An Untitled Sci-Fi Story

It’s been sand-storming for ages now. Well not ages exactly, more like two to three earth days. But that counts for a lot here. Anyways, I’m tired of the sky raining dust particles at us. I want to set my foot outside of this capsule for a while, even though there is not much to do here, I do enjoy the occasional wandering about. In fancy terms, it’s called taking a promenade. There aren’t any walkways here so you just walk about on the dust, at least you get to stretch your legs. I don’t know what my next assignment is but I’ve a folder here full of papers which I haven’t bothered to go through yet. The dust storm has slowed us down considerably so I’m guessing we have plenty of time till we reach wherever it is we have to be. I’m also guessing, and this is a wild guess, that these boys are part of the assignment too. Why else would we all be stuffed in a small capsule, and sent off on urgent notice? They usually hold off long expeditions till the storms settle down. Pretty much like back on Earth when Pa would happily arrange for a day at the beach and Ma would get busy in the kitchen making sandwiches, and Pa would come downstairs in some ridiculous outfit as I helped Ma put all the food supplies in the picnic basket and she’d laugh at him for looking absurd to which he would give his signature grin – ear to ear smile, showing the greasy front teeth, and then we’d be interrupted by a loud howl from upstairs followed by peals of thunder and lightning and we’d run to the kitchen window overlooking the street and Pa would sigh and put his heavy hand on my shoulder and tell us we’d better watch something on the telly till the storm clears and the storm would sometimes clear but by then it’d be evening and what’s the point of going to the beach in the dark, Pa would say, so Ma would set a table outside in the lawn and we’d finish off the contents of the picnic basket before the moon came up.

It’s getting more darker and brown and everything has a sour, metallic smell. Even the air inside the capsule tastes like sand grains and it really annoys me. But a good thing is that as I’m the Captain, I have my own seat up front, that’s right behind the Power Driver. I think the other fellas are just cramped up, maybe two in one seat, maybe some are scrambled right across the floor. But I can’t think about that right now. I need to stretch my legs and there just isn’t enough space. I could take a short walk across the capsule but I might end up trampling someone and I really don’t want to be reported. They say it isn’t pretty where they take you if you are reported. I’ve heard a couple of rumors of some burly guys, roughing you up and throwing you in a pit full of dense smog they accumulated years ago from Earth, and if you aren’t strong enough, you just choke yourself to death or suffocate till the medics arrive and I’ve heard more about the former than the latter. So I will just stay put, maybe soon enough we can make a short stop somewhere. Pa always said that patience was the most rewarding of all values, he’d always say that and he was clever enough to quote some book on it and whenever we had a family dinner, and Ma would be getting late with setting the table and someone would be foolish enough to lightly complain about the dinner getting late, that’d be Pa’s ticket to getting into a conversation about the virtues of patience and after the table was set and we’d all eaten, Pa would reach out for a toothpick and announce the reward for patience that we had all been blessed with in form of food and how excellent it would be if we could all do this often. Pa was very patient the day he was assigned to go back to Earth, to check for survivors and report back and I remember him boarding a capsule very similar to this one, with five other men, and I now sometimes wonder how patient he must have been when he was reported missing along with four others by one of his crew members on the tenth or eleventh earth day and he’d come back without him and four others.

“Where’s you from?” I hear a gruff voice aimed at me. I can’t see the fella’s face because it is dark and everyone looks the same in the shadows but I assumed the boy was sitting somewhere close to me.

“Quarter-C,” I reply dully. I’m not interested in striking up a conversation but it wouldn’t be too bad if I wasn’t made to talk much. I might as well pass the time evaluating which fella is up for which task from my folder, which by the way I still haven’t opened.

“I’m from X-253,” he says.

“Oh in the Capsule Station?”

“No, not in the Station, next to it. E’rrybody thinks it’s in it but is not.”

I can hear pellets of sand hit the roof above my head and it really annoys me. By the looks of it, the storm won’t be tiring out any time soon.

“Err been down to the Water Precinct Cap’n?” The 253er had come closer to me and I could see his grim face through barricaded lights that had somehow made their way through the thick blanket of dust outside. His eyes were dull and there were dirt marks all over his scaly face. Somehow he reminded me of dead fish but here in this capsule everyone looked the same and smelled the same. I replied that I hadn’t. I had lied through my teeth but this fella won’t catch me anytime soon. He looked dumber than anyone I had ever seen. He nudged another young man to come nearer to where I was sitting and the latter looked no better than the 253er. I surmised they must be no younger than twenty-eight.

