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Miscellaneous Childrenstories Whose World Rings of Fate Life ain’t that hard

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Rings of Fate S4xE9 – Phoenix – Time

Doubting their eyes, and the visual sensors, the bridge crew of Phoenix kept staring at the image on the main viewscreen of the bridge.

“This must be a glitch, calling up some obscure data from the databanks.” Kurt finally tore away from the sight. Agreeing, but still intrigued Regina sat down on the ground. The aftereffects of her abortion that morning still taking their toll on her.

“Zhu, there is a viewport in the storage compartment on deck two, please go there for visual confirmation.” Saluting the young woman jumped from her seat at the communication terminal, hurried off.

Although earth had been annihilated by the neutron star that ejected Mars out into the interstellar realm, and wreaked havoc on the sun, every child still learned how earth once looked like. “Suppose it is not a glitch. How do we get back home?”

Trying to boot up more systems after the violent encounter with the strange star and it’s effects on the systems of Phoenix, Kurt only shortly looked up and over to Regina. “If this thing there is not a glitch, then we are in deep trouble. Not being able to restore systems, instruments and sensors is then, the least of our problems. There are only two, maybe three possible explanations for this. One more unlikely than the next.”

Not satisfied with his reply Regina massaged her temples. “Give me those possible explanations.”

Busy in trying to restore some of the ship’s systems to functionality Kurt grunted. “One, a one hundred percent lookalike. Theoretically possible, but so unlikely that you’d need a universe several times larger than the one we inhabit to make it happen. Two,” he paused trying to decipher an error message, for a moment he mumbled something to himself, typed a command, gleefully he saw the result. “we broke out from our universe and landed in another one. Again, very unlikely, although the multiverse theory probably is a given. Three, we have gone,” this is ridiculous, “back in time.”

Nodding at each possibility Regona kept massaging her temples, behind her the doors opened. Babbling out an excuse for her delay, Cassandra entered, seeing Regina sit on the floor. “Didn’t I send you to your quarters?”

“Can’t keep a General from her ship!” Mumbling in between reading errors and trying to fix them with the help of a codebook that was stored on every terminal’s hard drive, Kurt did not look up.

“Is that?” The two male nurses and Cassandra stopped next to Rich Bauman, the first officer, who had suffered a head injury. “Probably not.” Regina replied, since the incident her head was pounding, although she had only fallen out of bed, not hitting her head.

Again the doors opened, Zhu returned, panting heavily. “It’s real. I saw it!”

Stopping his actions Kurt had to sit down.

 

On the console screen before his eyes error messages popped up, as well as return codes for successfully booted up systems. A few insturments came back online.

Devastated Kurt stared at the console.

Inside his mind everything was flying around.

The planet on the screen was truly out there, it had been visually confirmed. Although it looked like earth, it could not be!

Determined to get to the bottom of this Kurt sprung to action. “Putting in a computer query to make a comparison of thes star constellations with those visible from earth.” Behind the planet a moon became visible.

It looked like the moon that once orbited earth. Before both got destroyed by a neutron star. “Draw up images of earth and the moon while you’re at it.” Regina suggested, while the nurses put Rich on the med bed to wheel him out.

“Zhu, please get on the radio and listen for any transmissions.”

“As far as sensors can be trusted, there is no technology present capable of sending transmissions to or from that planet.”

Heaving herself into the chair Regina gave her boyfriend a scolding look. “What do we have at our disposal to make such determinations?”

“Energy detectors, metallurgical scanners and visual.” Still fighting with the loads of errors from other systems Kurt began to loose hope for these systems. “How about lifeforms?”

Slowly raising his glance from the console to the General, Kurt had to fight his inner demons. Everything he knew, everything he ever learned dismissed the notion of time travel, especially time travel into the past. It was almost a violent impulse that brooded from his subconscious.

“No. Too many errors, I’m afraid that stuff is broken beyond repair. Why do you want those anyway? Look at it, green forests, blue seas, an atmosphere. If we get back the chemical analysis sensors, we can determine if it is suitable for us, but I’d say there’s life there.” Please don’t say it. Please don’t say you want to see if there are humans.

“Too see if there humans.”

Immediately clenching his fists and his jaw Kurt closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Even though this planet and it’s moon look like that which once was home to our ancestors, it is not earth. It can’t be. There might be intelligent life, but I highly doubt that. In all likelihood, this place is looking almost like earth, whichnis highly unlikely, but it cannot be earth. Neither in the past, nor in some alternate universe!” Towards the end he couldn’t hold back his aggravated mood any longer.

Until a beeping from the console drew his attention he stared at Regina with a look that spelled bloody murder.

 

Growing pale Kurt sank into the forgiving cushioning of his seat. “I give up.” Absently his gaze wandered back to Regina. “According to the patterns of stars, this is earth, roughly at the end of the last ice age.”

“Why so glum about it Doctor?” Zhou turned around with her seat, an earpiece in her left ear.

“This is a scientific nightmare! Nothing, absolutely nothing that I know of permits travel through time into the past.”

In the eyes of the communication officer and in Regina’s, he could see what both of them thought. Apparently a strange star can. Returning his attention to the failed and failing systems, something else struck Kurt’s mind.

“Oh damn.” Not waiting for Regina’s reaction he quickly explained that apparently the antimatter containment chambers, and their ability to make new antimatter were damaged. Only one of the fusion reactors was functional, and that at fifty percent.

“We have to shut down all non essential systems! Repeat, on the order of General Marston, all non essential systems have to be shutndown!” Zhou gave her best version of a confident voice, but at least to those knowing her, or being in the same room as her, her desperation showed.

“Deploying solar collectors.” Never thought I’m gonna say that, Kurt mused. From the massive sails that began unfolding in between the rings and between the spearhead and the alpha ring, only one error message came back to Kurt’s console. “Maneuvering Phoenix into optimal angle.” Navigator Kohaku Toryama stated, his speech sounded a little sluggish, Regina sent a request for medical attention upon noticing.

Half the lights went out after a minute, the remaining ones dimmed. “Cosy.” Remarking on the drastic lengths of the energy conserving measures, Regina felt suddenly overcome with exhaustion.

“We need a new shift. Fast. Right now we all had an adrenaline rush, it’s fading. Could you see to that?” Kurt also felt overcome with exhaustion. “Sure thing.”

 

Five hours, twenty three minutes. Kurt stretched.

He thanked his body for requiring that little amount of sleep, as he swung his legs outn of bed. From his son’s room came loud snoring.

He had only a minor injury, a twisted ankle, but knowing Leopold, he knew the youth would sleep off his pain. Next to him was Regina. After the events of the previous day she had not wanted to sleep alone, in order to keep an eye on Leopold for a little while she had come to Kurt’s quarters for the night.

After few moments it all came back to him. Confused he cursed the entire incident, he was, for the first time in his life, without a clue.

“Harpies!” Regina shot upwards next to him.

“What?”

“That’s the answer, we contact the Harpies of this time period. They do have the technology to come here. Or at least receive our call, record it, store it in their databases, and figure out a way to get us away from here.” Rubbing the sleep from her eyes Regina too got out of bed.

Perhaps that’s not a bad idea. Musing on Regina’s epiphany Kurt rubbed his stubbed chin. “That might alter the time line. It would endanger first contact with them, perhaps even cause the destruction of mankind, if the patriarchists get wind of it.”

Yawning he longed for nothing more than a coffee, the chemical product of years of loving addiction of humans yearning to have a cup after the exodus to Mars, and RV-p296. That issue, of whether or or not to contact the Harpies, could wait until he and the ship were more operational.

 

“Repairs on the lander fusion reactor are coming along well, efficiency of rear fusion reactor has increased to seventy five per cent.” Night shift commander, Major James Adamovic reported to the General.

Reluctantly he went to leave the bridge. “Gather a team, captain.”

“What for, if may ask, General?”

“An away mission.” Regina beamed. “We’re going to pick a suitable location, where you can’t interfere with the local population.”

Equally reluctant Kurt had manned the post of the first officer. After most systems had shut down, the console had become his office. Rich also was not fit for duty yet.

Only after Adamovic had left did he speak up.

“Do you think that wise? We don’t know a thing about the implications this might have. A single picked berry might alter the timeline!” Keeping his voice low Kurt was reduced to a hiss as he pretended to show Regina something on a tablet.

“We need boots on the ground, in our present condition we are not able to go anywhere, but this location! If everything checks out we could extract,”

“A feat we can achieve on asteroids, other moons, planetoids in the outer reaches of the solar system. Places where we are not in danger of altering human history.”

Regina’s eyes narrowed, her lips formed a thin line.

“Going there requires resources we don’t have, time we can’t afford to waste. Besides, we could try to alter history to a beneficial outcome. Imagine if mankind skips the dark ages where four to nine hundred years of scientific progress is suspended. Imagine mankind going to the stars as fast as possible. Before that darn neutron star reaches the solar system!”

Appalled, growing pale in shock, Kurt felt all air flee his lungs. Now Regina had delusions of grandeur! “We can’t. We all, every man woman and child in existence would seize to be! None of us would ever be born! Altering time on that scale would spell the end of mankind as we know it.”

“We could save billions of lives!”

“By taking countless billions! This is not the billions that died when earth got destroyed, but the billions that came before them, and those that will live then. They are not the ones that will be alive if you go through with this! Our history, our culture, everything will be destroyed!”

Feeling scolded like a schoolgirl Regina bit her lip. She had hated these moments in her youth, and she sure hated that feeling now.

“Mankind has survived. And we need to ensure that it stays that way. We can not alter history.”

“That depends, Doctor Braun.” Maryjane Hutzinger entered the bridge. As the only addition to the crew from Equatoria she enjoyed the energy conserving measures, as she experienced the martian low gravity for the first time. “What if our interference with history has happened already in our distant past? Which then lead to the commissioning of Orion?” Smug faced she strode over to his workstation, although receiving a gaze of disbelief from her fellow scientist, and from the General.

