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By Tom Wells


The cruise ship, Princess of the Stars, hung low enough in orbit to be seen in the daytime sky above the beachfront bar where Devin and Stacia had come for the first planet side excursion of their honeymoon. The bar was open to a long deep blue sand beach bordered by a tropical rain forest rising up from the sand on one side and a clear turquoise green sea gently lapping onto the sand on the other side. The other passengers who had shuttled down with Devin and Stacia had gone off to swim in the sea or to visit the shops of the town inland. This left the pair alone at the bar where they had been quietly enjoying iced cocktails made with local fruit milk taken from a hard shelled seed pod like a coconut, only the milk of this pod had the sweetness of a mango.

“Honeymooners eh,” the bartender remarked while he simultaneously wiped the bar with his lower arms and poured the next round with his upper arms.

“It’s that obvious?” Devin answered in his own question. His new bride had her head on his shoulder as she watched the exotic fish swim in the tank behind the bar while not paying attention to the conversation.

“No, it’s only obvious to a professional like me. I’m guessing you came in on the Princess of the Stars up there.” He pointed at the almond shaped object hanging in the sky like a small moon.


“You look like you have been married about four or five days I would say. Any less and you would still be in your stateroom. Anymore and you would be partying with other guests. And the Princess has just arrived on its fifth day of its cruise of the Archipelago Atascadero. So that’s what I figure.”

“Are you sure you’re not also a detective?” Devin asked sarcastically.

“No I am not,” the bartender said feigning offence. “But I do have a solution for your doldrums. That is if you are certified spacewalkers.”

Stacia took her head off of Devin’s shoulder and asked suspiciously, “Just how do you know we are walkers?”

“Because my young lovely, if you were divers, you would be underwater on our beautiful reef right now and the next planet in the Archipelago belt has the Moons of the Moaning Caverns and your husband has passes tucked along side of his credit key.”

“So are the Caverns as spectacular as they say,” Devin asked casually, trying to not reveal too much of what he was holding back from his new bride.

“They would be if there weren’t so many damn tourists,” the bartender spat. “No offence to you two of course.”

“You sound like you are building up to something,” Devin replied hoping this conversation was going in the direction he wanted it to.

“Are you aware of what happens to be drifting near our system these days?”

Devin’s heart raced. He did know what was drifting near the Archipelago Atascadero planetary system. As a recent archeology graduate and former Corps of Exploration corporal, how could he not know that the Relic was in the vicinity? The tricky thing was to not let Stacia know that he was hoping to have someone else suggest going out to the Relic. He’d have to be careful about how he answered. This was supposed to be their honeymoon, not his.

“Yes, I know about the Relic, but you are exaggerating a bit if you are considering it to be in the vicinity.”

Stacia rolled her eyes and said, “Ugh, not that thing. I should have known you hadn’t picked this cruise for the number of tropical planets we could visit in three weeks.”

Playing hurt Devin answered, “You chose the possible trips. I just picked this one because I did hope that maybe Relic has was close enough to see from a star scope or something. I never got to see it while I was in the Corps. But really, it’s not supposed to be close enough to visit. Is it?” The last part was addressed to the bartender while Stacia rolled her eyes.

This was a cue the bartender had been told would come. As rehearsed he said, “Your husband is correct miss. The Relic is too far out to be a tourist destination these days.”

Devin was disappointed, but he hoped that the bartender had vindicated him a little. One of the unanswered mysteries about the Relic was its erratic drifting through the galaxy. At times the Relic would be drifting on a slow predictable path and then it would speed up and change course slightly without predictable outside influences before suddenly going back to its drift again. It’s what made it hard to predict when and where it would be for more than a few weeks at a time. Devin had actually thought that maybe they could take a side trip out to the Relic, but even though he had known that was a long shot, he had been hoping just the same that one of the Relics shifts in position might have brought it closer the Archipelago Atascadero, a string of small planets that orbited together at the same distance from their common sun at opposing planes like multiple electrons orbiting an atom’s nucleolus. This has made the Archipelago Atascadero an ideal cruise ship destination with thirty-nine planes to visit in one solar system, just hours from each other and all within the ideal distance that makes the total of the Archipelago planets the most ideal habitable worlds in any known solar system to date.

