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XJ-Fuga

by ljc

8/05


Summary: A sentinel and guide in space. Do I need to say AU? One very minor character dies, and 'others'. Oh yeah, this 'science' is reeeally fantasy (if it isn't, I don't want to know! <bg>). But the 'science' is only a device to frame the story around.


Warnings, Ratings: for a few words, PG.


Disclaimer: All characters, places, and objects from The Sentinel belong to Pet Fly Productions, UPN, Paramount and the SciFi Channel. No money is being made. No copyright infringement is intended. This story was written by ljc with the love of the show in mind.


<>


NOTE: The song in the story isn't mine, but it's sung to the tune of “Wayfarin' Stranger”. There are a page and a half of other notes at the end.


NOTE: Why fuga? Jim's zones have been described as fugue states. I looked up the etymology of fugue and it seemed to fit 'very' well.

Etymology: fugue: 1597, from Italian: fuga, lit. "flight"; from Latin: fuga "act of fleeing" from fugere "to flee" (see fugitive). Current spelling is from influence of French version of the Italian word.

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=x


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1. Prologue


There have always been legends. The far flung peoples of the human race were highly technological, civilized beings traveling between stars through the underrated miracles of jump space portals. They traveled and settled and spun through their civilization with hardly a thought to the wonders that made it all possible. Their lives wrapped in human made cocoons that protected their fragile beings from contact with, or interaction with, or even much notice of, the cosmos around them.


But legends still made the rounds of the ports. One of the latest additions was of an Allied Systems jump pilot, lost they said, for a local time of eighteen days during what was supposed to be an instantaneous jump. But maybe something happened, maybe it didn't. Exploratory Jumpship Captain James Ellison told his wild story ... many times ... then requested discharge.


Ellison was a respected pilot, his family's name among the elite of the Allied Systems government. The discharge was approved. Ellison retreated to a family owned ship in near isolation. But whispers of his wild tale circulated, while Ellison continued his search of the jump points. For a wild tale? For vindication? There were whispers that the wealthy family paid off a crazy son and the son was left to wander, and search.



2.


Megan Connor was relaxing at her work station, guiding her ship, A. S. The Walkabout, through the last stages of a centuries old, proven jump point. She expected no problems. She'd taken a promotion to captain the huge freighter, not realizing how boring it could be. The crew was small, the cargo bays vast. And although the running time for a trip wasn't much longer than for a luxury yacht, there were few amenities, and practically no chance for meeting any passengers. Only the poorest citizens took the extra time for travel when they could be at their destination sooner, and in more comfort.


But this time out, she did have two passengers, and they were lively and interesting, if not exactly in the mainstream of society. They were headed on a slightly indirect and leisurely route to the far distant Rainbow Meadow Habitat. She'd never been there since they were a self-sufficient and privately chartered habitat, in no need of the heavy cargo loads The Walkabout could deliver. She had to smile at the thought of the Habitat. She'd heard some interesting stories.


She turned her thoughts to jump arrival. Coming out of jump was routine, as complex as stepping out of a lift tube. But not today.


A red light flashed.

Oh bloody hell!” Megan muttered. “Joel, Rhonda. Emergency! To stations.” When the chaos that greeted this insystem jump became clearer, Megan sent orders flying to boost at top speed. To flee. There was no safe harbor, or station, or planet. No hope. Not here.


They fled on what she could only hope was a safe heading, the next one programmed into the navigation computer, carrying her cargo, her tiny group of humanity, and a message. A desperate message that had been sent ranging throughout the system and beyond. Those it reached took what they had time to grasp and carried it outward, fleeing the center of their mother galaxy.


Destruction raced behind them, tearing space/time in the cataclysm. If the message was correct ... if what she had observed was correct ... where in this galaxy was safety? And how much time did they have to find it? Was there a place to retreat to?


Megan worked feverishly to analyze the message and the coordinates. If she could gain them some time .... Already the central worlds of the Allied Systems were breached.



3. Interlude 1


No defense could withstand the fury of quantum physics run amok. As galaxies aged, small black holes naturally form from dense collapsing stars. The home galaxy was type AGN, active galactic nucleus. At it's center was a supermassive black hole. Messages had flown over the communications network. There was no time for speculation then, but later analysis noted the destabilization of one or more of the black holes near the jets radiating from their AGN. But how had they caused galaxy-wide destruction so fast? Had they somehow reached through the known jump points? Or had they forged their own shortcuts through space and time?



4.


Jim Ellison woke abruptly from his trance. Henri was shaking his arm none too gently, “Damn it Jim. Finally. You cut it close my friend. We're coming up on your father's yacht. They've asked for your clearance code. They're going to shoot first and ask questions later if you don't answer in your own voice. Come on!”


Jim struggled to maintain calm, “I'm on it H. Let's go.” Another fugue state so close to the last was unusual. He tried to be more careful than that. But this one carried a feeling of great dread that seemed closer in time and space than the last one.


The meeting with William and Steven was something he'd never have considered without the first vision. He knew all too well that his father and brother thought he was crazy, but he had to do this, and there was not much time for finesse. “H, you understand I have to try to save them. I need your help or I wouldn't ask, my friend. I know you could get in trouble if I'm wrong, but I've left a logged statement relieving you of any responsibility. But I swear I said the truth H. You've been with me long enough to know me. Something terrible is happening and I know no one will believe me, not even my own family. I just want to say thanks for coming along. And ... if they catch on and stop me then I want you to go on. Promise.”


Jim you know I'd follow you anywhere. You aren't the type to cry wolf. If you're right about a coming disaster I'm the one that has to thank you. That's my family back there in our quarters. Let's get on with this,” Henri answered grimly. “I'll contact Sally like we planned and get her aboard to visit Serena and the kids. You work on getting William and Steven here.”


Jim clenched his jaw. His dad and his brother were not going to be happy at his deception. If this turned out wrong he'd be locked away for sure this time. Just another crazy relative, put in a sanitarium for the good of himself and his family. And the good Ellison name.


Jim could only think of one reason to give to entice his father to visit his sleek exploratory jump ship, the XJ-Fuga, an appeal to greed. Not that his father wasn't generous to charities and those less fortunate, but if it looked good for his reputation, so much the better. So, a good business opportunity was always a good lure, and the prospect of a new trade item from a backwater planet proved sufficient for the task.


When the Ellisons came aboard, Jim gave Henri a pre-arranged signal to send a message to the captain of the family's yacht, the A. S. Ellison's Enterprise, that would explain their new slow, deceptively decorous, trajectory.


Of course, when Jim couldn't produce the 'trade item', all hell broke loose. William was furious and Steven was worried and both turned humoring, then gently coaxing, then commanding.


Jim tried only one short explanation then gave up. He turned up his own 'Ellison command voice', “Dad, Steven. This is not kidnapping. 'This' is a rescue. And if I'm crazy you can lock me up later. Sally is also on board. When we're a safe distance away I'll contact the yacht so they can follow, but not stop us. There 'is' danger.” More softly he added, “You're my family. You must know I wouldn't harm you. My friend Henri is navigating but I should get up there to help. His family is on board also.”


Henri sounded the klaxon. Too soon. Jump was imminent.


