No Summer or Day
A short story
It was raining in the colony ship as children looked through water pooling on the windows, down at Earth. Tabitha felt their Ripley-Douglas beam vibrate the superstructure as it flash-burned forests below. Even in orbital height, night-side inferno bathed their gleaming ship in amber.
The 6 and 7-year-olds were regaled with tales of natural cycles of fire that made it so seedlings just like them could sprout. Tabitha, 13, was the only one old enough to have touched a hot stove, or remember trees of Earth. To know broiling below was not a gift. It was a purge.
Doped-photon propulsion was hailed as a crowning achievement that would take humanity’s colony ships to the stars.
Instead, they refocused the engines into lances of fire downward, and stayed aloft against Earth’s gravity well - falling forever but never quite making it.
There was never any intention to leave the solar system. The ships were not made for a journey across space. The populations they housed were not calculated from the best and brightest, to stake out across the universe.
They were weapons platforms disguised in hope.
The harder Earth burned, the harder it rained on the ships. No longer in orbit where velocity forward matched acceleration downward, they had slowed to become thrust counterweight, holding the engines below as their electromagnetic lenses tightened the nozzle into a beam of fire.
Children stared in awe. Tabitha stared in detachment. Screams could not reach Earth. But neither could the screams reach Tabitha.