“Don’t patronize me Dev. I know you hoped to see the Relic when you chose the trip. I was just waiting to see how you would pretend to work it into our itinerary. I’ve found this most illuminating for the future,” Stacia said pleased with herself. She showed it by doing a little happy dance on the barstool while smiling broadly up to Devin. He was relieved she wasn’t mad, but that didn’t ease the disappointment that they wouldn’t be able to spacewalk on the Relic.

“That’s a right fine woman you found there human.”

Devin had daydreamed of finding out something new about the Relic that would give him an edge on the job interviews he had lined up after the honeymoon. “So I suppose you’re saying we could have gone out to see the Relic if it had been close enough,” he said sourly to his wife.

“Please miss; don’t torture the poor man any more. I can’t stand it.”

“You’ve been setting me up. Haven’t you,” Devin said hopefully.

“Consider this my wedding gift to you Dev honey. Our barkeeper also happens to have an interplanetary rental just big enough to get you and I out to the Relic and back in time for departure tomorrow.”

“Besides,” said the bartender, “I wasn’t lying about the Relic being too far out for tourists. Not many visitors willing to endure a eight hour trip out to the Relic’s current position in anything small enough that they can afford to rent and there aren’t enough spacewalkers on board these cruise ships to justify taking the whole boat there. Plus you never know when the Relic might up and change direction, so those cruise ships can’t count on it fitting into their itinerary from one trip to another. So you two will probably be the only ones out there.”


The small rented pleasure craft was dwarfed by the Relic as it silently approached. Stacia had been prepared to see something big, but she was inwardly dreading having arranged this side trip upon their arrival to the Relic’s vicinity. “Alright Devin, this thing is definitely bigger than it looks on projection. I’m sure this can’t be safe,” Stacia said shakily.

“This is from the woman who practically dragged me to the Comet Tanderine last year? I seem to recall that the comet was twice as big as this, and it was traveling a quarter light-year faster to boot,” Devin replied while stripping down to his underwear getting ready to put on the excursion wear.

“Yes, well a comet of gem lined caverns with a concession habitat inside and filled with tourists is very different than coming out to an ancient battle site. I mean what is it with you boys and your fascination with war? This thing has been dead for millions of years and you still want to go wandering inside disturbing the ghosts? They were probably happy when all of the scientists and treasure hunters had finally gotten over their fascination for this, this, graveyard.”

By now Devin had his excursion wear on and his helmet under his arm. “Are you coming or am I going alone?”

Stacia sighed and stripped down to her underwear provocatively. Devin put down his helmet and started to unzip his suit but she stopped and commanded, “Not unless this means we’re not going onto the Relic.”

Devin stopped in mid-zip. He looked out of the viewport at the side of the Relic where a rack of guns protruded from one of the thousands of ancient warships clustered together forming a jagged edged sphere ten kilometers in diameter. He looked back at his new bride who was doing her best to seduce him to stay onboard by bending over just so to pick up her excursion wear from the bench. He would have given in a week ago. However they had only seen the inside of their state room since leaving their home port and the eight hour trip out to the Relic had been traversed mostly on autopilot leaving them to do more of what honeymooners were known to do, this time in zero-g. Childhood fantasies of exploring the Relic won over his newlywed urges. Besides, he did have an atmosphere grenade on his belt and he might get lucky if they found a space to set it off in.

Devin, like most men his age, had been in grade school when they learned about the Relic. The Corps of Exploration had declared that it was the find of the millennia fifty years ago. It was easy to see that there had once been an epic battle in space involving the thousands of warships that was the Relic. Nucleic dating had determined that the ships were millions of years old. Archeologists theorized that after the battle the ships had been pulled together by the mutual attraction of their gravity generators while they must have still had some autonomous power. But the ships had been abandoned long ago and the reactors had long since spent their fuel cells. After being adrift for millions of years, cosmic rays had bombarded the hulls, rendering the metals useless for salvage. The secrets of the ancient technologies had been blown away on solar winds and all that was left was the skeletal remains of the ancient warships.

