“Honey, come look at this one.” Ben blinked to accommodate his eyes to the bright lights as he looked up from his book. What was it this time? Lucy had already spent several hours studying the catalogue. He had told her not to become too passionately involved, but he might as well be speaking to himself. She was just anxious. Their time was almost up. They would have to move soon. He couldn’t take that damn catalogue away from her, as she was searching for their perfect home. It’s not as if she had anything better to do. Like making children.
Ben walked over to his wife and sat next to her, facing the screen. There had to be something really special for her to call him like this. Initially she had even gotten enthusiastic about very unsuitable places. A beautiful view was enough to make her swoon. Supposedly women were like that. But, he must say, she had taken his scorn honourably and refined her taste. For her to call him like this, there had to be something worthwhile on offer.
“What is it, dear?” He looked at the advertisement in front of them. The visuals were good. Lots of green, enough water. Good temperature ranges, large enough to house their whole future family. And, most importantly, with all the resources to remain self-sufficient for a while. “What’s the catch?”
She knew what he was after. “It is exactly what we’ve been looking for. It has just come on the market and is relatively new. And it meets all our basic requirements. They specifically mention there are no other species we would have to compete with. The main inhabitants have recently died due to some unfortunate but rather natural climate fluctuations. Previous assignment calculations hadn’t taken into consideration some specifics, it says. I’m not quite sure what they mean with that, but the new levels seem exactly right for us. And, it says here, it’s quite remote, so no trouble from any nasty neighbours.”
He nodded. These were good prospects indeed. The last place they had considered had been snatched away from them by the Tullies. Horrible beings, each one of them, but the Tullies had been first to make an offer. And the rules had to be respected, even in dire circumstances. And their situation wasn’t beyond all hope just yet. At least they were not desperate enough to call in favours. Which in hindsight was lucky, as shortly after the Tullies had inhabited their new home, it turned out a neighbouring settlement had started a full-on war. And the System could not be held responsible, of course. Even though the advertisement had said nothing about any possible adversaries. All the Tullies had been slaughtered, which was an ugly business, no matter how horrible they had been. The whole affair had shaken them profoundly. How were they to make a good choice? They had to make sure their new home would be relatively unoccupied, or at least free enough to give them space to procreate. A neighbouring feud before they had established themselves would be catastrophic. Maybe not for them, but they had to keep their children in mind. And their children’s children.
He looked out of the window, past the buildings and into space. Even though it was impossible to see a lot of it, he was drawn to the dark expanse of the universe. There was so much space, yet they still had to fear for their lives. When they were young, his brother used to say how adventure was just waiting for them. Where could he be now? After his brother’s ship had collided with an asteroid in the Kuiper Belt, they had lost touch. With his brother presumed dead, Lucy and himself were rushed into preparation. The race had to continue, after all. The System didn’t care much for grief. But he kept looking up every now and then, thinking about the wrecked ship and how it might still be floating somewhere. His brother had better died quickly.
“It’s an amazing opportunity! I know you are a bit more careful, after... you know. But we shouldn’t let that stop us from living our own lives. You know we haven’t got forever. If we want to procreate, we need to find a reasonable place. Sooner rather than later.”
He nodded again. It wasn’t just the hormones talking. She was right. And it wasn’t just them. They had the whole species to think of. “Maybe we can put in an offer and go over it with the agent in charge?”
“Really? Honey, that is just wonderful!” Lucy jumped up and hugged him.
Ben laughed at her emotional outburst. “I’m not promising anything. But we have to take the leap anyway. When everything is as it seems, it will be a very suitable home for us.”
She instantly reached for the console to make an appointment with the agent in charge.
A few hours later they stepped into the 845 Clear Light. An old ship which had been around the universe twice, at least. As they were getting seated in the front, he looked at the dark universe ahead. There was no turning back now. He checked their course one last time and made sure they were both safely strapped in. As the countdown for lightspeed began, Lucy started to hum -- a tune she had learned from her father. But before it was finished, she abruptly turned to him. “Let’s call it earth, shall we?”