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Chief Medical Officer Denise Reynolds, ST 2169-09-02 09:20. Engineer Miji Lee invited me to the Tereshkova as work continues on the upgrades. She offered to show me the new medbay and allow me to finalize the placement and arrangement of the new medical equipment.
A metal sphere hovered over the crowd in the main square of the human habitat. It set down silently, drawing curious stares from the colonists sitting around the metal tables set up around the square. The watched as a door opened in the middle of the sphere, swinging down to form a ramp that met the charcoal black of the main square.
Three people in white-gray jumpsuits stepped out of the silver interior. I recognized Miji Lee right away, leading the group with her wide smile stretching across her face. She nodded to me, and then gestured to the two people behind her. Security Officer Akiyama nearly managed to hide his loving smile as his fiancé glanced back at him, and greeted me with a slight nod. Helena Clarke smiled warmly as she stepped next to Akiyama, nodding a silent thanks to me for her previous medical treatment.
The door of the habitat’s medical center slid shut behind me as I finally left the doorway and crossed the black road between it and the spherical ship. I sighed as I left the medbay in the care of the medical androids Aren 01 and 02. The beds were all empty now; the number of hospital trips had dwindled over the last few weeks, as colonists recovered from the rigors of space travel and adjusted to life in this strangely comfortable habitat.
As I crossed the communal square, most onlookers turned away from the ship, probably disappointed that none of our alien hosts had made the trip. I decided to accept the few pairs of eyes still watching us intently as Miji and I approached each other. They may as well know what’s going on, I thought.
“Doctor Reynolds,” Miji said as I clasped her outstretched hand, “We just picked up Helena here a few minutes ago, and we’re ready to go as soon as you are.”
“Wait just a moment,” I replied, pointing above our heads, “We’re about to see the real sky.”
Around us, people begin pointing upward, and all eyes quickly went to the blue sky overhead. The blue was slowly fading out, gradually shifting to grey. The hologram vanished altogether, leaving the barren grey interior of the geodesic dome overhead. Then the triangular panes of the dome became black. A single star shone in the sky over the dome, a brilliant white orb that cast soft light over the habitat interior. More stars began to resolve into view around it, until the sky was filled with countless pinpricks.
“Never fails to amaze me,” Helena remarked.
“I never miss it,” I replied.
Whispered murmurs washed over the crowd of onlookers as the gathered colonists expressed similar awe at the night sky. After several moments of contemplation, Miji Lee turned to me.
“Ready to go?”
“Sure. Yeah, sure – let’s see this new medbay.”
“You’re going to love it – the new equipment is really great, and the interfaces are easy for us poor dumb humans. We just want you to tell us where to put everything; help us optimize the efficiency and make it work for you.”
“Ah, so they want this poor dumb human to tell them her primitive brain can comprehend their advanced science?”
Miji smiled wanly. “Aren is more polite when she translates the Eunda, but who knows what they’re really saying, eh?”
“I could tell you what they actually mean,” Helena chimed in, “If you want.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Helena,” Miji said, “Maybe we’re better off not knowing!”
I shake my head, ready to change the subject away from the banter.
“Helena,” I said seriously, “Are you sure you can do this?”
“I want to. Aren 03 is coordinating work on the Tereshkova, and Flynn and Asar are working together on something. Asar adjusted my implant earlier, and he’s confident I can translate without anyone hijacking my brain.”
“As long as you’re okay with this, I have no problem, Helena.”
Helena smiled and nodded a sincere thanks. Akiyama then stepped up from behind her, clearing his throat as he spoke.
“I’ve seen no sign that Officer Clarke here isn’t herself,” he said awkwardly, “I think – and I hope – my services won’t be needed.”
“It’s good to have you anyway,” I said.
“Shall we?” Miji asked, gesturing to the ship.
