Part 4 (Conclusion)
Summary: Part 4 (Conclusion) of my science fiction AU. Jim, Blair, and other survivors (all of Major Crimes in case you're worried) coping with their new lives.
Note: <g> Don't be fooled by 'end'. It has another page. Wait for 'finis'.
Warnings, Ratings: FRST.
It would be good to read Parts 1, 2, and 3; if not, there are spoilers for those parts. I wrote parts 3 and 4 together (actually it was supposed to be the third and final part, but I found that I wasn't done yet) and later decided to separate them, so if you start with part 4 the story won't make a lot of sense. There is a page of Notes at the end that lists some websites with information about the science that the story is based on (so there are spoilers for the story in the Notes). The science is based in fact (with very little research to back it up, extrapolated for an alien sun, and an alien universe ... therefore, 'don't bet the ranch' on it's accuracy <g>).
>1.< Aboard Ellison's Enterprise, one-half Gaian year later
Steven settled the shuttle into dock with only a tiny bump and the click of clamps to secure the ship in it's berth for it's stay on Gaia 1.
“Come on, Jim. Wake up, bro,” Steven said with a grin.
Jim woke with a huge yawn and a stretch. “We're here?”
Steven shook his head and chuckled, “I'd never have believed it. That you'd be so relaxed with me 'driving'.”
Jim grinned back sheepishly, “Well, if we'd crashed, I'd definitely have had something to say to my Guide. He was 'supposed' to be watching out for me.”
Steven grinned even wider, “Then you'd better wake up 'sleeping beauty' and tell him.” Then he left Jim to gather his gear and wake his still sleeping Guide.
As Steven passed through the door, Jim's grin began to fade. It had been a tough few months. They'd accompanied Sarah and Rafe to The Walkabout, and had attended the memorial service. Gerald had been well respected, and his plans for the future had kept morale high throughout the system. They were going to miss him.
While they were in the Belt they had helped with the physical damage on the Walkabout and the Materials Fabrication Center. Jim's sensory gifts had been in great demand, so he and Blair were occupied to the point of exhaustion. The first order of business had been to make the Walkabout safe. Then the plan had been to get the MFC in shape for production of more shields for the other communities in the system.
Everyone was relieved when the new shields were deployed. Luckily damage in the rest of Gaia System had been minimal. After the shields, the MFC had orders for a new and enlarged Space Weather Array. Until then, the remnants of the old Array was deployed along the most populated corridor in Gaia System.
Rafe had told them on the journey out to the Walkabout that he had mixed emotions about his appointment as Captain of the first KinShip, but they'd watched him take charge of the situation with growing confidence. His concern for Sarah had been obvious, too. When he told them that he'd appreciate it if they could stay until the christening of the new ship, they'd been glad to stay a little longer. They realized that even though Rafe and Sarah knew a lot of people on the Walkabout, they didn't have many close friends there. The ceremony had been a fitting tribute to Gerald's memory.
One of their more pleasant duties during this time had been their visit with Jim's family. Jim had been certain that William would settle into The Walkabout's new commercial district with ease. What had surprised him was that William had been instrumental during this crisis in developing and implementing the evacuation plan for as much of the population as possible. He had used his business contacts to coordinate the ship captains, and his knowledge of cargo and passenger limits along with the capabilities of the smaller enclaves in the Belt to place the temporary refugees. Jim had been impressed. When he'd spoken of it to his father, William had seemed embarrassed yet pleased at Jim's approval, which had further surprised Jim.
Another pleasant duty had been the visits with the Taggerts and Arielle. The baby had even managed to make Sarah smile. Joel and Rhonda had been close to Gerald and Sarah. It wasn't a surprise when they arranged for Sarah and Rafe to have quarters near theirs, as they took them into their 'family'.
Jim sighed tiredly just remembering all that had occurred. He looked at Blair and worried about how tired he looked. Aside from all their work on the Walkabout, the MFC, and aboard the KinShip, they'd also worked aboard the XJ-Fuga. Toward the end of their visit, just after the KinShip was christened, they'd taken it on a shakedown trip. They'd traveled out beyond the farthest planet in the system. It had been almost three years since they'd last flown the Fuga any great distance. Jim had been pleasantly surprised that there'd only been a minor problem with Fuga's systems. They were happy to fly it back to Gaia 1 where some of the crew had studied Jumpship technology in the home galaxy. They'd left the ship in capable - and eager - hands.
Unlike the last trip, their return to the Walkabout was quite festive. All their companions on this trip were to attend a very special event. Henri and Serena, and Naomi and Abel accompanied them, as did Simon and Daryl, which left Lt. Commander Wend in command of Gaia 1. Unfortunately Jo couldn't get away since she was in charge of a new batch of apprentices, and Simon couldn't be convinced to allow changes to the station's work schedules. Simon had just smiled smugly when he said, “I told him he 'had' to invite me, and we can't all go.”
Rafe and Sarah's wedding was elegant and dignified. Rhonda and Sarah had had their heads together for several weeks for the planning of it, but other - covert - plans were made known at the last minute.
Simon was smiling broadly when he made an announcement just before the start of the ceremony. He and Captain Connor had arranged audio/visual links so that Rafe's and Sarah's friends could 'attend' from Gaia 1 and other locations. He boomed out a laugh when he saw Rafe's expression. He slapped Rafe on the back hard enough to knock him forward a step, and said, “You don't have stage-fright, do you, Rafe?” Then, more quietly, “Remember, we're all friends here,” and everyone saw him grip his shoulder gently.
Captain Megan Connor seemed to fight off her own nervousness before officiating the ceremony. Long gone were the days when it was just Megan and her crew of two, and any passengers that might accompany them aboard The Walkabout.
Joel escorted Sarah into the room where Rafe and their friends waited. When they reached Captain Connor, their friends formed a circle around them. After the ceremony, Simon teased gently that Rafe was so nervous that he might have bolted if they hadn't kept him 'surrounded' during the ceremony.
Megan smiled warmly at her two friends, then began, “Let this be a day of gladness, thanksgiving, possibility, and good fortune for all of us, but especially for Rafe and Sarah, who are here to celebrate their love. Love is patient and kind. It doesn't envy or boast, nor is it proud. It isn't self- seeking, or easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails ... Rafe ... Sarah ... Have you come here freely and with the intention of celebrating your marriage in the presence of these witnesses?”
Both answered, “We have.”
“Will you love and honor each other as husband and wife from this day forward?”
Both answered, “We will.”
Megan then led them through the vows they had written:
“I take you to be my partner in life and my one true love.”
“I will cherish our union and love you more each day than I did the day before.”
“I will trust you and respect you, laugh with you and cry with you, loving you faithfully through good times and bad, regardless of the obstacles we may face together.”
