------------- One Week Laterrrr---------------------
Blinking at the light out the shuttle transports window, Duncan watched the ground pass them by as the shuttle flew low to the ground heading for the drop off where Duncan and Lily would begin their journey to Lily’s parent’s house. “So, you never told me they lived in an electromagnetic dead spot where all electronics fail to operate,” Duncan said to her, “meaning that we have to trek in with pack animals carrying our luggage, and the latest supplies for your parents ourselves.” He sat back against the seat and looked at Lily again, his ankle resting over his knee.
“I said they liked it rustic and tend to shun tech,” she adjusted the woven floppy hat on her head.
“When you said they tend to shun things like technology and electricity, you might have elaborated more,” he grinned and then leaned forward towards her. “I’m still not chickening out, So it’s a three day trek with camels. It’s lucky I bought this then, right?”
Digging into his bag, he pulled out the British Explorers hat that Lily had provided him when they had taken the children on Outpost 42 on an outing to Gamma Tiltium for a Frontier Folk badge. Putting it on his head, he pointed to three more badges that had been secretly added to the ones on it already. “I even did some more ‘expeditions’ and earned my badges, now tell me I’m not prepared, huh?” Winking at her, he grinned and took her hand in his.
Lt Rhodes, CSO
Lily busted out laughing. “My god you are a Frontier Folk,” she tugged at the brim of the hat pulling his face down to hers. “I hate to disappoint you but you might not get the bedouin nomadic experience you are so aptly dressed for,” she settled back into her seat propping up her manicured toes on the windows as if it was an open vehicle.
Small toe prints would be left on the window when she left to indicate where she was seated. “They gave up the beast of burden method of transport for supplies and such about fifty years ago. It was deemed cruel to the animals. Now we use biofuel made from cooking grease and solar to travel back and forth to town. It’s so much faster. The only drawback is we can’t really travel at night so you are literally stuck there until sun up. Don’t worry though,” she put a hand on his shoulder, “life is our adventure. Solar, biofuel or animal…as long as we get there it will be fun right?” Wiggling back in her sideways, Lily laid her head on his shoulder with her feet still propped up on the window.
“You mean no smelly camels to ride and have ignore you when you want to go somewhere? I’m in.” Duncan grinned in response. “Besides, it sounds like they could use a Science Officer to refine whatever process they are using to make the biofuel. See, I’m going to fit right in.” He leaned his head over and kissed her forehead as she lay her head on his shoulder.
An hour later, the vehicle came to a slow stop. The area had a natural park feel with rolling green hills, a crystal clear blue lake, and a beige-tan path heading off into a group of trees. Lily stretched her muscles and headed to the back of the vehicle where the driver was unloading their bags. “I’d take you further but any closer and my vehicle shuts off,” he looked sheepishly at the only two travelers departing.
“It’s okay. A brisk walk is good for us and if no one shows up it is only ten miles,” Lily said brightly.
Nodding the driver moved back to the vehicle and pulled away leaving Lily, Duncan, and all their bags by the side of the road. Bending down Lily rifled through several of the suitcases pulling out a backpack where she stuffed several items into it. Shouldering the bag she looked at Duncan. “Ready?” Lily no longer looked like a tourist but a a hiker. “Pull out a few things and stuff them in my bag. Someone from the commune can retrieve them tomorrow or the next day. We just need to hurry because we need to get to my parents before dark. Trust me you don’t want to take this stroll in the pitch dark.”
“Why not?” Duncan asked as Lilly stepped passed him towards the trail they were to walk on, and he leaned down to collect a number of items he would need in the short term. His bags were already suitable for walking, thanks to his military schooling which taught him to travel light and be prepared. Shouldering his own bag and picking up another that was light enough to carry, he looked up and made his way towards Lilly. “Why not?” He asked again, realising that she hadn’t answered and was looking over the terrain ahead of them.
“Well, it’s lucky I brought my hat then, isn’t it.” Duncan said, and walked in the direction that Lilly indicated, picking up a large stick to use as a walking stick / staff on the way. “Tell me that there are no giant man eating vines trying to eat me out here honey, please? I didn’t bring the ultra strength plant repellant with me this trip.”
Lt Rhodes, CSO
“No baby,” Lily laughed. “It just gets dark fast. People always want to talk about moonlight strolls but it is in someplace tame a block from their home. Being a scientist you know what it is like in the dark. The difference is your dark always has a camp with it. Here is it like the dawn of time dark. The commune uses solar power but even that doesn’t last all night and it’s dim compared to regular lights.” Moving along the path, Lily was not making it a leisurely stroll. Her pace was steady and fast as if she needed to be on time for something. Over the next mile, Lily talked about living in the commune as a kid and teen. The stories were mainly about camping, exploring, and a laid back lifestyle few could find even on the most remote colony world. It wasn’t that her stories were bad memories as she shared them; however, Duncan would have few ways to relate to family sing along, livestock raising, and farming.
