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Our Uncle on Proxima

The sky returned to the usual Tyrian hue following the flare, with the customary mauve and orchid streaks dancing away from Proxima. The red dwarf sank low near the horizon, infusing the atmosphere with layers of goldenrod and vermilion. Those were, at least, the names of colors that the children had learned. Uncle brought a cohort of the children out of the habitation for a better look at the atmospheric beauty of the evening sky.

"Proxima is no longer angry," Uncle joked, running his hand through the flowing curls of A2.

Of course, the children understood the star did not share their range of emotions. Uncle said that Proxima was angry whenever the star experienced a temporary but dramatic change in luminosity due to magnetic forces stored within the red dwarf. The danger of the flare had passed, so Uncle was confident that a brief sojourn to the surface was within reason.

Uncle dropped down to the ruddy ground and wrapped his arms around his knees. The children followed suit, with B4 and C5 standing directly behind their caretaker. The mountains to the west created long, serrated shadows across the cratered, primordial flats near the habitation. The tenuous atmosphere of Proxima Centauri b contained a relatively low level of oxygen, but this made no difference to Uncle or the children. The children were engineered to breathe the concoction of gasses present, and Uncle could actually do just fine with no atmosphere whatsoever.

The children identified the colors that slowly swirled and eddied above. The evening progressed leisurely on Proxima Centauri b, but slowly the stars came to life.

"There's the binary!" E1 said, pointing to the position of Alpha Centauri A and Alpha Centauri B off to the left from where Proxima gradually dipped behind the mountains.

The children were delighted at E1's discovery in the patchwork sky, as this signaled the start of Uncle's calculated search of the heavens. The children attentively waited for Uncle to point out one particular star.

"Sol," Uncle finally said, pointing toward a glistening white speck in the gathering blackness of night to the east.

"Sol," several of the children repeated.

"Do you miss Earth?" E1 asked after a pause, pulling a few braids away from her face.

Uncle thought for a moment. The children had asked this question before but had never received a satisfying answer. A few of the young minds present imagined the Earth as Uncle had described during earlier lessons and conversations.

Searching through memories, Uncle recalled the azure heavens of Earth, blemished only by the great billowing white clouds that so picturesquely floated over stretches of meadow and sea.

"I'm not sure," Uncle replied, "but I know I wasn't made for that world."

None of the children offered an immediate response. Finally, the squeaking voice of D3 chirped a determination.

"Neither were we, Uncle, that's why we love you. You are just like us."

Uncle smiled but knew there was very little commonality beyond the surface. Each child in the habitation was the product of the careful combination of stored cells, prudently selected from appropriate donors on Earth and transported over four light-years through the cosmos to Proxima Centauri b.

All of the children under Uncle's care were the culmination of the Starshot project and the descendants of twenty-six women and two hundred men from Earth. Uncle was merely their temporary keeper and the only functioning guardian after a less than perfect landing nearly a decade before. Despite attempts to cobble together a few colleagues from the wreckage, Uncle remained alone in that regard. Thankfully, the cellular storage containers and the necessary equipment largely survived the disaster, allowing Uncle to become the sole godparent to over 5,000 representatives of mankind.

"I love each of you," Uncle said, reaching reassuring arms around the nearest children and embracing them.

Uncle looked upward. By this point in the evening, the majority of the sky began a long twist into one purple mass. This particular shade was familiar. Memories fired, bringing forth knowledge from the deepest recesses of Uncle's mind.

This purple reminded Uncle of stately Byzantine mosaics. The Emperors Justinian and Heraclius came to mind. Both were often depicted as being clothed in this imperial purple. The dye for this royal color was artfully crafted using the secretions of a certain sea mollusk. Uncle thought this would make a good lesson for the older children, despite how remote and unusual the very idea of a mosaic, a mollusk, or even the Byzantines may seem.

Uncle smiled again, realizing, just maybe, one of these children was descended from the great Byzantine Emperors. Some may even be a distant relation to the likes of Van Goth, Shakespeare, Lincoln, or Ptolemy. Of course, that was the very reason for Uncle's existence – ensuring all that *was* and *is* mankind might propagate throughout the stars.

The encroaching blackness of night offered a jagged protrusion of extraterrestrial lightning. A deep rumble of thunder followed. Uncle stood slowly, tired gears and aged circuits sparking a reminder that no android could function forever.

"Come," Uncle said to those present. "Let's return to the habitation. There are other cohorts that can be roused and brought to the surface before the storms of night reach the flats."

The children of Proxima Centauri b filed behind their Uncle and returned home.

About the Author
Joshua Scully is an American History teacher from Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of California University of Pennsylvania. His speculative fiction can be found online at @jojascully or www.jjscully.wordpress.com.