“All right.” Regina shook her head. “For now we will do nothing that might interfere with history, but the team will go down, for a series of flybys. I want more information on what is going on down there. Perhaps the sensors of the pods are functional?”

A notion that had escaped Kurt, the limited range of those sensors however made them useless from Orbit. Gladly they had been designed with atmospheric flight in mind. “Not too low, we can’t risk being spotted, and immortalised in drawing. Or upsetting aherd of animals that trample our forefathers, annihilating us in the process.”

“Would we be aware of such annihilation?” Zhu seemed genuinely worried, still listening to a whole lot of nothing.

“Suppose my stoneage grandmother gets killed, I would vanish. No one would know me, no one would have ever heard of me. You’d all have no idea I ever existed.” Perhaps antimatter drive would still be hinging on Fineman. Removing Phoenix out of the equation, we never upset these animals, my stoneage grandmother lives and we start over. Caught infinitely in a time loop. At least in one theory.

Calmed a little by the paradoxon’s promise of eternal life, Kurt strode to his console.

“So even if we alter history, we would not travel back in time in order to do that, in which case history would not be altered, resulting in us ending up here, altering history?” Zhu rubbed her head, she began having a headache.

“Who knows? We might be here for the second, three billionth, or just the first time.” Trying to sound uplifting Maryjane leaned against the wall behind the console.

Rewarded with shocked stares from the bridge staff, she blushed. “Is there a special reason for your presence here, Doctor Hutzinger?” Incapable of hiding her annoyance with her Regina leaned deeper into her seat.

 

“Alright, you win. That little discussion with Hutzinger convinced me. No alterations of the timeline!” After Doctor Hutzinger had left, mood on the bridge was at its lowest.

Regina leaned half over the console that Kurt was working on. “The flyby is still taking place, after that contact with earth is off limits.”

“The pod is ready, Ma’am.” Zhu was glad to hear something on the ether. On a normal day there were dozens of queries for the bridge, one to three messages over the quantum entanglement network. With the energy conserving measures in place only one or two queries that could not have been relayed otherwise, and absolute silence over the QEN.

“Good, tell them to maintain a high enough altitude so they’ll be out of sight, but low enough to run all their sensors.”

 

Major Adamovic was relaxed during the descent through the upper atmosphere. Turbulence was as normal as turbulence got, not any worse than what they had experienced on Equatoria. After a few minutes the rattling died down, leaving behind the sensation of just having been shook. “Joe, maintain the altitude we have to maintain, and give me sensors.”

“Aye.” Joanne Carlin replied with a gleeful tone to her voice. For his mission the Major had chosen the best pilot he knew, there was an anthropologist with them. Kaleb Manheimer. Glued to the screen, having the feedback of the sensors at his disposal, telling him of all the creatures the sensors got a hold of.

“That’s earth alright. Not quite the place we’ve heard and read about, but earth.” With only a little curiosity showing, his voice had a neutral tone. “That’s what our people would call home, aren’t you at least a little bit excited?” James studied the same results on his screen.

Other members of his team stood behind him, and behind Manheimer. Originally he had thought they were going to land, so he had brought a geologist, some of his friends who he knew were capable of handling unexpected situations, and who would follow his orders. “No. We can’t land, we can’t call this home. There is no telling what effect our landing might have on the timeline, besides, everyone, everything down there will die. From our perspective it all has already died. Aeons ago. Even if there was some freak of nature capable of surviving the many millenia to our time, it will still die when the planet gets destroyed by the neutron star. Although Mars, or RV-p296, will one day presumably meet an end, we do not know when. It might be tomorrow, from our time, or in a billion years. Here I can tell you when. I wouldn’t want to get too attached to a place of which I know exactly when it will be destroyed.”

Scientists, always a source for mood dampening lines. “Joe, can we get any lower?”

“Negative, this is the optimal altitude.”

As James was about to say he wanted to get a closer look, a violent shaking stopped him. Friends and colleagues around him dropped to their knees, or landed on the floor of the ship. “Turbulence?”

“Stabiliser is unresponsive. Thruster fuel is leaking. Trying to climb!”

 

Finally at peace with the thought of not going to land Regina sipped on her coffee, chatting with Zhu who was monitoring the transmissions from the pod.

Suddenly the asian woman’s face grew dark. “They’re having trouble.”

As the systems still were in need of repair, especially their capacities of making and storying antimatter, Kurt had left the bridge to tend to those systems, Regina rushed to the console herself. “They’re losing altitude.” She cursed herself for giving the mission a green light.

On the main viewscreen the image changed, zoomed in on the pod, they saw that it drew a longntail of fumes and smoke behind it. “I’m losing them on the sensors, only visual still holding on.” Commenting on her own works as if she reported to the commander of the ship herself Regina had given up on the sensors. Walking around the console to her own seat she kept her eyes transfixed on the descending ship.

 

Across a forest on the northern hemisphere, what once would be called Asia, the lander headed out to the pacific. “I hadn’t noticed before, but the Bering passage is dry and ice free. We could be witnessing the settlement of north America by the natives.” Somehow Maryjane Hutzinger had sneaked back onto the bridge, commenting on what she was witnessing.

Not regarding the scientist with a single moment of attention Regina grabbed her own console tightly, feeling for the men and women she had sent to Earth, as they were descending possibly to their doom.

“They’re out of sight.” Toryama had a gentle tremor in his voice, almost as if his voice was breaking. Regina had heard that Adamovic had tried to get the Phoenix Navigator on board his team, but failed as Regina would not permit her best navigator to leave the bridge in the middle of a crisis.

“No energy spikes on the sensors.” Meanwhile Maryjane had taken up position behind the console with the sensor data. “Of course this,” interrupted by the harsh glares she received from the others on the bridge Maryjane did not complete her statement that perhaps an eventual explosion had just occured outside sensor range.

“General Marston to all hands, volunteers for a rescue mission of the crew just sent down to the planet, report to the hangar bays.” To Toryama she gave a nod giving him permission to fly the rescue.

“But check your craft thoroughly before you leave Phoenix. I suspect that our temporal incident had damaged the other one.”

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we had to take a short detour, we hope you will continue to fly with us after this minor glitch.” Joanne Carlin spoke softly, the crew behind her however, was mostly not in the mood for jests.

“Good one, do you write your own material?” James peeled out of his straps that had held him in his seat. “We are afloat, I have limited capabilities of maneuvering this tub, so we could land on that shore there.” Joanne glanced over her shoulder, ditching the jesting attitude.

“Yes Pilot, please bring us to that terminal. Perhaps the local snackbar can make up for the terrible in flight menue.” Smug smiling at her James went through the rows to see if the others were injured.

“Well, Doc. You might get to see terran soil after all.” Cameron Dixon sat up slowly. Her long dark fingers slowly wandered across her face, looking for any injury. “Glad to hear that, I just had hoped it would be a little less,” musing, she waved her hand, “sudden.”

“Y’all need to stop watching those old time movies.” Dennis Filiposchenko rubbed his shoulder. He had bumped it when the stabiliser went out.

“Oh boy.” Joanne’s sudden words of dismay alarmed James, he couldn’t exactly say why, but he felt the sudden urge to run to the front of the ship.

“What? Are we sinking? Leaking? Is there a fire?”

“No. None of that.” Giving him a benign smile one could only give someone who one had seen naked, Joanne turned her head back in the direction the pod was swimming now. “We have company, Jim.”

 

A group of fur donning men and women stood at the shore of the sea. Beneath their feet were stones and fist sized rocks, washed round by sea and wind. With open mouths, yet anticipation, they watched the unusual bird that had fallen from the skies, and was now swimming to the shore.

Spears were readied, knives drawn.

 

“Can you hold a position, just far enough away from them so they couldn’t hurt us, or damage the ship?” Thanking Joe for her immediate affirmation of his request, James turned round. “I need a com line. To Phoenix, another lander, for all I care a 20th century cab stand. Any com line. Get to it.” He instructed his friends whom he knew were savy with the radio.

“Take readings, people, take all the readings you can get. We have a unique opportunity to investigate our past. So take as many readings as you can!”

A warning beep alerted him that his way of conduct may not be possible.

 

“Lander two to Phoenix, we have them on sensors, the lander is intact, and I have their transponder signals, they’re alive.” A wave of relief washed over Regina, she had not sent anyone to their deaths. “However,” Toryama paused on the other end of the transmission, “they had landed on the beach, their craft is surrounded by natives.”

Moaning Regina let her head sink to the console.

“That is exactly what I was warning you about.” Unnoticed by her, Kurt had come to the bridge, originally to report on the progress of the repairs. “It’s too late for scolding lessons on the implications on our history, of our being here. The situation is that we are where we are, and that has happened what has happened. We should see to get out of this mess.”

“I know that it is too late, but how come that the Equatorians have settled for years on RV-p296, yet never ran into one of the natives, we’re here, what, two days? And promptly we run into an entire group of them?” Kurt strode over to the console of the first officer, checked a few readings relayed to them by the other landers. “Land them within sight, but far enough to make the natives run to the other craft, if they are hostile, stun them.” He looked at Regina. “But only stun them. If the lander, or several of them, lost any parts, like Hull plating, chips, anything, it needs to be either retrieved, or destroyed.” Nodding with his words Regina wished for the entire incident to end.

 

As soon as another of the strange birds had come into sight, this time gracefully,  without flapping of wings, but thunderous screams, the group of curious, yet cautious people had left the beach, just far enough to see the tall figures emerge from the strange birds.

 

“I had just ordered Joe to stay out at sea, when a warning system alerted us that we were taking on water.” Linus Tuovinen looked up from the error report sheets generated by the landers computer systems. “Taking on water? Hearing your report and reading this data, both suggest that the landing itself was not harsh enough to crack the hull of the lander.”

