It seems fitting that we round Sunday Morning Transport’s first year today with C.C. Finlay’s beautiful science fiction story about family and the importance and difficulty of truly communicating: “We’ll Call Home Tomorrow.”
Whether this is the 50th story you’ve read from us, or your first, we are so glad you are joining us on this journey. From all of us: Best wishes to you and yours for a wonderful rest of the year. ~ Julian and Fran, December 25, 2022.
We’ll Call Home Tomorrow
By C.C. Finlay
I found my daughter in the greenhouse among the sphagnum mosses and micro ferns. Moonlight filtered through domes high overhead, old, thick glass spiderwebbed with superficial cracks. Mirrors bounced shafts of light down through the cavernous dark, where Nina stood alone, a slim ponytailed figure in bright coveralls among the vertical growing racks. I paused and took a deep breath. Making sure to keep the frustration out of my voice.
“Hey, there you are! Why aren’t you up at the hatch?” It almost sounded casual.
“Oh, hey, Dad. I’m coming.” She latched several containers full of plants.
No frustration, I reminded myself. Nina and her mom had moved to separate quarters years ago. This trip was the only chance I had to spend extended time with my kid. “We’ve already loaded the plant samples onto the rover. The rest of us are ready to go!”
Each year, we made exactly one four-week journey out onto the planet’s surface to update the terraforming survey. Every part of it was planned in advance. That included every cubic meter of space inside our last two functional rovers.
“This is a research project for school. Extra credit.” Her arms were full of the containers. She averted her eyes as she sprinted past me. “Mom said it was okay.”
The words We don’t have room died on my lips. We’d find a way to make room. Our continued existence here was tenuous, and I wanted to encourage anything Nina did to take her studies more seriously. She could carry the sample boxes on her lap if she had to.
Besides, if the past two years were any indication, we would find plenty of other things to fight about during the survey. There was no need to start early.
I sighed and trudged after.
* * *
By the time I reached the garage, Nina had already loaded the containers onto our rover. I double-checked her work, but the boxes were secured snugly in a few odd corners. Maybe she had been paying attention during previous surveys.
Mei helped seal Nina into her evac suit. The two girls had never been close until their first trip to the surface together; now they were best friends. Nina was still in that awkward teen stage, where everything she did seemed uncoordinated and distracted. Mei was a year older, intense and serious, sometimes angry. But I liked her and her influence on Nina. The two girls leaned their heads together, Mei whispered something, and Nina’s eyes flew wide open as she laughed.
“Growing up fast, aren’t they?” said a voice, softly, at my side.
I glanced over at Aimi, the soil-and-atmospheric scientist in charge of the other rover. Mei’s aunt. I had developed a terrible crush on Aimi during our first survey trip, when we were the apprentices. I was sixteen then, the same age as Nina now. Aimi was twenty-one, practically an old hand at that point. “I remember when we were that age,” I said.
She snorted, apparently not recalling it quite as fondly as I did.
Nina, all suited up, ran to the driver’s seat.
“No! No, no, no,” I blurted, lurching forward.
“Take some downtime, Dad,” she said, rolling her eyes and diverting to the passenger side. “I was just messing with you.”
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