Jim! Emergency stations,” warned Henri.


Jim slapped the com panel on the wall, “Henri, send the warning message and the coordinates. Now!” And he raced to his jump station, leaving the others to sort themselves out. Even as routine as space travel was, safety drills were still part of that routine.


<>


William, Steven and Sally were shaken by the news. The messages were played for them and Serena. People known to the Ellisons were recognized in the messages. Indeed, those well known in the Allied Systems government lent their faces to the warnings, fearing they would be deemed hoaxes otherwise.


They were all refugees now.



5.


Rafe tugged at his collar, smoothed his immaculate hair and set out for his duty shift on the luxury liner A. S. Gaia. He reported to his station for jump arrival. The Captain was pacing the deck as usual. Captain Banks was always serious about jump point arrival and departure. He knew there was little risk, but it was the riskiest part of the trip. He was quite willing to leave passenger coddling to his dapper First Officer, Rafe. Rafe enjoyed that kind of thing.


Captain, a call for you sir,” said one of the junior officers.


Captain Banks speaking,” he said in his 'I am in control' tone.


Uh, Dad? Uh, sorry to bother you. I knew you'd be getting close to dock now. Um, Mom's waiting to talk to you. About me probably. I guess I've been a pain lately. But honest, I was just excited about this trip with you. But I thought I'd better warn you ahead of time,” said Daryl.


Captain Simon Banks groaned inwardly. Joan, waiting to talk, was 'not' what he wanted to hear. “Daryl, son. It's good to hear from you. Thanks for the 'warning' but your mom and I will straighten out whatever needs straightening. Don't worry. I'm looking forward to this trip. I'll see you in about an hour. Bye son.”


<>


Docking was as chaotic as usual. Simon was glad, even eager to do his last shipboard obligation to his passengers as he presided over their orderly, if somewhat frazzled departures. That was because he was waiting to take his son aboard. Since he and Joan had gone their separate ways, he'd seen too little of the boy. He'd surely grown during this last separation.


He saw Joan approaching with a grim expression. He calmed himself. He wouldn't let her goad him into an argument that would give her any excuse to disrupt Daryl's visit.


Simon greeted Daryl with a big hug, which the boy seemed a bit embarrassed about. Teenagers, he sighed. He sent Daryl to quarters to get him out of the line of fire and escorted Joan to his office.


Simon was rather surprised that Joan only wanted to warn Simon of Daryl's attitude lately. She was afraid that, given the run of the ship, he might get into trouble. Simon promised to watch him carefully and to have some serious talks with the boy. Joan seemed grateful, which totally threw off Simon's expectations, but she left happy. Simon was glad the expected strained confrontation hadn't happened.


He went to find his son.


<>


Since disembarkation, Simon was free to have Daryl on the bridge with him. With passengers aboard, that would have been against procedure. This was the first time that Daryl could watch the ship as it was maneuvered to take on supplies and cargo for the coming trip. Everything ran smoothly. The big liner moved out of dock and into an orbit to dock with the planetary station.


As with other of the Allied Systems planetary defenses, the warnings came almost too late. Simon, as Captain, had only moments to react. He headed the ship outward on the jump already programmed. Others were not so fast. Nor so lucky. Nor did their Captains make the correct, excruciating decisions.


Simon watched the newscasts with Daryl at his side. Chaos. Riot. Death and destruction. Swift and final. There was open weeping on the bridge.



6. Interlude 2


The destruction swept outward. System after system became darkened and dead. The ships that did escape, could only flee further, until equipment breakdown or simply the wrong jump landed them at the end of their journey. The destruction had engulfed the heart of the galaxy and spread like a pandemic to the fringes. For most, escape was futile. For a few, there was a glimmer of hope.



7.


But Megan, listen please,” Blair begged. “Rainbow Meadow Habitat is near this trajectory. We can save them. Please Megan. And they'll have supplies we can use.”


Megan thought the matter over. She'd seen the frantic newscasts. Everyone aboard had. She had their opinions. Joel and Rhonda, Naomi and Blair all wanted desperately to save something. Someone. But the whole habitat? Was it feasible? And the habitat dwellers were aware of the newscasts too. Would they be reasonable? Would they panic? Would that decision kill them all? She decided she had to try. This wasn't like the first panicked reactions. They 'did' have a little time. She set things in motion.


Naomi and Blair contacted the habitat. Plans were made. Anything that could be packed for cargo pod storage was prioritized. Lists ... ah, bureaucracy, even there on Rainbow Meadow Habitat. Lists were made. Lists were prioritized. 1. Essential personnel, and children and supplies to feed and protect 'list one'. 2. All other people and more supplies to feed and protect 'list two'. 3. Equipment that was nearly essential. Lists ad infinitum, till the last blade of grass was accounted.


Joel and Rhonda left the habitat lists to them. They made their own plans. If all came to naught, they meant to save the children, for however long their luck held. With Megan's approval, they set the mechanicals to rigging the innermost pods for very basic living quarters, moving nonessential equipment to the doors and pushing them into the void.


Blair became their liaison with Rainbow Meadow. He knew the people. He knew when and whom to push. And he did it ruthlessly. Megan came upon him one night out. He'd tucked himself into a corner of the com station and was weeping, quietly. Megan could guess the problem. She sank wearily down beside him.

“We're not going to be able to take them all are we?” she said wearily.


Blair swallowed and lifted grief-stricken eyes, “They're family Megan. How can we choose? Who lives and who dies? I can't ... I can't.”


Megan looked into a distance unseen in the close quarters of this room. “Don't worry about it mate. I've got it handled. I'm the Captain of this ship. The decision is mine. Not yours,” and she slowly rose and left.



8.


Blair spoke calmly to the children and they gathered around, glad to see Blair after his long absence. He sat with the children trying to calm them. “Sing to us Blair. Please sing to us. A new song ....”


Blair thought a moment, “Well, this is really a very old song, but I think you've probably never heard these words. You remember 'Wayfarin' Stranger'?” He waited for their nods, and 'yes Blair'. “This is going to be you very soon. I want you to be very brave, and grown up when it's time to leave, okay?” More nods, but silence this time, so Blair began to sing 'Wayfarin' Spacer'.


I'm just a poor wayfarin' spacer

A' travelin' through the galaxy

And there's no heat nor cold nor vacuum

No fallin' free can frighten me.


I'm just a goin' into orbit

A' blastin' off to deepest space

I'm goin' where the stars are burnin'

Out where uncharted planets race.*


<>


The scene was chaotic on the habitat as time passed too swiftly. It was to be expected. What was unexpected was the cessation of that chaos when departure time arrived. Groups of young stationers led the children aboard. Among the others were tearful goodbyes and embraces. Blair came to Megan then, “Naomi and I are staying, Captain Connor. It has been an honor to know you.”


Megan was astonished, and aggrieved. She knew she couldn't argue. So many were staying. Naomi and Blair stood with arms clasped around each other's waists. Megan turned quickly and left before her composure was surely lost.


Joel came to her with the 'lists'. “You know Captain, they can't survive with what they left on the habitat. There's no way,” he objected.


