The Project Chapter 222 Homecoming and Home

Connor Dickinson was the journalist from Sky and Telescope who had been chatting with Dauc when Alex approached him. Handing him a large envelope Alex introduced himself.

"My name is Alex Russom, and this is my girlfriend Holliqua Karlnotti." Everyone then shook hands as Alex handed the man the envelope.

"One of our citizens is named Tracy Kepler, and she happens to be an amateur astronomer. Her favorite magazine is Sky and Telescope. Well anyway, she has taken some pretty amazing photographs of the night sky over Endor as you can see. These she didn't take but they are of Endor just before entering our outer atmosphere. She's also put together some planetary charts of the Eisel and Tryn-Isha systems. This one is the Zan-Argo system which is the one Endor is located in, that's Endor right there." The man took the envelope like it held the secrets of the universe,

"Thank you so ever much Alex," exclaimed Dickinson, "We will see that Ms Kepler is duly compensated for her work, these will be the first pictures of your world and system, thank you very much."

"Well she's always enjoyed your publication so naturally wanted you to have these."

Dickinson then asked Holliqua and Alex the reason everyone was carrying side arms.

"Force of habit I guess, Holliqua here works for Moriedian security, something like their version of the FBI, Dauc, Zargek, and the others all belong to the Bounty Hunters Guild. The Oxynian Trading Company calls all the shots out there and a lot of their people pack heat as well. Overall. Things are relatively peaceful but raiders are always a threat."

"So all the sci-fi shows are right in that these raiders really do exist?"

"Oh very much so Mr. Dickinson," replied Holliqua. He then tried to get a better look at it but since it was tucked inside a holster he couldn't and Holliqua wasn't about to wave it around for the guy.

Have you guys got all your gear packed and ready to go? We haul out of here at noon tomorrow."

"Oh yeah we're just waiting to get a cabin assignment."

"Well good luck," chuckled Alex, "That ship is stuffed to the gills and space is at a real premium, people will no doubt be sleeping on pallets before it's all over."

"So that ship has artificial gravity on board?"

"Of course, they all do."

As a parting gift, Mr. Jennings had presented Alex with an honorary set of NASA coveralls which included his name and pilots insignia along with a couple NASA tee-shirts and a hat.

Everyone was up early and packed with the shuttle bus getting them over to the pad where the transport was sitting. Zargek had asked Arna to monitor the instrumentation from the bridge while he Dauc and Gehrek went through the pre-flight check.

"Alex, I'm assuming those people you are taking back with you still intend to show up," said Zargek. "I'd like you to make sure they have someplace to stow their gear as well as someplace to sit even if it's just a jump seat. I'm going to be too busy to check myself."

"I'll take care of it Zargek," assured Alex, "I'll see that everyone get's squared away. Both Jake and Donald Falkner were really starting to get worried as it was now nine-thirty and no one had called or even shown up yet. Donald Jennings, Jake and Wes along with Alex wearing his new NASA jumpsuit were standing nervously at the base of the loading ramp wondering where these people were at.

When eleven o-clock rolled around and no one had yet shown Don was ready to call it a bust, but ten minutes later they were alerted by security that a bus had just cleared the main gate with his people. Minutes later, it pulled up in front of the loading ramp. Captain Linda Conrad was the first off,

"I've been made the unofficial leader, my former rank I guess," she announced to Falkner and the others.

"We all agreed to fly into Orlando but some people had delayed flights and all. Any way everyone is here and ready to go." Two very relieved individuals pointed up to the ramp,

"Everyone off, and on that ship now," exclaimed Falkner. As the people clambered up the ramp carrying their gear, Don looked at Alex and shook his head,

"I was really starting to get worried there."

They lifted off around twelve ten, Alex was on the bridge monitoring the instruments fully expecting trouble, but the ship lifted off clean and smooth. Turning to Alex, Zargek grinned, replying,

"What did I tell you, now, lets head for this Durango of your's,"

Arna had the coordinates, as Zargek maintained an altitude of around fifty thousand feet until reaching what Alex told him was approximately central Colorado then it was down to thirty thousand feet. They landed at the Durango-LaPlata county airport that was large enough, and secure enough to handle the large ship. Alex learned from his father that all incoming flights were being diverted for as long as they were there.

"That's certainly gonna piss off a lot of people," he thought. As everybody came off the ship Alex commented to Palmer,

"I wonder if we're gonna get another plaque from the city for all the tourism we've brought?"

Both chuckled, but were secretly proud of where they came from.

As expected, there was a very large crowd there to greet them,

"Christ, it looks like half of Colorado is here, county, city and state law enforcement agencies were all out in force as everyone was directed aboard two large bus's to take them into town. The festivities were being held at the Strater in the center of town as the bus's fell into a parade of sorts. The parade ended on Main street in front of the Strater hotel with presentations and speeches next door at the Strater Theatre. The organizers hadn't counted on all the ex-military people showing up and so weren't quite prepared for all the extra's however captain Conrad, in a hasty conference between Alex, Donald Falkner and one of the Chamber of Commerce organizers said,

"That's all right Alex, we'll use the time to pick up any supplies we might have forgot and make our own way." The Chief of police issued them temporary ID cards stating that the bearer was a member of Alex's group.