“We was stationed there for some time,” the 253er who lived next to the Capsule Station and not in it said.

“Tell ‘im guy.” He nudged his partner again.

“Ya Cap’n we lived there fo’ time, you haven’t seen the dandiest sight there yet.”

Of course I had, but I was going to humor these kids for now, you know, to pass the time. It’d make it easy to forget my knees for a while.

“We was assigned to same chamber an’ oh boy it was attached to those latrines like back on Earth and we’d get water thee fo times a day.”

“Not a day would go by when we wasn’t clean as pipe…”

“…an’ Cap’n we smelt good too,” 253er retorted and both him and his guy stifled their laugh.

The sand and dust continued to pour from the skies and I fidgeted more and more with the folder on my lap. I had missed my call for breakfast before departing on this damning trip, and my growling insides weren’t helping. The 253er and his guy had gone back to their seats or to the floor, I hadn’t bothered asking them or checking for myself. Water Precinct was where I was assigned when Pa left and then ten, eleven Earth days later I saw his name on Missing in Action list but I couldn’t complain or question anyone because no one had any answers, and I didn’t want to be reported, and no one was related to anyone on this dusty, muddy, sandy planet, we had left all our bonds and relations back on earth and here we were either First Captains, Second Captains, or Comrades, or Commander-in-Chains, or Duty Boys – Third Grade or Duty Boys – Fourth Grade and the grades went all the way to four hundred and twenty three and no more because there wasn’t enough manpower beyond four hundred and twenty three to be assigned four hundred and twenty four. Back on Earth, Ma was still Ma when she died and we had to bury her on a rainy day, and she was still Ma when Pa would take me to her grave and ask me to talk to her as if she could hear me but I was no kid then, and it sounded stupid to me but I couldn’t say no to Pa, we were alone, and he only had me, and I only him and we had only each other now so Ma was still Ma.

I know the Higher-Ups lied when they told all us Captains of Quarter-C that our water rations be cut by half, they lied through their teeth just like I lied to these two fellas, and I had to exercise Pa’s patience then, I knew the truth, water was plenty for us all, I had been to Water Precinct twice since Pa had been reported missing, and I also knew the Higher-Ups were lying about Pa because Pa could never go missing, he was the least missing person on this planet or back home on Earth. Ma missed my final school day because she was having a brother for me, but Pa came even though he had to leave soon because of an emergency but he came, and then at my graduation Pa was there even though he was suffering from a bout of illness, and when we were recruited he came and was not missing and he told me he’d meet me here on this forsaken brown, dusty planet, and when I reached here, Pa was here too – not missing but here, he welcomed me from far away because he wasn’t Pa anymore, he was given a title that I never found out but that is how I was to approach him but I never got the chance because Pa was assigned to go back and then he went missing. How can someone who has never gone missing, go missing?

My legs were feeling queasy by then so I decided to distract myself by looking over the contents of the folder. I felt that the capsule has slowed down considerably to the point of stopping altogether and I wondered if we hadn’t moved at all the whole while. After all the capsules aren’t meant to travel during storms but they made ours do it and maybe we were now stuck in Gray Plains, they were called so even though they were red because for miles and miles there was no structure around and the Higher-Ups used this field only for experimentation which we were then to record from our office chambers, measure, evaluate and report. I was mostly assigned as Second or Third Field Captain, never the first because I wasn’t physically fit, owing to my knee and I mostly travelled alone so then this capsule was sufficient for me but this time they had stuffed it with some Duty Boys who smelled of fish and talked about water in their young and fanciful ways.

“Cap’n you know where we to?” 253er’s guy was back. I knew his question was addressed to me but I decided to ignore him. Someone from the back of the capsule repeated the question and a silence fell over the capsule, silence only interrupted by the dust swooshing outside with more might than ever. I could faintly see all heads turned towards where I was sitting. I counted some five heads, all which looked alike and smelled alike and now even asked the same question. I still hadn’t opened the folder containing the task assignment but I couldn’t stay silent for long.

“I’m the Launcher, Cap’n are we gon’ launch some ship or sumfin?” I recognized this voice, he had been at the Quarter-C many times.
“Em hopin’ to launch some shoo’ers Cap’n been while since we done done it.”