Approaching a bend in the road Lily paused and looked up at Duncan smiling. “What time is it,” she asked biting her lip.
Making a show of looking at the stars and pursing his lips in thought, Duncan finally looked at his watch and raised his eyebrow to her. “It’s nearly 1830 hours, why?”
“Good we didn’t miss it. So I haven’t told you this because I wanted you to be surprised.” Enclosing her fingers around his, she pulled him along excitedly like a small child. Just before rounding the corner of the bend, Lily stopped standing in front of Duncan. “Now close your eyes and don’t peek until I tell you,” she took his other hand in hers ready to lead him.
“Surprised huh? Wasn’t the last time we did this with those words, I got eaten by a plant?” Duncan quipped, but he did exactly as he was told. He trusted her, completely, even though he knew that occasionally it would not be to his benefit. Rico had called him a sucker for punishment, then smacked him on the back and told him he was lucky that Lily was cute as hell.
Walking backward, Lily moved slowly checking over her shoulder as she moved Duncan into position. Letting go of hs hands she snuggled up to his body wrapping his arms around her waist. “Okay on the count of three, two, open your eyes.” Leaning back against his body, Lily relaxed into the hug staring at the rocky face of a cliff. The light dancing over it produced a shimmering effect like a million opals floating under a crystal clear layer of water. Blues, pink, and yellow pastel tones flickered in the setting sun. “We call this pépinière des étoiles because of the way the colors play off the granite during the day and the way it lights up at sunset. Watch.”
“Nursery of the Stars, eh?” Duncan replied softly as he watched the lights with her. “It fits, just a wee bit,” he smirked and squeezed her gently tighter into him. His eyes moved over the surface watching the colours shift and dance. His mind wanting to analyse it, but he shut that out. Sometimes overthinking would ruin something, and just enjoying the moment was far better.
Lily held her breath knowing what was coming at the light of sunset refracted off the rock at the right angle replacing the pastel hues with fiery tones of red, orange, yellow, and gold. The effect made the rock seem molten and dripping down the side of the peak slowly extinguishing the colors. “I never get tired of watching this. When we get to my parent’s home tonight, I will show you the last display on the rock face. My bedroom window faces it. As the sun completely dips the rock takes on a deep indigo navy with white pinpricks of light. See why we call it the nursery of the stars. It goes from the pastels of a nebula to the star being born, to finally the end stars we see at night.”
“It sounds amazing, I can’t wait to see it.” Duncan told her, and kissed her on the cheek as his eyes barely left the sight of the lights on the cliffs. What he also couldn’t wait to see, was something that kept Lily’s attention long enough for her to stay still and watch it for any real length of time.
Lily looked up at Duncan with a wry smile. There was something adorable about Duncan Rhodes. He was brilliant but at time also sweet and naive. He had no idea what she really meant about her bedroom window but he would. She doubted a trip to meet his family was going to be anything like him meeting hers but that was why she loved him. Duncan didn’t care where they were or what they were doing as long as they were together.
Giving her a final squeeze and taking her hand, Duncan turned in the direction they had been walking. “Come on Sunshine, lets go get to your parents so we can watch that sunset before it disappears on us.
Lt Rhodes, CSO
Less than thirty minutes later Duncan and Lily turned a corner and stood on a small hill overlooking what was Lily’s hometown. The town at first glance looked like some isolated inlet on Risa with large trees, ferns, and vegetation. A large bay of crystalline blue-bordered the west edge of the town. The beach however was not the pristine white sands associated with tropical shorelines but an inky black. The black sand was not a new concept in the universe but it was a specific concept to volcanos. The large mountain peak that rose slightly shadowing the north end of town suddenly wore a different coat. It was not the idyllic snow-capped peak where goats frolicked and chomped grass. It was a living and breathing volcano that hopefully was a dead mound of rock and not a sleeping giant. The east side of the town was blanketed in a thick forest. It did not have a tropic feel like the plants and vegetation next to the water but more a traditional forest filled with pines, oaks, and other such trees that became thinner and sparser as they trailed up the mountain. The south end of the town expanded into lush fields filled with crops and pasture land filled with herds of various animals. At a fast glance, the crops appeared to be ready for harvest with reds, yellows, and green lumps dangling from the branches as people moved between the rows.
All in all the town was a weird mix. While the buildings appeared to be modern prefabricated buildings, there was not a vehicle, ship, or other motorized forms of transport to be seen. The town inhabitants moving about appeared to be doing so on foot or on an animal.
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