“I give you my hand, my heart, and my love, from this day forward for as long as we both shall live.”
Megan continued, “I now pronounce that you have today affirmed your life's commitment to one another, go forth in love and friendship for all the days of your lives.”
Jim remembered that Rafe wasn't the only one that had taken some teasing during this time. Before Simon's visit was over he'd been observed 'touring' the Walkabout with Captain Connor, but they hadn't looked like two 'Captains', but rather, like two very 'close' friends. Jim didn't tell Simon that he'd overheard his reply to a wistful comment by Megan. She'd said, “It's a long way to Gaia 1,” to which Simon had replied, “Odd ... I was just thinking that it's not all that far to the Walkabout.” When they began talking about the planned KinShip fleet and the need for an administrator, Jim had tuned out with a smile, knowing their plans sounded promising. He'd tell Blair and maybe they could do something to help smooth the way for them.
Their visit had ended on a very happy note, but he and Blair were still exhausted. With all the delays, they still hadn't set a date for their trip through the newly calculated Jump Portal, but they desperately needed some down time first. Perhaps a trip downplanet would be in order. At that thought, Jim could feel a longing for the smells, sounds, and colors of a living planet.
With a genuine grin he gently shook his Guide, “Hey, Chief. Wake up. I have a plan.”
>2.< Gaia, Sentinel/Guide Temple
Steven set Ellison's Enterprise down in the clearing near the Temple ruins. It wasn't often that Steven had a chance to visit Gaia, but since he'd offered to bring Jim and Blair back to the Temple, he'd been enlisted to deliver the custom-made shields for the cave system at New Cascade. He promised to visit the Temple site when he came to pick them up.
Several people that knew of their arrival came to greet the shuttle. They were always glad to see their frequent residents/visitors, the Sentinel and Guide. Blair had been gratified to know that Jo wasn't the only person that had shown interest in the study of the anthropological database. Others had studied that area, and the archaeological database, in their quest to understand the Temple and it's builders. There was also a team based there for planetary studies, for students of planetary weather, geology, and biological studies. Even though those areas had been a priority since the first landing on Gaia, there was still much to learn. The result was a multi-person, multi-discipline, on-going field study ... and Jim had to get Blair away quickly before he got caught up in it again.
Jim and Blair were quick to stow their gear in their small cabin. After an initial visit to the temple to meditate, they returned to collect their hiking gear and some food. They had both been relieved that there hadn't been a forewarning of a new crisis, especially since their Jump would be coming up someday soon.
They carried med-packs and communication gear as well as an LTS, a Locater/Tracking System, on every foray into the Gaian jungle. Jim even insisted on packing a new tent that was also a collapsible radiation shield. Jim insisted on being prepared for anything since their first traumatic landing, and Blair was secretly glad.
Blair knew that his survival instincts were distinctly 'civilization-based', yet he believed that Jim would be able to survive anywhere. Blair wasn't sure why he believed that, because Jim had grown up as 'civilized' as anyone he knew. Yet Blair felt he could rely on Jim for anything, and after the last few difficult months, he just wanted to indulge his need to keep Jim close.
Blair followed as Jim took the lead, as they usually did on these hikes. Jim's senses gave him an advantage that he and Blair were glad to utilize. They'd explored the area around the Temple many times in the last three years, but Jim's favorite hike would take at least a week. It was to a rugged high-altitude lake and the crest of a magnificent waterfall. They'd been able to look down and watch as the heavy mist flowed out into the most beautiful valley they'd ever seen. That hike took them from a warm, wet tropical rain forest to one that was cool and wet. Blair had visited, and lived in, many habitats while growing up, and his 'climate lectures' to Jim and the other researchers at the Temple, were becoming legendary. Yet today Blair was nearly silent, seeming preoccupied.
“Hey, Chief. Up ... or down.”
Blair looked at him in confusion for a moment, then Jim gestured toward the path up the ridge then down to the valley.
Blair caught on quickly. Looking up, he thought about being cold and wet, and he shivered just at the thought.
Jim shook his head and said, “Down, it is.”
Blair grinned and followed, but it wasn't long before his thoughts were wandering once again. Toward the end of their stay in the Belt, he had begun to feel as if exhaustion had taken over his life and his tumultuous thoughts seemed to sap what energy he had left. He had hoped that the hike would divert his thoughts for a while. Something was nagging at him, and he couldn't seem to reason it out no matter how hard he tried.
They'd never taken a hike down the ridge before. Blair thought it would be nice to see where the water plunged into the river it spawned. So he followed Jim and they slipped and slid their way down steeper parts of the ridge, getting ever closer. During most of their hike, Blair could hear the sounds of the birds and insects, but those sounds became ever more indistinct as the distant thunder of the falls grew until it overpowered all other sounds. The power of that sound seemed to pound all other thought from his mind. He felt relief as his worries fell away, at least for a time.
Later he realized that he should have been paying closer attention. He was Jim's Guide, and he knew better than to let down his guard. He'd been so glad of the relief from his own problem that he'd missed Jim's until he came to a stop a few steps in front of Blair.
Blair knew he didn't have to shout to be heard by his sentinel, but talking at all seemed too much effort when the sound from the falls seemed so overwhelming, so he just placed his hand on Jim's arm. When Jim turned to him, he knew what was wrong. It wasn't hard to guess. The sound was intense, even to him.
Blair slowly began to stroke Jim's arm. With his free hand he pantomimed turning a dial slowly. Jim looked at him in pained exasperation for a moment, and Blair rolled his eyes and repeated the gesture while mouthing the words, 'turn it down, Jim'. Jim didn't even try to argue, probably since Blair couldn't have heard him anyway. He just nodded reluctantly and fastened his gaze on the 'dial hand' again and watched as Blair slowly and patiently turned the 'dial' down one 'notch' at a time. Blair took the 'dial' down far below halfway since Jim was having a problem and they hadn't even arrived at the falls yet. Jim's faint grin was a welcome sight to Blair, and he answered with a grin of his own.
They didn't have far to go so they decided to push on through the thick brush at the edge of the river. From above they had seen that the falls had created a huge plunge pool with ledges and a boulder garden bordering it. Even at the crest of the falls they had seen that the ledges been worn smooth beside the pool by the action of the water. Jim had chosen a path that led them along the very base of the cliff.
Blair had an idea. He reached out and turned Jim toward him.
Blair mouthed, 'Close your eyes.'
Jim mouthed, 'Why?'
Blair rolled his eyes in good-natured exasperation, then waved both hands in his idea of an encouraging gesture, 'Close your eyes. Feel it, Jim.'
Jim looked skeptical but gamely gave it a try.
