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

Covid19 shenanigans

Day 17 of self isolation / pseudo quarantine.

Telecommuting / Homeoffice.

You know what?

Screw this. Time to don the old pelt and staff.

Time for

the forbidden incantations…

Yep. Going crazy.

Cabin fever.

Woop woop.

Wash your hands. Stay home. Take care, A.

Covid19 shenanigans

Day14 of self isolation / pseudo quarantine.

The new shopping attire. Finally I might be able to leave the house.

Still stuck in telecommuting / Homeoffice. Still stuck at home. Only playing with Playmobil on the balcony…

Wash your hands, keep your distance, stay at home, be safe, and, as always, take care.

A.

Covid19 shenanigans

On day 2 of selfisolation/pseudo-quarantine I shaved my head – mostly because I thought “hey, I don’t have to see people for a while now, if this looks like shit, I can just sit it out”

I am already follically challengend (aka going bald) so it’s not that much of a change. ^^

On day 10 I’m ready to hop into this (imaginary/toy) rocket to get out of here.

Take care, wash your hands. Stay inside (your rocket ship). Be healthy and act responsibly.

A.

Covid19 shenanigans.

Day 9 of selfisolation (aka pseudo quarantine).

Had to increase the daily workout to 500kcal per workout (in roughly an hour) as a coping mechanism – telecommuting/Homeoffice sounds like fun until it is your daily routine, while also doing homeschooling, housework, making (improvised) food from provisions and trying to keep your sanity, all day everyday.

What is funny is that most supermarkets can’t deliver groceries right now, because they’re booked out.
By young(ish) people.

Because the old people, those who are most at risk by that virus, those whom we are trying to protect – they don’t give a fuck.
My mum (70+) is going shopping once a week and visiting people.
My neighbors (~60+) go jogging and shopping almost daily.
I see predominantly elderly people (or families) on the streets when I look down from our balcony.
So why exactly are we doing this again? To flatten the fucking curve? There’ll be no endangered population left once the curve has been flattened sufficiently! The old people will be dead, the vulnerable will be dead because some grandma somewhere coughed in the wrong direction and the healthy population that can take that virus will be sitting at home – again, now sick as fuck – wondering why they endured this quarantine BS on the first place.

Regardless of my humorous words, people, please stay home, wash your hands, and stay safe.
A.

PS: If you’re wondering whether I have time to write between dayjob, and the rest – no. I need peace and quiet, ALONE time, to write. I don’t have anything alone. My workout time, but that is reserved for workout, to stay SANE. 😉

Rings of Fate S5xE2 – Phoenix – Time pt.3

“It’s the Ronin seven, they replicated the procedure.” Kurt was greeted to the Bridge with a statement of the situation. A look at the viewscreen confirmed the presence of the sturdy ship, but also that the Alarm was unjustified.

After getting hit by the magnetically charged acid that burned through their hull the Ronin seven dragged on and followed Phoenix by imitating their behavior and settings from the database procured through the QEN.

But that time jump had wreaked final havoc on the proud and majestic warrior. “We ought to do something. If we don’t, they will crash down to earth.” Maryjane had beaten Kurt to the bridge, she stood next to Rich, a tablet in her hand. “By my estimates they would all die, but their ship would survive reentry. In large enough pieces to cause further alterations on the time line.”

Figures. Also walking over to Rich Bauman, Kurt glanced on the console. “We could pull them out.”

“With what? They’re too fast and too close to earth to try and use Phoenix’s mass to pull them away, and I doubt we’re going to ram them out of the way.” Maryjane fiercely pushed her chin forward, as to defy him and his idea.

“Grappling.” Regina interjected, hearing her words Rich drew up schematics of the spearhead section of Phoenix. There was the capability of shooting grappling tethers onto other ships or bodies in space. As Phoenix was designed as a frontier ship, also capable of setting up mining operations, it was designed to haul in asteroids in case they should be mined.

“They will not like that, what if they become operational again?” Doctor Hutzinger’s voice was sharp, showing a fatal flaw in the plan.

“If they do, they might be grateful enough not to murder us all. We are not like them. We won’t let them plunge down to earth, to burn up in the atmosphere, so we can pick up the debris later!” Rejecting any delay of the plan Regina turned away from the trio. Besides, I don’t want to spend another week, or weeks, or months picking up debris that might change the future, again.

 

Beads of sweat stood on Toryama’s forehead as he carefully navigated the Phoenix’s spear head into position to begin the rescue operation. There were no hails of any sorts from the Ronin seven. “Launching grappling tethers.” Zhu had the difficult responsibility to grapple on to the other ship, as her normal duties as communication officer were not needed at the present time.

“Three down, one missfired, one did not connect. Rewinding and retrying.”

The rewinding process took a felt eternity, nervously the bridge crew stared at the screen. If the Ronin seven was to start an offensive against their rescuers, it’d be at that moment when the tethers were all connected.

Again the two fired, hit the targeted area and yanked into a tight position. “Alright, bring us up.” Reclining in her seat Zhu was glad the difficult part for her was over, now the burden was lying on Toryama again.

Slowly the two ships gained altitude, while the Ronin seven still showed no signs of activity.

“Prepare an assault charge, we need to take control of that ship once it is operational again.” Regina turned to Rich who saluted, left his post to gather a team.

To ensure that the Ronin would not assume an attack position all of a sudden the tethers were to remain connected, as they could be disengaged at any time, but that way Phoenix would have an advanced warning.

 

“Alright Joe, we have located the thing. Now what?” Major Adamovic stared at the display. “Can we go down there?”

“We sure can, but will it do any good?” Again Joanne Carlin was his pilot of choice, other than those two they only had one other man aboard. Linus Tuovinen, who was the chief engineer, and knew exactly what to look for. “Aye, it was never tested, but theoretically the pods can dive.” He leaned forward in his seat, a strange calm confidence in his voice gave James and Joanne the same confidence in the vessel’s ability to dive. Metallurgical scanners had detected the pieces they had lost, on the ocean floor, now it was time to do something about that.

Carefully Joanne pointed the nose of their pod at the water and began descending. Previous experience had shown that the pods floated, to remain under water was therfore requiring effort on part of the pilot, just as keeping it aloft in the air was. “Once we reached it, what will do then?”

At a loss James turned to Linus. “Landing gear? Trapping it there should be no problem, the area is not connected to the cabin, and we have no reentry planned.” Still calm Linus seemed to have planned out the details of the operation.

“Wonder what is happening up there with that Ronin ship.” James leaned back after seeing their descend was going to take a while. The outside of the ship was moaning a little under the immense pressure that was exerted on it, making him feel uncomfortable.

 

“Check your sensors Phoenix.” Rich stood in the hallway of the Ronin that was behind the airlock hatch their pod had latched on to. A dozen marines accompanied him, weapons ready to shoot at everyone who seemed threatening.

“We can’t tell you anyanything we haven’t told you before.” Scans of the Ronin had concluded the crew ought to be alive, as lifesigns were detected. Still Rich stared into ghostly emptiness.

Illuminated only by the helmet mounted flashlights of their spacesuits, Rich could see. The team had no idea how well the airlock systems on the Ronin worked after the acid attack, followed by the damage brought on by the time jump.

“I’m reading an atmosphere. Breathable.”

“Don’t take off your helmet. They are not afraid of utilising pathogens, some our implants might be powerless against!” Rich recognised Kurt’s voice on the radio, waved his men to swarm out and check the adjacent rooms.

“Locked.” Was the response he got from his men, for the three doors visible. Hoping that, that was a good sign, not a trap waiting to be sprung, he gave the order to move on. “We do have a map of this place, right?” A guy, the second in command of the mission, Hendricksen, asked with a nagging undertone to his voice.

“Yes.” Replying with an annoyed tone Rich was looking at their position on the inside of his helmet. “We need to take a right in ten meters, go up a level and then we’re at the bridge, below that lies the engine room, so we’ll have to split up.”

Giving Hendricksen the command of the second group was standard procedure, but Rich had doubts. He seemed too trigger happy the way he handled the gun. “Freisinger, what’s on sensors?” A man with a small device mounted on his forearm got slower, glancing down on the display. “Bridge and engine room filled with people, otherwise we’re clear.”

Did Phoenix read this too? Or was the ship shielded in a way that allowed for their sensors to only locate the general presence of lifeforms, but not their precise locations?

Small tremors reverberated through the ship, moaning and screeching on the structure.

Feeling as if they should get out of there and leave Ronin seven and her crew to their fate, it was hard for the team to go on. Especially in the semi darkness of the corridors.

“We have a problem, sir.” It was Freisinger, stopping at a corner. “I’m reading a power source in the center of the hallway, but the tube, or whatever they call it, is dead.”

Looking around, there was nothing that Rich could use to either throw or hold out into the hallway. “I’ll check it out, sir.”

“No, it’s too dangerous, Hendricksen.” Rich pondered on a way to get to the bottom of the mysterious energy source in the hallway without endangering anybody. At his side Hendricksen dismounted the camera from the suit, held it out in the thick gloved hands, between index finger and thumb. “All that could happen is, I lose the cam and two fingers.”

“And containment.” Finding no alternative to the plan proposed by the marine Rich then nodded. “Alright, but be careful.”

Programmed to transmit it’s image to all the men in the group Hendricksen inched to the corner. Slowly extended his hand, the camera facing in the hallway they were about to enter.

Almost immediately a series of discharges hit the wall and corner, Hendricksen withdrew his hand faster than anyone had thought possible. “A turret.”

 

A few minutes passed in which Hendricksen calmed down and the others had to gather their courage as well. “Now what?” The still shacken Marine asked, the terror in his face obscured by forgiving darkness.