Public fascination with the Relic had lasted for over two decades before the tours and scientific excursions waned. The hulk had been scanned and digitized by dozens of alien races until there were no apparent secrets left to be discovered. Not that much could be learned from what had remained after a million years adrift, so now the Relic was mostly forgotten. This left Devin and Stacia free to explore what they could alone for up to five hours before they’d have to head back to the Archipelago and board their cruise ship ahead of its departure for the next stop.

With their excursion wear on, they squeezed into the airlock together and waited for the atmosphere to be pulled into the reserve tanks. Then the outer hatch twisted open and a green light signaled them to go. They held gloved hands together and pushed out to cross the vacuous meters between the rental craft and the Relic.

The electromagnetic field generators on their slim backpacks simultaneously repelled them from their craft while pulling them to the Relic. The magnetic field also shielded them from the same cosmic rays that had rendered the Relic a useless skeletal shell. It was enormous in scale, but it lacked the density to create much of a gravity signature. The Relic therefore neither attracted other drifting space debris, nor did it pull the honeymooners to its surface.

They were free to drift in and out of the voids as they skimmed along the outer surface of the Relic. Devin was slowly edging them closer and deeper into the clusters of twisted metal, but Stacia was wary and kept gently moving about the surface as much as she could.

“This is just creepy Dev.”

Stacia had stopped to drift above a hole that had been blasted in the side of an exceptionally large spacecraft. Inside was what plainly looked to be the living quarters of the aliens who had once served aboard the warship. There were stacks and rows of bunk beds, slightly out of scale from human sized beds, but clearly sleeping quarters nonetheless. She couldn’t resist the urge to drift inside and see if the lockers at the foot of the beds would open.

“Be careful babe. The edges of the blast opening are probably razor sharp.”

“Yes dear, and they are about ten meters away from me,” she said as she stopped and floated in the middle of the opening that was large enough to drive their rental craft through.

She held her arms out wide and Devin touched his helmet to activate the camera. Stacia then turned and guided her suit to pull her towards the nearest set of beds. She reached out and pulled on a handle that was scaled for a hand twice the size of hers. She could barely feel the handle as it turned into a dust cloud when she tried to pull.

“I’m guessing the handle must have been some sort of plastic. What was left probably had more microscopic holes than Swiss cheese,” Devin declared coming to her side as she watched the remnants of handle thin out into drifting particles as they spread.

“Ya think,” she said with a wink.

Devin took a multi-tool from his belt and unfolded a flat screwdriver head. He gently inserted it into the left edge of the locker and tried moving the drawer open. The lip bent easily under the pressure, but the drawer opened enough to let them grab an edge each with their fingers.

The thin and degraded metal was a bit like pulling on aluminum foil, but the drawer opened. The contents were as fragile as the handle. All that came out was a larger cloud of fine debris. Devin looked into Stacia’s face shield and shrugged. She looked past him.

She pointed and said, “Looks like the head over there. I wonder what the alien toilets look like.”

“You should have gone before we suited up,” Devin joked while he followed her into the next room.

“If these are toilets, I’d hate to see the size of the asses that went on them,” Stacia observed floating above a row of commodes lining one wall.

“I’d hate to see the size of the turds that went into those toilet bowls,” Devin predictably added. Then he spied what looked like the portal into a common room. He nodded his head and led Stacia into a room filled with oversized chairs and tables. There were faded murals of tripod aliens in uniform on the walls with writing they couldn’t read.

“I’ve never seen this race before,” Stacia said floating over for a closer look.

“Nobody has,” Devin said coming to his wife’s side. He was pleased to hear the inflection in her voice that indicated she was starting to enjoy their exploration. He hated to think that the romance in their marriage had already been diminished by him dragging her off on some outing only he would enjoy.

“These aliens were the only ones in the battles who had left images of themselves behind. From the configurations of the ships, there were up to four other alien races in the battle, but they must have either only had electronic images of themselves or their pictures were on paper or something that could faded hundreds of thousands of years ago.”

