Fourteen year old Bella Harper looked up at the vast cylindrical containment tank in front of her. She walked right up to the glass and pressed her palms against it and then she pressed her face against it. Bella looked in at the blossom covered tree that had multitudes of thick black tubes connected to it. It was bathed in a soft white light that was emanating from a large spherical light that was floating above it – a false sun. As she looked at the living tree, somehow growing in such entirely non-living surroundings she became aware that someone was now standing next to her. She turned and looked up at the tall woman in a one piece grey jumpsuit with a purple diamond on the upper arm and her fiery red hair tied up in a bun.

“Morning Mum.”

“Morning sweetie, looking at the tree again?” her mum asked, despite knowing full well that was what her daughter had been doing.

“Yeah.” Bella said, turning back to the containment tank. “Will it survive the journey?”

“Oh yes, of course it will. Top engineers, biologists and botanists worked together to ensure that this tree would last a lot longer than most other trees. It will last the entire journey and live many years after it is replanted in organic soil.” Her mother – Emily Harper – said reassuringly. Bella considered the tree, blowing gently in a breeze that shouldn’t have been present in the containment tank. She didn’t particularly notice as she was too focused on the pale pink blossom.

“Are we taking it to Halcyon?” Bella asked, referring to a human settlement on an Earth-like and uninhabited planet. The only thing that was wrong with Halcyon was that while there was oxygen there was a finite amount and no trees with which to produce more.

“Yes, this tree will be planted on Halcyon and it will be the first of many with any luck.” Emily said, the twinkle of optimism in her hazel eyes.

“What will it do?”

“It will produce more air, so we can breathe and live. The future of humanity rests on the branches of that very tree.” Emily said, gently pressing her fingertips against the glass. Bella looked at the tree, then up at Emily and then looked down at her feet and in a barely audible mumble she said:

“Does humanity deserve a future?”

Despite the comment being so quiet Emily heard every word and she crouched down so she was at eye-level with her daughter.

“Why do you say that, honey? Do you not think humanity deserves another chance to live?”

“Do you?”

“Of course.”

“But we’re taking this tree to a new planet, because we – humanity – destroyed the last one. I believe in second chances, but not when the second chance is just another opportunity for us to destroy another planet.”

“We’ve learned from the mistakes we made during the Earth era, we can move on and do things differently this time.”

“We were given so much warning about the oceans and we didn’t change, then we found out that we were reaching a point of no return and we didn’t change and then when we found out the ‘pocalypse was inevitable we didn’t change, because there was no point anymore. And you want to help give us another chance to not change.”

“Bella, you need to understand, and it’s something that I had to learn for myself. People will disappoint you. Humanity will disappoint you, they will disappoint themselves, they will refuse to learn from their mistakes and they will continue along a road to self-destruction. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and sometimes humanity may just surprise you.”

“Do you think the colony on Halcyon will surprise us?”

“I honestly don’t know,” Emily said softly, “but this tree is the only thing that will give them the chance to live and with life the chance to be different. They may be exactly the same as they were on Earth, but we need to give them the chance to be better and hope they do.” Emily said. Both Emily and Bella looked through the glass at the tree.

“I really hope they’ve learned.” Bella murmured.

“Me too, honey,” Emily responded, “me too.”

And so the ship continued hurtling through the cosmos transporting the most precious cargo to the colony of Halcyon…

F I N.