A Long Way From Home ~ Book One

Chapter Sixteen

Martin couldn't believe what he was seeing. The light he had seen was crashing into 'Quest', and then he was blinded for a while before he could see all the debris of the ship floating around. He fell out of the chair he was sitting in, down on the floor of the Flybridge, screaming "NOOOOOO!".

Xion:

I was gently shaking Martin to wake him up. Once again he was having the nightmare about what happened a few days earlier.

"Nooooo!" his scream was breaking my heart as I gently shook him out of his sleep.

"There, there, Martin, it's alright – it's just a dream," I said, trying to calm him down. He was sweating and breathing heavily as he sat up and allowed himself to fall into my open arms.

"I'm so scared for them Pappa, where do you think they are?" he asked.

"I don't know. Maybe they are alright, maybe nothing happened to them at all," I said, not sure if it was worth hoping for. But in any case, they should be better off than we were, 'Quest' was a much larger vessel than 'The Wanderer', perhaps their countermeasures had been capable of stopping whatever it was that happened to us. My friend GX, who used to be the Captain of 'Quest', had always been explaining to me how they had improved this or that. Anyway, 'Quest' was certainly capable of doing time traveling, so they should be able to recover from whenever they ended up. No such luck for us, though. The Wanderer was not equipped to do Time Travel, and I was just happy that it had survived the stress of moving through time as well as it did.

It was clearly not an accident that had happened. Something had definitely been aimed directly at both 'Quest' and 'The Wanderer', and the computer records showed that we were hit simultaneously. But we had no way of knowing just how much had affected the 'Quest' since the effect on us was so dramatic.

Over the last few days since the incident, I had been sitting down and carefully looking through the records of the ship's computer to try figuring out what really had happened. The records revealed that the ship had put all its power into protecting the Flybridge where we were staying, and therefore couldn't do anything to stop whatever had happened; it didn't even try, to avoid risking Martin's and my life. And I had to admit that I was happy that the computer had made that its priority.

But how far had we been pushed out of our own time? And in which direction? I wasn't sure yet. When everything settled, all we could see was the empty space around us, we had been moved away from both the Earth and the Sun. But it didn't take the sensors a long time to figure out where we were in relation to those, and according to the ship's navigation system, we were still in the neighborhood, in galactic terms, of course.

So I had instructed the ship to head back to the Earth and assume orbit, and at the same time try to use the information it could gather about the surrounding stars to calculate what time it was. It wasn't straightforward or the least bit simple, since 'Wanderer' never was meant to do time traveling. Recalibrating the star charts would take some effort and ironically, time. Until the star charts were fully calibrated, the ship refused to travel faster than.4 C, so getting back to the Earth would take a few days.

It was now three days later, and we were about halfway there. Martin, who had stopped shaking, was sitting on his bed, leaning against me, with his arm wrapped around behind me, resting his head on my shoulder and staring emptily out into the room.

"Did the computer find out when we ended up yet?" he finally asked.

"No, not yet," I told him, "It will probably take a little while longer, but I think it should be done about the time we get to the Earth."

"I miss Tom, Max, and Dean," Martin sighed, "I always knew they were there, you know, I could sense them in my mind. Even when they were on the 'Quest' and we were back home on 'The Wanderer', I could feel them somehow. I didn't try to mind speak with them then, but I think I could have done it, at least with Tom."

I just reached my arm around him. I was missing the boys too, more than I ever had thought I could miss anyone. The pain I was feeling was actually physical. But I couldn't just lay down and mourn them. I had Martin to consider too. If he hadn't been with me, I don't know how I would have coped. Having him there, gave me someone to be strong for, and this was one time where I needed to find some extra strength within me.

"It's not the same now, you know," Martin continued, tears appearing in his eyes, "I can't sleep properly now, I'm so used to having them there."

"I know," I told him while I gave him a tissue to wipe his tears with, "I miss them too, and I have hardly slept at all since it happened."

"They aren't in my dreams anymore," Martin sniffed, "they were always in my dreams since we met – Tom, even before we met – but now there's no one there!"

I hugged Martin closer. I hadn't thought of that. Martin and the boys had become so close for the relatively brief time they had known each other, and I knew it was because of their telepathic connection. It was something I couldn't be part of, something that the boys had that I didn't. There were technical devices that could allow me to communicate without speech, but it wasn't the same.

