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Airomem shadowed the engineer as he walked around the circumference of the egg, watching as he checked of sections of a notepad, taking temperature readings and antigravitational values as he adjusted his hearing protection.  She frowned as she followed him, running through the the effects of every one of his actions in her mind, tracking the physics as he adjusted each knob, or imagining the consequences should one of the parameters rise too high or fall to low.

And imagining was important, since there was nearly no physical response to each of his actions.  Numbers would change, and the pitch of the sound might slightly modulate, but for the most part there was no tangible effect- unless a visitor owned the eye and ear of a trained engineer, they would have no recognition of an alteration in the engine room.

But Airomem, Airomem always knew.

She knew that the shrill tone that accompanied the roaring of the engines meant that the resonance of one of the induction coils was out of tune, and that excess energy was being shedded as a result.  And she knew that fixing it would increase the engine efficiency by several percent -not only reducing the induction losses, but also reducing the antigravity field to be generated.  A bead of sweat travelled down the side of her face as she kept an eye on the temperature reading, knowing that she would keep a tighter monitoring of it than the current engineer, who had let it rise two degrees above what her calculations determined optimal.

She drew a sharp breath as the engineer nearly ignored a slight spike in energy output, releasing it just as he noticed, then looked about the room to check each of the systems working to keep the reactor online.  And every time she tracked them, her mouth opened slightly in wonder at the design of it.  At the perfect way it all fit together, at how even with the engineers blunders it could survive, at how it provided power while nearly the entire ship did not have the slightest idea where it came from.  And as she stared, she saw her father enter, and wave her over outside the room.

“Four weeks in!”  He whispered excitedly as she exited, the door closing behind her and sealing the power room away, “Four weeks of shadowing.  How do you like it?”

“It’s great, it really is!”  She said, “But father, I’ve been wondering something.  How, how did all this happen?  Where did all this come from?”

“The power room?”  He asked, “Why, it was constructed when Dandelion 14 was, at the very beginning.”

“The entire ship, then!  How, exactly, did it come to be?  I know that it was built, but why?  And by who?”

“Are the intricacies of the power room not enough to satiate your curiosity?”  He laughed, and touched her nose.

“Come on, father, I’m not twelve anymore!  I’m almost an engineer!  How did all this start?”

“Dandelion 14?”

“Dandelion 14.”

“Let’s take a walk, Airomem.  A lap around Lear territory.  This will take a moment to explain.”

“Sure.”  She answered, and followed him as he started at a meandering pace.

“Airomem, the Dandelion is not only the name of the ship.  Back, before we lived on the ship, it was the name of a plant.”

“From the gardens?”

“Well, yes and no.  You see, the plants back then were not always grown by us.  In fact, they existed before we did- and dandelions were a type that bore no fruit. Instead, they only bore seeds.  Seeds that were clustered in such a way that at the lightest of breaths would scatter them across the earth, where they could have a chance to grow.”

“Why does this matter, if they weren’t brought on the shp?”

“It’s more of the principle of the matter,”  Said her father, and took a breath, “The point is, that this plant was considered undesirable.  But it was so proficient at reproduction that it refused extinction and instead spread its seeds in the face of adversity.”  And closing his eyes, her father began to recite:

A farmer went out to plant some seeds.  As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and they were eaten.  Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow.  But the plants soon wilted, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died.  Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.  Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!  Listen, Airomem.  Where we came from, where Dandelion 14 was built, we left there because it was headed for destruction. But we weren’t the only ones, Airomem, who left.  Supposedly, there were others.  Dandelion seeds scattered among the stars, each seeking new life.”

“So there are others then, for sure?”   she asked, excitedly.

“Airomem, wait, before you take too much hope,”  Her father said, “Remember, of the seeds that were cast out by the farmer, only a few survived.  Only some made it only to fertile ground where they could live.”

“So you’re saying that once we find our new home, the others might not survive?  And they might not find us?”

“No, Airomem,”  He answered, his face solemn. “I’m saying that our ancestors spread seeds like a dandelion because only a few would find fertile soil.  For all we know, we might be among those they land on rock and cannot take root.  Even after all this effort to survive, even if we find the new planet home, we may still die.”

Chapter 27

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