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2313

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Prologue


 

She sighed as she turned her head to read the message she had been sent, the EA vibrating so furiously she couldn't shake it off. When it didn't react to her mental commands, she knew it was important. Tiredly she turned her eyes to the blank screen wall: Urgent meeting, room 2A1, now!

That was all it said, nothing else. She sighed deeply, she knew what this meant. Another futurology discussion, leading nowhere. A total waste of time. Irritated she blinked at the device in front of her, shutting it off. In the same instance, she removed the EA and rose. She needed to be left in peace, she needed time to think. Instead of using the AMD, she started walking. She loved moving around and had little understanding for the AMDers. "Serves them right to fall apart at 80," she muttered with a grin. "Brittle-boned bastards!

Wearily she walked along the well-lighted corridor, the surroundings were buzzing with activity, most of them dead-end endeavors, she gathered and nodded her head in a salute to the by-passers smiling at her. God, what a waste of time this is, she though as she paused in front of 2A1. She didn't even realize she had given the device order to open before it bowed itself inwards, showing her the way to thread.

A colleague, the sociology historian, grinned at her when she stepped inside. She threw him a leer herself, at least they were both on the same side. The elderly woman leading the strategic team of HuRec shook her head at the sight of the newcomer. "Well good day to you, glad to see you in such a good mood today. You developmental psychologist's always brightens the day with your cheerfulness."

Not bothering to answer the sarcasm, she just grunted and seated herself on the first free chair she got in sight. A mug of steaming cafs was put before her and she smiled at the assistant - finally one that did an honest days work! The sociologist at her side burst out in laughter and she threw him a murdering glance, the man was getting to know her all too well. The sourpuss of a GE looked sternly at them both, fatherly-like, telling them to behave. She had to severely repress her impulse to give him the finger. A warning sound from the ME stopped her from expressing her thoughts in public.

The rest of the team started to drop in, a distinct curse from the door diverted her attention, the CA that stepped in was dropping his pens. A truly old-fashioned thing that one, she thought to herself. Not polluting the brain with sick ideas he says, what a hopeless case. Pens went out a hundred years ago, together with the traditional paper. To scribble on RCF was not the same. She had tried to write on paper at the Museum a long time ago, and the feeling was just not the same with the new material. From where he provided the paper was an enigma to them all, word was that he produced it himself, using his old socks and underwear. Word was that he'd walk the suburbs to gather all fibers he found from the inhabitants. The true pride of the group.

The TRC coughed to get attention.

She closed her eyes in desperation, awaiting to hear the same bad news as ever. Human race was getting extinct and all efforts to stop the spiral had been futile. All they had done 200 years ago, the re-atmosphering of Mars, the strive to stop growth of the population seemed like a joke right now. Humans had reached their goal, they were currently only 10 percent left of the 20 billions they had reached at their peak. No need to colonize Mars any longer, now they had to keep earth populated. She was sad, yes, but truth be told, it was nobody's fault but their own.

"Ok HuRec's, no need to get onto the bad news right? We all know about them by now. That's why I called you so urgently to attend this meeting. I finally have good news, real good news."

The TRC looked around the table while 14 pairs of eyes popped open, smugly she smiled at her pessimistic crowd. She was going to blow their minds out with the news. The CA looked only slightly awake, the GE and the ME barely awake. Oh, she would wake them up all right. The psych looking at her with skepticism and the rest of her group only mildly interested. The elderly woman had a hard time stopping herself from giggling, the next half hour or so would change a lot in these folks sitting here, sipping cafs.

"Remember this?" She said and looked at the screenwall, letting the rest see the pic they had stared at so many years ago, wondering and pondering. The pic that had given her the idea.

The pic was from 1861, a wedding. A beautiful bride and a handsome groom. Surrounded by friends.

The rest of the team looked confused, most of them had no recollection of the pic. It was a nice historical memento but what else? The work had taken her 30 years and many of the HuRec's were new, not new enough to be inspired or enthusiastic like they were when they signed on. But young enough not to ever have seen the image she was now showing them. The psych and the sociologist looked at each other, wondering.

The TRC smiled even broader. Nope, this congregation had no idea what was coming.