Blair watched as Jim's determined concentration turned to wonder.
Jim looked at Blair, 'You try.'
Blair grinned in surprise but eagerly tried what he'd had to coax Jim to do. He closed his eyes for a moment and was amazed. He could feel the vibration through his shoes, and he would swear he could even feel it through the water-laden air around him. His eyes flew open and he grinned madly at Jim, who returned it with a warm smile of his own.
They didn't spend too long by the pool. The sound was deafening, and the humidity so thick it was hard to breathe. They were both already soaked, and Blair was shivering even in the tropical heat. But the experience of hearing and feeling the power of it up close was one they would remember for a long time.
They walked downriver, following it until they found a way back up the ridge.
“This was a really good plan.”
They had both agreed that it had been a 'very' good plan. The only glitch was when Ellison's Enterprise failed to pick them up.
“Henri? What's up? Where's Steven?” asked Jim worriedly.
“Don't worry, Jim. When Steven docked this morning, he said there was a problem so he called for maintenance, then he called me to come to your 'rescue',” teased Henri.
“Rescue?” said Blair, looking relieved that Steven was alright, and much more relaxed than the last time Henri had seen him. “Look around, Henri. This is hardly a place we need to be rescued from.”
Henri had never lived on-planet, anywhere, in his entire life, but he'd seen enough of Gaia to understand, if not agree wholeheartedly. However, that didn't mean he couldn't tease the Guide, “Well, just how many people would come down just to ferry you off this mud ball. It's seriously messing with my schedule,” and Henri rolled his eyes for emphasis as he added, “And you know how Serena hates to be kept waiting.”
>4.< Gaia 1
“Come on Jim. Just take a look at it. Please? You should see the maintenance 'person'. She must be nineteen ... maybe younger! I'd just feel better if you'd check it out,” wheedled Steven Ellison.
“Nineteen? Look, Steven, I doubt very much if this 'mechanic' is only nineteen, especially if she's crew on Gaia 1.”
“Well, she says she's crew now, but she was a passenger! She was caught on board when the disaster started and of course she never made it off. She said she was on her way back to Rainier's Institute of Technology.”
“Poor kid. But even if she's new, that doesn't mean she doesn't know what she's doing. You should take it easy on her, Steven. You know that Gaia 1 has some pretty stiff training programs for their techs. I'm sure she's a very competent mechanic,” said Jim.
“Jim, come on. Please check out the repairs. The kid was covered in grease, head to toe,” pleaded Steven.
“All right, all right. I'll check out the repairs. And I'll check this girl out, too. What's her name?”
“Mack. Well, Mairin MacDonald.”
“Do you know anything about a kid named, Mack?”
“Do you mean Mairin? Well, sure. She's an engineering student that was on Gaia 1 when the disaster started. Why do you ask?”
“Well, Steven was a little worried that someone that young was doing repairs on Ellison's Enterprise. He wanted me to check out her work, her 'credentials' ... you know.”
“Jim, have you seen Mack?”
“Well ... she's gorgeous.”
Jim looked suspiciously at Blair, “That's funny, Steven didn't say anything about that. In fact, he made a point of telling me she was covered in grease from head to toe.”
“Ahhhh. She must really know her stuff.”
“Right ... grease equals competence?”
“Well ... all I'm going to say is, for a grease monkey she cleans up good. Did Steven tell you she has red hair?”
Jim just rolled his eyes. He could already guess where this was heading. “Come on, Sandburg. Steven says she's just a kid.”
Blair's eyebrows shot up, “Jim, she already had her BS. She's been working on her Masters since we got here, even before Simon ordered the study programs. She's been working on the Maintenance Crew, studying engineering, studying for her minor requirement, and on her individual project, and she'll still have her degree soon. She's only a couple years younger than me, so she's no kid. Did I say she was gorgeous?”
“And who said you aren't a 'kid'?” teased Jim. Then he narrowed his eyes, “You're matchmaking again, aren't you?”
“Who? Me?” Blair turned away before allowing his grin to light up his face. He'd have to remember to thank Steven for his help.
Jim checked with Maintenance ... discreetly ... and the question of Mack's 'credentials' was answered with as much assurance as he could expect. Still, he told himself, 'It's my family's ship. I should check out this 'Mack' in person.' So he set off for Deck 28, Maintenance Bay 6. It certainly couldn't hurt to do his own evaluation of a gorgeous, red-headed, mechanic.
He could hear voices as he approached MB6. As he closed on the location of the scheduled repairs for Gaia 1, he could make out comments from some of the men. They weren't loud, but they weren't expecting someone with Jim's exceptional hearing to be 'listening' to them.
He walked silently up behind them and stood waiting for someone to notice him, but they kept talking about their 'associate' in what Jim considered to be a rather teasing manner until he had finally had enough.
In a sarcastic tone he said, “Gentlemen.” Their reaction was just what he'd expected, so then he turned to Mack and said respectfully, “And lady.”
The men hastily turned back to work that had been pretty much ignored up till then and the 'lady' turned to Jim.
“If I'm a lady, then I can handle them myself,” she said firmly, with hands on hips.
Jim felt an unexpected grin appear on his face, “I wouldn't expect anything else of a lady, Ms. MacDonald.”
Mack looked back at the rest of the crew and then back to Jim. She grinned and said, “I could use a break though, and I need to pick up some parts from the 'Printer Bay.”
“May I join you?”
She chuckled, “Yes, you may, 'kind sir'. I was hoping for just such a gentlemanly offer.” After they'd walked down the corridor she asked, “And just who is the 'Knight in Shining Armor' that saved this 'fair damsel in distress'?”
Jim laughed outright, “Jim. Ellison. You worked on Ellison's Enterprise a couple of days ago.”
“Jim Ellison, the Sentinel,” she said, with just a bit of awe before she quickly recovered her amusement. “Tell me, Mr. Ellison, did Steven Ellison send you to check me out?”
Jim smiled a beautiful smile, “Yes. That he did.” As he thought, 'Thank you, Bro.'
“Hey, Sandburg! Wait up.”
“What is it? I thought I was supposed to meet you at the Fuga.”
“Small change of plans. I've been thinking ...”
“Watch it, Copilot. I was thinking that maybe you and Jo, and Mairin and I could have dinner together before ...”
“A double date?”
“Yes, Mairin. You're right. She's gorgeous.”
Jim hid a grin as he continued, “Yeah, we'll have dinner tonight and then tomorrow morning ... Copilot Sandburg will report to the XJ-Fuga for Jump.”
“'Jump'?!” squeaked Blair.
“That's right. Pack your gear tonight and be aboard at 0800 hours.”
“W-we're going through the new Portal?”