With the same curious uneasiness as Linus did Kurt look at the Major. Only Regina did not seem to be upset by those events.

“No sir, I believe the crack would’ve been torn into the hull as we experienced the turbulence still over Asia.”

Both Kurt and Linus stared at the man with an empty expression. “Is there a problem with that?” Regina turned her seat around to the two scientists and engineer.

Before the debriefing of James and his comrades the damaged lander had been towed back to Phoenix, brought in and a detailed examination had begun. Any and all pieces that the lander had lost were added. By far the entire process was not finished yet.

“Send lander two down, and have them scan for the metal aloy of the hull, any computer parts that might have been blown out.” Kurt rose, talking to Linus, whom Regina had given full authority in the crash investigation. Followed by the eyes of James and Regina, as well as other officers present for the debriefing, Kurt and Linus left.

Cursing himself for not reading the oldest entries, at the bottom of the sheet, first, but working, so to say, backwards through the errors, Linus headed directly to the hangar bay where the crashed lander was investigated.

 

Inside the small confines of his quarter the air was growing stale, but Kurt did not notice, as he kept to himself, and had not left those walls since the debriefing.

Indeed hull plating had been found, and a few pieces of computer systems.

Was there more that had been lost over the waves of the pacific? Kurt did not know, he did not exactly want to know. The entire time travelling experience made his head ache beyond his abilities to tolerate it.

Over the course of a day and two nights, operating on only two hours of sleep in that time, he had succeeded in bringing the antimatter production back online, and storage as well.

Sleep for four hours had relaxed his body, but not helped him find any answers on how to get back to the future.

“Dad?”

Maybe his error was in thinking like he could solve this riddle? Perhaps someone else could solve it. In their database they surely had a record on how much the lunar colony over RV-p296 had excavated. Hiding a message there, so they’d find it days or weeks after the Phoenix got lost, would provide information on the where and when Phoenix could be found, so any potential future time travel savy humans could come and put them back.

“Pa!?”

Leopold’s voice finally woke Kurt from his train of thought. “Yes?!”

“It stinks in here! Can you turn on the AC for a minute?” Finally seeimg the chaos he had left in his room, clothes strewn around, dishes that he had used but not returned to the messhall. “Sure. Why not.”

“What are you working on this time?” Often Leopold had asked, often did Kurt give short answers, answers so vague no one could help if they posed a problem Kurt was working on. This time Kurt could only be vague. Sensors had been shot by the incident, no one had recorded, or witnessed exactly what happened. “Well, the entire incident with the strange star, that got us here, I want to make it happen again, only in the other way.”

Leopold came to his father’s desk, stared at the missing logs of sensory data. “Try pulling data from the sensors in the fusion chamber that did not give up, then there’s the science pod on beta ring, it has a special set of sensors, running on batteries in case of catastrophic power loss, and its own data storage. It was designed to function as an interstellar weather station in case we discover a planet but couldn’t settle it for some reason or another.”

The science pod was Kurt’s first and only idea for alternative data, but the sensors on it had also been shot, and still were offline as they were not important enough to be restored. On the contrary, parts from them were cannibalised for sensors that were in need of repairs. Making new parts was a luxury they couldn’t afford, the energy requirements were too large.

“I will check the fusion reactor, thank you.” Kurt was astonished that he hadn’t thought of the reactor.

 

Gleeful Kurt entered the bridge, just as usual he found Regina at her post, Rich was back into action as the first officer, Kohaku Toryama at the helm and Zhu at the communication terminal. Perhaps everything was going to return to normal.

Only the presence of Linus and his expression of desperation, anger and fear was abnormal, even off setting.

“Dire news, Kurt, a few parts from a computer Platine are missing.” The engineer called for Kurt as he saw him enter the bridge. Regina turned to him, wearing an expression of desire, to see him after missing him for almost a week and a half. Recoiling from what she saw her expression froze immediately.

His hair was rough and stood in all directions, he wore a beard he normally hadn’t, his clothes were wrinkled, dirty and he wore a smell of not showering in a few days. Now Regina fully understood why he so often was referred to as a borderline mad scientist.

“Widened search pattern?” Kurt rose his eyebrows.

“Nothing.”

“Slower, lower flybys?”

“Nothing. I’m afraid it fell into the ocean. And our dear General here is not letting me continue the search under water!”

Not asking verbally Kurt just turned his eyes on Regina.

“We have caused enough potential damage to the timeline! We can not risk doing even more! Besides, I believe that the active volcanism in that area, and the ending iceage, will destroy what is left of the parts.”

A momemt of silence passed, Kurt felt anger rise in his stomach, he wanted to spew lava out of his mouth, scream and yell, and tear the bridge apart with his bare hands. “I think I found a way back. If not we’ll have to try again some fourty thousand years ago.” He threw the tablet in Regina’s direction, turned on his heel and went to the tube network.

He wanted to go home.

Finally he felt the beard itch, and he wanted to get rid of the fur as he called it.

“Kurt! Wait up, pal.” Linus caught him as he entered the cab, slipped in with him. “You gave her a way back without doing a proper cleanup job?”

“Either we arrive in our time and nothing has changed as either every change we made has already been made, or we can only return to our time line present. Or we arrive in an alternate version of the present in which case we can go back and fix what ever we have done, so we can go back. If the changes made would have caused us to vanish, we would’ve done so already.” His reply was without any emotion, one continuous tone, almost as if he had rehearsed it, either to calm himself, or someone else.

 

About four months went by after Kurt had given his nickname full honor, by appearing like a deranged, mad genius on the bridge. “Approaching the designated coordinates.” Toryama was glad to utter those words. As glad as the rest of the crew was to hear them.

“Begin the procedures.” Rich Baumann looked up from his console for a moment. Sunken in thought Regina had sulked the last months in her chair. She kept her daily routines, but other than that, she rarely spoke a word. Today she was not there.

The cold, harsh General he had gotten to know on Mars was shining through again. Had the relationship to Doctor Braun suffered under the incident? They were hardly seen together, but on the other hand it could be a ruse to throw off the rumors aboard.

“We are good to go.”

“Beginn.”

 

Fresh air was circulating through the dimly lit quarters of Doctor Kurt Braun, he leaned in his bed, staring at the sleeping General next to him. They hardly spoke, hardly discussed what had happened at earth, what had happened between them during that time. But when they met, they met like wild teenagers.

“Attention, all personnel. We are attempting to return to our own time. Please assume safe positions.” Regina woke from the announcement. Panicked at the time she looked at Kurt, opened her mouth, but said nothing.

Kurt nodded, both jumped out of bed, got dressed and hurried to the bridge in awkward silence.

A moment after they had sat down in the chairs of the cab, a flash blinded Kurt.

When he came to, he sat in the cab, Regina came to her senses next to him, they had fastened their belts, otherwise they might have been thrown around again.

Still not talking the two hurried to the bridge, noticing that the lights had gone out, and only reserve batteries kicked in.

Almost having a routine in it by now, Kurt opened the console to boot up the system, but suddenly the lights sprang back into action. “Fusion reactor operating within normal parameters.” Rich stood up upon seeing Regina, the back ups that had been designed for the blackout following the jump, had kicked in. “Backup sensor array coming online.” Toryama stated, having immediately a sense of where they were. “QEN coming online,” Zhu said, but something in her voice sounded like an abrupt stop.

Flickering the main viewscreen came to life, showing the strange star as it was supposed to be. “There is a lot of chatter out there.”

“We were gone some time,” Regina tried to justify the traffic in the quantum entanglement network, but both Kurt and Zhu shook their heads. “Barely a day.”

“They are not speaking english. Switching to auto translate.”

Kurt felt a sigh forming in his lungs, an elongated sigh, slowly rising to the top. “It’s Japanese.” Zhu looked to Kohaku, who shook his head. His grandmother had still spoken some Japanese, he was raised with only one language.

First officer Rich Bauman had moved to his console. “There is a vessel relatively close by, called the Sakura. Attempting to access their databases without being noticed.”

All eyes were lying on Rich as he accessed the foreign system. After a few moments he had gained access and began downloading their entire database. “Oh my,” he gasped, reviewing a certain part of the history, “they saved earth. They have developed technologies far beyond our stage of development.” Rich grew pale. He began trembling and sat down on his chair.

“They friggin’ saved earth!”

Rings of Fate S4xE8 – Phoenix – Strange

On Phoenix’s viewscreen was a world torn between perpetual day and perpetual night. One day it would become home to thousands of people, people who were stubborn in their ways. With some sadness Regina looked on to the slim grounds between a scorching day and a freezing night. “I think we looked at it long enough.” She shook her head, negotiations with Dawn Horizon had failed, and for more than negotiations she was neither willing, nor authorised. Much to the disliking of Equatorian officials.

“Lay in a course for our next POI.” Feeling weird she left the bridge.

“I hear we are leaving the tidal locked planet?” As usual when she left the bridge Kurt somehow managed to know and apprehend, or find her. “We are. How do you always find me when I leave the bridge?”

Smiling he nestled with her collar. “I have planted a tracking device on you, how else?” She knew he was joking, and she even thought his remark was funny. But she felt not like laughing. “I need a break.” She sighed, gesturing him to leave her alone.

Sometimes, although not often she just needed a break from everything.

Including him.

Now was such a time.

 

Disappointed that he could not spend more time with the woman he loved Kurt returned to the control centre. For a few months Phoenix had been lying idle in orbit over RV-p296. For one to teach the Equatorians how to build an antimatter reactor and the propulsion systems of Phoenix in a safe way. The designs present in their databases was the faulty unstable one from the original Ark-class ships. For the other reason to tweak their own propulsion system.

Fineman and Kurt had refined the designs and made it faster, now that they had the chance to redesign their engines and go to a lush sunny planet, Regina wanted to do this.

The trip back to Mars would take months, not years.