“Naah I hope we goin to get some crummies,” came another voice from the floor confirming my doubt that some kid was sprawling on the damp, cold, brazen floor. When I had left Earth, I was that kid too and boy was it lonely down there, I had been prepared for the Shift for quite some time, all of us had, but when it happened, when it actually happened it felt raw and dangerous and we were all petrified and I knew some guy in my capsule who completely broke down so they had to put him in lockdown lest he scare other Shifters too. And Pa had said that he’d meet me here so in the back of my head I was consoled by that thought but I couldn’t call him Pa. That journey was longer than any of the journeys we had ever took on Earth even when Pa took me to the Western States on his car that squeaked every time we took a turn and on which I learnt for the first time how to replace a tire. But then the Blight came and Ma died and later Pa got sick but he made it because he would never go missing and the governments started recruiting those who survived the Blight to become the First Shifters and then the day of the Shift came and the capsule was full to the brim so I had to take up the floor along with some documents and because my legs are always too tall for my body I spread them until some dumb guy tripped over my knee.

He was a daft kid and all these Duty Boys are just as dim-witted, talking about water and food and firing shooters like they are on a vacation. You can’t expect much from a bunch of young boys who all looked like one another under the dusty light and smelled of dead fish and had dirt marks all over their faces. The Launcher came up to me and I saw the same raw dullness in his eyes that I had seen in the eyes of the 253er and his guy. His look was vacant and his eyes did not seem to correspond to what he was saying as if they had a mind of their own.

“Cap’n whas am I to do?” His voice was recognizably nasal and that’s how I had known that he had been to Quarter-C many times. All Launchers voices had nasal intonation because they spent too much time outside of the capsules and chambers. If he was any closer to me I might have smelled dust on his tongue.

“I just have to go through this file and I will let you know.” I felt all ears on me but that reply was satisfactory enough for all the Duty-Boys to resume whatever they were doing. The Launcher went back and I was once again left alone with the darned folder. I opened it and the title “Operation Thetan-V” blasted in my face through the first page. I borrowed a light-pen from 253er’s guy and went through the contents of the file as the storm blazed outside with more ferocity than I could remember. I couldn’t tell if the capsule had come to a complete stand still or if we were moving at an extremely slow speed. The Power Driver was coded to only communicate with the Commander-in-Chains and since none had been assigned on this journey, I or rather we all were at the mercy of Father Time and the sand storm and the Power Driver of course. From the Operation map I deduced that we were probably, maybe, actually definitely in the Gray Plains, the one where the Higher-Ups would conduct experimentations and that our destination was marked at Quadrant Celesta which was the farthest point up North and I had often heard of Quadrant Celesta but never been there nor did I know what kind of operations were carried out there. Maybe they were setting up the greens but that was an old plan since nothing green could sprout from the red dirt beneath our shoes; or maybe they inducted the new recruits, and trained them, starting off with the Pledge of the Shift which basically renounced all earthly relations, where the newcomers avowed for survival and homeliness and Collective Progress as it was officially known, and were then assigned to their respective titles. But why would I need to take a bunch of Duty-Boys back?

I heard the 253er shuffle closer again so I closed the file.

“Cap’n you ever been to them water-worlds?” I replied that I had not, and this time I was telling the truth. The 253er seemed to believe me and kept chattering on, more to himself than for my benefit.

“Cap’n I heard we was to haul one closer one day…”

The 253er’s guy rejoined in a huddle around me.

“Ya Cap’n, when we was stationed at Water Precinct we heard ’em Higher-Ups talk about it all the time.”

“Them says water-worlds jus got water and no dust.”

“And some says they got greens too cuz where is water there is greens too but no dust.”

“Ya no dust.”

“That’s scientifically impossible…” I interrupted both of them. A certain sadness seemed to dawn on their already long, dull faces. I could sense the excitement of a useless conversation draining away. These boys were dumb, talking on and on about things here and there but I felt guilty nonetheless. Everyone here was tired of the dust. All Shifters were, except the Higher-Ups maybe because they never left the Water Precinct which was of the highest order of all Precincts. Fantasy has no time here, we were always working towards the Collective Progress and survival to make this new abode a home but I felt guilty for throwing away the one thing these two silly Duty-Boys had in common. They went back to their respective seats or floor in the capsule and I was partially grateful for that. I was not in the position to apologies for my interruption, after all it was rational and I felt guilty only to have been the source of unpleasantness. The confined capsule was boring on my nerves now and I was still uncomfortable in my legs. Meanwhile the storm raged outside and the Duty-Boys had all resumed their chatter, I thought about the missed breakfast and how I longed to be back in my chambers once I had completed the task at hand, to stretch my legs, have some food and get some Rest Time. I recall getting tireless every night, aching to go back home to Pa and Ma during long college days and also when the training for Shifters began on Earth but by then Ma was six feet under ground and Pa and I were being inducted as Individual Survivors which was the first step in letting go off relations and the training continued till Pa was no longer Pa and I was aboard the capsule, off to this dirt hole, but Ma was always Ma and will be Ma because that’s how we had buried her.