“Freisinger, can you hack it?” Not wasting any more time Rich got up, turning the volume from the exterior Microphone up, to listen if there was any movement of the Ronin crew.

Surely they had to have been alarmed by the sudden gun fire. “Detecting no frequencies. It must be autautomated.” And battery operated. Thinking to himself Rich kicked the floor, a mechanical sound from the turret replied to his stomp like sound. So it also listens. “Alright, ready your guns. We’re trying something.” Hoping that it also had heat detection, and priorized hot signatures, Rich raised his gun while going to the other side of the corridor, still hidden from view. He targeted the opposite corner, while the marines readied themselves at the corner where he just had stood.

The laser from his gun hit the wall, creating a hot spot, immediately the turret opened fire at that point, to which one of the guys jumped the corner and fired at the turret, receiving a salve of shots himself.

“Fuck! Leroy!” Hendricksen pulled his dead friend back around the corner, a few shots from the turret followed him.

Opening the helmet of Leroy Hendricksen realised that all hope for him was gone. The eyes looked up at him in a fixed stare of death, a trickle of blood ran from his chest up the neck of Leroy. “We’ve known each other since kindergarten. He was my best friend.” Hendricksen cried, tears went down his cheeks, unseen by his comrades. “Don’t worry mate. You have not died in vain.”

Rich was about to say something, but in that moment Hendricksen yanked off the helmet of his dead buddy, and threw it across the hallway, gunshots from the turret followed it, Hendricksen threw himself around the corner, firing relentlessly at the turret.

Shocked and surprised Rich and the others watched, but were astonished at the accuracy of Hendricksen’s shooting, as the turret did not open fire at him, but remained silent.

“It is toast sir.” In his voice Rich heard that he was crying. Not the proud mentality he came to expect from Hendricksen, but a whimper of a man who had just avenged his best friend’s death.

“Bring Leroy back to the pod, secure the position there. Got it Hendricksen?” Rich too came around the corner, the cylindrical turret had a gaping hole in its center. Still it was powered, but obviously Hendricksen had taken out the vital part that controlled it.

 

Slowly Freisinger approached the turret, while Hendricksen dragged Leroy back to their ship. “Weapon systems are still on, but it lost its sensors and control unit.” He deduced, reaching in he pulled a few connectors out. “Now it is completely dead.”

Splitting up the group up was easy, while Hank Black took half of the group to engineering, Rich and Freisinger opened the hatch to a ladder system, connecting the individual decks. It was listed in the blueprints they had procured from the database, but at first glance Rich had not paid them attention.

Outside the ladder on the deck of the bridge the small scanner on Freisinger’s hand registered two people.

Guessing that they too must’ve been upset by the firing turret below, Rich wanted to stay calm, despite the fact he felt his pulse in his throat.

He and another man squatted down to the sides of the closed hatch. Freisinger, only his helmet showed in the ladder opening, gestured that they were moving down the hall.

As elegantly as possible in the clunky space suits, Rich and the other guy opened the hatch and spung outside, the two crewmen they had surprised dropped the heavy turret they were carrying. Other than the defensive automated wapon, they seemed unarmed. Immediately they barked something in Japanese.

I hadn’t thought of turning on a translator. “Raise your hands!” Obviously the two did not understand him either, his external speaker was on however, he had made sure of that.

For a moment the two crewmen exchanged a glance. One raising a hand to touch a wrist mounted device of his own, the two leaned to the sides, ready to jump out of the hallway. Rich shot at the man, removing the device from his wrist, along with the rest of the hand, his comrade stunned the other guy, who was now lying on the floor, twitching.

Quickly the two hurried to the wounded man, kicked the damaged device away, as it could be either a weapon or a control device for the turret.

He was shouting in pain. “He’s warning the bridge crew of our presence!” Freisinger followed up to them, along with the other two guys in his team.

One of the two shot the inactive turret, before it might get activated by someone else.

Passed out from the pain, the guy with the control device was dragged around a corner. Meanwhile Rich walked over to the stunned other one. Only in the bright light of his lamp did he realise that it was a woman.

“Wake up.” He barked, automatically translated by the computer in his suit. Gently he patted her cheeks. For a moment he pondered whether he’d be as nice to a man. “Wake up!” Reluctantly her eyes fluttered open.

“Tell your captain to surrender!” A defiant smile on her lips the woman spit at Rich, jerked her jaw around and bit on something. “Fuck! This is,” he couldn’t finish his sentence as her body slumped back to the floor.

Suicide pills. Probably hidden in a fake tooth. “Suicide is more honorable than capture.” He heard the monotone voice of the translator speak to him.

A man in plain clothing stood in the hallway. Only his colar was richly decorated. “You have saved this ship from burning up in the atmosphere, that’s when we decided to hand out the pills, so we can’t be taken prisoners.”

Behind his helmet Rich made a frown. “We’re not here to take prisoners. But we also cannot let you stay here, or hinder us from achieving our goal.”

“We’re at an impasse it would seem, because we cannot let you achieve your goal.” Only you are in no position to stop us. For a moment Rich wondered why no other ships from the Armada have showed up. Figuring that due to the presence of the ships in Earth’s past the future has already been changed, no matter what the outcome would be, the timeline they had left no longer connected with the past they existed in at that moment. “I have given orders to destroy this ship, my crew will gladly die for our cause.”

It was a sentence drenched in pride. Although the translator did not transport the emotion of the Captain, or what ever his rank was, his posture told Rich everything he needed to know. “Engineering is welded shut, your people can not enter it, unless they cut through the reinforced doors. Our core is being rigged to detonate this ship as we speak.”

Heat rushed to Rich’s head, he felt his cheeks burn, cold sweat gathered on his forehead. “Attention, Hank, fall back to the turret. Now!”

Rich got to his feet. “It does not have to end this way. You could come to our time line with us.”

A calm smile appeared on the Captain’s lips. “To be the outcast aliens you were in ours? I do not think so.” That sentence told Rich that he and his team were not going to be hindered from leaving the Ronin seven. A weird sense of understanding formed in both of the men.

Would Rich decide any differently if he had no chance of correcting the time line in any way possible? He figured not. “You will die with honor, sir.” Rich indicated a bow.

“Good luck in returning home.” The captain did the same.

 

Upon receiving the updates from Rich Bauman, Regina was not pleased, but she too understood the decision the Captain of the Ronin seven, and his crew, had made. Disgruntled she turned to Kurt who was looking equally displeased.

“We need to tow the Ronin seven out.” He lowered head and gaze to the console. “If they blow up and their tech survives even in the least, it could mean we are not returning home, and quite frankly, neither my nerves, nor the ship, could take another journey through time after we return to our time.”

Sketching a picture of either the Soviet union or the cold war era US finding technology from the Ronin seven in space at the beginning of the space age, altering the history of mankind again, perhaps even more so than what their own alterations had changed, he plotted a course for the wreckage and ensuing debris. “Or if it enters the atmosphere,  survives reentry, and is found. I get the picture.”

Ignoring the annoyance in Regina’s voice, Kurt kept typing frantically on the console. “The sun.” Zhu suggested, pointing at the star setting behind earth’s horizon. “They have no power, what if we drag them towards the sun?”

Shrugging his shoulders Kurt explored that possibility. “The antimatter in their engines might upset the delicate balance of the sun.” A horrible scenario of solar storms upsetting life on earth, spelling an end for mankind, or yet another altered human timeline, began to unfold in his mind.

“We have to bring it out of here. Before they blow up. An explosion in interstellar space should be relatively harmless.” Kurt theorised, an alarm on the console disturbed his research.

Proximity alert.

 

Scrambling to his station Rich was glad to be out of the spacesuit again, a feeling Kurt knew all too well he recalled as he surrendered the station to the first officer of Phoenix. “It’s a Harpy ship.” Kurt heard as he left for his own workplace in the adjacent control centre.

“Hail them.” Curious as to what would happen now, Regina turned to the viewscreen. A skeptical looking Harpy appeared on the screen. “Please do not be alarmed.” Regina began, hearing the translation the Harpy’s expression changed to pure astonishment. “How can you communicate with us? We have never encountered your species, you are technologically not advanced enough to have covertly listened to our communication!”

Beginning to grasp what Kurt felt since they first traveled through time, the utter insanity of saying they have traveled through time. “We thought it impossible, but we have actually traveled back in time, and you discovering us, poses a new problem.” Another realisation hit Regina.

Another communication line was activated, from Kurt’s office. “We can offer you data we have gathered. Scans of the planet below will reveal the presence of our species, but no capability of building vessels like ours.”

Confusion replaced the other expression on the face of the Harpy. Too much information, especially the bits about timetravel, had been showered on her.

“Reading an energy buildup in Ronin seven.” The same reading was shouted to the commander of the Harpy ship. “Do you need assistance?”

“Well, the crew of the ship we have in tow decided to destroy both their ship and themselves along with it. We must protect the timeline, and need ways to ensure that no harm comes to the life on the planet, or that their technology is preserved in any way.”

Almost as if she wanted to bite someone the Harpy’s head snapped to the side, she gave a command to take the Ronin seven into tow.

Yanked from the tether cables the Harpy ship pulled the Ronin seven with an energy beam.

“We have theories about tractor beams. But seeing it happen is something else.” Kurt’s voice came mumbling from the intercom.

Apparently he had accessed the sensors. Not waiting around for more explanations the Harpy ship engaged their engines. Using the presumably brief moment until the Harpies should make their return, Regina requested an update from the ground, or rather underwater, crew. “Out of communication, the water is disrupting the signal.”

