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Legend of Galactic Girls

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16 June 2008
11:19 GMT
Unnamed private station, Habitat Module 1


"The pressure test on Tank 3 looks good, Mr. Scott."

"Yoriko, how many times have I told you to call me 'Noah'?"

The woman looked at her feet. "But you're my boss... and my creator. And we're working."

"So? There's only the six of us up here; there's no need to stand on formality. Besides, I'd much rather be your friend than your owner, okay? And that goes for the rest of you, too."

"Is that an order, sir?" asked the youngest-looking person in the habitat module.

Noah sighed. "No, Sora, that's a request." He turned to one of the others. "Kohran, please bring the pressure in Habitat Tank 3 – no, it's Module 3, now – bring the pressure down to one standard atmosphere. We'll use some of the building supplies we left in the tank to install some wiring and plumbing, and build some internal walls in it. I know I'm looking forward to having a private apartment again."

"Yes, sir," replied the girl as she reached toward a control bank. Then she stopped. "Mr. Scott..."

"What did I just say, Kohran?"

"Mr. Scott, there's something wrong. The pressure in Module 3 is already down to one atmosphere. And the microphones we put in it for the hull stress test are picking up... a working turbine engine."

"That's impossible."

Everyone else looked at Noah. "Just like artificial gravity and artificial intelligence are impossible, sir?" asked the other android in the habitat.

"Good point, Yayoi. Yoriko, please come with me; let's go see what the miracle goop's done this time. The rest of you, stay here and listen in over the microphones, please."

 



11:24 GMT
Airlock between Habitat Modules 2 and 3


"What is that?"

"It's a motorcycle, Yoriko. A pretty advanced one, by the looks of it." Noah shook his head in amazement. "But who brought it here, and how could it still be running after this long?"

"Sir?"

"The engine. It should have used up most of the oxygen in there by now... Oh, shit. There's somebody on the bike."

Yoriko pushed Noah back into Module 2, then closed the airlock door in front of him and opened the door to Module 3.

Noah rubbed the brand-new sore spot on his chest as he watched Yoriko rush at inhuman speed to the first aid kit, then to the motorcycle. Then he said, apparently to the thin air, "Well, at least she's got the basic sense of humanity I hoped we'd programmed into all of the girls."

"Were you seriously expecting something else?" a voice asked from the intercom.

"No, Eimi, but it's good to see proof that the personality trait's there."

 



Location Unknown. Date Unknown. Time Unknown.


I woke up to discover myself not home. Again.

I was on a makeshift cot, inside what looked like an antiseptic-yet-makeshift warehouse. My helmet was sitting on the floor beside me within easy reach, beside a small oxygen cylinder with a breather mask attached. Two people – a tall middle-aged caucasian man with "swivel-chair spread" and a petite young asian woman with long hair, both wearing polo shirts, jeans, deck shoes, and what looked like perscription glasses – were examining my motorcycle (without touching it, so they seemed to be polite) while talking quietly with each other. I cleared my throat to let them know I was awake.

The man stepped forward. "Hello, stranger," he said (in English, with the stereotypical educated middle-class American accent). "I'm glad you're awake; you almost died of carbon monoxide poisoning. I hope you don't mind that Yoriko shut down your bike."

"No, that's all right. Good thing you found me in time," I smiled.

"Indeed. I'm called Noah Scott, and I'm your host. If you don't mind me asking, who are you and how did you get aboard this piece of what's becoming my space station?"

Space station? That explained why the exhaust from my bike's engine almost killed me; the life-support systems were probably overtaxed by the fumes. I stood and bowed to Yoriko, then offered to shake Mr. Scott's hand. "Douglas Sangnoir, at your service. But please call me Doug." The two of them exchanged a Meaningful Glance. "Don't tell me you've heard of me?"

"We've heard of you," replied Yoriko. She had a hint of the standard Japanese-newscaster accent, but it was almost lost in, I kid you not, an American Southern accent thick enough to cut with a knife. (Not a Deep South accent, though – it seemed to be from the Carolinas.)

"I asked you not to tell me that." They both smiled at that, then exchanged another Meaningful Glance.