Jim finally grinned, “Nope. Not this time. They've approved a jump through the Interim Portal - the one between the Otherspace Jump Point and Gaia's Portal. I finally convinced them that a practice run would settle your nerves a little. So ... dinner first. What are you going to cook?”
>8.< Experimental JumpShip: XJ-Fuga
“Hurry it up, Chief.” Jim walked out of their cabin grinning broadly, leaving Blair to hurry to catch up.
Blair finally boarded with his backpack. “Jim? You here?”
“Where else would I be? I'm back here, Chief, making coffee. Want a cup?”
“Coffee sounds good. Are we really leaving in an hour?”
Jim arched an eyebrow as he looked at his watch, “Make that forty-five minutes. We don't have much time to get ready for our scheduled undock. Getting out of Gaia System will take the longest. Since, subjectively, the jump itself won't take any time at all, the coffee will be welcome on the 'other side'.”
“Come on, Chief. Don't worry. You nailed the sims dozens of times. You can do this. In fact ... I have a little surprise for you.”
Blair really looked worried now, “Surprises are so ... not good, right now, Jim.”
Jim turned toward Blair and leaned against the counter. He was pretty sure how Blair was going to take this since he'd been in the same position himself once, “I'm going to be Copilot this time, Chief. I'll be right there if you need me.”
paled impossibly more before he bolted for the bathroom, where he
lost what little breakfast he'd managed to eat, then continued to dry
heave for several painful minutes.
When he could sit up, Jim was right there waiting to hand him a glass of water which was put to good use. When Blair turned to Jim he asked, “Tell me you were kidding!”
Jim just shook his head.
Blair moaned softly and grabbed his stomach, but Jim clasped his shoulder firmly and said, “I threw up before my first time out, too. You'll do fine. After all, look who your Copilot is. This should be routine. After all, we've been there before, on our way to Gaia. So, hurry up. I'll be waiting for you ... in the Copilot's chair. Remember, thirty minutes to go. You need to do the last safety check.”
Blair watched, dumbfounded, as Jim left. He finally glanced up at the clock and decided he'd better move. Thirty minutes.
>9.< Interim Jump Portal
The practice jump proved uneventful. Blair's nervousness had increased exponentially until the actual jump. Then after they'd reached otherside, he still couldn't seem to calm down. Jim knew that the adrenaline would run down eventually, and he wanted to see how Blair would handle that, too. He already knew that Blair was a brave man, and he'd made sure that he was as well trained as Jim could make him, but he wanted Blair to know that he could handle the stresses as well as the procedures.
“You handled that perfectly, Chief.”
Blair glanced at Jim as if to ascertain that Jim wasn't joking. He sighed in satisfaction when he saw the obvious pride in Jim's expression. “Thanks, Jim. I could use some of that coffee. I think it'll stay down now,” he added wryly.
“Sounds good,” said Jim. When Blair made a move to leave his seat Jim said, “Whoa there, Pilot. Where do you think you're going?”
Blair's grin faded a bit as he lowered himself into the seat once again. “Come on, Jim. I did the pre-flight, and the jump.”
“Then all that's left are the Otherside Procedures, and then the jump back. I'll get the coffee, and make a couple of sandwiches. You must be hungry since you lost your breakfast.”
After Jim left, Blair sighed worriedly. It wasn't that he'd never been left alone with the controls, but this time back-up was awfully far way ... impossibly far away. He watched Jim exit for the galley, and set about to take updated scans of the Jump Point. Then he set up the other automated scans requested by the astrophysics lab, initiated systems checks and safety diagnostics, checked the return route for anomalies, and still had a few minutes to stare at the immensity of space that surrounded the XJ-Fuga.
He wished he had more to do because that still left too much time to think. Sitting here at the Interim Jump Portal brought back so many memories. When he was growing up, he'd often wondered what fate had in store for him ... and this future was not even a remote possibility. Here he was, so far from the home galaxy that it couldn't even be explained. So far from Gaia System that if that sun over there went nova, then the light wouldn't even reach Gaia for ten years ... light years. He'd absorbed a whole new vocabulary, new skills. What was most surprising to him was that he realized that what he'd believed to be a fulfilling life, had actually been very ... shallow. That wasn't how he would have described himself before, and he didn't know how to explain the changes even to himself.
Before, he'd studied people and how they lived. He'd embraced the wonderful diversity that was humanity while ignoring the big picture. But, to give himself 'some' credit, being heedless of that bigger picture had been the norm for human society in the home galaxy. That careless unconcern didn't exist in Otherspace. It couldn't. To ignore it was to invite disaster. Humanity wasn't the center of this universe; not even of one small star system.
He turned the lights down in the cabin so his eyes could adjust to the darkness, and be able to pick out even more of the stars that lay before him. His wonder grew every time he stared out at that immensity, and the beauty of this space was only enhanced by the mind-bending isolation. It was remote ... and for all practical purposes was unreachable by anyone that they knew if there was an emergency. It was sobering to contemplate.
“Chief, I hope you're hungry,” Jim said as he returned.
“How come you're in such a cheerful mood?” grumped Blair as he took a sandwich and stared at it.
“Go on. Eat. I'm cheerful because I love it out here. Don't you?”
Blair stared outward, “It's beautiful in a way, but I wish we were home.”
“Well, yeah. So do I,” Jim answered wistfully. “But look at it, Chief. It's so empty here ... yet out there are suns of every size and color. Physical laws govern everything that exists. There's chaos, but there's still an order to it all, on a grander scale than we can ever know.”
Blair smiled and hid it by taking a bite of his sandwich. This was a cherished glimpse at another side of his friend. He kept his silence, not wanting to break the spell Jim's words had evoked. It was a sense of awe, reverence for the unknowable vastness, marvel at the desolate beauty. And his usually taciturn friend had summed it all up in a few concise sentences.
All in all, Blair considered the practice jump had been well worth the effort. He'd had time to think about the future he'd never dreamed of finding; he'd heard Jim's thoughts on the subject of order and chaos; and he'd discovered that being able to take the Fuga through a Jump Portal was pretty cool.
He didn't know if he'd ever be as blasé as Simon had seemed to be when he'd told him how 'routine' portal jumps had become on Gaia 1 when it was still a spaceliner. At the time, 'routine' had seemed impossible to Blair whose most recent experiences had been the harrowing jumps that ended with their arrival in Otherspace. But this jump could probably count as 'routine'. He was 'almost' looking forward to their next jump.
>10.< Gaia 1
It came only a few weeks later. They didn't have to wait that long, but Blair stalled whenever Jim proposed a new date. Jim finally set the date and nothing Blair could do would change his mind.