We should outfit the pods with QEN devices. “They’re coming back.” Rich watched his console attentively.

“Good. We need to iron things out.” Behind Regona the door opened, it had felt awkward for Kurt to continue from his desk, his presence on the bridge was required simply due to respect.

“I have prepared a data package for them. It leaves out events that need to play out unhindered in their civilisation too.” He handed his tablet to Regina so she could approve of it.

 

“Got it!” Sighing in relief Joanne Carlin fell back in her seat, eight times they had tried to scoop up the debris with the landing gear, seven times she had failed. All the while the hull was moaning under the immense pressure of the ocean above and around. But now the part was trapped in the landing gear compartment. “Super! Let’s get out of here.” In annoyance James too reclined in his seat.

“Steadily, just be sure there are no adverse effects on the hull.” Linus winked from his seat.

Joanne pressed a button while giving the two men a death stare, turning off the engines that kept the craft actively from floating to the surface.

During the mission she had begun to question James’ presence. She and Linus would’ve been enough. A pilot and someone to fix the craft if any malfunctions should pop up.

“Wonder what we’ll find up there. Perhaps they should fit these pods with quantum communication.” Looking at the engineer, James secretly asked himself the same question that Joanne had herself.

“More scoop up jobs, as the Ronin crashed into earth.” Grumbling Joanne slowed their ascend, expecting to be stuck in the cockpit of a pod for a long time.

“What if Ronin seven recovered, destoryed Phoenix and we can be expected to be shot down too? Or if both ships got destroyed?”

James’s scenario frightened Joanne a bit, but she maintained their slowed ascend, still the hull moaned and creaked, but due to being exposed to less stress than before.

 

“We must code our data from this encounter with a timestamp, prohibiting access before you leave for the past.” The commander of the Harpy ship, Cryva, walked next to Regina. Curious about the strange ship from the future she had decided to pay the humans a visit. The data that Kurt had prepared for them was convincing, intricate knowledge of the Harpy society, their struggles with the patriarchists, their history. Even the vessel hidden in martian soil. Regina was giving her an extended tour, explaining the recent jump technology from the ringbased simulation of gravity to the gravity generated on the Phoenix’s spear head section.

“We would be very much in your debt.” Admitting this was hard for Regina, she hated depending on the Harpies, or anyone other than herself. “In case we fail in our enterprise, we have prepared something else.” Reluctantly Regina gave the Harpy a tablet, configured to be handled by the Harpies. “Our alterations on the timeline have caused our kind to develop into a ruthless conqueror, and although you are further developed, they have sought and found a way to cause great damage to your people. Herein contained is the cure for the sickness they used. If we fail, you can still save your people.” There was an ill feeling in Regina’s stomach as she revealed that information, but also a sense of making right a wrong not yet committed.

 

As she examined the tablet Cryva’s eyes widened and then narrowed. Biological warfare was a concept the Harpies had abandoned long ago. Seeing the potential threat from the virus she was appaled. “Thank you, for trusting us to not take steps of our own to prevent the threat to our society your species poses.”

Voicing the doubts Regina had about the entire reveal of information, Cryva held the tablet close to herself. “We must. Our ship can’t withstand another time jump I am told, so if we fail, at least your people will come out of this relatively unscathed.”

Regina’s glasses rung, informing her of the return of the pod to the surface of the ocean. She exchanged a few words with James, reassuring him that they were still alive and in one piece.

Another tidbit of information flashed up on her glasses. Sensors had detected the explosion of Ronin seven, according to the Harpies that had happened, but due to the distance it only now showed up on the sensors.

 

Water poured out of the small opening in the landing gear compartment, the pod hovered above the waves, a relatively calm day had the waves not reach the ship. After most of it had drained, Joanne put the autopilot in charge of returning the pod to Phoenix. Exhausted she was glad to finally let go of the controls.

A second pilot. They should’ve brought a second pilot instead of James and his constant babbling.

Silently the ship darted upwards, cutting through the air and clouds. External view revealed a brilliantly beautiful view of the sun rising above the ocean. As they climbed the light grew brighter, soon the sun lit the north American continent.

“There’s Phoenix. Majestic as always.” Linus leaned forward, pointing at the screen. Sunlight reflected off the hull, giving the illusion that the ship itself was a shining beacon in the darkness of space.

Next to it was the beak shaped, impressive vessel the Harpies had arrived in.

Guided in by the autopilot, soon taken over by guidance from Phoenix, the pod navigated to Phoenix, swung into position, and slowly descended into the landing bay.

The landing gear was opened before the ship could dock, a remote operated drone retrieved the part from the landing bay.

Docking clamps engaged, outside the airlock door, pressure returned to normal, freeing the three people inside the craft from the confines of the pod.

“Hey, you want to hang out tonight?” It was not unusual for James to make a pass at Joanne. They had a history.

“Don’t take it personally, but I want to be alone, and as far as possible from either of you guys.” Winking with a smile, Joanne got out, stumbling into a group of their comrades and friends welcoming them back.

 

Examination of the recovered debris revealed that it was the item that had caused the change in the time line, not some rogue additional piece. The tedious journey back to the strange star was refreshingly uneventful. Kurt truly enjoyed the dull routine of getting up, doing just routine work and checks on the systems, and calling it a day afterwards.

As much as he had fond it taxing in the beginning of his time on Phoenix, he now enjoyed it. Things with Regina were slowly picking up again, as she had been shown the error of her ways with the altered time line.

A break in the routine was coming in the form of the strange star. For the first time in what felt like ages Kurt entered the bridge.

“All systems are prepared and ready. We can go back home.” He reported gleefully, taking up position at Rich’s station, who had surrendered it gladly for the delicate procedure.

“Perfect. Take us home, Doctor Braun.” A small, almost unnoticeable wink in her eye told him that she kept up the professional attitude for show.

 

As in previous encounters with the strange star, the ship rocked, knocking things over. But not again any people, as everyone was prepared for it.

A menacing moan and creak reverberated throughout the ship, sparks flew from an unprotected system, for a few moments the light went out. When they returned, Kurt looked at the console.

Surge protection had protected the systems from any severe damage, so the data was soon coming in again.

“As Linus and I feared, the spearhead section is now permanently fused with the rear.” He gave a synopsis. For once the amount of damage was irrelevant. “We should be,” Kurt picked up on the data coming in and out the QEN. “We are in our time, and time line.” Designations like RV-p296, Equatoria, PK-p222, were swirling around the network.

That was their home.

“Reading a ship. Harpy destroyer.” Kurt felt an adrenaline rush, for a moment he feared an attack, the patriarchists could’ve gotten wind of their time travels and decide to pry information about it from the vulnerable ship. “They’re hailing.” Zhu tweeted in an overly cheerful manner.

“Put them on.” Regina replied, equally cheerful.

“General Marston, I am commander Gavarth, and it is my honor to extend the congratulations of the matriarchy on being the first known time travellers.” She read off a screen. She put down the device she was reading off of. “We thank you for the trust put into us, and our ancestors. Although some might question why you haven’t warned us about tragedies in our culture, or between our people, others understand. Digitalys had to happen, it was bound to happen, if not on that particular colony, then another. The initial misunderstanding between our species, had to happen so a mutual relationship could evolve.” Gavarth paused in her speech. “I can not say I would’ve acted the same way in your situation, I would’ve tried changing history to a beneficial outcome.”

“Trust me, the temptation was there commander, but seeing the implications of one accidental alteration this temptation withered away.” Not having expected a welcoming comittee, Regina was thrown off guard by the presence of the Harpies.

With a bening glance in her eyes the Harpy commander looked at Regina. “Forgive us for this unexpected hold up. It was inconsiderate.”

“It is not inconsiderate, I just had not expected anyone awaiting our return. Perhaps once we have overcome all the ill effects of the latest jump we can continue this conversation?”

Still displaying her benign glance Gavarth nodded. “Perhaps.”

Rings of Fate S5xE1 – Phoenix – Time pt.2

Regina looked to Kurt, devastation in her eyes. The scientist shook his head in disbelief.

“Check the date with theirs, perhaps this is a mistake and we overshot it.” Regina’s hopes banked on the humans out there referring to RV-p296 as earth, and that they traveled too far, into the future.

“The date’s is alright.” Kurt grumbled from Rich’s station, who was pale as chalk in his chair. “We need to turn the QEN off.” He pressed the buttons to do just that. If the Phoenix could link into the network of the people out there, they could do the same.

By the first glimpses caught by Rich, and now Kurt, they were technologically more superior than anything Kurt had ever seen.

Perhaps rivalled only by linkers and of course Harpies.

“Kohaku, lay in a course for an empty patch of space, far away from any POI we know of, perhaps that’ll be a place where they are not. I’ll be supplying you with some antimatter asap.”

Regina had sunk into her chair as well as Rich, pale and devastated, she could only nod in agreement when Toryama looked to her for confirmation of Kurt’s orders.

After a few minutes a signal beeped on Kurt’s console. “We’re out of the worst, attempting to make our fuel.” All the while Kurt flashed angry glances to Regina.

She noticed, but could not react.

 

“Nothing close by.” Kohaku Toryama sighed, it had taken hours to reach necessary levels to engage the engines. “Good.” In the meantime Regina had recovered enough from her shock to resume her duties as General.

“I know now why this has happened.” Rich too had recovered, sitting slumped in his chair, he had studied the database they lifted from the QEN. “It’s our fault.” He added, as the main viewscreen was not required at the time he put the information on that screen. “Japan had entered World War two, but surrendered very quickly. Not because they had any trouble in supplying the war efforts, but because they feared losing their most valuable possession.” An image appeared, it was grainy, age had not treated the image well before it was digitised. It showed some piece of metal in a staff.

