Hello Myehn, how are you?
When responding, please remove the #TAZERP tag
Just as a quick warning, this is one of my longer posts, so I'm putting the esential details in a summary spoiler above the main post.
Sequence of Events:
Thomas wakes up, he meets with Dmitri, they meet with Nereca and Donny, they go to the Sonoma, latter three leave on their ships as Thomas stays behind
He padded out quietly onto the balcony of the apartment, grasping the railing and absentmindedly running his hands along the smooth, slightly chill material. Giving no mind to the other buildings next to his or the ones across the plaza he overlooked, he instead peered down at the expanse below, people sparsely scattered across it. As they milled around doing their daily business, they tended to keep their distance from other people, albeit greeting each other politely as they passed each other. Them, along with the other structures resting loosely upon or moving across the plaza, moved across a largely-unbroken field of spongy green grass, its short and squat blades easily pressed into the ground as someone passed by but easily springing back up. From what his educator had told him, this plant was the result of centuries of genetic tinkering and natural evolution, originally emerging on the old Homeworld in the ancient nexus of the First Systems, where Humanity had first emerged and where the Confederacy had been established centuries before during an existential conflict with an aliens civilization called the Alphians. As he could see, the grass padding was an established and iconic feature of the already-old cities here on Paegeser, one of the offshoot worlds in this star cluster which has been colonized four hundred years before.
Looking up, he averted his eyes from the soft but still bright glow of the illumination strips above the city, running his gaze out to the gap in the cavity of the canyon wall within which this residential wing of the city was nestled. Peering out from his position on the ‘shelf’, he could see the main central core of the city glinting in the distance, with the pinkish-gray sky of the planet looming above the translucent solid shell of the inner atmospheric shield. Although the planet had been slated as potentially habitable, with terraforming efforts initiated some time ago, the raw environment was still not conducive to...being alive, hence the protection.
Although he had lived here for most of his life and was deeply familiar with the view, he still enjoyed coming out here and looking out upon it with his own eyes, a deep instinctive urge still felt by Humans even with the highly refined if stagnant technologies of virtual reality available. In fact, technology as a whole had been slow in development for an incredibly long time, and although the beginnings of the slowdown and eventual stagnation had been extremely alarming to the Confederacy at the time it had started, it was generally viewed as a limit imposed by the laws of physics, with the other known intelligent civilizations also generally subject to the same restrictions. Although over a millennium had passed by since Humanity emerged from Earth, with some iteration of the Confederacy tying most of its diaspora together for nearly half of that time, the stagnation had left it more technologically primitive then some of the most optimist enthusiasts of that ancient time would have expected or hoped, although still advanced in ways which someone from then would likely not be able to fully understand, even if trying to develop fictional stories about a pale imitation of it.
“Come in now...breakfast is ready.”
Startled out of his thoughts, he turned slowly, eyes lingering on the shifting patterns of passersby below. After a moment however, he began skipping happily in anticipation, bounding through the doorway and nearly running directly into his father, who caught him gently. Laughing together for a moment, he was then released and sat down in a smooth, ceramic-looking chair, beaming at his parents as they each carried plates of food into the dining room and set them upon the table, the furniture’s color similar to that of the chairs but firmer. His parents sat down slowly, his grinning face dimly reflected in their similarly happy eyes. Turning to the wall, his mother softly ordered the screen, which had been displaying a news segment, to return to its default state of cycling through images of the planet’s barren but partially terraformed surface.
Before she turned off the news broadcast however, a snippet of dialogue from it had caught his attention, which lingered in his mind and initiated a new line of thought. As they turned towards him in anticipation as he tugged the plate in front of himself, shifting the utensil back and forth in his hand, he blurted out a question, swinging his eyes to their faces but with his gaze sliding slightly from meeting their own.
“Nobody I know is named like me, and it sounds different from other names...”
He continued fiddling with his utensil, looking at them as curiosity developed on their faces.
“...what’s it from?”
Silent for a moment, his parents glanced at each other, and then back at him. A growing sense of shyness welling up in him, he looked down at his plate of food, ready to begin eating but not quite starting yet.
“Well Thomas, it has to do with physics.”
Thomas tilted his head in confusion, still peered intently at the plate. “Wha-”
“Because you see, according to all known laws of aviation, a bee should not be able to fly.”
