The motorcycle engine whirred like a hornet, the wheels thrumming along the otherwise empty road at 100 miles per hour. A small figure dressed in all-black sat clinging to the handle-bars, the ends of their ebony hair blowing in the wind from under the bottom of the black, rounded helmet.
A relatively minor city loomed ahead and the noise of bustling traffic was already audible as the electric motorcycle neared it rapidly.
All around were eco-friendly street lamps lining the long road to the city, and the figure's glossy white, silver and electric blue bike sped along under them as the rider made their way to the vactrain station.
Rolling into the urban metropolis, they raised her eyes to the lights and neon signs, the smoke-less chimneys from by-gone times, and misty windows on the walls of apartment blocks and commercial buildings. The city streets were full of cars and bikes but the slim, speedy motorcycle weaved in and out of the congested traffic with relative ease. Today the mystery individual had a job at hand.
Seeing the extensive glass building ahead, they skipped past two long buses and skidded to a halt in a queue of cars waiting and slowly moving forward to a small tower on the curb that looked like a parking meter. The figure begged for them to move faster as they craned their neck to look to the end of the line, watching vehicle after vehicle turn away past the meter.
"Come on, come on, this is urgent…" they breathed, quietly.
The figure flipped up the visor on their helmet to reveal milky white skin that jutted away at the edges where half of their face was missing, showing wires running inside.
Finally, the white 4x4 in front turned away and the bike could roll up to the tower. It was short and matte black with a slit and tray on its front underneath a circular speaker. Beneath even that was a card machine.
"Welcome to Eden Central Vacrain Station-" stated the voice crackling from the speaker, in a monotonous tone.
"Yes, hi!" Mason started, hurriedly, "Can I have a single one-way ticket to London, please?"
"Of course. That will be two-hundred pounds-"
Mason swallowed, shakily, from the price, and dug around in her jacket pockets for her card. She had forgotten to buy tickets beforehand – of course the prices would be sky-high (along with the fact that the vacuum-tube train was the most efficient way to get from place to place) – but she paid nonetheless and picked up the ticket that slid out of the slot under the speaker before roaring off again with no time to waste.
She was never on time for things and she wasn't about to be late for something this important.
It had been 2 whole years since the events that took place on the SC Ginga in the November of 2143.
Recovery emotionally and physically had taken a surprisingly short amount of time compared to what it took back when the fire happened. Jonah never turned up and was still MIA, everyone had been re-homed already either in Ruhigdorf or in a nearby city or town like Eden, and the news of what had happened on the SC Ginga when it had almost crashed into the moon had become known worldwide. The GASO had to tell the media all about it, and now everybody knew to look out for Jonah and to report to the police if they saw him, yet nobody had in two years.
Other things had been going on, too: the SC Ginga had finally been fixed and turned into a hotel like it was always intended to be. And things in the lives of people had changed, too – especially in the lives of Mason, Leo, Orion, Cass and their friends…
Whilst Mason was away in Eden, Leo was back home in Ruhigdorf, drinking a mug of very strong coffee and straightening the wedding photos on the wall in his living room.
It was 6am and the September sun hadn't yet risen, but Leo was already out of bed. He didn't feel as if he could stay powered-off when he was the only one in the house.
He turned to the small, white and black cat curled up on the sofa and sighed, tiredly.
"Good morning, Muffin," he droned.
A lot had changed in his life since 2143 when they had all come back to Earth at last and made themselves at home again. He'd taken up rescuing stray and hurt cats from the streets, or taking them in from people who couldn't take care of them anymore – he had seven now, along with a robotic one called Pep: a prototype that Hiroshi had built and that Leo had offered to take home, test and take care of.
He now lived in a semi-detached house with a large driveway and a little fountain at the front, and his long-time friend Orion Sauer lived right next-door.
The seemingly endless cat adopting and moving house weren't even the biggest things. Something a whole lot bigger had happened, and that was what had been captured and he had hung up frames: three of the best photos from his wedding day last year, right on the chimney breast. He smiled almost every time he stood back and admired them.
Leo had always been quite a lovey-dovey person. The wedding hadn't been that long ago, and he was still going through the phase of missing his companion every time she was out of the house. This morning was one of those times.
"At least I have you and the others to keep me company, right, Muffin?" Leo smiled.
Muffin spoke no words, but she opened her bottle-green eyes and stared up to him in that way that cats do before slowly closing them again.
"You know, you're a terrible conversational companion," Leo frowned, and sipped his coffee. He turned around to look about the room.
There was a long, white settee opposite the fireplace, and two armchairs on either side, pointing inwards. With your back to the wall, looking left, you would see a wide archway beyond one of the armchairs. Through the archway you could see a glass door that darkened at night, and if you went through the arch and turned right, you would find yourself in the kitchen.
Seeing as it was going to be getting lighter very soon, Leo wanly wandered over to the door and tapped the button beside it to turn it onto daylight mode so that the sun could come streaming through.
As he turned around to look back through the living room, he saw the window behind the other armchair and walked over – past the glass electric fire and the modern TV – to turn that one on to daylight, too. Hopefully the room would be less dark soon.
Sitting down on the fluffy white rug over the black lino, in front of the fire, Leo waited for morning to break and for one of his cats to come and keep him company. He loved all 7 of his cats.
The first one that he had adopted had been Muffin, the black and white one. He'd gotten her from a lady whose cat had had many kittens. Muffin was Mason's cat, really: an engagement gift. Being his usual shy self, Leo had attached the ring box to Muffin's collar. It had worked, at least.
The second cat Leo adopted was Dusty, a big fluffy grey Persian who had been abandoned by her previous owner and sent to a rescue centre in Eden. She was the most average of all cats and did absolutely nothing all day, every day. At this present moment, she was asleep on the wooden cat climbing tower beside the door to the hall, behind the long settee. Dusty loved the climbing tower: it had 2 shelves, 3 scratching posts as pillars between each one, 2 hidey holes and a little velvety blanket for the cats to curl up on.
At this very moment, as nothing at all was happening, there came a lot of whirrs and whines of machinery from out in the hall. More specifically, from down the stairs.
A few seconds later, a robot cat came rolling into the room. This was Pep. The name 'Pep' really stood for 'Personal Electronic Pet', and would usually have been capitalised and used as a title, but neither Mason nor Leo were very good at names, so they named her Pep.
The cat herself had 4 little spheres at the ends of her legs that rolled about in any direction and that glowed different colours depending on mood. The wheels retracted into Pep's legs for going up stairs, and that was what the whirring was all about.
Pep was very round: she had an oval-like body and a spherical chest and shoulders. Other light-up parts were scattered around her body: a round one on the end of her tail, one in her nose, a long one on her back, two on either of her sides and a rectangle of neon around her neck. She could process 4 emotions: happy, neutral, sad and angry, and the neons would light up - green, light blue, navy and red - respectively. Right now they were light blue.
"Morning, Pep," Leo smiled, glad to have some company at last.
Pep 'looked' at him. Her 'eyes' were actually lots of little white sensors on a black screen that stretched across her face. She could detect lots of things and could even read books, her favourite of which was the dictionary.
"Where's Mason?" She asked in her computerized-sounding voice.
"Going to London," Leo told her in a melancholy tone.
"She was sent a message to meet up with somebody who she has to bring back here to Ruhigdorf."
Pep tilted her head to the side and even though she didn't have real eyes, she looked a bit confused.