"There's Wild Bill Hickok." She focused in on the long-haired man at the groom's side, "and William F Cody." She glanced around the room again, awaiting for some reactions. A gleam of curiosity altered momentarily the facial expressions on a few of them. Nope, they hadn't caught on yet, except maybe for the ME?
"This is Aloysious, called Teaspoon, Hunter, their boss." She fell silent to gather herself before she finally verbalized her success. "I never told you this before because my suggestion was outvoted, but I did some work, some damned hard and difficult work I might add. I found a document in a private Museum that had been held by the three gentlemen I just named. It must have been a warm day because their hands were moist and they left some pretty darn good traces of themselves on that paper. So, without dragging you on, 20 years ago this man was born." She flashed a picture up on the wall. A small male child was envisioned. "And this is him today." Another picture was visualized and fourteen chairs scrambled against the floor as they all stood up to see the image of a young Teaspoon Hunter. Only the developmental Psychologist sat back, watching her colleague intently, expecting to hear if what she hoped had finally come true.

"No, he's not sterile, he can actually father children!"

The crowd was dumbstruck.

"And today she was born, meet Rachel Dunne. Reconstructed from her family's mitochondric line. Thanks goes to our splendid psych who made an excellent chart of her genome's psychological trajectory." The TRC grinned at the young woman in the chair. She was looking back at her, almost teary-eyed. The work she had done, without even knowing why, had enable them to see this wonder of a 1900-century woman brought back to life. "And she's bearing a fresh genome, a genome that's never been tampered with. A return to the past before all went wrong. This is it. This is the way to go!"

The stunned silence in the room had the TRC continue. "This is Buck Cross, genome restored, to be born in 8 years time. Hickok in 9 and Cody in 12. This all made possible through the work of you all and the development of the MRDaD. We will be starting to bring these people, and all others we get a trace of, back into life.

The crowd was still silent, unbelieving, yes - even skeptical.

"I know what you're thinking. We've taken this road before. But we made one huge mistake back then, we took people from our immediate past. Humans already affected by the tampered genomes. We took a shortcut because it was the easiest way. We have to go back, far back to when nature had its course and not the technology. We have learned that, but now it's time to accept it. Teaspoon Hunter shows no effect of the late 2000 ailments or syndromes. He is fresh and functional. This couple - zooming in on the bride and groom - still has relatives up to this day. Few, very few. But they are still with us when so many other GMB's have died out. These two can be restored too and very well, thanks to the findings of her," - flash on the bride - "diary. A diary that even he held and left his traces on." The groom in focus. "In the same diary, handed down from generation to generation, thank God there's still some left with family-values." A short meaningful grin passed over the TRC's face. "We found a playing card that was touched by two males, him," flash on the tall African man in the back of the old photo. "And another which is not in this picture and whose name we can only guess was Ike McSwain, and that from the entries in the diary. There was also a blue ribbon that revealed two more individual's, not on the picture and not known to us yet, only the genome. The male was born 4 years ago, fertile and the woman one year ago. All of them fine."

The silence in the room was accentuated by the quickened breaths of the congregation. The adrenaline was at its peak as she presented her well-kept secret.

"All these people, and all we could find the smallest of trace of, will be reborn in their due time. Starting from Teaspoon Hunter, in what we call year zero. We have them born into families which carries their names - you all know the fighting that goes on for fresh clones. Only way to avoid it was assigning the clones to their family namesakes. The problem is him, he's not mentioned anywhere except as 'The Kid'. Since he married Louise McCloud we assigned him to a McCloud family too, far away from Louise's. The families are not from the same GMB and does not share any history. They will be born one year apart. And as you've already figured, this is not only about restoring the genome. This is also a unique opportunity to test a multitude of different hypotheses, like nature/nurture, fate of the individual and so on. We'll just sit back and watch if we can actually remake history. And all I can say is that I'm gonna enjoy it!" Smiling at the crowd before her, she raised her head, this was the dawning of a new hope for the humanity. And they had made it.

In silence the group rose and the applause that spread through the room drove tears to the TRC's eyes.

