Emily, Age 13
Elendre* gazed out the viewport at the sharp pinpoints of light, not at all what she'd imagined stars to look like. Wellyn came to stand beside her. "So different from what I remember. Atmostphere softens them, makes them all twinkly. Nothing like this." He turned to look at her and glanced at her broken arm hanging limply in its sling. "How's your arm doing? Still hurt?"
She shook her head. "They gave me a painkiller before they set it, but it didn't do much for the rest of me." Wellyn smiled. "We all got pretty banged up when that engine blew, hunh? Good thing it happened so close to a system." He gestured out the viewport, where Elendre noticed a large sphere coming into view. "I talked to Aryn, and he says we're headed for that blue-and-green planet over there. We can make repairs and keep going. Who knows? Maybe we'll end up staying for good."
"New Earth," Elendre muttered to herself, but Wellyn smiled.
"You never know." He left to go talk to Aryn again.
When Elendre was three, Garev Ril - the famous astronomer and mathematician - discovered an asteroid on a collision course with Earth. As many people as possible were piled onto a super-ship and sent off into space to escape and find a new planet. Wellyn and Aryn, twin brothers two years older than Elendre, had befriended her and sometimes told her stories about waht life was like on Earth. She didn't understand why they missed it so much, though. After all, weren't they all perfectly safe and happy on their ship? They tried many times to explain it to her, but Elendre simply could not miss something she'd never known.
Now they were descending through the atmosphere, and Elendre was forced to brace herself against the wall. After a few minutes she could see white surrounding them (were they those cloud-things Wellyn and Aryn had talked about?) and then she looked down and gasped. Blues and greens and browns and tans in every direction, as far as the eye could see! As they went further down she began to see strange things that must be the trees and houses her friends had described.
Then, suddenly, they changed direction. They landed in an open space surrounded by many trees(?) close together. Elendre raced towards the airlocks, but Wellyn and Aryn caught her arm and made her stop. "I want to see what it's like!" she cried angrily. "Here is your New Earth, just like the old All this time you tell me how much you missed it, and now you won't let me see it for myself!"
"No one is to leave the ship, except for the people needed to fix the enging. As soon as repairs are made we'll leave." Elendre noticed that Wellyn was near tears, and Aryn had to fight to keep his voice steady. "Apparently, this planet is too similar to Earth."
Elendre felt her knees go weak, and the twins had to help her find somewhere to sit where she wouldn't be in the way. Of course! It all made perfect sense! If this place was so like their Earth, why should it not already have an intelligent species on it? "What are they like?" she whispered sadly.
Wellyn smiled wryly and said, "They look just like us. We accidentally picked up transmissions that were probably meant for entertainment units. They speak strange languages, but we've discovered that they call themselves Americans, and their planet is called Earth."
"Earth," she echoed softly. Then, she had an idea. "Why can't we just blend in with them? I mean, we look just like them, and how hard could it be to learn their language?"
Wellyn shook his head. "We've thought of that. Someone would be suspicious about a group of people who speak no known language. Besides, we get the feeling that they're technologically inferior to us, and if one of us let it slip that there were other inhabited planets out there..."
Aryn patted her arm - not the one she'd broken - and said, "There will be other planets, and someday we'll have our New Earth. you just wait and see." Elendre nodded, but she didn't believe him. There could never be a New Earth, because any planet like Earth - their Earth or the one belonging to the Americans - would already have its own intelligent life - how could it not? - and it would be too cruel to name any other kind of planet New Earth.
She stood up, and for the rest of their brief stay on the Other Earth, as she had come to think of it, she gazed out the viewport trying to memorize everything so that no matter where they ended up, she would never forget. After all, Earth was Earth, no matter who lived on it.