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His eyes fell back on the screen. There it was. His future home. A long, lone track of walkway led up to it.

Underneath that road were cables, wires and pipes, he knew. Although the landing craft and the smaller pods were capable of functioning autonomously, cleansing water, recycling waste water and other waste, generating electricity through solarpanels, it still was hooked up to a centralised system, so the onboard aystems functioned as a redundancy system in case the central system ever broke down.

“When will you settle?” Nye leaned down on the table in front of them. “Oh, I don’t know. Once the whole of alpha, beta and gamma have sat down on Equatoria, my successor is sworn in, governments of the rings have been disbanded, and a new government on the colony is established. It’ll be a while. But until then I will just have to either phone it in, or go back and forth.” Anna would be sitting at that river with him in less than two weeks. Moira was also eager to live near the rivers, in a quiet corner.

Their marriage nearly broke apart after Diana’s death, but they got through it, somehow.

Upon return to the command centre Dean noticed a few dozen messages. From the look at the titles he gathred that all of them were regarding to the seeds. “Lucy, find me someone to explain these people that there will be no seeds, if they don’t read the protocols from the settlement meetings, it ain’t my damn fault.”

“Sir, before you were Admiral, did you read the protocols?” She flashed a smile, which he reflected, knowing she was right.

“But I knew that when ain order, or deny of request was issued, it had a reason.” He winked, as she started drafting a general reply to all of the messages.

A silent dance of gravity. Nye watched the main screen as the Explorer reached its final position for the landing procedure. It was almost all she had dreamed off those last few years. “I believe it should be your honor, Doctor Charles.” Dean made an inviting gesture towards his chair.

Thanking him Nye shuffled to it, sat down. “All hands, prepare for first landing wave, on my mark.” She glanced over to Lucy, who nodded.

“Mark.” The camera changed, it was a whisker camera viewing the ship from the side. An even more gracious dance began, as one by one, landing crafts disengaged from the rings. Lined up like pearls on a string they moved away from the mother ship, heading towards the planet. Probe control had mapped out the best approach vector, where they ought not to be seen by the natives on the other continents.

Gazing upon the world below Explorer from this close she felt as nervous as she had when she boarded the ship and saw Earth for the last time from Orbit.

Clear blue oceans, scattered clouds, the colors of vegetation varying from green hues to bright brown tones where the steppes and deserts were.

“I can’t wait to set foot on it.” She sighed with a smile. If only Jacob was there with her. Or at least Jason.

What sights had his eyes beheld since his departure with the linkers? A world as welcoming as this? An entirely different view must’ve greeted him.

She remembered what the moon looked like with it’s red hue, only having clouds where subterranean heat evaporated water.

Obviously the Orion’s home planet was different than that moon, but still she imagined it similarly.

As she stared at the crafts entering the atmosphere the face of her granddaughter popped to mind. The young woman hadn’t had a name. Or did she? At least she knew of none.

“Sir?” Lucy looked up from her console, she was the only one who hadn’t been watching the main screen. “We have company.”

Immediately everyone stared back on their own panels, screens and instruments. Following their example Nye looked at the Display in Deans station. “It is of unknown design, but based on what we know about the linkers, it’s them.” Chief of security Ben Toryama stated. Not hearing Dean say that they probably just were seeing them off, Nye touched the display. She liked to think that Jason was on that ship. And her granddaughter. “I’m here.” She whispered, unheard by the others in the command centre. “Open a channel.” She lifted her head. Confirming her order by looking at Dean, the communication officer did so after the Admiral nodded in approval.

“I do not know if you are on this ship my son, or you my granddaughter, but I do know that what makes you, you, is somewhere in that collective consciousness.” Biting back a choking sob Nye wiped away the tears from her eyes. “I soon will be landing on the planet. Probably I soon will be dying. All that I wish for now that we have arrived at our destination, is to see my family again. At least on a screen.”

The face of a redhaired young man appeared on the screen. “We regret to inform you that the biological,” he paused, cleared his throat, “that the people you are referring to, are not aboard this vessel. Your request is taken under consideration regardless.” The transmission ended.

Barely daring to take a look at the old woman’s face Dean turned, found a broad smile on the old woman’s face. “I believe I at least will refeive a picture.” She mused, heaving herself out of the chair.

On that occasion she told the Admiral it was too comfortable, he, or his successor should replace it with one you stayed alert in.

Nye was sunken in thought as she left the command centre, not hearing the chatter amongst the crew.

Walking more like a remote controlled robot Nye wandered through the hallways, sat down in a cab after reaching the tube entry. She exited at the entrance to the gardens where Jacob had taken her on their first date.

Following their path back then, she wandered the garden. I wish you were here, my love. Since that first day she had been granted access to the garden, much had changed. In that year there was only enough fruit for a raffle. Two years later there had been enough for everyone.

They had children. Later those were allowd to play in the garden.

A cat rushed over the path, it was pressed down low.

Presumably it was hunting. Nye followed the cat with her eyes. After a few meters she lost track of it.

Longing for closure to Jason and his family, Nye continued her walk, sunken in memories of her family when her children were young.

“They just sit there and watch. Are they studying us like we studied the natives, or are they evaluating our threat, or prospecting conquest?” Ben Toryama mumbled, staring at the small image of the linker ship. It still kept its distance. Didn’t move away, didn’t send any messages that Explorer could read.

Nothing.

“It’s just like the Harpies. If they wanted us dead, we’d be dead. If they wanted to force their link upon us, we’d all be part of that collective. Nothing we could do about it.” Dean replied, his face rested on his left hand.

“First wave has successfully touched down.” Communication officer stated. Dean turned away from his chief of security. “Put ’em through.”

“Admiral! It was a bumpy ride, but we’ve made it all in one piece, guiding trajectories worked perfectly. We have successfully touched down in our allotted spots.” Came the voice of a man from the speakers. Dean knew him only briefly, he once had been a pilot who was trained on earth for reentry.

During the last two years he had trained others in simulators, but Dean hadn’t been part of those classes. “Glad to hear Colonel. We’ll send the second wave soon. How’s the air?”

“Nice and fresh, nothing compared to what we’ve been breathing on that ship of yours. There are scents I can’t even begin to describe, and there is wind!” There was almost a boyish ring to the Colonel’s voice as he mentioned the wind.

“Keep the doors open, second wave will be down soon.” He neglected to tell him about the ship that was shadowing the Explorer. If their sensors hadn’t detected it, there was no reason to concern the people on the surface. With a nod Dean gave Lucy the order to let the second wave move on out.

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