“In a coastal shrine, a monk was put to rest. It is believed that he, or his predecessor, had found this piece in the wake of a tsunami. Only during the industrialisation of war had it become clear that the unique relict had more properties to it than just the assumed divine powers.” A clearer image was displayed. Regina gasped at the sight of it. “A piece of the electronics blown out from the lander?”

“Affirmative.” Rubbing his temple Rich got up, wandered around his console to the main viewscreen. “They surrendered, so this would not be destroyed, or fall into enemy hands should the war be lost. By the nineteen fifties they had developed technologies we know from the late 20th century. By the turn of the millennium they had, peacefully, conquered the world, and space exploration was in full swing. Martian colonies and settlements further out in the solar system.”

Quietly Regina listened on as he explained that the new earth, completely different than what they all had known from history classes, skipped the nuclear age for the most part. In her mind she was trying to figure out how earth could be saved from the devastating effects of the neutron star.

 

“…which then led to earth’s salvation. They sped it away, in essence.”

Suddenly alert Regina stared at the screen. “How?”

“Complicated, I don’t understand the science behind it.” Rich had sat back down while elaborating the differences between their timeline and the one they had found themselves in.

Discreetly Regina typed a message to Kurt on her console, soon after she received an automated reply telling her that he was not at his desk, but currently under way repairing systems that had gotten damaged in the time jump, and that he would read the messages as soon as he could.

“But they saved Earth.” Sighing he slumped back into his seat. “Because of debris they found from our pod.”

Sensing a philosophical debate around the corner Regina felt uncomfortable. It was exactly what she had wanted. Earth, and all its denizens were alive and safe. But it was almost exactly what Kurt had warned about.

They had not seized to exist, but the present they had returned to was not theirs. An entirely different world was out there.

“Ma’am?” Zhu sounded alarmed, almost panicked. “There is a ship close by.” Upon her command inputs the screen displayed the data she received on her console. “I believe it’s the Sakura.”

Cursing, Regina sat up straight. “Prepare thrusters, prepare main engines.”

“They could catch up to us, always.” Rich interjected.

 

A moment of silence passed. Regina felt the Adrenaline pump through her system. What should she be doing now?

If the Sakura got wind of who, or what, they were, what that meant for them and their existence, how would they react? How would human civilisation react?

If they learned that they lived only due to an accident?

An accident that the Phoenix intended to correct?

“Open the QEN.” For a moment she hinged her thoughts on the QEN. The quantum entanglement network worked because of quantum particles being entangled, but their entangled particle should be entangled with nothing in this time line. Could it be possible that there were now several particles entangled with theirs?

A headache announced itself.

“They’re gaining on us.” Zhu had managed to overcome her panic. At least in her voice.

“Receiving a radio transmission. It’s in Japanese, translator is working.” Doubling as communication officer Rich listened to his earpiece. “Apparently we are in a restricted zone, for safety reasons. They are demanding we accompany them out of the zone, and identify ourselves.”

Swallowing hard Regina nodded to him, taking up an earpiece herself, as it came equipped with a microphone.

“I am General Regina Marston, from the Martian ship Phoenix. Our vessel is limited in mobility as of now, but we will follow your instructions.”

 

A few minutes of silence passed, as the Sakura positioned itself slightly ahead of Phoenix. Somehow Regona was awaiting an alarm that they armed weapons, but nothing of the sort happened.

“Incoming video transmission.” A man of Scandinavian descent appeared on the screen. He had piercing pale blue eyes. “English? Interesting choice. What are you doing here?” In broken english he asked.

“That would be a very long story.” Offering him a full explanation and access to their database Regina ordered Toryama to follow the Sakura.

 

The message on his tablet puzzled Kurt for a moment. But only for that amount of time. Phoenix was in desperate need of his attention, he had no time to follow Regina down another rabbit hole of hers.

Knowing her, he figured that her sudden interest in the technical details of how earth was saved in this time line could mean only one thing. She wanted to duplicate the procedure.

Be that as it may, he thought to himself, right now we’re not even in conditions to correct the mistakes so far.

How she wanted to do that without harming the timeline again was beyond him. The damage they had caused, proved that tampering with the time line was dangerous and unpredictable.

“Is there a Doctor Kurt Braun in here?” Never had Kurt heard anyone speaking english as bad as the young woman that entered the auxiliary engine maintenance control room. Upon looking up he noticed that the woman was about his age, but had a rather young voice, dark almond eyes and black hair.

“Yes. That’d be me.”

With a broad smile she rushed to him, raised a tablet computer of her own. “Ishimura Kagome.” Along with her introduction she typed in a few commands on her tablet.

“I was assigned to help you in the repairs of your ship.” A monotone voice belched from the device as she began talking in Japanese. With all your advances you still have those monotone auto translators? “Although I am certain I can manage alone, with your help it will be completed much faster.” Equally monotone was the translation of his words.

From her he learned that the Sakura was guiding Phoenix away from the strange star, as it was considered a dangerous place, therefore in a restricted zone. Together with Captain Gunnarson she had arrived on a small ship.

There was a lot of anxiety in the crew of the Sakura, as scans of Phoenix had confirmed that it was the ship that had played a vital role in the salvation of earth.

 

“I theorise that, since we did not get annihilated, but rather ended up in your timeline, you and all you have achieved would survive too if we go back and undo what we have done.” Kurt sat at the control panel. He and Kagome had been talking about the incidents that had brought them together.

“Please forgive me for saying so, but isn’t that an awful risk to take for us? Thirteen billion people don’t want to end up washed away by the change of the past.” Stunned by that number of people, Kurt had to pause. “Aren’t you changing it by not permitting us to correct our mistake? Phoenix in this time line never got built, never journeyed back in time and lost the technology in the ocean. Thus preventing any of this to ever happen?” Now Kurt too felt a headache coming on.

“It seems you ave created a paradox Doctor.” Kagome smiled over to him from the other control panel. Slamming the buttons instead of touching them, Kurt kept quiet.

He had not created anything, he merely had not fought hard enough to prevent the paradox from being created by the careless actions of Regina.

“How is earth?” He tried to bring the conversation to another topic.

“Cold and Dark, but we’re working on relocation.” Kurt did not inquire further. A civilisation of humans, as old as the civilisation of humans he was familiar with, that could speed earth out of the way from a neutron star, would probably relocate the planet, not only its population. “It’s a shame we have to leave earth.”

“How so?” Now he was intrigued.

“It was feasible to give earth a nudge to get it out of the way and fling it out into the universe before the neutron star could destroy it, but we cannot relocate the entire planet. A small colony is all that will remain on our home planet.”

A nudge? Thats how you did it? “We have nothing of our earth, no small colony, only what our ancestors took with them. Seeds, soil and our fellow human beings.”

Unmistakably there was a sad undertone to Kurt’s voice, even he himself noticed. But the  earth that was lying out there, within arm’s reach so to speak, was not the earth his ancestors had left. It was a different earth, transformed by changes in history, prior to the neutron star.

“Why do you want to change it back?”

“As I said, we would not change it per say, but merely create conditions that would allow us to return to our time line.”

Kagome squinted at the scientist. Satisfied he slammed his hand on the console. “We’re done here, excellent work. But there is still more.”

 

Captain Gunnarson pinched his nose, his counter part rubbed her temples. The two had been arguing over the Phoenix’s future course. An armada of ships was descending upon them, estimated to arrive within hours. Science vessels, most of them, curious to study the rather primitive vessel from an acclaimed alternate universe, or time line.

In advance Regina had the majority of Phoenix’s systems disconnected from the network, so any hack via the QEN would only affect the connected systems which included a copy of their database, so the curiosity of the others could be satisfied.

“Your story sounds like science fiction. Time travel! For all we know this ship could’ve been built intentionally flawed and primitive, with falsified databases, so you could be taken for who you claim to be.”

“For what reason would we want to do that? Besides, Captain, you have a ship that is capable of travelling interstellar distances within hours, what takes us weeks. We live in science fiction!”

Again the two commanding officers stared at one another, battling with headaches. Neither could tell if it was exposure to some exotic radiation from the strange star, or from trying to understand implications of time travel. “Let us assume you tell the truth.” An asian man got up from his seat, as far as Regina had understood he was Gunnarson’s right hand man.

“You could go back in time and correct your mistake. The mistake that saved billions of lives. Thirteen billion people, soon fourteen, to be exact. Let us also assume that this would not spell the end for us, which the scientific community suggests it wouldn’t, since you’re all here and have not vanished into oblivion. Why would you want to return to a universe with only a few million people, strewn out on a few colonies, when you can stay here? Billions of people, earth and several colonies, soon a new new home world!” The picture he began painting was a tempting one, Regina had to admit to herself.

Still it was off. There was simply no place for her and the crew of Phoenix. Compared to the other humans in the galaxy they were primitives from their understanding of technology. “You, and your crew, would be treated as heroes! Your technology allowed for our salvation!”

Slowly Regina turned with her chair. “Are you scared, Mister? Because you sound scared. I think the consesus of your scientific community is not reassuring you.”

“Regardless!” Gunnarson slammed his hand on the table. His blond beard trembled a little. “Soon the other ships will be here, they won’t allow you either to return to the strange star, let alone attempt another time jump. Perhaps one day that might be granted, but until then your ship will be studied. First to validate your involvement with our past more thoroughly than our scans could, then to study your technology and your version of history. Until then, I am afraid you will have to stay.”