Startled by the unexpected phrase, his head jerked up to look at his parents. Instead however, there were now two humanoid bees hovering above the table and moving closer to him as they continued reciting in sync, with the food on the three plates suddenly replaced with a green, oddly inviting green rocklike material - Weedium.
Philomelus City, Ceres
Standard Dormitory Room, Residential Sector 4
April 10, 2114
His eyes suddenly flew open as audibly gasped and abruptly sat upright in bed, clutching the sheets to himself in an expression of surprised shock. For a moment, he didn’t register where he was, blankly glancing around into the inky darkness. As he began to calm down, his viselike grip upon the sheets loosened, allowing them to drop back down onto the bed. Ah yes, Ceres, he thought, rubbing his face with his hands as the sense of disorientation from being thrust out of his distorted childhood to the present began to wear off. This momentary lapse in memory was rather strange, considering that he had been living here for nearly three and a half months* and has not experienced something like this since arriving. Shifting slightly and shaking his head, he turned to glance at the chronometer attached to the wall.
*OOC: This length of time applies both OOC and IC
“Only sixteen minutes left,” he muttered darkly as he glared at the screen. Shaking his head slightly, he slid over to the edge of the bed and set his feet upon the floor, standing up and stretching slightly. Walking forwards, the lights in the room smoothly but quickly rose to an eye-friendly dim illumination as his movement across the floor was detected. “Might as well go to standard,” he remarked, casting his eyes around the room. Although sized fairly comfortably, it was still generally rather small, with the entire living area apart from the washroom* contained to a single compartment. Although Thomas had been living here for months, it still looked nearly as bare as it had when he had been provided it on merit of his affiliation with the Confederate Navy. Or more accurately, Cererian, he thought to himself. Although he didn’t dislike the room, considering it was fairly sufficient for his needs, it did reflect the general, ‘still-in-development’ reality of living in Philomelus and the other settlements scattered across Ceres. Blinking heavily to adjust his eyes to the standard illumination as he walked across the room, Thomas began to prepare for the day.
*OOC: General translation of the term in Standard Confederate for a bathroom
Outside Exchange Center 1 for Residential Sector 4
1 Hour, 16 Minutes Later
Dmitri shifted slightly, passing the pack from one shoulder to the other. Eyes mostly trained upon his tablet, he occasionally glanced up periodically, usually when someone entered the room to leave the residential sector. Having just done so for someone, he watched through the open doorway from against the opposite wall in the corridor outside as an elevator pod rose from beneath the floor, opened to accept her, and then rose again into the ceiling towards the central axis of the rotating module. Following this, he continued to wait.
He started slightly, turning away from his tablet down the corridor where he could see Thomas approaching. Past him, he could see the floor and walls curving up to meet the ceiling in the distance, forming the close interior horizon of rotating modules to which he had grown accustomed over his life. Tapping a finger on the tablet to deactivate it and sliding it away in his pack for later, he turned towards Thomas and smiled in greeting.
“That message you sent seemed to imply you’d arrive later - I see you are improving in your promptness.”
Not halting in his stride, Thomas passed Dmitri and entered the exchange center huffing slightly in amused, feigned annoyance as he responded with a simple “Hello to you as well.”
Dmitri followed as Thomas entered the next arriving elevator pod, and watched as he slid a finger across the screen, inputting transit instructions. A moment after he did so, the pod smoothly began moving upwards, entering the ceiling and approaching the midpoint of the Residential Sector.
Thomas looked sidelong at Dmitri, smirking slightly.
“Would you like it opaque or transparent?”
Shifting his pack to the other shoulder and briefly running his eyes along the featureless light gray of the pod’s interior, Dmitri turned again towards Thomas, his expression telling him all that he needed to know about his response. Although the pod’s hull remained opaque, a diagram set into the bulkhead documented its progress out of the sector and out across Philomelus.
Necessity and the environment molds the structure of a city. This holds true anywhere, from the river delta of the Nile to the concentric rings of the Ganymedean crater of Valhalla. On Ceres, the most pressing factor shaping settlement on the dwarf planet was the miniscule gravity. Due to this, the inhabited areas of the city were designed as rotational cylinders, similar to the habitat modules of Confederate stations and large vessels. To provide additional shielding for the modules, they were buried beneath the surface and covered with layers of shielding and the excavated material. Similar to how cities on Earth are collections of city blocks and cities, Philomelus is made up of multiple, independently rotating habitation modules, linked together via passages accessible to both foot traffic and elevator pods, although they are subject to the 3% g of Cererian gravity. As a consequence, the pods are equipped with equipment similar to that of the crash couches of Confederate spacecraft, which Thomas and Dmitri had secured themselves within upon boarding.
