A/N: We've finally reached the end of the story. I hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I've enjoyed writing. Thanks for coming along for the ride!
(8 years later)
The delectable aroma of freshly baked bread filled the air. Sitting cross legged on the ground beside her best friend Zoe, Lily breathed deeply, savoring the smell. She loved baking days. Especially when her mom used the outdoor kitchen comprised of clay ovens, a makeshift counter and an awning for shade. On sunny spring days like today, it was wonderful to be outside. And even though it was a far more primitive setup than the communal kitchen, the bread tasted just as good, if not better
"Can't I have some, Mom?"
"Wait until lunch when everyone gets back."
Lily smirked, exchanging knowing glances with Zoe. Her mother would eventually break down and hand them a morsel or two to snack on. Maybe they'd even get to try out the currant jelly they'd made last week.
Bess Martin hummed as she patted out dough. She absently wiped some flour on her cheek as she paused to think. Her well patched black and red checked flannel shirt was stretched tightly over her abdomen. Soon she'd have to forage about for larger sizes. Her clothing (and everyone else's) consisted of whatever the Grendlers could scavenge. Although thankfully, most of the items were practical, many weren't necessarily flattering. Despite her ill-fitting clothing, Lily felt like her mom was one of the most beautiful women in their group.
Bess' shiny copper colored tresses were pulled back in a ponytail. Lily wished that her hair was as stunning as her mother's. Although Lily's was shoulder length and somewhat wavy, it was a boring shade of dark brown, almost black like her father's. And it wasn't nearly as lush as her mother's long locks. Still, she was fortunate. Unlike Zoe's mom, Bess was skilled with fixing hair and actually enjoyed doing so. Lily usually sported stylish braids or fancy curls that more than made up for her drab color. While Zoe had attractive glossy blonde hair like her mother, it simply hung straight, resting on her shoulders and framing her face.
Lily looked up to see her father in the distance. With his hair drawn back into its usual pony tail, he was sitting on a rock with his gear on his head (it was always on). From his movements she assumed that he was playing the drums in VR, something he'd started doing over the past months. She didn't understand why he and Walman always got to wear gear especially since there were so few sets to go around. It didn't seem fair. He also looked kinda silly when he did that. Yet her mother didn't think so. Lily had caught her a few times, watching him and tearing up, with a goofy smile on her face.
Her father confused her. Many times he seemed distant, having trouble relating to her. But other times, like when he read to her last night, he'd hugged her enthusiastically and told her that he loved her. Like he really meant it. That had been unexpected. And nice.
Phoenix colony, comprised of over thirty-five people, was an odd amalgam of primitive and high tech. Other than the technology that was taken from New Pacifica years ago and that which was occasionally scavenged by Grendlers, their manufactured supplies were limited. They had generators to power some computers, provide lighting, heating and communications. Danziger managed to keep the few vehicles they possessed functional. Most of their farming was done the old fashioned way, using animals to assist with the hard labor. The Terrians had helped them discover a local grain and other plants that would thrive in this somewhat arid climate. The sandy soil lacked the nutrients that New Pacifica had an abundance of. Their simple homes were composed of dull orange colored hardened local clay, resembling adobe from Earth. Their furnishings were sparse, mostly comprised of a table, beds with straw mattresses, and wooden chairs.
It was disturbing that some of the supplies the Grendlers produced to exchange for food were clearly labeled 'Eden Advance'. Were these remnants of the cargo pods jettisoned years ago? Given the Grendlers' ease in using the spider tunnels and the number of unaccounted for pods, it was possible. Or had the creatures been stealing supplies from New Pacifica colony? While many thought about the colony and those left behind, they had never re-established contact in fear of jeopardizing their relationship with the Terrians.
Still, they couldn't help but wonder. Has Dr. Vasquez successfully developed new meds? Or had many more Syndrome children died needlessly? And what had happened to the colony after they'd destroyed part of the Dream Plane with no intention of repairing it? Had they been able to use their technology to overcome it? Or had New Pacifica become a ghost town like Independence Colony?
