allringsfinal2.png“Trees!” Jason jumped forward, Steve hadn’t seen him in such excitement since Jason had found his first new friend aboard the Explorer. Where is Francis now anyways? “Dad!” Called back to reality Steve waved Jason as he stood beneath an apple tree. The fruits were still tiny and far from ripe.

 

“But, don’t brag about the garden.” Jason was reminded as the three walked toward one of the four tube entrances to the garden. “I won’t! Promise!” How many times had they heard that before?

“Alright.” Doors opened. “Doctor Charles!” Steve greeted a tall man with a bald head and black skin. “Admiral Anderson.” a broad smile accompanied the returned greeting. “Mrs. Anderson, young Mister Anderson, I presume?” Had Steve not known that Doctor Charles was originally from South Africa he would’ve placed him in Britain based on his accent.

“You are correct. How long until we can expect general access to the garden?”

“Give us until harvest is over, that way we have enough time for the fences.” Finding the bio-engineer oddly friendly Steve muttered In agreement as his wife and son pressed on into the cab.

Close to everyone on board was a bit gloomy. Even two years after their departure from earth, many people still had difficulty accepting the circumstances. Our generation, and Jason’s too probably, will always have survivor’s guilt. Something in his pocket vibrated. In a fluid motion he took out a device he would’ve described as a smart phone a few years ago. Only that this device tied into the ship’s communication network instead of a cellphone network. Equipped with a strong transmitter they could also be used from the surface of, yeah, where exactly? Earth? RV-p296? Steve guessed that these devices were meant to be handed down through the generations until his grandchildren landed. “I gotta get this.” He put on a head set with a small display over his right eye. “Yes?”

Jason and Carol observed his expression change from slightly miffed to curious. “Alright,” he looked at the screen of the cab. “patch it through to cab 2-1021 please.”

Steve pointed his son and his wife toward the screen.

“That star in the center, that is the sun.” He explained calmly, although they were not far from it on a stellar level, it appeared as a tiny bright dot visually. Just like a regular star in the night sky.

“This image is a few minutes old. Taken by a camera on the whiskers.” Immediately he regretted using that word. Hastily he explained that the whiskers were a series of probes, currently attached to the Explorer by cable, but later running autonomously, flying around the ship to see what lies behind them, and before them.

Both at the bow and stern the Explorer had a large deflector. The one in the aft to catch the pressure of the nuclear bombs that drove them forward, the one in the front deflected any space debris from the ship as they plowed through the universe. Micro asteroids and the likes, if any of the probes that had been sent out in advance would’ve hit something and now was naught more than a debris field in their path. Therefore the sensors were blinded to what lay directly before or behind them.

Jason stared at the image for the entire ride, Carol had turned away with an expression of despair.

Somewhere close to that spec of light was an even tinier pixel in unseen blue and green and brown.

A place that once had been home.

Deep inside Steve felt the same despair, the same homesickness.

“So what are you going to tell your friends tomorrow?” Hoping not to hear about the garden, or a depressing and depressed rant about missing earth, Steve asked on their way to their quarters. The ceiling of the hallway gave a sky like blue impression, while shining down a light that was both bright and warm, giving the impression of sunlight.

“That I was shown around the ship, after we started to accelerate since the firing of the bombs might have caused structural stress. And that I have seen a picture of our sun in the far distance.” Surprised by the eloquence of Jason’s answer Steve looked at the plants that were lined up to the sides of the corridor.

Amongst various fruit bushes and plants the botanists seemed to have a thing for wild roses. Their odour filled the hallway.

“Good, was there any structural stress?” Carol also picked up on the boy’s story. “Not that I had seen. No cracks, no bends. But I’m not an engineer, so,” he shrugged his shoulders. Both Carol and Steve laughed.

I just hope that there is no damage. Teams of technicians and engineers are swarming the ship, will continue to do so until we have finished acceleration. It took Steve a moment to realize that he had grown accustomed to the constant shudders, but that they still occurred. For a brief moment he had worried that they might have stopped. An eventuality in which he would’ve been contacted.

 

“That’s the last one!” Brenda yelled across the command centre. In her voice a cheer that Steve was unaccustomed to. Applause roared through the command centre, Steve applauded too. Ten days of constantly feeling the trembling of the explosions were over, the Explorer was at her nominal speed.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we are on course,” Steve spoke to a ship wide audience. A small News network had been founded by some of the passengers, mostly family members of essential crew members. “and at our nominal speed. I want to thank all of you for your patience those last ten days. I want to thank the engineering department in particular, their hard work over that time was outstanding. It is with great relief that I can report to you, that the Explorer has suffered no damage to its structural integrity, no damage whatsoever in fact. Thank you all.” The line was cut on his mark. “I’m not accustomed to making speeches like that.” sighing he leaned against the console behind which Brenda had assumed position. “Cone on, Admiral,” a playful smirk in her lips she leaned closer too, seeming more like a bartender than a subordinate. “surely you had to make speeches to your crews before?”

“That’s different.” He too assumed a more relaxed stance. “Those were people with orders, military people. Now I hold speeches for civilians!” Smiling a similar smirk he tapped the console. “Now, Barmaid, where’s my Vodka-tonic?”

“Can’t help you with that, sir. No alcohol aboard, but there’s a man on deck seven of the gamma ring, he has a lemonade stand.”

Raising his eyebrows in surprise Steve leaned in closer. “A lemonade stand? Where does he get the lemons from?”

“Grows ’em in his quarters.” Baffled over the motif of that man to have a lemonade stand Steve stared off at an unspecific point. “There’s no monetary system aboard?” He replied after a few moments. “What would he want for a lemonade?”

“From you or me? That we won’t shut him down. From others he gets sometimes gifts, sometimes nothing.” A philanthropist? I have doubts.

“I suppose some women might sleep with him for more lemonade, he too has a rationing programme.”

Thought so. “Well, as long is it consensual.” He sighed.

Brenda snickered as he shook his head. “Well. He has an implant like everyone else. So he isn’t fathering a whole bunch of half siblings.”

With a mixture of relief and anger he gazed at his hand. Like anyone else aboard the Explorer, he too was shooting blanks. Unless permitted by a scientific committee, both men and women were under birth control.

Regulations permitted two children per couple, only in cases of others forfeiting their respective quota, or a dramatic loss of lives, could that be extended to more children. Population control was important in an enclosed limited environment like the Explorer. Or her sister ships.

“At least something.” Steve mumbled, slowly pacing to another console. “Fresh lemonade sounds intriguing however.” Again snickering, Brenda promised to bring some the next day.

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