I pulled my car into the faculty lot at the university. The rusty brakes screeched as I parked near the rear entrance. I had never seen the campus so empty. I wasn’t sure I should be at work today considering yesterday’s events, but this job was worth three credits and paid eleven dollars an hour. I wasn’t about to give that up just because the world was burning around me. After all, I wasn’t going to graduate a semester early if I didn’t get these research credits.
As I walked through the lab I noticed a light coming from Dr. Landry’s office. I approached. He was frantically folding his laptop into his shoulder bag. (I had never seen him do anything frantically before.) He turned to notice me standing in the doorway then looked up at the clock.
“Late again,” he barked.
The clock read 8:03. I was speechless. Before I could say a single word, he said, “I need you to run over to Dr. Krysock’s physics lab and grab a flash drive from him.”
I nodded. “Right away.”
I set out at a brisk pace. I had only been to Dr. Krysock’s office once before, but I knew he was good friends with Dr. Landry.
When I arrived at his office across campus, I knocked.
Dr. Krysock, who was very approachable, said, “Are you here for the drive?”
“Yes, Dr. Landry sent me.”
He handed me a large white external hard drive with a sticker of a cloud on it. Then in a soft voice he said, “You must not linger; Landry needs this now.”
I hurried back across the empty campus with the hard drive in hand. When I made it back to the microbiology lab Dr. Landry motioned me to a chair across from his cluttered desk. “Have a seat,” he said.
I sat and he poured me a mug of coffee.
I nodded. “How would you like to go on the adventure of a lifetime?”
I waited for him to elaborate and took a deep sip from my mug.
“SpaceRace has recruited me to be the head of biological research on their quest to Delta Neraida, a planet in the green zone of a nearby star, about four light-years away.”
“I read about that,” I said, “but the article gave me the impression it wasn’t going to launch yet for a couple of years.”
He nodded. “Yes, but they’re ready to leave now. Earth may not be habitable for much longer—once the nuclear fallout reaches the mesosphere it’s only a matter of time before crops and water sources are contaminated.”
“I can bring one research associate with me, and although you’re not my first choice, you’re the only one who showed up today.”
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