Prologue

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Year: 50 SC / ~2449 CE

Kaishi sat in the honorary guests' section next to Meizhen, her seventeen-years-old daughter as the ceremony was about to begin. She felt out of place sitting amidst former ARC captains and some of the most prominent politicians and scientists of current times. The hall was abuzz with countless excited ­talks between the several hundred attendees. A hush came down when the president of the nation walked out to the podium. She looked distinguished in the ceremonial dark blue officer uniform. Despite her age, she stood tall and straight.

"Ladies and gentlemen, citizens. I'm thrilled to begin the Semi-Centennial celebrations here in the newly opened Journey Museum. We've come a long way and bested the odds to be standing here today. Fifty years ago we celebrated the completion of this mighty station we call Abalone or simply: Home. Yet it is so much more than that. A platform for humanity! Built on top of the very ships that carried us here. We remember and mourn the loss of our true home, Earth, and all those who sacrificed their lives for us to be here. We commemorate the too numerous deaths in the destruction of the Victoria ARC. We're solaced by the small miracle that took place with that tragedy. I'm delighted that one of our honorary guests today is Kaishi Jantis, who as a baby girl was the sole survivor. She's here today with her daughter, epitomizing our quest to carry humanity into the future..."

With that, Meizhen squeezed her mother's hand and beamed at her, thrilled about them being mentioned in front of the entire nation. Kaishi, on the other hand, would have much preferred to stay at home. But how could she have refused a personal invitation from the president herself? A president who also happened to be the captain of the ship that rescued her. Kaishi didn't know what to do with herself when the clapping ensued so she clutched back and tried to smile while ignoring the camera drones hovering from above pointing their acute sensors at her.

"... Today, today we also carry our eyes to the future as the construction of a new station is already in full swing. Once completed, it will house millions as we continue to grow. Regardless of whether Planet C, or 'Grandpa' as it's more fondly called, ever proves habitable..."

The rest of the speech passed Kaishi by as she allowed her thoughts to carry her. After the speech, she was ushered along with the president to the great hall. To her shock, the newest addition to the museum was unveiled. It was the drone converted to a life-pod that carried her to safety as a baby. Dazed, Kaishi found herself standing next to the tall woman for the media to digitally enshrine the moment. They stood by the silvery vehicle, sitting there like the carcass of a large beast. It made her sick to her stomach. If only they knew...

Meizhen must have noticed her discomfort and excused herself in between the reporters and guests trying to question her. Her daughter then quickly whisked her from the crowd. "Some people begrudged me, you know," Kaishi said when they were away to a quiet section of the museum, walking arm in arm. "What?" her daughter asked. "Oh, most were happy or even in awe of my so-called miracle. But some begrudged the fact that I was the only survivor. Especially the few who had friends or distant family on the Victoria."
"That's terrible, mother," Meizhen said with a scowl distorting her simple face. "Just human nature, my love."

The museum was on the top level of the Abalone station. Its circular building standing on the very edge of the station. To their right stood the concave side-wall. It was transparent, allowing them to look outside onto the great blanket of space surrounding them. The big planet they orbited was on the other side of the station. On this side, they could see the skeleton of what was to be the greatest structure ever built by mankind. Large platforms carrying arrays of projectors turned the patch of the dark void into a bright spot. They illuminated the frame of the second station with countless vehicles, machines, and drones whizzing around the massive construct.

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