Gradually the air in the conference room had thickened, almost becoming tangible. After hours of talking to Anne and evaluating the idea of reintegration the meeting was adjourned. Except Governor Egger, all present were for the integration of the former linkers.

Pinching the base of his nose Benjamin was relieved after they all had left. If that was not going to end in a disaster, he would be very surprised. Not because the linkers would do something sinister.

But because Egger would do something stupid.

“Sir?” Csilla entered the room. “Anne is back with the others.” Thanking her he got up.

“Why am I filled with doubt?”

Not quite catching on, Csilla came closer, gently the door closed behind her. “I had the opportunity to talk with her, sir. She seems to be truly interested in becoming an individual. To be honest, I think this will be a tremendous victory. It could very well be a prime example for reintegration of former linkers.”

Benjamin shook his head as he turned to the door. “Not her and the linkers are the cause for my doubts,” he pointed to the door, “it’s Egger. He isn’t alone in his convictions. I fear most people are filled with hostility towards the linkers, and it is us I have doubts in. Xenophobia is deeply anchored in our genes, we fear what we do not understand. We attack what we fear. Just look at our history. Immigrants, and minorities were always met with suspicion and hostility.” He wandered around the conference table to the back of the room. A door there opened upon his approach, leading into a small room, it was a small storage space for presentation and seminar material. One of the Admirals had a small server put up in there as well, to play through scenarios with programmers without affecting the mainframes. “We like to think of ourselves as these enlightened beings that have overcome their primal xenophobic instincts. Races and cultures of human people that were at each others throats for countless millennia are living peacefully side by side on this ship. We have made peace with the Harpies, we are avoiding contact with the natives on our new homeplanet to allow them to thrive without interference, we now even successfully encountered a truly alien race and reached a peaceful understanding with them. But when it comes to the linkers we fail.” He lowered himself to lean on the table. “Because it is too close to home, not as in spacial, but emotional proximity. They look like us, talk like us, they are us, in every biological sense. We could be them. We could become them, and that frightens people, and especially Governor Egger. And out of that fear we disregard our humanity, we revert to Xenophobic tendencies, and attack. When all the linkers want is to live as they please. Now some of them desire to live like us. And I fear that they won’t be able to, because our society doesn’t want to integrate them. That is what makes me doubt in the success of this enterprise.”

Csilla looked at the Admiral, and then began to clap. “You should’ve said that during the meeting. Maybe shame Governor Egger into agreeing.” She sat on the table with one butcheek, facing the Admiral on the ither side. “But we can’t change human nature. If wr couldn’t bring ourselves to it in all these decades, we won’t in the remaining years. All we can do, is set a prime example. Help make the fear of the linkers fade away into obscurity.” She smiled.

Making a disgruntled sound Benjamin pushed off from the table and continued his walk. “People like Egger aren’t so easily swayed, sadly.”

Dismissing her he left too.

His mind was uneasy, and he needed some time to think.

Like his predecessor he found solace in the garden, scheduled for a rainy afternoon, the paths and paved ways were clear of any activity that might distract him.

Of course, his analogy with the rooting branches had some downsides, he concluded. If the group of linkers he had on board were to root as individuals, that was fine. But what if they were to root as a new collective mind?

He shook his head sitting under a pear tree. That would make no sense. They would’ve overpowered Destiny, turned off the communication network, thus disabling the counter program, and taken over. Concluding that the linkers were not a communist regime that got rid of any free thinkers by eliminating them, or keeping them from leaving the collective mind, he looked up to the spine.

Still rain poured down.

The buzzing noise of his vibrating glasses disturbed the relative silence of just water pouring on the leaves around him. “Yes, Csilla?” Without looking he knew who called. Somehow George had always known not to call him when he was in the subalpha garden, and their children knew as well.

“We pulled the plug on Egger, but he had this public service announcement running a few minutes ago.”

Feeling his intestines tie into a tight knot Benjamin prepared himself in a second.

