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Chapter 9 Moving day

A chiming in Ben's head was slowing climbing in volume. He opened his eyes hearing a cheerful “Good morning Ben.” Seeing Celeste leaning over him Ben clumsily pulled up the sheets to his chin. Celeste smirked, “Get over it Ben, When I did the implants, I gave you a full physical examination at the same time. You also got vaccinations, and some goodies to boost your immune system.. There isn't anything I don't know about your body, and on that subject, you should get a little more exercise. We'll work on that in time.” 

“What's in store for me today Celeste,” mumbled a still sleepy Ben. “We are joining Jacob for breakfast, so hit the showers and meet me in the cafeteria's private dining room,” said Celeste, as she walked out.

Wet-haired Ben entered the dining area clutching a plate of pseudo eggs, something that purported to be yogurt and fruit and a cup of cafe. He started to sit next to Jacob but instead veered at the last second to sit next to Celeste, causing a quixotic smile to briefly flash past her lips. 

“Good morning Ben,” said Jacob. “Celeste and I have talked about what planets we want to look at, and we have settled on a place called Pastoral. It hasn't been visited in over a hundred years.

“Celeste, would you give us a quick overview of what we know to date.” “Sure, Jacob. Pastoral is a moonless close to earth norm planet with one vast continent. The animal life is small of which some are edible and was supplemented with earth mammals and vegetation. It was settled by two groups. The first was Eauland Industries. They were a strict monotheist religious company that manufactured water purification systems used by terraforming companies.”

“The Gaian's were the second group and called themselves One Earther's. They are an agrarian-based matriarchal society with a loosely organized pagan style worship of Mother Earth. Neither group had much interaction with each other. The One Earther's constantly complained about the Eaulander's mining and heavy construction facilities were damaging the planet and the Eaulanders shunned the One Earthers as godless heretics. My best estimate is the current population will be around 4.5 million.”

Celeste looked over at Ben, “Are you ready to go?” 

Startled Ben quavered, “Right now? Don't I have to pack or do something to get ready?”

“No Ben. I prepared the ship and packed for you last night. I don't ever truly sleep, but I do need to rest on a regular basis. And yes I have a bathing suit on board for you if we find a waterfall. One without lots of cavorting females in skimpy suits that is. Your stuff can stay where it is in your room. You don't have anything on your schedule today do you?”

“Uh no Celeste, it seems my schedule happens to be open today, and tomorrow as well.” 

Okay, let's go.” 

“Do have a projected timeline Celeste?” asked Jacob. “The trip travel time is 2.1 days subjective. Maybe about a month for the survey if all goes well. If things are bad, it could be longer than that. It really all depends on how far they have slid backward in technology or culture.” Celeste stood, “I'll be onboard Ben, the waiting cart will take you to the ship,” and she vanished.

Ben stood and shook Jacob's hand. “Guess I'm off Jacob,” Ben said with some trepidation. “Any advice for me?”

“Yes Ben, but first ask Celeste if she would give you some privacy for a moment.”

I heard, let me know when you're through with Jacob,” whispered back Celeste.

Jacob paused for a moment and looked straight at Ben. “The first thing about Celeste is you can't lie to her without her instantly knowing it, and she would never lie to you unless it is necessary for your safety. Celeste is truly alive, has real feelings, and cares deeply for those around her. Like all of us, she desires companionship and intimacy. Her sense of humor can be dry so keep that in mind. She selected you and had been looking for a suitable partner for a long time. You're entering into a relationship with her, and how it works out is up to both of you. She's a remarkable, smart and kind woman. That being said you don't ever want to be on her bad side, she's slow to forgive, but always does in time. You're in good hands, and we need both of you to work together for everyone's sake. Have a good voyage Ben, and we will see you in a month or so.”

“Thanks, Jacob,” said Ben, and he walked over to the cart and climbed in. “I'm done with Jacob,” said Ben, “Thank you.”

You're welcome Ben, I'll see you soon.”

The cart whirred through the library complex and came to a stop in a cavernous hall next to a ship that was much larger than the one he arrived on. Ben walked up the ramp taking in the size of the vessel. 

“Welcome aboard. This is my personal expedition ship, and I have configured it to suit both you and the mission. I can't wait to show you.” said an animated Celeste waiting for him at the top of the ramp.

Ben stepped into a small circular room with hatches all finished in dark wood. Celeste said, “Watch this.” The wood disappeared, and gray metallic walls appeared and then became dark wood again. “I have holoprojectors everywhere in the ship, so we can make our rooms look any way we want them to appear. The only real things are the furnishings, and I made sure they are comfortable. Aft is the hold, and it's packed full of things we might need including a full medical suite for you if need be. I'm a good doctor as you already know. Let's go forward.”

Ben followed and entered into a large salon. One wall had a huge vid, and abundant other smaller vids were showing a variety of scenes. One caught his eye, and he walked over to look at it closer. It was a waterfall on a lush alien planet with a woman that looked similar to Celeste swimming in the pool at the base of the falls. Ben looked at it puzzled for a moment and turned towards Celeste and started to say, “Didn't I see this image on my vid...,”

“Yes, you did. I put it there when we were on Bliss. It's the same waterfall, I just removed the other cavorting females. I was the one swimming.” Ben smiled, and said, “It looks better now Celeste.”

“Thank you, Ben, it was a nice thing to say.”

“Let me show you the rest of the ship. Here is a small gym,” as a door slide open. Ben stared at the exercise equipment and sighed. “And this the bedroom.” Ben walked in and noted a large bed in the spacious room with a bank of drawers built into the wall and a wall vid. On the other side of the room through an open door, he saw a small bathroom and shower. “There are four other smaller cabins for guests, but I don't expect any company on this trip. Forward is the galley and bridge. This ship is virtually indestructible, and heavily armed which on occasion has been handy. Find a seat and buckle up Ben, we are going to lift.” 

Ben sat on the salon couch and found the restraints. A small lurch indicated the lift was in motion and a second bump told him they were on the surface. Ben clenched briefly as he was pressed down hard in the cushions as the vid showed a rapidly shrinking Alexandria. “The first jump is in 60 seconds Ben, and then I'll join you. This takes some concentration.” Ben felt himself turning inside out thinking, “What in the world have I got myself into?”