Megan gave him a hard, unrelenting glare, and he fell silent and turned away. She saw Rhonda grasp his hand in shared grief. Megan's true thoughts she kept to herself. There was no sure way to survive, but they'd keep on trying.


They'd begun to line up for jump when ...



9.


A jump arrival was noted. And as the next several hours passed, another. And others. Ships. Dozens, large and small. A miracle. And pitifully few. The outer fringes of the darkness left few places to run to except Rainbow Meadow and a few other forlorn, dead end outposts.


Messages passed. The A. S. Gaia had arrived nearly empty, was in excellent condition and had supplies. They had very little time, but Megan's crew and the habitat dwellers had a little experience with lists. Crews and stationers were shifted. Essential foodstuffs and equipment, too. It was decided to abandon several smaller, damaged ships, and they were quickly stripped of anything useful that wasn't welded down, and some that was, like power generators, life support systems and the like.


Several small jumps were soon initiated to gain distance and time from the encroaching blackness at the heart of the galaxy. It was also necessary to coordinate the several ships trajectories, for safety's sake, if they intended to travel together.


James Ellison requested a meeting aboard the A. S. Gaia, a more neutral setting than William's ship.



10.


Blair had come as one of the representatives of the stationers, who had been placed on several of the ships. By Allied Systems law the authority of the ship captains was incontestable. But these were unparalleled times and the survivors wanted and needed to be kept apprised of any decisions.


The meeting was held in a large conference room with Captain Simon Banks presiding.


Ladies and gentlemen, let's keep this meeting orderly and we can keep it less formal. We'll hear all suggestions, but if there are any complaints I'd like them postponed or directed to your own Captain unless they're life endangering ....”


<>


The meeting stalled at the decision of the next jump point. There were several choices. None better or worse than the other. But the problem was ... where would they go then?


James Ellison stood to face Captain Banks, “I don't know if you know me, sir ....”


Captain Banks leaned back and regarded the younger man with a doubtful expression, “I have heard 'The Legend of Jump Pilot Captain Ellison'. There are few who haven't. If you have a suggestion, we'll listen.”


Jim released a held breath, “Many people wouldn't even listen, Captain. Thank you.” Looking to his father, “As William and Steven Ellison, and my copilot Henri Brown can attest, I 'knew' ... somehow ... about a coming disaster.”


There was a rising murmur that Simon silenced with a wave. He spoke gravely, and his anger was barely controlled, “Go on Captain Ellison. Since two of your witnesses are present and haven't disagreed, I think we need to know more.”


Mr. Ellison,” Simon had turned to William, “Henri Brown is your son's copilot. If you believe he would disagree with your son's statements in any way, I expect you to make it known to this group. Do you understand, sir?”


William stood and gave a dignified and respectful short bow to the Captain, “My son is telling the truth Captain Banks. You have my word.”


Jim placed his fingertips on the table as he stood trying to order his thoughts, grateful for his father's support at last. Then attention turned back to him. “I think that the 'knowing' about the disaster is somehow tied up with the legend. It's true that I was lost. But, I was lost only to this space, not the other ... 'otherspace' I've always called it. The jump there is unlike any other jump recorded and I never discovered any known astronomical markers for our own space. That day I made an exploratory jump, trying out new coordinates the scientists agreed should have been an alternate route to a trade hub. There were support vessels and crews that witnessed it. I did make the jump Captain. It just took me eighteen days to find the return route.”


Simon considered the serious man before him, “Why were you discharged? What about the wild rumors? And how exactly did you know about the coming disaster.” Simon leaned forward to ask this last question, “And why did you give no warning?”


Jim stilled, “I'll answer your last question with a question of my own ... would 'you' have believed me, sir?” ... Softly, “I thought not. And truthfully, I had almost as little warning as anyone else. And I knew only of great danger, not what the danger was. I don't know if even I would have believed the scope of it myself.”


He breathed deeply before he could continue, “My last official jump, the one to 'otherspace' ... they wouldn't listen. Allied System's officials had never encountered the 'otherspace' before. But I could 'see' the pattern in jump space Captain. I could 'see' it! I led another crew to the 'otherspace' juncture and they said I was crazy. It didn't exist. I wasn't allowed to touch the controls on that flight. They didn't believe me. I left because I had to try on my own. I've been there Captain, with Henri Brown, my copilot. Many times. I searched for jumps to a system, a planet. Captain, on my last trip ... I found one. A planet. I know I'm asking a lot Captain Banks. I'm not just asking for you to believe me, I'm asking for a volunteer to go with me. Perhaps someone with planetary ecology experience.”


Captain Banks looked puzzled, “Not your copilot Captain Ellison? Not any copilot? Why?”


Jim answered fervently, “Henri Brown is a good man and my friend. But he has a wife and children. I can't guess what, if anything, has happened to 'otherspace'. I'd rather take only one other person on a scouting mission, and preferably someone that knows a planetary ecology. Someone that has some judgement of natural processes. Someone that could judge the merits of a planet in this otherspace. Most of us here have spent little time on a planet. It's one reason we survived.”


He stiffened as he continued, “And also because a different copilot wouldn't believe. He'd try to stop me from taking that juncture. I need a steady man. An honest man. And to be truthful, a brave man. It's not easy to ride with someone other people believe is crazy. And it's a rather wild ride Captain to the other side.”


Simon hesitated, “There's one question you didn't answer. 'How' did you know of the ... disaster?”


Jim swallowed hard as he looked to William and Steven, then directly to Captain Banks, and admitted, “Honestly Captain, I don't know. All I'm sure of is that if I'm not careful I can fall into a fugue state, and during one of those episodes I got a great feeling of dread, of danger. I told Henri and he gathered his family quickly aboard my jump ship and we jumped directly to my family's location. Even though I'm very careful I had another episode before our arrival, and the feeling was worse.”


Is it a side-effect of this otherspace? You're asking a volunteer to risk ...” began Simon angrily.


NO! Henri has shown no sign of it.” Jim let out a sigh as he confessed, “My medical and service records will show that I was born with a sensory anomalie that was never a problem until after that jump. The volunteer would have to work with me to make sure he can break through the fugue state. I can force a fugue to test it. We'll both know if it will work before we'd attempt it. I don't want to risk anyone else either,” Jim replied adamantly.


Simon stilled as his mind raced. He 'had' to agree. Their little fleet was boxed in by the galaxy-wide disaster. Jump coordinates to another galaxy had never been discovered. There was only the cold, unforgiving dark between the disaster in their own galaxy and another galaxy lifetimes away. They wouldn't survive a trip of that scope. But he couldn't risk any of the ship's officers. Their training was essential to survival. He didn't want to even risk this 'crazy man'. But he'd heard the legend. And the rumors. By all appearances, and the witnesses apparent agreement, this could all be true. And he 'would' interview Henri Brown in private before allowing a jump. Could he risk another life, on a 'crazy' possibility? Would he even get a volunteer?


