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Five teens, lost in space on a living starship.
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In the lands where Jealous Younger
fights it Variegated Twins,
And Night Breeze beckons Satyr
to exploit the Family Sins;
The Iroko-Man awakens
from the heart of tenant tree,
To bring forth the Nightly Terrors
where his Shadows spill in three

--Itinerant Yoruba Folktale (Year 1)

CHAPTER 1 - Just another Day in the Life ...
Saturday, June 23, 2142
(L Minus 1076 Days)

"Prepare for hard break, Dr. Taylor."
   The veiled arctic sun cast a dull pallor over the landscape. Disoriented, I found myself again lost amid a sea of ice, with each block a world onto itself. It shifted with each step, and the farther I went the more fractured my ground became. And, as always, the ice spoke to me--moaning--like the final breath from a dying friend. I looked down and saw the dark fissures opening, offering entry into the depths of hell itself.
"Dr. Taylor, please acknowledge."
   There I was, clinging to my sheet of ice. My legs refused my command to move, and I had no desire to retreat. I was trapped; but slowly waking, I realized my trap was of my own dream's making. Sleep will be a welcome relief when it comes again, as long as I can avoid that damn sheet of ice.
   I suddenly recall where I am and snap out of my slumber. "Acknowledged, Captain," I reply. "Thanks for the warning."
   You see, I've been having these dreams for five years now. In clinical terms, it is called loss of self control. In my mind, it is called a bad night's sleep. I should know; I'm a professional. No, not a professional sleeper, but a professional psychiatrist. It's my job to get inside people's heads. Determine what makes them tick. Evaluate the tone of that ticking. Determine why it's ticking. Decide if the ticking is a bomb or a simple biological clock.
"Shedding velocity in five ..."
   I've been doing that all my professional life, which a few weeks ago exceeded my pre-professional biological life. That's a landmark day by the way--a time when you can enjoy watching your children run around the yard more than chasing after them. An understanding between you and your spouse that spontaneity now means planning dinner only six hours before you get hungry.
"... four ..."
   I am disturbed that I missed the actual turnover day. I was born ... 18,912 days ago, which puts me about three-quarters of a year over fifty-one standard Earth years. I use standard Earth years because that was where I was born and where I spend most of my time. Martian years are longer by 322 days. I would be younger if I was from Mars--but I will let you do the math. I would be younger still if I were born and raised on the Titan outpost of Satan's Gate orbiting Saturn, young enough that I would actually only be approaching my second celebratory orbit around our far-distant sun. But no one could claim that birthright yet.
"... three ..."
So, getting back to my lost anniversary, my first day of work occurred 9,481 days ago, which means I should have done the math a month ago to prepare for it. Then I could have celebrated in real style. I told my wife about my landmark revelation before I went to bed last night, but it will take a couple hours for her to receive my message at the speed-of-light comburst package and another couple hours for me to hear her reply, assuming she answers immediately of course. By then I will be nearly a day closer to my fifty-second birthday and that much farther from my work "half-life" anniversary date ... and that much farther from my wife.
 " ... two ..."
   I think I know what her answer will be anyway.
"... one ..."
   Funny what you think of when you are trying to get your mind off impending death. ...