"We'll hang around the ship and make sure no one bothers anything as well." Later Alex made sure they got food tickets allowing them free meals at local restaurants.

In a way they were the lucky ones, they could freely move around and pick up ammunition and gear at the local shops without much attention. Alex and his friends, as well as the NASA people had a much harder time, although the free round trip on the steam train up to Silverton and back proved quite a hit with his friends, with Zargek citing it as something he'd always remember. Khoge told one of the local reporters,

"Traveling through the solar systems as we do and at hyperdrive speeds it's easy to loose sight of the simple things. This train trip allowed me, and I know the others as well to simply relax and enjoy the scenery." Holliqua also voiced similar sentiments,

"Alex is always trying to describe where he comes from, riding on this train really allowed me to appreciate these mountains, and the area around them."

The first day of their arrival involved a banquet and speeches as well as an opportunity for some of the local people to meet the aliens. Alex and Palmer also ran into former classmates that were home for the celebration or had attended Fort Lewis.

Later, she told Alex,

"While you and Holliqua were talking to the tourism people I ran into Dawn Blackwell and Annie Jefferson." Then with a laugh, she added,

"If looks could kill, I'd be dead, when they asked me what I had found to do I told them, Oh I worked for a time in the Ruddorian foreign office, and was now being considered for Endorian Foreign Minister, oh I just love it Alex." Both Alex and Palmer also publicly thanked the city of Durango for sponsoring the event, as well as everyone working security. For the two days they were there, Alex stayed with his parents and Palmer with hers.

Dr. Frick also showed up with his selection of people, six in all, two farmers, an electrical engineer, an ex-foreign legionary, his wife who was a teacher, and one of the farmers whose wife also a farmer. Everyone paid what they figured would be a respectable passage in gold.

"Not quite near enough," said Zargek, "But it will do." By this time, all available beds were taken, so all Alex could do was tell the passengers to find a spot to make a sleeping pallet. The same went for the four students coming from Fort Lewis. Since none of them had anywhere near the fare Alex simply told them,

"You guys won't need money anymore, take whatever you have, and buy as much food as you can to offset our food supplies. Naturally all of you are going to need translators which we will buy for you but you will be expected to reimburse us for them." When they finally lifted off, the ship was packed, Major Morford suggested to Zargek they ought to call the ship "The Mayflower," adding that he hoped living conditions would be better than on the original Mayflower.

After they had cleared earth's outer atmosphere, and were well out into space, Alex, Major Morford, and Donald Falkner called a general meeting. There was still enough room in the cargo bay for everyone to stand, and the acoustics were pretty good.

"All right everyone listen up," announced the major "We've got a lot of important announcements concerning meals, sleeping arrangements, and sanitary concerns." After he was done explaining the deck layout as well as setting up a system whereby people took turns sharing the limited bunks as well as asking for volunteers to help in the galley, Alex spoke up about their final destination. "First of all, I want to thank Captain Conrad and her people for helping out with security back in Durango. I hope the townspeople treated you right, the mayor told me he was on the situation. Now, for those of you who are here courtesy of Doctor Frick, and those of you from Fort Lewis, welcome aboard. It will take a little over a week to reach Fort Kamata flying at hyperlight speed. Some of you might experience a certain lightheadedness, or queasiness but once your bodies eventually adjust, you'll get used to it. Our first stop will be Fort Kamata where all those of you without ID's will be registered by the Oxynian Trading Company rep. Now this is something everyone has to have, like it or not, it's a requirement."

"Along with the ID, everyone will receive a translator like I'm wearing. Now everyone isn't going to get one exactly like this, some will get the cheaper models, depending on how much interaction I feel you will have with our alien friends. If you should get a cheaper model don't worry, if in the future your job or duties require that you need a more advanced model then you will get one. One last word on these translators, they aren't cheap, even the cheap ones, take care of them, don't leave them lying around, and once you have worn your's for a little while they won't work for anyone else. During the flight, I will be interviewing everyone of you to get an idea of where you might fit in. Now, we are heading for the planet Endor, yeah, I know, but actually it's a fitting name as there are a lot of trees on the planet just like the Stars Wars one."

"New Coryville is the capitol and main settlement on Endor, which is where we will land although probably not at first. Where we will land is on an island called Mos Eisley but unlike the one in Star Wars it is not a hive of scum and villainy like the movie version. Some of you may have noticed all the cases of alcohol, I'm going to warn you now DONOT, I repeat, DO NOT open or in anyway tamper with these cases they are not for you're consumption. That alcohol is paying for this trip and every case belongs to someone else, more than likely one of my friends. You go breaking into their liquor you will be dealing with alien justice and may very well find yourself spending a good long time on some prison planet. I'm damn dead serious about this stay the hell away from the booze."