Surprised Regina stared at the tall blond Captain. His voice and demeanour told her that this decision was final.

And also, that it was not his decision.

With a nod she agreed to the terms.

For now, at least.

The two men took their leave, leaving only their engineering chief behind to keep working with Kurt on the repairs, but not without expressing their desire to meet the people involved with the landing on earth on their next visit to Phoenix.

 

Left alone to think about the situation Regina stared blankly at the wall, her feet on the table. The door sounded softly as someone entered. “General?” Doctor Maryjane Hutzinger made her presence known.

“Yes?” Unable to hide her annoyance with the disturbance, Regina did neither turn, nor take her feet off the table.

“We need to return, soon.” The, by comparison short, woman sat down next to Regina. “I have here two entries from their databases. One is the original that your first officer lifted from the Sakura while they had no idea who we were, or that we were even here. The other is one I took from the systems connected to the QEN.”

A tablet was pushed to Regina’s feet. “I already have a headache. Reading would make it worse. What’s your point?”

“They’re lying. They accessed the database and washed it clean.” Intrigued, but still feeling powerless Regina finally turned her head to the scientist. “They landed on RV-p296, just like the Equatorians did. The clean version does not mention anything about the natives. Not a word. The other one however,” Maryjane nodded to the tablet. From Phoenix’s own database the Sakura had accessed they knew that mankindn in the other time line had landed on RV-p296. Phoenix and her crew knew there were natives.

Hastily Regina read through the lines that had been redacted. “They slaughtered them?”

“More or less.” Maryjane flipped to another entry in the database. “They too encountered the Harpies. At first they suffered heavy losses, but soon they developed a weapon.”

Stunned Regina felt that everyone in the timeline they found themselves in should wear a goatee. “Biological warfare.” Disgusted the General straightened up her posture.

“Harpies and their ships share common DNA, they introduced a weaponised version of bird flu, delivered with tiny projectiles. It is assumed the Harpies had lost half of their fleet, and about a quarter of their population.”

Alarmed Regina inched to the edge of her seat, realising that they would never be let go. Mankind in this time line was not a group of people who let go of something they wanted or already had. Even the Equatorians avoided the natives of RV-p296, and those were refugees from a destroyed earth.

“They also deleted information concerning technology in the database. Perhaps to keep us ignorant of potential weaknesses, or to keep us from upgrading Phoenix to be a match for them.” Hearing this Regina guessed it was both of those reasons.

“Excellent work Doctor Hutzinger.” Getting up she handed the tablet back. “Set up a fake network of key systems connected to the QEN. In case they want to take us over, let them think they can.” Saluting Maryjane too got up, leaving the room shortly behind the General.

 

Lying underneath heavy parts of the ship was never a favourite of Kurt’s, especially while repairing things. Constantly he had the delusion or fear that dust, or something else was raining down on his face.

With Kagome assisting him he at least took comfort in the fact that she could always hand him tools if he needed them.

An hour ago the roles had been reversed, she had to unscrew a plate in order to change a fried circuit board. Now it was his turn.

After being stranded in the past for a few weeks he assessed the damages and could tell which ones needed replacement. So he had them made in advance, instead of patching things on the go until later on.

“I admire your ingenuity.” The dull monotone translator voice broke his concentration, however briefly. “The prefabrication of spare parts? I didn’t want to wait, again.”

Over the course of hours they had repaired and replaced circuits, and other systems that Kurt didn’t want to entrust to the engineering crews.

“Not only that, but the fact you have the capacity to fabricate these things, with your,” she stopped.

“Our what? Limited technology?”

“Yes.” He had not needed the translator to understand that.

Outside of the alcove in which Kurt was working another person approached. By the sound of the steps Kurt already recognised Regina.

In a dry, yet commanding tone she asked Kagome to leave the two alone. Slowly Kurt reappeared from underneath the conductor he was servicing.

“What’s it this time?” Incapable of hiding his frustration with the strange ideas she had in the recent past Kurt grabbed another screwdriver than the one he held in his hand, before he slipped back under.

“Do you see any way we can escape them?” Bowed down to him Regina spoke as quietly as possible, so no one could listen in.

“I should ask you, I was repairing the bloody ship.”

“Their technology, study it!” She hissed slipping a tablet into his pocket. “They are trying to whitewash their history, and keep us from studying their tech! They have commited genocide on the natives of RV-p296, developed biological WMDs against the Harpies, and I don’t know what other dark secrets they are hiding!” His forehead in deep wrinkles Kurt reemerged again.

There was no need to ask verbally if she was serious. Her gaze told him that she was.

Although shocked and appaled by the news, Kurt could not say he was that surprised. The exodus to Mars and especially to RV-p296 had made mankind in their timeline a little more humble. They understood survival, and letting others live.

Mankind in this time line had gotten a push in technology. A push they were not ready for. Plus they had all of mankind behind them as they ventured out into space.

Those advances in technology, and the reassurance of getting Backup whenever needed, made them arrogant, and dominant. Much to the disadvantages of the RV-p296 natives and Harpies. Although Regina explained to him that more peaceful movements have filled society and government in the last decades, he too was certain that they would not be let go from the grasp of the fleet that was coming towards them.

“In case you were wondering, Phoenix is ready enough to make a renewed time jump. Taking auxiliaries offline protected them, but I’m worried about structural integrity, especially the clamps holding the head and body together.” Wearing an expression that warned Regina from recless actions, as they could easily get stranded either in the alternate time line, the past or yet another changed timeline, Kurt went back under the conductor, replacing the circuit board.

 

Replacing the conductor circuits was the last of his actions, Kurt then retreated to study the database given to him by Regina. It was apparent to him that they needed to destroy the data in it as soon as they returned to their own time line, as to not turn into what they tried to get away from.

Overpowered for their own understanding.

In retrospect mankind was overpowered for their own understanding when the first atom bomb was constructed, what followed was an era of potential annihilation, due to mankind’s lack of maturity for the power they wielded.

 

“I can’t find a weakness we could exploit.” Throwing the tablet on the table in frustration, Maryjane got up. “Me neither, but there is intriguing stuff in here.” Leaning on his left hand, Kurt scrolled through the database with his right. “Too bad we can’t,” he stopped, narrowing his eyes to mere slits. “An EMP could blind them long enough.”

Putting on an inquiring expression Maryjane reached for her tablet again.

“They skipped the atomic age, they also never had the Orion-class ships in use, ever. Propelling those with the nukes creates and EMP, an EMP that our technology is shielded against. Phoenix doesn’t have that form of propulsion, but we have the same shielding around most of our systems. If we shut down the spearhead and navigate from the ring section, we can get away!”

Staring at the screen herself Maryjane cursed herself for not noticing that little detail, but the intricate workings of the ships that had brought mankind to the stars were not her speciality.

 

“Receiving a hail from Sakura.” Rich nervously drummed his fingers on the casing of his console. “Ignore it.” Replied Regina, biting her fingernails, a habit she had parted with in her late teens, but now picked up again. The fleet was twenty minutes away. Well within hailing distance. “They’re trying to open a channel through a hack in the QEN.”

“Open it then.” Coldly calculating the deceit Regina lowered her hand.

“Our operative on your ship hasn’t called in as scheduled, please elaborate.”

“Bogged down with work, I suppose?” All outgoing signals had been scrambled on Regina’s orders, Kagome had been taken into custody. After questioning her it was revealed that neither Sakura, nor any of the other ships would bargain for her safety or return. There was hence no reason to try that.

“Are you sure? We can’t contact her either.” Captain Gunnarson’s expression hardened. “She and Doctor Braun are working in heavily shielded areas of the ship, perhaps that shields your communication attempts?”

Fifteen minutes until arrival of the fleet. All vital systems of the spearhead, which lacked the EMP shielding, were ready to be shut down. “I will give them a call so she contacts you, it might take a couple of minutes.”

The first of the ships came into visual range. Impressed by the majestic vessels, that resembled flying fortresses, capable of decimating Phoenix in the blink of an eye, Regina turned to Rich. “As soon as they’re all in range, punch it.”

Simply giving her confirming nod he continously watched the distance of the approaching ships. “You might want to have them come a lot closer in order for this to work properly. Most their systems work on optics, but the interconnections are vulnerable.” Regina had forgotten that Kurt and Maryjane were listening in over an open com line, preparing everything for the coup.

“Alright,” grumbling she nodded to Rich, who returned the nod. “they will be in for a surprise.”

 

Majestic ships, designed with an aerodynamic asthetic in mind, slowed into positions around the Phoenix. For a brief moment Regina felt as if they had some heroic role. As if they were giving them an honorary parade, not one to ensure the small and inferior ship stayed where it was supposed to.

“Rich, do it.” Regina said. Most of Phoenix’s crew had taken refuge in the ring sections, only the bridge crew and some other essential personnel remained.

“They’re calling again, trying to force a channel on us.”

“Let them see darkness.” Smug faced Rich Bauman followed that order, although they themselves would be affected too.

After he pressed the displayed button the bridge went dark, gravity, created artificially, too went away.

“I completely had forgotten about the gravity.” Regina grumbled, a flashlight in her hand, while awkwardly trying to buckle her seat belt with the other.

Already buckled in Rich shrugged it off, as he had thought of it.

 

The blinking position lights on the other ships went dark, as went the lights out in the few windows there were. In the auxiliary bridge in Phoenix’s alpha ring, Kurt watched the display of primitive ingenuity overcoming much more developed adversaries.

“We follow the procedure laid out.” Colonel Oskar Drake announced the obvious, the navigator pressed the buttons that had been preprogrammed with the maneuvers necessary to get Phoenix away from the armada and back to the strange star.

