For a moon, Elune wasn’t the bleak place Atica assumed it would be. Parts of it had been terraformed and domed as living spaces for students and faculty of the Astroengineer Authority. The small communities consisted of lush parks filled with assorted shrubbery, flower gardens, and pink lawns; dormitory housing for the students – large blue buildings that stretched upward toward the domes’ ceilings; the various Authority campuses which were all linked by underground rail systems; and smaller housing units like the houses back on Marmooth for the faculty. Atica found herself placed in Dome-4A for new underage students, those eleven and younger. She’d been saddened to learn that Ostare would be in Dome-3B for new appropriate-aged students, twelve-year-olds.
She’d been assigned to Aleck Towers, a dormitory filled with other alien children from all parts of the Universe. Atica hadn’t realized there were so many others like herself on Marmooth – orphans, all of them. She worried that being segregated from the Morethans and Lessthans in this manner would result in more discrimination for her and the other alien children. She quickly learned that it was only for a period of adjustment, not from the Morethans, but from the Lessthans. They’d all been quarantined from one another – Nonthans, Morethans, and Lessthans, but just their living quarters. Classes were all unsegregated. The Authority could keep a better eye on them in the classrooms. Safety was their main priority.
“Once the Lessthans learn to live peacefully among you, you will be moved out of Aleck Towers,” a student resident told Atica and the other alien children during their orientation.
Atica shared her dorm room with a Gilatian, a race of warm-blooded, fur-covered aliens who preferred the cold. This would set well for Atica’s need for cooler temperatures and her crystal chamber.
“I am Min’Hotan, but you can call me Harper,” the Gilatian said as she extended a furry paw to Atica, who placed her small hand in Harper’s paw and returned the introduction.
Atica understood the nickname immediately. When Harper spoke, her voice sounded just like a harp – melodic and beautiful, like celestial cords being struck. The two became fast friends.
Since Atica had her pod with Braxas on board, she’d been assigned a first level dorm with a patio that opened out into a garden. On their first night, she and Harper walked the grounds with Braxas in attendance. Gilatians didn’t have holographic technology, and Harper was fascinated with Braxas, asking him questions and getting him to fade in and out for her. That night, Atica asked Braxas her usual question, but for the first time, she allowed someone else to be present when she did so – Harper.
Braxas scanned the sky. “There,” he said, pointing slightly to the right than he had down on Marmooth. “Follow my hand. See that small cluster? Just there, twinkling blue as always, dear Atica.”
Atica and Harper both looked up into the sky and to where Braxas directed. Atica smiled as she spotted Allura, but Harper sighed.
“I wish I could see Gilatia, but it is too far away.”
Braxas waved his hand and created a computer screen in front of them. Within seconds, Harper’s homeworld spun in an infinity pattern around its two suns. Braxas zoomed in on the purplish giant planet to reveal snow-capped mountain peaks.
“Sorry. Those are the only scans in my database,” Braxas apologized.
Harper teared up. “It is more than I have seen since I was four.”
Much like Atica’s parents, Harper’s mum and dad had been explorers when raiders had attacked their small ship. And just like Atica, Harper had been put into a pod and shot off into the Universe. Her parents had been confirmed dead and she’d ended up on a trade ship which brought her to Marmooth.
“Once I recharge, I will create you a permanent space chart of Gilatia,” Braxas promised the young Gilatian.
That night, while Braxas recharged out on the pink lawn in the pod, Atica and Harper curled up together in one of the twin beds. They were both homesick, and having realized how similar their stories were, they’d sat up half the night talking about their parents and their homeworlds.
As they slept, Atica dreamt of Allura in the Andromedan Galaxy. She walked the crystal streets with her mom and dad, sat on the crystal benches in the garden by their home, gazed up at the sprawling blue crystal mountains, and the violet skies above them. Atica had never been on Allura, but it was a place she knew all too well. A place Braxas would never let her forget.
The next morning, Atica and Harper rode the rails to Dome-5K to begin their first day at trade school. Like their dwellings, the rails too were segregated, but once they stepped off the rails and onto the platform, they were in the company of Morethans and Lessthans, all scuttling about to get to their classes. Atica clasped her hand onto Harper’s paw and dragged her across the courtyard and toward the campus. They’d nearly escaped notice, but just as they reached the elevators, a Lessthan stepped in front of them.
“Nonthans take the stairs,” the Lessthan said as he narrowed his bright green eyes at the two.
Atica stepped in front of Harper, shielding the younger Gilatian with her own body. “Not true,” she said defiantly. “We are all equals here.”
The Lessthan scoffed as he looked around the lobby. “I don’t see any guards here to protect you. Take the stairs.”
The elevator dinged and Atica moved to step inside, but the Lessthan shoved her out of the way.
