Chapter 8 Moving day

A chiming was slowing climbing in volume in Ben's head. 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 a bunch of vaccinations, and some goodies to boost your immune systems. 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, and she winked out.

A wet-haired Ben entered the dining area clutching a plate with 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 minute 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.” “Yes, Jacob. Pastoral is a moonless close to earth norm planet with one very large continent and a number of much smaller ones that were sparsely populated. It's fairly rich in basic elements with a modest amount of extractable heavy metals. The ocean is salty with a fairly high level of sulfur mixed in with it. The sea life is not edible The animal life is generally small of which many are edible. The day cycle is twenty-two hours long. It was settled by two groups. The first was Eauland Industries. They were a strict monotheist religious company that manufactured large-scale water purification systems used by terraforming companies.”

“The Gaian's were the other group and called themselves the One Earther's. They are an agrarian-based matriarchal society with a loosely organized pagan style worship of Mother Earth. Neither group apparently had much interaction with each other. The One Earther's apparently constantly complained about the Eaulander's mining and heavy construction facilities 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 and quietly said, “Are you ready to go?” A startled Ben quavered, “Right now? Don't I have to pack or do something to get ready.” “No Ben, the ship is ready, and I already packed for you. I don't ever really sleep, but I do have to rest on a regular basis. Your wardrobe isn't suitable for where we are going, 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 will 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, then let's go, I have a cart waiting outside the cafeteria for you.” Jacob looked at Celeste, and inquired, “Do have a projected timeline Celeste?” “The trip travel time is 2.1 days subjective Jacob. Maybe about 2 months for the survey if all goes well. If things are bad, it could be much quicker than that. It really depends on how far they have slid backward in technology or culture.” Celeste stood, and stated, “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 that Ben, let me know when you're through with Jacob,” whispered 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 was necessary for your safety. Celeste is very 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 very dry so keep that in mind too. She selected you and has been looking for a suitable partner for a long time. She's picky but pragmatic. You're entering into a relationship with her, and how it works out is up to both of you. She's remarkable, extremely powerful and very kind. That being said you don't ever want to be on her bad side. You're in good hands, and we need both of you to work together. Have a good trip Ben, and we will see you in a couple of months.” “Thanks, Jacob” said a more somber Ben, and he walked over to the cart and climbed in. “I'm done with Jacob,” said Ben, “Thanks Celeste.” “You're very welcome Ben, see you soon.

The cart whirred through the library complex and came to a stop in a cavernous room next to a ship that was much larger than the one he arrived on with one of its boarding ramps deployed. Ben pried his lanky frame out of the small cart and slowly walked up the ramp taking in the size of the vessel. “Welcome aboard Ben 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 now waiting for him at the top of the ramp.

Ben stepped into a small circular room with hatches finished in dark wood and corridors heading off in several directions. Celeste said, “Watch this” and waved her hand. The wood disappeared and gray metallic walls appeared and then became dark wood again. “I have holo projectors 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 windows displays 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 very 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 on..,” “Yes Ben, 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,” she said smiling shyly.

“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 is your bedroom.” Ben walked in and noted a large bed in the spacious room with a bank of drawers built into the wall, a desk, and a wall vid. On the other side of the room through an open door, he saw a small bathroom and shower. Celeste interjected, “There are also 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 also virtually indestructible, and heavily armed which on occasion has been handy. Buckle up Ben, we are going to lift,” said Celeste

Ben sat on the salon couch, found the restraints under the cushions, and buckled up. A small lurch indicated the lift was in motion and a second bump told him they were on the surface. Ben winced briefly as he was pressed down in the cushions, and 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 feels himself turning inside out thinking, “What in the world have I got myself into?”