As I sat there with Martin, my mind wandered back to my days in the academy...

"Hi, you must be Xion? I'm your roommate!"

I looked up from the brand new engine manual I was studying and noticed that the most unusual creature I had ever known of had entered the room. I had of course seen people from his race in pictures or from a distance before, but this was really my first close up meeting with a non-humanoid of any species. He seemed to glide into the middle of the room, and I could see how his five eyes were studying every angle of the room simultaneously. One of his tentacles reached out towards me and the somewhat hesitant voice said:

"Hi, I'm GX, happy to meet you!"

I tentatively grabbed the end of the tentacle and shook it carefully. He wasn't really talking out loud; I learned later that his race didn't have any vocal abilities, but his words were actually coming out of a small box which was hanging below his head, the box housed the universal translator of that time.

"Nice to meet you too," I finally answered him, getting over the surprise. I hadn't considered the possibility of a non-humanoid roommate, so seeing him standing there looking somewhat like a snowman with tentacles was a little bit of a shock at first.

"I've taken the bed on this side," I told him, "I hope you don't mind."

"No, no, that is quite alright," GX replied, "I have no need for a bed, as my kind does not have a need for sleep."

"You don't sleep?" I was surprised; I didn't know there were any races that didn't sleep. I mean, even the Grisnolk fish sleep, even if they do look a bit strange, having no eyelids and continuing to swim, they do somehow sleep. Their metabolic functions slow down considerably and their responses to normal stimuli are almost nil, but they can somehow still sense danger, no one knows just how they accomplish this, but they are not easy targets, no matter how beautiful they may look. They can tear an enemy to pieces before an unwary attacker knows what hit it.

"What's a Grisnolk fish?" GX asked.

"It's a big predator fish in the oceans on my pl..." I started to explain before I realized what he had asked, and cut myself off, "What?" I was shocked, "how did you...? Are you... Are you reading my mind?" I was starting to get angry. I certainly didn't want a roommate around that could dig into and read my mind. I mean, you have to have some privacy, don't you?

A number of GX's tentacles was raised and held up against me. "I am very sorry," the voice from the box said, "but you were transmitting those thoughts quite strongly, telepathically."

"What?" I was getting really confused. I had never heard of anyone on my planet using any form of telepathic communications. He was claiming that I was sending my thoughts to him?

I knew that there were species on other worlds that used telepathy as their primary means of communication, and I guessed that GX's species was one of those. According to history, it had caused a big debate on my world when we first started making contact with other species. Could beings that could communicate without sound be trusted? The general suspicion had always been that they were able to read our minds, and that would be a major breach of our privacy, as we saw it.

But that had been settled, and we were soon educated that those species that had telepathic communication weren't mind readers – the thoughts had to be sent. However, I was beginning to question this truth now. Could GX really read my mind?

"I cannot dig into your mind," GX started explaining, again answering my questions before I had voiced them. "You are actually sending me the thoughts, quite strongly, I should point out. But you don't seem to have the ability to receive anything telepathically; you can only send. I tried responding to you when I 'heard' you sending, the way I normally would, but you did not seem to notice."

"No," I said, "I didn't notice anything of that sort."

"You're not really sending all that much either, but it seems that some of your thoughts are getting out, and when you send, you send quite strongly, unless you consciously and deliberately try not to think of very much."

"Hmm," I was a bit worried. I had no idea which thoughts I was sending, and which I wasn't. This was not good. I was sure I would meet a lot more telepaths here at the Academy, and sending arbitrary thoughts like that could cause a lot of trouble.

I was not happy at all.

GX seemed to sense my disturbance. He gently put one of his tentacles on my shoulder, which felt surprisingly good to me, and then he said, through the translator, "I would not worry. This just means that you have a talent that few of your kind have. I'm quite sure that you can easily train yourself to control it, and I am almost certain that you can learn to receive thoughts as well. Then we can communicate in a manner which is more natural for me."

I wasn't so sure, but I was willing to give it a try.

GX brought in a few possessions to the room, and soon we both were settling in. I discovered that he was actually quite interesting to talk to. It was nice learning about the planet he came from, even though it sounded very scary. On my planet, we had some dangerous animals and predators, but his planet sounded outright scary. That was evident in the way he looked, as well. Evolution had given his species a full 360° stereoscopic vision, and as he already had told me, they didn't sleep. Sleeping was a sure way of becoming food in the hostile environment he came from.

