Nika Veresk
In the shadow of the stolen light

“No laws…” with more seriousness stated Derek, totally losing his appetite.

“Hello! I see you are having a lively discussion here!” Paul appeared next to their table. “May I?”

“Of course,” nodded the girl. “Derek, this is Paul, the shuttle captain who has brought the rescue unit to Titanium. He was in your ward when you regained consciousness.”

“I remember this voice,” Derek nodded watching Paul greet him with a small bow, his palms together in front of him.

“I’m glad you’re better,” said the young man taking a seat at the table and ordering a meal. “I think I’ve interrupted something important.”

“Just now I was telling Derek that we don’t have laws,” explained Lora.

“I don’t understand how that can be… there were laws, codes, courts on Earth… It seems like an immutable truth…”

“General information is easier for you to remember, isn’t it?” clarified Paul.

The earthling nodded.

“The doctor said that the tough part will be to remember the details of my life. My family, work, the voyage in the interplanetary ship,” he sighed poking at the cold breakfast with his fork.

“Well, laws were necessary on Earth in order to artificially control the self-destructive side of the human nature from the outside,” Paul decided to distract Derek from his sad thoughts. “All the government and religious institutions were created with the purpose of defining what is good and bad, and to force people to abide by these rules under the threat of physical or spiritual punishment. But the concept of good and evil is inherent to every human being… And we, Andre Mendes’ followers, realize that…”

“Sounds ominous… Like a conspiracy theory…”

“It’s not a theory. It’s a rational perspective on the earthlings’ lifestyle.”

“It seems you don’t identify yourself with your motherland at all,” Derek looked at the speaker.

“Far from it,” interrupted Lora, “It’s just been a long time.”

The earthling shrugged indifferently. With Paul around he started behaving in a more reserved manner and spoke with more tension in his voice.

“The difference in the point of view became a stumbling block for our ancestors,” noted the girl seriously. “But many things could have changed after ‘Solar Flotilla’ left.”

“Unfortunately, I don’t remember that,” Derek frowned.

“Take your time,” the captain reacted calmly. “Besides, our scientists have been working hard to receive the maximum information about what happened on the ship. I think you’ve heard that the autopsy of the other person found in the ark revealed that the woman had died from a virus unknown to us. Because of the substance injected in the blood, it’s difficult to understand the details of the infection and its development but…”

“I have an idea,” Lora interrupted him, “It’s most likely that the infection was from Earth. In any case, nothing points to the alien origin of the virus. It could’ve been activated during the flight, or you were already infected when you were getting into the anabiosis.”

“I doubt that the authorities from Earth would’ve sent ill astronauts on a mission in space,” commented the captain.

“Was I an astronaut?” asked Derek.

“We’re not sure. We still haven’t been able to restore the data from the onboard computer,” the girl sighed heavily, “The scariest scenario to my mind is this: what if your ship was actually sent for help? It’s possible that people suffered from a pandemic and couldn’t find an alternative way to contain it.”

“In this case, they’d have to wait for our return for quite a long time,” noted Paul.

“What if there was no other way? Or, what if the ship from Earth carried the only survivors?”

The young men simultaneously looked at the girl.

“Derek, do you remember you said that you had very little time? It could be connected with the illness. Maybe even the anabiosis couldn’t stop the virus and you knew about it…”

Paul frowned and rubbed his temples.

“If we develop this idea further we can come to a conclusion that the Earth population has been destroyed… Two hundred years have passed…”

There was a pause. Lora couldn’t see Derek’s eyes behind the dark glasses.

“Derek?” Lora was closely watching the young man, “Have you remembered something?”

He seemed to have plunged into his thoughts again as had happened many times until that moment..

“No,” answered Derek, “Anyway, I must go back. If your experts can’t find the answers on the onboard computer, I’ll find out everything myself on Earth.”

“You’ll have to cross half a galaxy to go back,” exclaimed Paul, “Literally.”

“Do I have a choice?” asked the guest.

“It’s important to wait for the test results from the IT department,” answered the captain calmly. “And, of course the medical department results as the return might not be safe…”

“What if there are survivors on Earth and they need help?!” Lora joined the conversation. “What if the old feud doesn’t matter anymore and we can go back home forever?!”

“Slow down, I don’t follow you,” said Paul.

“But I do,” Derek’s words resounded with unshakable confidence. “The only way to find out is to return to Earth.”

“Paul,” the girl looked at her friend, “We must speak to the Council!”

“Do you want…”

“To prepare an expedition to Earth!”

The young man raised his hands.

“Whoah! An expedition through half a galaxy? Based on bare assumptions?”

“We have nothing else,” Lora shrugged, “Why wait…”

“Two hundred years have passed,” the captain negatively shook his head, “Why should we hurry now?”

“We’re moving further and further away from Earth,” Lora found a sensible argument.

“Yes, but…”

“But the next Lactian year we’ll surely spend on Vistana’s orbit, collaborating with the Lactians. It’s our chance to fly to Earth and come back!”

“I’d like to address the Council myself,” the guest interrupted their argument. Lora looked at Derek. He sounded very confident. “Is it possible?”