Perhaps Blair would have procrastinated less if there wasn't another worry on his mind. When Jim set the date for the jump and Blair had seemed even more worried than before, Jim couldn't begin to guess what was wrong. In exasperation, Jim finally asked him.
“Jim, remember the Council session where they mentioned their 'concerns'?”
Jim nodded, “I thought we answered them. They seemed to accept that we needed to do this mission.”
“I know, but I have concerns, too. I know we've had visions about the future that haven't occurred yet. Things that are too far out time-wise to decipher clearly. We've learned that the closer we get, the less 'static' interferes.”
“Yeah. Intervening events can obscure a future crisis. You figured that's what happened with the ICME. When those other events are passed, a crisis can be seen more clearly. So ... what are your concerns?”
“Well, what if something does happen to us?”
“We haven't foreseen anything.”
Blair shrugged his shoulders, worry evident on his face, “Maybe ... we wouldn't be 'allowed' to see it.”
Jim was quiet for a moment then said softly, “Is this what you've been worried about? I wish you'd told me.” He looked away briefly, then sighed as his thoughts settled, “You could be right. What do you have in mind?”
So, as a way to ease Blair's concerns, most of those few weeks were spent logging detailed descriptions of all of the visions of events that hadn't occurred so far, and the interpretations they were able to make ... just as a precaution. These were secured in a sealed database, and presented to Simon, who paled and sat heavily in his chair.
“Simon, we're coming back. At least we plan to,” said Blair, hoping to reassure him.
Jim added, “Nothing in the visions points to any problem with the flight. We, ah, just wanted to be cautious.” He glanced toward Blair and then back to Simon, “We did hear you in the Council session. We know you're concerned. Blair thought this might ease your misgivings.”
Simon looked like he'd explode in anger for a moment, before slumping. His relief was obvious. “Don't - you - ever - do - that - again! Are you trying to scare me to death?”
Blair grinned apologetically, “I didn't know you cared, Simon.”
Simon stared at Blair until the grin faded.
Blair said softly, “I'm sorry.”
“Apology accepted,” said Simon gruffly. “So you're set on this?”
Jim answered, “Yes. Blair has stalled long enough.”
Blair sighed, “Okay - alright - geeze.”
“I know you're worried, Chief. Just remember, you're Copilot this time.”
Blair perked up at that, then said teasingly, “Oh, yeah! Right! That's a relief.”
Jim whapped the back of his head lightly.
“What was that for?”
Simon gusted a sigh, then muttered, “Are you sure either of you are grown up enough for this?”
“I heard that, Sir,” said Jim as he and his Copilot exited the Captain's office.
>11.< Gaia Jump Portal Entry Point // Cascade Jump Portal Exit Point
“Ready for Jump. On the mark ...”
“Confirmed. On the mark ...”
Blair's animated voice broke the silence of the post-jump cockpit, “Jump conversion completed.” Blair broke into a flurry of activity even as he blurted out, “Jim! Collision alert! Jim! Jim?” after a quick and horrified glance at Jim, Blair turned back to the controls.
He began muttering a string of commands, some to Jim, and some to himself. “Thrusters port side engaged as programmed - now shutting down. Heading is optimal. Collision was averted, Jim. Shields came up automatically on the screens. Light intensity is now optimal, Jim. Listen to my voice, man. Captain Ellison! Listen to my voice. It's safe, Jim. No more light flare. Oh, man. I know you're flashing back to the vision, but listen to me. The vision is in the past. This was just bad luck ... really bad timing ....” Blair reset collision alarms and set the automatic pilot. He turned to his Sentinel and sighed. He took one more look at the boards then climbed out of his safety harness and knelt beside Jim.
He whispered, “I'm here for you, Jim. Feel my hand on your arm. You know I'd never leave the boards if it wasn't safe. There's clear sailing for miles and miles. The light is far behind us now. We're safe. That's it, man. You've been gone long enough.”
Jim slumped forward with his hands pressing into his face. Blair was worried that he'd suffered another vision-blindness effect. “Jim? Do your eyes hurt? Tell me.”
Jim slowly pulled his hands down, and Blair was relieved that he wasn't in pain and he seemed to see him clearly.
“I'm okay,” Jim whispered shakily. “We're in one piece.”
Blair returned his shaky reply with a shaky grin. He slapped him very gently on the arm, “Hey. You're the one that ran me through the sims - about a million times! And you're the one that finally 'passed' me. Why the surprise that we're in one piece?”
“Not surprised ... grateful, Chief.”
The ICME and other events had caused a delay of the flight of the Fuga. In that time, The Gerald Simms had been launched, had taken on crew, and, after the Fuga's 'practice jump', had taken it's own maiden voyage to the Interim Portal. On it's otherside, Captain Rafe and his crew had time to reflect on the immensity of space and the isolation of their location, just as Jim and Blair had. KinShip 1 was now in a position to follow the Fuga closely, to aid in times of trouble if need be, but also to perform it's exploration and research duties. They, too, knew they'd come a long way, and not just in time and space.
>13.< Cascade System
Blair did the systems check this side of Jump with confidence while Jim took that time to rest. Then over the next several days they confirmed calculations and observations that had been made on the Gaia side of the Jump Portal.
It didn't take long to discover the reason for the event that had caused Jim's zone. The sudden flare was caused by the breakup of a comet nucleus, which had then precipitated the collision alert. The otherwise normal cometary object, under pressure from it's approach to it's sun, had suddenly increased in brightness nearly a million times when it broke apart.
It had just been bad luck that the comet was in the vicinity when they arrived through the Portal. It was a relief that it was something so ordinary, and so easily explained. It wasn't going to be a danger to future ships as long as the orbit of the debris was tracked.
After local scans were done and analyzed, the promising system that had been located otherside was scrutinized with their scanners. It would soon be time to get down to serious work and attend to their primary goal, which was to study this other star system. Hopefully it would have planets, habitable or not.
After these initial scans were done, they returned briefly to Gaia System. Automated communication/navigation arrays were calibrated and loaded aboard the XJ-Fuga while analysis was done on the data they'd accumulated during their first jump. The arrays would prevent the disaster that had nearly befallen the Fuga from happening to another ship by sending a constant stream of navigational information through the Portal. When everything was ready, the Fuga returned through the Portal to deploy the arrays and then to press on to the new star system.
The new system was beautiful, almost as beautiful as Gaia's had been, but the short-range scans they initiated showed that the planet below was barely within the habitable range. They were disappointed by that news but were glad that they'd soon be joined by The Gerald Simms, on it's first working cruise. The crew was probably already eagerly pouring over the data that they'd sent through the Portal on this excursion and would arrive soon to begin indepth studies of the new system, and especially this planet.
“Chief, the weather's been turbulent down there ever since we arrived in orbit. If that's the norm it's not going to be a pleasant home.”