“I said, take the stairs.”
Just then, Harper let out a loud string of growls and grew twice her size. Her calm, peaceful face scrunched into a snarling beast with yellowed, razor-sharp teeth and red eyes. Harper lunged toward the Lessthan as Atica backed away from her new friend.
“You take the stairs,” Harper grimaced.
The Lessthan screeched and ran toward the staircase, nearly crashing into other students as he kept his eyes on Harper. Within seconds, Harper reduced back to her calm, teddy bear self and grinned at Atica.
Harper laughed. “Sorry, I should have warned you. We Gilatians can be such animals when challenged.”
Atica let out a deep breath. “Don’t let me ever cross you,” she said with a glint in her eyes.
The two boarded the elevator and went up to the tenth floor to begin their first day of lessons. As they entered the small Astro lab, their tormentor had already arrived and was seated on the opposite side of the large round table in the center of the room. Harper glared at him as she took a seat.
Atica looked around the room, but Ostare was nowhere to be found. She sat down beside Harper, folded her arms, and lowered her head. Had she lost her friend already?
They spent the morning learning how to operate the computer systems. Professor Domnal, a hologram, taught them the basics – how to switch on the systems, how to create charts in the air, and the various programs they would need to learn over the course of the next six months. At the end of their orientation in Astro 101, they would go to the actual Astro labs and learn to create barrier systems. For now, their time would be spent creating mocks until they could control the computer systems like experts. For the first time, Atica realized that Astroengineering was all about tedious computer modeling. No wonder her father had spent so much time in the ship’s computer labs.
Professor Domnal assigned them all partners. To Atica’s dismay, she was partnered with the Lessthan who’d tormented her that morning.
“Introduce yourselves and shake hands,” the Professor ordered.
Atica didn’t want to make waves on her first day. “Hi, I am Atica,” she said as she extended her hand.
The Lessthan stood off to Atica’s right with his arms crossed in front of his chest. He refused to speak or touch her.
“Oh, come on. Do you really want to get us both in trouble?”
He still refused to speak.
Atica withdrew her hand and shook her head. “Are you so blatantly arrogant that you cannot make nice for even a second?”
The Lessthan looked over at the Professor who had a scowl on his face. He turned his attention back to Atica. “Helmsley,” he finally said, but still refused to shake hands.
Atica and Helmsley worked the computer systems in front of them, each avoiding the other’s space, for over an hour. For Atica, it felt like an eternity. Twice she’d accidently brushed up against him, only to have him recoil from her like she had an infectious disease. It was the longest, most irritating time she’d spent in all her days since coming to Marmooth. By the time the bell rang, Atica couldn’t get away from Helmsley fast enough, in fact, she nearly tripped over him as she dashed out of the room.
Harper caught up with her near the elevators. “How could you stand working with him all morning?”
“It wasn’t so bad. He’s quite intelligent. I just wish he didn’t view me as some hideous creature.”
“If he had treated me that way, I would have eaten him.”
Atica flashed Harper a curious look.
Harper laughed. “Not really. We Gilatians are actually vegetarians, but just the thought cracks me up. Did you see the look on his face this morning when I bore my teeth at him?”
Atica giggled and leaned against Harper’s shoulder. “He was terrified.”
“Who was terrified?” a voice said behind the pair.
Atica turned and let out a squeal. “Ostare! I thought I’d lost you.”
“Nonsense. I am just down the hall from you in the main Astro labs. Who’d you terrify on your first day?”
“Some Lessthan named Hemsley,” Harper interjected.
“Oh, my manners! Ostare, this is Harper. She’s a Gilatian.”
Ostare smiled. “Nice to meet you, Harper. You are the second Gilatian I’ve met today.” She turned back to Atica. “Hemsley, huh? He’s an Orkamf. His father is the mayor of a small village just a few miles south of Hatash. I have his brother, Donsley in Astro 102 with me. Lazy, pathetic Lessthan.” Ostare tossed her long black hair and pushed the elevator button. “Lunch, ladies?”
The three climbed aboard the elevator. Atica kept her gaze on Ostare. Suddenly, she felt very small in the Marmoothian’s presence. For whatever reason, she thought Morethans were more tolerant, but she realized that they were just as intolerant of Lessthans as the Lessthans were of them. No wonder the two sides were constantly at odds with one another.
Andromeda Dreaming is a YA Science Fiction story. Young Atica has been marooned on an alien world, adopted by a family there. She longs for her parents who may or may not be alive, and Allura, her homewold in the Andromeda Galaxy. Will she ever see her parents again? Or will she have to accept a life on the foreign planet Marmooth where she fears she will never fit in?
Andromeda Dreaming ©2016-2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.
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