Still, they had somehow managed to develop a culture, and to reach out into space to join the Council. It was amazing; I had always been fascinated by how the different cultures had developed. That was a big part of the reason for me to choose a career within the fleet of The Council For Galactic Civilizations. I welcomed the opportunity to meet and study the different civilizations that took part in this federation.

It was actually quite unusual for someone from my world to take this step. There had only been a couple of cadets before me, and neither of them had any long career in the fleet. It all got too technical for them. My people were not really that fond of technology, we would probably never have reached the sky if it weren't for the other inhabited planet in our system. They were much more forward in such things, and had made contact with us many generations ago. They were also the ones who discovered that there was life elsewhere, and soon got invited to join The Council. That brought us into it as well, since we had fairly close contact with our neighbors, and thus found out about it. I'm just glad that the neighbor the rest of the people (as we tend to call them) are a peaceful race, and that they were willing to share as much of their technology as we wanted.

We are also a peaceful people, and we tend to like things going a bit slower than most. I don't know if that has to do with our lifespan. We age at a much slower rate than any other humanoid species known. Because of this, the Council Fleet had been quite eager to get people from our race to join – it was good economics to train people who would stay a long time. But the few attempts that had already been made, had been futile. It was just going too fast for the guys. But I was still willing to give it a try.

So here I was – my second day at the Academy, and my first day with my new roommate, and then it turns out that he can read parts of my thoughts.

I was feeling a bit disgruntled. Maybe this hadn't been such a good idea after all. Maybe I should just head back home.

I didn't know anyone at the academy yet, so there was no one I could go to, to talk about these things. But it didn't take long before I started to feel that I could trust in GX. He soon became a confidant to me, one to whom I entrusted my secrets. I wasn't so worried any longer that he could read some of my thoughts, but it really troubled me that others probably could as well, and that I had no way of knowing when I was sending these thoughts.

After a couple of weeks, this was really starting to get me down. Other cadets who I knew were telepathic would sometimes look at me strangely, and I was beginning to feel out of place. Every night in our room, I would pour myself at GX, and he would try his best to comfort me and make me happier. He was feeling a little out of place himself, being a Grexatilly in a class with almost no other non-humanoids.

Even I got to hear that. Other cadets would sometimes ask me how it was to have a squid for a roommate, or how I could move around with all those tentacles in there.

I would always shrug at them, not dignifying their comments with an answer. But one time one of those comments fell within the hearing range of one of the teaching staff. He went ballistic on the poor idiot who had said it, and made it perfectly clear that the Council Fleet was all about tolerating different species and learning how we all could work together for the common good of the Galaxy. If he ever heard it reported that anyone was mocking people because of their appearance or background again, he would make very sure that the people behind it would be permanently dismissed from the fleet.

I don't think I've ever seen such a white face as on that young man that day. The teacher's reaction filled me with pride though. Pride for being associated with such an organization. When I later related the story to GX, I could tell that he too was happy about it.

One night, a few weeks after the incident with the bully, GX came rushing into our room faster than I'd ever seen him move outside of physical training before.

"I have an idea," he said through his universal translator box. "I have an idea to help you with your thought leaks." That's what we had started to call it, thought leaks.

"What is it?" I asked curiously. I would be very pleased if we could find a solution to the problem.

"This," GX said and turned around, showing off something he was holding in the tentacles that had been hidden from my view by his body.

It was a box like the one he was wearing around his neck.

"It's a universal translator. We can tune it to your thought leaks, and then you will be able to hear what leaks from you, and that should help you learn to control it. I have borrowed it from my planet's delegation to the Council – they have a few extra for use by guests from our world, and after explaining the situation, I was allowed to borrow this for some time. If it works, and you need to keep having one, we need to find another permanent solution."

I took the box he was handing me and sat down thoughtfully. In truth, I was very skeptical of technology like this. I didn't like the idea of some computer thingy interfering with my thoughts, even if it was just to read what I was leaking.

"But," I started, "wouldn't that just mean that anyone around, not only the telepathic, can hear what I'm thinking?"

"There is a volume knob on it, silly," GX said, "You can keep it very low, just loud enough so you can hear it yourself. But I think it's important that you keep it on you at all times, so you can learn which thoughts you are leaking, and which you aren't. This should help you control it."