The large-scale layout of the city is that of a three-dimensional grid several kilometers across with a population of just under a million, dominated by a large, narrow cylinder in the center of the city serving as an urban center. It is surrounded by two layers of smaller, squatter cylinders atop each other arranged around it in a hexagonal pattern, a thick pad of shielding threaded with maintenance tunnels lying between them. Atop the city itself as aforementioned is a thick layer of shielding, designed to resist threats ranging from asteroidal impacts to radiation to intentional attacks. Each cylinder lies within an outer casing housing the rotating component within, with it spinning freely on nearly frictionless rails, again like the habitation modules of Confederate ships. Although the main transit links were located at the central axes of the cylinders, maintenance shafts connected to other areas of their hulls. The smaller cylinders of the complex which surrounded the central module varied in their purposes, from residential sectors to biological ecosystems.
Each cylinder is generally designed to be self-sufficient to a degree, although they are typically interconnected. Although over sixty years had passed since the Confederate facilities on Ceres had begun being converted into the city, the extensive work involved with constructing the city has ensured that it is still heavily under construction, with a single inner ring of twelve cylinders and seven cylinders of the second completed. The inner cylinder is referred to as the Urban Core and the outer ring of cylinders are often referred to as the Suburban Ring, although someone accustomed to many of Earth’s settlements would perceive them more as an extension of the central city than suburbs.
Thomas and Dmitri remained mostly silent as the pod moved from the cylinder of Residential Sector 4 towards the Urban Core, ruminating upon the shifts in their lives that the events of the day would bring. As the pod entered the central axis on the Urban Core and moved along the hull ‘down’ towards one of its exchange centers, they uncoupled themselves from the light harnesses and fully oriented with the slowly mounting gravity in the cabin. As the doors of the pod slid open, they stepped out into the Urban Core.
Although sections of the module were opened up into large plazas, the part which they had arrived at was essentially another corridor, albeit larger and lined with entrances into a variety of compartments - their interiors including different facilities such as cafeterias, dedicated restaurants, and fabrication sites, amongst others. The relatively young age and small scale of the city was quite apparent, with many of the establishments still appearing somewhat sterile despite their decor and with there being a generally ‘packed-in’ feel to the avenue, albeit this being less apparent to Confederates who are usually accustomed to the small accommodations common to space.
Unsurprisingly considering the small volume of the city, Thomas had visited this part of the Urban Core a couple of times before. He’d usually done so on his own, although occasionally with Dmitri on trips of both recreation and business. Despite this however, he still cast his eyes around at his surroundings, drinking in the spatially limited but visually interesting (to him) view. Looking down, the texture of the smooth, greenish-brown pathway they walked upon was slightly spongy, with the surface almost imperceptibly giving way to his mass. Around him, he could hear a chorus of different conversations which melded into each other, providing an auditory backdrop for his walk. The avenue had been designed to avoid excessive auditory reflections, in order to give the impression of a larger area, although there is never perfect engineering when people are moving about in said avenue.
Hearing a slight sizzling to his right, he glanced over and saw what appeared to be a Human cook grilling slabs of meat, clearly an eating establishment which offered a more personal touch with its food than an automatic food preparation unit...and equally sanitary if conforming to Confederate culinary regulations. Since this was Philomelus City and not Earth, Thomas was fairly sure it was the cultured meat which Confederates and their forebears had grown accustomed to over the last several centuries, as opposed to the stuff cut from a genuine animal corpse - he winced at the thought - which was probably widespread there, unless that had changed over the last several decades. Pausing briefly to allow someone to cut across his path, he briefly glanced up at the ‘ceiling’. Although it was only a matter of meters above, it was designed to resemble an Earthly sky, complete with evolving images of clouds and a moving solar light. This specific area of the city was set for a temperate climate, with today appearing to be a sunny spring day. Although a majority of the Confederacy’s population lived within what began as artificial environments, even if they became self-sustaining over time, most were still designed to emulate a habitable world, considering that a specific creature tends to function better if living within an idealized form of their natural habitat. It was why many parks tended to have grass with scattered tree cover after all - that superficially resembled the Terry* savannahs upon which Humanity had evolved.
