December the 10th, 2083, Ruhigdorf, England.
"You knew who did it… didn't you, Felix?"
Felix stared down at the crimson-coloured tea in the fragile white cup in his hands. It had been exactly a month since the events of the SS Exodus and Felix remembered it vividly. It hadn't been the prettiest landing back on the runway on the planet: Olan and Michael hadn't had time to relax and really concentrate on the touchdown, but everyone was alive and that was what mattered.
Well… almost everyone.
The community aboard the ship had been overjoyed to be finally grounded again and everyone had shared a moment of pure bliss and elation when they realised that they were safe at long last. It had been an amazing moment, and one of the first times that Felix had grinned and laughed and hugged his friends in a depressingly long time. He'd been a much happier person now that Jonah wasn't constantly monitoring his activities and interactions, and especially happier now that he was back in the quiet village again.
Ruhigdorf had been almost completely rebuilt by now. The town's community had been restored to their former joy even before the fire, too. Everyone had decided that it wasn't the best idea to restock and refuel the SS Exodus just yet, and everyone mutually agreed that they'd had enough of orbiting Earth for a good while now.
Besides, it wasn't the best idea to launch the ship without the captain, anyway. When Jonah had left the control room, he had stormed up to his cabin and boarded his escape pod without even looking for Cass, and had left. Nobody had seen him since and it was believed that something might have gone wrong with the pod and become lost or even broken up in the abyss of space. In any case, the escape pod had been programmed to automatically fly back down to Earth, and it hadn't, and that was just a harsh truth.
Levi's huge house – the Goldschmidt Estate – had been just about returned to its former glory and the ground floor had been turned into a community centre and information centre that gave information about the GASO: Levi's aeronautics and space organisation. The floors above it were converted into a hotel for citizens without homes or friends and family of people who lived in Ruhigdorf.
The GASO would had been quite surprised by the SS Exodus's sudden arrival back on Earth, had Hiroshi not informed them of the ship's sudden decent. The 25,000 foot long landing strip for the huge ship had been prepared and the GASO had been able to communicate with the ship's pilots to safely guide them down to land.
Everyone had made themselves at home again and life had returned to pretty much normal in a surprisingly short time. To celebrate it being a whole month since their return, Mason had invited her closest friends around to her and Cass' home for a little bit of a get-together. And this is why Felix was sat in her living room with a cup of rooibos tea.
He did, indeed, know who 'did it', as Mason had said. By 'it', she had meant starting the fire 7 years ago.
Felix looked up to make eye contact and blinked, slowly.
"Jonah and Levi planned and built this town together," he started, "And Jonah also helped to design and build the ship. He did loads of work for Levi and even leant a hand putting together you and Leo. Even though he did all this, however, Levi always got the praise and glory for it all, and hardly any of the commendation went to poor Jonah."
Mason leaned her elbow on the arm of the sofa she was positioned on and put her legs up on the cushions. She didn't really know where this story was going, and ignored the talking and laughter from the other room so that she could listen. She'd noticed Felix standing in the corner of the room whilst everyone else was talking, and had stepped away from her conversation with Robyn to take him aside. Felix had always been socially awkward, and it seemed polite to talk to him alone for a bit and ask him about something that had been stuck in her mind for a while now.
"I suppose I understood why he got envious," Felix continued, "It must have been hard for him to have put so much effort into his brother's project and to hardly have any acknowledgement for it… but there were better ways of dealing with it than…" and he paused.
"Go on," Mason pushed, willing him to finish it.
Felix swallowed and gazed down again.
"Jonah had always loved the SS Exodus. Of course, Levi had entrusted everything to Jonah in his will, and that included the ship. He wanted the ship, he wanted the town and he didn't want to be ignored any longer. I don't think Jonah really meant for it to get as out-of-hand as it did. He meant to just burn Levi's home but the fire spread rapidly with the direction of the wind and reached throughout the whole town. Levi's house is just at the edge the forest and, it being summer, it would have been easy to blame the whole thing on a forest fire. Except it looked nothing like a natural disaster. Everyone was immediately suspicious. It was Jonah's idea to move people onto the SS Exodus – the investigations were ongoing and he wanted to get out of the area – he was only allowed because the police had already arrested Kay when he came forward and told them he was the one who started the fire."
Mason tilted her head to the side, confusedly. She remembered Kay being arrested and jailed in the city of Glaze, which was situated quite a bit further South. Kay was Daleen's brother and Mason recalled how heartbroken Daleen and Ince were when he came forward.