Within moments the ship performed a jump away from both armada and star, before turning around at the fastest way possible, rocking all people aboard Phoenix around. Then again the engines engaged, bringin Phoenix to the assigned coordinates.

“I’m reading a ship on our tail, they have armed their weapons.” The sluggish dialect of the region on Mars where the officer obviously came from made it sound like ‘weapins’, Kurt noticed, with a refreshing reminder of home, was it the Olympus Mons dialect the man uttered.

“Distance?”

“Out of range.” The officer replied, Kurt looked at his console. They still needed a few minutes. Originally it was the plan to jettison the lifepod with Kagome in it at the last possible second, but it was worth a try. Even if they did not stop to collect her, they at least would slow down to get a good reading of the lifepod, if only to ensure that Phoenix was not hurling bombs in their direction.

A possibility they had both considered and prepared.

With the touch of a button the small lifepod got ejected from the beta ring, immediately dropping out of the wake of Phoenix.

“They’re slowing, marginally, resuming.” Damn. Like that the lifepod was pushed out of the way of their pursuer by their powerful deflector field.

“Prepare the wake stoppers.” The Colonel turned to Kurt, who saluted sloppily paired with a sigh.

Although he thought the actions of mankind in this time line were wrong, he still had a hard time doing harm to other people. Imagine them as evil aliens. Just imagine them as evil aliens. He pressed a few buttons on his console.

Tiny lifepods disengaged from beta, flung into their pursuers path. Filled with a container of highly corrosive acid, acid that had to be suspended in a magnetic field and artificial zero gravity because it would also eath through the container. The magnetic field holding the acid in place would react with the field created by the pursuer’s deflector, pass through and spill the acid on the ship’s hull, creating damage to force them to either stop or slow. “Do we know which ship we are dealing with here?”

“It’s the,” Kurt had to pause. Was it poetic? “Ronin seven.” A Samurai warrior without a master, undoubtedly, those were romanticised in this timeline too. The sensor readings from right before they started their grand escape, revealed that the Ronin seven had been sitting in the shadow of another ship, shielded by it from the effects of the EMP.

“It is working!” A victorious glee was in the voice of the woman reporting.

“Good.” Colonel Drake replied, without the gleeful tone, just like Kurt he disliked the idea of harming other humans. “ETA?” He turned to Kurt.

“A few more minutes. Everything is set to go.” The release valves on the antimatter containment chambers were ready to be activated on the press of a button, they just needed to reach the position they had before.

 

Once again Kurt stared at the image on the viewscreen.

The main bridge had once again power, and was in control of the ship, but he remained on the auxiliary bridge with it’s crew, just in case they were required to take control again.

 

In variations of blue, dominated by the deeply saturated indigo of the oceans, the waters of earth welcomed Phoenix. Mossy and pine green colors played out on land where the icesheet was not covering the ground, framed and intermittent by patches and strips in brown and beige.

“We have the course of the lander on record, starting the operation.” The messages of what was going on the bridge did not faze Kurt in the least. He kept on staring at the ancestral home in front of him.

Yes, he had to admit to himself, it would be great to save it, but at what cost? The gruesome nature of mankind could not handle technology that far beyond their understanding. Somewhere in the nicked archive he had glimpsed the term linker. While the operation to retrieve the lost technology was underway, he retired to his quarters to read up on that.

 

Inside his quarters he found relaxing darkness, the air was somewhat stale, but that too was reassuring and relaxing for a change.

“Doctor Braun!” As the light went on, Tracy jumped from the couch. She wore a shirt that belonged to his son Leopold. Quickly she grabbed it by the hemline pulling it down to cover herself completely, Kurt turned around, facing away from her. “Sorry, I should have announced myself.” He mumbled. Behind him Tracy hastily dressed.

“No, sir, I should not have wandered out here barely dressed.”

Letting his shoulders hang he calmed her, she was not at fault, he barely spent any time in his quarters anymore, thus she could easily get the impression that he didn’t really live there anymore.

“Leo and I were reading that database, it got late and he fell asleep, I then went out here, and fell asleep later too.” A fully dressed Tracy edplained what she had been doing out in the living room. Knowing his son, Kurt did not need to ask how they procured the database. “What did you find in there?”

“We read on the linker war.” How convenient. He sat down on the couch, taking up the tablet that lay there. “They were defeated eventually, mankind has nicked the counter program from a defeated Harpy ship, and laced it with a virus.” Tracy sat down next to him, obviously still nervous about her previous state. “Turning them back?”

Knowing the answer he still had hoped to hear that, that was the case.

“No. Committing genocide on them.” her voice became dampemed by a sudden onset of sadness. “They had programmed the Virus to send out a message using the infected host, they then counted the incoming messages. Eight million, six hundred thrity five thousand, four hundred twenty five people were murdered. Remotely, in cold blood.”

More linkers had died than there were overall humans in their own timeline’s present.

“Tragic. But all the more reason to fix our mistake.” Tracy wanted to reply when a screeching alarm went off.

Kurt’s glasses rang.

“Come to the bridge!”

Rings of Fate S4xE10 – Dawn – Journey

Four weeks after secession.

The distance, measured in millions of kilometers, grew, displayed next to the little ships on Jane’s display. Every day since her secession from Equatoria she had stared at the long distance sensor data.

In all honesty to herself she didn’t think that they would let her and the Dawn Horizon go so easily. A short fire exchange with the Explorer, but other than that, no sign of pursuit. Not even the Phoenix.

“Admiral?” A young man entered the room. “We are clear of the safe zone.” Although that information could’ve been relayed to her using the com line, her first officer had sent the lad. “Thank you, Dorian.” Fitting name for a beau like him. She got out of her seat.

Crossing the room she remembered the message from Benjamin left in the ship’s database. An hour later all security lock out codes had been changed.

What kind of trouble are you in old friend? “Engage conventional drive for ten bursts, then engage the engine.” She settled in her chair in the command centre.

From one seat to the next. Was that to be her fate for the rest of her life? As the bombs were detonated to push the Dawn to her travel speed, she asked herself why their propulsion had no better defined designation, other than ‘the engine’.

It was, by all means of the name, a warp drive. Not as good as the ones the linkers or the Harpies had, not even like the one the Phoenix utilised. They could call it their antimatter drive, but Dawn didn’t use antimatter for powering of the engine.

It was a warp drive.

And already it had proven functional. Running it on a low output yield Dawn had used it to get away fast from RV-p296 and possible pursuit by the other Orion-class ships before bringing the ship to a more acceptable velocity.

 

No doubt the long range sensors available to the colony have detected the explosions bringing Dawn to travel speed. Somehow Jane doubted that the other two ships could’ve followed them even without Dawn Horizon using the warp drive.

Thrusters had been repaired, but not toned down to accommodate for the lighter mass. They still operated at the same strength they had when there were still beta-, gamma- and subgamma rings, and the spine connecting them all.

Now there was only subalpha and alpha. And a new dish.

But Explorer would’ve remained in firing distance for much longer. Perhaps the skeletal remains of Kismet could have kept up with them.

Musing on questions of speed Jane watched her crew operate the controls, as the ship went faster than it ever had before.

I’ve always seen myself as the Admiral who brings this ship home. Now I’m the Admiral who takes it into the unknown. A sad expression on her face Jane got up. “I’ll be in the Garden, I need some exercise.”

 

Stopping by her quarters to change into her exercise outfit Jane kept pondering. Plagued by doubt, ever since they left.

There had been voices of opposition, she had sent them off to the surface on shoreleave, but they knew what was going on.

All aboard the Dawn were committed.

Through densely grown tracks of eddible food, spices and a few herbs the pathways of the garden were taking twists and turns, looping around and crisscrossing one another. In the peaceful, relatively quiet environment, Jane found solace in jogging along these tracks. Although she had told her officers indirectly not to disturb her she carried her glasses. In case something desperately needed her attention.

Which had never been the case in the last four weeks.

 

Eight months after secession.

“We have travelled further than in all my time as Admiral, prior to us departing.” She congratulated her crew, one of the messhalls had been outfitted with a small stage for such occasions. A group of musicians took the stage after her speech, as the day was sort of a festive occasion.

The doubts had gotten easier over time, yet, they were still there, nagging her every decision. Every day.

Seeing as they most likely would not return to RV-p296, for if they would, they’d not be welcomed with open arms, Jane had made the visits to the shrink mandatory for all personnel again.

“Admiral, may I have a minute?” Approaching her was a scrawny looking man in his late forties. Dark hair and skin, a few wrinkles on his face, stubbed beard.

“Sure, what can I help you with, Colonel Bauman?”

“Our destination, Ma’am.” Immediately Jane became stonefaced.

Their destination. “What about it?” Kept a secret from anyone outside of Dawn Horizon, even from most people aboard the ship.

“It’s a G-type star with large gaseous planets, but no rocky world like we’d need it to live on.” Jane knew.

Jane knew all too well. But it was suspected that the gas giants had rocky moons. One of the giants lay in the habitable zone, if it had moons large enough to retain an atmosphere, there would be an exotic eldorado waiting for them.

“Well, Ma’am,” Bauman was not sure how directly he could be with the Admiral. “Spit it out Colonel.” Slightly annoyed Jane wanted to get the hushed conversation over, before anyone could hear it, who shouldn’t. “I studied the limited data we have of the Harpy territories. Whether there is a place for us to live or not, that system is Harpy territory. If there is a habitable planet or moon, it will be already settled.”

That posed a problem. Her stony fassade began to crumble, worry began to show. “Alternatives?”