"Actually," added Mr. Scott as he shook my hand, "we've heard of someone with your name and taste in humor. We assume he's you."

"Really? Have I been here before?" Then I realized what he was talking about. "Or is this connected to that 'transfictionality' effect that Legion told me about?"

They both sighed with relief. "That's exactly what we're talking about, Colonel, and we're glad you've already heard of it. That'll make it easier for us to talk near you."

"Oh?" Then I realized what Yoriko had called me. "And how did you know my rank?"

"I don't know whether you or Legion has considered the implications of transfictionality, but when one of our universe's authors combined the concept with quantum mechanics' lack of a privileged frame of reference, he realized that everyone is fictional in some other reality somewhere." She stopped talking when Mr. Scott put a hand on her shoulder.

"I'd let Yoriko continue, but we don't have all week." She blushed as he went on. "Sometimes I think about that and wonder whether anyone reads stories about me. But that's not important right now. What is important is that your arrival here proves that theory valid, because we've read stories about you."

Oh, wonderful – not again. "Are you telling me I have no secrets here, Mr. Scott?"

"Please, call me Noah – I keep telling everyone there's no need to stand on formality here. The stories you're in aren't that well-known, and we don't know most of your personal details... but a few of us are well aware of who Looney Toons of the International Strike Teams is."

Oh, boy... but wait a minute. "Of the what? My team back home is called the Warriors."

Noah looked relieved, and I can guess why. "Ah, right; my mistake."

 



13:07 GMT
Habitat Module 1


"Here's Eimi's laptop, Mr. Scott. What do you want transferred to it?"

"Sora, my name is Noah. And ... did you say Eimi's laptop?"

"Yep!" Eimi replied from the computer's speakers. "You haven't been paying much attention to me now that the girls are awake, Noah. I want to see more of the world. Or of the worlds, if Doug'll take me on as a Girl Friday."

Noah sighed. "I'm sorry, Eimi. I'm doing to you want I did to Natsuko and Agatha, even after I told myself not to. You deserve better. Of course you can make your own way in life. Are you sure you want to leave this universe altogether, though?"

"Nobody else has; I'll be the first!" She continued more seriously. "Besides, you've read the stories that Doug's in. You know he needs somebody he can confide in if he's going to stay sane for his entire trip home."

"You have thought this out. You're a Smart Girl, Eimi."

"Almost as smart as my boss, Boss."

They both chuckled, and Sora smiled. Noah went on. "I'll miss you, Eimi... but you're right. Doug does need somebody to talk with that already knows who he is, if he's going to stay sane. Okay. Sora, copy the Drunkard's Walk files in the server's fanfiction directory, up to where the Loon learns about transfictionality, to a temporary directory on the server, strip out anything he didn't learn firsthand, then compress those edited files and copy them to Eimi. And whatever you do, don't copy any of the sequel series. Eimi, can you forget that you've read the full series?"

"No more than you can, Noah."

"Why are you worried about that, Mr. Scott?"

"Sora... Oh, never mind. It's the same problem as time-travellers would have if they were real; if you know something will happen to you because it did happen to you, but you make sure it doesn't happen, then you've created a paradox. A time-traveller might wreck his own universe with a paradox."

"But Doug's travelling between universes, so any paradox he creates might wreck more than one reality," Eimi finished. "Okay, I won't tell him anything he doesn't learn on his own."

"That'll do. Thanks." Noah turned back to Sora. "Once you've given Eimi the censored version of Doug's adventures, copy over all of the music in my personal playlist except for the soundtracks to stories from the places he's visited, then go on to the World Factbook and the most recent version of the Britannica."

"And copy over the In Nomine rules, too!"

Noah turned to Eimi. "Sure, but I don't think Doug's a roleplayer."

"He'll learn. Even if I have to run a game for him."

 



Unnamed private station Habitat Module 1. Tuesday, June 17, 2008. 7:43 AM Local Time.


"I hope you don't mind the low-quality breakfast, Doug. I'm expecting Hermes Universal Deliveries to show up with the week's groceries later this morning; right now, this is all I've got."