Captain, I volunteer,” spoke a quiet young voice among the stationers. “I have University degrees in several subjects, Captain. I am not a fool. But I don't think I'm particularly brave. But what 'are' the options? I was raised on Rainbow Meadow Habitat, among other places.” He smiled as if in recollection, and said to the listeners, “My mother and I moved a lot. I have lived in several different ecosystems, dozens if you count various so-called 'natural' space-based habitats. I can perform whatever tests others deem necessary. But consider this Captain Banks, even if the planet is not habitable, at least we'd have a living ecology to help sustain our own.”


Megan spoke quietly, “Captain, don't let this young man fool you. He was one of the people who chose to stay behind on Rainbow Meadow Habitat.”


Well, two brave men. Or two crazy men. He hated to make the decision that could cause the loss of either of them. “Alright gentlemen. But Captain Ellison, you'll need a copilot. I have to insist that Henri Brown accompany you on this trip. You'll need to take a shuttle down to the planet. If you don't make it back, we'll still need a report and the telemetry from space to base our decision on. So, you have my approval, with that condition, unless there are dissenters.”


Jim stared down his father.


Blair gripped Naomi's hand and smiled at her.



11.


Blair and Jim entered the airlock to Jim's exploratory jumpship, XJ-Fuga.


There's a small passenger cabin just aft of the galley. Do whatever you need to get settled. I'll fix something to drink. Would you like coffee, tea?” asked Jim.


Blair turned to Jim, “Tea would be fine. I don't exactly have anything to settle. I'll just toss my backpack in a locker and be right out. I'm a little nervous about our upcoming jump. I probably have a few thousand questions bouncing around in my head right now. I'd like to hear what to expect. So much is riding on this trip Captain Ellison.”


Jim looked steadily at his new shipmate, then added with a small grin, “I know, Blair. And call me Jim. It's a small ship. We'll be bumping into each other a lot. Meet me in the galley and we can talk.”


Blair was back in a moment and they sat in the small galley. Blair asked, “Where were you when you went into the fugue that gave you the warning?”


Jim answered, literally, “On the bridge ...”


Blair smiled and shook his head, “No, where in space?”


Jim grinned. “Oh. Pendergrast Station. That's where Henri's family stays ... stayed, between trips. We were lucky they were so close,” he whispered grimly.


Blair's eyes lost their focus, “We'd just arrived insystem at Cascade .... We'd never have made it if we'd already docked at station. Everything happened so fast. Was it just luck, Jim? My mom would say it's a result of our karma.”


Jim shook his head, “I don't know about karma. But so many strange things have happened in the last few years that I hardly know what to think anymore. The only thing I'm sure of is that we have a long struggle ahead. It won't be easy, even if we have a viable planet within reach.”


Blair and Jim put their cups away, old habits for living in a suddenly movable habitat.


Blair asked, “What brings on the fugue state Jim? You said you could force it.”


Well, the doctors told my father that I had unusually sharp senses when I was a child. The senses never gave me trouble until I found the route to otherspace. Since then they've been even more acute. A sharp sound, smell, taste, or a bright light, or an interesting texture or something painful ... they can all cause a fugue unless I'm careful. Dad ... well I heard him ask the Allied System's doctors if maybe I'd been changed, if I had mutated into something freakish. I think that's when I decided to take the medical discharge,” Jim admitted hesitantly.


Blair said, “I'm sorry you heard his remarks Jim. I can't guess what his thoughts were at the time. Just remember he stood by you today at the meeting .... Uh, look, we've gotten to chat for a bit, but we really don't have much time. Maybe I should be helping Henri with the gear for the ecological assessment.”


Jim grinned, then his smile faded, “Henri's probably got it all packed away by now. I think he's just saying goodbye to his family.”


Blair got a faraway look and said, “Naomi's my only family. She wasn't too happy about my going with you. I'm only sorry that Captain Banks insisted that Henri go too.”


Jim said, “I know Captain Banks has a point. But Henri's my friend and he stuck by me when a lot of others turned their backs on me.”


Blair looked concerned, “What if ... no, never mind.”


No, say it. If you have any doubts or questions, don't hesitate to tell me,” encouraged Jim.


Well, can anyone else pull you out of a fugue? You seemed to expect that any volunteer ought to be able to do it. I thought, if something happened, I might have to do it and maybe we should give it a try before we leave, if you're willing. But is it actually possible? Has anyone else done it?” asked Blair in a rush.


Yeah, Dad and Steve, and Sally can bring me out pretty quickly. About as quickly as Henri. But Henri and I have worked closely for a while now and I'm used to responding to him. When I was with the Allied Systems fleet, there was never a problem. I think the senses have become sharper since my trip to otherspace.”


Blair thought a moment, “Do you think we have time for a trial? I'd feel better if I knew I could do this for you. I mean, you are the pilot. Even though I know Henri's a great pilot himself I'd feel better knowing I could 'wake you up'. We don't know what's happened on the other side of the jump.”


Jim nodded, “It's not a bad idea. Let's get Henri in here to observe, just in case you can't wake me in a reasonable time.”


Jim sent a com call to Henri who arrived out of breath and with a reserved demeanor.


Sorry to take you away from Serena and the kids H. Blair wanted to try to bring me out of a fugue before we take off. I thought it would be good to know if he can do it. We're scheduled to leave soon anyway ... sorry to cut your time short with the family,” Jim finished with regret.


Henri let out a sigh, “I'm just glad we're together. Let's hope 'otherspace' escaped the events in this space. Blair, good to meet you. Heh, you're going to get a very interesting ride.”


Jim turned to Blair, “Look, do you have something I could use to focus on? I don't want to become accustomed to going into a fugue on something familiar.”


Blair thought and retrieved his backpack, “How good can you focus? Can you narrow in on a taste? That would be something you might encounter again, but not while you're working jump controls.”


Jim, “Yeah, that sounds good. But what?”


Blair brought out a packet of herbs, “I use herbal remedies when I can. This sage ...”


Whoa, I think you can leave it in the package,” Jim's eyes were watering.


Blair said doubtfully, “Well, we could try smell.”


Jim hurriedly added, “You don't need to bring it any closer. I can focus on it enough from right there.” He settled back and breathed shallowly, nose wrinkling. A big sneeze followed. “It's okay. I can do this.” He slowed his breathing and stilled as his focus narrowed.


Blair watched in amazement, “Jim? Oh man. Henri, he's under! Uh, Jim, wake up now. It's okay to wake up.” He reached out to gently rub his hand on Jim's forearm, and Jim woke, with a great sucking breath and several loud sneezes.


Put it away Blair. Put it away,” Jim said wiping his tearing eyes.


Sorry Jim,” said Blair as he hurriedly packed away the sage. “I thought I should leave the sage out until you woke up since I can't 'pack up' everything that might cause a fugue in the future.”


Henri stood in the doorway. He said in awe, “Jim, I don't believe it! You were gone, all the way. That sage must be powerful stuff, I think you almost stopped breathing! But Blair brought you right back, in just seconds. If this works every time, he's a natural. Keep him,” and Henri was only partially joking.



12.


Naomi and Blair had meditated together before he left A. S. Gaia. “Blair, your aura is so beautiful. You 'will' come back. I won't dwell on any other outcome,” and she had kissed and hugged him, “I'll be here when you return.”


Simon, aboard the A. S. Gaia, gave the final order for this desperate mission. “Fair winds, gentlemen,” he added, a blessing whose origin from ancient planetary sailing ships had been appropriated by the sailors of space.


