Eyes squinted into small slits, the jaw clenched close. 

Her entire body tensed up. 

Almost unrecognisable to Solomon. He found Hylia sitting in her quarters. “It costs her a lot of effort to keep her implant offline.” Gérard Maiziere monitored the frequency of the implant, he sat next to the glass wall behind which Hylia sat. 

Hylia had been drifting in and out of responsive phases, during which she had told Gérard of similar events in Harpy history. Keeping his attention on the instruments Gérard handed the former Admiral a tablet, with the words that he needed it back. 

Sitting down as well Solomon began reading the transcript. 
A few months after large scale deployment of the implants began in ancient Harpy society, a fraction of the population linked together, just like the DEHumans. 

Unlike their human counterparts the ancient Harpy linkers succeed in actively forcing the link upon others. Soon the entire colony of the linkers was conjoined, and they started genetic diversity breeding. 

Solomon had read the recent reports from Explorer that were still on file, the crew of the Orion had just done the same with at least two members of the Explorer away team. 

The rest of the Harpy society looked at this development with unease. Fearing forced assimilation they attacked the linked colony with little success. Until they brought in weaponry to destabilise a large number of asteroids in the solar system. Too many for the colony to handle. Once the defences were down, and the offences largely destoryed the colony was bombarded from space.

To be sure, the entire system was declared uninhabitable, and off limits. Solar powered turrets were left in orbit around the planet, shooting everything that came from it or approached it from space.

“Interesting. There were no attempts of any kind to ever recreate such a collective?” 

“There were, but in our colonies and ships we have routines active to disrupt such linking.” Hylia spoke with a pronounced growl in her voice, the computerised voice did not carry it over, but it was audible through the wall. 

A glimmer of hope rose in Solomon, but he had to ponder on it for a while. If the Harpies shadowing them had such a virtual defense against the linkers, it was a question of getting it from them, and a second one to get it into the DEHuman network. But, was it the right thing to do? 

Doubting that it would be correct to enforce his view on the linkers, born into it or freely chosen to participate alike, Solomon shrugged his thoughts away.

First he had to attend something he had dreaded for the past two days.

Johannes’ memorial. 

Having known him since childhood, and having had a friendship for all of that time, his death had hit him hard. Working, despite his retirement, kept him afloat mentally, emotionally.  

Attending his memorial gave no relieving distraction, he would be forced into his pain, his memories, his loss. 

“I hate this.” He repeatedly mumbled on his way to the alpha ring. 
Clad in black, Sharon met him there. At first the rules of the closed ecosystem seemed weird, but Solomon had gotten used to them. There were no graveyards, or space burials. The nutrients in a human body were valuable to the plant life, and in turn for the following generations. 

“We have gathered here to remember Johannes Falkner. Doctor, husband, father and a close friend of mine.” Solomon had the doubtful honor to lead the ceremony. I hate this even more than just attending. “He will always be in our hearts, in our memory and for those of us that do it, in our prayers.” He looked at the crowd, there was Oleksandra, Johannes’ wife, Karl, his son. Of course Sharon and Solomon’s own children. Solomon jr. and Sara. The latter with her fiancé, and the baby the two had half a year ago. 

Colleagues and friends. It saddened him that Hylia couldn’t attend. Had she not gotten under the influence of the DEHuman link, it would’ve been possible to get her to the ceremony. 

“I once heard an ancient proverb. Sadly I forgot where it originated: Some things live only as long as the last person who remembers it. If that is the case, Johannes hasn’t died. His son will remember. His wife will remember. I shall remember! My children had always liked Uncle Joe, so they will remember. It is my firm hope that he will be a true immortal, never forgotten, meaning never dead. His body has passed on, but he will be always among us.” 

After he had spoken, Karl had his turn, Oleksandra couldn’t bring herself to it. She was too grief striken. 

Once the body of his old friend had been carried off inton the interior of the morgue Solomon stayed in his seat. 

“Distract me.” Oleksandra sat down next to him. Both their sons had led the guests off, including Solomon’s wife. “We face a secession on beta by the linkers. How’s that for a distraction?” 

Answering with a weak and faint smile, Oleksandra stared at the wall behind which her husband’s remains were treated to become fertile soil one day. “I could use his advice on this. He had an understanding of different cultures and cultural ramifications, that I lack. Look how well he got in touch with Hylia.” Solomon couldn’t help but start tearing up again. “And I could just use his company. Our jokes, jests, and old stories. New stupid stories to be added to the anthology of our friendship.” 

“I miss him too already.” Surprisingly stout Oleksandra shook her head. “I guess, I knew it was coming when he had slipped into that comatose state then. It prepared me, more than it prepared you.” Sighing she got up, patting Solomon on the shoulder. “Come on sir, let’s celebrate.” 

Celebrate! With a swift motion he wiped his tears away. Why is death celebrated? After someone died there was a sad memorial, and then the reltives and friends gathered for a feast and a party. Solomon didn’t feel like celebrating. 

Never the less, he visited the party, stayed for about an hour, mingled with the other guests.