“Well then if these are the only remnants of an extinct race, I’m surprised this placed isn’t protected from people like you and I coming and wiping them away.”

“I suppose the academic types all think their halo images are good enough,” Devin said with a dismissive shrug. “They’re certainly not willing to come out here for any more research in person.”

Devin moved on deeper into the ship while Stacia followed. The corridors were built for larger and bulkier crewmates so the pair of humans floated easily side by side. They crossed regular bulkhead doors that had apparently been opened by the earlier explorers. The rooms they saw off the corridor were filled with more living quarters, which was evidently the main function on this deck. There were more bunkrooms and there were smaller individual quarters, presumably for the officers.

They drifted up a steep stairwell onto the next deck and drifted down an identical corridor to the one below. The rooms off this corridor appeared to be food serving and kitchen facilities, though their assumptions were just that since the equipment and furnishings simply had a sketchy resemblance to their own kitchens. They went up another flight of stairs that would have been hard for humans to climb in gravity with steps that were nearly half a meter apart.

This deck was open without corridors. It appeared to be a storage bay for smaller spacecraft similar to the size of the one they had come in, but all of the equipment and small craft remains had been pulled into a twisted heap along the wall facing the center of the Relic’s mass.

There was a ladder that went straight up through a porthole in the ceiling. Stacia led the way floating up alongside the ladder into a small landing with one closed hatch. She pushed on the porthole, but it didn’t open.

“Try pulling dear,” Devin said floating up into the landing.

She pulled the porthole opened. She poked her head inside but she couldn’t judge the size of the room beyond. Unlike the places they had seen so far, there were no hard edges or right angles to give them a sense of scale for the place. The gently curving surface also had a jet black surface that seemed to absorb their helmet lights preventing the light from reflecting and filling the space.

Stacia wasn’t ready to go inside, but Devin shot past her saying, “I think I know what this place is.”

Stacia tentatively followed. With Devin zooming deep inside this dark place, she could see that it was a large dark sphere that they were entering. The volume inside seemed endless with the way it absorbed their lights.

“The experts think this was a stellar cartography projection room. It was a place where the aliens used to project their position in space, though no one knows for sure how it would have looked.”

Devin pulled out the atmosphere grenade he had in his belt and said, “Come up here, I want to see if this will work in here.”

“What’s that,” Stacia asked as she floated up to her husband.

“It’s a surplus atmosphere grenade. We used these all the time in the Exploration Corps,” Devin said holding up the small flashlight sized cylinder. “They were invented for battlefield triage when a soldier has their excursion wear compromised. You pop this baby on the ground and you have an atmospheric bubble for about twenty minutes on an open, windless planet. We found them handy for incapacitating combative natives when they charged us too. And they were great for taking breaks in and all sorts of things.

“Since we’re in a vacuum, and there is a spherical surface, I think this will give us a breathable atmosphere in here for a good forty minutes or so. Stay close while I try it out.”

Devin tossed the grenade at the sphere wall and there was a blue flash followed by a silver concussion wave emanating out from the point of impact. Devin and Stacia were rocked a little when the concussion enveloped them. Then it was instantly louder inside their helmets. There were moans of metal grinding on metal that could be heard through the new air and Stacia looked scared.

Devin smiled reassuringly and said, “Now that there’s air building around us we can hear sound being transferred from the Relic to our suit’s external receivers. The sphere shape of the room is probably also acting like a big sound amplifier too.”

Without warning Devin unscrewed his helmet and took it off. Stacia couldn’t help yelling out, “Devin no!”

But he didn’t change colors and he didn’t immediately start gasping for air. Instead, she could incredibly hear him say, “Ah, I haven’t smelled government issued air in a long time. I don’t know what it is about this stuff that gives the air this smell, but I can tell you our Exploration ships didn’t smell much different from this.”

Stacia floated dumbstruck and not moving. The public didn’t know about the grenades. Considering the favors Devin had to call in to get the one he had, this was not likely to be repeated anytime soon.

“Go on, take it off,” he said gesturing to her helmet.