*OOC: An enduring Confederate word for something relating to Earth, sourced from the word ‘terrestrial’ in the early Solar Expansion Period. Over time, it became an independent term of its own from its root word as the different forms of English died out and/or were assimilated into other languages, and the term was officially included into Standard Confederate centuries later when that official language was first being formalized and centralized at Luna.
The two of them came to an intersection where another avenue crossed with the one they had been following. In the middle of the square was a tree approximately three meters tall, small compared to many trees of Earth but large in the environment of the intersection. Turning to the left, they approached an arrangement of tables set around one of the corners, with a culinary station set into the corner. Sitting at one of the tables was someone who Dmitri vaguely recalled, but Thomas with whom was evidently more familiar. Before he could say anything however, she glanced up and saw them, recognition seeping into her eyes. She turned more fully to face them, smiling faintly.
Nereca watched as the two Sonoma crewmembers came up to her table, and strode by her, shifting around to the other side of the table. As they walked by, she reached out her hand, fingers together in a flat plane with the thumb side pointing upwards. Reaching over, Thomas lightly brushed her palm with the back of his hand.*
*OOC: Confederate ‘handshake’
“I recognize you two...how are you both this morning?”
Smiling back, Thomas responded, “Under different circumstances, I’d be doing great, although I’m still fine.” He turned to his companion - Dmitri, she thought, recalling his name from the transfer orders Thomas had sent her - his face now visibly drooping slightly, “Dmitri?”
Dmitri had set down a small pack as Thomas spoke, arranging it to keep the object steady on the bench. Looking up at Thomas and then her, his blue eyes flickered between the two of them as he responded, “Ah, rather well.” He paused for a moment, then adding, “Well, given the circumstances, like you said.” He turned to face Nereca, a brown eyebrow quirking slightly.
“He told you what we’ll be doing? As in, I will be going back to the Sonoma as the sole director of the ship’s military contingent, he’ll be staying here to train the Cererian-born...”
He paused again for a moment.
“...recruits. Then, of course-”
“I’ll be in engineering, as always,” Donny cut in, sidling over to the bench and sitting down next to Dmitri, with Thomas on the other end. “Hello everyone,” he said curtly but politely.
“Donny,” Nereca nodded. Thomas waved slightly and Dmitri glanced at him silently in a nonverbal greeting, head tilted slightly for a moment.
“Well...” Thomas exhaled slowly, spreading his hands on the smooth table and using them as leverage to push himself to his feet. “Now we are ready.”
Above the central module of the Urban Core was its main connection to the outside universe, at least officially. The Philomelus Exchange Terminal was another habitation module, although this one was not under spin like the other areas of the city. Here, people were subject merely to the extremely light gravity of the dwarf planet, and it was not uncommon to see individuals less accustomed to or less inclined to manually maneuver themselves ride upon small drones functioning as tugs, moving along tracks set into the floor. Still located beneath the surface, the facility functioned as the main (but not exclusive) public transportation center between Philomelus City, Plutus Spaceport, the Cererian Military Shipyards, and the nascent satellite communities sprouting up across Ceres. Travel between the satellite communities and Plutus were generally open to transit, aside from customs, but travel to and from the CMS is more restricted.
Cererian Military Rail Capsule, Subterranean Transit between Philomelus City and the Cererian Military Shipyards
19 Minutes Later
Thomas settled back into his seat, enjoying the feel of acceleration after several minutes in the miniscule natural Cererian gravity of 3% Earth sea level, albeit still at 10%. He was accustomed to the feeling of freefall, but he preferred genuine gravity whether it was from mass or a large enough centrifuge. To his left was a screen panel displaying an image of the sunlit, dull gray cratered surface the capsule sped along underneath, giving the illusion of an aboveground route despite being safely tucked below a slab of Cererian surface and within a tube of shielding. Running a thumb along the smooth, yielding surface of the acceleration couch he was embedded in, he reflected on how it and his body were perpendicular to the push of the acceleration, making it vaguely feel like he was lying on his back. Most Confederate couches would be designed to orient to the local acceleration, although the capsule’s normal ac/deceleration of 0.1 g wasn’t sufficient enough to warrant that in this case.