Blair grimaced, “Well, they can't all be a Gaia-type planet. At least the air's breathable, and there are vast tracts of vegetation and water. I would be surprised if the violence of the weather is constant though. On most planets there are seasonal, orbital, or other variations that would allow an occasional landing. I'm sure there'll eventually be colonization even if they have to apply Atmospheric Modification. If that proves to be necessary it can still take centuries for weather patterns to stabilize so I think a station on one of the moons will be the main habitation for a long time.”
“Chief, we'd better do continuous scans. It's going to take a lot of overlap to get a good look at the terrain.”
“I'll set it up.”
As scheduled, KinShip 1 arrived in seven days.
“Fuga here. Captain Rafe, it's good to hear a friendly voice,” said Blair.
“It's good to hear you, too. It's a little lonely out here, isn't it?”
“You should have been here before company arrived. Here's Jim.”
“Captain Ellison. I believe we're right on schedule.”
“I believe you are,” said Jim. “How does it feel to finally be here?”
“It's all part of the job, Captain. Anything new to report, Jim?”
“We do have some news, Rafe. We found an anomaly on the planet surface. You've got the heavy duty scanners. We'll send you the coordinates so you can take a long, close look. The weather's pretty bad down there, so it may take a while. We'd appreciate a real-time copy of your scans so we can take another look. After we've all had a chance to go over them, we'd like to hear your opinion.”
“What do you think it is?”
Jim hesitated a moment before answering, “Blair has a theory, but we'd like an impartial opinion first, if you don't mind.”
“You've made me curious. We'll get right on it and get back to you.”
WRITTEN TRANSCRIPT: Excerpt from the personal archival records of the First Archivist, Commander Johanna Johnson-Sandburg, concerning the first exploratory attempt of the Cascade System by Gaia System's Sentinel James Ellison and Guide Blair Sandburg.
LIVING HISTORY PROJECT, Modern Era 4.5
Initiated under the auspices of the
University of Gaia 1 for dissemination
to all citizens as their rightful legacy
Lt. Johanna Johnson, Gaia 1: Jim, could you tell me a little about your first investigation of the Cascade System?
Sentinel James Ellison, Captain of the XJ-Fuga: Well, as the records show, our long-range scans were unremarkable. It wasn't until after the second Jump took us into the Cascade System that an anomaly was discovered on the surface of Cascade Prime. We had initiated continuous scans from orbit to study the topography during breaks in the weather.
Johnson: Could you describe your findings for me?
Ellison: The anomalies were groupings of apparently quarried stone blocks. It looked, to us, like ruins similar to those seen from orbit on Gaia. We haven't been able to examine the site or artifacts on Cascade Prime in person, but Captain Rafe of The Gerald Simms (first in the KinShip Line) was able to send an automated probe to the site. It was able to enter an enclosed area and send video data. The pictures revealed carvings similar to those found in Gaia's Temple. I was able to translate what was legible, as I had on Gaia, and Blair sent the translation back to Gaia 1, to be forwarded to the Temple's research team. With their verification of our findings, we concluded that Cascade's ruins had to be related to the Temple on Gaia.
Johnson: Blair, you've done a great deal of research in the database, and you've come to some startling conclusions concerning the existence of the Sentinel/Guide Temple on Gaia and the site on Cascade Prime. Could you summarize some of your ideas for us?
Guide Blair Sandburg, Copilot of the XJ-Fuga: I have only the data that survived the jump to Otherspace, (looking to J. Ellison, Sentinel) plus our own experiences in the Temple on Gaia.
(looking back at the Archivist) After I met and worked with Jim, and later when we found Gaia's Temple, I did research on Jim's enhanced senses. I came to believe that a dimensional jump, that can 'fold and stretch' space and time, could also affect enhanced physical senses to the point that they would allow someone like Jim, a Sentinel, to detect the path to Otherspace.
That path, the juncture that Jim had 'sensed', could be the Eye of God described in the story told by a man named Incacha. Whether Incacha was a Sentinel or not is unknown. However, Allied Systems researchers were unable to detect that path even when told of it's existence by Captain Ellison. Only Jim Ellison was able to 'sense' it. If Incacha wasn't a Sentinel, then perhaps he was a Sentinel's Guide.
Still, that doesn't explain Dr. Richard Burton's use of the term 'Eye of God'. In his treatise he describes the initiation of tribal warriors and their companions on the planet Paraguay. Dr. Burton used the term 'Eye of God' in his description of the bonding ceremony and the resultant prophetic visions. He stated that the bonding of a Sentinel/Guide Pair enhances the extrasensory abilities of both, and prophetic visions are a direct result.
The ritual Dr. Burton described fit our experiences as Sentinel and Guide in the Temple Pools. The visions are something Jim and I have dealt with since our initiation. We've documented the visions from the beginning. Our interpretations of them, and the handling of those events are part of the public record.
Johnson: The existence of Otherspace would have been an incredible discovery in Incacha's time. Why do you think there's no mention of Otherspace in the database? Why do you think there's so little information about Sentinels and Guides?
Sandburg: Physics theorists have maintained that an infinite number of parallel universes make up the multiverse ... but an explanation of quantum physics is beyond the scope of this interview. We 'know' that Otherspace does indeed exist. Whether it's a true 'parallel universe' is something for the physicists to decide.
If - 'if' - Incacha's Eye of God was an Otherspace Portal, then I have to assume that Incacha was able to make at least one trip here 'and back again', or there probably wouldn't be any record of him at all. It's entirely possible that something prevented them from repeating their journey, like equipment failure, or they could have decided to return to Otherspace to stay. There are a lot of reasons, probably as many as you can imagine, for the absence of information on Incacha's Otherspace journey.
As for information about Sentinels and Guides ... Jim's enhanced senses seem to be extremely rare. Dr. Burton stated unequivocally that they're part of our genetic heritage, but they're seldom mentioned in the database. I'm assuming that in our society their usefulness has declined to the point that there's no need for the senses to be active. That wasn't the case on Paraguay, where the whole civilization had slipped into a pre-civilized state.
Johnson: If the builders of the Temple came to Otherspace to colonize, how do you explain why they built a Temple and then moved on, and not just on one planet but, as we've assumed, on two?
Sandburg: I can only speculate from our own experiences. Gaia's sun is extremely active and will need constant monitoring to keep the population safe, and the only planet in Cascade's 'habitable zone' has brutal weather. There is evidence that the weather patterns have changed drastically in the last millenia. It may be that the weather pattern changed after they attempted a settlement there. Perhaps both planets taxed their resources too much.
Johnson: Then they could be out there somewhere, beyond Gaia and Cascade?