 


Chapter 1


 

Louise McCloud stared into the microscope, her heart pounding in her chest as she witnessed the rapid growth of the ancient bacteria they had been cultivating for so long. Without ever getting the expected results. The bacteria was growing all right, multiplying, but very slowly and always only up to a point. When it reached a certain population per cubic-cm it died out, only a few strains seemed to survive. And then they had to restart everything again, slowly trying to modulate the ambient, shutting down the CO2 to it's minimum, waiting and seeing. Increasing the CO2-level, and more waiting. There was so little room to play in, the atmosphere outside had its own limits, and they had to stay within them in order to get the bacteria to multiply outside. In the brave new world they had been carefully trying to let develop outside the cupolas. They had been elaborating the nutrient, the ambiance, the genes, everything. Until yesterday when Philip in his deep frustration went all the way to the outer limits of the cupola, opening the gateway, he had thrown the latest cultivation out onto the grass. The grass they weren't supposed to thread, ever. In the early morning hours Louise had snuck out to get the dying bacteria back, she somehow felt oddly responsible for it. It wasn't until she put the glass back under the microscope to see if any of her protégée had made it, she realized the bacteria had not only survived, it thrived!

"Oh brother," She exhaled jerkily as the tiny spirals under her eyes busted with energy, multiplying rapidly. Producing vitamin-K, natural vitamin-K, the elixir they had been trying to naturalize for 2 years. Ever since she was assigned to this Biotech-lab in the Mideast cupola, this was what she had been doing. "Oh brother!" She repeated, not able to divert her eyes from the beautiful sight.

"Lou?"

"Huh?" she replied without even glancing at the speaker, she knew full well who it was. Celinda was totally unaware about what a break-trough this was. Her voice was toneless, sounding disinterested.

"Oh brother," Lou said for the third time.

"Something wrong?"

"Look!"

Celinda threw her a tired glance when Lou finally jerked her eyes from the spectacles. "Just look!"

Lou had to sit down, her legs were shaking and her palms were sweaty. This was the best thing that had ever happened in this lab, and she was there to witness it.

"Oh brother!" Celinda echoed.

The EA called for Lou's attention, it had to buzz her three times before she lifted her eyes and let the message enter. When HuRec's official sign appeared, Lou closed her eyes to gather herself. If she had been let down today it wouldn't matter, she had been part of molding the future anyway. If she hadn't been approved for the task force today, she wouldn't mind. She had breathed fresh air and she had seen the result of their hard work. Whatever HuRec had decided, she was ready.

"Louise McCloud?"

She opened her eyes and an officer of the HuRec appeared on the screen in front of her. He was smiling and Lou felt her heart pound anew. When their eyes met over the distance, the man's smile widened. "Congratulations, you're a member of the 41st HuRec task force, headed out in two weeks. Destination, the old state of Nebraska, former US-territory."

Lou was dumbstruck.

"I'll give you a day to think it over, we've discussed the perils of the mission. If you accept, I expect you at the Physicians Center at HuRec tomorrow, 900 sharp."

Lou's lips moved but not a sound came out. And she knew that the man on the other side couldn't possibly catch her thoughts while they flew around in her brain, bouncing off each other. Mingling into a thousand pictures and fragments of what was to come. With an amused smirk, the Officer shut down the connection. Lou remain staring into the blank screen, not one straight thought in her still whirling mind.

Lou noticed Celinda handing her a tray of prepared sections for sequencing. Automatically she switched on the SRE, moves she had so well imprinted in her body that her mind didn't actually have to follow. Out to the free, feeling the wind, all those smells you've only read about. Rain! Dew in the morning. Sand beneath your feet and wind in your face. It's actually happening Lou, it's really happening. You're going out!

Celinda rushed over to the SRE and pushed Lou to the side, muttering at the strange daze her colleague seemed to have drifted into. It wasn't like Lou but she had no time to ponder on the behavior right now. She had history to write. And yes they did, that day, on the 11th of April 2313 their team found the answer to a whole lot of questions. One tiny mutation, brought on by life in the open had altered the course of the dying bacteria. It had sprung to life, producing the vitamin that would save a whole lot of human, and animal, lives.