I opened the file once again, went through the map detailing our journey, again deduced that we were most certainly stuck in the Gray Plains and decided to skim through the pages. Somewhere it said the Thetan Operations were vital to the Collective Progress of the community and at another page it said something about a “cleanse” which I recalled had to do with harnessing energy off moonlight which was our primary energy source, for now that is. Unless of course we hauled one of those “water-worlds” the 253er had so passionately talked about. I chuckled to myself at that and resumed reading ahead. I knew cleansing operations needed a Detectorist or two, one of those heavy set guys who ensured the completion of every task, were given special keys to go about chambers and capsules without authorization and if I had known any better, they also knew how to decode Power Drivers. What exactly was there job nobody seemed to know except that you could spot a Detectorist from a mile away owing to his bulky physique which made them look almost non-human. I saw one or two around the time when Pa went missing but it was a common sight at the Water Precinct, I guess there secret role was that of Protectors which was never assigned back on Earth even though everybody talked about getting into Protection and eventually everyone forgot about it here. So if we were going on a cleansing task, they must have assigned a Detectorist even though why they didn’t appoint a Commander-in-Chain, who would have been much more of a help.

“Anyone here a Detectorist?” I inquired in a loud voice and a silence once again fell over the entire capsule. They had all turned their heads towards me and I couldn’t make out who was who since everyone looked the same in the crimson light as the dust and sand continued to punch us from all sides.

“Not me Cap’n, I’m a Duty-Boy, Seventeenth Grade.”

“I’m Duty-Boy, Twenty-Fifth Grade goin’ up to Twenty-Four soon sir.”

“Launcher here Cap’n though I wouldn’ mind musclin’ up.”

“Summer-Blinker ‘ere sir but I go meself suspended fir actin up stupid.” The fourth voice came somewhere from the floor, maybe the same kid who had wished we were off to get Crummies as if the Higher-Ups would assemble a team of men only to acquire food, that too on such a storm-stricken day.

“Thas weird,” came a new voice somewhere from the dark corners of the capsule that my eye hadn’t bothered navigating, even though I had counted his head earlier on.

“What is?” I inquired, looking at the direction of the voice but seeing no particular outline of a person.

“The Blinky boy got suspended so did I.”

“Me and ‘im ‘ere wuz suspended too tell ’em guy…”

“Neh we was striked off once…”

“We still got two mo’ so we good.” the 253er who lived beside Capsule Station and not in it spoke with the same excitement he had when talking about the damned water-worlds.

“What do you do?” I interrupted once again, hoping the wise-guy at the end knew it was meant for him.

“Detectorist, was one.”

I quickly began shuffling through the contents of the file.

“Wha strikes?” the Launcher questioned, assuming the others would answer him but they all waited on me with their stupid faces.

“Umm, I dunno, never heard of them…” I had forgotten which page I was last skimming through. Something about moonlight energy.

“Cap’n you ain’t heard of strikes?”

“Errbody heard of ’em sir, ain’t you lot givin em out?”

What? No. I had never heard of one strike or three for that matter and I had never been asked to give them out. I was mostly the Field Captain, Second or Third, analyzing experiments and sending reports to the Higher-Ups. These fellas were surely out of their minds, nobody had ever said anything about strikes.

“Fir offence sir,” the 253er’s guy said in a matter-of-factly tone as if it was known to everybody except me. What were these guys talking about? Nobody got a first or second offence. You were directly reported the first time and sent off to punishment where some guys would throw you in a pit of…

“First offence, an’ the second, an’ then third after which you done fo’ good.”

NO NO NO! They had it all wrong, here your first mistake would be the last one, and you’d be reported directly and be sent away, that’s what we were all told, and that’s why I never reported the kid who roughed up my knee and never asked no questions about Pa. I shuffled through the pages till I came to the one titled “Missing in Action” and my heart stopped, so did my hands and I paid no attention to what a bunch of simple-minded Duty-Boys said or thought, and the sand continued to pelt overhead with might and before me lay a list of names next to numbered bullets with the last five names highlighted in red. Nauss, Somme, Bob, Kimley and Speirre.

