It’s still Friday in some part of the world, right? No? Oh well. Enjoy!
Zach, sipping his coffee and shuffling along down the corridor, squinted against the rising artificial sun. The transition from night to morning was merely a courtesy on the ship. Zach assumed it was to keep all aboard from having psychotic breaks. Though he had never seen a real sunrise with his own eyes, he could remember it well, and knew that it occurred less abruptly. He could vaguely recall the gradual swatches of pinks and purples that colored the early mornings, ending with glorious oranges and blues.
It was too early in the morning for him to be saddened by things he would never see, and besides, he had work to do. As he arrived at a door, he paused to look at his hand. It was normal enough, except for one long, purposefully placed scar that spanned the width of it. He flexed his hand opened and closed, then placed his palm flat against the electronic lock. It beeped to confirm that he was who he claimed to be. The door rose upwards, allowing him access to the navigation deck.
Zach stopped just inside the door. Greeting him was a familiar face, grinning inappropriately. Zach, feeling a mixture of anger and resentment, ignored him and took his seat.
“Good morning, space cowboy,” he said.
Keeping his attention on his station, Zach signed onto his computer, and started working.
“I said, good morning, Zach.”
“Fine. Good morning Zachary. I see you got here first again.”
“Well, I just couldn’t wait. You know how it is.”
“If I couldn’t wait any harder, I’d never sleep.”
“Who says I do?” Zachary said, winking and pretending to shoot Zach with his fingers.
Zach looked at him with disgust. How the two of them could have sprang from the same genetics befuddled him. He understood the science, even the psychology, but still, in practice, he couldn’t accept that they were identical. They had the same memories, up until about a month ago, when they were awakened from their incubators and activated.
“Have you made any progress with the extra time you’ve been putting in?” Zach asked.
Zachary had always been a suck up. He awoke mere minutes before Zach was, yet it was enough to set them down drastically different paths. Zachary, as the older one, was minutely quicker. That slight advantage put him beyond Zach and made him teachers pet. All the positive reinforcement snowballed, and the more he got, the harder he worked to keep it.
The same was true for Zach. He did not get the acclaim that this twin did. He could not keep up. He fell further and further behind. Beyond that, his mood deteriorated. Zachary swelled with confidence, Zach shrank with insecurity.
“No such luck, but I’ll keep looking.”
“As will I.”
“I can’t believe they can’t give you something more productive to do,” Zachary said.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I mean, one of us looking for him should be enough. Especially if that one of us is me.”
“We’re identical. Both of us searching is better. We can cover more ground.”
“While I’ll admit that you’ve got my same chiseled good looks and thick, dark hair, we are not identical.”
“It’s okay to be jealous, baby bro. It’s a lot to ask to have you live up to me.”
“I’m not trying to live up to you. And they’re not your good looks. They’re his. And he’s the only one who’s opinion of me matters.”
“He doesn’t even know you’re alive.”
“Maybe. Or maybe that’s why he left.”
Zachary hated this conversation. The insinuation that their creator, their father, brother, whatever they should call him, would abandon them.
“If he left on purpose, they wouldn’t have woken us to find him.”
“If you say so.”
The weeks passed on like this. The two of them, working in tandem but in contest. They searched all of the near by known worlds, looking for his beacon. When the discovery came at last, it was Zach that had made it.
Suited up and placed in a small transport ship, the two waited in silence as they made their way to the planets surface. Zachary was seething that Zach had found the signal. Zach, on the other hand, was brimming with timid excitement. They were finally going to meet him. And, for the first time in their short lives, they’d be off the ship.
The planets atmosphere was stable. They landed in a soft bed of tall grass that tossed about in the breeze. Zach stepped off the ship first. Wide eyed, he surveyed the surroundings. It was all he dreamed. So big, so blue. Zachary, not expecting Zach to be stopped, nearly tripped over him as he exited.
“Why’d you stop?” Zachary asked.
“Isn’t it amazing?”
“You don’t get it.”
Pushing past, Zachary removed the hand held tracker from his pocket and began to walk towards the blinking light. They found a crude shelter erected in a clearing with a fire out front.
“Zacharia?” Zachary yelled.
A man crawled from the shack. The face was familiar, but aged. Zach had never fathomed that they had grown them younger than the original.
“You found me,” Zacharia said, relieved.
“You’re not surprised to see us?” Zach asked.
“No. It’s protocol. If anyone was going to find me, I’d imagine it’d be myself. Or something very, very similar.”
“Let’s go. We’ve got a ship waiting,” Zachary said.
“I’m not going,” Zach said.
“What?” Zachary asked.
“I don’t want to go back to that tin box. This planet can sustain me.”
“You’ll be all alone,” Zachary said. “So will I.”
“You have Zacharia. He’ll look after you.”
“Zacharia, talk some sense into him, please.”
“I can’t,” he said, “I’ve always loved being an explorer. But part of has struggled with the confinement of space living. I can sympathize with him.”
They said their goodbyes. Zach watched the ship rise into the atmosphere. Into the painted colors that he had missed.