Megan, as Captain of A. S.The Walkabout, sent, “Good luck, mates.”


William Ellison was back aboard his yacht, the Ellison's Enterprise with several new passengers, Henri's wife Serena and their children. He and Steven stood together, fearing for Jim, but also sent messages. “Come back safe Jimmy.” “I'd better see you soon, brother.”



13.


Jim set the controls to begin the jump sequence with Henri's capable help. Blair sat directly behind Jim in an observer's seat.


Blair's knee bounced in his nervousness, “So Jim. You can 'see' this path? What does it look like man?”


Jim managed a grin for his observer on this run, before turning serious, “Have you ever been on the bridge during a jump? I can't remember how many times I've tried to describe it for someone ... well, this 'path' is ... well, I can see it but it's like seeing a taste, like salsa, and there's a smell ... clean. Not like 'no' smell but ... I know that sounds crazy,” Jim shook his head as he started to turn away, “Sorry, I never could really describe it.”


Blair looked surprised, “How does it feel Jim? And do you hear anything odd?”


Jim didn't even have to think about it, “It feels smooth, like oil on your fingers. And I hear a sound so deep it seems to rattle me down to my core.” Jim gave a little shiver as the memories awoke the same responses as the actual jump.


Blair exclaimed, “That's why! It's your sharper senses. It takes them all. Right? There's an element of each: light, sound, taste, smell, and touch. Right? And since you've been along that path, it must have sensitized them. Maybe other people ... no. Henri didn't see the route, ever. Did you Henri?”


Jim and Henri exchanged a look and then Jim grinned in awe at Blair, “I think you may have something there kid. But I started with sharper senses and I didn't see the path until I'd been a pilot for years. Maybe Henri could someday learn the path, too. If we get the chance. It's time Chief. Hang on.”



14.


Jim just knew he was going to be black and blue. He pried Blair's fingers off his arm. “I didn't mean 'hang on' Chief,” then grinned, “It's not like the usual kiddie-ride type of jump.”


Blair regained his calm and punched Jim in the arm, “You could have warned me! Ouch,” and he waved his damaged hand as Jim rubbed his biceps.


Jim laughed, “Don't hit the pilot. We've got another jump coming up to reach the planet. It's set into the automatic controls. It won't be as spectacular. This one is already in otherspace. Just be glad you don't have sharper senses, like me.”


Blair shook his head, “Are you kidding! That would be so cool!”


Jim grinned and said, “Coming up on the mark ...”



15.


Ahead of them hung a glorious blue-green marble ... just the right size. Just the right distance from it's sun. From space ... it looked just right from any angle. And from telemetry analyses ... perfect again.


They picked a tectonically stable region, in a lush greenbelt of the planet. Jim insisted that Henri be the one to stay with the ship. Landing a shuttle pod was chancy, but so was this whole trip. They needed to be sure, that it at least wasn't instantly deadly for some alien and unforeseeable reason. Blair insisted on making the first foray after all signs were favorable. Jim insisted on the environmental suit.


Jim man, this is incredible. I can't wait till you see this! There must be a million types of flora.” Smack.


Jim sat up sharply, “Blair? Blair? Answer me, damn it!”


Jim? I'm okay. I think. Yeah. You know the million types of flora? I think there must be a billion types of fauna. Mostly the flying kind. They think I'm lunch,” said Blair. He windmilled his arms trying to shoo all the flying fauna away.


Jim reacted, “Get in here! Now! No questions! Do it! We don't know what they're capable of. Come on, move it.” Jim met Blair at the closed inner airlock door.


Jim, they're just insects. Life! It's incredible,” Blair enthused.


While Blair was still in the airlock Jim informed him, “Don't remove your suit! I'm hitting the decontamination sequence. Ready? Now!”


<>


Blair groused as he climbed out of his gear, “Insects, Jim. Just insects. I admit I 'could' have had a nasty reaction, but the bioshield should have been enough. Decon was overkill.”


Jim pulled him over to a seat, and spelled out the one immutable fact of life for an exploratory point man. “All risks are maximum until proven otherwise.” It was a corollary to the famous law by Murphy**.



16.


After returning to the ship, Henri and Jim hovered over the instrumentation that Blair watched so carefully. Jim leaned worriedly over Blair's shoulder, “Is it enough Chief? Can we survive here?”


Blair smiled, “We'll take the data back. Let them check it and the samples. But I think you did it man. This looks a lot more promising than we had reason to hope for. You must know they'd all be happy for a stable station orbit right now! Look out there Jim. That's our new home.”



17. Interlude 3


The discussions hadn't ended with the departure of the XJ-Fuga and it's three man crew. The captains and the stationers and assorted passengers and crew had a lot of decisions to make, both if the Fuga returned and if it did not. Those decisions would need to be implemented 'very' soon.


All the while, they watched the destruction draw closer.



18.


Simon, with the aid of the other captains, assigned committees to work on set problems: fuel allocations; inventories of skills and educational and training supplies; inventories of supplies that were consumable and replenishable; inventories of those supplies that were more lasting, and those with fairly definable failure rates; supplies necessary for long-term hydroponics or land (planet) based supply; supplies they were completely lacking or that were in insufficient supply, and recommendations in either event. And ... what could be left behind if they were forced to consolidate and run once more.


Simon had already been forced to make hard decisions. The decisions were even more difficult because his son was too silent. Daryl had witnessed a great disaster, lost his mother ... but he'd made no accusations. He'd expressed no hatred. And no grief. He'd have to share his grief soon. Holding all that inside was not a good thing. Simon decided his own roiling stomach was evidence of that. He remembered his last meeting with Joan and he knew he would have his own price to pay.


Right now Simon had to prepare the small fleet for more adversity. But his next decisions were going to be based on all the information, all the extrapolations, all the simulations, and all the just plain guesswork his people could assemble. He considered himself lucky in the skills available. Perhaps, especially, with the Rainbow Meadow Habitat. Their skills were not in engineering but might prove more valuable. They knew hydroponics and food engineering from the soil up. They would be valuable skills on a new planet, a new station, or in the dark deep between the galaxies. And until the XJ-Fuga returned they had to plan for all eventualities.



19.


The trip back from otherspace was as spectacular to Blair as the trip out. The presentation of the reports and samples was descended upon with the speed of desperation. The devastation had not halted with their departure and their arrival had almost been too late. The small fleet had nearly been forced to move on.


With Blair's confirmation of the different effects of otherspace jumps, the reports on the planet, and the very existence of the samples from that planet, a decision was made. It was in fact the only viable option, and it had been discussed with desperate hope in their absence.



20.


The fleet made one more jump for breathing room as they prepared coordinates and trajectories for safe passage. James Ellison and Blair Sandburg were in the lead ship, with Henri as copilot. Jim and Henri both requested Blair's presence. They'd recognized that Blair's rapport with Jim was a definite asset; one they didn't want to pass up.


Jim, Blair and Henri met with the ship's officers and crews to warn them of differences in jump.


The only problem Jim foresaw was that they had to trust Exploratory Jump Captain Ellison.


