I wake up excited.
You know how sometimes you wake up, but you wake up really, really slowly, and it takes like, hours or something, before your brain registers that you’re awake?
I wake up nothing like that, not today anyway.
Today, the second my mind knows it’s awake, my eyes pop open, and I sit up in bed, grinning. I’m just… I’m excited! There aren’t any other words for it really. I want to just… just run around in circles, and jump a bunch.
It’s early, and the light of the rising sun is filtering lazily through the filmy curtains on my window, catching the dust-motes in the air, outlining the occasional weevil in the air. (We call them weevils, but their real name is Curculionoidea Cittetet Astrada. We learnt that in science a few weeks back. I got a B+ on the test!)
I shift in bed, sitting on the edge, and I let my bare feet dangle off the edge of the bed. I’d have to reach to touch the floor still, but mamma keeps telling me soon I’ll be big enough to touch the ground without having to reach. I’m looking forward to that a lot, but I’m looking forward to today a lot more.
Today is Merchant day.
Today, like happens one day every three months, Dominic Venges’ Merchantman will come drifting slowly out of the clouds, its thrusters firing loudly (I always plug my ears it’s so loud). The ship will settle on the field outside of town, looking for all the world like someone could just like.. push it over, it’s so top-heavy. I’ve always wanted to try to push it over, but mamma won’t let me. Maybe I’ll ask Dominic if I can. He seems really nice, and he gave me a really pretty necklace two times ago when he came. I should wear that today.
The ship’s going float slowly down out of the sky, engines firing, and it’s going to bring with it supplies and luxuries to last us months.
Three months, to be exact.
Da will pick up some Regge wood, for his carving, and maybe a few more blades. Mama will buy paints and canvas like she always does, so that she can keep doing her paintings.
I keep asking her to paint the Merchantman coming down out of the clouds, I think it would be really pretty, but she just keeps smiling and nodding, and keeps painting flowers. No-one will buy a painting of flowers, but she keeps trying. If she did some faces… Maybe she should paint Dominic’s face. He’d buy it. He’d laugh and buy it and carry onto his ship and hang it somewhere, in his office, or something.
I’m staring at my little shelf, across the room, staring at where my Cred card is sitting. I’ve been filling it slowly for months now, not buying anything when the Merchantman landed, not buying anything at the shops in town, or anything.
Today, I’ve finally got enough. I put in the order, using my Da’s mobiGlas, last week. Dominic should have it today.
Today, when that dully painted Merchantman comes thundering down to land, when the town gathers around and buys their nicknacks and supplies, their luxury foods and their sewing needles and their pots and pans and fancy blankets.
Today, while all that junk is being sold, I’m going to walk up to Dominic, and I’m going to hand him my Cred card, and he’ll process it, and then he’ll hand me it.
The thing I’ve been waiting for for months, since Mamma and Da said I had to buy it with my own Creds.
Today I’ll finally get my science kit. Three-hundred and seventy five different experiments, covering biology, gravity, quantum physics, electricity, optics, terraforming theoretics…
I hop out of bed, bare feet slapping lightly against the wood floor, and I dress quickly. A light dress, it’s going to be a hot day out, and some sandals. The Cred card goes into one of the pockets in the dress, and my nice yellow sun hat goes on top of my head, at least until mamma yells at me to take it off in the house.
At breakfast, mamma and Da talk, I don’t listen. Cereal goes in my mouth as quickly as I can shovel it in, and all I can think of is how the ‘Mastery of Science Theater’ is the best a kid can get. Much better than Nelly Gray-Thiel’s ‘Science for Kids 2!’ set. That only only has 65 exercises.
Breakfast done, I run out to the porch, and sit myself in Da’s big chair, and I wait. Wait for the distant thunder to announce the coming of the Merchantman, wait for the ever-present clouds in the sky above to part, bulging down like a pregnant lady till they’re pierced by the bow of the Merchantman, like in that Aliens movie that Da let me watch one night when mamma was asleep.
Midday comes, and I’m still waiting. Mamma brings me a sandwich and some tea. I eat, and drink, and swing my legs, waiting for the Merchantman to arrive.
I can’t wait to create my own graphene matrices, then splice them with nitrates and carbotanium, creating my very own carbotanium scalpel, that I’ll need to use to open the packaging to get to the next experiment. Most of the experiments are like that. You make something in the experiment that lets you get to the next one. I can’t WAIT. Even if I do like, two a day, I’ll still have… a lot!
And then I hear it, way off in the distance, the muted thunder of the Merchantman. I hop up, staring at the clouds. They’ll come through the cloud-cover not too far away, and then land. And then I’ll have it.
The clouds above the town start their bulge, slowly extending around the Merchantman, and I see the clouds start to glow red from the thrusters.
And then the ship breaches the clouds, slowly revealing itself, the hull looking like some kind of spiky whale.
And it’s burning.
Fires dot the ship in dozens of places, and the thundering grows louder. Explosions.
The Merchantman is out of the clouds, plummeting towards the ground faster than it should, and the clouds are extending again, bulging. I stand, transfixed, as two more ships cut through the clouds, Cutlasses, followed by a third, a Caterpillar.
Someone, somewhere nearby, starts to scream.
And people start to panic. I can see them running from their houses out of the corner of my eye, running, scrambling to safety. I just watch, watch as the Merchantman falls straight towards us.
Mamma grabs my hand, turns to start to run, turns to try and get away, but Da is there. He puts his hand on her shoulder, smiles, tears in his eyes, and she buries her face in his chest, crying.
He knows what I know. There’s no way to escape. Even if we’re away from the debris of the ship, the blast as its engines go critical when it hits…
I really wanted that science kit, I think, as Da picks me up, hugs me between him and mamma.
The thunder of the Merchantman is deafening now. I’ve plugged my ears, but the explosions as the ship comes closer, its thrusters trying to pull it up and failing; the explosions as the pirates behind launch wave after wave of missiles into the ship… I can’t plug the thunder out, no matter how hard I try.
It’s coming closer and closer, the Merchantman, and the sounds keep getting louder. It’ll crash any second now.
I start to cry, not because I’m afraid to die, but because the noise HURTS.
Well, maybe I’m a little afraid.
I wonder if it’ll hurt to die.
I wonder if—