CHAPTER ONE (draft)

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CHAPTER ONE

June, 2047.

Today is a day unlike any other, in a whole sequence of unbelievable days.

Today we pass the solar orbit of Mars.

And today, five days after Qualifying for rescue and being admitted onboard the giant interplanetary Atlantean starships, we—all ten million of us, teenagers from the doomed planet Earth—have to make a decision that will determine the rest of our lives.

Fleet Cadet or Civilian.

The choice looms before us, inevitable and irrevocable. We've been given five days to think, to consider carefully, to mull it over, while for the first two days the great ships of Atlantis prepared for the immense journey back to the Constellation of Pegasus—loading supplies and resources, cultural and natural treasures of Earth, and taking the measures necessary for transporting all of us safely to the colony planet Atlantis that will now be our new, permanent home.

On the evening of Qualification, and the day immediately after, the Fleet of Atlantis stayed in Earth orbit. For me that time remains a strange, dead blur. . . .

While the transport shuttles ferried supplies and our belongings, we had the chance to contact our families for the last time and say goodbye to our parents and loved ones—to all those who must now remain on Earth, and die from the impact of the extinction-level asteroid . . . while we, the lucky ones, fly onward to the stars.

The asteroid is going to hit Earth seventeen months from now, on November 18, 2048, and there is nothing anyone can do to prevent the destruction of all life on Earth.

I admit, I have a very poor recollection of these past five days. I am still in a stupor, even as I struggle to hide it for the sake of my younger siblings, Gracie and Gordie. It's an awful, mind-numbing combination of despair and grief that started from the moment my older brother George did not Qualify and was denied admittance onto the Atlantean transport shuttle with the rest of us. By now, George is back at home in Highgate Waters, Vermont, with Mom and Dad. I know, because I talked to them, on that same night after passing the Qualification Finals. . . .

I talked to them.

It's a numb blur. Events mixing, memories out of order. I remember being packed into a small, closet-sized cubicle with the softly rounded walls of pale off-white, everything etched with hair-fine intricate designs in lines of gold that all the Atlantean interiors have, bathed in soothing light. . . . Yes, I was still somewhere onboard that same transport shuttle that had taken us up through the miles of atmosphere and docked with a great ship in Earth orbit.

For whatever reason, they didn't let us off the shuttles immediately. Instead we had to wait, and meanwhile take turns in the communication cubicle chamber. At some point I remember being in line . . . glimpses of stressed serious faces of other Qualified Candidates . . . hushed teen voices speaking in foreign languages . . . and Logan Sangre standing at my side, his serious hazel eyes never leaving me, his strong arms coming around from the back as abruptly he pushes me forward, ahead of his own turn. And suddenly there I am, sitting next to Gracie and Gordie and an Atlantean technician who, I vaguely recall, touches a strange, asymmetrical and lumpy silvery surface, "dials" Earth, and connects us via a video console. The display screen loads and suddenly there's our living room. . . .

I remember thinking how crazy it was to see our old sofa from outer space . . . Mom's familiar brown-and-beige plaid throw blanket draping the back of it . . . and Mom and Dad themselves perched nervously and awkwardly on the edge of that same sofa, staring back at all of us—actually at the smart wall in our living room that now acted like a trans-orbital video conference device.

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