The Terra Core

A young man is forced from his home to the stars after a terrible crime (inspired by a dream I had!)

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4. Goodbyes

~~"Have the jury reached a verdict?" Asked the judge.

"We have your Honour." Replied the woman representing the jury.

"What is your verdict on the charge of first-degree murder?"

"We find the defendant not guilty."

My mom let out a gasp and my lawyer punched the air. I breathed a sigh of deep relief, but it wasn't over...

"On the charge of involuntary manslaughter, we find the defendant, guilty."

My mother let out another gasp. I leaned back in the defendant's box, not really surprised- gutted, but not surprised.

"Very well. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I thank you." The Judge looked at me.

"On account of your age, and the information your peers have provided to me about your character, the sentence of five years in juvenile detention is to be altered. You will not have the opportunity to study and learn whilst in detention and I believe this would be a disservice to you and the community. However, there must be a punishment and it must serve as a lesson and a warning."

I wanted to wilt away. The Judge's grey eyes were intense.

"Accordingly, I sentence you to five years labour as a member of the United Western Alliance's TerraCore division. You will serve aboard one of their ships and perform whatever duties they see fit. During your time aboard, you will have ample opportunity to earn qualifications and income, that will see you develop away from a young man who has lose his way, and into a man of conviction and education."

My mother looked like she wanted to cry. The Core... five years away from home... I wanted to cry as well.

"Bearing in mind the minimum age to join the Core is sixteen, your employment shall not begin until then. Details as to where to assemble and...."

I zoned out after that. I think I'd have gladly chosen the sentence for murder at that point.

****

I still had nearly a year to spend on earth before I shipped out. The courts had also been merciful enough to let me spend my sixteenth birthday at home with my mom and friends. Still, as the days turned to weeks and the weeks to months, a growing sense of foreboding took me.

The Core... I did my research into them. They served a vital role in preparing worlds for colonisation for the UWA.

It was good money, but then, it was dangerous work, so good pay was to be expected. As a minor I couldn't work full-time shifts, but my contract informed me I'd be doing a twenty-hour week. Overtime was available and I'd be expected to take some of it. The hourly rate was more than double minimum wage, even for someone of my age. I couldn't quibble at that.

Still, as Spring arrived and I walked through Central Park with Chloe one May weekend, I couldn't help but wonder what was going to happen whilst I was gone.

We were holding hands, walking down the path, when Chloe pulled me toward one of the benches. She sat me down, and looked me right in the eye.

"Adrian... you're gonna be gone a long time." She sounded hesitant.

"Yeah... five years." I replied. I didn't really know what else to say.

"Five years... Adrian, I can't... I don't think I can... I can't wait five years for you."

Ah, so there it was. She was breaking up with me. I felt disappointed more than anything else.

"It's not that I don't love you Adrian." Her blue eyes were looking wet. "I really do. But I can't tie myself down for that long."

I looked at the grass beneath my feet. "It's ok." I said, after a moment. It wasn't really, but I didn't want to upset her further. "It isn't fair to expect you to wait anyway. You want to live your life."

She kissed me then, unexpectedly. We shared a moment of deep passion, and when she pulled back, tears were dampening her cheeks.

"Just promise me one thing." She said. "Promise me you'll stay safe. I've heard so many stories..."

"I'll stay safe, I promise. I will come home."

She kissed me again, then let go of my hands. "I should go. Goodbye Adrian." She looked ready to burst into tears. It wasn't until she was out of sight that I let my own tears fall.

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