Peering to his right, he looked at Dmitri, sitting next to him, as he continued speaking with Nereca and Donny, similarly sitting side-by-side across the aisle. The capsule was not very large, perhaps ten meters in length and three across, and only half a dozen other people were within it. Unlike the other rail lines connecting to the other small communities and Plutus Spaceport, this was a more restricted line reserved for government and military personnel, and the bare functional aesthetic of the capsule reflected that. Turning slightly, he focused more closely on what they were discussing.
“...to believe,” Dmitri said, his face appearing fairly uneasy for him. “What is it?” Thomas asked, twisting more to face the other three as they looked at him after uttering the question.
“Well,” Nereca began, “The Governing Council in Philomelus has been discussing the implementation of conscription on Ceres and the other Confederate member worlds. It’s been an idea that has been considered for a while, but not too seriously until the incident on Triton and the destruction of Transit Station.”
Thomas sat quietly for a few moments, the imagery of the Cererian surface in the display slowly sliding past behind him. Since they had passed the midpoint of the transit between the city and the shipyards, they were currently decelerating and the scenery in relation to the arrangement of their acceleration couches reflected that.
“I had not heard about that before...although I suppose it is not too surprising,” he said slowly. He went on, “The strength of the Confederacy in U-0 was the sheer scale of its population along with automation. The amount of people required for the military was small enough for it to easily be fully staffed with volunteers. Since the current military is far bigger than before in relation to the population, it makes sense that they’d be considering it...especially with what is currently happening now in 2114.”
“Ceres already has an education system in place which could easily incorporate military training,” Nereca remarked. “How to manually repair some of the technology present here, how to create a makeshift life support system from common items on hand, and so forth. There’s currently even special courses involving supervised tours on some vessels and bases, although they aren’t involved with anything vital or sensitive until they go through genuine training.”
As the conversation continued, Dmitri had been scrolling through pages on his tablet, half-listening to the words flowing past him as he read through news regarding recent political developments on Ceres. Looking up as Nereca finished speaking, he interjected, “There seems to be an odd generational divide with the debates on conscription...they seem to somewhat agree on conscription, but there is also a struggle between both groups.”
Nereca nodded towards him. “Yes, that’s been a running trend in Cererian-”
Thomas and Donny raised their eyebrows at her, and she chortled for a moment.
“Or Confederate politics, when you have the founding generation, yours I suppose, and mine, their children. Nullers and Cerries. By my wording, you can probably guess as to which camp I fall within.”
“Indeed, I’ve been reading through some of the historical and cultural information regarding the generational split,” Dmitri responded, “The Nullers wanting to maintain the culture and institutions from the Confederacy in U-0 and Cerries wanting to create a new identity for themselves which is more incorporated with the TAMDEZ nations.”
“Yeah, that has been causing some tension for decades,” Nereca replied, “Although the current governor has been improving the relationship between both groups.”
Another pause settled over the four of them, interrupted after a few moments by a ping announcing the approaching end of the capsule’s journey. Peering out of the displays, they could see a smattering of approaching above-ground structures marking the boundary of the Cererian Military Shipyards.
When it had first been established over sixty years ago, this military complex had originally been a small facility which had merely been capable of effecting minor repairs to Confederate ships. Quickly overwhelmed by the devastating chaos of Cutoff Day and the subsequent Confederate convergence on Ceres, the facility expanded rapidly into a military shipyard to meet the demands of the newly established Cererian government and military, correspondly growing with the bustling spaceport of Plutus and the city and satellite communities of Philomelus as they developed from similarly small colonies and outposts. By 2114, it was a sprawling, highly fortified military complex with merely the uppermost shielded layer visible from the surface, the majority hewn out beneath the surface. Habitat modules of various sizes, shapes, and functions dotted the facility, linked with pressurized bridges and corridors, although most of its structures are filled with tailored (often unbreathable) atmospheres or empty with vacuum to facilitate large-scale industrial activity. The largest open structures in the complex are the drydocks, enormous enclosed hangers excavated from beneath the surface with an appearance reminiscent of a vast missile silo from within and above. These hangers are used as protective enclosures for vessels in the fragile state of being constructed or partially disassembled for servicing. Within one of the larger hangers for capital ships was the Sonoma, which had arrived at Ceres over three months before for extensive repairs and retrofitting.