The climate in this region wasn't optimal but this was where the Terrians had led them. Unlike New Pacifica, the temperatures ranged in extremes with sweltering summers followed by freezing winters with some snow. Limited rainfall restricted the range of crops that would thrive but they managed.
The people of Phoenix worked hard at keeping their pledge to honor the Terrians and their world. Despite the advances they made, it was never easy. While Alonzo and Uly (and other healed Syndrome kids) had developed a closer relationship with the Terrians, there would always be a gap in their understanding of each other and their cultures. While the group was eager to follow the Terrian's guidelines, they weren't always clear or even provided. So they did the best they could, experimenting with food cultivation, waste disposal and other issues. Even after eight years they still made mistakes. But they were trying and the Terrians seemed to appreciate that.
"It's bread day!" An attractive tall girl with shoulder length brown hair and a trim athletic build appeared, putting an arm on Bess' shoulder.
"Oh no. You have to wait too."
"True!" Lily cried eagerly, running over to wrap her arms affectionately around the girl's legs. "Are you here to help?"
When Lily had been much younger and only allowed to watch, True had served as her mother's assistant.
Julia joined them. "There you are. Are you ready?"
"You're going to do it? You're going to study with Julia!" Bess was pleased.
Embarrassed by Bess' enthusiasm, True responded, "I'm going to try it out."
"You'll be great!"
"Bess, can you bring Zoe to school with Lily this afternoon?" Julia asked.
The work was divided amongst the colony members. Some were dedicated crop workers. Others maintained the equipment. Yale taught the children. Bess, Melissa, and Denner typically coordinated the cooking of meals. Most mothers of young children also worked together to coordinate childcare. While everyone didn't have the same jobs, they all worked together for the good of the colony.
"See ya later, pumpkin!" Julia bent down to tousle Zoe's blonde locks.
True and Julia left.
Lily was miffed. She wanted to spend more time with True whom she considered a special friend. While she was pleased that True was going to be studying medicine with Julia, she wanted to do something special too.
"When do I get to go on trips with the Terrians?" Lily complained.
Bess frowned sternly.
Seeing Zoe's trembling lower lip, Lily remembered. Her mother had told her time and time again but she kept forgetting. It was bad manners to talk about that in front of Zoe. Unlike Lily, she hadn't been born with the Syndrome. She didn't need to be healed, thus she had no Terrian DNA. While most of the healed children had fairly normal childhoods, they experienced changes around the age of thirteen or fourteen along with the onset of puberty. Their Terrians abilities began to manifest themselves and the kids were even taken by the Terrians for training.
But even though Zoe herself wasn't linked to the Terrians like Lily, her dad was. Despite the fact that he had no Terrian DNA, Alonzo served an important role as a liaison between the Terrians and the people of Phoenix. He was able to Dream with the Terrians. He was even able to communicate with the planet. He spent a lot of time meditating in their caves.
Yet even though he spent so much time with the Terrians, Alonzo was also a lot of fun. He loved teasing the little girls, making them giggle. And he told great stories at camp fires. Lily sometimes wished her dad was more like Alonzo.
Sensing an opportunity had arisen; Lily politely asked her mother, "Can we have some bread?"
Eager to distract Zoe, Bess agreed.
(Paul Adair Danziger)
Uly can be such a pain sometimes. He keeps bragging about the neat stuff he gets to do with the Terrians. I can't wait until I'm older and I get to hang out with the Terrians and learn all sorts of cool stuff. Uly can travel through the earth, just like them. So can Peter, Aaron and Lisa. They spend lots of time with the Terrians, learning about the planet. I wish it would happen now. I don't wanna wait until I'm fourteen years old – that'll take forever.
Something exciting happened today. Uly told me a secret which I'm not supposed to share with anybody, not even True. He has some sort of special mission that I'm supposed to do with him and the Terrians. It sounds kinda crazy. I'm supposed to memorize the layout of some Terrians tunnels and then let them bring me through the ground across the country. And then they're gonna bring me back in time…