Chapter 78

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“To your seats, to your seats!” shouted Airomem as we walked back to her father, and she stood by his side. “And hold on! This could feel just like the jolt when the bridge opened for the first time, and we want to avoid any additional injuries.”

Then she cleared her throat and looked down at her father, waiting.

“Go on,” he said, gesturing to his shoulder. “I can’t be expected to usher in the new world with an injury like this. And besides,” he said, and a darker expression crossed his face, one of regret, and of guilt, “you are the reason the Nectians are here today, Airomem. How can I call myself a leader among them, when I once suggested we leave them behind? While I can call myself the chief of the Lear, I cannot do so for the Nectians. It is not my place to unify the people. It is yours.”

“You did what you thought was best,” she protested, but he shook his head.

“We will have plenty of time to speak to that later, Airomem,” he said, “But now, we have but minutes. Speak. For me, for them, and for those we left behind.”

She nodded and turned, surveying the room. My own eyes tracked hers as they flicked over the audience that was now staring at us, as well as the sheer number of empty seats that dwarfed our numbers. For every one occupied, there were at least twenty empty, ones that seemed to stare inwards around us, as if they were filled with the ghosts of those who should have claimed them.

The timer on the wall reached two minutes, and she climbed to stand on her seat, her head the highest in the vessel. And from her pocket, she pulled out a piece of metal, one I recognized from the first time I had visited the bridge. One she must have removed with the Omni-cutter before I had arrived, from the inside of our territory above the door.

A simple square, with Necti engraved into it.

“Separate we fly, together we land,” she began, holding the square high for all to see. “Many died to give us this moment. Those today, whose memory is still imprinted vividly upon our thoughts, and those long before, so long they may now be nameless.”

From her other pocket, she pulled out one of the stun guns and continued to speak.

“Before the Hand of God struck, there were those who numbered far higher than us, our distant grandfathers and grandmothers. We remember them!”

She brought her hands together, striking the metal against the stun gun, the resulting clang tolling like a bell.

“We remember those who the Hand of God claimed, those who died in the hours after the tragedy!” Clang, rang the metal, calling out to the spirits long before.

“We remember our brothers and sisters who did not die physically, but in their own minds. The Agrarians and Aquarians who lost their way long ago and sealed their own fate.” Clang, sounded the bell, louder and more aggressive this time, as the volume of her voice continued to rise.

“We remember those who died from hunger and thirst and war in last few centuries. Those who were claimed by hard times, by dwindling resources, and those who are our direct ancestors, and were claimed by age as we too will be.” Clang.

“And we remember those who fell today! Those who died to directly save us. The Lear soldiers, the porters, and those lost along the way to departure. For Tom. We remember them most of all, and they shall live in our hearts, and their sacrifice shall not go to waste!” Cheers intermingled with sobs among the crowd, whistles with tears as Airomem’s own voice broke, and she paused, regaining composure, then holding the writing on the metal for all to see.

“This name on this metal,” she continued, her voice now level. “This was carved by Beatrice, the wife of Necti himself, as she waited at the door for him to return. To be reunited with the husband she lost. Today, we are united as brothers and sisters. Today, we cover the gap created long ago, and we become one. On our arrival, Lear will be engraved on the back of this metal as our tribes merge, as we are renamed and reformed. As we take those whom we remember and we make them proud of their sacrifice. Together, we share this accomplishment, together, we shall prosper, and together, we will be remembered just as those before us!”

The crowd erupted as she finished, holding the metal rectangle high, leading Nectians and Lear alike in a clamor just as the timer reached zero, and a buzzer sounded, the ship itself joining in the applause. But then the crowd gasped, jerking backwards in shock from something unlike anything they had ever seen.

The uniformed figure on the wall before them moved and spread his arms wide. And above them, a compartment in the ceiling burst open with a pop.

Next Chapter


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