With the new design they were still a far way from the efficiency of the linker engines, but also had come a far way from what they had started with.

“We’re ready to engage, when you are.” Linus reported to the bridge next door, just as Kurt entered.

Moments later the antimatter drive engaged.

“Are you going to miss the sun?” Estranged by the unusual question, Kurt was a little baffled. In addition Linus’ expression was suggestive.

By now his relationship with the General was an open secret. “I think I will miss it a little, but we have an adequate substitute on board.” He winked.

“The gardens or the beds?” Smirking at the suggestive question Kurt reminisced for a moment about the sandy beaches of Equatoria. Which were not as far spread as he had envisioned. Most of Equatoria was swampy, with wide fields of local crops, and the colony siting in the delta of a river.

But there were beaches, and the crew of Phoenix flocked to them like migrating birds.

Shore leave. For the first time in their lives at an actual shore.

From Benjamin Fuller, Kurt had gotten the tip of a secretive small beach in a cove where a smaller arm of the river opens to the sea.

Kurt and Regina had gone there, supposedly unseen.

“Both really. I can not recommend sleeping on Equatoria, the beds are too short for martian people.” A fact that might change if they introduce artificial gravity to Martian territory. There certainly is enough power from Mars’ interior.

“Oh.” Nodding in over acted understanding Linus turned towards his console. “Well, everything here checks out.”

Kurt looked at his, couldn’t agree more. “How about lunch?” He turned to Linus, whose turn itwas now to be baffled at an unusual question.

Sure the two men had formed a friendship, had taken lunches together. But only sporadically. When Kurt declined an invitation to lunch in order to eat alone, he ate with the General. “Sure thing, is there bad weather?”

“The weather on this twilight rock is always the same. Wind from the night side!” Overly dramatic gesturing with his hands Kurt looked towards the door.

“Alright, we should go then, unless we only want the leftovers in the cantina.” Internally Kurt cringed. The lunch dates with Regina had another benefit.

No cantina, no food from the cantina.

In secret Kurt suspected the cook to have a grudge over his or her assignment, thus delivering bad food. Or it was just as it has always been in most of human history since cantinas were introduced to society. Cantinas serve bad food.

Nutritional, maybe.

Good, no.

 

“Well I can tell you Regina, your healthy as a horse.” Doctor Cassandra Smith sat down at the table in the small room. “Why do I feel like vomiting then?” Buttoning up her uniform, Regina gave the black woman with the long braids a demanding glare.

Forming a broad smile Cassandra looked deep in Regina’s eyes. “Reg, do I really need to tell you?”

Sighing Regina sat back down, the exam bed made an elongated hissing noise as she did. “Yes Cassy, you need to. Because if you don’t, I’m going to make wild assumptions. And if my assumption is correct the physician who last maintained my implant on Mars, will receive a one way trip to Ericsson.”

“If your assumption is pregnancy, you better prepare that one seater to Ericsson.”

In silence Regina stared at Cassandra. “How far am I?”

Within a second Cassandra’s smile waned. “Not far. Why?” The stoney expresion Regina was almost famous for, returned to the General’s face, got mirrored by the doctor in front of her. “Not a single doctor in martian society would do that.”

“If I order you to?” Even her nasal tone had made a return. In the eyes of the general was the cold ambitious glow of a career oriented predator, sending a cold shiver down Cassandra’s spine. “I’d have to disobey. You know the laws as well as I do.”

Grinding her teeth Regina continued to stare at her friend and physician. Feeling uncomfortable with that glare on her Cassandra got up, only to realise that the General was not staring at her, but an undefined point in front of Regina.

“Look. With the new found technologies to take the martian populous to RV-p296, where the reproductive restrictions are slowly fazed out, it might come to pass that you can have an abortion. But as the law lies right now, I can only do that if the child is severely handicapped, the result of rape or incest, or the very real possibility of death for either the unborn or the mother is imminent.”

With the introduction of the implants, which also functioned as a contraceptive, laws for abortions had been made very restrictive. Mostly so that couples who applied for having the contraceptive turned off, would not then change their minds. Reflecting on those past developments Regina clenched her jaw. “Listen. I want you to look something up for me. Has Kurt Brown his implant’s function turned off?”

Displaying a benign smile again Cassandra sat down once again, the cold and hard expression in Regina’s face had been replaced by an expression of fear. “I already took the liberty of doing so, and yes. It had been turned off, he and his former wife had applied to when their son was three, apparently they never had any luck in conceiving again, and simply forgot the implants function for contraception was off.” Still stonefaced out of fear for her career Regina nodded.

“Listen, I know you’re afraid. I would probably be too. But try to see it from that perspective. We have assignments. There will be no one to replace you permanently available for at least a year, or much more. You can have the child, continue your position, and other than having a child on board, nothing will change.”

It was that “having a child on board” part that scared Regina. Cassandra was right, her position as General was secure. She just had never seen herself as a mother.

Kurt had a son, who was all grown up, so she was not entirely certain how he would react to the news.

 

Submerged deeply in thought Regina left the infirmary, headed to the garden on the spearhead. Certain that Kurt was not there, nor anyone else who would bother her, she sought out the bench she favored.

Having a kid was absolutely not in her interest. It troubled her that there was no way to have an abortion. Reproductive rights were already infringed by the implants and the two child policy, as it had been the case with the Orion-class ships crews. That was a matter of survival. Too many children would mean too many mouths to feed, with limited resources such as on the ships and on Mars that infringement on reproductive rights was necessary for the survival of the entire community.

Restrictions on abortion however, were not. They were a hassle, implemented to keep people from making dumb and rushed decisions. It was already hard to get permission if not married, so there was not exactly a spreading rash of potential abortions.

Determined to have another talk with Cassandra, Regina got up. Maybe she could have the whole ordeal done off the record?

No questions asked, no red tape, no one needed to know a thing.

Including and especially Kurt.

 

“I am bound by an oath to preserve life, not destroy it.”

“What life? What can I give this child? The feeling of being unwanted. I am dead certain that I could not warm up to it, let alone love it. I am a General, commanding a starship. We go out into deep space, we explore. Sooner or later we will encounter dangers unforseen, perhaps get annihilated one fine day. If the kid survives, or I dump it on Mars, or Equatoria, what great life will it have? Dead mother, one that had not been there in the first place.” Regina paced up and down the small examination room. “And I guarantee you, that I would not relinquish my command to raise it.”

Sitting down on the bed she stared at Cassandra. “Cassy, right now, all I feel for it is a form of disgust. Like I’d feel for a leech, or a tick, or any parasite.”

Letting her shoulders hang Cassandra turned to the screen. “Look.” She touched a few displayed buttons. “I will show you how an abortion works, what I would do to you. Then, tell me again whether you really would want this or not.”

 

Days on Phoenix went by, one like the other. Especially when the ship was travelling. All that was left to do for Kurt was take readings, compare them to other readings.

Maintain a steady flow of antimatter into the reactor, keep the production of antimatter running at nominal levels, and generally things that did not challenge him. Linus did the same tasks, and they often changed their routines in order not to get bored.

Theoretical work, like he did in his laboratory on Mars did come a bit short, but he continued working on these things as well.

Instantaneous quantum entanglement communication enabled him to exchange his findings with other scientists, and get reviews, and news of other discoveries and research.

That was how he and Fineman had refined the designs for the engines.

Still, he missed the relative freedom he had in his lab. If he returned to Mars he would still not regain that freedom, but be tucked away in the new laboratory at the Harpy ship, and do some stuff the government told him to.

Compared to that, he preferred the ship. At least he was at the frontier of human exploration.

A notification began beeping in his pocket. Reluctantly he pulled out the glasses. After a few years he still did not warm up to it, would prefer messages and calls over the tablet.

“Meet me in five, my place.” Regina’s voice was hard, she allowed for no reply, as she ended the call right after telling him. A nervous expression began forming on Kurt’s face. Noticing that, Linus bowed over. “Has the weather changed?”

“I think there’s a storm brewing on the horizon.” Kurt replied. Neither had ever discussed the relationship between Kurt and the General, except for those metaphors that Linus used. Still it was a little relief for Kurt to say that.

“I’ll take over, tie everything down before the storm hits.” Linus winked with a supportive smile.

 

Shaky handed Kurt rang the door bell to Regina’s quarters. Why was he feeling so nervous? Her voice. Demanding, hard and distant.

Was this a professional call? Did the icy General want to speak to mad scientist Braun? Or was it something he had forgotten about their relationship?

Someone other than Linus must’ve seen them on the beach, he figured. Now rumors went around, and he was to get the full force of her rage over this.

“Alright, listen I’m sorr… umph.” He received a hard slap to the face. As soon as the doors behind him closed.

Immediately after, he felt Regina’s hand gently reaching for his chin, pulling his face over to hers so she could kiss him. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hit you.”

“Yet you did.” He rubbed his cheek. “Why?” Looking at her he realised she was not entirely sure either. “Because you knocked me up, that’s why!” Raising her voice she marched a few paces away from him, stopped and turned back around, seeing utter confusion in his expression.

“You and Maya had applied for a second child, never had it though, apparently everyone had forgotten about this. And mine malfunctioned!” Close to tears she sat down.

Pale and suddenly short on breath Kurt also wandered to the chairs, sat down himself. “Alright? Now what?”

“I don’t know!” Like her voice Regina shot up, the tears were replaced by anger again. “I wanted an abortion because I don’t want a child, after seeing how that is carried out, I don’t think I want that either. I don’t know what to do at this point!”

I’ve heard of mood swings, and witnessed them with Maya, but she is on a roller coaster. “Calm down, would you? There is still time for an abortion should you change your mind.” Not certain if he wanted another child. After all, wasn’t he a bit too old for yet another child? By the time the kid turned eighteen he would be in his early sixties.

“What do you want?” She sat back down. Facing him, she gave him a look as if she was interrogating him.

