The 5th!

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More backstory. This involves a character who becomes involved in a dangerous organization, and it is what sets her on the path to meet our heroines.

Thanks for reading!

Modest and quiet Oxya-Fen was born to ordinary Venusian parents soon after the Mercury conflict came to a close. But her parents told her little about the rationing and quarantines of those times. Why bother when the shops were well-stocked and the army no longer occupied the city centers? The future was bright and their children would be untroubled.

Everyone agreed the schools didn’t need to waste valuable lesson time on boring lectures about the past. Keep lesson light and useful. Focus on the dreams of the young. Certainly the textbooks mentioned dates of important battles and even a massacre or two, but all the employed teachers agreed—optimism and unity were the lessons.

Of course, there were, sometimes, things to complain about. Not often, and not loudly, but not every bullet train ran on time and not all the revenue stayed home. And from time time there was an outbreak of earthian flu, but usually it was caught before too many died.

Oxya-Fen grandparents and an uncle had died of the flue when she was five and their bodies buried, so to speak, in the gaseous sea, as was custom for the contaminated. Ever since her parents were clear, “When you want to find the root of any problem, look there!” And they would point to an especially bright star, best seen before dawn in winter. They pointed to Earth, their neighbors, and the source of every terrible thing.

“They secretly funded the war, you know.”

“They sent the virus here. Used us as experiments.”

“They’re trying to sabotage our economy. Just look at that trade deal.”

“They spread stories about their collapsing environment to gain pity and favors. Ha! As if they don’t live on the richest planet around our sun.”

They knew every accusation. And some of them were true. Enough of them were true for the false ones to stick. And what, Oxya-Fen asked herself, did it matter if some of the stories weren’t true? The stories were deserved.

She was sixteen when an Earth ambassador came with big plans and promises. Did Earth need Venus as much as Venus needed Earth? Oxya-Fen didn’t care, but her best friend did.

“We’ll go to the protest,” Xi-Ya said. She had signs made and shirts with various popular slogans. Venus Days Are Here Again! Venus First! C’mon, Venus. Keep your beauty and your brains! And the riskier, Earth says it’s dying. Who cares? And Earth lies! Venus dies! Fight back! “Don’t look like that. What kind of future do you want, anyway?”

So, Oxya-Fen followed and carried her sign, and when they had to run from the security force, dropping their signs in the crowd, and zipping up their jackets to hide the slogans on their shirts, the results rush made her dance in the alley and hug her friend tight.

“See?” Xi-Ya said, grinning. “It feels great to stand up for something!”
Oxya-Fen caught her breath. She nodded several times. “You were right, Xi. You’re always right.”

Xi-Ya darted back to alley entrance and checked for police. The street appeared calm and back to normal. Walking back to her friend, she glanced behind trash bins and a discard, soiled sofa. “Then you’re ready to come to a meeting with me.”

Oxya-Fen’s smile dropped away. “Oh, no. I don’t know about that.” Xi-Ya had invited her before, and Oxya-Fen had changed the subject. It frightened her, the fervor in Xi-Ya’s eyes when she talked about the cause, the truth, and the saving of the universe. Carrying a sign and even throwing a rock was one thing. Attending a meeting was another. “We’re just kids.”

“Bosh. We’re old enough! This is our universe too, no matter how old we are.” She paused to listen to the busy street behind them. It was still ordinary out there. “No one says you have to promise anything. Just once with me and listen. It’ll lit you up better than inhaling diox.” She grabbed her friend’s arms. “Trust me. We’re best friends forever.”

A siren went off in the distance and they both jumped. Then laughed. “Okay, I’ll come,” Oxya-Fen replied. “But my parents can’t know.”

“Fine. But you know they agree with the cause. Your mom greets me every time with this.” She made the Venus first gesture with her hand. “She’s totally in.”

“That doesn’t mean she wants her daughter getting shot.”

“You won’t be shot.”

“Or imprisoned.”

“You won’t be imprisoned.”

“Or blown up!”

“It’s a meeting. Not a war zone.”

“It might as well be.”

“Just come and listen. I’ll be with you and you’ll be perfectly safe. Look at me! I’ve gone to lots of meetings and there’s not a scratch on me.”

The smell in alley was starting to get to Oxya-Fen. She wanted to give up on this conversation and go home. She wanted to eat dinner and go to bed. She wanted to make her friend happy, and they’d been drifting apart over the last few months as Xi-Ya became more involved with the cause. “Okay, I’ll come. But don’t leave my side.”

“Never!”

“Promise?”

Xi-Ya nodded and crossed her heart. “Promise.”

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