By Robert Lynch
Jono looked out the small porthole window and saw the birds. The starlings were flitting about, dancing on an antenna. The tines of the communications antenna substituted for the limbs of trees that their ancestors had danced on. The birds made do with their artificial surroundings, and Jono couldn’t help but notice his own stark metal surroundings.
Ice was an essential commodity for space travel, and the Trans-Neptunian mines that captured, processed, and sent ice to the inward planets had been lucrative for decades. Until Mars was terraformed, the price on ice would remain high. Even then, as more and more people lived in space, water was still crucial to human space flight.
Jono had never seen Mars, or any other planet, except pictures on the Cloud. Born in space on the transport to Central Mining Station, Jono had never left. His parents were still miners, and now that he was an adult, so was he.
The starlings had been brought to the station before even his parents had arrived. A small colony eked out an existence in the cold cavern of the processing plant. An ice cavern was not the ideal environment for starlings, and Jono wondered why someone had brought a bird who would be eternally waiting for a spring that would never come. Surely a bird adapted to the cold would be better? But then, maybe the birds weren’t waiting for spring but instead carried a tiny bit of spring with them.
They danced for each other, an ancient dance. A dance that likely pre-dated humans in their current form. A dance that attracted starlings, that propagated starlings. There was no one on the station that he could dance with. Not like the starlings danced.
Maybe it was time to migrate.