I decided it was worth a try, so GX and I spent the rest of the evening tuning the box to my thought leaks. Pretty soon it was working well. It was very weird, listening to the box repeating what I was thinking. I was a bit disappointed at first, because I couldn't really tell why some of my thoughts were repeated by the box, and some were not, I didn't feel I was doing anything different. GX, however, was confident that with enough training, I would soon figure it out and be able to control it.

Over the next few days, I carried the box with me wherever I was. I just had the volume turned to the minimal level where I noticed that it said something, so that I could know that a thought had been repeated. A few of my fellow cadets were a bit curious as to why I carried the box, but I managed to wave off their questions, saying it was an experiment GX and I was working on. That usually stopped them from asking, no one wanting to appear non-tolerant to GX and his culture after what happened the last time.

GX had been correct though, after just a few days I was able to predict which thoughts would leak and which wouldn't. I was still not able to control it, but GX was sure that since I could predict it, it meant that my mind was noticing the difference, and it wouldn't be long before I would be able to control it.

Every morning, before leaving for breakfast, GX and I would sit and train with it. GX would have me try different exercises that he thought might help. He also tried to send me thoughts, but I was never successful in receiving anything, and we kept getting surer that my 'ability' was a one-way thing.

But one morning disaster happened. As usual, we had been exercising with the equipment before breakfast, and I was actually getting the hang of controlling my thoughts. I was almost able to decide that a thought should be broadcast, and could stop a thought very soon when I noticed that I was sending it. We were both quite excited after our exercise session; this was the biggest progress we had seen until now.

I went into the cafeteria as normal for breakfast, got my tray of food, and found an available spot at one of the tables.

What I didn't know was that the third-year cadets, which we had not yet met as they had been out on assignment with different ships for the first months of this year, had now returned for some more classroom education and tests before their final training assignments.

So as I sat there eating, a group of people I had never met before came over and took the rest of the available spots at the table I was sitting at. I looked up from my food as I noticed someone sits down across the table from me. It was a guy I'd never seen before. But I was stunned. I was looking at a really handsome guy. Now, I wouldn't normally recognize this, my preference was usually for the opposite sex, but once in a while, I would catch myself staring at a beautiful male.

"Wow – you're looking good!" I heard my box say before I had even finished the thought.

In the silence that fell over everyone at the table, I realized that I had forgotten to turn down the volume in the excitement of the progress this morning, and my surprise at seeing this guy sitting there had caught me off guard and I wasn't using the new techniques I had started to learn to stop this from happening.

I could see the jaws of the guy had dropped, then I saw anger filling his face. The next thing I knew was his fist hitting my nose, causing me to fall back in my chair, ending up on the floor.

As I regained my senses, I could see that the hitter was being escorted away by his friends. They obviously didn't want him to get into more trouble by getting into a full fight in the cafeteria that would be a sure way of getting a bad spot on the Fleet record, which every one of them tried to keep as neat as possible, hoping for the best positions when they were finished.

I could see the hateful glances they all were sending me, and my heart dropped. What would this lead to? I didn't really understand it either. Why had he reacted like that? Why would a compliment from me cause him to act like this?

Someone came over to me and helped me up. They asked me if I needed someone to look at my nose, but it didn't seem so bad, so I just thanked them and got on my feet to leave the area as soon as I could.

I was crying when I got into my room again. It was one thing that telepaths could hear some of my thoughts; I had found that these people usually were very nice and understanding about the problem, but that this infernal machine had broadcast this thought so everyone around me could hear – I was furious.

GX came into the room a minute later to look for me, he had not been present, but had heard that I had been knocked out and was coming to look after me.

I ripped the box off and tried to throw it at him, partly blaming him for the incident. But he easily caught it with one of his many tentacles, and put it down at the table unharmed.

"I will never wear that again," I shouted to him, tears flowing down my cheeks.

"I'm sorry," GX said, "what happened?"

I relayed the events from the cafeteria to him, and he put a comforting tentacle on my shoulder.

"I didn't know you preferred men," he said with a shrug.

"I don't really," I said, "but some of them are nice, anyway."

"Hmm. I also thought it was generally accepted to like people of the same gender in the humanoid worlds of the Council?" GX was a bit confused.

"Yes, so did I. It must have surprised him, I don't know – but I certainly did not want him or any of the others around me to know that I was thinking that. That could have been bad no matter what the gender of the other person was."

