Andera Merrers stared out of her bedroom window, at the low-hanging sun in the east. It coloured the sky pale yellow and red. If she looked to the west she would see it gradually go over into pale blue, growing steadily darker towards the horizon. Just then she could see both moons, hanging almost directly above her head. In the western distance, she might have been able to see stars if she squinted a bit, but she hadn’t really seen them since she was a child, living in Ferrerton, on the nightside. Back then she had seen the stars every dayn.
In many ways she missed it. Perhaps not the cold, or the poverty, but she missed the darkness occasionally. She missed the stars. Here it was never dark; never night, yet never truly day, either. If she travelled to the westernmost end of Cendar, it sometimes got nearly dark, but never quite. There would always be the faint, red glow in the east.
She sighed and pulled her head back inside, closing the window. The house was empty. Her parents were at a meeting of their organisation, The Planetary Anti-Conflict Movement. Andera remained behind. Not because she wasn’t interested in what they were doing – she always had been – but because at the moment it felt so very futile. Every bit of her common sense told her that they would never win, so what was the point? The PACMo has been going for nearly fifteen years, and what had they accomplished? In Trella, and on the surrounding islands, workers’ rights were still virtually non-existent, and the day side continued their reckless wastefulness of resources while selling what little remained to the highest bidder among the crime lords who ruled the night side. Over half the inhabitants of the planet were starving…
Back in Ferrerton Andera had felt it, perhaps more keenly than many because her parents constantly crossed on the wrong side of the powers that be, in this case a very powerful criminal by the name of Norak. Norak owned the government, and Andera’s parents were journalists, intent on exposing political corruption. In the end they had been forced to flee to Cendar, where they set up a new base, under the radar, recruiting people from both sides of the planet to help them. Now they had government officials on the night side, silently trying to rally their colleagues to stand up to the criminals who controlled them, and lobbyists on the day side, trying to promote legislation to lower the price of foodstuffs sold to the night side, but so far there had been little success.
Andera was proud of her parents and their work, even if it had yielded few results, but now, with her childhood far behind her, she was beginning to feel disillusioned. What good would it do for her to get involved? How could she ever hope make a difference, where so many others had failed to? She looked around at her bedroom, taking in the decor, the computer interface gear in the corner, the mass of general stuff that she owned. She knew that she was lucky.
‘But we’ve only got a few weeks until we leave, and she’s got to know.’ Victor looked at his wife pleadingly. She sighed.
‘If we must…’
The kitchen door opened then, with a creak, and Andera shuffled into the room, looking tired.
‘Did you sleep well?’ asked Victor, overly cheerful. Andera shrugged. She opened a cupboard and fetched herself a mug, before filling it with tea from the pot on the stove. Then she sat herself down at the kitchen table and her eyes travelled across the faces of each of her parents in turn.
‘So,’ she said, taking a sip, ‘where are you going?’
Lidya blinked and opened her mouth, then smiled, looking resigned. ‘Well…’ she began, but her husband cut in.
‘We have to go away for a while,’ he said. ‘We have stayed out of the field for a long time, because we had you to consider, but it’s high time we get out there and do some of the dirty work ourselves. We have business, in Ferrerton.’
Andera stared at him. ‘Are you mad?’ she said after a short while. There was no anger in her voice, but one eyebrow was raised. ‘You think they won’t recognise you just because you haven’t been there in fifteen years?’
‘We’ll be fine,’ said Lidya. ‘We have some good people on our side, you know. We’ve been issued passports, complete identities. There’s no way they’ll look through them, and we have a sheltered place to stay once we get there. It shouldn’t take that long… Just a couple of weeks and we’ll be back. And we’re not leaving for some time yet, anyway.’
‘What kind of business is it?’ Andera enquired, her voice still calm.
‘Diplomacy,’ said Victor. ‘We’ve had wind of some plans of Norak’s, to escalate the conflict with the day side for an excuse to go to war. We need to try and convince some of his people to advise against it.’
‘You think that will actually work?’ Andera took another sip of her tea, studying her father’s face.
‘If we’re lucky. At the very least it might delay it a bit, giving us time to work our contacts on the day side as well.’ Victor smiled sadly at his daughter. ‘You do see why this has to be done?’
Andera sighed, looking away now. ‘Yes,’ she said at last. ‘I do. When are you leaving?’
‘The second of the ninth,’ replied Lidya. ‘Don’t worry, Andera,’ she added. ‘Everything will be all right.’
The road to Floyd’s house was steep from the Merrers’ home, which was located on the top of a cliff, overlooking the pale green ocean. She always visited Floyd when she had a lot on her mind. He would invite her inside, offer her something to drink, and tell her about something new and interesting that had happened to him, on the farm. Or he would just talk about the weather, giving her ample time to stare out the window and smile and nod.
He opened the door as usual, and smiled when he saw her.
‘It’s gonna be a good harvest,’ he said, conversationally, as he poured them both fresh pink plum juice. ‘Of course, the new growing agent I developed must take some credit. You know, I think I’ve finally got it… It might even help with the plantations in Trella. Greenhouses and UV lighting can only get you so far, you know, but with the right compounds and some more space, perhaps they can become a bit more self-sufficient… If they no longer need the day side so much, things will immediately become better.’ He sipped his juice thoughtfully. ‘Actually, would you mind bringing a sample back to your parents for me? It might be helpful when they go to Ferrerton.’
Andera looked up sharply. ‘You knew about that, then?’ she asked, sullenly. Somehow, she had always felt comfortable enough around him not to hide her feelings, as she so often did with everyone else.
Floyd looked surprised. Andera was uncertain of whether it was because she evidently hadn’t known about it until recently, or if it was because she had spoken at all; their conversations when she was in this kind of mood were generally one-sided.
‘Why, yes,’ said Floyd. ‘I do attend the PACMo meetings regularly…’ He raised an eyebrow and examined her face inquisitively.
‘They only told me today,’ Andera explained. ‘You’d think they’d tell their own daughter they were going on a suicide mission…’
‘It’s not suicide,’ said Floyd, kindly. ‘They’ll be fine. We’re putting every security measure in place. They’ll be back before you know it, I guarantee. Anyway, they’re not leaving tomorrow or anything.’
‘If it’s not dangerous, then why didn’t they tell me they were going?’ asked Andera, looking down at her glass.
‘Because they didn’t want to worry you.’ Floyd reached out and touched her arm, squeezing it gently. ‘Not that there’s anything to worry about, but they know you. You worry about everything.’ He let go and leaned back in his chair, shrugging. ‘They’re your parents. They’re allowed to behave irrationally when it comes to you.’ He tried to catch her eye again. ‘And while they’re gone, my door will always be open to you if you need some company, yeah? And I’m always on the flowband.’ He smiled.
Andera heaved a deep sigh. As much as everyone kept saying all would be well, she couldn’t quite shake the feeling of foreboding and dread in the pit of her stomach, as though something terrible was about to happen. She drained her glass and stood up, putting one hand in her pocket and running the other through her short, auburn fringe.
‘I should probably get back,’ she said, forcing a smile. ‘It was nice talking.’