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Chapter 2 Main Chapters Chapter 4

Chapter 3:

Somehow, the interplanetary explorers made it through that first night of stormy weather in dubious accomodations. When the morning came, the sky was light and clear, and not a cloud was visible for miles around.

It was a time for many goodbyes. Kazuki bid goodbye to Shiozaki and Izawa. They managed to seriously say goodbye to him for nearly half a minute before remembering to look for Mitsuki Sanada, who for some reason was nowhere to be seen at the moment. To change the subject, Kazuki asked why they had ended up with the flowers on the day previous. In response, they shuddered. There was an evident need for yet another subject change.

Kent Slade bid goodbye to his family. It was a sad parting, and yet not unhopeful. They had learned how to carry on with life when they thought he had died in the parallel world exploration. Now that pain could be used again in this situation.

There were many more goodbyes bidden by many people. Slade and Dr. Warai said goodbye to Narayanan and Naoko Yoshi. Yoshi had designed the shuttles used by the spacecraft, but had steadfastly refused to take a berth on the ship, preferring to stay on only one planet. Dr. Rara and Slade said goodbye to Stetson, Hino, and Takei, faithful security guards of the launch complex. Slade had first met them when they arrested him and took him to the RaRa Army.

Kazuki looked out over the large crush of onlookers, savoring his last dawn on Earth for a month. He disengaged himself from Shiozaki and Izawa, and moved to the launch vehicle with the rest of the explorers.

Voyageur, mankind's first attempt at an interstellar vessel, hung in orbit about Earth.

The bridge was arranged with two rows of chairs proceeding down most of its length, and with a large screen on the wall which all the chairs faced. Each chair had built into its armrest control equipment and readouts, so that the person in the chair could be part of the team controlling the ship.

A team literally did control the starship. Its members filled the bridge chairs now: basically everyone who had participated in the adventures up until this point and who had contributed to the spacecraft in a major way now stood upon the bridge. All were part of the Executive Committee that ran the vessel.

Dr. Warai looked around the bridge of the spaceship. "I never thought I'd be alive when humans left the solar system." He glowed with happiness, in which he basked for several minutes.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Ayuko put a finger to her chin, and Dr. Warai suddenly recalled what she had said to him at the party. She had anticipated that the technological advances would lead to starfaring, and to colonies, and to world war. He also remembered what Dr. Sanada had told him when this project began, about just what she had done as part of the RaRa Army. Yet again he cursed the fate that made her and Dr. Rara a package deal.

He wondered how wise it was, Slade getting tied into a family like that. It wasn't Mitsuki he was worried about; it was Ayuko. Unspoken during the entire process of raising funds and building the spaceship was the prospect of her selfishness. Fear of Ayuko's greed was behind the fight over the control systems, and even now Dr. Warai was unhappy with the team arrangement. Ayuko's power aboard ship was blunted, but she still had some. Besides which, running a ship by comittee just seemed to be a bad idea. He and Slade had designed this ship as best he could, but it would've been impossible without the technology that Rara and Sanada together brought to the table. That was why Ayuko had to be tolerated. It was worth getting into space.

Why was it only now, only seconds from the first test of the engine, that he doubted his decison? Maybe it wasn't worth going into space if they risked all by bringing Ayuko and her seed of evil.

"Ready?" Dr. Sanada asked. Dr. Rara nodded and said, "The navigation system is calibrated and I've set the proper coordinates for our dimensional reentry at test point Saturn."

Of course, Dr. Warai considered, Slade would say that every person aboard was a seed of evil. Some of them simply hadn't sprouted as much as others.

Dr. Sanada activated the ship's main engine. The only noticeable effect was on the ship's screen. One moment it showed the blue jewel of the Earth the vessel orbited, and the next moment Earth had been replaced by Saturn.

The two men had actually managed to agree on the first words that should be said after humans travelled faster than the speed of light. They hadn't been able to agree on who should say them, at first. Now, Dr. Sanada and Dr. Rara waved at each other to establish timing, then said simultaneously, "Light is no longer our bond."

For several seconds after that, the bridge was made silent by the magnitude of their achievement.

"We've just done something thought impossible for humans," breathed Dr. Warai in wonder.

Kazuki looked around the bridge and said, "I'd like to thank every one of you. And Zinv, too. You've all done so much to help us get out here, and I can't thank you enough."

His statement hung in the air, not awkwardly, but being gratefully received by everyone, till finally Mituski Rara told him, "It was our pleasure, Kazuki."

Alice wished she had been the one to break the dramatic silence with her yell of glee, but decided better late than never. D giggled. In her room, Kumu barked and ran around. All over the ship, there was sudden, spontaneous applause, whoops. Noisemakers were taken out of hiding and resounded many, many times. People shook hands, gave high fives, danced impromptu jigs. There was senseless laughter and terrible jokes. Everyone aboard had invested some of the best parts of their lives with each other, dedicated to this goal that had just been achieved. Even if the rest of the mission failed miserably, they would be happy knowing they had gotten this far. This was a wonderful moment, a triumph that would resound in the annals of history.

Dr. Warai could still see Ayuko, with that knowing, smug, smile on her face, but even that could not take away the deep and powerful happiness and achievement he and everyone, even she felt. There were some things evil could not suceed in marring.

Chapter 2 Main Chapters Chapter 4