Nika Veresk
In the shadow of the stolen light

“The period is the beginning of the twenty first century according to the Earth calendar. Let’s begin with the uniform of the organizations on Earth.”

“Please specify your request. The data volume based on these parameters is very large.”

“A blue uniform,” added Derek.

“The data has been sorted out. I’m forwarding it on the holographic interface.“

The woman’s face disappeared and in its place a virtual stack of cards appeared over the table.

“Like this,” Lora touched the card on the top and gently pushed it aside.

Derek quickly got used to the backup system and after some minutes he was easily interacting with the electronic lady, whose knowledge was truly profound.

“Firstly, I’d like to see only the images of the uniforms, without the descriptions.”

“One thousand two hundred and forty-seven images were accessed.”

Lora slowly sat into an armchair nearby, watching her companion putting aside one card after another. It seemed like the enthusiasm she had felt while coming here besieged him now. But, after two hours of constant data study, Derek’s energy level noticeably fell.

“You need rest,” she said.

“Yes, my eyes are sore and the holographic light is so bright that even the sunglasses can’t protect them any longer”. “We can continue tomorrow…”

“I’ve seen everything that the programme generated,” the young man sighed heavily. “I think, it’s a memory of a military uniform, but I haven’t found anything which matches it exactly.”

“The backup data is old. It was made long before your birth date.”

“I understand… It’s just that I want to remember about my past so much…”

Leaving Derek in his apartment; a white spacious room separated by matte glass into a living room, a bathroom and bedroom; Lora looked back at the hunched and tired figure of the man. She liked his genuine interest in everything new, but she also couldn’t help noticing how his curiosity and enthusiasm faded giving ground to longing and detachment when he was wandering in the depths of his lost memory.

Pausing for a while at the door, Lora then approached the motionless young man in the armchair and took the universal panel from his hands.

“Let me show you something.”

She spared him the explanations, and just gently touched the virtual keys on the screen causing the lights to go dim. And the walls, so white just a second before, flashed with an image of a soft sunset. Then, the silence of the room was interrupted by a light breeze and a melodic swishing of the surf.

“Get some rest,” Lora said quietly.

Giving him back the panel, she lightly touched his hand, which was motionlessly lying on the arm of the chair and left the apartment immediately. In this way she expressed her profound compassion and genuine support. She said nothing because she was sure that Derek was not a man in need of pity and consolation. Her silent presence was more important than words filled with sympathy.

Chapter 4

The next couple of days saw Lora and the man in her care embark on endless trips around the city. The teleport proved to be a convenient and fast transport means. When the distances were not very long, the young people preferred to walk. And anywhere they went they could see that life on Titanium followed its quiet and measured flow regardless of the circumstances. Everything, they said, was in its time. Even when a hasty evacuation from Taria began, the people did not panic; instead, everyone continued doing their job.

Studying anew the history of his own native planet and getting to know the world of the future, Derek recalled the Earth cities, traditions and laws more and more. However, Lora sometimes felt that his memory, despite the fast recovery, remained a picturesque but lifeless picture. He still didn’t remember the details of his own private life, events of previous years and the reasons why the earthlings had sent their transport on such a long voyage.

One evening, after having worn their feet out the busy streets and having spent endless hours in the archive, Lora announced intriguingly.

“You know, you still haven’t seen the most impressive place on Titanium!”

She typed the destination in the teleport control panel and smiled mysteriously.

“You can’t keep me in the dark for long ,” Derek chuckled, because the glass cabin doors slid open almost immediately.

“Yes, our transport system has its drawbacks…” answered Lora with pretentious sadness.

“Welcome to the viewpoint, sector B-153,” announced the programme politely.

“I don’t think you’ll need your glasses here,” noted the girl when the teleport doors closed behind their back. They found themselves in a dark hall with two pale neon lamps along the smooth floor as the only source of light. Slowly changing colour, they ran parallel to each other: one along a dark shiny wall, while the other ran along a seemingly endless panoramic window, behind which the black infinity of outer space pierced by the light of the distant stars opened to their eyes. ‘Solar Flotilla’ followed the Earth calendar and every morning Lora put on her favourite trainers and came here for an hour of jogging around this cyclic track, looking into the unchanging emptiness in front of her and trying to get rid of all doubts and worries.

“Is it always so… empty here?” said Derek looking around.

“The length of the viewpoint is more than seven hundred kilometres. It runs around Titanium and parallel to the Equatorial transport terminal. From here you can watch spaceships arrive. Besides, there are observatories in several of its sections.”

“These ships,” Derek pointed at the rows of spacecraft of strikingly different makes and looks, “Are they alien?”

“The majority of them are. For example, those ones that look like gigantic beetles are the Tarian tractors. They have to stay outside the outer protective field and pass their cargo in smaller loads to our shuttles. They, in turn, go through the energy barrier and deliver them to our transport terminal. Unfortunately, at the moment, none of the five ‘Solar Flotilla’ ships that had started from Earth are even close to Titanium. They are all on the evacuation missions. Their appearance and the technological equipment have changed a lot, of course, during these two hundred and fifty years, but they still work. The ships are named after the five letters of the Greek alphabet, the flagman ship is ‘Alpha’, and the others, ‘Beta’, ‘Gamma’, ‘Delta’ and ‘Epsilon’ are of smaller size and insignificant fire power.”

“So where is Taria?”

“We are moving along its orbit and, at the same time, we are also rotating,” explained Lora. “As is the circular viewpoint.” Lora took out the tablet and checked some data. “We are going to see Taria from here in fourteen minutes.”

“I’d like to see it.”

“Of course, let’s wait!” Lora sat comfortably on the floor, crossing her legs.

“How many stars!” noted Derek with admiration. “They seem as distant as in the sky over Earth.”

“For as long as I can remember, that’s been my view of them from here” echoed Lora.

“Why do I have a feeling that this voyage brings you sadness as much as joy?” suddenly asked Derek.

Lora tightened her lips thoughtfully.

“I’m not really sure myself. But you’re right. Even though our journey is incredibly interesting, allowing us to explore the Universe and meet alien races flying through space in search of a new home, I can’t help believing that the true home for the ‘Solar Flotilla’ people is on Earth and that we can come back…”

“It seems that not many agree with you?”

“My people have their reasons for that, I told you about it…”

“Yes, I know,” the young man nodded with sympathy. “I’m sorry that I can’t remember anything to support your assumption.”

“Me too,” Lora smiled sadly and immediately added, “but your presence on the ship gave me new hope. I believe that everything happens for a reason. All the events, encounters and separations are there to direct a person to their true goal.”

“Do you believe in fate?” Derek wanted to clarify.

“No, I believe in providence,” Lora specified. “I’ve always tried to listen to that voice of the Universe, as I call it.”