Sandburg: Perhaps. Hopefully, someday, the Cascade System will provide some answers.
Historical Records Search, Keywords: Incacha, Eye of God. Library, Allied Systems Database, University of Gaia, Gaia 1, Gaia System.
“The Mystery of Paraguay: Civilization Lost, Regression and Adaptation to a Precivilized Life” by Dr. Richard Burton, Library, Allied Systems Database, University of Gaia, Gaia 1, Gaia System.
“Enhanced Senses: Adaptation to Modern Society”, Doctoral Dissertation by Blair Sandburg, PhD, Library, Modern Era Database.
“Visible World, Invisible Forces: Visions and Their Interpretations by A Modern Era Sentinel and Guide” by Guide Blair Sandburg and Sentinel James Ellison, Library, Modern Era Database.
Long-range and short-range Scan Data by Orbital Observatory 1 in Gaia System, by Experimental-JumpShip Fuga, and by KinShip 1: The Gerald Simms; Science Library, Modern Era Database.
The return to Cascade System was routine. It was certainly better than their first arrival.
Blair knew that Jim could read his reactions and moods easily, surely more easily than Blair could read him, so he stifled his sigh. He'd had to force his mom's message to the back of his mind so that he could concentrate on Jump procedures. The message had arrived just before they were scheduled to undock. He'd barely had time to read it and now the shock of it returned full force. He tried to regain his inner composure because he needed a clear mind to think things through ... before he told Jim.
It didn't help that Jim had become a little obsessed with the scan results. He checked in often with Blair, even when he wasn't on duty. Blair couldn't really blame Jim. The 'ruins' were a mystery that could have ramifications for his Sentinel. The people placed their faith in Jim's abilities, and the weight of that responsibility was wearing. Blair knew that Jim would be grateful for someone ... a Sentinel ... to share that duty, which was ironic because Blair'd had to fight Jim to take his own share of that burden.
However, he couldn't solve any of the problems that Jim could with those enhanced senses of his. So, he'd done his best to help any way he could, to prevent the zones, to help Jim focus in the most efficient ways to prevent stress, and headaches, and such. And of course they did share in the visions. There were differences to what each 'saw', but that was actually useful, too. Sometimes it helped to clarify an interpretation, or reinforce one already tentatively formed by the other.
But Blair knew that no matter how much hope Jim harbored, they weren't going to find anyone alive on Cascade Prime. Jim wasn't going to find another Sentinel down there ... someone to share this Sentinel's burden. Surely Jim had to know that already.
“Hey, Chief. Anything new?” asked Jim as he stepped back into the cabin and took his seat once again.
Blair sighed and said somewhat tentatively, “Sorry, man. You know ... we would have found something by now. Rafe has had scans going around-the-clock since before we left and his scanners are more powerful than ours. That's what the Gerald Simms was built for, exploration and research. You know, don't you, that we're not going to find anyone here?”
Jim's gaze traveled out to the view of Cascade Prime for a long moment. He released a deep sigh of his own, “I know.” Finally turning back to Blair, “It would be nice to know ... what happened to them. That maybe there are others that made it.”
And Jim added matter-of-factly, the truth as he saw it, “And other Guides.”
“Do you suppose ...”
Blair tried to back away from what he'd begun, “Nothing. Just another theory.”
“Come on, Sandburg. It's just the two of us here.”
Blair took a moment to gather his thoughts, “Well, you know how your enhanced senses finally found the Jump Portal to Otherspace ...”
“Well, it only happened because of your special senses, but ... what if ... it was Otherspace itself that encouraged those special senses to become 'more enhanced' ... enhanced enough in the 'right' way ... to 'find it'?”
“What ... Otherspace 'wants' to be found?” Jim teased.
Blair grinned, “No. Come on, Jim. What I'm trying to say is, being regularly exposed to the jump portals may have encouraged your already enhanced senses to expand enough to 'see' it ... the path that no one else believed existed ... the path to Otherspace.”
Jim tensed unconsciously at painful memories, “Where are you heading with this, Chief?”
“Well, the Temple Builders probably got here the same way. If my theory is correct, they started two settlements in Otherspace. When one settlement failed they could have returned, but they didn't ... that we know of, anyway. They moved on and settled on Cascade Prime. What if they stayed because more Sentinels had emerged? According to Dr. Burton, it is part of our genetic heritage.”
“And ... I think that here, in Otherspace ... because of Otherspace ... Sentinels may develop more easily. Maybe ... someday soon ... you'll have the help you need, Jim.”
Jim looked seriously at his friend for a moment, then smiled warmly, “But I already have the help I need.”
“Thanks for that, man.” Blair took a deep breath, then revealed the message he'd received just before jump. The message he'd been trying to find a way to tell him. “Jim, Mom called just before we left. You remember Alexandra? One of the Rainbow Meadow kids?”
Jim frowned but asked, “Isn't she the one that's always following you around?”
Blair had to chuckle at the remembrance of all the times he'd caught her shadowing him until Jim turned his glare on her and she would quickly run off. He continued, “Well, a while ago, Mom told me Alexandra had been having some ... problems .... When Mom called, she was very excited, and maybe we're misunderstanding what happened, but she thinks that Alexandra ... zoned ....”
Blair worried when Jim insisted on returning to Gaia System immediately. Jim hardly said a word during most of that whole trip while the tension in the cockpit grew. Blair finally couldn't bear the silence any longer, “Jim? We could have been wrong. She might have a medical problem, or something...”
“You're not wrong.”
“We're not ...”
“No. You're not.”
Jim turned from the controls and just stared at Blair.
“You're really sure! But how?” asked Blair in astonishment.
“It's something Sentinel, I think. I thought it was just a weird vibe I got around her.”
“Wow! But you didn't know what that 'vibe' was, right?”
Jim sighed, “Right.”
“And you don't want to talk about it right now?”
Jim looked tiredly at his Guide, “I don't know what to think of all this, Chief. She's a kid. She's a Sentinel, I guess. The 'vibe' I got made me feel like I needed to stay away from her.”
“But you never said anything.”
Jim grimaced then said, “Chief, I don't think it was about me. How do I say that it was about you without it sounding ... possessive, or jealous even? It was important for YOU to stay away from her. Now, I think I know why, and you have to promise me that you will ... stay away, that is.”
“But Jim, I'm a Guide. I can help ...”
“NO,” Jim said fiercely. He turned fully toward Blair, “You can't help. You're not 'her' Guide. You're mine.”
Blair apparently tried what he thought was a 'reasonable' tone, “Jim, she's just a little girl. She won't come between us, man. She ...”