Walking through the cabin of the rail capsule and transferring through a dense embarkation center into another transit pod, the four of them began traveling through the complex. Although there were sufficient connections with pressurized structures to walk through on foot when required, this occasion allowed them to go through more quickly with the pod. There was not much for them to see due to the design of the transit pod’s tube and the CMS itself, although displays along the surface of the hull allowed more detailed views of the complex. Remaining under another period of silence, they watched and glanced meaningfully at each other as the pod passed by a large chamber in vacuum containing the large three-component form of the Forerunner portal framework which had been housed at Transit Station. From the perspective given by the display in the pod, they could see the incisions inexplicably created by the Jar Jar agents through the hull material of the framework previously having no known vulnerabilities to penetration, through which the furies of the station’s destruction had reached through and wrecked the interior technology. Direct probing of the interior had yielded interesting results, advancing Confederate understanding of Forerunner technology in general, although the portal had been too damaged for their knowledge to be significantly grown.
Leaving the framework behind, the pod gradually began to slow down as it approached one of the drydock hangers in the complex. Coming to a stop, its airlock linked with a connecting one and opened, releasing the four out into a crowded disembarkation compartment. Separating from the rest of the group, Nereca turned and smiled cheerfully at them, although her composure broke slightly when she faced Thomas.
As the pod receded from the framework, the pod gradually began to slow down as it approached one of the drydock hangers in the complex, with this being one of the two larger facilities for housing capital ships. It came to a halt to a disembarkation compartment connected to the hanger, its airlock linking to a connecting one and allowing the four to exit the pod. As the four of them paused briefly to get their bearings, shifting to allow people in the crowded area to pass by, the airlock sealed again and their pod moved on to allow another one to dock in its place. After a moment, they began to walk forwards through the room to a sweeping picture display across one of the bulkheads which offered a view of the hanger’s interior. Of course, the Sonoma itself stood within the hanger, dominating the chamber. Although the compartment they were in was rotating, the main display showed a motionless view, although smaller windows* allowed views of the exterior.
*OOC: Real windows are fairly unusual across Confederate society in general, and even the real ones tend to have technologies built into them which is intended to alter the view in ways which would enhance it or protect the viewer. The idea of a simple transparent plane of material for viewing into or out of a structure, especially in environments like space, is bizarre and somewhat archaic to Confederates, outside of contexts such as between two rooms in the same building.
The vessel was approximately 800 meters in length, over half a kilometer, but only about 250 meters in width, so the general shape of the vessel was that of a narrow cylinder which vaguely resembled a skyscraper from a planetbound city. There were visibly two separate segments to the ship, referred to as the Blue and Gray Modules, with the former being the rotation-equipped primary habitation section and the latter being the heavy industrial and hanger section. Although the ship had been repaired from the damage it sustained from the events of Cutoff Day, it was visibly still less than its full design capacity, reducing it slightly to more of a TANDEZ technological level than a U-0 Confederate one. The most visually obvious detail of this were the Forerunner Drive rails running along the hull. Ceres did not have the capacity for constructing this technology yet, so areas where components of the Forerunner Drive were missing were replaced with conventional thrusters, resulting in it being slightly less maneuverable.
After they spent several moments gazing at the ship, Nereca turned to the others. “Well, with the Aritare being assigned as the Sonoma’s escort Donny and Dmitri, we will certainly be able to communicate more easily.” She turned to Thomas. “We’ll have to compete for time to communicate via the wormhole links however, Thomas, which will limit our correspondences. But our discussions thus far have certainly been very illuminating. It’s been fascinating speaking with someone who so clearly remembers U-0 and the TAMDEZ Era, as opposed to the Nullers who remember it as something which happened some time ago.”
Thomas nodded in response. “As have I, when discussing the history here since Cutoff Day. We may be culturally closer to the…‘Nullers’, but we haven’t lived the sixty years of recovery from the loss of U-0 they have.” He stepped forward and offered his hand, and the two of them repeated the Confederate hand gesture they had done when meeting at the table. “I will look forward to our future dialogues.”
“As will I,” Nereca responded. Pausing for a moment and exchanging farewells with Donny and Dmitri, she turned around and began to walk towards an embarkation station housing a docked pod which would take her to the hanger housing the Aritare, although she paused and turned around for a moment.
