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You dream of the stars, regardless of how they tell you not to. You wide-eyed boy, caught up in your fantasies of flight.
How can they do this to you when it’s the only thing keeping you here?
You lie on your back, swinging in a soporific rhythm on the woven hammock you’d made when you tried the Weaver’s track.
It had been fun, though nothing got you excited like flight. Much to the frustration of everyone in your solar-farming community.
It’s a lovely day in the middle of the Breeze Season.
The planet your people tend is called Abyra. She’s dangerous, but as long as you bend to her will, you carve out a simple, profitable existence.
Though for an excitable teenager, simplicity turns into unbearable boredom. You deal with the crushing monotony in the only way you know.
Sneaking off at every opportunity to practice your flying on your (forbidden) simulator. It’s safe to use, but your family prohibits it.
To their detriment, as it makes it more appealing.
Today is supposed to be your weekly shift of cleaning Sector A of their solar farm, and logging the outputs once finished.
You’ve done the latter, but the former? No.
You try to imagine the cockpit of his ship. The warm bamboo controllers under your fingers, the weight of them in your hands.
The pressure of the gravity field and the smell of the recycled air.
Stars shift around you as you soar through them. Whether this practice lasts minutes or hours doesn’t matter. For a moment, you’re free.
Your hand-wound pocket watch chimes and space dissolves. You startle, forced into the real world.
You sit and look around, your heart beating faster. You’d fallen asleep in the midday heat, sweat on your brow and your back damp beneath his shirt.
You were sensible enough to pitch your hammock in the shade, but the sun is boiling. That’s what you get for staying outside too long.
Long ago, your ancestors, the Ignisa Clan, had been selected as most fit for solar farming, with their short, sturdy statures, rich dark skin, and hardy features unbothered by desert sands.
As the result of a brief romance between an Ignisan solarfarmer and a traveling entertainer, you had the willowy figure, height and sharp angles of a Garcian acrobat, and the eyes of an Ignisan.
Many unkind people used your heritage as reasoning for your poor behavior, your listlessness nothing short of expected for ‘that kind’ of kid.
Despite what Mother Bright had tried to calculate, there were still deep divisions between the clans.
Though the people who cling to ideals of the past are dying out.
You’re not worried. Things get better with time. Though you’ve never been able to shake the feeling, you’re not meant for this world.
It’s early morning when you wake from another restless sleep.
You’re as fitful at night as you are during waking hours, imprinting permanent circles beneath your weary eyes.
A house on the edge of the settlement is where you live. Your grandmother insists she chose it so you’d have plenty of space to wander.
Though you believe it’s escaping others’ judgment.
As the Matriarch of the Ignisa clan, in charge of ensuring business relationships with the outside solar systems are kept friendly, she’s respected and feared.
Though her standing has suffered with you as her only grandson. She had three children, one of which was your father.
You never knew him, but this has never bothered you.
According to law, to safeguard a future youngster’s upbringing, before one has a child, they must train to become a parent.
Except your father never did, so left you to your grandmother, and contributes to your upbringing, but has made it clear he never wants to meet you.
You don’t mind.
Work starts later this morning, to accommodate for the changing daylight hours. There’s only a few months until the Wind Season begins, and preparations are frantic.
You get time alone before the bell rings. No one caught you skipping duty a few days ago, but you’re careful to make disappearances irregular.
They’d take your flight simulator and assign you to the jobs no one else wants.
Weaving the protective covers for the solar panels from those nasty creeper vines? Doing the annual cleaning of the generator? No thanks!
You’re glad to have an excuse to be alone. No one ever said anything to you, but there are whispered conversations. You can’t help your heritage.
You never asked to be born on this insignificant planet in the outer solar system. Though that’s not how life goes. There’s little you control.
You head downstairs, long feet padding across the worn mud brick tiles.
With your Garcia heritage, you might’ve grown to lofty seven feet, though the harsh gravity weighs down on your shoulders. You only reached five and eight.
Still, you tower over your family members. Even your biology is at war with this planet.
The sun rises beyond the open window in the kitchen, casting a pink glow across the landscape. You see little beyond the distant mountains.
Blaze, as you call your grandmother, left an hour ago for her morning run.
Mother Bright calculates the exercise everyone is most likely to enjoy, and allots a time for maximum benefit.
Running is impossible for you on Abyra, so you’ve been assigned an hour’s long walk in the evening, when the dusty sky turns a rich purple, and you swear you see the stars.
You swipe coriander from the indoor herb garden, and eggs from the Clan’s chickens. The scraps from meal preparation are collected for the community farm.
Nothing is wasted here, or anywhere in the Common Worlds.
After the catastrophe that was The Scorching a thousand years ago, humanity has been careful.
Your mind drifts as you prepare the breakfast you’ve had for many years in a row. You’ve inherited your grandmother’s curiosity and bravery.
Always wanting to know more, and never satisfied with what you’re given. The beckoning Starriver runs through your blood. One day, you’ll answer the call.
The village is quiet as you tip-toe through, though there’s no need, as the soft sand swallows the sound of your footfalls.
Your community is nestled in a canyon at the bottom of a large dune.
Wells dug deep into the bore water chambers sit in the center at the market.
The village stands out against the orange-yellow desert as it’s made of umber rock, its buildings carved from the solid block that comprises the canyon walls.
Desert wind blows through the canyon and the tents, and the sand shifts with your breathing.
No one’s here. You hear a low rumble. Outsiders might mistake it for a distant thunderstorm, but it doesn’t rain here, it blows dust.
The sound means only one thing.
You look up. Through the haze is an approaching black ship with bright red letters across the side: The Swan. Mother Bright’s messenger craft.
It brings important messages, as traditional communications don’t make it through the thick, unforgiving atmosphere. Something’s going to happen.
A gentle toll from the village bell signals its arrival, and you race toward the landing strip on the outskirts of the settlement.
More like a fast walk, but even that’s a struggle.
A crowd fills the landing field.
An impressive percentage of your small colony of under a hundred are present, and the bell tolls again, announcing The Swan’s imminent arrival.
What will it bring?
You can only hope it’s a ticket to somewhere, anywhere other than this rock.
Who knows how much longer you can bear living here?
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