“We call em Reds, us Launchers,” the Launcher who wanted to fire some shooters said. So it was either strikes or reds or reports but I never heard of strikes nor reds. “Last week I done shootin some ship wrong, so they give me a Red, I was done frighten…”

“So we all offenders holed up in ‘ere, Cap’n?” I know the question was directed at me, coming off from the distant corner, the Detectorist still hadn’t made himself noticeable.

But before I could answer, the Summer-Blinker interrupted to my relief.

“Whas you in here fo mister?”

I continued looking at the highlighted names. Mine wasn’t in it.

“I refuse to do somebuddys dirdy work.” So the Detectorist had refused to obey orders and that was definitely something that must have been reported.

Was Pa’s name here? The pen’s light was fading, my knee had started bothering me again and I could once again smell the dead fish strongly in the capsule.

“I ain’t got crummy for days pal,” the Summer-Blinker announced. “I asked for mo crummy and they suspended me, I done stupid too.”

Summer-Blinkers were Duty-Boys assigned on solar projects and nothing could go wrong there since all they had to do was report on the sun. And how could someone commit an offence on noting the Sun that came out daily and shone from the thick blanket of haze, I mean all you had to do was note down the time it rose and the time it set. Only someone really stupid could have committed a mistake there. So here I had two Duty-Boys, one Launcher, one Summer-Blinker and one Detectorist, all of whom had done a wrong one way or another, all of whom looked like the other and smelled like the other.

“So why we all here sir Cap’n, whas you done wrong?”

I looked up and through the dusty red light I could see all heads turned my way again. I was puzzled over the Missing in Action list and what it was doing in the file handed over to me by one of my supervisors. I hadn’t searched for Pa’s name yet, and I was having trouble putting two and two together which for some reason made five, but that wasn’t right now was it? My name wasn’t in the list and there were five names highlighted in red and I couldn’t recall having done anything wrong. Like the time when the neighbors accused me of having broken their garden pots and when Ma and Pa asked me I couldn’t…

“Cap’n you a’ight?” The Detectorist had finally come in view. He stood in the midst of the capsule, a few feet away from me but I could smell his dusty breath from far off. I suddenly became aware that I was sweating profusely, became aware of the raging storm outside the metal capsule, the dust and sand that hit us all with ferocity isolating us in a cubicle small enough for one person save six amidst the Gray Plains from my recent conjecture and that five of six of us had gotten reported, directly, indiscriminately and certainly.

The five stupid boys had huddled around me again and I felt a surge of emotion as if I was nearing a harsh reality that would hit me harder than if the capsule collapsed and I was buried under feet and feet of dust and soil and sand.

“Whea we off to sir?”

“You still ain’t assign us jobs Cap’n.”

“Whas the task file say?”

I thought of Pa and how he had boarded a capsule similar to this one along with five other men but he was no Captain, he was no First Captain or Second Captain or Third Captain or Field Captain of any degree. Pa was Pa just as Ma was Ma but he was no Pa here so I never knew what his title was. Pa was a broad-shouldered guy with strong muscles and an ear-to-ear grin which showed off his greasy but perfect teeth and when Pa hugged me after Ma died, I felt safe, and when Pa hugged me again at my graduation, I felt safe. I didn’t want to find Pa’s name on here but I wanted to confirm the fate of the five fellas who craned over me like shadows and now except the Detectorist who still looked stupid and huge, I began to see differences in the four pairs of eyes. Their faces became more detailed, I ignored the dirt marks on 253er and on his guy’s face, the Launcher seemed like a steady kid, the Blinker looked confused.

“Whas the matter Cap’n?”

I didn’t know who asked me the question. It didn’t matter who did or maybe it did.

“Which one of you is Somme?” I knew my voice was shaky, I was sweating and perplexed. I wanted time to stop just like the capsule had.

“Thas me sir,” the Blinker lad said.

“And…Kimley?”

“Aye Cap’n.” The Launcher was Kimley.

“Bob?”

“Me, Bob.”

Before I could ask again the 253er intervened.

“You Bob the Detectorist?”

“Yea!”

The 253er and his guy quickly went towards him in the same excitement that was present in their water-world conversation.