Stacia double and triple checked her atmospheric indicators on the heads up display inside her helmet. She had green bars on breathability, temperature and pressure. She reluctantly unscrewed her helmet while being ready to wrench it back on at the first sign that this was as wrong as it felt. Devin was right and the air did smell funny. It had an antiseptic odor that reminded her of hospitals and clinics.

“It’s warmer than I expected.”

“That’s heat from the rapid expansion of the atmosphere. It’s welcomed in places like this, but if you activate a grenade on a hot atmosphere planet it can be unbearable.”

The new air was easily breathable. With her helmet off and the lights now pointing away from where she was looking, she noticed that the sphere was covered with lights now.

“Is that normal?” she asked pointing.

Devin who had been amused watching his wife experience the artificial atmosphere for the first time, now turned his focus outward.

“What the hell?” was all he could say before gliding over to the wall of the sphere with his helmet trailing on a magnetic tether. Stacia followed while she put her helmet back on. She figured that if it was out of the ordinary, then she wasn’t going to rely on the atmosphere holding.

When they closed in on the wall, it was easier to see that the seemingly random points of light had a pattern which was familiar to Devin. He had taken compulsory quarterly navigation training during his four year tour in the Exploration Corps and he was familiar with the standard galactic sphere chart that was a reference of the galaxies beyond the Milky Way as seen when you dimmed the lights of the stars in our own galaxy. The view was slightly different in obvious ways to Devin, but he remembered that this galaxy chart would have looked different a million years ago when this chart was probably last updated.

He quickly explained what they were looking at and Stacia’s first obvious question was, “But why didn’t these show up until now?”

Devin shrugged his shoulders and said, “Dunno, I can only guess it has to do with there being an atmosphere in here now.” Then he noticed that Stacia was wearing her helmet again and he committed the cardinal sin of the newly married. He rolled his eyes.

“Oh sure, you’re the big explorer who lives dangerously I suppose,” Stacia said hurt. “But did it occur to you that whatever is reacting to the atmosphere might also destabilize whatever makes your air gadget work?” Devin’s first reaction was dismissive, but Stacia’s logic was valid. It was time to make up for offending her, so he grabbed his helmet out of the air and put it back on.

“Thank you dear,” Stacia said softening as she drifted back to the center of the sphere. But as she drifted, the images on the walls faded. She and Devin had opposite reactions.

Stacia said, “See, I’ll bet your atmosphere gadget is about to fail.”

Devin at the same time said, “I think the galaxy view must have been reacting to our exposed skin.”

Devin took his helmet off while Stacia scolded him. The lights of the galaxies returned, but not as bright as before.

“Start recording Stace, I’m going to try something.” Before Stacia could protest, Devin unzipped his excursion wear and exposed his chest in a ridiculous looking comic book superhero pose. The lights on the sphere brightened and even started to shift slowly. To Devin’s eye, it looked like they were adjusting to match their position to the current time.

“O.k. Stace, keep a side eye on the atmosphere indicator inside your helmet. There should be 3 green bars. If the third bar even blinks, let me know and I’ll put things back on.”

Stacia wanted to protest, but couldn’t. She was now busy trying to keep one eye on the recording target, one eye on the atmosphere indicator and to keep from getting lost in the spectacle that revealed itself as Devin stripped to his briefs. With more skin exposed came more lights, only the newest ones appeared to float in mid air. When he had his suit fully off, the room filled with a dazzling display of lights and colors that swarmed around the brightness at the center of the sphere. It was clear now even to Stacia, who did not have Devin’s military background, that this was a floating holographic model of their galaxy, the Milky Way.

Devin excitedly said, “Get a closer look at one of the stars. There are even planets showing in orbit where they belong.”

“Do you know where Earth is,” Stacia asked getting caught up in the excitement.

“Of course.”

Devin pointed to an outer area of the Milky Way spiral. He straightened his body and reflexively mimed the motions that would have activated the magnetic fields which would have propelled him in that direction, except he was no longer wearing the suit and there was no way to move. They both laughed while he put the suit over his back and put his hands in the sleeves without putting the suit on further. The lights had dimmed, but not much until he started floating out to where Earth was represented. That’s when the display blinked out.

