There were days when Amelia hated the plants. When they failed to thrive no matter how much she watered, weeded, and talked to them.
Days when she wondered why she even bothered. It wasn’t like she had a use for the flowers, herbs, and vegetables. At least no as many as her garden produced. She used a few in her cooking to supplement the ingredients the replicator provided. Most of the produce went back into the compost heap to be used as fertilizer.
That was a common problem on the ship. There were always either too much or to little of something. She had a limited number of canvases for her art as well. When she finished one painting, unless she really liked it she would soon paint back over it again.
Some she kept on her walls for weeks before recycling them. Others didn’t last the day.
There was a futility to it all, that she dared not look too closely at. She knew was biding her time. Waiting.
But while Amelia waited, she kept busy. She improved at cooking and quickly moved on to the “advanced” meals in the back of the recipe book. Gnocchi. Macaroons. Perhaps too quickly. Not all of her experiments were successful. Advanced cooking, meant more opportunities for failure as she discovered.
When the first fire occurred she panicked for a moment. She wanted to run, but where could she go? And, more importantly, if she didn’t take care of the fire, who would? She beat at the flames wildly with her spatula. The flames went out. Although the stove itself was a little worse for wear.
She was forced to eat yogurt for a couple days while she looked up how to fix the stove. How had she survived so long on just yogurt and cereal? It took long enough to learn how to repair the stove that she never wanted to eat another bowl of cereal.
There were plenty of other things that if Amelia didn’t fix them, wouldn’t fix themselves. One by one they broke. She read up on how to fix them and then got to work. The shower, the sink, the toilet, the radio… Things needed to be cleaned as well. She had been left in charge of the ship after all.
She didn’t remember things breaking down so much when she was a child. If they had, would they ever had put her, a child, in charge? But what choice had they had? It was supposed to be a normal supply run.
* * *
The day they arrived in orbit, Al was literally bouncing in his chair. His mother, the captain, had said he could go down in the drop ship with the cargo. Amelia refused to admit she was jealous. Al was only a little older than she was.
“They said I can help unload the cargo!”
Instead she worked extra hard to look studious during their morning lessons. Mr. Winter was attempting to teach them about anatomy. But most of it she already knew from watching her mom work, so it was hard not to watch the clock. When were they arriving? Wasn’t it at 10?
“Oh I give up,” Mr. Winter finally said. “Go watch the maneuvers. But be polite and ask the captain for permission. And don’t get in their way.”
They bounded out of the classroom and down the hall to where Al’s parents were working. The captain turned as the door swished open and frowned, but waved the two of them in. “You can only stay a moment,” she warned. “Once we connect you’ll have to leave.”
They nodded, eyes already glued to the screen as the planet slowly filled it. It was gorgeous. All blue and swirly with spiky mountains. Amelia wondered what it would be like to wake up everyday with that for a sky. Could they see the stars through the blue?
They waited while Alfred maneuvered the ship slowly into position, the planet growing ever bigger until, with a “ping,” the computer announced they were in orbit. Then the planet rotated under them, speeding by until they lay directly above the port city.
“Port Shenset, this is Captain Amy Arias of the transport ship Tighar. Requesting secure communications link. Over,” the Captain said once the computer’s lights indicated they were in range. Static answered her call.
Al and Amelia glanced at each other. They should leave, but it seemed like she had forgotten about them. Perhaps they could stay? They watched at the captain tapped at the screen’s interface and tried again. “Port Shenset, this is – ”
“Transport ship Tighar, we are glad you’ve arrived. Please wait for a secure line.” The answer came quickly this time. The voice breathless and a little excited.
The doors swished shut behind them as Mr. Winter entered.
“Go on you two,” he said quietly. “Al, you need to get ready. Go put on your suit. Amelia you know you can watch the channel upstairs.”
* * *
Amelia realized that was the last time she’d seen Al or the Captain, at least in person.