Captain, I have one more request. I would like to take one other ship through first, to make sure the combined jumps will have no effect on arrival. Then, I would ask that one of that crew return with us to confirm a safe jump,” said Jim seriously.


Simon replied gravely, “You needn't doubt that we will follow your lead Captain Ellison.”


Jim's expression was grim, “Into jump yes. But along a juncture you can't see? I remember those Allied Systems' jump officers, Captain Banks. Trust is just a word when faced with something you can't verify with your own senses or your own instruments. And it would be safer to jump two ships on the first try.”


Simon thought only a moment, and saw the truth and the pain in Captain Ellison's face, “You're right Captain, on both counts. We'll do it your way.”



21.


Joel Taggart was awed by the jump, and privately, he told Captain Banks that Ellison was right. Jumping into the unknown was bad enough, but going somewhere that your senses said didn't 'exist' in this space was a much more difficult proposition. Joel's official and private reports, to anyone who could make time to listen, were an added vote of confidence to follow Captain Ellison's 'legendary' route.


One last message was sent. The Captains and any person that might possibly be known widely within the Allied Systems, gathered to lend their presence, and their influence, to the substance of this final communication. The message was simple: there was this one more chance; just two jumps to a new found planet. They could only hope that any survivors would take that risk, and join them.


Arriving at the planet was almost anticlimactic.


But the view was everything they'd promised.



22.


Prudence kept them in space, in orbit. An alien biosphere wasn't something you jumped into without exhaustive study. Unfortunately that had to wait, so tantalizingly close and still out of reach. But it was logical that studies were commenced on weather patterns, orbital deviation, planetary neighbors, geologic stability, mineral distribution ... oh so many studies. It made people downright frustrated. And within a few months time, landings were attempted to gather more 'stuff' to study.


There was reason to be cautious, yet they'd survived such devastation, that a new beginning, a new life, was a temptation, and a dream.


When no new ships appeared it was finally decided that the population would split. They wouldn't risk all of the people on a single space station or on an unproven planet. Most of the Rainbow Meadow Habitat dwellers would relocate to their new planet, while the others would endeavor to build an orbital station, to continue their space-based civilization. Soon, training sessions were instituted for all essential professions.



23.


Henri and Jim trained Blair to be Jim's copilot. Jump pilots weren't going to be needed for the foreseeable future but knowledge and training were to be preserved, and shuttle pilots would be needed, which was Henri's choice. Medical training came from anyone in any field available. Luckily there were several medical personnel from the liner A. S. Gaia and other ships, and less traditional healers and midwives from Rainbow Meadow. Even Jim's survival/xenomedic training was valuable, especially for the new planet dwellers, as they would be located in several small enclaves to spread the risk.


Even William and Steven Ellison's business acumen would prove valuable. They knew the infrastructure of an economy, from suppliers of services and goods, through middlemen, to the buyers. And setting up a banking system couldn't be delayed too long either, although for now, everything was apportioned for need, and survival.


There was a lot to accomplish in a short time and with a small population to ensure survival.



24. Interlude 4


The former Habitat dwellers named the planet, Gaia, to Captain Simon Banks consternation. His ship, the A. S. Gaia, had been the logical choice for the beginnings of the planetary station and the stationers began calling it Gaia 1. Since he didn't have much choice in that Simon didn't fight it. He was even rather pleased after a while, after all, he 'was' the Captain. And he had a stable, and safe home for his son Daryl.


The other ship captains also dropped the Allied Systems designation, A. S.


Megan's cargo ship became the The Walkabout. Gaia 1 was going to be in stationary orbit around Gaia. Megan's ship was the next largest and a cargo hauler. It would make a good waystation further outsystem for mining operations and manufacturing. She had plans to add many more crew quarters, for family members, production staff and visiting miner crews. If they were going to be tied to an orbit that would range throughout the system, her crew, and herself, would want family along and more amenities than were presently available.


The smaller ships began plans of their own. Several like the Ellison's Enterprise, could make planetside landings, and were being converted to shuttles to carry goods and people. Others were never meant to fly in an atmosphere, but were adapted for mining, construction, and hauling cargo pods.


The future began to take on a shape that was recognizable.



25.


Blair enjoyed his new copilot status. It was certainly 'not' what he had envisioned for his future. He and Naomi had never set down roots, not even at the Habitat. But Jim was not just his captain, he was also his friend.


Blair had begun some serious research. The information network aboard Gaia 1 was downloaded and continuously updated to all ships capable of storing that amount of coded data. It contained everything the systems of the day could handle. He looked for mentions of Jim's abilities in the medical and historical database. He'd found a mention by a planetary explorer named R. Burton, from centuries ago. He'd rediscovered a lost planet, with a population that had reverted to the tribal stage. Blair thought, this anthropological database was quite interesting.


<>


Blair waved his hands, to emphasize his points, to his pilot, and friend as they walked the last corridor to the XJ-Fuga. Jim tried to hide his grin. Blair explained, “Burton said the people on Chopec had depended for generations on their watchmen. Actually I prefer the term sentinel. I mean he didn't just watch for bad weather, or enemies, or helped in the hunt for game. He watched out for everyone, man. He stood sentinel for the tribe and each individual member. Protecting them from injury, searching for lost members, spotting bad water or food, illness, you name it! The sentinel was the protector, that's a good description. They were amazing ...” stopping to stare at Jim, “You're amazing man. I mean, think about it, you saved us ... all that's left of the human race man, because your senses gave you the edge.”


Jim was embarrassed and he put his arm around Blair's shoulders to urge him on before people started to stare more than they were, “Come on Blair, let's go. We have a schedule to keep and weather patterns to avoid ... and cut out the 'saving the human race' stuff,” he whispered.


Blair seemed bent on his own cycle of thought. “But it 'isn't' just the senses is it?” he asked softly, in awe, “There's the visions too.”


Jim dragged him into the ship before he could say any more.


Sandburg, stop it! I did what I had to do. Everyone did. We all ended up here together, so it worked out for us. Just remember, there were so many people, whole planets that were lost. I'm no hero. If anyone's the hero it's you. Without you and Megan's crew the Habitat would have been lost. You saved them. You made the choice to take the risk. Hell, you even chose to stay behind to save others, and don't deny it,” Jim said fiercely, giving Blair a little shake before he turned away to settle in for jump.


Blair was astonished, but still had more to say. He needed Jim to hear this, “Jim, you couldn't save everyone. And you took risks, too. Your family and Henri's were saved by your direct actions. You stood up at the meeting and risked further ridicule. I know the truth,” and he grinned as he reached out to punch his arm gently, “You're a hero man.”


Jim shook an exasperated head, “Just get in the copilot's seat.”


<>


Blair was excited about this visit to Naomi's new home. Well, her home for the moment. Blair had to wonder how long she'd stay in place this time. He thought sadly that there weren't many options now, but he brightened as they settled into their descent.



26.


The exhaustive studies had suggested a rainy north temperate region for one of the new settlements. It was colder than ship-normal, and was a wet region, but the ecologists thought it an easier problem to deal with than drought, the need for irrigation and the threat of flash fires over large areas that they had observed in drier regions. And the wild abundance of life in warmer climates had their own risks. Their resources were finite. Other groups had chosen different sites to settle. Two on each continent to hopefully prevent a disaster from sweeping over all of them.


