Preparations and Patience
The next day saw the conclusion of the conference. Sylvaram disclosed the nature of the terrible death of Inchoate if nothing was done. He was direct, “Dear peoples of Inchoate, we are approaching a crisis. We have been in an elaborate orbit around the Sirius twins long enough to forecast that when the two stars and their huge satellites next align with our host planet, our world will be drawn by gravity into the fiery coronas, torn apart, and burned to atomic ash.
“Fortunately, we are nearing, in the planet’s meandering orbit, an optimum location to exit this system and return to Earth, the planet in the solar system, which was our home in the Before Time! That shall occur on the tenth day of 10Month, which coincides with the winter solstice. We have much to do to prepare for a smoother return to Earth than we experienced coming here. I am broadcasting this on the network so all the people will complete work preparing for the journey home.
“What shall occur is a controlled repeat of how we got here, though in the opposite direction. It shall not be as chaotic as was that other trip. We shall all ride the travalink. The first data stream consisting of a self-constructing system is already traveling to the Earth. It will attach itself inside the Earth to the mooring place we left and act as a beacon for our data flows. It will build itself to receive and transform the other data streams as they arrive back into the forms the data represent. Every stream will include exact instructions as to what and where it was when we left Sirius. For this to work, you must each take a capsule of medicine and a homing device that tells the controlling computer who and where you are and will sedate you safely for the journey.
“You shall all receive explicit instructions as to your role in preparing for the journey home. Of course, we shall all be in stasis, or hibernation, for the trip. It does not matter where you are at the time of departure. You have some freedom as to location, but you must be in a safe position at launch time. What is crucial is that you have taken the prescribed medication on the ninth day of 10Month. Our laboratories have been working for over six months to manufacture and distribute the required doses.”
Over the next tense and gloomy several days, a variety of trains started for their countries. Before the train heading for Eestlandt left, Naksarben, one of only a handful of people who had traveled from Earth to Sirius in the outbound Inchoate data stream, said his good-bye to Deidre, the delicately beautiful princess of Eestlandt, with a kiss. She shivered against his warm chest and he held her close to assure her everything would work out.
Naksarben, who was central to determining the problem that befell Inchoate, risked his life to gather urgently needed data that led scientists to calibrate the rocket sensors, and fought bravely in the war that the enemy almost won. Because of his enormous and valued service, he was granted leave to make a pilgrimage on his own, returning to the Monastery of the Mysterious Whys before the appointed day.
The Flying Pig and Home
He led his jackalopes, George and Gracie, who were very dear to him and had shared many of his more recent adventures. They made steady progress south. He took them to the Flying Pig Inn, where he had gone so very long ago. Fiesta Rohling-Boyle had not forgotten him.
“Look how strong you are,” she marveled, grasping the muscles of his arms tightly. She was a large, jolly woman who always wanted her guests to be comfortable. The inn was full of travelers going south. As he had during his first visit, he bought the first round for everyone in the tavern and told of his adventures, while the fireplace roared its approval with sparks and flares. No one believed half of what he said, but he was serious in telling them to take the prescribed medication on the ninth day of 10Month. In the morning, after one of Fiesta’s magnificent breakfasts, he said good-bye to all and continued on his journey. The hills were covered with early snow, the valleys meandering in their always change, and the streams that muttered and danced beneath a thin layer of ice were the trio’s friends. He was a day early at the train station and greeted Abbot Bramble Woodlands and the entire party from the monastery as they stepped off the train. The station was at a distance from the monastery, so the group required several days of travel.
At last, on the fourth day of 10Month, the monastery was before them, with the folk of Bristlebeak waiting in worried puddles. The abbot invited all into the Silent Chapel and explained what must be done. He had casks of muskberry wine brought from storage and shared with all a toast for their well-being during the coming journey. “Well. I look forward to seeing all of you in another Now Time. To one and all of you, my brethren, good season!”
Everyone in the hall raised a cup and responded with “Good season!”
Naksarben chose to be with his jackalopes in their stable on 4Day, the solstice. Gracie and George were both infinitely curious. He told them in loving response about twin stars, Orion, travalink, light speed, white holes, and he answered all their questions. The hours slid by, and he was with his trusted friends.
In midday, something started soft and far away. It was a powerful tremor, which grew rapidly. The three lay on their sides, comforting the other two. Naksarben could see the double doors of the barn begin to jiggle slowly up and down. Suddenly, there were no doors; they had turned to dust and blown away.
“Lie still and do not be afraid,” counseled Naksarben for the last time. George looked at his best friends. “Say good night, Gracie.” She looked deeply into his loving eyes. She watched him and everything else changing into drifting dust. “Good night, George,” she whispered
The End Is the Beginning
The vast computers at the Mystic Carousel end of the travalink collected and sorted data signals. These were sent in the order in which they would be assembled inside the Earth. The planet’s core with its molten center went to the head of the line. Then the tectonic plates, with the continents, mountains, islands, valleys and riverbeds, would be placed on top of the core. Next, the atmosphere and water, both potable and saline, would be added to the rivers and seas as was appropriate.
All of these were the rather simple tasks. The infrastructure of roads, railroads, power distributions networks, pipes, sewers, and manhole covers had to be placed exactly so, and set to function.
Living beings also had a priority: single cells, spores, and single-celled creatures had to populate the water and sky; the plants, both underwater and on the land, had to be placed where they belonged; the sponges, fishes, mollusks, and fungus had be returned to their proper environments; the reptiles, insects, worms, crustaceans, and cephalopods had to be located correctly.
Then, most critically, the birds of their various species; the mammals of the jungle, woods, and farms had to be gently placed; and finally, the sentients had to be restored were they had gone to sleep.
As it worked, the travalink and all its parts had to change them into data streams and project themselves into space. All that remained of Inchoate in that distant place were echoes.