E pluribus unum
Above me Jupiter fills half the sky, his pale red spot staring at me
like the eye of Zeus, his thunder bolt filling my eyes with an electric
jolt as I lie on the grass in the park. Memories of summer evenings
filled with the laughter of fireflies kiss me as I run through the
fields at my family’s farm on Lake Cayuga in upstate New York, where I
used to chase deer out of our apple orchard. I feel as though moist
summer air caresses my body, tightening my heart with fear and passion
as I think about my Latin teacher—as handsome and noble as a sunrise.
A couple of rich tourists look over my way in the glade, then a tall
lanky man walks by, and I hear a pulse beat in the back of my mind. But
I always think of this place as my park. It’s where I study. It’s where
I play, letting my mind wander beyond the boundaries of school work,
where I can feel blades of grass against my back, just like when I was
eight. The park is big and it gives me privacy, most of the time.
I transferred here last month as a senior, leaving Earth behind. The
house sold. Mother dead. I took what money was left after the funeral
and hauled my ass to Jupiter Station. Space Academy Prep’s my best shot
at the Academy, which I plan to enter after completing my final year of
high school. My father graduated from the Academy eighteen years ago,
had me right away, and then went off to pursue a career in the Galactic
Fleet. I would only see him two or three times a year. My mother and
aunt Jessica were the ones that really raised me. Jesse’s so cool. She
went to the Academy, too, but she was kicked out after two
years—something about causing a classmate’s death. When my father
disappeared ten years ago, I was crushed. Jesse went off to look for
him, and so I haven’t seen her in years, either. It’s like I’ve lost all
of my family. My mother was still there, but she went slowly crazy and I
ended up taking care of her before they decided to put her in an
My room’s a steel grey drab experience. No view of the stars. No
Jupiter. Certainly no trees. The park’s the only place I can find sanity
in the coldness of this station. Others, like Peter, the dark-eyed
wonder of the seniors at Space Academy Prep (or SAP as I like to call
it) may love the white-walled rooms and not appreciate the park. Those
born and raised on station never walked the grass on Earth, bare feet
wet with cool morning dew, or felt the heat of the sun on the face, or
the touch of snowflakes melting on cheeks like the kiss of moonlight.
All the girls want Peter.
He’s the son of the Jupiter Corporation president Mandy Driscoll. She
has her hands in the politics and business practices throughout Sol
System. A date with Peter would be like dating Power and Money.
But I don’t care for such things—my mind fills with Latin fantasies as
my heart beats between paragraphs of The Odyssey and The History of
Early Space Flight.
My dreams and fantasies have kept me going during those dark years, and
when I first saw my Latin teacher, Ryan, I absolutely drooled. So
confident, so suave, so grown-up. I just know that he looks at me.
All the guys do.
It’s not vanity. I’m from Earth. We Earth girls are different than
station girls. I actually find Earth guys boring. I’m fascinated by the
ones born in space. They’re different. Don’t have the same points of
reference about Earth: the wind, the sea, the sky. They look to the
steel cold walls of starships and space stations or domed cities (like
those on Mars) as the extent of their horizons. Fascinating. But I know
that nothing beats good old Mother Earth. The womb of humanity. Without
her, what would life be like? And Davey, the love of my life, is just so
adorable, because he’s from Earth and from space. He has the best of
I imagine his fingers sliding through my hair like the caress of summer
evenings on a lake as the sky flickers with the fire of night in the
midnight darkness. His kiss a touch of dew drops on rose petals warmed
by the morning sun. I think it’s really a fantasy of missing Earth. And
he has such a passion for the early history of the United States—before
the formation of United Earth. He’s fond of quoting Thomas Jefferson:
“We have called by different names brethren of the same principle.” He
told me that when he saw me sitting in the park one day. I wanted to
fall down into his blue eyes and let him envelop my body.
“Hi, Katie.” Here he was again, like a dream wish.
Oh, God, did he see me? I sit on my hands, moistening with sweat. His
deep voice washes through me as smooth as a dark orchid.
“Hi, Ryan.” My face flushes.
“You should call me Mr. Thomson.”
“I like Ryan better.” He smiles slightly, but then frowns, as if he is
pleased to hear that, but guilty at the same time. He’s mine. . . . I
kiss him softly on the mouth, my tongue circling his lips, moistening
them. He tastes like summer afternoons in a forest of pines after a rain
“But it’s more appropriate to call me Mr. Thomson. I’m your teacher, not
one of your buddies.”
“Sure, Mr. Thomson. Anything you say.” My tongue slides in between his
lips and into his mouth tasting him like the distant memories of Earth
as my hands slide through his hair as soft as night.
“What are you working on? Your Latin?”
“Yeah. I’m translating, E Pluribus Unum.” I’ve got to stop this. But all
I can think about is my hands sliding down his back as my mouth slips
down past his chin and I nuzzle his neck, my tongue tasting his pulsing
skin, salty with sweat like we’re on a beach filled with warm evening
air. Do all girls have such fantasies? Is it just me?
“What do you think it means?”
He’s so unromantic. So uncooperative. My fantasy shatters as the orbit
of the station takes us to the dark side of Jupiter. The lights come on
in the park as night falls about us. “I don’t know.”
“That’s not an answer.”
I can’t even think with him standing this close to me. “Umm,” I look
into his eyes. I know exactly what it means, but all I do is look as
stupid as a newborn fawn, legs stepping hesitantly on dewy grass, eyes
looking up with wonder at the world around her. He must think I’m one of
those pretty girls with no brains. Probably wondering how I made the cut
to get into SAP. Or he thinks it’s my father’s influence. He graduated
the head of his class at the Academy. Or maybe it’s pity. The poor
lonely daughter who’s mother went crazy and killed herself—and her
father gone missing in the vast depths of the Frontier.
“From the many, one,” Ryan answers.
Shit. Why does he do that. I deserved the answer, but why does his voice
sound so damn sexy. “Yes, I know. I mean. Well. It pops up on the U.E.
credit screens every time you make a transaction.”
“Before that, it was on United States currency. On two cent coins in
1782 and on the back of paper currency in 1956. Before the Space Age and
even before the Digital Age. What do you think it means?”
I stand up, as if I’m giving a presentation in class. I look pass him,
kicking all distracting thoughts out of my head. Automatic reflex in my
attempt to graduate top of my class, just like my father. “Well, there’s
a unity in diversity. Maybe from us we can hold U.E. together, no matter
what the challenge.” He smiles a little—I would do anything for that
smile, that warmth that lances through me like Zeus’ thunder bolt.
“You got it.” He stands there, about to turn away, to continue his
stroll, but he looks at me, starts to say something, then stops. I just
stare into his eyes. “Katie, as the negotiations break down and war may
happen, just remember these wise words of Thomas Jefferson, one of the
founding fathers of the United States. He spoke them during his
Presidential Inaugural address over nine hundred years ago: ‘May that
Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our
councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace
“Remember, your father sacrificed himself in service to United Earth.”
I just love it when he quotes Old Earth. It’s like he’s giving me the
past and present at the same time. Something lost. Something
inexplicably valuable. Tears trickle from my eyes and down my face. It
happens every time anyone mentions my father.
Ryan leans over and hugs me. There’s no one to hold me anymore. I feel
his arms around me, filling me with warmth. It’s the only way I can get
him to touch me. He pulls away and walks down the path as I lean back on
the bench, my fingers sliding down my jeans, my secret protected by the
shadow side of Jupiter. Lightening flashes in the dark clouds above me.
Zeus is angry. Or he’s in the heat of desire. I can’t tell which