Andromeda EX 79.3.45

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a space ship. All the planets in the Milky Way were claimed in the year 2473 and expansion began to nearby galaxies, starting with Andromeda. There are only two planets left in that system that haven’t been rented, and only one of them is hospitable.

Mr. Jacobs is one such individual, with an annual income of three million credits. Mr. Talbot only has an annual income of one-point-seven million, but his blood is bluer than the sky here on earth. Of course, both Jacobs and Talbot know the truth—that their fortunes, and all of their hope of reaching the nearest life-giving planet, known as Andromeda EX 79.3.45—rests with their fiancées. Men haven’t been able to earn money in the last three hundred years, after disastrous leadership on their part left women in power on earth.

But they retained the ability to purchase goods and property, so long as it was funded by a female family member, and that female’s name was on the deed or bill of sale along with his.

Talbot was engaged to a woman named Ms. Clarence. A merchant’s daughter, Clarence is known for her sharp negotiation skills. Jacobs’ fiancée, Ms. Gertrude, is a delicate creature. Clarence and Gertrude have been friends since childhood, but their simultaneous engagements caused a cold-shouldered rift.

At least until today. I gathered around the ring with everyone else, shoulders pressed together despite the year-round heat, humidity, and overcrowding. Earth is full to the brim of people who can’t afford to travel to another galaxy. It wasn’t like going to the moon, though why anyone would want to go there when it sat so large in the sky anyway, I’ll never know. I suppose it is a little cooler there, if not less crowded.

In the center of the ring, I can just see them—Clarence, with a bat that looks as old as baseball itself, and Gertrude, likely wondering if Clarence is just going to knock her out or go for the kill. They’re dusty. Gertrude huddles into herself. Clarence charges, and then stops short.

The blistering sun glints off something small. The sparkle arcs from Gertrude to Clarence, who catches it and holds it up. The crowd cheers. Gertrude’s ring finger is now bare. She chose life on earth instead of death, and those of us who didn’t bet on the match walk away plotting on how to get into her good graces now that she’s forsaken Jacobs.

This flash fiction is in response to Sunday’s prompt. With a limit of 500 words, I was torn between world-building and story-building. This sort of evolved as I wrote; had I planned it more I would have chosen something else for a story this short. But I thought I’d share it anyway, because I think that’s an important realization to share with it. I had a few more words I could have written, but I’m not sure that they would have done much for it when I’m thirsting to write thousands more.