"I've had to survive on worse, Noah," I replied, just before taking another bite of the granola bar he'd given me. "Besides, considering how I'm feeling after what you told me yesterday, I doubt I'd enjoy anything fancier."

"Sorry about that. I thought you'd rather we throw you into the deep end, instead of easing you into the surprises you're going to get here."

"You proved you know who and what I am when we met. Giving me censored copies of stories about what I've been doing recently surprised me even more."

"Oh, you caught that?"

"Yeah. But what could be more surprising than you knowing who I am?"

"Meet my crew." Noah grinned and raised his voice. "Come in, ladies!"

The door opened and four young asian women stepped into the compartment. One was Yoriko, who I recognized from the day before. Two of the others were unfamiliar to me.

The last was a dead ringer for a woman I'd left on the other side of a portal I'd used years ago. "Hasegawa-san?"

 



"Well, I didn't expect him to faint." Noah stood up. "Help me get him onto the couch, please."

 



7:47 AM.


I opened my eyes to see Yoriko standing beside me, holding a small gadget. I suspected it was an audio playback device of some sort from the way the strains of The Beatles' Good Morning Good Morning came from it.

When she saw that I was awake, she turned away and said, "I was right, Mr. Scott. It does work on him, too."

"It shouldn't have," I said as I sat up. "My talent doesn't work when I'm unconscious. I assume I passed out from the shock?"

She nodded. "That and some lingering aftereffects from the carbon monoxide poisoning. I think."

I checked the clock on the wall. "I have a good constitution and it has been a few minutes. I think maybe I came to on my own. Would you mind turning that off, please? My talent's going nuts trying to find somebody to wake up."

"Oh, sorry, Mr. Sangnoir." Yoriko shut off the playback.

"Thank you. And my name's Doug. Now, would somebody please explain to me how Ms. Hasegawa got here?"

The person in question cleared her throat. "Well... actually, I'm not the Sora Hasegawa that you met. I just look, sound, act, and think like her. I think."

Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said, "Huh?"

Noah passed me a mug of orange juice. "There's seven people on this station right now, but only the two of us are humans. The four lovely ladies are androids."

"Ah, I see."

"You don't seem surprised at the fact that we're AIs," said one of the girls I didn't recognize.

"Should I be?"

"From what Mr. Scott tells us, we may be the only androids in existance."

The other girl I didn't recognize added, "But there are rumours about some others..."

"Built by that 'Professor' person? But he doesn't exist, Yayoi... Does he, sir?"

Noah looked her and answered, "How should I know? But there was quite a bit about him in the papers earlier this year, Kohran, so I'm guessing he's real. But androids don't seem like his style."

"Then we're alone in the universe, aren't we?" whispered Sora.

I smiled and walked over to her. "Don't worry. It's only a matter of time before someone else builds another AI. They just have to use the same designs that whoever built you used." Nobody answered me. "What did I get wrong?"

After a moment, Noah cleared his throat. "Even if A.C. Peters – the person who helped me with the hardware side of the ladies – even if A.C. and I released the plans, they might not be reproducable. There's a certain something that we don't yet understand that's part of their makeup..."

They went on for an hour, answering most of my questions as best they could.

In this universe, men first walked on the Moon in 1969. After a half-dozen Lunar missions, nobody went farther than Earth orbit for three and a half decades, and each trip into space was a major engineering effort. But last year, something they called "handwavium" appeared, which seems to handwave away some of the laws of physics. Mr. Scott got the idea to build his station because, fourteen months ago, someone had used handwavium to sail a pocket cabin cruiser into space. Noah was able to move into space four months ago, and his companions had been self-aware for almost four weeks, solely because of the handwavium. (I got them to promise to give me a sample.)

But this stuff didn't work the same way for different people. Two identical twins who applied the same amount of handwavium on the same make and model of panel truck in the same way got two wildly different results; one of the trucks was quite happily purring along (literally) on Earth, getting 100 miles to the gallon and never becoming dirty; the other was flying twice-weekly delivery runs between Seattle and Utopia Planitia on Mars, but couldn't be budged unless Star Trek soundtrack music was playing on its built-in CD player.