"Oh Lou, we have one answer, we really do. I think we can finally start wandering freely out into the open, this was one big step on the road." Looking at the noppo, she had to moderate her breathing not to hyperventilate and faint. "Lou, it's ready for trial implants. We did it!"

Lou stood leaned up against the counter, a silly smile on her face, where her mind was, Celinda had no idea. "Lou?"

"Huh?"

"All it took was a T-T-A sequence in the third chromosome, that's all it took!"

"Oh yes," Lou answered, still looking totally out of it.

"Lou?" Celinda placed an elbow in the waist of her colleague, waking her up, returning her to this lab from wherever she was right now.

Lou turned to her. "Oh so what did you find out?"

Celinda wrinkled her nose at the question, what had she been explaining for the last five minutes? "I told you, the third chro..."

Suddenly Lou burst out; "They picked me, Celinda, they picked me! I'm going out with team 41, I'm going out there!" She felt like screaming, like exploding of triumph. Her colleague's mouth fell open.

"You're going too?"

"Yeahyeahyeah," Lou squealed and performed a dance on the floor. "You bet your ass I'm goin', it's bye-bye ol' stuffed lab and hello brave new world."

"Lou!" Celinda's arms enfolded her neck, squeezing the air out of Lou. "My brother's on that team. You're going with Jimmy and the Monk!"

Lou coughed violently and freed herself from the hold. She's heard a lot about Jimmy from Celinda, not all good things, to be truthful. But the Monk? Who the hell was the Monk?

"The Monk?" Lou asked the grinning colleague. "They're sending a monk? To do what, start a monastery? What the hell do we need a monk for?"

Celinda bent over double at Lou's disgusted face; "No, see - he's called the monk! Dates rarely, seems straight but nobody's exactly sure. Good-looking, they say, but God how reserved. Aren't you two kin? Kid you know, John 'The Kid' McCloud?"

"Never heard about him! Not one of ours, I assure you. 'The monk', jeez what kind of company are they sending out?"

"He's a vet, specialized in general veterinarian medicine and has a degree in ecomedicine too, a real WiLRa. He'll be coming to reinstate animal life. That's probably all the life he will ever procreate!" Hysterically giggling Celinda sank to her knees. "I mean one that doesn't do it with Doritha has to have something wrong with him, right? She practically begged him and the tale is he just walked away." Celinda had to wipe her tears at the thought. "That's the Monk all right," she panted.

Lou shook her head and extended an arm to help Celinda get to her feet. "Know what, bet you anything he's butt-ugly!"

Celinda laughed. "Let my pal Angeline have a date with your boyfriend? Up to that bet, girl?"

Lou rolled her eyes.

 

 

"Kid! Hey Kid!" Jimmy walked into the enormous stables at the end of the long pedway. Of course he was assigned to give this man the news. Since the vet always forgot to put on his EA, there were rarely other ways to communicate with this man than the old-fashioned audible verbalization technique. Irritated the hell outta Jimmy for the most part, in fact the whole man did. They always stood on opposite sides of any issue. Now he would be part of his, Jimmy's team. Of all the names that were likely to pop up, The Kid's did. "Of all the despicable softies left in this world they throw the worst one in my group, it just ain't fair!"

"Huh?"

Jimmy watched the man step outside the stall. He had a green cover-ups on, CaNuR in his hair. Been talking to his horses again, Jimmy gathered. "Why the hell don't you ever keep your EA on?" he growled in the Kid's direction.

"Somebody wanted something?" Kid asked calmly while rolling down his sleeves, not even looking at Jimmy.

The fact that the Kid showed nothing of the usual respect Jimmy was accustomed to, being a Protor with an excellent track record, made Jimmy mad. He was used to fear in people, that was when they usually needed him. But Kid wasn't showing any signs of the respect Jimmy felt he deserved, and worst thing was that Jimmy knew why too. He hated the fact that they seemed to cross paths so frequently. And now this! This young man looked at him like he was totally useless. "Put your goddam EA on right now!"

Kid looked at him calmly and turned to walk away.

"Okay then, actually it suits me just fine. Better that way."

"What are you rambling about, Jimmy? Been fighting again, ears humming, vision blurred? Or is this your usual delirious state?" Kid shot over his shoulder while he walked to the next stall.

