Snakes and Pills

162 - orchid sense

From the bluff, Rae watched them work. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the men in yellow hard hats and flannel shirts worked. She saw the shifts change, the men flow in and out with their tin lunch pails. But the efforts never ceased.

Sitting on the hood of her old pickup, her boots clicked against the engine grille and kicked up dust. Rae could hardly believe that out here, amidst the acres and acres of corn fields, she could sit here and marvel at the reconstruction of the fleet.

The President had said that the efforts would extend to every corner of their great nation, and Rae supposed that his words had so far rung true. The shipyard here was just one of two dozen that were spread across the country. There was nothing particularly special about it.

Except that it was here. A ten-minute drive from her home. Despite being as landlocked as a place could get, Rae always felt that this place was an island. She was stranded here, the same pickup on which she now sat would never make an adequate means to escape.

The workers here were building more than an escape. They were building massive starfaring vessels that carried opportunity. Rae was drawn here in so much of her free time for that reason. These ships would continue pushing humanity forward. They represented hope, even after the Second Calamity, that the people of Earth would not give up. The dream not only persevered in the ships she saw taking shape. It flourished.

Rae pulled her small pocketwatch by its chain. Supper time already, and Grandpa was always so irritable when she ran late. She plunked the watch back into her faded overalls, and hopped off the hood of her truck. Climbing into the cab, she gave the keys a firm twist. The engine turned over slowly at first, but eventually rumbled to life.

Grandpa was already sat at the table with his plate filled as Rae slinked in through the front door. She sat down in her place and quickly began putting food on her plate in an effort to catch up with him.

"Sorry I'm late," she said meekly between scoops of mashed potatoes.

"Watching the rockets again?" he asked. Rae nodded her head guiltily, which seemed to be the appropriate response given the tone in his voice. She didn't know if he had some way of telling what she had been up to, or if he had just gone with the easy odds. Regardless, he was right.

He sipped at his glass of water and Rae chewed nervously. Though she was sixteen now, he still terrified her like when she was a young child. She had been a lot smaller then, he a lot more able.

"Just because I don't ask for more of your help doesn't mean I couldn't use it," Grandpa began, measuring his words carefully as to not come off too stern. "The Endura Quota is asking for more and more of an allotment each season, and we can hardly keep up."

Rae knew Grandpa was not lying, but she couldn't deny herself, either. She suspected that he did not really mind her spending some of her free time gazing upon the rebuilding of the fleet. Not in itself. What bothered him was that she did not intend to merely sit by and watch the ships forever.

She would leave. Bound for the colonies or outposts unknown. The thought alone made her heart flutter with excitement and happiness, and a smile flashed across her face involuntarily.

Grandpa read her mind, and shook his head slightly. "Rae, do you even know what happiness is?"


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