Chapter 5--Rica Miller

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Baltimore, Maryland

“Hurry it up, Rica! We’ll miss the transport!”

“I’ll be right there, Mom!” I shouted then turned to the bald man operating the bookstore kiosk. “How much longer?”

He leaned out over the counter to look at Mom, who was tapping her foot at the pizza place next door.

“About three minutes,” he said. “Go ahead and authorize payment if it’ll save you some time.”

He wiped the store’s thumbprint sensor with a purple cloth and passed it to me. A bright green beam of light went across the sensor as I held it to confirm the print. I knew it was only a few seconds, but Mom staring impatiently made it seem like forever.

“Ricana Claire Miller,” I said at the voice recognition prompt, hoping I didn’t have to do it again because of how frustrated I sounded.

I was relieved to see the payment approved just in time for the man to disconnect my DMR from the kiosk’s system. He handed it back to me with the case open so I could see the receipt on the screen. I made sure my remaining account balance was twenty cents then closed the case.

“Thanks.” I unzipped my backpack and sandwiched the DMR between my jacket and one of my notebooks. “Have a good day.”

“You’re welcome, and have a safe trip. Maybe you’ll luck out, and they’ll bump you up a few grades after you’ve read all of those books.”

“I wish,” I replied then grabbed my rolling suitcase from Mom.

“I’m sorry to rush you, but we only have fifteen minutes,” she said, glancing at her watch and placing a warm pizza roll in my free hand at the same time. “Considering how long this trip is going to be, it’d be nice to get good seats. Nothing’s worse than being trapped in the back near the bathrooms for eight hours.”

“It’s all right, Mom. I just figured I’d use the rest of my money that wasn’t converted over. It’s not like we’re—”

I decided not to say the rest of the sentence out loud—that we were never coming back to Earth, or at least I wasn’t. I’d have to stay with Dad if Mom ever wanted to return to visit my grandparents and aunts. Dad had no living relatives left on Earth—just Mom and me—so in some ways he hadn’t had as hard a time with the idea of leaving.

The pizza roll smelled good, and my stomach growled since it’d been several hours since we’d had breakfast. I ate as we walked, letting the cool air hit the exposed filling for a minute before taking another bite.

The spaceport was somewhat crowded for a weekday afternoon, but based on their dark tan uniforms the majority of passengers were construction crews and engineers like my dad. I could tell the ones arriving from the ones departing by how they fast walked—the change in gravity making people unsteady no matter how much they exercised while gone.

I wished I’d brought ear plugs—something to dampen my hearing the way the dark-tinted contacts in my eyes dulled my color vision. Instead, I focused on the luggage label of Mom’s rolling case and let her lead the way. Focusing my attention on a single object kept me from getting headaches in situations like this, which were becoming so severe that at times I couldn’t even move until they were over.

When we reached the check-in counter, several people were already lined up to board. We checked our luggage, leaving only my backpack and Mom’s purse for carry-ons.

“I’m just not used to traveling without your dad,” Mom said and then sighed as we got in line with our tickets. “I know he’d have somehow gotten us here with an hour to spare.”

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