“I,” he paused, otherwise he’d break I to stammering. “I don’t know. But I think we should remain calm and think these things through. That’s at least how I am used to deal with life.”

He began scratchimg his head, right where he was balding.

“I’m not used to that, I make quick decisions. Those hours since I learned for sure that I am pregnant, have been torture for me.”

Reclining in his seat, Kurt closed his eyes, his hands still on his head. Suddenly he felt Regina’s hand searching for his.

Slowly he opened his eyes, found her looking at him. “I want to remain General, I want to keep my post on this ship, I want you close to me. I don’t want to be reassigned, or reassign myself, if the child means that, that would be my destiny, the child would suffer under my general unhappiness. If having this child would mean you would go back to Mars, or some other place, I would not be happy, the child would miss its mother, and probably would be a very unhappy one.”

If we both stay and something happens to either or both of us, the same thing would be happening. Chasing off that thought Kurt found himself staring into Regina’s blue eyes.

“Right now, I’m as torn on the subject as you are.” Raspy voiced he gently kissed her.

 

For hours Kurt and Regina had sat together, discussing, they had gone through various scenarios. Phoenix had no daycare. No schools for young children, the youngest person on board was a teen of 14 years.

“Our next POI is a dangerous one.” Regina rolled off of Kurt. Somewhen in their discussion the two had both become aroused, thinking of their time on the beach. “What was it again?” Kurt sighed in satisfaction.

“A neutron star, one that has not become a galaxy traversing planet devourer.”

Somewhat concerned Kurt leaned towards his girlfriend. “Can Phoenix withstand that kind of stress?”

“We park at a safe distance, launch only unmanned probes into the vicinity of the thing.” She seemed at peace with the upcoming mission and the dangers such a star harboured. “However, I gave orders in advance to stop at an even greater distance and take readings of the area ahead.”

For several minutes Kurt amd Regina were lying side by side, looking at each other. The topic of their discussion had gone off tracks.

“I will talk with Cassandra again tomorrow. She’ll do it off the record.”

An indefinable melancholy crept into Kurt’s mood. “Tell me when, I’ll be there for you.” Despite the dampening mood he still conjured up a supportive smile.

It was the best solution for their situation. No one could take care of the child, but either him, a man often called ‘borderline mad scientist’, and her, a career oriented general.

Neither was suited to care for an infant.

In addition the situations the Phoenix would end up in, were anything but suitable for a child.

 

“Hutzinger, Maryjane. Astrophysicist. Reporting as ordered.” Brown, curly hair, framing a freckled face with green eyes, the woman in her late fourties stood before Regina.

She was the only addition to the crew that had come from Equatoria.

After learning where the ship went next she volunteered, out of curiosity, and the fact that Phoenix had no astrophysicist. “Great, doctor, I presume.”

“Yes.” Beaming in pride to be on the ship Maryjane could hardly content herself.

“Please report to the control centre next door, we have all stations manned and sadly need them, safety issues, I’m sure you need no lecture about the dangers we might encounter.” Regina sat slightly bowed in her seat.

Why hadn’t she told Kurt? Why not take a few days off?

“No, you needn’t tell me.” Maryjane smiled, turning to the door.

 

Taking a seat near the leaders of the scientists and engineers working in the control centre, Maryjane was a bit nervous.

Other than what had been gleaned from the instruments on Mars, which were more focused on keeping its population alive, there was little close hand data available for a neutron star.

A soft bump went through Phoenix.

Startled Maryjane rose from her seat, saw that no one else had done so, so she sat back down. “Just a gravitational ripple. Calm down.” The chief engineer poked his head out of the cubicle he shared with Doctor Braun.

Still a little jittery she nodded turning her attention to the screen. A gravitational ripple. “A wave?” She looked over to Linus Tuovinen.

Comfirming he nodded, disappeared back inside his shared cubicle.

“Hutzinger to the bridge, please stay at momentary position.” Maryjane tried to make heads and tails of the data in her screen.

“We’re holding position, preparing to fall back.” It was the first officer speaking, someone in the background barked into another com line for a doctor to aid the General.

At a moment’s notice Kurt rushed by Maryjane, despite Linus shouting after him to stop.

 

Outside the control centre Kurt bumped into Cassandra, who was followed by two nurses wheeling a sickbed. Already Regina was lying on it.

“You let her work?” She hissed at Kurt, who was at a loss for words. Seeing this she just motioned him to follow them.

“The general has a,” glancing towards the two nurses Cassandra had to think of different words other than complication after her procedure. “n infection. I thought you were aware. Forgive my harsh tone.”

Momentarily Kurt was at a loss, but caught on after a moment. “No I was unaware. I didn’t even know she had an appointment with you.” Immediately toning it down, as to not rouse more suspicion concerning his relationship with the General, he still followed the two men and the doctor. “I wanted a word with the Admiral, concerning the development of the mission in light of these events, please notify me as soon as she has come around.”

At the door to the infirmary he stopped, looking like a dog, beaten and abandoned in the wilderness. “Will do.” Cassandra nodded over her shoulder, hurrying on.

 

“I told you, to go to your quarters and lie down. To tell your mad scientist, who I believe is mostly mad in love with you, so he could keep an eye on you.” Regina did not immediately know where she was, but she knew who was speaking.

“We’re alone, in case you wondered.” Slowly Cassandra checked the reflexes of her friend and patient.

“I’m,”

“A tough girl. I know, but these things are not to be taken lightly, I told you.” Scolding her was growing boring, besides it seemed to be fruitless. “You’ve had some minor complications, otherwise you’re fine. I took the liberty of writing you off from work for the next two days.” Her expression told Regina that it was with a fake reason, so no one would ever know what had happened.

Feeling bad for her actions on top of feeling bad from her condition Regina sank back into the sheets. “How’s Kurt?”

“Took it bravely, he is pacing around the hallways, a tablet in hand. I hear he tripled our antimatter supply, but I’m sure that’s just exaggeration.” Knowing her boyfriend, Regina guessed it was more the opposite of exaggerated. She had wanted to tell him, but felt that she was going to manage without him knowing.

“In case I ever change my mind, which probably won’t happen, but in case if?”

“In that case, my dear Reggie, listen to your doctor. But yes, that way is still open to you.” Somewhat satisfied and relieved Regina closed her eyes.

Why were they burning? Why was she close to tears?

“Kurt?” Sighing Cassandra rolled her eyes. With her left she typed a few words into her tablet, sending Kurt a message, asking him to come to the General, for the update on the mission, just in case anyone monitored his messages.

 

“I can’t believe what I’m seeing here!” In a whispery tone Maryjane leaned back from her console, Linus sat at her side. “Neither can I. Is that?”

“Yes.” Breathing more than speaking she touched the screen to be sure she wasn’t dreaming. “A strange star. We only theorised about this type of star. But here it is! And I’m the first to see it!” From the scientific community. She added in her head.

“Please fill us in, what is a strange star?” A man behind her asked, without her noticing, a bunch of people had gathered behind her, starig at the display.

“Normal matter is made up of an atom, which consists of electrons, neutrons and protons. The the latter are themselves composed of quarks. These quarks come in different colors. Up, down, strange, charm, top and bottom. Normally a proton is composed of quarks of a certain color. Here another color has replaced the normal composition, strange. Hence the name, strange star.” As if lecturing students Maryjane explained in the most basic terms she could think of.

Hoping no one would ask why the weird terms like ‘strange’ were called colors, and who had come up with that brilliantly confusing term, she turned her attention back to the screen. “It has been theorised that normal matter, the stuff we consist of, or the planets and stars we know, is just an unstabler version of strange matter. We are looking at a star made up of the most stable matter in the universe. Theoretically.”

 

“I hear you tripled our supplies?” Attempting a smile Regina greeted Kurt.

“The reports of my deeds are greatly exaggerated.” He smiled, glad to see her well. His eyes however spoke the question he dared not to ask. Why she hadn’t told him.

“I thought I could manage. Alone. Like I always have.” Ashamed that he saw her vulnerable she shied away from his gaze.

Feeling his hand reach for hers she turned her eyes back to him. “You’re not alone. Not anymore.”

Something began beeping in his trousers. “I think your other girl, this Phoenix, wants your attention.”

“I only have one other girl, that’s science. Phoenix is just a means to get that.” Smirking he reached for his tablet, at the same time another bump went through the ship.

After a second or two alarms began ringing, both on his tablet and in the hallways. “We’re orbiting a strange star!” He exhaled noisily. Smacking her a kiss on the forehead he turned to leave. “Your other love, Phoenix, might be in trouble.” He explained his departure.

 

Needing a larger screen than his own, Kurt headed to the bridge. The first officer sat in Regina’s chair, seemed to be at a loss. A wave of relief washed visibly over him as he saw Kurt, in the vain hopes that the General would follow close behind.

“We’re caught in some sheer.” A navigator belched out information so vague that none could make heads or tails of it.

“Prepare thrusters.”

“Don’t!” Kurt did not look up from his tablet. “You’ll gut the ship if you do!” He reached over to the controls on the General’s seat, displaying the data on the screen. Cursing himself after a moment. “We need to vent the antimatter.” He rushed over to the console normally manned by the first officer. Rich Bauman jumped from his seat. “All of it?”

“Affirmative, it seems that the magnetic turbulence from this star has far reaching implications. Right now it is interfering with our containment chambers, if we keep the antimatter, we’re going to rip apart, if we are lucky.”

Afraid to ask what would happen if they were unlucky Rich just gave Kurt permission to vent the antimatter.

 

Knocked off his feet Kurt stared at the ceiling, not certain what had happened after he pressed the button to vent the antimatter storage compartments.

An intricate web of antimatter surrounding Phoenix was etched into his mind, followed by a violent shaking of the ship.

Gradually he became aware of howling alarms around him. A periodically flickering light told him that the situation seemed to be dire, if even the visual alarms had gone off.

