A Revised History of Earth
Sherla was lying on her belly on her bed, one of the two tiny singles in the tiny cabin she shared with one of the research girls that just came on board. “Mattie,” she said without looking up from her nail polish, “you can keep talking if you want but I don’t really care about any of that.”
“But the tests are conclusive,” the other woman replied, waving her tablet in the air. “I’ve got it all right here.”
“Don’t care,” Sherla repeated. She applied another strip of opaque black polish to a blank nail and watched as it slowly expanded to cover her nail perfectly. The backs of her hands were criss-crossed with faint scars, leftovers from much worse damage the regen machines back at the base had almost finished repairing, before she got called up to the ship. Still, they were good hands, she thought.
Mattie wasn’t giving up though. “You don’t care that the ruins we found on Planet X are actually older than any known civilization on Earth?” she asked.
Mattie sat down on the edge of her own bed with a heavy sigh. “I mean… that’s a big deal to me.”
Sherla turned her head to look Mattie in the eyes. “I care that you care, honey,” in between blowing on her nails to set the polish. “But I think we just see this two different ways.”
Mattie shook her head, barely ruffling her close-cropped curls. “How’s that?” she asked.
“Well, as you and most of the scientists on board see it, this expedition has proved that Earth was some kind of colony, right?”
“Yes, I think that’s got to be our working theory going forward from here,” Mattie said, relaxing a little. “We’ll have to go back and revisit all of the old site maps, build a new history of human civilization. New textbooks, new arguments. Oh no, those ancient alien crackpots are going to have a field day!” she added with a sudden grin. “I don’t envy the folks back home who’re going to have to listen to all of that nonsense on the off chance there’s even one hypothesis that matches up with what we’ve found here.”
“Right,” Sherla said, “because you’re not going back to Earth.” She blew on her nails one last time.
“Well, no, I – the expedition is moving out of our solar system to follow the star charts we found during the excavation.” She frowned a little, her dark eyebrows drawing closer together. “That doesn’t make our find less important. It’s actually the whole reason we’re still on the ship.”
Sherla pushed herself up off her elbows, turned, and sat down on the edge of the bed facing her friend. “No, Mattie, it’s why you’re still on the ship. And I’m glad for that, ‘cause you’re a whole sight better than the girl they stuck me with in my last barracks.”
“The snorer?” Mattie asked, sympathetic.
“The snorer,” Sherla agreed, and for a moment, they both smiled. Then Sherla leaned in, put her hands on Mattie’s knees, and said with a serious face, “I’m not a scientist, honey. I’m enlisted. They didn’t put all us soldiers on this ship to help dig, and we’re not all heading out into the great unknown for anything other than one reason: someone with more brass than me decided I might have to kill some things.”
Mattie bit her lip. “I know that,” she said after a moment, “but that’s statistically unlikely, you know. Whatever might have been out there has probably been dead for half a million years, and Earth has what remains of its refugees.”
Sherla sat back. “Maybe. I hope so, really. I’d love to spend the next couple of decades learning new things and staying pretty instead of developing any serious holes in parts of my body that I can’t live without. But I have to wake up every day and train for the possibility that what’s out there didn’t want us to find it. Which is why I need to enjoy the good times when they come around.”
“I’m not really much for parties,” Mattie said quietly.
“Well I asked you to introduce yourself and instead I got a 20 minute lecture on the ruins of Planet X,” Sherla said with a grin, “so you aren’t afraid to talk. At its heart a party is just that – some nice people, standing around each other, talking. You’ll be fine.”
All around them – the floor, the ceiling, the beds – began to shake, and a quiet hum started. It grew louder. as Sherla stood up.
“That’s ignition,” she said cheerfully, “and you know that means we’re officially under way, so the last party we’re ever going to have in this solar system is about to start. Come on, honey, tell me how pretty I am.” She put her hands on her hips and posed.
“You’re very pretty,” Mattie replied earnestly.
“Which means you’re drop dead gorgeous,” Sherla told her, “and it would be unfair to deprive the folks in Aft Lounge 6 of the chance to see the two of us in all our glory.” She held her hands out.
Mattie took them and let herself be pulled to her feet. “You’re going to be a terrible influence.”
“I do plan to be, honey,” Sherla said with a grin. She kissed her roommate on the cheek, leaving a faint red stain behind in the exact shape of her lips. “There,” she said. “Now you’ll look like you started the party early, and everyone will be dying to find out just how fun you are.”
“I should get back to monitoring the digital reconstruction of the dig site,” Mattie said, but didn’t sound certain.
“Tomorrow,” Sherla said as she put her arm around the other woman and steered her toward the hallway. “Tomorrow you can worry about how to find our celestial ancestors and I can worry about how to fight them.” She tapped on the side of their door, which slid into the wall. In the distance, faint music played.
“Tonight…” Sherla paused, and squeezed Mattie gently.
“Tonight,” Mattie finished for her, “we’re going to say goodbye to Earth, and drink until we forget that we’re never going home again?”
“That’s my girl.”
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