Part Three - 27 - Kala

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"Log entry 206, Kala Acker speaking. I was forced to land on Union Expanse territory to escape Europan pursuers. It worked. I started a squirmish above the atmosphere between the two nations and I managed to slip through. They will look for me, but I doubt they can find me. This side of the planet is covered by jungle. The engineered blob did its job too well here. Life is aggressive and wild, but not a real threat to me. Endless fields of plants and trees. The energy in this place is amazing, so pure and strong. I think I could stay here forever. I won't lie, the idea crossed my mind. I could find my own uninhabited planet, give up everything and disappear forever in the wild somewhere. No one would ever find me again, and the universe would go back to normal, the way it used to be before the Capricieuse found me on R-607. If only things were so simple."

The cargo hold door opened and Kala took her first steps on the nameless planet. The storm had finally passed. A sea of tall grass welcomed her, dancing in the wind. She took a deep breath of fresh air. It was wonderful. She felt like it was the first time she could finally breathe in the past two years. Everything was not back to normal, and impending doom was still looming over them, but at least, against all odds, she was back with her crew. She was still shy around them, not sure how to act, but it would come; she knew it.

Kala dropped a knee, then let her entire body slide to the ground. She stretched and rolled in the grass. She could feel every blade prickle at her back and limbs through her light gray outfit.

The captain laughed, "Well, I'm glad to see you're still the same weird kid as before."

Moira and Memphis came to lay beside her in the grass, giggling like spoiled children. How she missed them.

"We're all weird on this ship," said Min-Hee, appearing from behind him. Her purple hair was flying around her small face. She extended a hand to touch the grass as she kept walking. "We need to find fresh water on this planet. Our reserve is getting low. Also finding some fresh food would be nice. I'm tired of cooking with frozen and dried stocks. This planet works fine with human chemistry; we can certainly eat most of its fauna and flora."

Allan nodded slowly at each of her suggestions, "Very well. But we also have to make sure the fauna doesn't eat us first."

"And the flora," added Memphis, lifting a hand from here he was still lying in the grass. "Remember that time last year when Daddy got swallowed by a huge plant during a job?"

Lucas silently got out of the ship at that moment and grunted. Kala burst out laughing. They all suddenly looked at her, surprised. She was too. She had been a little gloomy since their reunion, slowly learning to be among friends again.

"You need to tell me more about that," she said.

Memphis nuzzled her hair, "Will do. We have so many stories to tell you."

She felt a pang of sadness, thinking about all the adventures she missed with them. But then, she had stories of her own. Although hers were not the fun kind.

Hopper got out of the ship. His blue overall was rolled up at the hips. His jet black hair, cut short and uneven, shining under the sunlight. His red eyes found her. She held his gaze for a few seconds, but he was the first one to break it. He walked away, passing by the three of them still lying in the tall grass. Two years ago, he would have joined their silly behaviors. But now, he was still mad, and her presence put him on his guard and made everything awkward.

"Come on, you lazy asses. Let's go have a look around," said the captain.

They walked up to a hill close by, to get a better view of the terrain. When the Capricieuse had landed a few hours ago, the storm had still been raging, and the landscape had been covered in mist and heavy rain. Now the horizon was still gray, but the sunlight was crossing the clouds just above them.

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