Saturday, 14 April 2018

16 Epilogue

Six Months After Landfall
Many people still paused at sunset, to watch the sky burst into flame.
Fire had ceased to be the monster they all thought it was. In fact, some seemed to enjoy lighting a bonfire every night, when the day shift ended.
It had been hard work, at first. They had nothing set up. Exploring the land was fun, but it took them a while to realize what they were looking for. The Dome, now Home Base, had been anchored securely on the coastline. Ships had gone out to catch fish for food. Every week or so, the Ark-Hive would float a container full of foodstuffs that they recognized, or some processed ore for construction. A sub would go out to tow it back, and bring along letters and news. Communications were a little spotty. It had been centuries since people on land had called anyone on the bottom of the ocean. There was much to relearn.
Cora had ceremonially broken ground on the first building, first road, first dormitory. Little by little, they were expanding.
Don had acted in good faith, knowing how tenuous his position was, and crops were planted, species were tank-grown and reintroduced. Cora had personally released the first synth-birds into the air, and hundreds of people had shouted in awe, watching something that could actually fly.
Cora was jealous. Birds could move in three dimensions, and she couldn’t anymore. Not without being underwater.
At first, nobody had wanted to move out of the Dome, but little by little, people were establishing themselves properly on The Land. Families were forming, babies on the way.
Cora was happy for them. But Ano could see the melancholy behind her smile.
Don’s the only one here who’s like me.” Cora confessed to her. “All my friends, all the people I planned to spend my future with; they’re all staying below.”
You’ve been really busy.” Ano pointed out. “When was the last time you even went for a swim?”
I can’t even see below the water any more.” Cora sighed. “So easy to forget…”
But this was not the day for such thoughts. Green Sector had just arrived, coming in to land. There were a new crowd of people to house and put to work. Cora had greeted people as they came out, welcoming faces she knew; giving directions here and there. She was surprised when she saw that the statue of her mother had apparently been taken from the Memorial Ship and sent to the Surface. That would have been surprising enough, but then she saw that Green Sector had an escort.
The dolphins had followed.
It took some doing, to refit a large enough section.” Cora had been told. “But the tunnels still run through the whole Sector. Almost a dozen dolphins came with us, pressurized to this depth. They’re shallow-water fish again.”
Cora had made all the right noises, taken it in stride. She had organized a place for the statue of her mother, in the centre of what was fast becoming their little town. As everyone applauded, she had placed her father’s ashes at the base of the statue, right where he’d want to be.
But the moment her shift ended, she had almost run to the beach; harness in one hand, TABB in the other. Delphi stuck his bottlenose up to meet her, squealing happily. “Cora! Found Cora!”
She had hugged the dolphin tightly. “You’re here! You know you can’t go straight back! You depressurized with-”
Swim now!”
We will.” Cora promised. “How’s Tai? How’s Nix? Where’s-”
Swim! Swim!” Delphi was having none of that. He had already prodded Cora’s legs to get her floating; trying to wriggle into his harness, even without her help. She put it on him properly, and they were instantly off like a shot. She understood. They would talk. But what they were doing now was more important. They raced around the Dome, then around Home Base, then along the beach.
After a full hour of this, Delphi let her go, and raced along on his own for a while. The dolphin seemed to delight in leaping out of the water, doing flips, making perfect dives; getting to know the surface in his own way. “Waves fun!” Delphi chattered to her.
Cora laughed, feeling years younger. “You know, this is how it was for your people, before it all went bad. My ancestors gave yours gills; but this is how it was for you, way back then.” She lay on her back, floating, looking up at the stars. “I’ve missed this.” She said quietly to her friend. “I told Tai once that in the water you don't feel heavy anymore. You just... Close your eyes and let it hold you up, hold you still. If there's movement in the water, you don't even feel it as you move. When you just let yourself be in the water, you're part of it… It becomes you. Tai thought it was like being born." She turned over and hugged him. “Thank you for this. I’ve been working so long, I forgot how the ocean lets you just… be still.”
Delphi nudged her. “Better than still.”
Better than being still is going very fast.” Cora laughed. “Okay, let’s swim again.” She turned to grip the harness. “One day we’ll go back, Delphi. We’ll go back and we’ll ride the deeps. You, me, Nix... Tai. We’ll go back to where we’re meant to be.”
Delphi chattered in approval, and the two of them took off again.


Note From The Author: I hope you all enjoyed The Ark-Hive, in its serialised format. If you prefer to take it with you, you can head over to Amazon, and buy the whole book; in a complete ebook format, or in paperback.