Chapter 79

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“Congratulations!” exclaimed the figure on the wall, spreading his arms wide as one of the front row children shrieked. “Congratulations upon your arrival, upon your great accomplishment for humanity!”

Above, strips of colored plastic rained down, showering us in a swirling mixture, sticking to freshly applied bandages and forming a small pile atop the dead. The figure opened his mouth once more and raised a hand as the entire front row joined the child in screaming, fighting to back away from the enormous human.

“Hey, hey!” shouted Prometh as he walked up to the figure, and turned to face the panicking crowd.

“He’s going to eat him!” shouted one of the front children. “Watch out! Watch out! He’s dead!”

“You there, quiet,” commanded Prometh to the child, and knocked his hand against the figure’s waist, the sound of knuckles on something sturdy calming the spectators. “Sit and listen. He isn’t real; he’s like a memory. Things like this used to be common before the Hand of God. You are in no danger. Sit and listen! We will only hear this once! We are experiencing history and I shan’t have your ignorance make me miss it.”

Then he leaned back against the speaking figure, his expression calm as the front row’s faces turned various shades of red, and the figure continued to speak. Now that the room was calm, I realized that his voice actually came from behind me, similar to how the announcement of the ship coming together had come from above.

“Before I begin, ensure you are buckled in. There should be seats enough for everyone, based upon our sustainability calculations, but it will be close! Make sure you make room for your neighbors, and that no one is turned away.”

“Not a problem for us,” I muttered, looking left and right at the sea of empty seats, and the figure continued.

“Now, for introductions. I am Captain Xavier, the first captain of Dandelion 14. This message has been recorded the day before departure, about one thousand years prior to you hearing it. As you know, each captain since me will have recorded their own messages on their first and final days, messages that many of you have heard repeated in your scholarly studies. Perhaps you have even heard my own – fear not if you have not; these will still be preserved and available after your arrival and stored for access just underneath where I stand now, where as many as a hundred recordings are located in a small cabinet.”

I leaned forward in my seat, searching the area he indicated, catching sight of a small recessed handle in the wall. The early captains of the ship recorded just as this one was, true gems of history. Clues about where we were from, and what we had been like before disaster struck! Copies intended just for us, not simply leftovers found among the wreckage.

“But that is the past, and I come to speak to you of the future. The next steps in your journey are crucial – arriving on the planet, surviving on the planet, and thriving on the planet. You have nearly completed arrival – as I speak, the ship has detached, and we are entering into the gravitational field of New Earth 14. The vessel will take you to the designated entry point, which is where the survive stage begins.”

The figure stepped to the side, and a rotating picture of the planet appeared, a red target mark blinking at a point near its center. The symbol was located on a small splotch of green, much smaller than many of the other masses of green among blue, which mirrored what I had seen of the planet outside the window.

“Here is where the vessel will land and where, when the doors open, you will be. This is an island, meaning it is separated by water from the rest of the land on the planet, a method employed by us to help insulate you from potential dangers and help you become accustomed to your new way of life. The environment has been predicted to be mild, the temperatures advantageous to life, the food and water sources nearby and easily attainable. Furthermore, this is where the supply ship landed several years prior to your own arrival, ensuring that when you arrive, farms have been created, buildings constructed, and infrastructure developed. You’ll find when you arrive, you will be mildly busy, as we have based the structure to be maintained by a mere five thousand. Further details of this arrangement have been conveyed to your current captain through instructional logs, and he or she will coordinate arrival activities.”

Eyes turned to Airomem and Elliott as they shifted in their seats. “Maintained by five thousand,” whispered Airomem next to me. “Five thousand?”

“We have hard workers,” I responded. “And so long there are farms and water, we can manage.”

“What is most important,” said the figure, extending an arm and flicking a handful of yellow dots onto the planet, “is that you thrive. These are the locations of technology points, steps that your civilization will take as it matures into adulthood. We have delayed these on purpose, with the reason that many are too risky technologies to share while you are few in number. I urge you to focus upon growing stronger for several decades before attempting to reach these, as there are dangerous obstacles between you and them. Obstacles that were pieces of the original Earth deemed to be preserved, and so they were sent ahead of you.”

Things flashed where the man had been, things that stood not on two legs but on four, that bared sharper teeth than I had ever seen, some with long nails extending from their hands. Things I recognized from the descriptions I had read before, maybe not by their particular names, but by their titles. Animals.

“Again, beware, as they know no fear of you,” he said. “But no danger will befall you unless you travel off the island. Should you come in contact with other creatures on your island, know that they are safe, that they are for your utilization. Further instruction on these shall await you once you have settled in. Now, keep your purpose in mind: arrive, survive, and thrive.” Then he raised his hand to his brow in a salute.

“Buckle in, hold on tight. Descent begins soon as the gravity fields initiate. Captain Xavier, wishing you, Dandelion 14, the beacon in the darkness, the hope of humanity, luck.”

Chapter 80


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