So I've been in some fights, at least I'm not known as 'the monk', Jimmy thought. "HuRec's been trying to get your attention."

The transition from superior calm into nervous curiosity was instantaneous. The Kid turned back to him, waiting for him to spill the beans. Jimmy said nothing, they just stood there, glaring at each other.

"Why?" Kid finally asked, walking up to him.

Jimmy leered at him, finally he had gotten him under his thumb, and he loved squeezing just a little.

"James," Kid warned. "Spit it out or I'll forget my pledge of non violence and sweep the floor with you!"

"Just be at HuRec's Physician Center tomorrow at 11 central time and you'll know."

"You mean -?"

Jimmy nodded, "you and me both. Team 41, Nebraska."

"The same team?"

"Yup, life throws you strange deals don't it? I swear those psychs always screw up. One way or another."

"Crap, I was actually looking forward to this. Never thought I'd end up with you on my team."

"Your team, what'ya mean your team?"

"I just meant the team -."

"You ain't calling the shots here, Kid." Jimmy wheezed at the man in front of him, the man who always thought he had all the answers, "just don't ever forget that." He walked away, leaving the Kid standing there. Glad to have gotten the final word. He had done what had been asked and reported the news, he didn't like it but he had done it. Maybe Kid would give up out in the free and return to his beloved stables. Jimmy could only hope he would. Fighting him was tiresome.

 

 

Noah Dixon sank back in his chair and stared at the wall, repeating the message he had gotten over and over again. But it seemed so true, the woman informing him to report at HuRec's seemed authentic. But if somebody was pulling a prank on him, he'd inoculate them forever from their needs. He willed the message to the beginning again.

"Noah Dixon, this is HuRec calling. You are among the chosen. Please report at HuRec's Physicians Center at 13 00 tomorrow. And no, being a physician yourself will not free you from the tests. You are going through them, just like everybody else! And you will be a member of team 41, destination - former Nebraska territory. Welcome."

Noah closed his eyes and leaned back, he would not let himself believe this. Not until tomorrow and the final confirmation, the final medical examination. Then he would believe, but only then. Noah opened his fists that had been clenched around the armrests. His palms were sweaty of excitement. A trembling smile formed on his lips. However he tried, he couldn't stop the sensation of adventure beyond anything mankind had seen since the colonization of the New World beginning in the 1400eds. And he would be among them, the men and women re-inhabitating the planet they all destroyed in their ignorance so long ago. He had been given a new chance. And he for one would take it.

He went through the list of names once again.

Aloysius "Teaspoon" Hunter, anthropologist *2259 - TL
Oh, he would definitely call this one Teaspoon, what the hell kind of name was Aloysius?

Sam Cain, Technical reconstructionist/SolarEngineer *2275 - 2nd in command

Emma Shannon, bio-nutritionist/agronomist *2276
Well, hope she knows what she's getting into, it'll be hard keeping us all fit.

Rachel Dunne, behavioral scientist/CeTE *2279
What the hell is she doing there?

Noah Dixon, physician/chemist *2283
Oh yeah, that's me all right!

James B Hickok, protor/SecAD *2286
This poor bloke's parents had a real sick sense of humor!

John "Kid" McCloud, vet.med/EcoM-WiRLa *2287

Buck Cross, geotracker, mineralogist *2287

Ike McSwain, communicationsexpert/ComDE *2287

Louise "Lou" McCloud, microbiologist, ME *2288
Wonder what made them two marry at such an early age? Never heard about married people being allowed to enter a task force before? Maybe kin? Noah looked at the surnames and shrugged.

William F Cody, Cultural historian/logger *2289
This last one he knew was a hoax, he chuckled at the thought of which of his friends had gotten this name into the messagesource. It was popular to give historical names these days, but c'mon, this was ridiculous. Wild Bill Hickok and William Cody on his team? No way! He wondered which of his friends' were laughing their heads off at their ingenuity? But then, he'd have the last laugh, none of them had been chosen at this early stage. Reason enough for them to act out in jealousy. He'd forgive them their childish prank, they had all applied and only he was chosen. He'd miss them all, okay maybe not their occasional childish antics, but he'd miss them. He wondered what all these people were like?

