Lonesome was lying in the corner of his room, conserving his energy, while Cadmus was getting the few contents of his backpack together for the trip back home. He had enjoyed his recuperation with Remi and Galen, it had been most interesting, but now he was ready to return to Kaly’s memories on his home moon of 4g, a little wiser but also a little humbler about what knew and what he didn’t know.
“We called ahead at your hotel to tell them you’d be checking out today. They said you’d only be charged for the one day,” Remi said when Cadmus walked into the kitchen with his backpack. “We also called the terminal to let them know you’d be departing and that you’d need a tug to retrieve your ship from long-term parking.”
“Thanks Remi,” he said.
“Do you want anything to eat or drink before you go,” Galen asked.
“We’re just a few moments’ walk from the garden and the hotel.”
Cadmus whistled to Lonesome who came bounding into the kitchen looking for his water bowl.
They left the cave and strolled up the path to the stand of trees on the ledge overlooking the valley and backing into the public garden between the two hotels. Cadmus never realized just how close the cave had been to the garden and hotels. Perhaps their cave had been in a higher—order dimension and he hadn’t been aware of it.
They stopped at the trees and looked out over the valley below. They felt a pleasant breeze wend through their clothing.
“I almost forgot to ask you both about a dark moon I passed on my way into the 3 system, 3b I think,” Cadmus broke the silence among them. “Can you tell me any more about it than the little I remember from what we were taught in our schools?”
“What were you taught?”
“That 3b had been inhabited by humans who had destroyed their moon, turning it into a cinder and that there were no artifacts or evidence of their existence.”
“Actually there were.”
“What do you mean?”
“We were there,” Remi answered. “Well, not Galen and I. My great grandparents, Lem and Yani, were born there.” Remi told Cadmus about the Lem’s and Yani’s Sapien parents, about the mutation, caused by working in the cobalt mines, that caused their amygdalae to disappear and their neurons to reroute directly into their prefrontal cortexes. The mutation also turned their skins blue.
The Sapiens on 3b believed the blue babies were abominations in the eyes of their god and killed all the ones they could get their hands on. A few Sapien parents, like Evanor and Thort, Lem’s parents, and Kivo and Thana, Yani’s parents, tried to protect their children from the hatred of the others. As it turned out, the children had certain attributes that proved advantageous so that the children ended up protecting their parents.
“The Sapiens called us Rats, for Rationals,” Remi continued. “My great grandmother, Yani, called the Sapiens Saps, probably a childish means of dealing with their hateful name calling, but the names caught on and stuck.
The Rationals tried to get away from the Sapiens, made their way to an uncharted area of 3b, and created a refuge for themselves in a fertile area with many natural defenses. The Sapiens organized an army with rifles, canons, and balloons and tried their best to exterminate the Rationals.
“After failing to crush us and losing many soldiers in the process,” Remi said, “they developed a cobalt bomb and shot it from a magnetic canon into the Refuge.”
Lem and the rest of the Rationals at the refuge saw it coming long before it was even built and they built a hyper-space tunnel between their Refuge on 3b and the unpopulated moon of 3a. It was rather primitive but effective. By the time the bomb was launched at the Refuge, the last Rational had left 3b, sealing the tunnel door shut.
As the Rationals had predicted, or seen depending on who was telling the story, the cobalt bomb set off a chain reaction of explosions that burnt the atmosphere and the surface of 3b, along with all the Sapiens.
“So apparently you and I have common roots,” Cadmus said after a while. “Do either of you have any idea where our common species came from?”
Galen had been quiet all this time but now he spoke up. “That’s a bit of a problem. As you might well know, Sapiens weren’t very reliable historians so much of the history predating the earliest Church records was attributed to stories and myths, but it is rumored that the Sapiens were deposited in this part of the Draco galaxy by robots who brought them along with them from a planet called Earth2 somewhere in the Andromeda galaxy. The robots called them humans. The robots kept very good records but unfortunately they were written in a language called ML1, which nobody living today can decipher.”
Cadmus asked, “What happened to the robots?”
“They were all destroyed by some sort of digital virus,” Galen answered.
“And if there was an Earth2, what happened to Earth?”
“There may or may not have been a planet called Earth in a galaxy called the Milky Way that collided with Andromeda a long time ago,” Galen suggested.
Cadmus had no more questions he wanted to ask.
They walked through the park, Lonesome getting in some last-minute sniffing. Remi held his arm as they negotiated the hyper-bridge over the chasm near the entrance gate.
At the hotel entrance, Cadmus hugged Galen and Remi, and thanked them for saving his life and taking such good care of Lonesome and him. They wished him a safe journey back home. He turned to the door but then something made him stop and turn around quickly, but they were gone already.
