle.”
“Call it whatever you want,” I told the screen. “Cyclical, Global Warming, Life Cycle. Giving it a name doesn’t change what’s happening.”
Joe nodded and wiped his thumb on his pants leg.
“We must be patient,” ReGreen reminded us.
I snorted. Done with that.
My voice chimed in with the computer’s as the Group’s slogan flashed on the screen, signaling the end of the commercial. “The Recovery is at hand.”
My wrist com beeped. “On that note, it’s almost time to leave for the spaceport, kiddo.” I nudged Joe’s shoulder. “Turn the televid off. Go wash. Put on a clean durasuit.”
He groaned. As he stomped past me toward the bathroom, I ruffled his hair. He swatted at my hand, but I couldn’t resist. He looked so cute when it stood on end.
“Pack your bag when you’re done,” I said.
In our old life, he’d have slammed the washroom door to punctuate his irritation. An electronic panel took the zip right out of his hovercraft.
The Relocation Project selected Joe and me in the genetic lottery just before I turned sixteen. A chance of a lifetime. Our sole opportunity to escape Earth.
By then, we’d been on the run from our uncle for months. Pawing my chest had been bad enough. When he told me to take off my clothes, I hit him on the head with a glolight, grabbed Joe, and jumped onto a hoverbus headed north to find my best friend, Tiff.
We’d need his signature to participate in the Project, but hadn’t dared ask. I wasn’t confident he’d let us go. Or rather, let me go. Tiff took care that in a flash.
Tonight, Joe and I would board a starship to Eris, a planet halfway across the galaxy, to join a colony settled ten years ago. Our first step toward a new life, far from this decaying hellhole we called home, putting us beyond Uncle’s clutches forever.
Opening my bag, I began my packing with the items in the narrow stand wedged between our beds. A sad smile twisted my lips as I lifted the digital picture frame resting in its place of honor on the table. Taken three years before, the short vid clip projected our family’s last fine moment before a hovercraft accident upended our world.
Dad had his arm around Mom’s shoulders, and they giggled and smiled more at each other than at the camera. I stood beside them, a gangly, thirteen-year-old jumble of skinny arms and legs, black hair hanging in my eyes like strands of wet seaweed. Joe danced by my side, a goofy grin on his brown face.
I stroked their faces with a fingertip before I wrapped the frame snug in two t-shirts and tucked it into the middle pouch. Hauling my things out of the drawer, I weighed each item like gold. Our Instructors told us we could bring one small bag of personal possessions on the ship. I wished I could take everything.
Essential stuff first. I couldn’t live without my journal and stylus. If I didn’t write before bed each night, I’d lose my mind. No way would I leave Mom’s blue dress here. It was the only thing I had left of hers.
I stuffed in my first aid kit. As much as I wanted to take everything that reminded me of my family, safety came next.
Exhaling a long breath, I shifted the kit sideways and wedged in my glolight. It would get dark at night in our new world, and I’d need it to see. To give the digital frame added protection, I rolled a few long-sleeved shirts and tucked them in on either side.
The shirts were a must. Couldn’t have people asking about things they didn’t understand.
I didn’t have to bring clothes. They’d pack plenty of durasuits in the ship’s hold. Woven from nylatec, they lasted forever. Impervious to stains and tears. In fourteen different styles and twenty-seven shades of the rainbow. That’s what the televid commercials said.
I set my orange treds aside to wear later. I scored my favorite footwear at a reclamation warehouse. Someone had tucked them behind a set of antique dishes. They had to be at least twenty-years-old, but showed little use. The splurge meant a tight budget for weeks, but a girl needed something bright in her life, especially when her planet had fallen to hell. And I was a sucker for anything orange.
With Operation Abandon Earth in full swing, a heady mix of excitement and trepidation muddled together inside me. I wanted to go. Who wouldn’t?