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Not Going Back

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June 22, 2514, approximately 2345 hours

The night the Jin Dui left Beylix for the Georgia Cluster, Cianán dreamed. It was one of those vivid dreams so real-feeling that later in life, he would recall moments from the dream with as much clarity as a memory of a real experience.

In his dream, Cianán woke in his bunk with the red-checked quilt and the patched pillow that smelled of vanilla. He rose to walk barefooted and half-clad from the cabin. The passenger lounge was alterday-dim and empty-feeling, and the cargo bay was strangely barren as he ventured through the open hatch. The stable-pod was strangely silent, and while he could not hear the constant white-noise of the ever-present ventilation fans, he could hear the steady thrum of the ship's engine. In his dream, it found a pulse like a distant heartbeat. Strangely, the forward wall of the echoing hold was dominated by a single, massive window where in reality the cargo bay doors should be. Outside the window was only hellish, burning fire.

Cianán padded across the cargo bay, drawn by that towering, impossible window like it was an orbit he was being sucked into. The metal deck felt searingly cold against his bare feet, as though he were walking the Jin Dui's outer hull. Cianán reached the window at the same moment as the ship burned her way out of atmo. And for that moment, the entire view was consumed by the world below.

Even in the absorbing depth of the dream, some rational quarter of Cianán's mind was working. Impossible, that quality control department insisted. Cianán knew, even in his dream, that the cargo bay faced the same way as the nose of the ship, and that the Jin Dui was pointed out into the black, leaving Beylix behind. But the beauty of that all-consuming worldscape was so compelling that Cianán refused to listen to the voice of reason, and simply reveled in the sight. He stood, pressed against the glass, and watched the slow dwindling of the world below. It was marvelous how as the Firefly soared further and further away, how more of the dark crescent of space grew visible over the world's horizon, and then how one of its moons, Charity, suddenly dawned into that dark pseudo-sky, the terraformed moon as green and blue and lovely from this distance as the cloud-wreathed curve of Beylix below.

And in a sudden, profound instant, Cianán realized that all his life had been a single, indrawn breath, just waiting for this very simple moment. This moment of departure, of cutting the umbilical to the birth-world, and of rising above it free and unfettered.

This was what he had been seeking, when he had first fled his childhood home for the big city of Newhouse. This was what he had spent his days and nights wandering the capital's industrial streets. Even when living on his own terms and by the edge of his wits, as free as the lack of home and family and friendship had made him -- he had still been trapped within the close confines of the world. The world had still owned him. He had still waked each day to look up at the sun and know he was at the bottom of a gravity well, with only the barest hope of an escape.

And now that gravity well was shrinking slowly away from Cianán on the other side of the window glass, and the black of the Verse beyond gained on it, inch by steady inch. Cianán heard the Jin Dui's heartbeat whispering in his ears, and knew that for the first time in his life, he was truly free.

Slowly, and with a deep sense of joy cut by an equal measure of grief, Cianán lifted his hand waved goodbye to his homeworld below.