Well, I'll see tomorrow, won't I? He smiled and the MCD faded at his command, he'd meet all these people tomorrow and he couldn't wait too see William F. Cody and James B. Hickok, if either of them actually existed? This all would be a blast!

 

 

I, Buck Cross, solemnly give my word that, during my work for Humanity's Reconstruction, under no circumstances will I perform acts to endanger the well-being of any living creature I am set out to protect and reallocate.
I will respect life in all forms and not intrude where intrusion will bear consequences I cannot control.
I will treat my colleagues as equals, always and under every circumstance. I will not favor or disregard anyone of my colleagues, or myself, during the operation, I will set aside my own personal convictions and needs to work primarily for the common good.
I pledge my allegiance to this endeavor. I do so willingly and with open mind and heart.

Midwestern Cupola (LI), HuRec Operational Section, April 12th, 2313,
Buck Cross, DNA-S

 

Buck threw a glance at his friend, wondering if this meant that they couldn't play backgammon together, without having to invite the whole team. Activating the EA, he called out to him. Ike smiled and responded; "What's up?" He did never talk if he was able to use the thought-beared EA-mode, communications expert as he was.

Buck chuckled. "Just wondering Ike, what's this all about? Not favor or disregard? Sounds like some rule that won't ever work when it comes to mankind. Does this mean that our private Backgammon tournament is over?"

"You're hoping coz' you're losin'! Don't worry, this is just a heap of mumbo jumbo, they're trying to dazzle us with grandiose words, as usual. Trust HuRec to do their best at joggling with your mind."

"I ain't losing, you're dreaming Ike, just been a slight drawback on my part."

"Three to six? Buck, ever since you looked to deep into those eyes you've been lost. Infatuation does strange things to you, Buck. I'd stay clear of it if I were you!"

"I went on two dates! A tad jealous are we?"

"You have two different socks on today, Buck."

Buck looked down on his feet and realized Ike was right. "I hate it when you do that!" Buck walked up to his friend and jerked the EA from behind his ear. "I hate when you do that, stay behind that EA, saying all those thing and denying it later. Man, you're the worst."

Ike laughed at his friend, Buck never could take it when he used the EA to taunt him mercilessly. "So how is Jennifer, ready to let you go?" Ike spoke in his low pleasant voice, chuckling at the thought of how easily Buck got irritated these days. Trust Buck to go fall in love and two weeks later get the word he was chosen. As usual Buck stood between two worlds, having a hard time choosing. This time it wasn't his Indian heritage that caused the ambivalence, but the girl.

"Readier than Em will ever be, I can assure you that!" Buck shot back, glaring at Ike for poking into his business. Ike just answered his outburst with a superior grin. Signing "yeah yeah" with his right hand, flapping it at his side. Ike, the communication expert had developed skills in many languages, including different sign languages. Due to the deafness of his mother, he too found it natural to sign instead of talking. Seemed more true than the words people spoke.

"Still comin', right?" Ike continued, watching Buck stare at the pledge on the wall. "Or are you gonna let yourself be domesticated?"

"I just don't like all these words, you know how I feel about it all. Words come cheap, but you know that already. I just sense that somewhere in those lines, there's trouble."

Ike turned to look at the text Buck projected on the screen. "There's always trouble, Buck."

"I can't stand people that study linguistics up close, they mark all my words!" Buck tried desperately to get the last word in the debate. Fearing that, as usual, Ike would.

"Go make your mark on Jennifer, I guess there'll be a lot of phoneme's expressed tonight." Ike waved his hand at Buck and placed the EA back behind his left ear. An amused smile on his face.

"I hate it when you talk shop!" Buck muttered in feigned disgust before turning to pay a last visit in a very long time to the one he loved expressing phoneme's along with. For a brief moment, he considered using the AMD, but needing the exercise, he ran instead. Hardly able to wait for the moment he would be able to run like this, out in the free.