Yes, I'm sure of this. Noah showed me some of the experiment footage.

Cutting to the chase, nobody could build the same kind of AIs that Noah had, because they weren't him. And he couldn't get male androids, or females who didn't wear glasses, to wake up. When I asked whether he was sure about that, he glanced quickly at the girls and shook his head quickly. "Moving on, we have to figure out how to get you on your way."

I took the hint. "Are you tired of my company so soon?"

"Hardly," he smiled. "It's nice to be able to speak with someone who's willing to treat me as an equal..." If he was waiting for a response from the others, he didn't get it. "... but I can't expect you to settle down here for the rest of your life. As I understand it, you have to find some song that'll open a gateway to your next stop. We have to figure out how to get your bike's engine to run without fouling the air in the station or overheating, so you can go through that gateway safely."

"Good point." And that seemed like as good an opening as any to ask about accounts. "How much will I owe you for your help? And the food and lodging, for that matter?"

"I've got more money that I can conveniently use right now, Doug. But I won't turn down your help with the construction work...and I'm hoping you'll do another friend of mine - the seventh person on the station - a big favour."

"How big?"

The laptop that I had been using to read about myself spoke. "Take me with you, please, Colonel Sangnoir!"

Noah nodded. "If you hadn't already met Eimi, you just did. She's the software prototype for the four androids who are keeping us company. Eimi's eager to see more of the world, or the worlds, and I can't think of a better person than you to serve as her tour guide."

"As nice a group of hosts as you are, I wasn't planning on coming back once I got home."

"That's fine," Eimi answered. "Noah and I are even as far as wages and property go, so I can stay in your world once you're home. I hear there's other AIs there - I should be able to blend in there almost as well as I can here."

I thought for a moment. "I don't like the idea of owning somebody."

"Good," Noah answered firmly. "Neither do I."

"I'm going to have to think about this."

 



Tuesday, June 24, 2008. 12:01 PM.


We had gotten into a routine over the last week – we'd wake up between 6:00 and 7:00 AM, do the usual morning routines, have breakfast, argue for a couple of hours about how to contain my bike's exhaust without tethering the bike to the station and fail to come up with any practical ideas, do some work on the station's interior, have lunch and catch up with the day's news at noon, do more work on the station, have supper, discuss and dismiss for an hour or so possible songs to send me on my way, relax for a few hours, and turn in for the night.

But today was slightly different.

Yoriko was reading news services on the Tapestry (which they called the Internet here) while eating lunch, so she was the one who noticed the message from Japan. "Mr. Scott!"

"Yoriko, my name is Noah..." he said wearily.

"This looks important, sir. It's from Xebec's lawyers."

He moved from sitting across from me to looking over her shoulder so fast, I wondered for a moment whether he'd teleported there. "Oh, please be what I hope it is... Yes! We got their permission! Yayoi, go get the champagne!"

"Permission?" I asked.

"I think you're familiar with the concept of compensating the original creators for their work, Doug," he answered as he put on a leather jacket. "This message confirms that I just got the last bit of legal permission I needed. I've had the okay from the original creator for a while now, but this is from the animation studio that turned the story into the television series where I got the idea from in the first place."

Yayoi came back with two bottles of Bollinger – one Vieille Vignes Françaises (which proved my host really did have more money that he could conveniently use right now) and one Special Cuvée. She handed the latter to Noah. "Does this mean I can start using a family name now, sir?"

"It certainly does, Ms. Fujisawa," he replied with a grin. "Now, everybody please get back – I don't want you getting hit by flying glass." We all ducked behind the couch. "I've had a speech prepared for this day for weeks, but in all the excitement I can't remember how it goes, so I'll just cut to the chase." He lifted the bottle and brought his arm back.

"I christen this station... Stellvia!" And he smashed the Special Cuvée bottle against the bulkhead.

 



27 June 2008
22:17 GMT
Stellvia Habitat Module 2


"What did you want to show me, Kohran?"

