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“Viewer discretion is adviced. The following images are a computer simulation of the events taking place at the current time, we will be bringing images based on sensor data as soon as it is available. Do not watch unless prepared for what follows.”

Oceans of brown-blue waste, brown landmasses. Not resembling at all the planet they all had left behind, Earth began to bulge, moments later the surface began to tear open, red glowing magma poured out, caught in the gravitational pull of the approaching neutron star. Chunks of the surface, magma, vapor of the dead water waste that once had been ocean, it all began to break away from earth, as the planet was torn apart. Soon most of the chunks were indistinguishable, it all looked like rock and lava, as it floated away from where earth was into a spiraling disk around the star.

Cuddled against against Stanley, Pryia watched, tears rolled down her cheeks. They had decided to keep their relationship a secret for the time being, which didn’t keep them from spending their time off-duty together. “Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”

“About?” From his voice she could tell had been crying too. “How were we so lucky to get away from earth in order to escape certain doom?”

“You may contribute it to luck or fate, in either case we should count our blessings and carry on. For us there is a long journey ahead, a journey our children will continue, in order for our grandchildren to arrive at the destination. A destination that is in and of itself an adventurous journey.”

Beautifully said. “Our blessings?” Pryia glanced over to his eyes, only centimetres from hers.

“We have the cultural inheritances of the entire human race, we have each other. There is music, poetry, literature, art. We have children’s laughter, joy and sadness, dispair and fulfilment, hate and most importantly, love. These blessings.”

“Commander Johnson,” she sat up, “I never knew you were a philosopher.” Leaning in for a kiss she nibbled his lower lip first.

 

Tired, but at the same time fulfilled, the Rhama sat on his bed. The bed that would then retract into his cryogenic chamber. A series of devices was attached to his skin monitoring his vital signs, as medication flowed down an IV to prepare him for the year long slumber. As the years before he sat with a tablet computer in his hands reading up on current evets he hadn’t been able to catch up on his first day. One day of thawing, one day of freezing, five days in between the two for counselling.

Classified reports on the Harpys and the weird trend of implanting with brain chips had been made available to him, the Admiral had seen to that. She wanted the Rhama to have a full insight on the state of things, after all he also sent messages to the other ships, they were generalised, but still helpful to the crews of Explorer and Horizon.

“I sure hope they get the Harpy threat under control.” By the drag of his tongue he realised how much the medications already affected him. With a nod Pryia stepped closer. “As do I, and I hope they can make it with as little bloodshed on either side as possible.”

The Rhama looked into her eyes, for a long moment he said nothing. “You are worried about what you call the linkers, or as they are referred to in the reports, Digitally Enhanced Humans?”

Again Pryia nodded. She looked at the devices hooked up to the religious leader. It seemed like an enviable alternative to fighting all that hardship, going to sleep and waking up a year later for a few days, just to go back to sleep afterwards. Detaches one somewhat from the difficulties faced by the rest. “You will manage. Those people out there, they are a fine crew, and they will manage.”

“I have every bit of confidence in this ship and its crew, I don’t doubt that we will manage the difficulties ahead of us. It’s just a particularly rough bit that will await us there and then. I fear that it might tear the crew apart.”

Again the Rhama shook his head. “Look.” He pointed at the screen in hia hands. Based on sensor telemetry the computer had rendered an actual depiction of earth’s final moments.

“That is where you come from. Were we all came from. But it isn’t over! We are here. Earth is here. There is plenty of soil, water and plants here, that originally was part of earth. Earth is here!” He pointed at his heart. “Where ever we go, we are home as long as we carry that with us what made earth our home.” He let his hand sink from his chest, it became heavier as he spoke. “And it binds us together. No matter how difficult times might become between you and the linkers, we are one people. Connected by far more than technology. Don’t let your differences tempt you to take drastic measures, they are of your kin.” His tongue had gotten quite heavy, but he smiled, slowly the weight pulled on his eyelids.

“I will take your words to heart. I shall treat them kindly when it comes down to it.” Certain that the difficulties would boil down to a conflict she did not say “if”.

Smiling the Rhama doze off.

 

“It’s an important day for me. You should come.” Dana stared at the tired eyes of her mother. “I’ll be there child.” Lucia Kharkova gave in to her daughter’s urging. “It is after all what makes you happy.”

Delighted Dana smiled, kissing her mother on the cheek for good bye. She left her parents’ quarters on the beta ring and headed to the tube.

To her surprise she found Gant inside the cab that arrived. “Sir.” She greeted him, taking a seat, since they would go through zero G segments on their return voyage to the barracks. “Tomorrow’s the big day, huh?” He finally broke the silende as the weight lifted from their bodies. “Aye sir. Finally the training is over, I already have requested for  transfer to security. They said a letter of recommendation would be helpful.”

Amused smiling, Gant weighed his weightless head. “I’ll see what I can draft up.” He winked.