"Hmm, I can understand that," GX said, "I'm sorry that I forgot to remind you to turn down the volume, but I was very excited that you were doing so well earlier. Don't quit now, you'll soon get the hang of it."

"I don't know," I said, "maybe later, but I'd rather not. It just feels so wrong letting a machine read my thoughts."

GX made a sound that I had learned to recognize as a sigh. I lay back on my bed looking up at the roof, thinking about things.

The more I thought about it, the surer I was that I would never use such a machine again. It was just too much bother. Much better to say what I needed to say. I could accept that others around me were using translators and machinery to communicate, but I would not let any machine ever read my mind again.

"Pappa, can you hear me?" Martin was shaking me and almost shouting, and all of a sudden I was back to the present time, whenever that was, and out of my memories.

"Yes... yes, I'm sorry, Son, I was just thinking..." I started, still, a bit startled, "what is it, Martin?"

"I'm hungry, can we get some food?" he asked. No surprise there, really, I had, over the time I'd known Martin and the other boys, learned a bit of how much a growing human boy can eat.

Martin:

Somehow I always felt better after some food, it made me able to think about other things than the loss of my new brothers; it allowed for hope to rise in my mind. Xion had explained how the 'Quest' was much larger and better equipped than we were, so they would probably be all right. At least that's what he said; I could tell that he wasn't sure he could believe it himself, even if he tried to calm me down.

But how could we get back so we could meet them? That was the big question. I knew already from Xion's explanations to me before the incident that our ship could not travel in time, but here we were, clearly in a different time than our own. Yes, I meant our own time. That was how I thought about it now. I knew that I originally had come from a different time, but after what Xion had told me, I knew that there was nothing back there for me now. I could never go back, since I couldn't meet Mamma, my Mom, again. I missed her, but I was glad that Xion had found me and was taking so good care of me.

The days went slowly. After eating, I just sat there, not knowing what to do. It had been so nice having brothers, having friends, but now there was only me and Xion again. The view outside the ship was the same all along, just darkness and some distant stars. There weren't even movies or magazines on board.

The next time we sat down to eat, I started complaining to Xion that I was getting bored.

He looked strangely at me. "Feeling better, then?" he finally asked.

"You know," I said, "it's like, I miss the guys, when they were here, we could always do something together, but now, it's just you and me left. And we're kind of lost out here in deep space – there's nothing to look at even. Before I could always see the Earth or the Moon – those were cool to watch from above, but now we're so far away."

"I know," Xion said, "In a couple of days we'll be getting closer to the Earth, hopefully, things will become a bit more interesting again. I'm also looking forward to that. But you know what? I usually really enjoy these long silent times. It gives me time to think, to wonder and to contemplate everything I have experienced in the more busy times."

"Yeah, but you're old," I protested, "I'm not used to this. There are not even any movies to watch here."

Xion sighed. Then he obviously thought of something, and smiled at me.

"Maybe you can start studying with the AI on this ship then," he said, "maybe learn something about how it's operated."

That caught my interest. I had been wanting to learn about that since I came on board, but with all the other stuff that happened, and Xion seeming a bit reluctant to do anything with the technology, I hadn't gotten around to start bugging him about it yet.

"Yes, that would be cool," I said, "where can I do that?"

"You can use any of the terminals on the Bridge," Xion said, "maybe later we'll install a terminal in your cabin as well, so you can study in peace."

"Cool," I smiled, "I'd like that. Can we have terminals in the other boys' rooms as well?"

"Yes, I think that is a good idea. You all need to start learning things, I suppose, it will have to be the school for you." Xion smiled to me before continuing, "and I'm sure we'll find a way back to them. I'm glad you're thinking positive about that and want to prepare for it."

"Of course," I said and got out of my chair to walk over to him, "we'll find them," I whispered to Xion as I hugged him close.

After we had cleaned up the galley, Xion took me to the Bridge and sat down at one of the terminals. He punched in a few commands, stood back up and pointed at me to take the seat.

I looked at the screen. It was a bit disappointing, really. It just looked like a command prompt. Like the ancient computer history DOS screens, I had seen pictures of at school.

"What do I do?" I asked Xion.

Xion pointed down to the input panel – it was really a screen I could touch on, but now it had the drawings of a standard Earth computer keyboard on it. I shrugged my shoulders, "Of course – I know how to use a keyboard, but what do I write? Which commands can I use?"

