I don't like the hang of it: to be sent "back to Earth". No doubt some people would call this "going home". The favorite last line of so many American movies - at least, it was, until Hollywood went down the Pacific Drain, in 2048.
Stop ranting, Eldritch. This live-thought recording device is a true nightmare. How could one prevent oneself from thinking of something they're thinking of? "Nothing survives being thought of", Oscar Wilde once said. In a space travel context, I think the term "survives" takes a ominous meaning.
OK, I own up I'm a bit anxious. Even if the transfer trip went smoothly, I know from experience that the most dangerous moment is the boarding phase. Joining two spaceships is tantamount to landing a boomerang on a dinner plate, two hundred meters away, hidden behind a tree. Unless, of course, the engineers managed to make up a new device - a safer one.
Well, they did, apparently. The docking bay is in fact a huge net made out of unkown but solid stuff. Quite any size of object can be trapped into this contraption. I'll have to ask about the shock absorption of the kinetic energy, though. Must be in the league of billion of units.
After getting caught in the net, the Endymion was virtually scooped up by a giant articulated arm and dragged to the docking bay per se. It took more than four hours to adjust the hatches together, which means the system is not perfect. At least, it works.
Then the final airlock opens. In itself, it's nothing more than a big elevator cabin - without too much gravity effect. We're a dozen in here. Half and half, sexwise, but a mix of skin colors and face shapes. That's encouraging. What's less positive is that nobody's speaking. Courtesy of the elevator, I'm afraid.
Do we really have to endure this kind of indignity here as well? Not a funny way to start a new civilisation, I'd say. Unfortunately, just before I make up some witty international thing to say in my mind, the cabin beeps and the doors open wide, with a woosh.
The next view is a numbskulling shock. Imagine a tunnel without ground, or without walls, depending on what your brain's inclined to perceive. Imagine a sky which is another ground - or a ground that could roll over itself at any time, provided... well, provided it were made to, which actually is the case: we have a gravity of sorts because the whole thing is turning on its long axis. 0,5g, I'd say, proprioception-wise?
— Hi! Hello! Konichiwa! Benvenuti! Bonjour! Kalimera!..
Here we go, now. A welcome-aboard speech is about to start, and I'm not sure I want to hear it. Not now, anyway.
It's a woman, dressed in an eggshell-color overall; various tools are protruding from her many pockets. Her hair present a no-nonsense behaviour that's reeking with efficiency. Her outfit is not a uniform, though, and I like her for that.
— Welcome aboard the Haniwa. I'm Mathilda, mechanical space engineer... and occasional nurse. Er...
Not much of a prep talk. She suddenly looks younger that I thought. And she's not a native English-speaking person, although I can't place her accent.
— I assumed you must all be tired from the transfer. So... you'll find free cabins in sector YB-16, which is... er...
She seems to change her mind on the spot, turns a quarter to her left, lifts a hand towards the... well, ground-sky for lack of another word, then points at a kind of flat building surrounded by a ring of very young trees.
— There, it's YB-16. You can go there and choose yourself a place.
The twelve of us exchange dubious looks. I take the bait.
— Sorry, miss. But... isn't there some official process to follow? I mean, are we not to be.. billeted in some way?
I hear grunts of approval around me (and hushes of various translations), although one woman suddenly takes the initiative to leave the group. She's already going... somewhere.
— Well, Mathilda replies with a half-smile, there are no strict rules aboard the Haniwa, not regarding accomodation anyway. There is enough place, as the station is meant for 25.000 people. So you can choose freely.
— Wow! says someone, a guy, who starts running away, literally.
A couple -apparently Japanese people who need to translate things to each other- talks to Mathilda.
— Where is our luggage?
— Oh, she says hesitantly. I... well, I don't know exactly where your luggage has been deposited, but (she raises her voice because people are reacting to what she just said, as they should) but you'll be informed through the H2O social network as soon as you have logged in.
— And where do we do that? asks the Japanese guy.
— In the cabin you'll choose. All of them have interfaces. And all of them are connected.
But of course. Why do otherwise, frankly?
Apparently, there's nothing to add, since everybody chooses this moment to split. Curiously, they don't all follow the same direction. Honestly, there is no obvious path to follow. The ground is rather plain, in a subtle curvy fashion. And its texture is more Astroturf than grass.
I'm not leaving yet, I have something to ask the lady. When everybody else is gone, she has no choice but to look at me. She's smiling awkwardly. Does she expect something fishy on my part? Come on, I'm not that sly. Or am I?
— Just out of curiosity, who appointed you at this position?
— No one; mister..?
— Clamorgan. Call me Byron, please.
— Mr Byron, then. No one appointed me.
— Do you imply there is no hierarchy on this ship?
I couldn't read her expression; fear? Joy? Incomprehension? I tried to help her.
— Come on, miss. There's no such thing as an anarchic organisation. You know it's impossible, especially in the present situation. How does this work, then? Promise: I won't snitch on you.
She dithers one last second.
— I think it's bound to be self-regulated, Mr Byron.
— But you're not sure?
— I.. no. Nothing is sure, here.
— You mean, there are no officers? No guidelines? Not even rules?
— Oh, yes, there are. But only technical ones. That is all.
She seems lost and happy at once. I decide to let her breathe.
— OK. I think I'm going to like it here. See you around.
And I look at the ceiling-cum-floor-cum-sky, with a broad smile. And think of something funny to say, as a parting line.
— It's a manner of speaking, of course. Everybody can see anybody around, in here.
She actually laughs. New home, here I come!
Or maybe I could just sleep outdoors...
I don't have to settle inside, do I? I mean, we already are inside. The temperature must be controlled.
Ah, but I need to log in H2O, in order to retrieve my luggage. Question is: do I want to retrieve my stuff? Fact is: I've already forgotten what I put in the box three days ago. Nothing much, I recall.
OK, I'll try this and see how it goes: I'll not choose a home, therefore I'll not log on the local social network, therefore I'll not be officially acknowledged. Then see what happens.
After all, I have no friends aboard; not that I know of.
On the other hand, if I have any friend aboard and I don't register, how will they know I'm here?
Oh, whatever. It's only a 10.000 inhabitants town, after all. A revolving one, I admit, but a small town anyway.
And where are the fucking military? I bet they're hiding. Of course, if they are not here, I'm bound not to see them; which proves nothing as far as I'm concerned.
Hey, I didn't know sexy situations could be that thrilling. Or is it the other way 'round?