Career paths after the basic training in the security forces was a fork in the road. Gant had the luck of signing on before these changes were made. Formerly a shipwide security force was split into the military police, the rings own policing forces and lastly military. The latter were added once the Harpy threat was made known from Horizon.

“But be warned, if push comes to shove, it’ll be a jurisdictional disaster.” He sighed.

Next week I’ll definitely join the folks in that club on gamma. Gravity returned to normal once the cab was caught in the right siphon.

“Are your parents going to attend?” Still a few moments away from their destination, Gant wanted to break the silence.

“My mother will, father died two months ago. Doctors said it was a sudden shock of sorts.” Nodding Gant got up from his seat once the straps were open, as did Dana. “My condolences.” He lowered his voice.

“Thank you, but he died with a smile on his lips. Almost triumphant. Perhaps because he had managed to die outside earth.”

The doors opened and released them into the hallways of the sub alpha ring. “Well, I’ll contact you as soon as I have finished that recommendation.” he broke away from her side, striding down to his quarters, and the dining room where he frequently had his food.

 

Prince Shamim remained on the Destiny with his wife and entourage while the other visitors from the Kismet returned to their ship.

Bored he strode through the central gardens on the alpha ring. Fascinated by the diverse plant life he had slowed his pace. Surrounded by advisers he hadn’t had time to do this during his last visit, but now he only had a close friend at his side, while his wife walked with a friend and some entourage a few paces back.

“Enjoying the gardens?” Pryia approached them from a different path. The fields and gardens were mostly fenced off, there was almost no lawn, but knee high plants, as lawn consumed too much water and provided little in return. “Yes, very much.” Shamim gestured around them. “It is a wonderful gift of nature you have here. We have a garden too, but it is a small, cramped place. Stuffed with fruit trees and bushes. Oxygen is produced by algae, as is almost all our food. We are forced to live a Vegan lifestyle, as we don’t have your laboratory capabilities to make meat from stem cells.” Mentally he added that they lacked bovine stem cells from which they could make meat that was allowed to consume even if Destiny was going to hand them the knowledge and technology.

“It is a wonderful garden, and a great substitute for open skies and frsh air, but only a  substitute nome the less.” She pointed at the trees. “Every few nights there is simulated rainfall, turbines produce winds, but during these events access to the gardens is restricted, safety reasons.”

“You miss wind, and rain. Understandably. But be thankful for this garden. It could be worse.” Shamim winked. He looked at the trees, the space between them. “I stayed behind for more reasons than just to admire your gardens, Admiral.”

Looking at the plants in the distance herself Pryia made an agreeing sound. “I figured as much, Prince.”

With a wave of his hand he sent his friend off. “As you might have figured as well, we don’t have a lot to offer for trade.” Noticng the others on the path behind them he picked up speed to stay out of earshot. “We need supplies from you. Materials from Ericsson, food, perhaps even fruit. But most of all, your implants. Think of it as humanitarian aid.”

Pryia felt stunned, all the other items had been on the table during the negotiations, but the implants hadn’t.

“You see, in my culture it is customary to have many children, and while we know that with our limited resources we can’t sustain an ever growing population, but how should we avoid it? Birth control and contraception need constant manufacturing, and resources. The implants however,”

Pryia raised her hand and nodded. Actually glad for the surplus of materials needed to manufacture the implants, she slowed their pace again. “I understand. I will make sure you receive them.” A smile appeared on the Prince’s lips.

I just hope that this is all the surplus materials are needed for. “But we need to keep this a secret, if the people of the Kismet found out, they might reject it.” Shamim hissed before the others from his group caught up to them.

“It will be handled discreetly.”

 

Standing guard outside the storage for the minerals brought in from Ericsson, Dana was furious, although Gant had written the recommendation, it still had to be taken under consideration. Julia stood on the other side of the door, looking rather happy wih their assignment. “It was a great ceremony, wasn’t it?” For two weeks she always brought up their ceremony at the end of their training.

“Yes. It was.” Annoyed with going over the topic once again, Dana let her words out in a deep sigh. Moments passed and Julia did not go over the festivties again. Perhaps she had finally noticed how annoying it was for Dana and the others from their class. Still Dana dared to glance over to Julia. Stunned the other young woman sat on the ground twitching silently from the charged dart in her neck.

Immediately Dana jumped to her, but halfway across the width of the door she felt the sudden sting of a dart, followed by the searing pain of the charge robbing her of her senses.

 

Agony infused darkness took control of her.

As it lifted, the door to the storage room was broken into, Julia sat next to her, both had soiled themselves. Disturbed Dana reached for her glasses. “Security breach, storage compartment 29 sub alpha was broken into.” She breathed more than she could speak. Only moments later the first guards appeared, closely followed by the Admiral and her first officer.

 

“They are up to something.” Pryia whispered to Stanley after they looked around in the storage room, noticing the stolen materials were mostly compounds used for the production of computer parts and chip implants.

 

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