He walked through the doors with Lonesome up to the desk.
“I trust your time with us was interesting,” the clerk at the check-out counter asked.
“Yes,” he replied, “it certainly was.”
“Please take your seats in those chairs over there and make sure to buckle your seatbelts and those of your dagu,” she said as though he were an experienced interdimensional traveler. “When you are ready, just press the button on your arm rest.”
After buckling Lonesome into his chair and then buckling himself in, he pressed the button, closing his eyes. Cadmus felt his body lurching backwards.
He opened his eyes and saw the shuttle through the trees. He unbuckled himself and then Lonesome who jumped down and started barking at a flutterby that had landed on his nose.
They walked through the trees toward the shuttle. An attendant asked him whether he had a reservation for the flight to the terminal.
Cadmus said yes he thought so and fumbled around in his backpack looking for the papers.
“Don’t worry sir,” the attendant said kindly, “somebody called ahead and made arrangements for you both.”
Cadmus thanked her and they climbed into the shuttle, taking their seats. He checked to make sure there were no passengers sitting next to Lonesome. He fastened his dagu’s seatbelt and then his own, looking around the shuttle cabin and then looked at each of the safety signs. Some were written in Draco.763 Standard and some were written in what he assumed to be ML1. They all had MASER audio streams directed at anyone who looked directly at a sign. They’d get their safety message to you one way or another.
The steps retracted back up into the shuttle underside and locked down. There was a faint whistle of air and a sense of pressure against his eardrums. A female voice told the passengers the shuttle would be taking off momentarily.
Lonesome barked twice but before Cadmus could shush him, the shuttle’s engines began their own roaring and the shuttle lifted above the tree line. The ground beneath slowly became a lush green quilt of beauty interspersed by wisps of clouds. Soon the blue canopy of 3a darkened into a black night studded with stars. He looked out the window and saw the lovely blue-green moon roll to the side. A small point became brighter and larger, turning slowly into Draco.763.3 Terminal.
The shuttle adjusted attitude and approached its assigned docking port. He barely felt the press-relax-lock between the shuttle and the Terminal port. A few moments later there was a sound of air exchanged between the shuttle and the Terminal port and then the portal door opened. The Terminal air smelled slightly stale. He frowned without thinking about it and unlocked his seatbelt and that of Lonesome who jumped off his seat and waited for Cadmus to follow him.
They came out through Gate 138A and followed the arrows as did their fellow shuttle passengers and the merging passengers from other shuttles arriving from other sectors on 3a.
Cadmus followed the arrow to the long-term parking pick-up spoke. When he arrived, he stopped in front of a vacant screen. A pleasant looking Rational avatar appeared on the screen and asked how she could be of assistance.
“I want to go back home to Draco.763.4g. I need my ship.”
“Please prepare for DNA spectral analysis flash identification.”
After the flash the avatar told him his ship was waiting for him at Gate 28M. He thanked the avatar who smiled and then the screen was blank again. He followed the arrows to Gate 28M.
When Cadmus and Lonesome arrived at the gate he was flashed again. The gate portal opened and they stepped into their ship, humble but home for the next two hundred and seventy days. Lonesome ran to his favorite corner beside the rocking chair.
He checked the consoles and saw that his ship had been topped up and restocked, even Lonesome’s favorite synthetic meats.
The rocker and folding table were where he left them, next to the picture window. The calendar and checklist were still taped to the wall. Most importantly the photo of Kaly was still there on the window ledge. He picked it up, lost in thought, still married to her memory, in spite of his imaginary transgression during the shock of seeing Remi naked that one time.
He put the photograph back on the window ledge. He walked over to the consoles, sat down, and clicked the engine warm-up sequence. The mechanical joints tensed up and the portal lock released them. The ship floated back and the engines whirred with a soft throbbing sound. The ship was now moving steadily backward in a straight line. The Terminal moved away, still looming large in front of them, but a little less so than before.
When the ship had reached a safe distance from the Terminal, it turned away slowly, and then stopped, waiting for permission to proceed. After a few moments the command feed started to display on the running log and the ship’s auto-response answered back.
His ship began to move, slowly at first, then picking up speed, maneuvering around the terminal until it had a clear vector to his home planet Draco.763.4, at which point it adjusted attitude once more.
He felt the expected mechanical shiver of his craft as the massive solar sails unfolded and spread out to catch the faint radiation from Draco.763. The engines quieted down somewhat.
Cadmus settled down for the long trip home. He looked at his checklist to check what there was to do.
Lonesome was snoring beside him.
from Out of Time