“This is boring,” someone groaned from the front of the classroom.
“Shut up, Ricky,” Peter said cheerfully. Ricky turned around in her seat to glare at him. “Make me, Peter.”
Peter grinned. “Is that a challenge? ‘Cause we both know who will win, don’t we?”
“Of course, I would,” she snapped. Peter chuckled as Mr. Lowe said, “Settle down, class,” though without much conviction. He finished the diagram he was drawing on the white board then tossed the marker behind him, just missing Ricky’s eye. Ignoring her noises of protest, he clasped his hands and turned to the class. “Alright,” he said, “Who can tell me anything about this diagram?”
Lio, Peter’s brother, shoved his hand into the air. Mr. Lowe nodded at him, and he pushed his chair away from his desk and stood up with a dramatic flourish of his arms, causing several people to snicker. Peter rolled his eyes and leaned back in his char, propping his feet up on his desk. Lio walked up to the board and picked up a pointer. He gave Mr. Lowe a look that said “May I?” Mr. Lowe indicated that he may, so he cleared his throat. “This diagram,” he began, brandishing the pointer like a sword, “represents…” he turned his back on the class to look at the board, causing another round of snickering. “It represents… Oh!” He faced the class again with an impish grin in place. “It represents brains!”
There was a collective giggle from the class as Mr. Lowe attempted to wrestle the pointer from Lio’s hands. Peter once again rolled his eyes and removed his feet from the desk. “Yes, Lio,” said Mr. Lowe, finally succeeding in winning the pointer back, “this diagram does indeed represent ‘brains.’” He used the pointer to gesture towards Lio’s desk. Lio gave him a mocking bow before climbing over Riley’s desk and taking his seat. Once again Mr. Lowe ignored Riley’s sounds of protest and went on. “Well, class, as most of you have probably guessed, the next topic we study will be the human brain. But seeing as we’re out of time for today, we will begin next class.”
With a wave of his hand he dismissed the students then turned his back on them to gather up is papers on his desk. There was a scraping noise as everybody pushed their chairs back and stood up. Lio shoved his things in his bag then joined his brother in the back. “What chores do you have today, bro?” he asked.
“The same chores I have every Tuesday, bro,” Peter replied without looking up from his bag. “Why?”
“Just wondering,” Lio said with just enough innocence to make somebody suspect something. Peter straitened up and looked him directly in the eye. “Whatever you’re thinking about doing is stupid, Lio. Don’t do it.”
Lio donned a face of mock hurt. “You have wounded me, Peter. Why on Earth would I be thinking of doing something stupid?”
“I hate to break it to you, Lio, but we’re not on Earth anymore. And you’re always thinking of doing something stupid. Like I said, don’t do it.”
Lio laughed and turned to leave the classroom, but Peter stopped him with a hand placed on his shoulder. “I’m serious,” he said. Lio laughed once more and shrugged his brother’s hand off. “Stay out of the kitchen wing today,” he called back as he left the room. Peter shook his head as he finished gathering his things. He thought about telling someone, but he knew that there wasn’t a lot anyone could do if Lio really wanted to get away with something. He sighed as he shouldered his bag, then followed Lio out the door.
Peter dropped his pack off in his room, shared with Lio, then headed through the corridors to where his chores for the day were waiting for him. While he walked is thoughts turned to his family back on Earth, especially his sister McKenna, who he hadn’t seen for three years, and would most likely never see again, unless something went wrong with their mission and they had to turn around. He and Lio, and pretty much everybody else on the ship, had been chosen to be part of a specialty group to be sent on a mission to the Goldilocks planet, a planet that appeared just right for life. They had all been training for years before they left. Peter had been chosen for the group when he was eight, then two years later Lio was chosen, also age eight. Twenty seven other people had been chosen for the group, including Riley and Mr. Lowe. Some people, like six-year-old Abby, had only been allowed to come because both of their parents had come.