"Well, Mr. Scott..." She noticed his expression before he could say anything. "Noah, this was an experiment of mine that I had going when Mr. Sangnoir... Doug showed up."

"Do I want to know what you were trying to do?"

"Probably not. But take a look at this, this, and this." She pointed to a few lines of data on the computer screen beside the workbench. "They don't match anything I expected to see, and I can't replicate the effects."

"And this means... what?"

"First I thought that something about Doug caused the anomalies, but if that was the case, he should have made the experiment fail that way again. It hasn't."

"Again, this means what?"

"Sorry. I think it means this is interference from the worldgate he used to get here. If that's the case, I can use this to make a gateway detector."

"I see. What do you need to do to be sure?"

Kohran thought for a moment. "I need to set up the experiment again, and have it running when Doug leaves."

"Okay. Do it. Doug's trustworthy, and the stories indicate that the 'Legion' person he met is on the side of the angels, but who knows what other kind of people might be bouncing around the universes?"

 



Stellvia Habitat Module 3. Sunday, June 29, 2008. 5:36 PM.


We'd finally come up with a way to capture my bike's exhaust fumes that wouldn't interfere with the bike going through the portal. In essence, it was a pressure tank hooked up to the tailpipe with a slow-flow regulator so it didn't suck all the gases in the engine out at once, plus some water-cooling gear around the turbine, all mounted on a small antigravity sled. The physics seemed odd to me, but Eimi said it'd work.

The handwavium was good at creating artificial gravity, but didn't do too well for antigravity unless it was hooked up to a spaceship of some sort.

And I'd seen all sorts pass by over the week that I'd been here. For example, someone with more bravery than sense had welded a few semi trailers together, took at least a dozen more in tow, painted the name Fateful Lightning on the side, put a semi tractor on the front, and launched the entire deathtrap into space three days before the Stellvia christening ceremony. That was a sight to see as it went past us... but you'd never get me to ride in it. When I pointed it out to the others, Noah said it was probably somebody who wanted a lot of living space but couldn't afford anything better. It seems that there's a lot of people like that out here.

Anyway.

Getting back to the antigrav sled... We had to do it the hard way. Luckily, Sora and Kohran were quick students – it only took a few days for me to share enough of what I'd learned back home and from Skuld before they knew enough of the theory to build a knock-off of the Anson GravMaster.

In the meantime, they shared some of their own music with me. A few of the songs tickled my magegift, but I didn't want to test them aboard Stellvia – explosive decompression would have ruined everybody's day. They made sure I had copies of all the songs they played for me.

While Sora and Kohran were building the trailer, Eimi was balancing the station's accounts, and the others were unloading a shipment of supplies, I found myself at loose ends for a few moments. (Yoriko wouldn't let me help with the unloading because I was a guest.) The least I could do for my hosts in exchange for the songs they'd given me was to clear up one of their mysteries. I grabbed my helmet in one hand, used the other to pick up a handy lump of gelled handwavium, and concentrated on it. "System, load song Who Made Who. Play song."

When I regained consciousness, I was flat on my back on that makeshift cot. "Are you all right?" asked Yoriko.

"I think so..." I sat up, then layed down again. "Except for a horrid ringing sensation in my head when I move."

The door opened and closed again, and I heard Noah's voice. "How's Doug doing?"

"I'm awake, but my head hurts. What happened?"

"Damned if I know. I've never seen handwavium do that before. I hope I never see it happen again." He was shaking his head when he stepped into my field of view. "The goop... imploded, I think. At least, we can't find any of the lump you were holding when you collapsed. But I have to ask: What were you doing with it?"

"I thought I was doing you a favor. I have a song in my collection that tells me who or what created what I'm concentrating on."

"And you tried using it on the handwavium, didn't you?" He whistled. "That's the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question in this universe... What did you find out?"

I frowned. "Nothing."

 



28 June 2008
22:04 GMT
Stellvia Habitat Module 2


"If he keeps using his song ability, he's likely to cause a serious accident, sir. He won't mean to do it, but there's a chance he could depressurize the entire station."

