Colony life was tedious. The only change came in my fitness classes. We were required to learn new skills. Target practice with dart guns, which was obviously a stupid addition for me, but even I was required to participate. Those of us who could not see were taught to shoot toward a sound. In a way, I really enjoyed this skill, it felt empowering. Hand to hand combat was also modified for those of us with physical ailments, but required nonetheless.
I noticed that they had taken people away from other jobs to teach us. One day, my kicking instructor was frustrated with my lack of enthusiasm. “Arienne. Listen for me. Kick high! This is important.”
“I don’t get it,” I cried out, hot, tired and equally frustrated. “Why is this so important?”
“I- I don’t know. It just is.”
“Oh, that’s inspiring,” I quipped.
“Trust me, I’d rather be doing my job than here training you.” He stopped abruptly as if he’d said too much.
“Steve, you turned 21 three years ago, what have you been doing?”
“I am in the new development branch,” he said carefully. “We never stop growing here.” I thought slowly and chose my words with care.
“Then who is building if your company has been transferred here to teach us these skills?”
“I don’t know,” he sounded strange. Either he didn’t know or he knew a secret. Hmmm. Why would they take a construction company to teach us combat? Were we going to have to fight newcomers for their spots? Geez most of them were just babies. I wondered why they didn’t just kill us, but some families were very involved with their loved lunar prisoners. Just not mine. My mother must have spent one year sober, because I did get a birthday card, but I had been eight or nine. Nothing else, no packages or love professions. Mel got gifts for every holiday-probably one of the reasons I held no love for her. She would probably have some cushy management job when she turned 21. The thought made me shudder.
“What?” Steve asked, a little less brusquely.
“Steve, what happens to the jobless people here when they turn 21?”
“Oh. That. You still have 5 years. Why do you need to know that?”
“I want to know what will happen to me Steve,” I almost whispered.
Echoing me, his voice lowered, “Listen, things are changing.”
“What is changing?” I was feeling conspiratorial now.
“Politics,” Steve said. “Things on Earth...”
Just then a supervisor walked by, an elderly lady who I’d heard wore a severe gray bun. “Is this young lady giving you trouble?” I shot her a nasty look.
“No,” Steve said. “We were just talking ab--”
“There is no talking. If you cannot be a trainer, you can be removed, sir,” she spoke haughtily to Steve.
“Yes ma’am,” Steve stumbled. “Change of activities. Listen for the tone Arienne and shoot directly at it.” We moved to the target range. Steve handed me a dart gun. I waited, listened, squeezed the trigger and was rewarded with a thwack sound of my dart hitting the mark.
“Sorry about that one,” I mumbled to Steve when she was gone. “I just really need to know things...”
“You know I can’t tell you. When you turn, they will tell you all you need to know for your job, but there are things even I don’t know.” He sounded apologetic, but also with a certainty that said this conversation was over.
“Well what happens when we die? Do they just kill us all Steve?” My voice reached a hysteric whisper. The supervisor must have looked back at us because Steve poked me.
“I have so many scenarios. But I just don’t want to think I have five years to live.” I felt the rush of warmth in my eyes that meant tears were coming, so I blinked them away. Steve guided my hand back to the target soundboard.
“I’ll see what I can find out. Will that make you happy?” I nodded. “I don’t want to be reassigned though,” he added.
“Fine,” I sighed. It was doubtful he would tell me anything he found out anyway.
“Robin, do you have all the same trainings I have?” I crunched around my apple.
“I don’t know. What are you doing?”
“Something like a martial arts, a cardio regime and target practice.”
I heard him nearly choke. “They have you doing target practice too?” He sounded incredulous, “But how...”
“I listen for a tone and shoot at it with a handgun full of darts.”
“Why would they have you doing target practice?” he sounded concerned.
“I don’t know Robin, why are we doing any of this?” I shrugged. “I mean, I get zen meditation, relaxation and all that stuff. It’s good for your soul. But combat training?” I thought about it for a minute. “Do you think they’re training us to be soldiers?” I whispered.
“That’s absurd,” Robin said. “We’d all be taken out instantly. Not only are we kids, we’re damaged kids.”
“Keep your voice down. We would have had training, Robin. Think about it. A whole lunar colony of expendable soldiers. Think of how many problems that would solve. It would explain why they stopped new construction. Once we’re all dead, they’ll have tons of space for new inhabitants.”
Robin was so still I could feel him almost tremble. “Do you think?” He was whispering now, too.
“I don’t know, but it makes sense. My instructor said it was political.” A tingling in my senses alerted me. I smelled him before I heard his voice, Galen was coming. “Shh,” I said to Robin. “Let’s keep this a secret. If we’re right, we could be punished for causing panic.”
“Who would tell? Oh, I see.” He must have noticed Galen walking toward us. “It’s your boyfriend.”
“Hello little flower,” Galen drawled.
“What’s up Galen?”
“I was wondering if you would walk with me?” I started to protest but he cut me off. “I am not implying anything, but I was going to our special place,” he said in a clandestine voice, “and wondered if you wanted to go.”
He’d hit my weak spot. And he knew it, too. Damn him. “Aren’t you going to religious service?” I asked. This was just another unremarkable, bleak Sunday morning.
“One of these days you are going to get into real trouble,” I warned.
“Only when I hang out with you, come on. It’s your free time. And your friend here has to go.” It was true. Robin’s parents had signed the consent for their child to have a religious upbringing, so he was required to go to services of the appropriate religion and denomination, but I could fill my spirit in the flower garden. The idea delighted me.
“Fine. But I’ll meet you there. I won’t be seen leaving with you.”
“Oh, come on, Galen. You know it would just start tongues wagging.” I stood up to put my tray away. “I’m just not in the mood.”
“Fine,” he pouted. “I’ll see you there.” He left abruptly and Robin snickered.
“What?” I asked.
“I think you hurt his pride.”
“I believe he has enough to spare,” I grinned at him.
“YOU are such a tease.” Melissande Delta stood next to me. How did I not smell her awful perfume first? She must not be wearing it today. “You know there’s only one thing he wants from you.”
“I am well aware of that Mel. Thanks for your concern.” I should have shut up while I was ahead, but I continued, “I heard that you were indisposed for a month or so after he spent some time with you.” I could feel her rage radiate from her in heatwaves.
“What are you saying Arienne, that Galen knocked me up?”
“I never said anything of the sort, but your stay in the Medical Unit was convenient.”
“I had mono, you witch.”
“I also never said I cared. Just observing.”
She began to shake and Robin grabbed my arm, ever the peace keeper. “We were just leaving.”
“By all means, take your lap dog with you,” she bit. “Soon he won’t be able to help you.” I had forgotten Mel might know what political events were taking place with her father’s ambassador position.
“What are you talking about?” I demanded.
She gasped. Clearly, she was not allowed to share this information. “Nothing,” she fumed. “Nothing. You’ll find out soon enough.” Mel “humph”ed and then she took off like a bat out of hell.