For my readers,
Thank you for letting my space delinquents into
your hearts. Your support means the galaxy.
Clarke shivered as a gust of wind blew through the clearing, rustling the red and gold leaves that still clung to the trees. “Clarke,” someone called faintly. It was a voice she’d imagined countless times since arriving on Earth. She’d heard it in the rushing creek. She’d heard it in the groaning branches. And most of all, she’d heard it in the wind.
But now she didn’t have to tell herself that it was impossible. Warmth spread through her chest and Clarke turned to see her mother walking toward her, carrying a basket full of apples from the Earthborns’ orchard.
“Have you tried one of these? They’re amazing!” Mary Griffin set the basket down on one of the long wooden tables, picked up an apple, and tossed it to Clarke. “Three hundred years of genetic engineering and we never came close to growing anything like this back on the Colony.”
Clarke smiled and took a bite, glancing around the bustling camp. All around them, Colonists and the Earthborns cheerfully prepared for their first joint celebration. Felix and his boyfriend, Eric, were carrying heavy bowls of vegetables grown in the Earthborns’ gardens and prepared in their kitchens. Two Earthborns were showing Antonio how to weave branches into wreaths. And in the distance, Wells was sanding one of the new picnic tables with Molly, who’d recently started training with an Earthborn woodworker.
From the sight of them all now, it was hard to believe how much hardship and heartache they’d all endured over the past few months. Clarke had been one of the original one hundred teenagers who’d been sent to Earth to see whether humans could survive on the radiated planet. But their dropship had crashed, severing contact with the Colony. While the hundred had struggled to survive on Earth, the remaining Colonists realized their life support system had failed and they were running out of time. As oxygen levels dwindled, and panic spread, they fought their way to the dropships, which, unfortunately, could only hold a fraction of them. Clarke and the other members of the hundred had been stunned when several dropships full of Colonists landed on Earth. Less surprising: Vice Chancellor Rhodes engaged in a brutal campaign to seize power from the teens, who had become the de facto leaders of the Colonists on the ground. Among other casualties, it resulted in the death of Sasha Walgrove, Wells’s girlfriend and the daughter of the peaceful Earthborns’ leader, Max, igniting tension between the groups. But they’d eventually come together to defeat a dangerous enemy—the rogue faction of violent Earthborns who wanted to destroy the Colonists—and now everyone seemed to be doing their best to work together. Rhodes had resigned as Vice Chancellor and he helped form a new Council, comprised of both Colonists and Earthborns.
Today wasn’t just the first joint celebration between the groups: It was the first time the new Council would appear together before their newly united people. Clarke’s boyfriend, Bellamy, was one of the new Council members, and had even been asked to give a speech.
“It looks like everything is coming together,” Clarke’s mother said, watching a young Colonist help two Earthborn girls lay the tables with rough tin plates and wooden cutlery. “What should I be doing?”
“You’ve been doing more than enough. Just try to relax.” Clarke took a step back and drank in the familiar sight of her mother’s warm smile. Though it had been a month since they’d been reunited, she couldn’t stop marveling that her parents hadn’t been floated back on the Colony as punishment for treason, as she’d been told. They’d been sent to Earth instead, where they’d faced countless dangers and finally made their way back to her. The two doctors had since established themselves as vital members of the camp, helping rebuild after the attacks by the violent Earthborn faction, working with Dr. Lahiri to heal those who were injured, and, along with Clarke, Wells, and Bellamy, tightening the bonds between the Colonists and their peaceful Earthborn neighbors.
For the first time Clarke could remember, life had begun to feel peaceful, and full of hope. After months of fear and suffering, it finally felt appropriate to celebrate.