Noah nodded in agreement. "He isn't even in danger, Sora. He's got a song that lets him survive space and re-entry, and fly all the way to Earth's surface before it ends. The four of you can survive hard vacuum, although you'd need to get your skin replaced if you tried. And Eimi couldn't care less. I'm the one who's in danger."

"But... that's not fair."

"I know. Life isn't fair, Sora. I'll start wearing my skinsuit under my clothes, okay?"

"Well..." Sora picked up a box. "I've been trying to make a spacesuit out of normal clothing and miracle goop, and I think maybe I've succeeded. He won't know you're wearing a pressure suit if you wear these clothes."

Noah smiled. "Before Doug showed up, you didn't care what other people thought of your actions. Now you do."

"Is that bad?"

"On the contrary, you're developing your own personality. And so are the others, come to think of it. That's just what I had hoped for. Oh, yes – as long as we're alone..."

"Sir?" Sora looked a bit apprehensive.

"I don't want Doug to hear this, but I have to say it." She sighed in relief as Noah went on. "That hardtech gravity control he's been teaching you and Kohran is absolutely top secret, understand? If that was to get out, it would change society even more than the miracle goop did."

"I understand, sir. But what if someone figures out we're keeping a secret?"

Noah thought for a moment. "Then you hold out as long as possible, then tell them about the kaboomite project. I'd rather that secret get out than this one. But I'd prefer that you keep them both secret if at all possible. I'll tell the others about this later." He started to leave the workshop, then turned back. "Sora, I would never force you to do anything you don't want to do. Anything. That's a promise."

 



Stellvia Habitat Module 1. Friday, July 4, 2008. 7:43 PM Local Time.


We've already got our Independence Day fireworks... in a way.

The seven of us were too busy to take the day off for the holiday. Actually, we were too close to actually finishing the work in the Space Shuttle fuel tank that had become Habitat Module 3, and we all wanted to finish it off this week and relax over the weekend.

Eimi had played patriotic music on her speakers while we worked, though. (Instrumentals only, bless her.) She was kind enough to shut that off when I picked up my helmet to make this journal entry, but that just caught everyone else's attention.

"Um... Why do you record those diary messages, Doug?" Sora was more talkative than she had been when I arrived, but that wasn't saying much.

"It's standard operating procedure, Sora. I make a daily report on my solo activities so the Warriors know what I've done. Hexe sometimes says it's so they know what they have to clean up after me, but it's really for training the newcomers to the Warriors. My wife's the only person who reads all of my reports." I thought of Maggie for a moment, and smiled. "When I'm away, I write home every day."

"And the next line," added Noah, returning my smile.

"Yes, and the next line."

The ladies exchanged puzzled looks. Noah noticed and said, "I'll play the song for you later. Right now, let's let Doug write home today."

"Thanks." I brought my helmet up to open the keypad control, which meant I was looking out the viewport at just the right time. "What the hell...?"

Everyone turned to see what had caught my attention.

"What is that?"

"It looks like a big asteroid, but it's leaving Earth's atmosphere."

"Somebody get a camera, quickly!"

"I've already switched on my visual recorders, sir," replied Sora as she stared out the viewport.

"I hope you don't mind delaying your letter home, Doug. I have to check out the news about this." Noah turned to the computer console. "Yayoi, where do I want to listen?"

"Judging from the speed and trajectory of that rock, I believe it came from northern Africa."

"Thanks. BBC it is, then."

He keyed in a few commands and the computer's speaker came to life. "...eports of a large land mass launching from Nigeria are being confirmed by both the European Space Agency and the Transrationality Scientific Assessment Bureau. We have just learned that Number 10 has issued a statement, which I will read now: 'We are dismayed that anyone would want to take the soil of mother Earth away from the future generations that could have lived happily on that land. This is obviously the action of a group of terrorists who have found another application for the mysterious substance that has caused so many problems in America over the last year. Anyone who attempts to obtain samples of that substance in order to duplicate this heinous act on British soil will be prosecued to the fullest extent of the law.'"

Noah shut off the speaker. "More like 'persecuted'... I wonder whether they need someplace to lie low for a while?"