Weak in the knees he got to his feet. Most of the bridge crew were strewn around their seats, Rich had banged his head on the console before him, a trickle of blood ran across the casing and dripped on the floor. “Bridge to any medical personnel, Doctor Braun speaking, we have severely injured people here.”

After a disturbingly long moment of no reply finally an answer came through. “Cassandra Smith speaking, it’s the same picture all over Phoenix. We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

Kurt shook off a little dizziness, tried to focus on his screen, which was blank. Realising he must’ve suffered some sort of concussion, as he had trouble focusing his sight, Kurt tried glancing at the main viewscreen.

Also blank. The few lines of data that were present were only displaying the malfunction codes of their systems.

“Wha,” Rich tried to speak, quickly Kurt rushed to his side, calming the man. “Stay still, you have been injured, medics are on their way.”

Again Rich tried to speak, but seemed to be under too much pain to form a coherent sentence. “I don’t know what happened. Instruments and sensors are offline. I’m afraid some are damaged beyond repair.”

The door behind the two men opened.

“What the fuck did you do to my ship?” The short moment of hope that medical help had arrived was destroyed by Regina’s enraged voice.

“We saved it.” Still feeling dizzy Kurt replied stumbling back to his previous console. “The magnetic fields of the strange star were reacting with the containment of the antimatter, we would’ve been torn apart, so we vented it.”

Yanking at the touch display of the console, Kurt pried it open, revealing a keyboard underneath. With a flick of a switch he severed the station from the network, rebooted it.

After a few minutes it was back up, so he reconnected the network.

With a few commands, he looked up from a table next to the keyboard, he rebooted other systems. Sensors and other instruments.

Many did not react to his commands.

“We have visual sensors back!” The navigator stated looking at the screen. Out of the corner of his eye Kurt saw that Regina stood in awe of what she saw on the viewscreen. Still busy trying to get the other systems to follow the line of reboots Kurt also cast a glance at the viewscreen. Saw the planet, blue oceans, green forests and other areas, the broad polar icecaps, reaching far towards the equator. Obviously a planet at the beginning or end of an ice age.

Kurt turned back to the console, but stopped abruptly.

The shapes of the landmasses! Whirling his entire body around to take a look, he stared at what seemed to be lost, but yet sat there, according to the viewscreen at least.

 

Earth.

An open letter

An open letter to the wasp that was just buzzing around my laundry rack, ready to fuck shit up.

Rings of Fate S4xE7 – Equatoria – Phoenix

Insect like creatures chirped in the night, seemingly paying homage to the shining moon above, as the heat of the humid summer day slowly lifted from Equatoria.

Admiral Benjamin Fuller wiped the sweat from his brow. Shore leave was all fine and dandy, but did it have to be in the summer? Most of the time it was summer in Equatoria, unless the Monsoon rains came.

The only noticeable change in seasons on Equatoria, as it was lying almost directly on the equator of RV-p296.

He did not know whether it always felt like this on the colony, but it seemed, whenever he, his husband and their children came, it was hot, humid and not a breeze lifted the heavy air.

Although enjoying the time away from the duties of an Admiral, outside the rather sterile, although lived in, environment of the Destiny, he was glad that a Sergeant had appeared at the door of their home on Equatoria in the middle of the night.

“There is a development, sir.” He saluted after the door had closed behind Benjamin. “All command crews have been alerted, shoreleaves have been annulled.” Sergeant Kušenkovic handed him a tablet with a message on display, it was locked with a security clearance only highest ranking personnel and officials held.

Dismissing the sergeant Ben opened the message after he was alone again.

 

“I am General Regina Marston, aboard the Phoenix. This message is rerouted through the martian quantum entanglement communication network. I call upon the colony of Equatoria. Four years ago the government of Mars has lifted the ban on antimatter technology, enabling the completion of the once secret Phoenix project. Our vessel has been en route towards the Equatoria for the better part of the last four years, and we hope that we are greeted as the long lost brothers and sisters that we are.”

George will be furious, Benjamin glanced over his shoulder at the door. Amidst the humid and still very warm atmosphere, he felt a chill and went back inside. After General Marston’s greeting, was the written summoning to an emergency conference with the senators and presidents.

Equatoria had elected to have three presidents running the colony, so that these three could always oversee one another. There would be less abuse of political opportunity and power. In addition it was in honor of the three ships that mankind had arrived in. Kismet had still the heirs to the titles of emirates it had come from, their portion of the colony was governed by said heirs.

Of course, they would be included in the meeting as well, Ben assumed.

 

“Can we permit a vessel, built by humans, with the same technological level as us, using antimatter in our vicinity?” President Julia Mgabe, flanked by her fellow presidents,  stood at the conference table. “That’s what this boils down to. Nothing else.”

“We can’t really prohibt them from coming here, can we?” Admiral Mulgrew did not bother to stand up.

Her history, and that of her ship, gave her enough authority to not having to stand up in front of the presidents. “We could at least tell them that their antimatter storage compartments have to be emptied before entering orbit.” Newly appointed Admiral Gabe May from the Explorer interjected.

Passively following the conversation Ben rolled his eyes. This discussion was fruitless in his eyes, as they were underpowered. They could threaten with military action, subsequently blowing the Phoenix up, ending countless lives, perhaps threaten their own safety in doing so.

It showed in the eyes of the presidents, and Gabe. They were secretly eager to see the Phoenix. To see it could be done, that the technology was within reach. They wanted antimatter technology too.

The opportunity to equip a ship and head out into the universe, traversing from one star system to the next within a few years, instead of decades, or generations, was too alluring for them. He himself could not deny the fact that this was tempting.

“They did show their capabilities with Antimatter when the MISR appeared on our doorstep. They also demonstrate it is safe for use by comming here. Isn’t it conceivable that they can handle it? That our ban on antimatter research and technology is one born out of fear? While true, if handled wrong, it can be a destructive element, they used it right, handle it right.” Benjamin slowly rose to his feet. “I can see your hidden desires Presidents, it is the gateway to the future. We here have a simple life, our desire to create new technologies so we can leave is low, as our situation is a lush one. Theirs is a desire born out of necessity. Imagine their situation. Holed up in underground bunkers, grossly limited freedom of movement. While similar to the hardships we were born into, our confinement had an end, theirs did not. Unless they invented new technologies, or reinvent them. And they succeeded! It is my opinion that we not only lack the capabilities to prohibit them from reaching Equatoria with all their achievements in hand, but also that we lack the grounds for it. We allow the Harpies to come here, who also use the same technology, far more advanced, I admit, but basically the same. We couldn’t keep linkers from comming here, and they possess the same technology. So why would we ban our martian brothers and sisters from entering our domain, when we allow others?” The air conditioning in the conference room worked effortlessly, combating the humid heat from outside, much to Benjamin’s relief.

“In short, what I am saying is, we can’t forbid them entering Orbit with their antimatter. We can ban it on the surface, but that is it.” Seing a hint of delight in his words in the eyes of the presidents gave Benjamin a chill. Had he said and done the wrong thing?

A quick glance to Jane Mulhre told him that she seemed to think so. Her ship had met a terrible fate, without antimatter involved. The volatile nature of it would increase the deadly yield of similar accidents by an unimaginable amount.

“Who seconds the motion to allow the Phoenix entering Orbit?” President Mgabe raised her hand. Followed by the other two Presidents, the ambassador from the former Kismet crew and Gabe. “I will not vote.” Ben said. “Seeing as I am torn on the subject, I could not cast a vote for or against with a clean conscience.”

Sceptical glances came from Mgabe and Gabe. Jane still looked at him with an angry expression. “Gentlemen, Ma’am,” Jane got up, began walking to the exit. “it is decided then. We will allow the Phoenix to come here. With me the only in opposition to the idea, it is settled.” Without further greeting she left.

A stale feeling of regret and guilt hung over Benjamin’s mood like an ominous thunderstorm of antimatter.

 

Communication with the once battered Horizon resumed normally, but Jane remained out of reach, once Benjamin was back on Destiny.

Most of the crews on Destiny and Explorer had been under heavy rotation since they reached RV-p296, but the Horizon crew pretty much stayed the same. There was a special bond, tieing them together. Unlike the other crews they were a family that had survived the worst. No planetary eden, or promise of such, could tear them apart.

After arriving, they disbanded for a short time. Jane had filed an investigation into her own actions, wanting to atone for her choices.

Ultimately she was found not guilty, and reinstated as Admiral of the Dawn Horizon.

Over the course of the years a new dish was installed in the rear of the ship, landing pods returned from the surface, as most of the former Horizon crew longed for Jane’s rule. Within two years the Horizon crew was more or less back together.

A development Ben found a little odd at the time, now he felt it was concerning. If Jane was planning something sinister for the Phoenix, her crew would join in, as they were loyal beyond doubt to her.

“Picking up a signature.” These words called Benjamin back to reality.

With a nod he gave the command that it should be put on the screen. A ship, smaller than his own, appeared. Two rings, and a shovel head.

They were travelling at speeds the Destiny could match. “They’re within hailing range.”

Benjamin again nodded. This time not giving a command, but acknowledging the fact he was informed of. After Admiral Mulgrew had left, it was decided that Gabe May would be the one talking to them first. “Keep an eye on the Horizon.” He mumbled. Eyeing the ship on his display carefully.

Unlike the other two ships, the Horizon was fully equipped. She had all her pods, not the skeletal empty hallways leading to nowhere, like his ship did in the alpha through gamma rings. Of course, Horizon only consisted of alpha and sub alpha rings. New pods were constructed, but far from reaching numbers that would complete the Explorer and the Horizon.

“She’s breaking orbit!” Phillip Jenkins, his navigation officer yelled. “Crap!” He quickly punched the console. “Jane! What are you doing?”

