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New Pictures
Prompt: Night


It was still as cold as ever, but for a change, there was no wind this evening. Taking advantage of that opportunity, Julia and Alonzo slipped behind her tent instead of going straight in once they'd left the fire. The moons hadn't yet risen, and the tent blocked the camp's light, so it was dark enough to see the stars in G889's night sky.

Alonzo's arms were wrapped around her waist and his head rested on her shoulder. Leaning back against him, she followed his gaze skyward, looking at the bright points of light and mentally drawing lines between them to create constellations. In terms of stellar distances, they weren't that far from Earth. But it was just enough that the stars were in slightly different places.

Plus, of course, there was one bright start that looked very different from here.

Behind her, Alonzo sighed. "I guess we'll have start thinking up new constellations."

So their thoughts had been as closely aligned as their bodies. "I imagine so."

"Let's give them better names this time."

She chuckled. "I'm sure the people who named Earth's constellations thought the names were good at the time. They just got old."

He blew a wisp of her hair away from his face. "So let's pick names that won't be old in a thousand years."

"Julia? Alonzo?"

They stepped apart to see Uly standing on the side of the tent with them.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"What are you looking at?" Curiosity was plain in his tone.

"The stars," she answered, hoping it would satisfy that curiosity enough that he'd go away. It wasn't that she didn't want to see him, but sometimes privacy was nice.

"Oh." His eyes flicked up. "Is there anything interesting?"

She closed her eyes briefly, pushing the annoyance to the back of her mind. To her surprise, when she opened them she saw Alonzo crouched down next to Uly, pointing up. "Thousands of years ago on Earth, people looked at the sky and drew lines between them to make pictures."

"Constellations," said Uly. "Like Orion and the Big Bear. But none of them look right here."

"It's a new world," said Alonzo. "We need new pictures."

Deciding that she was better of joining them instead of dwelling on losing their romantic moment, Julia knelt down on Uly's other side. "We were just drawing some of them."

"But that doesn't explain why the stars are all messed up."

"All messed up?" asked Alonzo.

"Yeah. Look at them. They're flickering. They didn't do that when we saw them from the stations."

"Oh," he answered. "It's just the atmosphere. You're seeing reflections from the air moving around up above us. The stars are the same."

"Is that why the colors are different, too? The atmosphere?"

"That's right. It's something you have to adjust for, when you're plotting a course from a planet. We use charts instead of our eyes, because the stars are actually a little different than they look. You see that one?"

"Which one?" asked Uly.

Alonzo gently guided his head until it was pointed at that unique bright star, the one that was so different here. "That one."

Uly nodded. "It's way different. Why is that?"

"That's the Earth's sun."

"Cool," he breathed. Then he cocked his head to one side. "What's its name?"

"Name?"

"Well, we can't just call it 'the sun' anymore, can we?"

Alonzo started to explain, and Julia sat back on her heels, watching in amazement. She'd never seen this side of him before. Of course, she'd never asked him questions with the childlike wonder that Uly had, and of all the topics that the pilot might be patient enough to explain to a child, this was among the most likely.

Still, it was delightful, and she found herself smiling.

Over the winter, she'd been noticing a quiet, gradual settling of his demeanor. She'd always thought he simply tolerated Uly and True — he certainly had given that impression at first — but now, she realized, things were different. All of them had been changed by the events of the past several months.

It's a new world, Alonzo had said. We need new pictures.

They definitely did, she decided. And not only just in the night sky.