"I doubt it, sir," replied Sora. "I'm picking up some structures on the... flying island of rock. There's lights in their windows, so I think they're airtight and powered."

"That's a ship? Damn! Damn it damn it DAMN IT! If I'd thought of that, I could have saved a fortune by building this station on the ground!"

Yoriko interrupted Noah before he could get into a full rant. "Noah, the other news services are giving other countries' official reactions now. The British reaction was mild compared to the Americans and the Russians. I'm glad you're building Stellvia the way you are – I want to be able to go to Earth someday."

Noah took a deep breath, then released it slowly. "Yeah, you've got a point, Yoriko. Sora... no, you're busy. Kohran, is the radio array capable of handling multiple signals yet?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then let's give them a call and welcome them to the neighbourhood." He turned to me and grinned. "And you've really got something to write home about now, Doug..."

 



Stellvia Habitat Module 3. Saturday, July 12, 2008. 11:24 AM Local Time.


After all that, finding the right song to open the portal was almost anticlimatic. I announced that I'd found it after we finished pressure-testing the final shuttle tank, which Noah planned to turn into a dock for his spacecraft (which I'd never seen).

Dinner was quiet that night – the ladies excused themselves early and took off for Kohran's workshop (which I'd also never seen). "Aren't you worried about that, Noah?"

"They're finally exercising their own initiative, Doug, which means they're becoming human. They've already proven many times, before and after you arrived, that they want me to stay alive, so I doubt they're going to sabotage anything. If they want to tell me what they are doing, that's up to them."

But that was then, and this is now. Sora spent a few minutes making sure the exhaust capture tank and turbine heatsink worked properly before she let me or Noah into the module, then she gave me my bike's key.

"It's been fun, folks. Although nobody back home would believe some of what I saw if Sora hadn't given me a copy of the video she recorded." I opened the bike's left pannier. "Are you sure you want to come along, Eimi?"

"Hell, yes! Let's get this show on the road!"

"Well, if you put it that way, how can I refuse? Eimi says it's time to leave. System ..."

"Mr. Sangnoir! Please don't leave yet!"

I turned to Sora, who was still standing beside my bike. "Is something wrong?"

"No..." She blushed and looked at the floor – if I didn't know she was an android, I'd swear she was human. "I have a present for you."

"We all agreed that you'd probably appreciate it," added Yoriko, "but Sora's the one who built it."

"How can I refuse, then?"

Sora pushed a small package into my hand, then ran back to the others. I opened the box to discover a keychain with a small gadget attached as a fob.

"The front slides open, sir." I used my thumb to follow Sora's instruction, and discovered a small speaker and an on/off button. "The battery's good for years, and the song's burned into ROM."

"Which song?" I asked as I slid the cover closed again. No point in taking chances, not when I was about to open the portal.

Yayoi smiled. "I'm Alive. We thought you couldn't have too many copies of that song."

I thought for a moment. "I think you're right. Thank you." I put my bike's key onto the keychain. "You're good people, all of you."

"So are you, Doug," answered Noah. "So are you. Feel free to come back anytime, assuming you can find your way here again."

"I just might, but not any time soon. Good-bye, everyone." I put my helmet on, and told it "System, load song Space Truckin'. Play song."

"Well we had a lot of luck on Venus
We always had a ball on Mars
We meet with all the groovy people
We like the milky way so far
We'll mess around in borealis
We're space truckin' round the staaaaarrs...

Come on! Come on! Come on! Let's go space truckin'!
Come on! Come on! Come on! Space truckin'!"

I could just barely hear Yoriko over the song and the engine. "Good luck getting home!"

I waved and put the bike in gear, and then I was on my way.

 



12 July 2008
11:31 GMT
Stellvia Habitat Module 3


Once the portal closed behind Doug, Noah sighed. "Good luck, Eimi," he whispered. The he turned to Kohran. "Did you get the readings you wanted?"

After a moment, she smiled. "Yes, Mr. Scott... Noah. And I think I can build a permanent sensor to pick up other worldgates. That may take me a while, though."

"That's fine. If we're lucky, we'll never need it."