“Blair, this isn't 'jealousy' speaking,” Jim said softly, “You don't understand. You can't Guide two of us. We both know that she'll need her own Guide, but right now she thinks that could be 'you'. I think that's why she's been following you around. I hope she hasn't already fixed you in her mind as 'her' Guide. If you let her go on thinking that, then she might not be able to find her own.”
Blair was silent for a long moment, “But you had more than one guide, Jim.”
“My family, and Henri could all help me if I zoned, but not as easily as you could. They could guide me, but you're my Guide.” Jim added with finality, “I didn't take any of them into the Temple with me.”
“Yes ... we did.”
Blair stared at Jim intently, “You know I'd never bond with anyone else.”
Jim's face showed confusion and worry, “I don't know if you could, but are you sure you wouldn't try?”
Blair's hurt was obvious to Jim as soon as he'd said the words, “We've been through a lot together ... I never thought you'd doubt ...”
Jim swallowed hard, “It's not that I doubt you. It's just that I know you ...” At the shock on Blair's face, Jim hurried on, “I know you'd never leave a child in need if you could help her. I know you'd never want to leave a Sentinel child to cope with sensory spikes or a zone by herself. I know you too well.”
“Oh.” Blair hung his head for a moment, “Can I help her if you're with me?”
Jim thought for a moment, “I don't know what would have happened to me if I didn't get the help I needed. I don't think I could deny that help to a child, either. So, I guess we could try that ... but only if we 'have' to.”
Blair looked slightly relieved, “Okay, but you have to tell me if the 'vibes' get to be too much. Promise me!”
Jim relaxed at that, “I promise. We'll find a way, Blair.”
Blair looked worried as he said, “I wonder how hard it's going to be to find her Guide.”
Jim quirked an eyebrow, “My family helped. Hopefully her's can, too.”
Blair nodded his head absently as he thought out loud, “Yeah, and Henri ... I wonder if one of his kids ...”
Jim looked skeptical, then said doubtfully, “I'm not sure how Henri would feel about it. Are you up to facing Serena if it comes to that?” Blair glanced at Jim and shuddered. They were both glad they didn't have to face her on that topic, at least not yet.
Their trip was routine, but even before they docked at Gaia, Jim was arranging passage to New Cascade, and Blair was arranging for them both to meet with the new 'Sentinel' and her family and friends.
LIVING HISTORY PROJECT, Modern Era 54.5
Initiated under the auspices of the
University of Gaia 1 for dissemination
to all citizens as their rightful legacy
Excerpt from “The Legacy of Cascade's Lost Settlement on the Fiftieth Anniversary of It's Rediscovery” by Archivist Arielle Taggert
For fifty years teams of scholars have delved into the mystery of the Temple Builders. Unfortunately, answers to the most sought after questions remain unanswered: Where are they now? Did they move on? Did they return to the home galaxy? Did they perish?
At the time of the discovery, we were still refugees trying to survive in this hostile Otherspace. We were already on our way to becoming a cohesive civilization, but the Builders became a driving force toward that goal. The Temple Builders became our 'quest'. They gave added impetus to our educational institutions, to our technological progress, to our exploration ... and they fostered our Sentinels and Guides, our guardians.
Fifty years have passed, and we have prospered. The 'quest' is no longer the reason for our travels. We seek for it's own sake. We no longer search because we fear being alone.
Excerpt from the Journal of the First Guide, Blair Sandburg
Jim and I spend a lot of time on Gaia, but over the years I think that we've spent more time on the other side of Jumps. It's a good thing that the ladies we share our lives with have important occupations, too, or they'd have left us long ago.
Jim and I have a lot of time to think, and to talk. I cherish that time, and I think he does, too. He's a good listener. Some of my best theories were hashed out with him as the resident skeptic. I think he likes that role. He's said more than once, “Come on Chief, it's just the two of us ....”
Working theories out in your head or on paper is one thing, but trying to explain it to someone else either forces you to work out the holes, or leaves you no choice but to throw it out with the trash.
On one trip I made the mistake of telling him my most secret 'wouldn't - couldn't be proven' theory. Well, I don't think it will ever be proven, but I guess I can't know that for sure. He encouraged me to tell others, but for some reason I can't even tell Jo. She'd probably tell Mairin and they'd put their heads together and smile indulgently. It's a silly idea anyway.
So, Jim told me to write it in my journal, but I hesitate to do even that. People won't read it until after I'm gone, but I don't want posterity to think .... Oh, Jim's right. I'm a wuss. So here goes:
A lot can happen in ten millenia, or a hundred. (No, that's not my theory. Keep going.) One of our oldest myths from the home galaxy was of an ancient civilization called Eorthe. We searched for it for thousands of years; the so-named 'birthplace of humanity', the myth said. But ... what if we were looking in the wrong place? The wrong 'space'?
I know ... a silly idea, if ever there was one. And even if Otherspace is the right 'space', Eorthe may not even be in this galaxy. It may be in the next, or the next. We'd probably never find it even if it is here.
Still, I have questions. Why do Sentinels and Guides flourish here? How do you explain that those gifts are part of our genetic heritage? ... Was it genetics - some sort of racial memory - that allowed Jim to translate the writings in the Temple?
I remember when Jim led me to the bonding Pools. He took me through the initiation without hesitation, with absolute trust that this was the way it was supposed to be ... and the Temple Pools changed us. We 'became' Sentinel-and-Guide ... here ... in Otherspace.
Personally ... I think we've come home.
NOTE: To click on any of these sites, copy, paste, and take out the three spaces.
1. I shamelessly 'borrowed' bits of wedding vows from these two sites and a Bible quote:
1 Cor 13:4-8, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails....
2. I needed a crisis for Part 4 ... and then I found Comet 17P/Holmes!
On this site (Astronomy Picture of the Day) you can find a view of Comet 17P/Holmes which suddenly became “nearly a million times brighter” sometime in October. Oct. 29 (and others) Picture of the Day: “The comet's sudden brightening is likely due to some sort of sunlight-reflecting outgassing event, possibly related to ice melting over a gas-filled cavern, or possibly even a partial breakup of the comet's nucleus.”
3. Question - How did planet earth get its name?
“The word Earth originates from the Middle English word, erthe, which came from Old English eorthe; akin to Old High German erda. This then traces back to the Greek, eraze from the Hebrew erez, meaning ground.”
---Nathan A. Unterman
4. I found (actually this information came from the magazine “Sky & Telescope”) this really great, interactive site on 'black holes', it also has an explanation about the jets that issue from them. This information relates more to Part 1 of XJ-Fuga but everything is exceedingly well presented (it won the top prize in the 2005 Pirelli Internetional Awards).
There's also a great set of pictures of an active galaxy (2008 January 10: Active Galaxy Centaurus A) on Astronomy Picture of the Day: