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In silence the cylindrical object was caught in the tethering, jerked as inertial forces tore at it, but after some moments of jerking, it was ready to be hauled aboard the Destiny. “What have the probes from Ericsson prepared for us?” Pryia reached for her tablet, as the inventory of the transport was transmitted from the carrier. “Ma’am? There must be an error in the systems, most of those materials aren’t what we had the drones mine for us. In this transport there are mostly silicates.”

Pryia raised an eyebrow over Stanley’s comment. “To make computers you need silicates, and our ordered materials will be in the next transports” her voice faded during the last word. “That is the shipping list for all the transports?”

“Told you.” Stanley smirked over his tablet. Both studied the list in detail.

“Weird, but only the numbers don’t add up. There probably had been a glitch in the software, it is sad, but we can upgrade our computers to no end.” Disappointment in her voice Pryia put the tablet down. She went over to Stanley’s desk and gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder. “Pryia!” He hissed, his tone implored her to stay. “Isn’t it also possible that there had been sabotage?” Whispering as not to unsettle their colleagues in the command centre Stanley pointed at his tablet. A note he had opened read three words: Kismet or Linkers?

Pryia pushed her eyebrows to form one dark bar above her eyes. “It is, but I’d rather hope for a glitch than a saboteur.” She whispered. “Investigate that glitch.” Louder than before.

“Aye Ma’am.”

 

For what seemed like ages the Rhama held audiences. “Welcome back,” for a moment the Rhama looked Dana in the eyes, “Dana. Right?”

She nodded. With a smile on his lips the Rhama looked her from head to to toe and back. “I can remember the last times, for me it was last week and the weeks before that. If I couldn’t remember that, I’d be worried.” He shifted on his cushions. “What brings you to me?”

“Fear.” She sat down on the cushions in front of him, they were now on eye level.

“Because Earth will perish?” His calm voice soothed her mind, even the dreadful demise of earth was not so frightening from his mouth.

“Of closure to be exact. There is this new trend,” she paused. How would she describe the brain implants to the Rhama?

“Of having a chip implanted in your brain, bringing you close to all the others who have it?” Stunned, but still soothed, Dana nodded. “As I understand it, this would bring you closer to the others, but at the risk of losing yourself. Losing yourself is never the answer, it is the problem. Don’t be afraid. If you take strength from within yourself you can withstand the temptation. You are never alone.”

A smile found its way on her lips. The Rhama also knew that she was afraid to be alone, just by looking at her. “How old are you?”

“Twenty.”

Again the Rhama looked her straight in the eyes. “Do not be afraid to be alone, or to be close to someone, you know where you come from, that is all you need to know where you are going. Just never let go of the most important person in your life, the only one responsible to make you happy, yourself!” He smiled.

“I understand, thank you, Rhama.” Dana rose from the cushions, bowed and left. “How is your mother?” Dana stopped in front of the door. “We do not speak anymore since I stopped going to church with her, or at all.”

“Why did you stop?” Slowly turning around she saw the worry in the old man’s eyes. “You could say that I have lost faith in god.” Slowly returning to the cushions she felt as if her mother was talking to her. “If god was really there, he wouldn’t fling a neutron star towards earth. It is not like he just wanted to wipe out mankind, but all of his creation. I however believe in the philosophy, the divine inside us. Hence my being here.” For a moment she looked into the dark eyes of the Rhama, she knew what her mother would say in that moment. “We are being tested, as we are allowed to move on!”

But the Rhama didn’t say any of the sorts. With a benign smile he nodded, closing his eyes. Again she thanked him and left.

“Is that answer enough for you?” The Rhama turned to a curtained off area behind him. Lucia Kharkova stepped through the curtains. “She doesn’t mean bad, she is a good child. Now, see past what disturbs you, and forgive her.”

Tears in her eyes the older woman nodded, turned back into the room behind the curtains, from where she could use another exit to leave without Dana knowing.

 

Hundreds of people roamed the hallways and corridors on the alpha ring outside the Rhama’s audience quarters. They would even camp there, while the Rhama rested for the night, Pryia knew. She glossed over the still images from the surveillance cameras released to the news station. Never had she thought that the impending destruction of earth would move her that much, she found herself longing for a few minutes in his presence. Her glasses beeped.

“Enable speaker.” She sighed turning down the volume on the news. “Ma’am, I’m sorry to disturb you after your shift ended.” Stanley’s voice sounded as sorry as his words implored. “No problem. What is it Stanley?”

“May I come in?” Suddenly finding a smile on her lips Pryia blushed and looked around. It was clean enough to let her first officer in, but was it clean enough to let Stanley enter? She decided it was. “Please do.”

Her door opened, revealing Stanley outside. He looked terribly tired, his uniform had wrinkles, the first buttons on his shirt were open. “I was going through,” he paused, surprised he looked around. “Your quarters are smaller than I anticipated.”

“They originally meant for the Admiral to have a bigger one, but since I am not married yet, I didn’t need the bigger ones, and took this one.” Besides I am afraid the other one isn’t as secure. “What brings my first officer here, or is this unofficial?”

For a moment Pryia thought to see a hint of a blush on Stanley’s cheeks. “Sadly I bring work.” He handed her his tablet computer. “It seemed as a software glitch at first, but then I noticed that the checksum of the transmission was off. So I assumed the glitch was on our end, but this ain’t no glitch.”

Reading through the lines on the display Pryia had to dig up her knowledge of these matters, as she was more tasked with politics and tactics lately. “Who did it?”

“That’s the disturbing part, there is no trace of an ID, who ever did it was an expert.” Concerned he took a seat on the couch chair, Pryia sank to her bed, lowering the tablet. “Digitally Enhanced?”

“Could be, they appear to be everywhere. I’ll task chief Lapierre with finding out more about them first thing in the morning.” He rubbed his face, realised that he had sat down without leave, got up again.

“Care to stay for dinner?” Stunned by the sudden and unexpected invitation Stanley took a breath, found no immediate reply, exhaled again.

“A simple yes or no would do.” She rose herself, handed him the tablet. “Just remember it would be polite to accept the invitation of your superior officer.” Winking she turned to the cupboard, after opening it, she produced dried food and water. “Of course I would like to,” she turned around, reaching for his face, laying her index finger on his lips. “Relax Stanley, it’s not official.”

Again there was the hint of a blush on his cheeks. “In that case, Pryia, I would very much like to dine with you.”

 

Dana stood next to the freshly opened transport from Ericsson. Her thoughts however were not with the huge rocket shaped object and its contents, although the Admiral was very much concerned for it. Extra security personnel was commanded to guard it, as the suspicion of sabotage or theft was uttered.

A mere month before her training was over she and her comrades had been sent to guard it. “Until everything is stored you will stay here and guard this thing and all that spills out of it, understood?” Lieutenant Kaleb Johnson, not related to Commander Stanley Johnson, had barked to his recruits. Despite him still looking rather sickly, he had not lost any of his intimidating skills as drill instructor.

Taking half the recruits with him, to be posted along the transport routes, Kaleb took off, Dana was among those to guard the transport.

“You’re in a seldomly good mood?” Julia noted after their superiors had all gone. “My mother contacted me, tomorrow I will have lunch with her.”

Smiles were exchanged before both again looked around with stern expressions. After all they had a job to do. “So what do you think? About the reason for us being here.”

Letting her gaze wander through the large room Dana did not reply immediately. “I think either the Kismet or an unknown faction. I’m not even ruling out Harpys.”

“Attention all decks, at 1800hours there will be a special cast on the news channel, followed by a five minute sermon from the Rhama. Counseling sessions are available outside normal ruster the next few days.” After the announcement silence filled the cargo room. Workers and security personnel stared blankly off into space, all knew what that meant.

Earth’s final destruction.

“Or the linkers.” Dana sighed, pacing around the room, slowly duty continued again.

 

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