Bauman raised a tablet and nodded to the open door of the messhall. Reluctantly Jane followed his implied suggestion, hoping they wouldn’t be followed.

 

“A slight course correction. There is a red dwarf star, even closer than our current destination. Data shows it has a tidal locked, rocky world in the habitable zone. Conditions for living on it might be harsh, and the eldorado we seek is only a slim band on the day-night border, but this one is not already occupied by the Harpies.” Looking at the tablet intensely Jane pondered for a while. Perhaps that could work to their advantage. They were long out of sensor range, if Equatoria followed their trajectory, they would find the Harpy world, and ask them to investigate, or bring Dawn back. A feat certainly within the powers of the Harpies, since the linkers were able to take the Dawn to RV-p296.

If they changed course to the red star, they would throw of any pursuit or apprehensive force.

“I will take this under consideration. Thank you.” Seemingly happy Bauman retreated back to the party. Someone else in the room caught her eye.

Like a lioness on the hunt she navigated the room, all the while her attention fixed on the person. “Shouldn’t you be studying?” Jane seemingly accidentally bumped into her son.

“No. I should be here.” Looking at him pained her. Wolfgang, her beloved Wolfgang, had decided to stay on RV-p296, leaving her alone with their children, and her doubts. “Are you alright?” Remembering that he was not a youth anymore, but a young man in his early twenties she still felt baffled by his question. “I guess.” She sighed, handing him the tablet, trusting he knew not to tell anyone.

For a moment he studied the data, turned the display off again and returned the device to her. “Compelling arguments, I’d follow that line of reasoning. Let’s just hope the planet is not already occupied.”

“The Harpies have no claim there, as far as we know.” Jane retorted. “The farside of the eldorado here is a permanent icesheet, hot air from the nearside goes up, goes around the planet, and in cooling goes down again. Depositing minerals and other things in the icesheet. Other lifeforms might take an interest in that.”

Cursing Wolfgang junior’s reasoning Jane looked for the exit. The room became too full for her liking.

 

Eight months and three days after secession.

“Course corrections laid in Admiral.” Convincing her officers had been no problem. It had been suggested to wait a few days to implement the corrections, as the celebrations took a little while to wind down.

“Reading a gravity wave on approach.”

“Origin?” Jane had just been getting up, sank back into her seat. Immediately a knot formed in the pit of her stomach. “Previous heading. It is heading towards us.”

Harpies? Must be. “Evasive?”

“Impossible.”

Inevitably the allies of RV-p296 were to come to the aid of the humans. Bracing to be contacted by a harsh Harpy, Jane sat up straight in her seat.

“It’s a Harpy ship, the Varkai.” Her first officer reported.

Off their course the hHarpy ship stopped, changed direction, and matched their speed. For a few minutes the two ships idly flew side by side, then the Harpy ship broke off the matching course and resumed the original flight path.

Tension fell off Jane, relieving her of the weight she had felt all of a sudden again. “They sent us a message.” Derek Harvey relayed the message to Jane’s console.

“We had been sent to keep the Dawn from resuming course into our territory, with the only order by the matriarchy to send you off. Your people had asked for our assistance in returning you and your ship to them, which was denied, as the matriarchy does not interfere with other species’ internal affairs. Since you are already on an alternate course, our assignment has become moot. Save journey. Commander Thyrash.”

Jane’s smug smile was almost triumphant. The Harpies would not interfere with them, unless they entered their territory. Since they had Dawn Horizon’s new heading, meant that their new destination was not territory the Harpies occupied.

“I think we just passed our first test of interstellar pirateship.” Derek sighed in relief, sinking back to his seat. “First officer Harvey, we’re not pirates. We seceded. I just used the pirate analogy in my communication to Admiral Fuller to illustrate how this ship, this crew, decided unanimously to break away from the colony.” Amused, not angered, Jane sat in her seat, turned sideways to look at her first officer.

“Yes Ma’am.” He too was amused, not feeling scolded. “Then we passed our first interstellar test of secession.”

Wasn’t returning fire to Explorer our first test? “Correct. Now, continue on to our new heading.”

 

Eight months and three weeks after secession.

Clawing at her armrests Jane cursed the Harpies. They had not attempted to stop them, or turn them around. But they had conveyed their new heading to the colony. “Phoenix is gaining.” Although pointless from the start, the Phoenix had the superior engine capacity, Jane had ordered to push the limits of their engine capabilities.

“Alright, before we break her, slow Dawn down. Ready all lasers.” Digging her nails out of the armrest she clenched fists. Don’t force me to do this, who ever you are.

Reporting to her that all weapons were ready, Derek added that they also had nukes at the ready, but that it was generally recommend to drop out of warp to use them, as no one knew what exactly would happen if those were fired. “Incoming transmission from Phoenix, coming over QEN.” Communication officer Lagrand reported.

“Put them through.”

The face of a stern looking blond woman appeared on the main viewscreen. “I am General Regina Marston, commanding the Phoenix. Please stand down weapons.”

Jane glanced over to Derek. With a nod her first officer confirmed that Phoenix had not its weapon systems active. Nodding herself she gave the order to stand down theirs. “I’m Admiral Jane Mulgrew, of the Dawn Horizon. Please state your intentions.”

“Negotiations.” Regina replied, keeping her answer short.

“We’re not turning back, if those are your goals.” Keep it simple Jane, keep it plain.

“Those are our goals. In fact, colonial government asked us to retrieve you. Debate between the martian government and yours resulted in my being here now. We will not intervene, but we can try to mediate.”

Slowly the tension began to fall off of Jane. Still she had an ill feeling about the close proximity to the antimatter laden ship. Their reason for seceding was the Phoenix’s arrival, now the Phoenix followed them. “I hold no grudge against you, or your crew, or even your ship. I’m sure you are competent, your crew and ship are fine ones. We have broken away from Equatoria because all of a sudden the antimatter restrictions were to get lifted, thanks to your arrival. There are other reasons too, but this one was the tipping point. So please do not misunderstand me when I say, that you are the least qualified to mediate here.”

There was no sign of being upset in the General’s face. On the contrary, a strange notion of comradery appeared in her features. “You are a strong and capable leader, Admiral. I wish you the best of luck on your journey. If there are any aboard your ship who do wish to return, please let us know, as we will stay in proximity for another two hours. General Marston, over.”

Relieved that the presence of Phoenix was both peaceful and soon to be over, Jane sunk a bit deeper in her seat. “Spread the word, if anyone wants to go back, this is their chance. Probably the last one.” At least for a few years, until Equatoria has antimatter powered warp ships, they surely will send one after us. If they haven’t forgotten about us by then.

 

Four years, three months one week and two days after secession.

“We have a problem.” Engineering chief Tuomas Ingridason approached Jane, after he had called her to engineering. “We’re running low on hydrogen.” The two were alone in the room, it was late and most of the crew had retired to their quarters. “I’ve kept this from my crew, but they will catch on soon.”

“What do you mean exactly we’re running low on it?” Jane felt tired. Those four years have been an exhausting experience. She did not know when it had been the last time she had a proper vacation.

“Our hydrogen reserves for the fusion reactor on alpha, they are depleting. Subalpha has plenty left, but we have no system of distribution, and I would not recommend continuing this journey with only one reactor.” Slowly Jane closed her eyes, letting out a deep frustrated sigh. “Before you ask, we can’t tap into the water reserves on board, not if we want to arrive in Eldorado alive.”

“I know, and I never even thought of that.” Opening her eyes again Jane looked at the display showing the interior of the fusion reactor. A burning ball of plasma, kept in check by magnetic fields, giving off the energy they required.

They harnessed a tiny star inside that room, and now it was running out of fusionable material. “Ramjet.”

Tuomas stared back at her with a confused look on his face. “The most abundant substance in the universe, Hydrogen, is spread out even in the supposedly empty regions of interstellar space. While it may be absent from interplanetary spaces due to solar winds, those same winds push excess hydrogen into the interstellar realm.” Nodding as he could follow her arguments, Tuomas leaned against the console.

“We open the bow dish as if we wanted to fire, line the former cryogenics tube with strong magnetic fields and guide in the hydrogen from outter space through normal transportation tubes into empty storage tanks once the cryo tube is full, instead of deflecting it around us like we do now. That way we even could distribute some of the already stored hydrogen from subalpha to alpha.”

For a few minutes Tuomas stared at her, uncertain whether the Admiral had gone crazy, or was a genius.

“I could try to reconfigure the field of our engines to funnel even more into the open dish.” He finally decided that she was a genius. “But that might slow us.”

“I’d rather take longer, than not have my ship operational. Do what you can, or must.”

 

Nine years, one month and six days after secession.

“I hereby, pronounce you husband, and wife.” Jane stepped back. Was it really that long? Marrying a couple was nothing new aboard the Dawn, but this one was special. Wolfgang junior had married.

A girl named Abbigale Konrads. Now Mulgrew.

In his early thirties, Wolfgang was finally starting a family.

But what about her? She couldn’t wait to see her grandchildren. But would she ever see their destination? It began to dawn on Jane, that she would probably not. Sad on the one side, but facing the alternatives was too disturbing, so she faced that fact bravely over the other.

What kind of feeling must it have been for her great grandparents, knowing their children would never set foot on their destination. Their grandchildren had little chance to live to that day. Only their great grandchildren would definitely see it.

Jane knew that her children would see their destination. Their eldorado.

In a weird way she began to understand the reasons why the colony embraced antimatter, and antimatter powered warp drives. It enabled them to go out, return and have lost not that many years.

 

It seemed to her like only a few days ago that she was talking with her son about the change of course. Unlike the Explorer before them on RV-p296, they had no advance probes, telling them of the conditions on their target planet. No system that set up a habitat for them.