"Just type what you want; the system will guide you," Xion explained. "Remember, it's just an interface to the ship's AI, it can pull up pretty much what you want it to. Later I will get it to create a learning schedule for you and the others, maybe get some help from 'Quest' if, I mean when we meet them again. They have much more experience in such things..." Xion's voice kind of died out.

I could see that his own slip of the tongue had startled him. I had felt it myself. I tried to comfort him a bit by putting my hand on his, but I didn't really know what to say. But I think he got the message anyway – he looked down at me and said, almost whispering, "Thank you, Martin."

I drew my breath, gave his hand one last squeeze before I put my hands on the keyboard.

'Hi,' I wrote, not knowing what else to write.

'Hi, Martin' came immediately back at me.

"Did you get it working?" Xion asked from his own station where he was about to sit down to start his own work.

"I think so," I said, "it's answering me, at least."

'Where are we?' I asked the computer.

'We are on our way to the planet Earth. We will be entering the orbit of the planet in approximately 54 hours.'

At least this was kind of like chatting on IM like I used to do when I lived on the Earth.

That thought triggered another memory, of my friends I had at the Earth before I left for the Moon. I started to think about Ørjan. We had been best friends as we grew up, but his family had moved up north sometime before we were picked to go to the Moon. But we still had a lot of contact through the net, and were chatting very often, at least before we started the Moon training. There it hadn't been much time for things like that.

"Pappa," I said before writing anything else.

"Yes," Xion looked up from what he was doing at his terminal, "do you need help?"

"No," I hesitated, "I was just thinking, what did my friends back home think when, you know, when the thing happened with our ship?"

"I looked it up," Xion said, "They never found out what happened, your ship just suddenly got lost. After some time, when all the resources you had on board would have been depleted even if they were to find you somewhere, you were all declared dead."

"So my friends thought I was dead?" I felt very bad about that. I know that some of them probably would be very sad about that.

"Yeah, I'm afraid so," Xion sighed.

I didn't know what to say, so I turned back to the terminal.

'Do you know what time it is?' I typed.

'The ship's time is 14:35. The universal time is still being calculated. Estimated time remaining for calculation is now 47 hours.'

'Don't you have any movies?' I asked it.

'The entertainment libraries have not been installed. They could be downloaded if we were in contact with the Council Central, but the security protocol does not allow us to make such contact until we know the universal time.'

'How about games?'

'I apologize; those are also in the entertainment libraries.'

I sighed.

'Anything fun at all?'

'What do you think is fun?'

'I don't know...'

'I'm afraid I cannot answer your request, the search parameters are too few...' the screen blinked. I groaned at it, thinking that this perhaps hadn't been such a good idea as I initially had thought.

'Can we read signals from Earth yet?' I asked it, thinking that perhaps some TV or net or anything could be captured, depending on what time we were in, of course.

'Not yet, we should be within proximity to get those by tomorrow morning, ship's time. They are still too week for our sensors to read while we're moving at this velocity.'

'But then you should know what time it is too, by reading the signals from earth, shouldn't you?' I typed.

'Yes, you are right – if we are at a time where the Earth is broadcasting, we should be able to get a very close approximation to our current time.'

I hadn't thought about that – maybe we had been put so far back that there weren't even any signals on earth. It wouldn't be that far back, really, only a couple of hundred years longer than I was sent forward the first time.

"Good idea, Martin," Xion said, smiling at me.

"What?" I asked. Was he reading what I wrote to the AI?

"The ship just told me of your idea of using signals from Earth to estimate the time. It won't be accurate enough for the ship to resume normal operations, it still needs to calculate things properly for that, but it will answer many questions for you and me. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that."

It actually made me feel proud. I had come up with an idea that Xion hadn't thought of, and he liked it.

'Would you like to learn about the running of the ship?' the AI asked me.

'Yes, I might as well,' I typed back, almost forgetting that I was typing to a computer.

The computer started to show me a lot of different slides and small movies, explaining as it did. I was getting a broad overview of how the propulsion and life-sustaining mechanisms on 'The Wanderer' were working.

It was actually a lot more interesting than I originally had thought, and before I know it Xion said it was time to get some food, and then get ready for bed.

We enjoyed a very good pizza that Xion had prepared while I was busy studying.

"Max and Dean really would have liked this," I said while digging into it.

"Yes, I think they would," Xion said with a sad smile.

