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Peter’s breath rasps wetting the inside of his mask, and fills his ears with a harmony of desperation. Worse is the rotten stench of his recycled breath, a telltale sign of his certain grim future. Death rattles follow not far behind the sandpaper sound of his lungs and he will be given the choice of quarantine or the environment. This colony of earth was once the pride of the seed colonies, a lush haven before the discovery of the flaw. Before they knew that terraforming was only temporary on planets not as benign as O-Earth.

“You alright?” asks Elena over the comm link. She remains inside of the land rover guiding him through the endless dust and gas storms towards their goal. Elena, his resource recovery partner. Elena, who wants more.

In this world, grown in the soil of miscalculations Peter feels rather strongly that he pays a heavy price for the desperate love of those that birthed him and then abandoned him to be raised by people who lived longer than they. He can’t imagine how such a thing as hope could grow in this place where only demons nourished by the pain of his torn lungs and the emptiness of his soul would flourish.

“Peter? Respond please.”

“Yea, yea. Objective obtained,” he responds.

“Roger. Return to me.”

He pauses briefly and looks longingly at the barely discernible peaks in the distance. But it’s not his time quite yet. Not yet.

“Acknowledged. Returning home.”

***

Inspired by Trifecta’s word of the week:

MASK (noun)

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