Watching Wolfgang and his bride dance in the messhall she glanced over to her daughter. She was flirting with one of her brother’s friends, eagerly awaiting their turn to dance once the bride and groom have finished.

A tap on her shoulder drew her back to the present, away from dreaming about her daughter’s potential wedding. “Derek, I thought you have tonight’s duty?” In fact, she was certain about it, she herself had drawn up the duty roster for that night.

“I do Ma’am, I’m not here for the party.” He kept his voice low, a knot of anger formed in Jane’s stomach. “On my son’s wedding, really?”

“It is something pleasant, I hope.” He handed her the command centre tablet. A worn, chipped piece of technology, that had survived all the beatings of Dawn, and still refused to break. Command centre crew had began using the tablet and saw it as a lucky charm, as the earliest use of it dated back to the beginning of Horizon’s journey, used by command centre staff since those days.

Quickly Jane scanned through the displayed report and data. “A transponder signal from our destination, directed at us, specifically?” With some disbelief she lowered the tablet. “Yes, the first data we received said ‘Kind greetings, General Marston’, it is, according to this data, a solar powered installation, designed to prepare for our arrival.”

Derek had been right. It was pleasant.

 

Twentytwo years, six months, two weeks and four days after secession.

“Turn the QEN on.” Jane sat in her bed.

Derek had succeeded her as Admiral, he had died of a heart attack two years after that. Now it was Admiral Abbigale Mulgrew, her daughter in law, who held the reins of the ship.

“We already did.” Wolfgang felt annoyed, how many times did he have to tell his mother that they had turned the quantum entanglement network on? It never was truly off, they just had blocked transmissions from Equatoria. What Jane meant was to open those channels as well. Which had happened a decade ago.

Dementia was taking its toll on the former Admiral. “Young man, watch your tone. Any interesting transmissions over the QEN?”

There were many, but did he want to burden his mother with them?

Interstellar exploration, warpdrives that dwarved their capabilities even more than the one on Phoenix, other advances in science. No burden there. These things would eventually be forgotten by Jane again, remembered in some fleeting moment of clarity.

But also the partial fall of the seed restriction, which would enrage her, news of the deaths of her old friends, which would sadden her. Again, only remembered in these fleeting moments.

“Nothing interesting, mum. Same old waste of time and electrons on our computer and communication systems.” She seemed to be happy with that.

 

After spending some time with his demented mother, Wolfgang returned to the command centre. “She’s breaking apart.” He sighed entering the room. Everyone instantly felt saddened. Jane had become more than just the former Admiral, more like the mother of the ship’s crew. Ferociously protecting them all from potentially dangerous development in the colony, like a lioness defending her cubs.

“Did you tell her?” Abbigale leaned in the Admiral’s chair. “That we’re letting an antimatter powered Harpy ship near us? No. Although I think she wouldn’t object. The Harpies have experience with the stuff, she dislikes Antimatter in human hands.”

The screen showed a Harpy ship alongside them, it had appeared there about an hour before.

“This Admiral Abbigale Mulgrew, we kindly ask to reveal your purpose alongside our vessel.” Waiting for an hour for the Harpies to make their reasons known had all but crumbled Abbigale’s patience.

“Commander Yarrak, we came to assist you.”

“Assist us? I was unaware that we were in need of assistance?”

“May we speak about these matters in private?” Abbigale looked to Wolfgang and the other officers in the command centre. “There are no secrets among this crew, we can talk.”

It appeared to upset the commander a bit, but she kept her dismay to herself. “As you are well aware, a neighboring system is settled by us. We have reason to believe that the patriarchists want to set up a base at your destination. They would not risk bringing in heavy ships, as we could detect and ambush them. A small landing group such as would be used here, would not dare to set foot on the planet if they saw it was already occupied, especially by a force allied to us.”

Pawns in an interstellar civil war. “And by advancing us there, you hope to achieve just that.”

“Yes.” At least they are honest, and did not feign some humanitarian act.

Turning back to Wolfgang, Abbigale made a gesture with her brows, to which he muted the line. “Thoughts?”

“If we decline, they either get some people from Equatoria, or worse, the patriarchists build their little base there, and we are screwed upon arrival. Don’t forget, they are hostile little buggers. If we accept, we become pawns in an interstellar chess game.”

“Do we have a choice? No.” First officer Gérard DeFunes interjected. “We have to agree. If Admiral Jane Mulgrew’s endeavours are to be fruitful, we are left with no other option.”

Wolfgang nodded in agreement. The other officers followed as well.

Upon her notice Wolfgang unmuted the line to the Harpy ship. “We agree. Kindly link with our navigator and guide us.”

Baring her teeth Yarrak smiled, a human influenced smile, revealing that she had had contact with humans before.

As the commander instructed her navigators to contact Dawn’s, she turned to the Admiral. “The matriarchy is in your debt, and yours alone. It had been proposed to ask the government of your settlement called Equatoria, but the course your ship took according to our databases, suggested that you already are heading there. Your Equatoria, knows nothing of this.”

Feeling flattered Abbigale thanked Yarrak, but asked herself why the linkers had not occupied the planet already.

 

“I know what you’re thinking.” Gérard sighed after the transmission ended. “So? What am I thinking?”

“You’re asking yourself why the linkers hadn’t settled this planet yet, and I think I can answer that.” He typed a few buttons on his console, bringing up a few blocks of data on the main viewscreen. “Testimony of the former linkers brought to Equatoria by the survivors of Dusk Horizon.” Scrolling through the blocks of text he explained what they were looking at.

“Here it is.” He highlighted a block of text. “The collective mind conceived among the stars, took root in the fertile grounds presented on Orion and Barnard colony. The hardship and plain hatred for a tidal locked planet of the minds absorbed from there had rooted deeply in the collective mind. No DEHuman base will be erected on such a planet, unless invaluable resources are to be found there. Currently the collective mind can not think of any reason, any resource that might be worth taking up that task. Although the negative experience results greatly from the inferior technology from the original settlers, the negative emotion within the collective mind, the collective subconscious, remains and prevents any such settlement. Therefore, it is our, or much more precisely, my opinion that settling on any uninhabited planet such as the one around Barnard, will be unopposed by the DEHumans.”

Abbigale stared at the screen. As did Wolfgang and other officers in the command centre. “If the linkers hate it, what are we in for?” Abbigale sighed while the navigators worked with the Harpy navigators to align the ships.

“Scorched from one side, frozen from the other. A thin habitable zone in between. Rivers that flow from glacial tongues into the sea of fire and lava, where they evaporate. Along side those rivers we can live. Farming crops, building homes, dwelling in every conceivable way.” Wolfgang did a few tricks on the domputer of his own, bringing on telemetry from the equipment deposited at their destination by Phoenix. “It won’t be a walk in the park, but we have technology and scientific understanding more advanced than what the Orion crew had. So I would not despair.”

 

Already the images from the Phoenix deposit showed solar farms cropping up on the day side, some wind turbines rotated in places where farming or housing would be difficult, all set up by the automated systems provided by the Phoenix’s crew and the automated equipment they left behind for Dawn’s arrival.

“We’re ready Ma’am.” A navigator stated, barely causing Abbigale to look away from the image on the screen. Concentrated in the narrow belt between darkness and light was a variety of plants, most red hued, to absorb the dimmer light sent out by the planet’s host star. A few mining tunnels ran underground, dug by the automated systems to mine for more minerals necessary to build more automated machinery and the docking pads for the landing pods of Dawn Horizon. “We’re going to see this for ourselves, tonight.”

Checking the time on her console she corrected herself. “Tomorrow.”

 

Twentytwo years, six months, two weeks and five days after secession.

A constant cool breeze blew from the night side. As promised the Harpies had brought the Dawn Horizon to a stable orbit, and were seeing them off, scanning for any signs of the patriarchists already in the system.

As Admiral, Abbigale had the obligation to remain on the ship until settlement was in full swing. But Wolfgang had taken to the planet, and brought his mother along. With her dementia she had no concept any longer of how much time had passed. Most likely she’d forget where she was, a few minutes in.

“It is beautiful, Mum.” Staring into the distance Wolfgang saw the edge of the scorching desert, but still could not help but appreciate the beauty of the place.

Around them were docking pads for more landing pods, some in the process of receiving allotment.

On the slope behind their posotion was a thick forest of red tree like growths. Preliminary examination of them showed them to be more like a hybrid between plant and animal, feeding off both the sunlight and the nutrients blown past them by the constant wind.

“What is this?” She pointed at the glacial stream in the distance, running off towards the desert. “A river.”

“I can see that, I mean that there at the river.”

A creature sat on the river bank, it had only basic eyesight, and lived both in the water and on the river banks, heating itself up outside the water, swimming upstream to feed and then it stranded again somewhere to warm up again. Observations showed it to exist in several streams near the landing site, suggesting them to be able to traverse the land, even if only very plump. “We dubbed it a Ghoti, you know, the old joke? If the ‘gh’ in ‘enough’ is pronounced like an ‘f’, the ‘o’ im ‘women’ like an ‘i’ and the ‘ti’ in ‘nation’ makes the ‘sh’ sound then ‘ghoti’ should be pronounced like ‘fish’.” For a second Jane’s eyes lit up as if a star had burst into life. “The Ghoti. Yes. We have arrived. Thank you my dear.” Stammering she stared at the Ghoti in the distance.

Wolfgang followed her gaze.

Life on this twilight planet would not be as hard as he had feared from linker description. On the contrary, there was much to be found here.

Life, tasks, and opportunity.