Thomas and Dmitri stepped closer, and grasped hands. Dmitri hesitated slightly, seemingly unable to find something to say, and Thomas spoke after a heartbeat. “Well Dmitri,” he said, “This is the first time we’ll be working separately for an extended period of time since 3196...er...2025,” he sheepishly corrected. Dmitri nodded silently, and although he had not said anything as of yet, Thomas knew from experience that he was still communicating a great deal even through that silence. “Well,” Dmitri began, “You will certainly be quite occupied on Ceres, training the next assortment of Sonoma crewmembers. With time, all of the ship’s crew will be of U-2, and their memories of the Confederacy in U-0 will gradually dim with time.”
“Which is a great irony,” Donny suddenly cut in, and he continued speaking as Dmitri and Thomas slowly turned their heads to look at him, their hands still locked together tightly. “If Cutoff Day had never occurred, it is almost inevitable that the TAMDEZ nations would have eventually been absorbed into the Confederacy. They’re like a single drop of dye compared to the comparatively large lake that was the Confed-”
“Donny,” Thomas interrupted. “We know that.”
Donny stopped speaking and his eyes flitted between the two of them. “Right, of course. What I meant was...well, never mind that.”
Dmitri and Thomas turned back towards each other, the moment broken by the interruption and also the fact that Dmitri and Donny really needed to get aboard.
“Well...” Dmitri broke the pause. “I will be speaking regularly with you as well, Thomas, although I will also be fighting for wormhole bandwidth. We will be rendezvousing with you and the new recruits in...six months?”
Thomas smiled, shaking Dmitri’s hand slightly in a firmly affirmative gesture. “Indeed we will. For now however, I wish you and Donny a good journey to...” he again paused, thinking. “...Dione, is it?”
Dmitri nodded. “Yes. I am not certain if the Sonoma has ever visited Saturn, in either universe...although we have visited Jupiter in this universe.”
Thomas shuddered slightly. “Yes, and almost lost the ship from that. Hopefully whatever comes of these current events will have a less deadly outcome than the first two invasions.”
Still standing somewhat awkwardly to the side, Donny nodded with Dmitri.
Thomas and Dmitri slowly broke their grasp, and Dmitri finished by saying, “Depending on when bandwidth is available, I will be speaking with you in the relatively near future, Thomas.”
“And I with you,” he responded. Turning to Donny, he then said, “Donny, I will see you when I and the new recruits arrive at the Sonoma.” Donny nodded in response.
Donny and Dmitri turned and began to walk onwards to a passageway set into one of the bulkheads, joining the stream of Sonoma crewmembers and passengers boarding the ship. Moving into a bridge connecting the observation deck with an airlock on the Sonoma, they began walking across, looking down at the activity occurring in one of the hangers of the ship’s Gray Module. Cargo was being transferred across via drones, easily carried out in the 3% g of Cererian gravity which the entire interior of the hanger bay, apart from the rotating Blue Module, was subject to, including the bridge which Dmitri and Donny were passing through. As they reached the hull of the Sonoma’s Blue Module, they transferred to an embarkation compartment set into the non-rotating outer casing of the module which contained and protected the rotating interior component. Once in the compartment, the boarding crew members passed through a transfer mechanism which allowed them to shift from Cererian gravity to the one g rotational gravity generated by the Inner Blue Module’s spin. Immediately after boarding, Dmitri and Donny bid each other farewell, with Donny heading aftwards towards the Gray Module with his duties as an engineer while Dmitri headed towards the bridge, which was positioned deep within the Blue Module*. The inhabited areas of the ship in general were located away from the hull, with fairly thick layers of shielding and technology insulating them from outside.
*OOC: Because why would anyone put the bridge in an exposed and obvious position?
After several minutes of making his way through the ship, Dmitri finally arrived onto the bridge, and walked slowly to his station. Although he now crewed it on his own rather than jointly with Dmitri in the past as he had before, he still had the same assignment of directing and coordinating the military contingent aboard the ship. He did not have any work as of yet which he needed to carry out, so he simply swept his eyes across the bridge.