Naomi stood watching for the shuttle carrying her son. She could hear a native creature howl in the distance, and she shivered. These 'wolves' as they called them, had stayed away from the settlement so far, as did most of the wildlife. Blair had been enthralled with them. Even Jim, a confirmed station dweller, had shown a keen interest, focusing his senses on a dark shape she had no hope of seeing at that range. But today she had the strangest feeling.


She stood worriedly looking at her watch. Jim was never overdue. She ran to the relay station, hoping it was just a schedule delay.



27.


Blair woke slowly, to a wet ticklish lapping on his cheek. He sat up with a yell, and tried to back up, but was propped against a log. “Jim? Hey Jim! Where are you man?” He heard Jim rushing headlong through the thick brush near their downed shuttle.


Blair ... I'm coming. Don't move. If it hasn't hurt you yet, don't move. You probably don't want to startle it,” yelled Jim, which got the attention of the wolf. It gave Blair another lick and settled down beside him.


Jim halted at the sight, gulping for breath.


Blair looked just as astonished, “Jim? Where'd you get your friend?”


Jim felt the gentle bump as the big black cat, rubbed his thigh. He heard a deep rumble in it's chest. He hoped it was a good sign.


Blair felt the new sore spot on his head gingerly, “Jim, the animals at the settlement never came near the people. What do you think this means?”


Jim said, with exasperation, “I was raised in a megalopolis, and spent the rest of the time in space. Where would I learn about animals? You'd know more ... Wouldn't you?”


The Habitat people were vegetarians Jim. And they didn't keep pets, it wasn't ecologically feasible to have to feed non-productive creatures. It would have been cool though, because I have seen them in zoos, and some smaller animals on some of the other habitats. You have to understand, Naomi was looking for enlightenment. Most places we traveled to were in space. A place where your spirit could roam free of the mundane planet-bound auras of masses of people ....”


Jim waved him to a stop, “Okay, okay. I get it. I think. We're both clueless. So now what?”


Blair reached down to tentatively pat the soft looking fur and was rewarded with an upward head butt. Blair turned a brilliant grin toward Jim.


The black cat, named jaguar by the biologists, didn't look as approachable as the wolf. When Jim didn't reach out for him the jaguar made it's own move, gently biting the cuff of his sleeve and tugging until Jim was forced to move with him. The wolf jumped up and bounded to the jaguar.


Blair looked in wonder at the creatures, “Jim? Are they intelligent?”


Jim grimaced at Blair, “It seems they want something. We have time to check it out. The locater device is sending it's signal but we'll have a while to wait. Thankfully the safety protocols worked during the crash. Is your head okay? You hit it pretty hard when you slipped on the way down from the hatch. Are you up to walking?”


Blair grinned, “After you man!”



28.


It was hot and humid, and both began to feel the effects quickly, but they pushed on with a little urging from their furry companions. They soon came upon blocks of stone, covered with mosses and vines, in tumbled heaps.


Jim? This is incredible!” whispered Blair. “This looks like a human construction. Can that be possible? ... Never mind, no clue, like me.”


Blair scrambled over the nearer rubble and headed directly to the central building complex. “These look pretty primitive, Jim. You never saw these from orbit? Nobody got any indication from scans? We're going to have to talk to somebody about that. Jim? ... Oh, damn, he zoned. Jim, Jim, Jim ...,” in exasperation, “what am I going to do with you man? Come on wake up ....” and Jim collapsed into the arms of a very surprised younger and smaller man. They both hit the ground; Blair with a resounding, “Oof.” Blair managed to roll them to the side, caught his breath, checked Jim out for injury, and continued his attempts to wake him. He stopped when Jim started to come around, mumbling strange sounds.


Jim? Are you with me big guy?” Blair asked as his sentinel became more aware.



29.


Jim seemed to take no notice of Blair. He stood slowly and made his way to, and into, the main building. He walked through the entryway, stopping only to look searchingly at the markings on the lintel, then progressed to the interior, his sentinel eyesight being of great help to him.


Blair stumbled worriedly along behind, “Jim? Come on Jim, talk to me. I don't understand. And I can't see worth a damn! Slow down!”


Blair noticed a lovely phosphorescent glow that would have distracted him if Jim wasn't continuing his trek and his mumbling. Blair heard the sound of water when he finally caught up to Jim. They entered the last room and stopped. Jim scanned the walls, “Blair. We have to get in the pools. Come on.”


Blair was stunned, “What!”


Jim finally turned to look at him, “Didn't you read the writing on the walls on the way in here? It's about us, a sentinel and a guide. Guide, that's you Blair. Come on in, the water's fine.”


B-b-but Jim,” started Blair, but Jim didn't let him finish.



30.


Blair and Jim shared something incredible that day. There was a kaleidescope of sensations and images, ending in a blinding light. It would be some time before they began to understand the telescoped visions, both good and bad, and try to make sense of them. And the light ... something was odd there too.


It wasn't long before they began to live one of the visions, a nightmare surely.



31.


Blair and Jim were returning to their downed jump ship, “Man, Jim. These insects are eating me alive. I thought the bioshield would hold them back.” Blair swatted at them left and right, but slowed as he wobbled. “Jim, I feel itchy, and a little ... woozy,” Blair muttered as Jim caught him in a faint.


Luckily it didn't take long to get back to the ship, and Jim, being trained as a xenomedic plied Blair with every antiviral, antimicrobial, and antifungal product of their civilization. Then he added an antipruritic, an antihistamine, and an anti-inflammatory. When things got really serious he brought out their most powerful antigen. When he got desperate he administered an antiarrhythmic/anticonvulsive combo.


Blair slipped into a coma.


Jim heard Blair's heartbeat falter. “No. This can't be happening! This can't be happening!” Not after everything they'd been through! Jim had done everything modern civilization could offer. He wrapped his friend in his arms, whispering what few words of comfort he could manage. He heard one last stuttering beat, and leaned forward to place his forehead on Blair's. “No. Not this one too. No. I can't let him go ....” Blair was his friend, and he'd lost so many.


Blair's firm voice reverberated in his head, guiding him, “Jim. Listen to me. You have to bring me home Jim.” The light ... Jim recognized that it was the reason for their new connection as a feeling of warmth spread through him. He reached out uncertainly and placed his hands on the sides of Blair's face, and touched his forehead to Blair's. The light blinded him at first, then he saw the two animals that had greeted them leap toward them, into a merge of light, sound, taste, smell and touch. Jim grinned at his friend in profound relief as Blair opened his eyes.



32.


Jim cared for Blair until rescue arrived. They didn't share their experiences with anyone except Captain Banks and Henri Brown at first. Both their friends were astonished at the possibilities. And new rumors ran through the 'grapevine'. Sentinel and Guide became their unofficial, and much later, official titles.


Blair's enthusiasm was boundless. Jim tried to rein him in, afraid the excitement would be too much stress after his illness, his near death. Jim tried too hard perhaps because Blair's exasperation reached new heights.