The ship was huge, made up of four separate wings. The first wing was called the Home Wing. That’s where everybody slept, spent free time, and where the younger people had school. Then next wing was the Kitchen wing, where food was kept and prepared, and where everybody ate. The third wing was the Sick Wing, which was basically a hospital, and the last wing was the Command Wing, where the ship was controlled. Peter’s chores were in the Sick Wing today, folding blankets, organizing the medicines, and things like that.
As Peter made his way to the Sick Wing, he thought about how much he missed McKenna. Soon enough, though, his thoughts were interrupted by the soft pitter-patter of little footsteps. He paused and glanced over his shoulder, smiling as he saw Abby approaching. “Hello, Abby,” he said, holding out a hand for her. She smiled as she took it. “Hi Peter. Can I help you with your chores today?”
Since Abby wasn’t properly trained to help with anything major, she usually just helped other people with their chores. Peter was her favorite person on the ship, so she usually helped him, if she could find him. Peter smiled down at her and said, “Sure. Do you like folding blankets?”
Her big green eyes sparkled as she grinned up at him. “Yeah! I love blankets!”
Peter quietly laughed. She reminded him of McKenna. She talked to him about her day as they walked through the halls to the Sick Wing, and he listened with a small smile on his face, commenting in all the right places. When they got there, there wasn’t a lot to do (you can only organize the medicines so many times) so they played several rounds of tick-tack-toe in an unneeded notebook for a while. “Peter?” she asked after a while.
She looked at him for a second with a thoughtful expression. “Why is it always so dark outside the windows?” she asked.
He thought for a moment how to answer that. “Because… the sun is far away from here, and the light can’t reach us,” he told her.
Abby nodded. “Yes, I know that, but what about the stars? Aren’t we close to any stars?”
“Well,” he said, “We can’t get too close to the stars because the ship might catch on fire.”
She laughed. “You’re so funny Peter!”
He laughed with her, trying to figure out how what he said was funny. Just then, Lio came running in the room, his face full of laughter. Abby watched curiously as he dove under a table and hid behind the table cloth. “What’s wrong with Lio?” she asked Peter. Peter rolled his eyes. “He’s probably in trouble. Are you in trouble Lio?” he called. Lio’s muffled laughter was answer enough. “What did you do?” he asked.
“Nothing too bad,” he answered. “There was no reason for Tim to be chasing me down the hall with a bread knife.”
Peter inwardly groaned. “A bread knife? Lio, what did you do?”
He was answered by more muffled laughter. “If he comes in here, don’t tell him where I am, OK Peter?”
Peter raised an eyebrow. “And why shouldn’t I?”
Abby grinned. “Just say yes, Peter,” she whispered, “I can tell Tim where he is.”
Peter returned her grin, slightly shocked at her sneakiness. “Fine,” he said, “I won’t tell.”
“Yeah, yeah whatever.”
About five more minutes passed before Tim burst in the room looking furious. “Where is he?” he asked.
Peter pretended to look surprised. “Who is this ‘he’ you speak of?” he asked.
Tim shot him a nasty look. “Cut the crap, Peter.”
Peter tried to keep his face strait but he couldn’t do it. “He’s under there,” he said, pointing to the table.
“Hey! I was going to tell!”
Lio scrambled out from under the table before Tim could lift the table cloth to peak under. He laughed when Tim made a move to grab him and missed then he ran from the room. Tim looked like he was debating whether or not it would do any good to follow him. He finally shook his head and took a seat next to Peter. “What did Lio do?” Peter asked.
“Somethin’ stupid. It don’t matter. I’m never gonna catch the stupid kid anyway. I can’t believe I’m gonna spend the rest of my life dealing with that.”
“Hey don’t worry Tim, he’ll have to grow up eventually,” Peter said, but even as he said it a thought struck him. He was going to spend the rest of his life up here in this ship, he would never see Earth again, and unless he was insanely lucky and lived to be about 120 years old, he would never see the Goldilocks planet, either. Even little Abby would probably never see it. Like Tim, and everybody else on the ship, he would have to spend the rest of his life dealing with Lio. Peter sighed, and wished that Lio would grow up soon.