“Dear fellow Destinians, as you might be aware, there has been a terrible incident with the ship Horizon, after their rear section got abandoned, a band of struggling survivors was left stranded on the linker moon. Those brave souls were followed to Destiny by a pack of the linkers, who seek to undermine our society, and sow the seed of linkship among us, or at the very least steal our DNA by prostituting themselves. I oppose movements aboard this vessel to integrate these creatures into our society, attempts to enable their wretched plans. I call forward those of you who support this opposition of madness, we must impeach those in power who want to deliver us into the hands of the linker threat.”

Sitting in his office, obviously quite mad that all communication from and access to his offices had been shut down, Governor Egger was drumming his fingers on the desk. Out side the room he was in, was the office of his secretary, four men with guns stood there. Outside that another dozen were standing guard. He had gathered them in advance, but now they were sitting ducks as he was.

Unbeknownst to him a group of several hundred people had gathered outside the isolated offices, in support of him, who were boxed in by groups of people in opposition to the Governor.

Surrounded by his own armed guards, more than the governor could amass in his ring’s police force, Benjamin paved a way through these bulks of people.

Backed by the other two Governors he had a warranty for Egger.

Disturbed by the noise outside Egger looked up from his desk. Prior he had given the men outside the order to shoot intruders, now he had doubts whether he should have done that. To his relief the men outside did not follow his command, after a few angry shouts, they surrendered.

Only minutes later the door to his office was opened. Twenty guards streamed through the door, making it seem much smaller in a moment.

Then the Admiral followed. Stoic, as so often. “Governor Egger, I hereby place you under arrest for citing an uprising, and calling for civil disobedience and unrest. Possibly resulting in a conflict, as the armed guards in your offices prove.” He displayed a warranty on his tablet that he threw on the desk.

“You do know that this sort of conduct makes me and my claims seem much more legitimate in the eyes of the public?”

Ben raised but one eyebrow. “That is why we have a group of reporters here, following our every move, broadcasting live.” One of the armed guards tipped his helmet. A camera was mounted on it, he had missed that before.

“Those people were born into a life they did not chose. They however chose to live our way of life, and instead of giving them a helping hand, you want to punish them for what they were born as.” Benjamin leaned forward, resting his hands on the governor’s desk. “There is a term for someone like you: racist. It is you who the people of Destiny need to be weary about. You are the step in the wrong evolutionary direction, Governor. Human kind has evolved past petty racism. We do not fear or hate others simply because they were born differently. That, and only that, is our approach to new races and cultures. You are but a relict from the past, soon to be forgotten.” Turning to the nearest Sergeant, Ben gave him the command to take the Governor into custody.

Yearning for a quiet afternoon with George, Benjamin took a deep breath turning to the camera. “As you saw and heard, the Governor himself said it was claims, not facts, that he had stated. The oh so peaceful governor had his police force guard him. One guard even confirmed that they had the order to shoot. I think it is time for all of us to return home, spend a quiet evening with our loved ones, or alone if you need time to think. Our past instincts can not continue to lead us into the future. They can not come with us to RV-p296. These instincts need to remain with our ancestors, in earths tomb, and remembered only by history. We are not the people that have left earth any longer.” He walked a few paces towards the door, most of the guards around him had already left. “If the natives were to see us, and knew how we arrived, they would call us gods, or sky people in the very least. Although we are going to land in a remote part of the planet, uninhabited by the natives, we should act like sky people. Benign and enlightened. If we are wronged, we forgive and do not seek vengeance. If someone seeks help, we aid, and do not condone the actions that led them there, or in the current case, the actions of their parents and grandparents, that led them there. This is Admiral Benjamin Fuller, signing off for tonight.”

Gently the hand caressed Benjamin’s temple. “Moving speech you gave there.” George commented after watching a replay of the life stream. “I hope people are as enlightened as you want them to be.”

“They accepted a black homosexual Admiral. They’ll accept former linkers in their midst.” Ben smiled. His look fell on the two children on the couch, fast asleep.

All the trouble he had gone through so far, the heirs, the silicone aliens and now the linkers, was for them. So their future would be just as bright as he always hoped it to be. They should never have to grow up in a world with racism, or Xenophobia, in it.

