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Ocean jasper bead cradled by silver wire, on a 16" handspun silk cord.
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Bella perched on a boulder and watched the colonists milling about on the plain. Looked like about a third of them were out here. The rest were busying themselves with building and furnishing their homes, getting started on their jobs. Cooking dinner for their families.
But some of them were here to say goodbye.
The second sun was almost down below the horizon, and full dark would soon follow - the perfect time to release the dead.
Bella saw movement by the base of the rock formation - a child, climbing up to sit beside her. A girl. Maybe twelve. The girl settled herself near Bella, then glanced up. "Hi."
Bella nodded. "Hi yourself."
"You're the pilot, right? You get to...hit the button?"
"Well,there's no button, but yeah. I give the order."
"Was it you who found the malfunction?"
"Yeah." Bella closed her eyes. Last cycle before planetfall, she'd found them. One subset of coldsleep coffins malfunctioned. Two dozen colonists dead, sixty years dead by the time she'd found them. A blip in Arnie's systems had fried the circuit. It was far too late by the time Bella awoke for her centennial maintenance, but still she blamed herself a bit. She wondered how many colonists did.
"Did you - what did you do with the bodies? They're not just being nudged out an airlock, are they?"
"Oh, yech, no! We -" Bella stopped and regarded this grey-eyed girl, this child whose parents were not pulling her of this rock. "Did you lose someone?"
"My dad." The girl looked away. "He was a biologist. An Earth biologist. Mom is a Haven biologist. She's okay. So's my brother. They just...didn't want to be here."
"I'm sorry," Bella murmured. "I wish - I wish Arnie had caught the blip, I wish I'd cycled sooner."
"It's okay." The girl shook her head. "Well, no. It's not okay. But there was nothing anyone could do, my mom says." She looked up at Bella. "My name's Lara, by the way."
"So - how does it work? With the bodies?"
"Are you sure you want to hear this?"
"Yes. I want to know."
Bella sighed. "Well. We cremated them. And since you really can't have ashes floating around a spaceship, we compressed them into a sphere, each of them, lightly coated. And they've been in a storage compartment." She closed her eyes again, remembering, and held out her hands as if cradling one of the spheres. "They were actually kind of beautiful. Mostly grey, but with flashes of silver and gold if the person had implants. Swirly. Like giant marbles. Or very small planets."
"Dad would have liked the idea of being a very small planet."
The second sun dipped below the horizon with a flare of red and purple, and night fell. Bella raised her wrist. "Let 'em go, Arnie," she said quietly into her wristcom.
One by one, they fell, scattered apart, burning as they entered the atmosphere, trailing light. The colonists murmured, cried, reached up in vain. Lara just watched the sky, silent tears streaking her cheeks. "He's a falling star," she whispered, just loud enough for Bella to hear her. "He gets to be part of Haven after all."
At $1,382.24. C'mon, guys! Get me to $1,500!
Will try going downstairs after I post this, to see if the stench has dissipated.