"I hope I don't get the nightmares again tonight," I said as I swallowed. They had been pretty bad the last couple of nights, and I was starting to get a bit anxious about going to sleep.

"Try to think about the things you've learned today as you go to bed, and remember that the boys probably are safe," Xion suggested. I thought it was good advice, but I wasn't really sure.

We were sitting at Flybridge again, me and Xion, looking at 'Quest'. Then it happened. The light that crashed into 'Quest', and then the bright light that blinded me.

Then it was dark.

At first, I was alone in the darkness, but soon I started to feel that someone was there, reaching for me, calling my name.

It was like a distant call, a call I couldn't really hear, only sense. At first, I thought it was Tom who was reaching for me in my dream, but it wasn't him.

Then I recognized him.

It was Ørjan, my best friend from children's school.

I could clearly see him there in front of me.

"Why did you have to die?" Ørjan asked me. "Why did you have to leave me behind like this?"

I was feeling a bit confused, "I'm not dead," I answered, "But we're lost!"

I was about to continue to explain how we had lost the 'Quest', and was trying to get to Earth and to find out when and where we were, but Ørjan was suddenly gone, and I opened my eyes back in my bed in my cabin.

I looked at the time and saw that it wasn't really time to get up yet, so I tried to sleep some more, hoping that I might run into Ørjan in my dream again, but there was nothing. But at least I didn't get the nightmares about 'Quest' again.

When I got up later, I was still a bit drowsy I walked out of bed and headed for the Bridge. As I entered there, I saw Xion sitting at his terminal, working.

"Good morning, Martin," he said, smiling. "No nightmare tonight?"

"Not really, it was more of a strange dream – it had one of my friends from back on Earth in it."

I explained how I had dreamed about the event with 'Quest' again, but then been dragged into something else with Ørjan in it, instead of seeing the 'Quest' exploded as I had done in my nightmares of the last couple of nights.

"Hmm," Xion said, "that is strange. We just started to get signals from the Earth, and it appears that we have ended up a few months after the time you took off for the Moon."

I was shocked.

Could it be? Could it really be? Had I met Ørjan in my dream just as I met Tom when he was on the ship of those horrible people?

I had to find out; I had to contact him.

I guessed that Xion wouldn't like me to do that, but I just had to know. I sat down at my terminal, and typed to the AI:

'Could you open a chat with a person on the Earth for me?'

'Yes, theoretically, that would be possible. But I'm not sure the captain would like that.' The AI answered.

'Please,' I replied, 'I've got to know if it really was Ørjan I talked to!'

'Well...' the AI wrote, then after a while, 'OK, I'll do it. Do you have his contact details?'

I typed in his screen name and what network he was on, and pretty soon the AI said that it was ready.

'Just type ahead' it said.

I looked down at the keyboard. It was an English keyboard without all the letters I needed in Norwegian, but it would have to do for now. I could get the AI to fix that the next time, I guessed, and just use the normal rewritings of these instead.

So I typed in:

'Hi, Oerjan – are you there?'

I was almost shaking as I waited for the answer. Would I get contact? Had it really been him in my dream?

It felt like an eternity, but it was probably just a few seconds before finally, an answer came:

'Is this really you, Martin?'


Editor's Notes:

Well, we seem to have gotten a little farther than we were in chapter 15. In the process, we have learned a bit more about Xion and some of his feelings about technology. I think perhaps he is beginning to accept a bit more of what modern technology can do. I can tell that he is worried about what will become of him and Martin. Of course, he is also worried about Quest and his other boys. It will be interesting to see what Martin and Oerjan discover about things. I hope there will be another chapter soon.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

The Other Editor's Notes:

But what happened to 'QUEST'!?! Jeez©! Okay, you are an Evil Author, now, what happened to my ship!?!

Other than not telling us anything about what is going on, this is a very good chapter. Like something I'd write. (Oh, that's the next chapter.)

I am a bit concerned that Martin has made contact with Ørjan. There is a possible time paradox and could be a bit sticky, so to speak. Of course, we won't worry about that for a couple of chapters. Let's hope it doesn't take too long to get the next chapter posted.

Str8mayb

Host's notes:

It seems The Phone is taking way too many lessons from Str8mayb!!! While we did learn a few new things this chapter we didn't learn much that we wanted to know. What happened to the QUEST???

The CHP has been alerted. You may alert them as well The Cliffhanger Police

The Story Lover