Jane Mulgrew’s face appeared on the tiny screen. “Do you want to hear an odd bit about true democracy? The first places where everybody who would have to bear the consequences of a decision, was empowered to vote on said decision, were pirate ships. In true pirate fashion, I let my crew vote. Just like me, they are against the idea of antimatter in the hands of humans. I agree that destroying the Phoenix is not an option. I do not want to end any lives, or risk contamination of our new found home with weird radiation, or blobs of antimatter. So we decided to leave.” Not giving him the chance to argue with her, Jane cut the line again.

Slamming his fist against the panel Benjamin looked back up at the main view screen. Accelerating the short ship moved further away. “Explorer is arming lasers, they’re targeting the Horizon.” Seymour DiAmano, his first officer, stated. “Horizon is also arming her lasers, targeting the Explorer.

This isn’t happening. This is just a nightmare. “Target Explorer canons, fire at will.” Benjamin heard himself say. The next seconds went by as if time had slowed down.

Explorer opened fire at the thrusters on Horizon, to which they returned fire at the canons on Explorer, taking out a few of them.

The Destiny’s own canons opened fire on the canons on Explorer, creating more damage in their weaponsystems. “We’re being called by Admiral May.”

“Let him hear static. If anyone asks we had computer glitch acting up.” A knowing smirk on his lips Seymour nodded, while the Horizon moved further away, without being fired upon any longer. Instead Explorer turned towards Destiny, the remaining lasers reaiming at Ben’s ship.

“Stand down all canons.” Ben sank in his chair. This would be the end of his career, he knew.

“Dawn Horizon is out of weapons range. Explorer advancing, still hailing.” Intensely staring at Benjamin, Seymour held his finder poised over the button to reply to the hails. “Answer them. Get a security detail up here. You need to make an arrest.”

Reluctantly, but relieved he pressed the button.

A moment later the weaponsystems of Explorer shut down. Surely they were scanning for Horizon too, finding it had gone too far out be pursued.

 

The presidents had convened again. Phoenix was stil a day out, so Benjamin had the undisturbed attention of them and Gabe.

“Admiral Benjamin Fuller. You are being accused of mutiny, how do you plead?”

“Not guilty.” What else could I say? “Seeing as there were no orders from my superiors regarding Horizon, I am innocent of insubordination, and mutiny as well, as Admiral Gabe May is not my superior officer.” The ambassador from the Kismet crew was present, Seymour sat in the witness stand.

A few senators and the press were present at the trial, that had been called in quite a rush. “Regardless, you ordered to open fire on the Explorer, is that correct?” Mgabe raised another question. “I ordered a lock on the Explorer canons, with the addition to fire at will.” They made it easy for him to avoid federal charges. The hearing was live streamed into the network to a broader audience. To convict him based on what they asked and what he replied would be harder with each passing moment.

President Mgabe knew as well. Did he see intent in her expression? She did not want to convict him of these crimes!

Merely wanted him out of the office of Admiral. “Why did you give that specific order?” She looked down to her computer display for a moment, then back up at him.

“Prior to Horizon’s defection I contacted Admiral Jane Mulgrew. She informed me that she had asked her entire crew to vote on whether or not to leave. They elected to do just that. When Explorer aimed their guns at the Horizon, I gave that order. So they would not destroy, damage or hurt the Horizon and her crew.” He paused looking at Gabe for a moment, who was staring at him with an intense glare. “We are not a totalitarian regime that keeps a group of its citizens, or denizens, from leaving, by shooting at them. We are not a union that needs to be held together by whatever force necessary. Horizon did not so much defect, than secede. We were all born and raised on these ships. You can’t help but agree that they are much more than just mere means of transportation or orbital weapon platforms. They were homes, and still are. Hence, this is not a defection, but a secession, an act that can’t be seen as something we must prevent by force, but one that should give us pause, and reflect upon what had led us there.” Benjamin slowly looked around the court room. Some of the people present nodded in agreement with him. “My order to fire at the weapons of Explorer was an act of peace. To prevent unnecessary hostility between ourselves. Really we should investigate why an Order had been given to fire upon a peacefully leaving vessel.”

Folding his hands behind his back Benjamin straightened, making himself appear taller.

“However, I accept full responsibility for the actions taken, and will take my leave. A dishonourable discharge from the service, and a permanent ban from boarding any terran or equatorian vessels.” Again some of the people nodded, a few seemed shocked and outraged that he proposed such a thing.

Julia Mgabe looked to her fellow presidents, who nodded in agreement. “It is settled then.” The three presidents rose.

“Admiral Benjamin Fuller, this court is accepting the fact that you acted out of loyalty to the human race and the democracy we are trying to uphold. Still, your actions were not suitable for an officer of the fleet. Therefore you are discharged without honor, a permanent ban on boarding any and all space faring vessels that belong to our domain. Dismissed!”

Retirement. Finally. George will be so happy to hear that. The kids will be even more thrilled. Benjamin had to concentrate not to smile.

“What?” Gabe May jumped to his feet. “What about him enabling the theft of valuable property of the colony?”

Julia turned her glance towards him. “Admiral May, the court is going to recess, after which your acts of unrest will be subject to a court hearing. As former Admiral Fuller had stated, Horizon is not property, but a territory that had seceded. Their pods were the ones they had arrived in. Horizon’s people are not being abducted, although we will try to communicate with them im order to verify that. Your actions endangered lives. Former Admiral Fuller’s actions were unacceptable, but simply a reaction to your unacceptable actions.” All color faded from Admiral May’s face.

With quite some satisfaction Benjamin realised that Gabe had ended his career as much as he had ended his. “Everything I did was for the well being of the colony! That cannot be a crime!”

“Admiral May. You are hereby under arrest. Your intentions are not being questioned, but your actions, how you intended to put your intentions to work.”

Still fighting the urge to smile Benjamin could not help but think of an old saying. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

 

After the session had been adjourned for recess, Ben was free to go, as his testimony was on record.

He returned to the former pod where he and his family lived when on Equatoria.

“Admiral?” A woman approached him from a side alley, she held a tablet in her hands, but wore clothes that looked like she worked with plants. “Not any more, how may I help you?” A kind smile appeared on her lips. Without further words she handed him the tablet. It was an old model, and had seen better days.

A text message was on display.

From Jane.

 

Ben, I wished we had parted on better terms.

Claudia will bring you this message, she is one of the few Horizon citizens who elected to stay on RV-p296, but otherwise she is loyal to me.

Call me paranoid, but it had always been my suspicion that things with our government are awry. Even if it is just their eagerness to get their hands on technology we are not yet ready to handle. Antimatter is too dangerous for us to handle.

We may have evolved past the limited horizons that we had when we set out from earth, but we are not yet capable of seeing past our own desires and convenience. The seeder movement constantly fighting to get terran crops on RV-p296’s soil is a prime example, it could and would spell desaster for the native species of RV-p296, yet they persist, and gain momentum. Sooner or later the rules and regulations will fall, and they will have their way. What that will mean for our new found home, is beyond even my imagination.

And that is a bleak one.

Despite all this, I had never tuly intended to secede, up until now. You may be right about the Phoenix, but still. Are we ready for antimatter? I think not.

Our leaders are just as blindly grabbing what ever new technologies come their way as corporations were in our history: barely understood, underdeveloped technology is taken and used without ever even considering what the consequences are, or might be. Investiagtions in existing technologies with a lot of potential are discontinued, because they seem outdated.

Dawn Horizon has two state of the art fusion reactors, and I am confident they can get us far, we have fully equipped gardens and facilities. Do not worry about us. Worry for yourself.

Love, Jane.

 

Reflecting the kind smile Ben handed the tablet back. “Thank you.” Claudia nodded and turned to leave. “Where is she going?”

“I do not know.” Benjamin could see in her eyes that she was lying. She knew, but she would not tell.

Probably for the better, if the subject ever came up in an investigation, he would not have to either lie, or tell on his friend.

 

Again the insects chirped, they began when the sun was setting, and continued on well into the night. Benjamin had seen plenty of old movies to know that such behaviour was also common place on earth.

George was, just as he had predicted, relieved over his loss of employment. No more would he have to share his beloved husband with Destiny. Since they already had been on a long shore leave on Equatoria, most of their personal belongings were already down on the planet, George would gather the rest in the upcoming days.

A disturbing feeling of dejavu overcame Benjamin when he again met with a man in uniform who appeared at his doorstep.

“What is it now? I’m not an Admiral any longer.”

“The Phoenix has entered orbit, a certain Doctor Kurt Braun expressed his eager wish to meet with you.” Sergeant Killroy saluted, immediately assumed a less official posture when he remembered that Benjamin was no longer a superior officer.

“Tomorrow.” Ben nodded, turning back around.

Finding it odd that Doctor Braun wanted to meet him of all people, Benjamin sat down in the living room. Questions of quarantine began bubbling up in his mind. The original crews arriving at RV-p296 were pretty irresponsible themselves. Although the implants sheltered them from most pathogens, they still could’ve brought some diseases with them. Common cold could travel with local wildlife, migrating animals to the native intelligent species and wipe them out.

Since the populations of the three ships were isolated from one another for generations, Horizon could’ve brought a batch of viruses with them the Explorer crew could not handle.

He found it remarkable that none of these things happened. Was Phoenix and its crew also clean enough? After all, they were separated from them too. What if they brought something?

Then again, shouldn’t the crew of Orion either have fallen victim to new illnesses, or passed some along to the crew of Explorer?

 

Some time during the morning Benjamin was awoken by George. Apparently he had fallen asleep pondering about viruses, pathogens, so called super bugs, and quarantine procedures. “Good morning sunshine, late night pondering gone on into the early hours?”

Enjoying the tender embrace of his husband Benjamin leaned back, for a kiss.

