Fireworks burst in the air.
Decorative creations made of paper and sticks bobbed up and down on strings, curling this way and that as children ran behind them laughing aloud. People danced and cheered while stuffing their faces with all kinds of special treats and delicious meats. A parade, the largest Olivia had yet seen, marched its way past the park wall where she had chosen to camp out and watch.
The annual festival to celebrate another cycle aboard the World Ship had begun. They called it the New Start festival, and it was quite the party. It celebrated a change in the air, one that could be tracked and monitored. The sunlight moved along a track high above the city, and as the light grew and dimmed each day, it also moved ever so slightly across the plane. Eventually it would slow, stop, and start making its way back, and that was happening now, the far solstice as they called it, when the light would begin slowly moving back their way. That meant warmer and longer days, and that was a big deal for the citizens.
Olivia sat at the exit of the garden, watching folks parade along until she felt a tap on her shoulder and spun around to see David Nash.
“Oh, hello officer,” she said, offering him a warm smile and stepping over a bit to welcome him by her side. “I hope you aren’t here with more questions?”
“Of course I have questions,” David grumbled. “I have a million questions.”
“Anton is alive,” she said flatly, still watching the kids play. “He is with Karushi, and he intends to remain there indefinitely.”
“I figured that might be the case,” David said with a grin. “That guy is a wild card.”
“That’s the truth,” she said with a chuckle.
“So you told me to watch William. I’ve got a guy on it now. What’s his deal?”
Olivia furrowed her brow. “He’s like me. He didn’t come from this World Ship, and I’m not sure about his true intentions. All he’s ever done is help the town, but he’s amassed a great deal of power and influence in the process. It’s best he never learns the truth about Anton’s fake death.”
“That will be up to Karushi,” David replied. “Do you actually trust him?”
“More than you would think.”
“What did he do to earn it?”
Olivia just shrugged. “We have a mutual understanding.”
“Whatever that means,” David said, rolling his eyes.
“It means I trust him,” she said, turning to give David her full attention. “I trust him, and you should trust me.”
“Fair enough,” he said, scratching the back of his head. “I can do that.”
“So, is that why you came out here to find me in the middle of a festival? You just wanted insight on everything that played out? More police work after all.”
“Not exactly,” he said. “I found Admiral Bainbridge. He’s settled his crew on an island, and he sent word he’d like to form an alliance with the Hub. I figured I’d need a liaison to go with me for our first meeting. Who better than someone as close to him as Olivia Sun?”
Olivia’s eyes lit up. “Seriously? You’ll take me to him?”
“It’s work related,” he clarified. “I need Bainbridge to help us, not fight us. He has control of the largest sailing ship in the Hub. I’d like to stay in good standing with him and his crew. He’s already talking about some kind of scientific research trip…”
“I’ll do it,” she said, grinning wide. “I could use the distraction.”
“I heard some rumors about Ronin,” David added. “I don’t know if—”
“He’s my father.”
“It’s all a bit too complicated for me,” she said. “At least right now.”
“Well, whenever you want to talk about that, or anything, I’m here for you.”
Olivia patted David on the back. “I do appreciate that.”
“Well, then, I’m sure you’re busy and all. I can—”
“It’s probably been a while since you’ve talked with anyone from the Lower Level,” Olivia added. “It might be nice to catch up. I mean, it’s only been… what… three years?”
David chuckled. “The night before Explorer One launched.”
It felt so strange to think about it now. She was chatting with him like no time had passed at all, but literal years had gone by. She’d been arrested, discovered her true origins, and even visited another World Ship since she’d last spoken to him. Somehow, despite that, she felt immediately comfortable being at his side again.
“I suppose we’ve both got some stories to sharem,” he added.
“Like how you ended up running the police in this city,” she suggested.
“Or how you flew off to another World Ship?”
She laughed. “Okay. Come along then. I know a food cart not far from here. They are slammed with customers watching the parade, but they make the best dumplings that I’ve ever tasted, or at least the best so far. We can eat and chat in the park, while the fireworks show lights the sky.”
David was smiling. “Yeah, that sounds great. Dumplings it is, then.”
She stepped beside him and started to navigate the traffic toward the food cart. She couldn’t help but feel like it was right. Her being here, learning all the things she’d learned. She wanted to stay, but she knew that it wasn’t time. She still had people to find.
She wasn’t part of the Explorer’s Group any longer, but she still had work to do.