Chapter 2

It wasn't only Leo and Mason whose lives had changed a whole lot in the past 2 years: Cassiopeia Geistreich, too, was getting used to life back on Earth. As the only remaining member of the Geistreich family living in Ruhigdorf, she had a lot on her hands.

Hiroshi Hatsumei-sha – as current boss of the GASO (the Geistreich Aeronautics and Space Organisation) – had made sure to take very good care of her, though.

Levi's old house had been made into an information centre on the ground floor, a hotel on the second and third floors, and the attic had been converted into an apartment for Cass, so she lived. The house was on 4 levels and so Cass' apartment was practically in the attic, but it was a very large, airy attic, and Cass felt very at-home up there.

Her job now was no longer a waitress, but rather she worked down in the information centre, telling visitors all about the SC Ginga, and about how she, her friends and the pilots all saved it from crashing into the moon. It was always nice to hear a first-hand experience, and especially from one of the Geistreichs. And when the ship came back down to Earth to collect more guests, it was Cass, Felix and Mason's job to give the new guests special tours around it.

The ship was now called the Galaxy Hotel, but everyone who had lived on it previously – including Hiroshi and the GASO – still called it the SC Ginga when they talked amongst themselves.

Today was the day that the Galaxy Hotel was heading back up into space once again, and Cass was busy getting ready to show the guests around, with Felix by her side.

Everyone had been ushered into the lounge on the main floor, and Cass and Felix stood in the doorway to the hall, dressed very smartly and looking a bit anxious. The Galaxy Hotel stayed in the atmosphere for 6 months at a time, and the past three times it had been sent up, Mason had always been there to help her two friends.

People seemed to like Mason: she was a bit of an icon now. She'd had a long life working on the ship and nobody had really recognised that until recently when she had really been able to interact with people and the public realised that she wasn't so bad after all. Their mental image of her before had been somewhat… off-putting. They thought she'd be a bland, preset character with no personality at all, and something about having only half a face didn't really speak 'friendly', but now everybody seemed to love her.

Today, however, she was busy elsewhere, and her old housemate and fellow android had to settle in the new guests all by themselves, without her help.

Cass cleared her throat, gazing out over the room of people chattering to each-other with a clear sense of anticipation, and tapped the microphone in her hand. The end of the runway was visible through the huge window and Cass knew that the pilots would be going through procedures at the other end of the ship, making sure that they knew what to do and that everything was ready for take-off in a few hours time.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Cass started, nervously (it was usually Mason who would start the speech), "Can I have your attention, please?"

The commotion in the room ceased and everybody turned their heads to look to her, patiently, awaiting the speech that was sure to follow.

"As you might have noticed…" Cass swallowed, "…Mason sadly couldn't be here today."

The passengers sighed and mumbled things in amongst themselves, either annoyed or curious to where the android could possibly be that was more important than this.

"So it's just me and Felix today. But we'll do our very best to keep things interesting. As we start our tour of the ship, I have to go through some health and safety procedures," Cass announced, straightening the collar on her air-hostess-like uniform. She hated going through the safety procedures. Mason would usually chip in with some funny comment or other to keep people entertained, but it wasn't likely that Felix would do the same. Cass talked the guests through heath and safety anyway – even if they looked a bit bored – saying what to do in the event of a fire, and to ask a staff member or Box if they needed any help, to go to the doctor's office if they felt ill, and all sorts of that manner, and everybody looked bored stiff but there was nothing that anybody could do until she finished.

Felix led on as they moved through the ship on their tour, pointing out things and telling guests what had happened that terrifying few days back in 2143. He pointed out the restaurant where Leo and Orion used to perform. Leo and Orion had wisely decided that they'd like to settle down on Earth, so now the stage belonged to different musicians and singers every time the ship was launched – this time, they had on board a saxophone player with a husky voice who everybody thought was stunningly talented and dazzling. They would have been even more impressed by Leo's voice, but Felix didn't want to say that and make everybody jealous.

Everybody knew who Leo and Orion were, too, just like they knew Mason. In fact, the musical duo still performed in the fancy restaurant back in Ruhigdorf, late-light on weekends.

Another thing that Felix pointed out as they toured the spacecraft was Mason and Cass' old cabin, and Leo and Orion's right beside it. The guests staying in these rooms were always excited to be living for half a year in the very rooms that their 'heroes' had lived in. Perhaps a bit too excited…

The tour ended here on the cabin floor. Everybody was encouraged to settle into their rooms and unpack their bags (which had been taken there for them by staff members beforehand), leaving Cass and Felix standing idly in the empty hallway outside.

It was nice to see life finally returning to those formerly darkened doors at the end of the corridor, and yet it was always a very strange and surreal experience looking at it. This was how it was always meant to be, Cass would always think as she stared around the now fully-refurbished ship.

The rooms would be done-up, she knew, with fresh sheets on the beds and clean counters and bathroom, and a welcome card placed neatly on the table as you walk through the door, greeting you to your new temporary residence. Inside would be recaps of the health and safety and functionality of the ship, but nobody ever read that. Beside the card would be a small gift of a drinks coaster (with a picture of the ship printed onto it – an artist's impression of it floating through space, drawn by none other than Oscar Sheinfield) and a bottle of wine. Everyone always appreciated that more than the card.

The captain of the ship who filled Jonah's position was a fully-trained pilot and technician from the GASO called Fritz Neumann, who took his job very seriously, but was a good captain and that was all that really mattered. At least he would never try and crash the spacecraft into the moon, and Hiroshi and the rest of the GASO trusted him fully, no matter how dreary he might seem.

Cass was torn between missing how it used to be and loving the fact that things were now as they were always intended to be. She supposed that whatever she said wouldn't make a difference until she finished her training to become a pilot like Jonah or Fritz Neumann. Then she could do their job and finally be in control of whatever happened on the ship, which was hers now that neither Jonah or Levi were around. She entrusted the GASO with it, though, as she had near to no knowledge of that kind of thing.

She smiled, contently, as she turned about to make her way back off the ship and to the ground again. She was looking forward to that day when she could be captain.

"So… where is Mason today?" She asked Felix as they wandered to the stairs, "Do you know?"

Felix looked a bit worried, but then again, he always looked worried when he was asked a question. He hadn't changed much in these 2 years, even if he did seem a little bit more confident without someone watching his every move.

"She had to do a job," he replied, vaguely, "Leo called me last night. He didn't go into detail."

This didn't really help Cass' curiosity in the slightest. She bit her lip as her heels clicked down the steps to the basement and to the ramp leading down to the runway.

"Do you think I could call in on Leo on my way home?" She asked, "Do you think he'd tell me?"

"Well," Felix started, thoughtfully, "Mason's still technically your android, even if she is married and lives apart from you, so I don't see any good reason why Leo wouldn't tell you what she's up to," he supposed.

That made Cass' mind up. And besides, even if Leo refused to tell her where her friend was, the guy could doubtless use the company.