 

 

Sam Cain put his long legs up on the desk in front of him. Chewing on a cherry MeGlu, he let his EA do his thinking. The names on the list appeared with a pic attacked. They were so very young most of them, he'd have a hard time keeping them in track out in the wilderness. He knew Teaspoon and wondered how his philosophical ramblings would be received by this bunch? He had been one of the many engaged in forming this group that would be sent out in one of the most demanding areas. All remains of civilizations long gone, roads, houses and infrastructures washed away by the violent climatological changes in the 2100, due to the greenhouse-effect and the incessant profit hunger. Fires, floods, hailstorms, heat waves and freezing winters and hurricanes of a magnitude that had never been seen before, efficiently destroyed all signs of humans ever inhabiting the area. The ozone layer finally cracking up had given way to the UV-C rays that finally burned all living entities with its fierceness. Almost all anyways. For the last fifty years, the permafrost on the poles had been stable, as had the atmosphere. Now it was time to get out again, and try to do it anew. Before the last human being closed the eyes in one of the well sheltered cupolas on this beautiful planet. Would they be able to do better this time?

Emma Shannon. He smiled, watching the picture of the lovely young woman. Her hair unruly. They had met on several occasions and Sam had a hard time keeping his thoughts on a tight leash. There was something about her that made his mind go in certain directions. A direction he couldn't go, due to his solemn oath to HuRec. But, truth be told, he was all but convinced he would be able to keep his word.

He looked again at the young ones in the group. Wondering what made them all leave loved ones behind to step into the harsh un-sheltered nature? What drove them?

Louise McCloud? A very young, merely 25 years old, beautiful woman. Known for her expertise in microbiology. Known to climb walls in her spare time, both proverbial and real walls. A fighter, known to be dependable under all circumstances. A true asset to the team.

Jimmy Hickok, the hothead. Sam knew why he had signed up, he loved adventure, he loved being the leader. He was the kind of man that frightened the living daylight out of many, namely those that wouldn't stay in line. Maybe because occasionally, he had stepped over the line himself? Jimmy would be irreplaceable, his experience, at least as much as you can gather in 27 years, and his personality would thrive in the wild. Facing harsh times and danger was what Jimmy lived for.

And Buck Cross, a native American descendant. Returning to his roots?

Ike McSwain, the communicator that rarely spoke with words. Sam had to smile, of course, when Ike spoke, what he said was of utmost importance. But his communication skills were not only restricted to the one between humans. He also read what nature communicated, and very well. Buck Cross and Ike McSwain would be their finely tuned sensors. Sensors that no technical equipment, even ever so refined, could compete with. Intuition had never been technically reproduced. Intuition was reserved to living entities.

Kid McCloud. The vet with the firm belief that equality was not an issue between humans only. He included the animals too. He claimed that the saying 'all man are created equal' was wrong. Stubbornly he stood by his beliefs. Regarding him it should say 'all life'. The likes of him were not accepted, regarded revolutionists, prone to heresy. He would never have been chosen if he wasn't the reserved man he was. He never stood on the barricades, he worked in silence. Would he fit into the group? Sam studied the man closer. Handsome the women called him. Handsome and polite, but no girlfriends, not any stable ones, at least. There was something about him that Sam couldn't lay his finger on. He seemed the good average man, but still. Maybe it was just his notion about the animal rights that disturbed Sam, and he had to wonder if it would cause problems in the group? If Kid would truly protect his teammates in a situation where he had to choose between lives. If it ever came to that, which would he choose? The seriousness in the man's eyes calmed Sam, he was dependable, he wouldn't cause troubles. That would not be the case, Sam was sure about that. Maybe he was too serious? Would his reflective nature cause slower decision making processes? Sam knew reflecting instead of reacting would be dangerous out in the unshielded world, but then reflecting might also be safer than reacting on occasions. It was so hard to tell. And he didn't know the young man well enough to make assumptions, nobody knew the man well enough. Only time would tell if he was cut out for it or not.