Jim, cut ... it ... out!” Blair exclaimed as he dragged his friend into their quarters aboard Gaia 1. “I'm alright. See! I'm right here and breathing and everything!”


Jim clenched his hands and sank into the cushions of the sofa. He looked distressed, and Blair relented from his annoyance. He asked, “Jim, this is too important. We have to explore this. You do agree ... don't you?”


Blair, you almost died! And I've had enough of being called crazy. You don't understand. I don't want to 'explore' this!” Jim denied forcefully. “More visions. Everyone else has practically forgotten about that. They only remember that the legend of an otherspace route was true, and it saved their lives. More stories of visions will only make them think I really am crazy! Can't you try to understand my point of view?”


Blair was speechless, but only for a moment. He grabbed one of Jim's clenched hands and sat gently beside him, saying softly, “Jim ... you're my best friend. You're a hero to everyone here, but most of all to me. But I remember a stubborn, bull-headed Captain that searched for proof of that 'crazy man's' experience. I ... I'm just worried, that's all, Jim. I saw things that scared me. That have scared you. If we had had the time to explore those visions ... would you have done it to spare me the illness that almost killed me? I don't want to look back and have regrets Jim, about what I might have been able to do to prevent some disaster. Look, I won't force you. I'll try to do this alone. But I do have to try. The visions have been warnings, right? First was the galaxy-wide disaster, then warnings about it closing in on you and your family, and then that one about me being ill. It's going to be frightening. And maybe knowing won't be enough,” at this Blair gulped and his voice began to shake, “but I've got to try Jim. I don't know if it will work for me alone, but don't ask me not to try. Please.”


Jim hung his head. His voice was choked as he answered, “And you call 'me' a hero. I won't let you face that alone Blair. We're in this together. All the way, my friend.”



33.


Jim and Blair, with the Captain's blessing and Henri providing transport, headed for the ruins they'd discovered. They took camping gear, and a med kit, although both had been vaccinated against all known allergens, pathogens, etc. that the fauna, and flora, could throw at them this time.


They met their wolf and jaguar hosts with cautious glee. Henri looked at them oddly. It took a while before they believed that Henri couldn't see the animals and for Henri to believe they weren't joking about their presence. That left them all subdued. Blair wondered what it all meant. Jim cringed inwardly at Henri's stare.


Blair and Jim set up camp with Henri's help, and then Henri wished them luck as he set about to take the shuttle to one of the settlements. He'd call in at regular intervals to make sure they were okay.


The sentinel and his guide comfortably settled in for the night. It wasn't unusual for Blair to 'sleep under the stars' in a habitat, but this was strange for both of them. These stars were 'up there' above them, rather than 'out there' with them. The universe seemed much bigger now with all humanity in only this one system. Jim pointed out the 'stars' new to the system, Gaia 1, The Walkabout, Ellison's Enterprise, and others. It was a while before they could sleep.


They had camped quite near the ruins. Blair made use of his studies in the anthropology and archeology databases to make notes and scans of the area, especially the words etched in the ruins that seemed so familiar to Jim. They sent reports hourly to Gaia 1, so that the information could be analyzed by the computer for anything unusual.


Several days passed in amassing information. There were figures painted and carved on the structures and on artifacts and statuary. It was all very interesting, but who were these 'people' and what happened to them?


From space, new scans were done. Only this one outpost was detected.


Jim and Blair delved into the temple writings, Jim translating everything for Blair. That report also was sent to Gaia 1. The computer came back with a match, a strange report from millenia ago of the 'cult' of the 'Eye of God'. In the early days of exploration there had been a 'visionary' who claimed a new path to enlightenment, through the Eye of God. There was no mention of the man, Incacha, only a few years later. They wondered if Gaia itself was the end of his search.



34. Interlude 5


Blair of course had a theory. It sounded strangely like the legend of Exploratory Jump Captain Ellison. It was a theory of senses folded and stretched in the jump between space and time. Senses of the body and senses of the mind.


The path to otherspace, the juncture that Jim had 'seen', could be the Eye of God in the story told by Incacha. But Blair had another notion.


The Eye of God could also have been the pools that imposed a burden of visions on sentinel and guide. What made the burden worthwhile was the connection it provided between those that 'see' and those that 'guide'.



35. Epilogue


When asked, Captain Banks would try to brush aside the spiritual side of the legend, but privately he had to wonder. Their own survival was a direct result ... and the sentinel and guide 'were' his friends. When it came down to it, Gaia 1 prospered, and that was proof enough for him.


The Walkabout traveled the planetary system of Gaia. It became a hub for commerce, manufacturing and travel. Families began to fill the roster of residents and visitors. Megan felt at ease with the legends, both past and present. To her and to many others it felt like the beginnings of a mythology of their own, separate from the past.


Naomi wandered Gaia with delight, seeking enlightenment in whatever direction the wind or inspiration took her.


Henri and Serena and children were among the lucky ones, a whole family unit saved. They, with the Ellisons, organized routes amongst the far-flung ships and stations of the refugees, forging a connection between the dispossessed.


Rafe married a miner's daughter and started a clanship that eventually sought the next star system, bringing their extended family with them.


Daryl followed in his father's footsteps, and huge they were. Love and respect, and shared grief and adversity healed them. Father and son remained close throughout their lives.


Jim and Blair ... their story ranged much further. Their explorations on Gaia had become legend. As their shared visions led them throughout Gaia's planetary system their legend only grew. They never dared take a trip back to their former space ... home space. The physical Eye of God was never traveled again. But the metaphysical Eye of God would always be a part of them, one that they would share with their descendents.


<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>

<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>-<>


finis


*“Wayfarin' Spacer”

Sung to the tune of “Wayfarin' Stranger”

Author unknown

NOTE: This song was actually the inspiration for this little 'space opera/epic/whatever' story.


Wayfarin' Spacer”


I'm just a poor wayfarin' spacer

A' travelin' through the galaxy

And there's no heat nor cold nor vacuum

No fallin' free can frighten me.


I'm just a goin' into orbit

A' blastin' off to deepest space

I'm goin' where the stars are burnin'

Out where uncharted planets race.


When I posted this story the first time, I requested an email if anyone knew the title and author of “Wayfarin' Spacer”:

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! Decades old mystery solved thanks to Scotty!

Re: Wayfarin' Spacer

It comes from "The Galactic Troubadors" by

A.M.Lightner (Pub. 1965) Details of this author and a Picture of the Book Cover can be found on fantasticfiction.co.uk website. P.S. I really enjoyed this story

Posted by: Scotty Date: 08/30/2005


<>


**WordWeb Definition

Murphy's Law: A humorous axiom stating that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.


<>


http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/dictionary.html


There's 'lots' of info on black holes on the site listed above. I included a couple of definitions below for other terms.


active galactic nuclei (AGN): A class of galaxies which spew massive amounts of energy from their centers, far more than ordinary galaxies. Many astronomers believe supermassive black holes may lie at the center of these galaxies and power their explosive energy output.


jets: Beams of particles, usually coming from an active galactic nucleus or a pulsar. Unlike a jet airplane, when the stream of gas is in one direction, astrophysical jets come in pairs with each jet aiming in opposite directions.