Men like Egger sooner or later would twist and turn people’s perception of reality in a way that one day the natives on RV-p296 would be feared, hated and hunted eventually.

Such was not the world he wanted the twins to settle on.

He and George had adopted them before he had been Admiral, after their parents untimely end in an accident. Then he had vowed, to himself mostly, that he would do all in his power to lead them into a bright future deserving of them.

Satisfied with his efforts he got up.

“We should bring them to bed.” He donned a benign smile, slowly walking over, George behind him.

Civil unrest due to Governor Egger’s public announcement quieted down over a few weeks, Benjamin worked hard to paint an optimistic picture of the linkers that had come aboard. Together with the Horizon survivors he continued work on teaching the linkers how to function as individuals.

Much to his dismay the implants could not be deactivated completely.

They were too embedded in brain functions, to be turned off, without reverting their owners to an early developmental state, from where they’d have to slowly learn to grow up again.

A step he was not prepared to take. Instead the program prohibiting them from linking was directly inserted into the implant.

According to the task force he had drafted, that was done in a way they could not remove the program again.

It puzzled him a little in the beginning how the linkers should learn individuality, if they were always in the company of someone. Over time he realised that they were alone in their minds.

Tasked to engage in non productive activities, such as watching movies or doing art, they soon began to show emerging personalities.

Which was a great way to show the public, and the provisional government on RV-p296, their progress in becoming individuals.

Over time he also discovered that the climate controls had begun to simulate the seasons on Equatoria.

A circumstance the linkers and the survivors from Horizon had actual experience with, and could show the others how to react, since he and all others born on Destiny never had experienced any changes in climate.

Some time after Equatoria was chosen as the landing site, the climatic conditions of it were programmed into the computer, and the automated system designed to get the crew settled in with their new home kicked in, letting them experience the climate in the colony.

Of course, everyone had forgotten about it, so the first time it began to get colder the tecnnicians were called in droves, to fix an apparent problem, which was none at all.

Elections on beta were held three times in the remaining time to get to their destination. The first was a tie between two candidates. The second saw a winner, but she was soon voted out of office by the population on alpha as she was seen as unable to get things in her jurisdiction done.

Finally the planet began to appear on the viewscreen of both Destiny and Kismet, clearly visible out of the windows as well. A great sense of accomplishment filled Benjamin upon that sight. Lie Fah at navigation was staring at his console with a stern expression, concentrating on his task of establishing a stable geostationary orbit above Equatoria.

The other ships came into view. Shining as if polished, Explorer first drew the attention of the new arrivals. The rings were barren, when compared to Destiny’s, but the hallways interconnecting the pods that once had been there were dismantled, so the entire ship was slimmer.

Then Ben’s eyes fell upon a stumpy shadow of a ship.

Horizon. Or what was left of it, now called Dawn Horizon. “Welcome to RV-p296, Admiral, Prince.” A friendly face appeared on the screen, immediately Ben looked at her with surprise. Jane Mulgrew greeted him? “Didn’t you want to retire?”

“I had intended it, yes. I even went so far as to launch an investigation into my own actions, but allas I still am where I was when I arrived, the chair of an Admiral.” She looked around herself. “And Dawn Horizon is doing fine these days.”

“With all respect to your ship Admiral, she looks rather small.”

“Looks are deceiving.” Jane smiled. Of course she had heard of the aliens in the outer regions of the system cleaning up behind the beta ring disaster, but she chose not to comment on it, at least for the moment.

Benjamin drew breath to say something when the communication officers on Destiny, Kismet and Dawn Horizon stated that they were receiving a signal.

“Where is it from?” Ben looked to his side. Since it could be originating from Explorer, the surface, the moonbase or the linker moon, the silicone aliens or even the Harpies shadowing them for Commander Ony, he wanted to know the origin first.

“The direction we came from.” Csilla spoke now, instead of the communication officer, who was obviously too stunned to speak.

“From a certain Doctor Kurt Braun, chief scientific administrator of the colony of Mars, sent a few months ago.”

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