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Diyar waited impatiently for his twin. “If you keep dragging your feet, I’m leaving you behind. You made me miss it last time. I’m not taking that chance this year,” he shouted.
Sivan staggered out of the decontamination chamber. His long black hair was a mess, sticking out from his head like the tentacles of a partunial lagoniva. “I don’t know why you’re so excited about this. You’ve seen it before,” he grumbled.
“When we were children,” Diyar said. “We were barely old enough to remember. And when it came around again when we were teenagers, our parents wouldn’t go without you. What was it you told me when I tried to get you to move faster?”
Sivan sighed. “I told you the only way I was going to see some shelling sunrise was if you drugged me and stuffed me in the cargo shell of the hover.”
Diyar nodded. “Now, you have five minutes. I’d rather have you with me, especially since you promised Briska and Sirin you’d be there.” He grinned as his brother spluttered. The twin sisters who dated the two brothers interchangeably were hard to please, and if Sivan went back on his word, the two of them would make him pay for it for a long time.
Five minutes later, the black haired and brown eyed twins left their underground apartment and went through a series of tunnels lined with electromagnets that granted their vehicle the ability to fly until they reached the main landing bay of the Geliyen settlement on Protoxia VII. It was kept sealed and guarded against the residents most of the time. Only once every fifteen years was it opened to the public, and the huge ships stored inside prepped for flight once more.
Briska must have been watching for them because she appeared shortly after they parked their hover. “You two were almost late,” she said, her charcoal colored eyes flashing angrily.
“My fault, Bris,” Sivan said. “I worked late and overslept.”
Briska snorted. “You ‘worked late,'” she said, making a motion with her hand to show she didn’t believe him. “You were out at the bar again.”
“No Bris,” Diyar said. “He really was working late. I had to go pick him up because the public transit stopped running two hours before he got off.”
Briska opened her mouth. Sirin appeared and elbowed her. “Bris, I work for the same company as Sivan, remember? He was still there after I left, and I caught the last public transport,” she said.
“Let’s go,” Sivan said, catching hold of Sirin’s hand. “We’re going to miss the transport, and I want to make sure we can all sit together.” He dragged Sirin along. Diyar and Briska followed. Diyar glanced at Briska out of the corner of his eye. She was not one for unwanted physical touch, and right now it looked like she wasn’t interested in taking his arm.
They got to the massive ship and climbed aboard. They found a long bench that seated four and settled in. They fastened their harnesses and waited for the ship to fill up. It did and about an hour after they arrived it lifted off.
Diyar watched as the dark browns, grays, and reds of the stone surrounding the city passed the windows. There was an excited buzz in the conversations going on around him. He saw several young children tugging on their parents’ arms and asking what they were going to see. The parents just told them to be quiet and they’d find out soon enough.
Eventually the ship broke through the crust of the planet. On the surface, as if preserved in some giant museum, stood the ancient cities that had once held Diyar’s ancestors. The first residents of Protoxia VII built the towering structures they now saw, drawing on their memories of their homeworld. But something went terribly wrong and they’d been driven underground. That had been nearly a thousand years earlier, and their descendants still lived in the subterranean territories carved out a millennium ago.
“Look,” Briska said, her breath catching in her throat. Light flickered off the shimmering powder on her olive skin.
Everyone peered out the windows. The cloud cover that was a perpetual drain on the solar generators was parting even as they watched. The glorious golden sun poured light down on the mist shrouded ghost city. No pictures were taken. It was forbidden. No drawings were made. Again, it was forbidden. All you were allowed to have were your memories, and Diyar stored his against the coming gray time.
Too soon the clouds covered the shining orb and the ships made their way back underground. “Do you think we’ll ever see it again?” Sirin asked wistfully.
“I don’t know about you two,” Diyar said. “I know I won’t. I’m 34. I’ve only got eleven years left.”
“Can’t you file for an extension?” Briska asked.
“I’m not a good enough candidate for that,” Diyar said. “I’m just going to enjoy the years I have left and let my life end when they say it does.”