I followed her into the metal sphere. The interior was just as smooth and nondescript as the exterior; all smooth, rounded silver surfaces. As the door closed behind me, however, the interior transformed. The floor rippled and flowed like mercury, forming four chairs that slowly rose to meet us. Miji sat without hesitation, already comfortable with this alien technology. Helena and Akiyama were slightly hesitant, but quickly took their own seats. I was last, slowly lowering myself into my seat. The seat shifted under me, conforming itself to me and becoming unnervingly comfortable. Armrests rose as it adjusted, rising at either side. When I rested my arms on them, I felt the sides of the chair gently squeeze into my sides. I tried to stand, and found that the chair had adjusted to hold me in place.
“It’s all right,” Miji said, her head turned to me as she saw the alarm in my face, “You’ll be able to stand when we get there. Try to relax – yeah, I know that’s a lot to ask!”
“You can fly this thing?” I asked.
“It has controls adjusted for my primitive human brain,” she said with a sly smile. She turned back to face the silver surface in front of her.
In front of Miji, an image of the city square rippled on the liquid inner surface of the sphere. Flight controls shimmered into being in the air around Miji; some kind of holographic interface that followed the confident movement of her hands. She pulled back with her right hand, and a holographic flight stick followed her movement. I felt only the slightest lurch in my stomach as the screen showed the crowd of colonists in the square shrink away below us.
“Smooth ride,” I remarked.
“A hell of a lot smoother than anything I flew in training,” Miji said.
We came to the ceiling of the habitat. The view shifted to show the seemingly transparent panels above us. The stars disappeared in a section of panels directly above the ship, showing the drab grey interior of the dome. The section slid aside, revealing a tunnel just long enough to fit our ship, with another grey panel at its opposite end. We flew into the tunnel, and the view showed us the habitat spread out under us.
It was a grid of black streets and silver buildings, surrounded by the barren grey of extra, uninhabited space. I had heard rumors that this grey could be transformed into green if we stayed long enough – the aliens in charge of this habitat could plant trees and grass similar to species on Earth.
The door of the inner dome closed, cutting off the view below. The screen then showed a door opening above us, revealing the starlit sky. We rose into that sky, and the view split to show the grey dome set against the icy planet surface on the left side of the screen, while the stars in front of us were visible on the left side.
“Huh, so they didn’t actually turn off the hologram inside the dome,” I commented, “They just changed it to show us what’s outside.”
“Good thing too. I wouldn’t trust a transparent dome in an environment like this,” Miji said, “If you’ve got reliable screens and holograms, why build windows at all?”
“Look there,” Akiyama intervened, “Isn’t she beautiful?”
The screen now showed just one image – that of the Tereshkova slowly growing as we approached. Many other silver ships swarmed around its bright, white surface, some with metallic arms extended and performing some kind of construction work on the hull.
“We’re getting a lot of interesting upgrades,” Miji said, gesturing to the silver ships working away on the Tereshkova, “We’re getting armor plating similar to what Asar’s capture ship used – it’ll help us hide from most threats. We’re also getting new weapons, but they’re a bit outdated, by the Eunda’s standards. Asar’s capture mission was supposed to bring in new weaponry, but we’ll have to work with what we can get.”
“I’m sure we’ll be much better off than before,” I said, “How about the jump drive? No chance we can get that back, huh?”
“No, it’s way too risky. Besides, we don’t have the coordinates for Earth or Tau Ceti.”
“But how are we supposed to get anywhere?” Helena interjected.
“Oh, you’ll love that part,” Miji said, “We’re getting a warp drive.”
I raised my eyebrow as I turned toward Miji. “Did I just hear you correctly, Engineer?”
“Yes, an honest-to-God warp drive. I know, huh? They’re real!”
“So we can move faster than light?” I asked.
“Ten times faster, if I understand correctly. We’ll get there in less than five years.”
“There?” Akiyama, Helena, and I said it at the same time. We spent an awkward second silently deciding who would speak before I ventured to ask the obvious question.
“Where, exactly, is there?”
“Uh … we were going to tell everyone, I swear!”
“Out with it, already!”
“The Eunda found an Earth-like planet, unclaimed and safely outside Alliance space. We’re going to a new home.”
— End of Part 15 —
Copyright 2016 TCC Edwards. All rights reserved.
Part 15 last updated on 2016-07-23.
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