The keys clacked as she entered the last few commands. She took a sip of one of the cups of coffee sitting on the table beside the screen, which casted a faint green on her face. Her eyes were heavy, and circled by dark patches. She put her head in her hands and sighed.
It’ll all be over soon.
She got up and shuffled the short distance to her bed.
The light woke her as it streamed in from the window above her bed. The blind had opened itself automatically, as it did every day. She had to stop staying up late.
Groggily, she got up and performed her daily morning ritual. Check the computer, take a coffee, sip it and stare out the window. The red sands had piled high last night, it seemed. The yellow-orange wind and sand worn rocks and cairns that were outside stood dutifully in their positions. Gently, sand crawled up the sides of the rocks and cliffs that it itself had formed, and slid back down again, shooting across the plain. The sun was poking above the hill to the left, throwing rays onto the sullen red landscape.
At that moment a ship broke over a dune on the horizon. Its sail’s colours were obscured by the sun behind it but she knew who it was. Jumping for joy a little, she grabbed some clothes off the floor and threw them onto her body. That will have to do. The clothes were light - good for the heat of the desert - and stained red by the sands. She couldn’t remember the last time she washed. The ship approached closer. Now that it was large enough to block the sun she could properly the see the sail, and felt her heart leap at the light blue pattern on the yellow background that meant he was coming. In her excitement she had forgotten the computer. Stupid. She checked again. Everything was fine. When the ship got closer it would upload to the ship’s storage to be carried across the desert to the Home.
She stepped outside the room into the heat of the day. It was still morning, but the air was stiflingly hot already, and it would only get worse on the journey there. The wind blew the sand which cut her skin but she didn’t care, as the ship pulled up and stopped neatly just in front of her. A man wearing similarly light clothes jumped off the deck of the ship and landed on the sand in front of her. He pulled up his goggles and smiled.
‘Good to see you after so long, Naya,’ he said. ‘How’s progress?’
There was a pause. ‘I’m done,’ Naya whispered.
‘What was that?’ He got closer.
‘I’ve finished.’ She spoke loud enough for him to hear, a shout. ‘It’s over!’
The desert called back, ‘-over -over -over.’
The man hugged her. First contact. She relished the moment. He whispered into her ear, ‘That’s great. You can come Home now.
‘But first, you stink!’ He jumped away and dramatically held his nose. ‘Get in the ship and get washed. I’ll check the upload. No point leaving until we have the thing stored.’