“Just thoughts not leaving my head, I even dreamt of viruses and sickness.” Making a face filled with questions best left unanswered George stood up. “I’ll get our stuff in the afternoon, after lecture. The kids will spend the day at school, so you can kick back and relax.” Vacation over already? “Then I will just enjoy the humid heat, right after I’ve met with Doctor Braun.” He almost had forgotten the scientist from Mars, explained it to George in quick words.

 

“As long as you’re not joining him on the Phoenix, have fun.” George grabbed his tablet and left after breakfast.

“I won’t honey, definitely.” At least I would not do it without you and our children. Quickly he cleaned up kitchen and living room, took a shower and left to meet Doctor Braun.

 

Meeting the scientist in a public cafeteria had been the Doctors idea. Since he had no knowledge of the layout of Equatoria, other than simple maps, he did not know much about anything in the colony.

Benjamin was astonished at the height of the man. He himself was not a short fellow, but this man towered over him. “Human growth had evolved for gravity of earth. RV-p296’s gravity is almost the same. But Mars is significantly less. At least from growth rate perspectives.” He pointed at a few other people significantly taller than the people of Equatoria, clearly having noticed Benjamin’s wonder.

“I see.” Ben smiled, pointing at a table. “Shall we take a seat?”

After sitting down Ben could not help but ask why Kurt wanted to see him.

“Curiosity, mostly. Yours was the first non martian face I have ever seen. Other than what we had on record I mean.” Flashing the man a friendly, and somewhat flattered, smile Benjamin took a sip of his tea. “And I was given to understand that our arrival had caused some turmoil? You lost your position?”

They were quickly inaugurated on what happened. Their sensors probably told them most of what had been going on, just needed to fill in a few gaps. “Yes, Admiral Jane Mulgrew adamantly protested letting the Phoenix come here. Nothing personal, mind you, just she doesn’t trust antimatter.”

“After what had happened to her ship with the, let us say, conventional technology, that does not surprise me.” Kurt had, had access to the reports sent to Mars via the MISR, so he knew all about the Horizon and her fate. “Since her protests in the senate fell on deaf ears, partly due to me, she decided to leave.”

It would take a while to tell him all of Jane’s reasons, could he trust the visitor? “But truth be told, antimatter technology was just the tip of the iceberg that made her form that decision.” Since Kurt already knew about the colony’s predicament with the local plant life producing no lysine, and the policy for non indigenous crops, Benjamin just had to explain what the seeder movement was. A brilliant scientist like Kurt undoubtedly connected the dots.

“Are the gardens in the Orion class ships your only source for lysine? Because then I could understand why Horizon was fired upon.”

“No, they’re not. They were for the first two years, after that most of our lysine crops were farmed on the moon base, and much of it comes from laboratories.”

 

A moment of silence passed between the two.

 

“Shall we catch up to Horizon? She is travelling slow enough for us to do that.” Kurt stirred his cup of tea. Herbal tea, made from plants found on RV-p296.

Ben did not know.

A decision like that was not in his power anymore.

“Take that question to the presidents, if it was up to me, I’d say let her go. Jane is an intelligent woman. She and her crew know what they are doing.” A sudden itching feeling of doubt, and curiosity overcame Benjamin.

A small spark of hope that his security clearance had not been deleted yet made him yearn for a terminal. “We should turn to lighter subjects.” Another broad smile from Benjamin. “How is life on Mars. Reading about it, or hearing in audio logs, is one thing. First hand stories, another.”

 

After several hours of chatting with Kurt, Ben returned home. He had gotten a message from his husband that he was now going to Destiny gathering their stuff, and that Benjamin should not wait with dinner. Their children were still at school, so Ben had the entire afternoon for himself.

And the computer.

Much to his satisfaction in most systems the security clearance had not been deleted yet, so accessing data was not a hassle.

Something that Kurt had said bothered him. Horizon was slow enough for them to catch her.

Although she had been patched together again, Horizon was sort of a broken ship. Stable enough for slow travel, but she would never again reach her top speeds. Reaching another solar system, even the closest one, was not a question of three generations, but of at least twice that number. So where was Jane taking her?

All ships had been outfitted with quantum entanglement communication devices, after Kurt had revealed their functionality to the colony. Accessing Horizon’s database was therefore not that difficult.

When he read through the maintenance logs he stopped in awe.

 

Due to her lower mass and size, Horizon had been equipped with a new prototype engine. It functioned similarly to the drive on the Ark-class ships, or the MISR, but without antimatter to fuel the energy requirements, the efficiency was greatly reduced.

A line from her letter on Claudias tablet came to his mind “Dawn Horizon has two state of the art fusion reactors, and I am confident they can get us far“.

Although the spine of Horizon could no longer bear the shocks of the explosions pushing the ship forward, Horizon was faster than anything else Equatoria had to offer.

He leaned forward again, depositing a short message to Jane in the Horizon database, advising her to change security codes, unless she wanted to get hacked and stranded in space.

Now he knew why Gabe wanted to stop Horizon. He probably had hoped to gain command over the sturdy little ship himself.

Reflecting on the facts he just had uncovered Benjamin leaned back again. Surely there were plans to install similar engines in the other Orion-class ships. But Horizon’s extensive damage and the work required to restore her to a functional state were the perfect opportunity for installing it covertly.

 

Carefully redacting his traces in the system before logging out of the networks, Benjamin spent the rest of the afternoon haunched over the computer. Constantly asking himself why so many things in their supposed utopian society were covert operations.

Phoenix on Mars? Secret.

MISR? Secret.

Horizon’s new engine? Secret.

What else was being kept under covers? His trust in humanity began to wane. Jane, the one person he would’ve thought not to be involved in black ops, was aboard a ship with a secret engine. It also showcased why she so vehemently opposed antimatter. They had other, less dangerous, technology. It was experimental, but in time it could surpass its limitations. “You hypocrite.” He snared at the blank screen. Had she herself not written that underdeveloped, untested technology was rolled out?

Now she rolled on such underdeveloped and untested technology through the universe, with Horizon’s destination still unknown to him.

 

The door opened, half startled that it might be a security detail taking him in for questioning because they did notice his activities, Ben jumped from his seat. “Hi dad!”

“Are you early, or did I forget time?” A wave of hot and humid air rolled past the children, waltzing over him, seemingly washing away all the sinister, secretive things that lay brooding in the dark of political hickhack. “You forgot.” Charlie grinned, standing in the door, an invite to play with them on his face.

Time to enjoy life. Benjamin walked towards the open door. Time to enjoy life indeed.

Vacation Pics

Plitvica Lakes Nationalpark

Plitvica Lakes Nationalpark

Plitvica Lakes Nationalpark

Plitvica Lakes Nationalpark

Plitvica Lakes Nationalpark

Plitvica Lakes Nationalpark

The trip to the park took 4 hours. Back, another 4 hrs. Plus more than 3 hours hiking.

I had managed to snap a few pictures without people in them. Trust me. That’s an accomplishment.

(If you have questions, I’m open to answering them. Try my mastodon: @augur@metalhead.club)

The sea. The beautiful sea.

The (tiny) Dragon of Rovinj. ^^

If any of you ever make it to Croatia, to Istria in particular, try this beer. It’s a bit costly (thanks honey! <3), but worth every Kuna and Lipa.

Never, ever have I tasted a better beer. Every taste, every note and smell that’s supposed to be in it, IS in it: A note of coffe, with a creamy smoothness of cocoa, a hint of lemon. On top of the goodness of a really good dark beer.

Usually when something is supposed to taste like something, I don’t get that taste.

No. I’m not paid for this. An insignificant schmuck like me doesn’t get promotion deals. (Dear Bujska Pivovara, brewers, IF you read this, and want to thank me for this endorsement – I wouldn’t say no a bottle San Servolo tamno or two…)

In case you want to learn more about this beer…

Rovinj in the distance.

The beautiful and lush hotel grounds of Hotel Amarin

Take care, and may you have a vacation as beautiful as ours.

A.

The Digitally Dilapidated

During our stay in a four star hotel at the beautiful istrian beach, with warm, clear waters and a great view on Rovinj, I noticed something.
Parents, kids of all ages, entire families, couples, all just watching/reading shit of their phones, tablets, and in one case, a laptop even.

At breakfast, lunch, dinner, beach, pool, wherever.
“What did you see during your vacation in Coratia?”
“YouTube, Facebook and Instagram”
Fuck you.

Here, my conviction, that smartphones aren’t made for us, got it’s final veneer. Perhaps some future generation that is truly capable of multitasking might take advantage of this stuff, but it is not for us.

Instead of spending time with their families, their spouses, their parents, their siblings, their children, or just plain taking in the vistas, nature, clean air and relative silence, people are staring at their phones! Instead of getting away from the shit that they are confronted with daily at home, they take it with them EVERYWHERE, and then wonder, why they do not feel relaxed.
I had people at the hike through the Plitvica Lakes Nationalpark, looking at their phones, occasionally looking up, going “wow” snapping a crappy cellphone picture and then continue typing/reading shit.

For Fucks Sake! LIVE IN THE REAL WORLD! Not the virtual world. Converse with one another, and get more substance out of fewer connections, instead of more connections with less substance.
Moronic cancers of human (de)evolution.
Take care, and put away those fucking devices, make a scheduled “social media (half)hour” once a day, and other than that, no social media, no texts/messages. Same with news. Just calls.
A.

Vacation things

Grab a bunch of people from a variety of 4 star resorts at 0730 on a day long hiking (!) excursion to a bunch of lakes and
.a) half of them will not be dressed for the occasion: Flipflops and hiking don’t go together.
.b) half of them will have munched through their lunch packages by 0830.
.c) some will have NO or INSUFFICIENT hydration rations with them. There was this one hipster dude with a .33 liter drinking bag for himself and his girlfriend. The faucets in the park were ALL marked as “Water not drinkable”. I carried 1.5 liters for myself alone and still had to buy additional stuff.

To quote Scar from the Lion King: I’m surrounded by idiots…

A.