“You Bob the Detectorist really?”

“Yea!”

“Cap’n you knows him went to the Earth?”

I hadn’t. I didn’t know Detectorists could make trips to Earth, but then again I had not known a lot. I hadn’t known about the strikes or the Reds or if we were definitely in the Gray Plains where the Higher-Ups experimented.

“You also in Protection?” 253ers guy asked him excitedly.

“I was.”

The Launcher went back to his seat and so did the Blinker. I was left with the file on my lap, an uneasy knee and grumbling insides, still wondering if I should look for Pa’s name in the list with the five red highlighted names of my companions.

“You eva cleansed pal?” Someone asked. I was engrossed in mulling over the possibility of finding Pa’s name here or not finding it.

“First cleanser on Earth, not proud of it.”

“How many ya cleansed?”

“Five there, not proud.”

“So then ya refused?”

“Ya the last batch.”

“So they put ya in hea. You hear thas Cap’n? He done major offence refusin’ to do cleanse.”

Major offence, minor offence it all meant the same to me. Strikes or no strikes, Reds or no Reds, I hadn’t known this all. Why hadn’t I been told about all this during the induction when we were recruited as First Shifters? The Higher-Ups had been lyin’ through their teeth all along. Everything was in discrepancy. Nothing matched. Nothing was similar, aside from the smell of dead fish now. I had made up my mind. I started scrolling through the list under the fast fading light emitting from 253er’s guy…a bunch of names I never knew, never heard of, all missing, gone, vanished, never to return even though they were First Shifters or had been Individual Survivors. Pleam, Rabble, Hui, Flange…Suri, Dean, Wright…single names, a list of first names only…all Missing in Action.

“Whose ya first cleanse pal?” The Launcher with his raspy voice asked. They all seemed interested in him and his dull job. Harvesting energy off moonbeams, making sure all assignments completed on time and were duly accounted for.

“A fellow Detectorist.”

“What?” I inadvertently asked. What has moonlight energy got to do with a “fellow Detectorist”?

“I cleanse a fellow Detectorist, ya know, on Earth, not proud o’ it.”

Singe…Synge…J.P…Flanders…Bickler…Strahle…Song…

“What’s the moon got to do with it?” I asked, still focused on the ever-going list of names, first names only.

“The wha?”

“The moon Bob.”

Stupid guy needed clarification amidst ensuing chaos. Strahle again…Thimble…Nugyen…Meralise…Forche…Mickey…

“Whas the moon got to do anyfin with cleansin?”

I was annoyed now. I was going to burst at these imbeciles any moment now. I was with a bunch of idiots who knew nothing, including me.

“What the hell are you saying Bob?”

“I’m sayin the moon’s got nuffin’ to do with cleansin sir.”

“Cap’n, whas the matter? What moon?”

Patience, a noble virtue, I exercised to a great extent in that moment. I thought I’d clarify myself since nobody knew anything here or outside or on this damning planet.

“The moon you harness the energy from. The Cleansing process. You clean the moonbeams?”

I saw their faces turned towards me, aghast, as if I had gone mad. The shadows of the storm danced on their faces and frightened me. The storm howled.

“I ain’t heard of that Cap’n,” the Launcher said. The Blinker agreed and so did the two other Duty-boys.

Nonsense, I thought.

“Sir I ain’t knowin whas you talkin about. Cleanse ain’t that. I expunged a fellow Detectorist sir. Thas me job. Thas was my job.”

Now I was confused, like the Blinker boy earlier on.

“You what?” I didn’t know what made me ask that. Sweat trickled down my forehead, burning my eyes but I kept looking at the hefty figure ahead of me. I was beginning to be terrified, something I had never experienced in a long time, since Ma’s death at least when the Blight caught her.

“I took five fellas out to Earth an’ expunged them. Not proud of it.”

“An’ he refuse to take other four out so they done suspend him.” The Blinker explained as if I hadn’t heard the Detectorist before.

“Ya jus’ last week I think.”

I looked at my companions with dazed eyes. I was shocked, frozen, the pieces of the puzzle were all coming together and somehow I didn’t want them to. I wished for time to stop. I wished for Pa’s hug. I wished for safety. I was once again a thirteen earth years old.

“Cap’n ya a’ight?”

I mustered some courage and asked if anyone knew what Celesta was. Not to my surprise, the Detectorist answered.

“We was workin’ there on an’ off when we expunge.”

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