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Last Day on Earth

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It's strange knowing that it's her last day on Earth. Usually that phrase is used as metaphor for death, and it almost feels like a black-robed figure is on the sidelines ready to challenge her to a game of chess. (She's always been good at the game, but never cared enough for it to go through the bother of playing competitively to be ranked. Still, she suspects that while Death would win--Death always wins, doesn't he?--it would be a hard-won game.) This time, however, it's just the literal truth. Her destination is the heavens, certainly, but she'll be making the journey in a spaceship and, God willing, be alive the whole time.

She's not sure how she's supposed to spend it. She breathes the air, smelling the slightly polluted atmosphere of Earth. She kneels down and touches the Earth. But she can't spend the all the hours until the launch running touching, tasting, feeling, and smelling, can she? She has twelve years of sensations behind her; is there anything she could possibly experience in one day that could possibly make the difference?

Peter comes up behind her. He doesn't say anything for a long time; they've hashed out all their arguments and he knows he can't change her mind. "Do you really I think would--" he starts, but doesn't finish the question; they both know she's not being unfair in her estimation of his nature. She knows him better than any human being on Earth. No, scratch that, she knows him better than any human being, period. She's going to have to learn to stop using "on Earth" to mean everyone, everywhere. The people she's going to meet from here on, the places she's going to be going to, aren't going to be on Earth.

 

"I'll miss you," she tells Peter, and it's true. She loves both of her brothers with all of her heart, so much that she thinks it might break, even if she also hates and fears Peter at the same time sometime.

"You too," he says. He gives her a hug then, followed by a kiss on her temple, even though he's not usually physically affectionate. "I'll try not to fuck up the planet." It's the sort of thing that sounds like it ought to be a joke, but Val knows Peter means it sincerely, and that vow right there might just be Earth's best hope for the next sixty years.

"Good," she answers. "I'll keep in touch, but--" They both know the relativistic effects of the journey will mean that even utilizing instantaneous ansible communication, there's going to be far too much they will never learn about each other from this point on.

Peter just nods. He turns to go.

"Peter," Val interrupts, and he turns back. "Don't leave. Not yet."

Peter takes a couple of steps toward her, puts his right arm around her. "I'm here," he reassures her, but there's just a hint of accusation in his voice. I'm not the one going away.

She reaches out and takes his left hand in hers, gripping it firmly.


Hours later, she lets go of Peter's hand and takes her first step on her journey to the stars, to Ender, to a life without Earth.