As the star map flickered on Sasha’s bedroom wall, she wished, not for the first time, that she was a child again. Yet, she had to grow up today. She, and anyone else who was seventeen years old, would board their own starship and venture out into the galaxy, alone, for a year. “To find yourselves,” her dad had told her. Sasha would have rather have stayed on Earth to find her purpose instead. Isn’t that how they did it five hundred years ago? Sasha wished that it could still be like that in the year 2518.
And besides, anything could happen in space, where the likelihood of death was higher. Her ship could lose power, and she’d run the risk of freezing to death or suffocating. In addition to that, she would be almost completely exposed to cosmic rays, which could cut through human flesh like it was butter. It was what happened to her mom--
“You ready, Sash?” her dad’s voice called from downstairs.
“Yeah, I’m coming!”
Sasha turned off the holographic map and stuffed it into her pack, which she proceeded to throw over her back. Then, she turned to survey her bedroom trying to commit every single detail to her memory. A soft smile graced her face as she looked around at her old sheets and her desk and her posters for possibly the last time.
“Good morning, Sasha,” the home AI said, as she walked downstairs into the kitchen. Her dad who had finished pouring some coffee in a thermos. He usually made coffee for them in the mornings, his black and strong and Sasha’s with spoons full of sugar.
“You’re going to be bouncing off the walls,” her dad would say with a shake off his head and a fond smile.
Sasha would answer with some sarcastic remark, usually along the lines of, “Not even the immense amount of sugar and caffeine in this coffee can keep me from being completely exhausted.”
There would be laughter and Sasha would kiss her dad’s cheek and give him a big hug,which he would pretend to hate, but he would hug her back in the end. And they would part ways, to work and to school.
This morning started out the same way, with super sweet coffee, and her dad pressed it into her hands.
“’Morning,” Sasha said, quietly.
“’Morning,” he replied. “You ready?”
“I don’t know.”
“I think you are,” her dad said, stirring his own coffee. “Your mother would be so proud of you.”
Sasha’s eyes began to sting. “I wish she was here.”
She buried her face in her father’s chest. Before she knew it she knew it, tears were streaming down her face. She felt hands stroking her thick, curly hair, hair that she’d inherited from her mom. They stayed like that for a few moments before her dad gently began to pull away.
“Hold on, I have something to give you.”
He went to the coat closet under the stairs, and came back with a long black coat.
“Here, it belonged to your mom. Try it on.”
Sasha wiped the remaining tears from her face, and felt the jacket’s fabric on her skin. She put it on and the first thing she noticed was how it seemed to cling to her skin. It reached to about her knees and was a bit too long in the arms, but it fit almost perfectly.
“It’s beautiful, dad!” She barreled into her dad’s arms again. “Thank you!”
“She would have wanted you to have it. Now, do you have everything? Rations? Toothbrush? Toothpaste? Space suit? Your sanity?”
“I have all of those things. Except my sanity, of course.” They laughed..
The clock now read six o’clock. Sasha felt her chest tighten. It was nearly time for her to go. Her dad noticed too, and she could see the sadness in his deep brown eyes.
“We should start heading out to your ship,” he said, full of pride.
The ship was sitting in the front yard, in all of its silver, sleek glory. Children began to build their own when they entered school at age five, as well as learned how to pilot them. Along with that, they were also taught how to survive on their own in space, and how to protect themselves against threats. (Though Sasha didn’t know exactly what they were defending themselves against.)
Sasha’s ship was almost as long as her house, about ninety feet long, and half as tall, which was a good size for someone traveling on their own, and could fit about three people comfortably. It was equipped with everything a teenager could need: their own quarters, a telescreen, computer, gaming console, and plenty of food. Also on board was a ship AI, which was almost like the soul of ship. It controlled life support, the water recycling system, and pretty much anything else that would keep things running safely.
It was normal for the builder of the ship to program the AI with a personality and to give it a name, and Sasha had named hers Ellen, after her mother.
“Ellen, open the hatch,” Sasha said. A few seconds later, the bottom of the ship opened, and the ramp lowered, revealing the ship’s bright insides.
She hesitantly began to step onto the ramp, but not before rushing back to give her dad one last hug.
“Take care of yourself,” she whispered.
“Make sure to call me every once in awhile.”
And with that, she finally entered her ship and took the short walk to the pilot’s chair. The sound of the ship’s engines could be heard, drowning out all other noise outside. Sasha felt the familiar dropping sensation in her stomach as the ship began to rise off the ground, and she could see her dad still waving on the ground.
“My sensors indicate that you are undergoing emotional distress. Is anything the matter?” Ellen’s, soothing mechanical filtered through the sound system.
“No,” Sasha said. “Nothing’s wrong.”
The ship began to pick up speed, and Sasha’s home began to become smaller and smaller, until it disappeared completely, and the black of space was all she could see.