Ch. 3.2 Research

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Everyone on Eridan knew the basic history of how the world was colonized-who the Founders were. But if Lacey was going to give Ms. Tona a satisfactory answer for the tardiness assignment, she needed to do some research. She poked her head through the library door with her ears pricked forward. Devan wasn't in here either, but that didn't make her any less worried. What had started this morning wasn't over; she could feel it.

The schoolhouse library contained the only five screens in Pine Ridge. They probably had a screen in every house in Founder City, or down in New Port. But out on the fringe, screens were hard to come by and harder to replace. Screens were Old Earth devices that kept all the lore sent with the seed ship to Eridan, and all the lore collected since. Every morning they were updated with new records by some mysterious process that a tinker could explain, if you had the patience to listen.

Lacey sat at a screen and scooted the chair closer. She tapped and swiped through its abyss of information. She hated research.

Politics and pollution on Old Earth had driven a small group of people to dream of a new perfect world. A Utopia. Making the dream a reality had taken the better part of a century. They died one by one, working toward a freedom that would never be theirs. Blah, blah, blah.

Lacey scanned past familiar history; names, dates, and pictures. Nothing really popped out until she saw a number: travel time ~10,000 years. Lacey's finger stopped mid-swipe. Ten thousand years? She swiped back through the pictures of the seed ship crew, the 25 Founders, on launch day, and another on arrival day. She squinted. Some of the faces were blurry, but they were strikingly similar. She looked down at the names under the photo. They were the same. The same people on launch day and arrival day? How was that possible? The oldest person Lacey knew was the craggy tinker Pollo. Mama had just made a cake for his 97th birthday.

Lacey swiped ahead for answers. And kept swiping. For the first five hundred years of Eridan's history the Founders were mentioned here and there. The same names. As if they were alive and well-for five hundred years. But during that time fewer and fewer of the original 25 were mentioned, until the notations of Founder appearances stopped. There was no explanation about where they had gone. Had they finally died? Or did people just stop recording their appearances?

What was the purpose of the Founders? Lacey stared at the screen. That hardly seemed like the most relevant question. She tapped to bring up the map of Eridan. Were they still out there somewhere?

Her head was full of questions, and the screens were unusually short on answers. Lacey was exhausted and her eyes felt dry. She blinked a few times. It felt like she hadn't blinked in hours. She couldn't get swept up in a wild goose chase. And she could almost hear Envoy Yasmina's voice in her head: The Path goes forward, not back. She just needed an answer to Ms. Tona's question and forget the rest. The time stamp on the screen told her she would not find that answer today; school was almost over.

As usual when she found herself on the maps, her eyes roved over the newest sections, looking at the names. If her father was out there, like people said, he would be crossing those new rivers, lakes and mountain tops-and naming them. "Lake Lacey" hadn't appeared on the map so far though.

Who was she kidding? She had barely known him and he had barely known her. Why would he be thinking of her? He wasn't coming back. He was either dead in the Wish Wood or happily wandering the Explorer's Trail not giving a second thought to an insignificant blip on the map like Pine Ridge.

That's what Lacey would do if she could set her feet on the Explorer's Trail. Go far away from the village, away from the ear tugging and the whispers. She would climb to the tops of mountains, swim in magnificent lakes. "Lake Lacey" would appear on the map when she discovered it. That was what she wanted to be when she grew up-what she didn't say when Ella had asked her question before school. An explorer.

But before she could be an explorer, she had to learn about the wilderness and survival. All explorers began as apprentices in the Woodsman's Lodge, as either as woodcutters or a hunters. Lacey was part bat, a hunter by nature. She was a perfect candidate. There was an open spot with the hunters right now, and she was pretty sure none of the kids ahead of her had designs on the spot. But she had to be sponsored by her parents, and Lacey still hadn't figured out how to ask Mama to put her name in-how to say she didn't want to be a baker. At least she still had three years.

Lacey switched the screen to the lists of open apprenticeships in Pine Ridge. Her eyes swept down to 'Hunters.' She sat up straight in her chair.

Yesterday the number was one and today it was zero.

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