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#8 Mother, May I?
“I’ve found something, Violet,” Jobs told her. Told her that he’d shown the lumpish mass to Mo’Steel, that Mo’Steel agreed it looked an awful lot like the remains of planet Earth and its moon.
Violet took the news with little expression of interest.
“Isn’t it exciting?” Jobs said, puzzled by her indifference.
“I don’t know what to say Jobs,” she admitted. “I don’t see what good it does us now to have found- Earth. Or what’s left of it. It just sounds very, very sad, to me. I’m sorry.”
Jobs shook his head. “But don’t you see, Violet? There’s a chance, slim, but a chance, that Earth’s still habitable. That we could go back and with Billy’s help and the ship’s resources, maybe, just maybe, the human race could be independent again. Owners and not renters. We could start over and-“
Violet laughed but her eyes were sad. “Oh, Jobs, you’re deluded. Forget what you saw, or think you saw. Pursuing this is only going to break your heart.”
Jobs ran a hand through his already unruly hair. He suddenly remembered his mother calling him Egg-Beater Head. Back on Earth. Back home.
He had to make Violet understand.
“Honestly, Violet,” he said, “can you really just let this go? Don’t you want to go and see what might be the remains of Earth, see where it takes us? Can you really just forget about it, just turn away, go on living aboard Mother for the duration? Not knowing if she’ll ever decide she doesn’t want us here anymore. Never knowing what might have been on Earth.”
I want to stay,” Violet said immediately, almost angrily. It’s safer. Smarter. Look, what if the planet is Earth? What then? Maybe it’s not habitable. Probably it’s not. What if Billy can’t fix it all for us? I don’t want another disappointment like that. I don’t need to lose my home twice in one lifetime.” Violet shook her head. “One very long lifetime.”
“But this is not really your home,” Jobs argued.
“It is now. It is because I’ve chosen it to be, and I’ve accepted its limitations. All of them. No, Jobs. I don’t want to leave.”
Violet smiled. “That’s what I’ve been saying.”
“But what if- just what if- the planet is Earth and it is habitable and we can rebuild-“
“What? Rebuild what, Jobs? A fabulous civilization, just like that? With a handful of people, most of whom, excuse me for being blunt, are selfish and cowardly and who can’t even agree on what an extra-cheese taco should taste like?”
Jobs sighed. “But what if we can go home, Violet? Just use your imagination, okay? Please?”
Violet took Jobs’s hands, looked into his eyes. Her own were dark. “Jobs, I miss Earth so badly,” she said, her voice breaking. “I try not to think about the past but I can’t help it. I dream about it almost every night. How could I not? I’m homesick. Sometimes the nostalgia is so piercing I think I’m going to die, just fall to the floor and die with longing. How can I try to go back to something I know is no longer there? How can I avoid hoping, futilely, I know, but hoping that something, any little thing will be the same as it was five hundred years ago? When nothing is the same. Nothing.”
“Aren’t you the least bit curious, though?” Jobs persisted. “Because maybe something good did remain. Maybe, I don’t know, some trees. Maybe some people. Violet, it’s unlikely, but there could be people alive on that planet. Humans.”
“Humans?” Violet laughed harshly and pulled her hands from his. “No, Jobs. More like descendents of a few wrecked survivors of the greatest catastrophe our world has ever known. What could we possibly have in common with them. They’re probably like a different species now! They might be without a spoken language, without writing, without machines, without the wheel for all we know! Jobs, they might not even be breathing oxygen! I’m not saying they’re worthless. I’m saying they’re not us. The human race as we know it consists of a handful of relics on board a massive space ship. That’s all.”
Jobs felt defeated. “Maybe the Missing Eight are there,” he suggested lamely.
Violet just looked at him.
“Will you go along if the others choose to?” he said after a moment.
“I’m a captive to the will of the people, Jobs,” Violet said. She sounded resigned. “Aren’t I?”
“Aren’t we all,” Jobs said wearily.