Sam recalled the picture of young William Cody. Here was a man that was everything but reserved! He was everywhere at once, soaking up information like a sponge. Hell, he even looked like his namesake, as did Jimmy, a fact that had Sam wonder at first. But then he realized his folks must have gotten a GeFa, and named him after his looks. That was the only explanation, surely the register would have picked up on the stunning resemblance and reported it. It happened a lot lately, newborns being GeFa'ed and finding historic look-a-likes. It seemed to be some kind of a trend. Or was it just renewed interest? Cody was a fun guy to be around, something always happened. He was the joker with a depth. Capable of human interaction as few, he'd be their lifeline in times when the morale got low. And that would probably happen a lot. When these youngsters got out there and realized all the hard work that lay before them, there would be squabbles, irritation and foul moods. Cody would be the remedy. Sam chuckled at the memory of all the pranks the lad had allegedly pulled, he knew he would continue. There was nothing stopping him.

Still chuckling he browsed through the files of Noah Dixon and Rachel Dunne, he knew next to nothing about them, except what he had found out during the interviews. Then he nodded to himself, they had made a good choice, the group would with all probabilities work out just fine. And by this time tomorrow, he would stand face to face with all of them. He looked specially forward to see Emma Shannon again. There I go, promptly showing special treatment! Sam, keep your head cool, you just can't fail at this!

The EA called for his attention and he sighed. Subconsciously he opened the channel but stayed silent. Of course the caller knew that, she had some kind of direct communication with him that no modern device came close to. The woman could read his mind, if he wanted it or not.

"Sam Cain, you're doing it again. We've been waiting on you for dinner. You promised to be here an hour ago, Pa's getting starved. Get your act together and scoot over here, pronto!"

"Ma!" Sam Cain groaned.

 

 

Rachel Dunne watched the clean-cut team she was about to join in a day. She watched the two women she was joining. One of them, Emma Shannon was about her age, red-haired like her. Louise was younger, her short dark hair framing a tiny heart shaped face. And the men, so young most of them. She smiled when she realized what that would mean. Glands acting up in the middle of nowhere, hormones stirring, needs unfulfilled. Unbridled youthfulness in an unknown ambiance. Was she really ready for this? She looked around her small chambers. Her short marriage was over, and it had left her with bad memories only. Bad memories altogether. Yes, she was ready for this, she was ready to change everything in her life right now just to get away from herself. Flicking through the research protocol, she relaxed. She was good at her job and she would see it through. Closely monitoring what the new milieu brought on to the CNS and the mesolimbic system, if any. Checking the norepinephrine and the epinephrine levels, the hormonal and neurotransmitter balance. Avoid being dragged into it was the safest course. Observing but not participating, keeping her distance. She looked at the stack of phenylalanine-patches, no, not tonight, tonight she wouldn't escape reality. Tonight she would savor the loneliness and remember it, to keep homesickness away if it ever assaulted her out there in the wild.

 

Lou tossed and turned in bed, a mixture of anticipation, nervousness and good old-fashioned fluttering in her stomach, keeping her awake at this ungodly hour. Watching the screen, she wondered what time it was exactly, the exact time was automatically shown on the white wall before her. Irritated she removed the EA, she kept forgetting to turn it off. With a sigh, she sank back into bed and stared up into the ceiling. It had been so hard to say good-bye to Sean. Partly because she felt guilty for not feeling the same he did. Oh, she liked being around him, talking to him and goofing around with him. She even liked the sex, but there was something missing. She didn't know what, but she sensed there should be more. When she was younger she had read all these great novels about love, the sensation that swept you off your feet. She had never been swept off her feet like that. But then again, it was just fiction. Some things science had yet to fully explain, and she yet to experience. Oh, she had been infatuated a number of times, but never felt enough trust in anybody to the extent that she lost her wits and walked around with that silly smile on her face. That silly smile she noticed every time Nathaniel called on Celinda. Or maybe she just wasn't capable of those kinds of feelings? Maybe something was wrong with her? Sean was sweat and handsome, so why wouldn't she tie the knot? Why did she always have that uncanny feeling that there was somebody else out there, somebody made just for her? Maybe love was just what she had with Sean, camaraderie with a twist? Maybe that was all there was to it and she kept fooling herself that there was something grander? Something she would never find?

"Louise McCloud! You're going out on the adventure of your life tomorrow and you're lying here contemplating love's mysteries? What's wrong with you?" She scolded herself, sometimes she was unbelievably shallow. "I guarantee you - you won't find him in the midst of the wilderness, you fool!"