"Are you saying that he lied about being guilty?" Mason asked, curiously. She couldn't understand why somebody would lie about committing such a serious crime and willingly getting themselves a life sentence in prison.
"Not quite. He was paid by Jonah to start the fire. A good lot of money, too. I suppose the lure was just too tempting, and the chances of being caught were pretty slim. Poor guy must've felt so guilty and couldn't bear to live with it. So, no he wasn't lying. But he wasn't telling the whole truth, either. That's why Jonah still wanted to get away: just in case the police found out the whole story," Felix explained.
Mason couldn't believe that Jonah would hire somebody to kill his own family, but then again, she shouldn't have been surprised. After all, just a month ago, he attempted to crash the SS Exodus into the moon.
Felix's explanation still didn't clarify why Jonah would try to crash the ship, though. What was the point if he was going to get into the escape pod, anyway, and fly back to Earth? What was the point of getting rid of all those people?
Felix could sense that the questions about this were about to arise, so he started to answer before Mason even had chance to ask them.
"It wasn't just me who knew," he said, almost regretfully, it sounded like, "…Even though it started out that way. Me and my big mouth…"
Mason's interest was piqued.
"Who else knew?" She asked.
"Not many, initially. I only knew when I insisted on knowing why Jonah kept changing his mind on who he thought was affiliated with Kay. It was my fault, really… I'd been talking to Zakai – Robyn's dad; you know him – and accidentally mentioned it. I'd let slip hints that Jonah was the one who was really guilty. I don't want to blame the poor guy, but Zakai's always been one to… gossip. What started out as a secret between me and him ended up being something known by over half of the ship," Felix swallowed, "Jonah felt that it was too much of a gamble to go back down to Earth and risk having people report him. He couldn't bear to lose his house and the town: everything he'd worked so hard on. Destroying the ship would have been traumatic for him, but he could head home and tell everyone a very convincing story about how the pilots turned against him or how the systems failed randomly and crashed. Cass didn't know about his real guilt about the fire, and he could afford to pay to keep her quiet, so there was no real issue saving her. Besides, it had been in his brother's will, and even if he pretty much hated Levi, he wouldn't disrespect his final wishes.
"I suppose in the end it's a lesson about not envying people for their achievements even if you feel you deserved more praise and celebrating your accomplishments with them instead," Felix finished, drinking the last dregs of tea in his cup and turning to stare at the snow starting to fall outside the window.
Mason was silent, fiddling with the ring on her finger, her eyes wide in a mixture of disbelief and sadness. She supposed that having so many people die in the fire of 2076 had made killing around 40 (give or take) not all that bad in Jonah's eyes.
Thinking about Levi's lifelong dream of having his friends and family live a happy life in Ruhigdorf (and eventually on the SS Exodus) being brought to complete ruin by his trusted, beloved brother's betrayal would have brought Mason to tears if she had had tear ducts, but she was an android, so she didn't. In the end, it was a story about a kind, rich genius scientist with a dream that was sabotaged by greed. She was about to speak again, but she was interrupted by a shy knock at the door.
"Yeah?" She called, and the door creaked open.
"Uh, I hope I'm not interrupting anything," came Leo's voice as he poked his head around the door and pushed his glasses up his nose. He had a ginger smile on his face and a red bowtie around his neck. Hiroshi had managed to fix up his face, yet Leo insisted on him not making it too perfect. He retained a long scar that reached from the middle of his forehead, down his face beside his nose, and around to under his right cheekbone: not unlike Mason's, but mirrored.
When the ship had finally landed, Mason had bounded down the ladder, taken Leo's hand in hers and - with a beaming smile on her face - told him that they were finally safe. In his almost unconscious state, Leo hadn't managed to voice an opinion or celebrate with everyone else, but he managed a weak but genuine smile, and that was enough.
"-But we're all about to start the dance and I think you should come and join in… if you like," he said now back on Earth, gently, rolling up the sleeves of his white shirt. He was just as happy as everybody else to finally be safe again.
"We will, thanks, Leo," Mason replied, slightly glad to be torn away from the pretty depressing conversation she had been having, and watched Leo swiftly disappear into the other room.
She got up off the sofa and offered a hand to Felix to help him stand. Since she'd been back on Earth, she felt a lot safer, not being under the control of malevolent Jonah, and it was pretty clear that Felix did, too.
As she wandered out of the door, down the short, thin hall and to the room where she could hear music starting up, Mason was glad to be on solid ground once again. She hoped for a calm, normal life here from now on.
But nothing's ever normal in Ruhigdorf.