"Now, to continue, along with my introduction to Endor. Along with New Coryville, and Mos Eisley, there is the small community of Coromere which is where the distillery workers and techs live. There is also the Elvin village of Dinocki where naturally all the elves live, yes, elves and pixies, even centaurs are very real and all live on Endor. If you want to know more about Dinocki ask Captain Black, she serves as their doctor."

"Now, I'm sure all of you want to know more about aliens, no doubt you've seen some already. All right guys step out and be recognized. Unfortunately Zargek Ex'ik is the ship's captain and can't be here. Zargek is a Ruddorian. Co-piloting this ship is Arna, Arna and I go way back to the beginning. Arna is also a highly advance android, anyone ever see The Terminator?" Well basically that's what she is so don't fuck with her. This is my girl friend Holliqua Karlnoti, Holly is a Moriedian and works for the Moriedian government as a security agent. This is Dauc L'az Nah, Dauc is a Golian, and head of the Bounty Hunters Guild. Next is Khoge Xezax, intelligence chief for the Bounty Hunters Guild, another Golian. Here's Gehrek Nalquk who's a Selantrian, and also a member of the Guild. Over there is Vacan Eifott an Asharian. Until you get a translator, don't try talking with them, if you have a question ask one of us."

One of the first things Alex did was run a sci-fi marathon using the new DVD player and large screen TV that was purchased. To run off the ships power, he had brought along a special converter Steve Haines had built. As he told Zargek and Khoge, I want you guys to watch everyone, then maybe you'll get some sort of understanding as to where we are coming from." One of the NASA technicians back on earth had also been a sci-fi freak and knew what Alex was looking for All the major films, plus quite a few of the lesser known were as well. All the TV shows including the full Star Trek series, Deep Space Nine, Space Rangers Far Scape Starhunter, Earth 1999, the complete Babylon Five series. Literally everything the guy could get his hands on. The TV was set up in the galley and soon hooked both aliens and humans alike. As he suspected, films like War of the Worlds, Earth Vs. Flying Saucers, This Island Earth, Forbidden Planet, and Day the Earth Stood Still amused his friends. While films like the whole Star Wars series, the Star Trek movies, Close Encounters, TV shows like Farscape, Star Trek, and Star Hunter caught their attention.

Each film generally contained features his alien friends found fascinating, all agreed that naming Z'ha'dum Endor, and the old Neistrian base Mos Eisley the proper thing to do. The Starhunter TV series caught their attention because the main characters were bounty hunters and the show unknowingly dealt with problems they had also dealt with. In Farscape, the concept of a living breathing ship caught everyone's attention, even sparking a lively discussion between Dauc, Khoge, and Gehrek with Dr. Beck and Norman Jeffries of NASA. The one thing all were fascinated by were the ship and fighter designs featured in the Star Wars series . Both Zargek and Dauc held a long discussion between Mr. Jeffries, his wife, Major Morford and Tanya Lowell from Scientific American about the subject.

Holliqua also had her share of discussions with not only Jeffries but all of the journalists trying to understand what it was like where they were headed. As Alex laughingly suggested,

"Maybe you ought to write another "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" for all the questions those people have been asking you."

"Oh I don't mind, helps pass the time, and if they are going to write about us, I want to make sure they get it right. Palmer also spent considerable time discussing Endor and other matters with the four students from Fort Lewis, making them fee at home, as well as their decision to make this incredible journey had been the right one.

Around mid point, Donald Falkner reported to Alex,

I believe we already have a shipboard romance,"

"Oh, who?" He asked. With a snicker, Don replied,

"Wes and one of the women Shelly Kramer. Seems she almost made it through the Ranger program but dropped out. Apparently he's not holding that against her. In fact, they have both been putting a training program together. I've had a look at it and it looks sound to me. Oh, by the way, we've picked up another "recruit." One of Frick's people, guys name is Simon Jenke, German, I believe. Anyway we had a long talk, and it turns out he's former French Foreign Legion, with quite a bit of experience in Africa, as well as Iraq, and Mali. At any rate he's definitely got his act together and we can certainly use him. I also want to make sure he get's one of the better translators. Oh yeah, his wife Maja is also a teacher, and both speak excellent English."

It was also about this time that Zargek, Dauc, and Holliqua let Alex, Mr. Falkner, as well as Major Morford in on a little secret.

"We didn't want to say anything earlier," began Holliqua, "Because you people had enough on your minds but now we feel it's best to let you know. Considering what we are carrying, there is a very good chance the raiders will be giving us a little special attention, in fact, you can bet on it. However we don't know if they will make an attempt before we land at Fort Kamata or after we leave. Personally I think they will try before as we will be very low on fuel and won't be able to fly very far. I alerted my people just before we left, as did Dauc. We have agents currently at the fort along with a flight squadron waiting on Tasir Var."