Stacia couldn’t help letting out a squeak. Devin was jolted too, expecting the worst instinctively. Then he realized what must be going on. He stopped using his suit to move and took his arms out of the sleeves so the excursion wear systems would go back into sleep mode. Then as if someone was sliding the control upward on a dimmer switch, the galaxies first appeared and they were quickly followed by the floating image of the Milky Way.

Stacia floated over to Devin and said, “So tell me you know what the hell is going on here.”

“I think it’s the suits,” he said. “They emit an electromagnetic field to protect us from the background radiation in space and to move us around for spacewalking. I think it’s the EM field around us that blocks the star chart from activating.”

“But why do you have to be naked to power this thing up?”

Devin looked around the sphere and said, “I don’t think I’m powering this thing. I’m guessing there is something about the sphere that has its own power, even after all these years. I’m not sure how the sphere is activated.” He paused to think this through more, “I’m no tripod alien like we saw on the walls below, so it must have to do with our brain activity or something. Neural activity is the one common link between all intelligent alien races. That’s why the Taldaxians and Bentonites can read the minds of practically any alien race they encounter.”

Devin pulled his suit to him and opened the cover to the backpack while explaining, “I know how to turn off the magnetic field generator on these things. The EM field can make it easier for someone to track you so the suits we had in the corps had these controls in the sleeves where we could turn the EM field off. I should be able to find the same controls inside this civilian gear.”

“Yes but won’t that leave you vulnerable to the radiation?”

“I’ll be fine for a few hours. Our ancestors used to travel unprotected in space for weeks without permanent damage. Anyway, I can have my suit on now and not worry about the atmosphere fading away. Hopefully my helmet on won’t matter either.” He finished his adjustments and put the suit and helmet back on. They held their breath and waited but the display remained. Devin smirked all too pleased with himself. Stacia didn’t mind, this was getting pretty exciting.

She was an accountant but she could understand the magnitude of their discovery. She could only imagine how excited her husband was right now. They had stumbled across the kind of discovery that who knows how many scientists and explorers hoped to find in the Relic fifty years ago. But those people would have been using the same electromagnetically shielded equipment she and Devin were wearing. And even if anyone did happen to get the same idea as Devin about generating an atmosphere inside a part of the Relic (perhaps to have a bit of a romantic encounter like she suspected Devin was up to originally), obviously no one had tried it in this sphere.

“So there’s Earth,” Devin said pointing at a lesser star three quarters of the way out from the center of the Milky Way spiral.

Stacia floated towards the point and then realized Devin couldn’t follow. She came back to him and held out a hand. He grabbed on and they held their arms out strait to keep him as far from her as possible while she went back to the spot. The display dimmed while they moved, but he must have been far enough away from Stacia’s EM field to keep the display from going totally dark.

“There, that’s the one,” he said pointing again at the star as they approached.

She let go of his hand and went closer. The first planets she saw as she approached the human home system were Jupiter and Saturn. Like all humans, she knew the name of all of their home system planets even though she had never been there herself. Then she could see Uranus and then the inner planets became visible as she floated right up to the star.

“I’ve seen hundreds of images of Earth before,” she said unaware that she was crying, “but somehow this feels like I’m looking at it for the first time.”

“There’s plenty of time left Stace. Take your helmet off and get an unfiltered look.”

She looked back at Devin and he took off his own helmet to encourage her. She looked back at the little blue and white marble. She took her helmet off and looked closer at her ancestral home world.

“Holy shit Dev, I can actually see the orbital stations above Earth. How’s that possible?”

“No clue,” Devin said in awe. He wished he could be closer now, but he didn’t want to disturb Stacia’s moment.

Stacia wasn’t really using her accountant’s logic now, which was a bit liberating for her. She had an uncontrollable urge to touch the planet with her bare hand so she unzipped her suit and pulled one arm free of its gloved sleeve. She reached out and touched the Earth.

There was a flash.

