PART II Deterrence Era, Year 12 Bronze Age
It was now possible to see the Earth with the naked eye from the view window of Bronze Age. As the ship decelerated, those who weren’t on duty came to the open space at the stern to observe the Earth through the wide portholes.
At this distance, the Earth still resembled a star, but it was possible to see a pale blue in its glow. The final deceleration stage had begun, and as the stellar drive came online, the crew, who had been floating in zero gravity, drifted toward the portholes like leaves falling in autumn, and finally landed against the broad sheets of glass. The artificial gravity generated by deceleration gradually increased until it reached 1G. The portholes now formed the floor, and the people lying down felt the weight like the embrace of Mother Earth ahead of them. Excitement echoed around the chamber.
“We’re home!” “Can you believe it?”
“I’ll get to see my kids again.” “We can have kids!”
When Bronze Age left the Solar System, the law had dictated that no one could be born on the ship unless someone died.
“She said she’d wait for me.”
“If you’ll have her! You’re now a hero of the human race; you’ll have a flock of pretty girls after you.” “Oh, I haven’t seen flocks of birds in ages!”
“Doesn’t everything we’ve been through seem like a dream?” “I feel like I’m dreaming now.”
“I’m utterly terrified of space.”
“Me too. I’m retiring as soon as we get back. I’m going to buy a farm and spend the rest of my life on solid ground.”
* * *
It had been fourteen years since the complete destruction of the Earth’s combined fleet. The survivors, after engaging in separate internecine battles of darkness, cut off all contact with the home planet. However, for a year and a half thereafter, Bronze Age continued to receive transmissions from Earth, most of which were surface radio communications, but which also included some transmissions intended for space.
And then, at the beginning of November in Year 208 of the Crisis Era, all radio transmissions from Earth ceased. Every frequency fell silent, as though the Earth was a lamp that had been suddenly shut off.
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