It was a rectangular prism of a compartment, approximately eight meters long, eight meters wide, and three meters high, with the bulkheads being light grays in their current default and able to display different colors and images when needed. The dozen or so control stations and their associated acceleration couches were arranged around a central holographic display, itself contained within a bare cage of projectors, in the center of the bridge. Across the bridge and waving slightly was Versola Nulius, the Sonoma’s chief science officer. She and Dmitri had similar backgrounds and temperaments, giving them a generally good working relationship, although it wasn’t quite as close as the one between Thomas and Dmitri. Waving back, Dmitri tuned out the fluctuating waves of chatter as he glanced at Captain Coldwell, who was gesticulating slightly as he discussed something for a moment with a crewmember whom Dmitri only vaguely recognized, the crewmember moving into one of the four corridors, each set into each of the four bulkhead walls.
After several minutes, Coldell thumbed a control on the armrest of his acceleration couch, instinctively grasping with his legs and other hands to hold himself down in the miniscule Cererian gravity present on the bridge despite being held in place. He began speaking, “Sonoma crew, this is your captain speaking. Although most of you would know me and each other from the years we have been serving aboard this ship...” he glanced around the bridge briefly, his eyes lingering for a moment on someone Dmitri did not recognize, “...some of you are new, having transferred over from other ships in the Confederate fleet. I would like to take this moment to welcome you aboard this ship, and I invite my established crew to welcome you as well.”
He paused for a moment.
“Relating to other shipboard business, we have completed preparations for departure, and CMS control is now drawing back the curtain, so to speak, before our entrance out onto the wider stage of the Solar System.”
Dmitri knew that many of the ship’s crewmembers had sometimes heard variants of this expression before, albeit rarely, and some would grasp the gist of what Coldell was speaking of, but he knew that it referenced an old and sparsely practiced form of entertainment. While mulling this over during a brief pause in the captain’s speech, he saw that the central bridge display had activated and was now showing an external view of the ‘roof’ of the hanger drydock, four separate ‘screens’ forming four faces of a cube missing the upper and lower faces which showed the same point of view. On the flat display screen, he could see the hanger partition capping the hanger beginning to slide away to one side, slowly revealing a view of open space framed by the surrounding walls of the hanger. With the Sun below the local horizon, much less within the framed view of space, and the lighting in the hanger beginning to dim, they could see stars scattered across the black void.
Coldell began speaking again, “Liftoff will be in ten seconds, and we are completing transition from L-Mode* to V-Mode*...now.”
At the conclusion of the ten seconds, Dmitri felt gravity slowly begin ramping up, although still marginal.
“Liftoff...” Coldell uttered slowly.
The Sonoma began firing its maneuvering thrusters, moving itself slowly and carefully as it slid out of the hanger bay like a bullet fired in slow motion from a gun barrel. Thomas watched the ship leaving the bay along with the other spectators as some of them cheered, feeling a confusing mix of joy at seeing the vessel flying again and melancholy at being left behind on Ceres.
As the Sonoma fully lifted above the lip of the hanger bay, it held itself in place in the low Cererian gravity, hovering as it swung slowly into position for an escape course from Ceres. Across the developed surface of the Cererian military facility, the smaller and tetrahedral Aritare performed a similar rotation as it too hovered above Ceres, matching its attitude with the Sonoma. Aboard it, Nereca gazed steadily at the larger cylindrical capital ship as both ships completed their rotations, barking out orders occasionally when needed. As both ships settled into position, she and Coldell both gave slightly different but equivalent orders: to switch from V-Mode to T-Mode and to begin their thrust.
Both ships ramped up to a one g acceleration, receding slowly at first from Ceres but gradually picking up speed. Eventually, side by side, both ships broke out from the shadow of Ceres and were cast into the pale distant sunlight of Sol, remaining the same apparent size as Ceres dwindled from a landscape, to a globe, to a circle, to a point of light. Both ships ran on different forms of propulsion, the Sonoma on its Forerunner Drive and the Aritare on a more easily constructed but less efficient fusion drive, the former ship’s propulsion only betraying itself with slight distortions of the background stars across an ovoid volume hugging the hull and the latter visible as jets of exhaust quickly diffusing out to invisibility to conventional human vision. From the perspective of the many spectators, they could see the twin star-like points of the ships, the Aritare far brighter due to its fusion drive despite being smaller, dimming as they receded away on their evolving Saturn-bound orbits...flying towards their respective futures.