Stacia was too stunned to react right away, but Devin’s Exploration Corps training kicked in and he snapped on his helmet and then he tried helplessly to move to his wife.

He yelled out, “Stacia! Suit up!”

She snapped out of her shock. There were metallic moans and bumps as the Relic shifted before the sphere lurched. Stacia had her hand back in the sleeve and she zipped up.

“We’re losing our atmosphere,” Devin announced in a panic. “Get that helmet on now!”

There was a deafening sound of grinding and snapping. Stacia got her helmet on in time to see the atmosphere indicator go quickly from green to yellow to red. There was another flash and then all was silent once again.

The sphere was dark.

“O.k., what just happened,” Stacia asked floating up to Devin.

“No clue,” Devin said astonished. “That was close though. What did you do over there,” he said gesturing in the direction of where she had been marveling at the projection of Earth.

“Nothing, I just touched the planet and poof,” she said waving her hands in an arc. “So what do we do now?”

The room came alive again. For a moment everything was like it was before, then the Milky Way projection and the galaxies on the sphere rotated around.

“This can’t be right,” Devin said looking at a nearby star.

Stacia’s heart raced as she asked, “What can’t be right? Are we o.k.?”

Devin pointed at a bright nearby star. “That’s the Archipelago Atascadero.”

“So,” Stacia said not catching on yet.

“So,” Devin said like it should be obvious. “This is where the Earth was before. Now the Archipelago is here and the Earth is way over there,” Devin said gesturing to a spot in the sphere ten meters away.

“So I touched the Earth and the map reset itself.”

Devin thought about this and it did make more sense than what he’d been thinking. He’d actually had the crazy notion that the relic had just somehow magically moved to where the Earth was. “With all of that metal scraping noise and the shuddering, I just,” Devin said trailing off his sentence before he finished it. He was feeling silly now.

“What, you were thinking we just traveled to Earth?”

Devin didn’t answer verbally, but Stacia understood. He looked embarrassed enough but she couldn’t hold back a laugh. Joining her laughter he managed to say, “I know, it sounds silly, but I really thought we somehow did it.”

“Oh honey, that would be incredible, but come on, we probably got hit by a meteor or something. The timing was just one implausible coincidence.”

“Well then, if you’re right, we better get back to our ship just in case that wasn’t the only meteor.”

“But you can’t move.”

Devin gave her step by step directions on restoring the electromagnetic field on his backpack. The sphere’s display went black when she keyed in the last inputs on the pack, which activated Devin’s electromagnetic field.

In the newly restored dark, there was a beam of light coming in through the open porthole that they had entered the sphere from. Stacia remembered how dark the Sphere was when they had entered. The light coming from the hanger bay below was too bright.

“What do you think Dev?”

“I don’t know what to think, but it’s our only way out so let’s go see where the light is coming from.”

They drifted down to the porthole. What they saw outside the sphere stunned them. The hanger was no longer below the porthole. The ladder was there, but it hung alone attached to the sphere. Devin tested the ladder, and it seemed solid enough so he went though the opening and outside of the sphere for a better look. There was no more ship surrounding sphere, and no Relic surrounding the ancient ship. It was as if the Sphere had been ripped from the relic and moved into orbit above a planet. He moved further down the ladder to allow Stacia to follow. Their magnetic fields would have allowed them to float freely around the outside of the Sphere’s shell, but somehow clinging to the ladder seemed safer.

The long arching outline of a planet dominated what they were seeing. It wasn’t just any planet either. The deep blue oceans with the iconic continents were the symbols of humanity itself. Earth was represented on human flags, corporate logos and uniform patches throughout the galaxy. Devin had seen Earth in person once before in his Corps years, but this was the first time Stacia had seen her ancestral world.

They could see every detail of the planet below, with its crystal like city clusters surrounded by the vast open restored wilderness areas that were allowed to exist naturally again. The only remnants of ancient man’s imposition on the planet were the iconic ruins like the Great Wall of China which was slowly passing below them now. Stacia had seen this view in holographic projections before, but it had never felt a real as it did now.

In a mixture of awe and foreboding, Stacia whispered, “What have we done Dev?”

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