25: Tears (part 6)

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Hampstead Heath: 27 June 2128

Ellie was one of the first to exit from the ship. Several of the NewGen personally known by Rick had been asked if they wanted to return as guides on the first ship. Long and Jenny had declined, but she and Phil, along with Jade and Jasmine, eagerly accepted so it was decided to set down in London.

At the bottom of the step she placed her foot onto the ground as if expecting it to swallow her whole. It didn't.

She knelt down placing her hands and then her forehead against the cool grass. She felt heavy again. Too heavy. After spending a month acclimatising to the Moon's gravity, she now had to reverse the process.

Not only that, but the change was making her feel sick. She swallowed, trying to overcome the urge to retch. Bloody morning sickness – but no one had yet figured it out, and she damned well wasn't going to tell them until she had to.

Phil sat down beside her and placed a hand on her shoulder. She looked into his eyes.

"We're really back," she said.

"Yes," he said, not knowing what else to say.

"Rick's not here," she said.

"Did you expect him to be?"

"No. After the dreams stopped, I gave up hoping. Oh, Phil..."

He held her close.

"It's changed a bit," she said a while later.

"Where exactly are we?"

"Hampstead Heath. Don't you recognise it?"

Phil shook his head.

"Over there, in those trees, that was where Long built his shack. Where he found the machine."

"Um, Ellie. Over there, those bushes. Look."

Ellie gasped. Lying on its side, the machine was entangled in bindweed and brambles. It looked like had been there for years.

A man in a robe was walking towards them. He was vaguely familiar.

"Alin Yan," Ellie gasped. "Is it really you?"

"Indeed, though not quite as much of me as there once was. It wasn't exactly my idea to go on a diet, you know" he chuckled, patting a stomach that, while it had shrunk several belt notches since the last time they had met, was still quite rounded.

"Phil, this is Alin, he was part of the Tree, probably the only friendly one," Ellie explained, to which Yan waved a hand dismissively. "Are the others okay? Mila, Krista and, oh, I can't remember their names any more."

Alin Yan's face dropped. "No, none. I have the misfortune of being, as far as I can tell, the only one from the Tree to survive."

"Not even Mila?"

Yan shook his head and looked away. "I saw her go. It wasn't... good. No, it... it definitely wasn't good."

"How did Rick...?"

"He saved us but it was too much for him. Sorry, there was nothing... He was already gone."

Feeling Ellie tremble, Phil hugged her close. "But you put the planet back together again. That was you, wasn't it?" he said.

"Me? No. That was scary and, I assure you, it had nothing to do with me. I must admit I was hiding while all that was going on. At least the rain finally stopped."

"How did you know we were coming?" Ellie asked.

Yan tipped his head to one side, and tapped his temple with a finger. "A compulsion," he said, with a puzzled look on his face. "No idea what it was or where it came from. I just felt I had to get here at this time. Just after the Earth fixed itself, it appeared in my head like a memory I'd always had."

"Just you?" Phil said.

"Yes, no one else felt it."

"There are others then?" Ellie said as Jade and Jasmine joined them.

"Ah yes. I am extremely glad to report that I'm not the only one here. There is a small community a few miles north. Mostly farmers, they tolerate me, not that I am much more than a hindrance to them, I'm sure. But that AI system on your world certainly made a good job of growing things. Several acres of land from 'four' are here, along with bits of semi-intelligent farm machinery. I've managed to get a couple working, you know, the solar powered ones. Though they do seem to be a bit lost without having a higher intelligence to report back to. They mostly have to be coaxed into doing things but, do things, they eventually, um... do," he chuckled.

"Can you still do all that, um, magic stuff?" Ellie asked.

Yan sighed. "A little is returning. A few days ago I even managed to teleport across a room. But it is hard. Many here regret the loss of most of their abilities, but we will manage. We have to."

Then he looked at Ellie's torso and said, "How's the baby?"

A look of shock passed across Ellie's face, the others looked confused.

"How do–?" Ellie gasped.

"Ah, that information came with the compulsion, as well," Yan said, his look of puzzlement intensifying. "I see it is news to the others," he chuckled.

"Ellie?" Phil said.

"Rick's," she whispered. "Somehow, we made a baby. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I still hardly believe it myself."

Then she burst into tears and wrapped her arms around Phil's shoulders.

Alin Yan looked into Phil's shocked eyes and winked.

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