Epilogue: World Ships

Elsie Lamarr shows Starla Knight a new discovery that could change everything…

One Year After the Incident…

          Deep inside the Grid, Starla Knight was busy staring at a map.

          It was crudely drawn, and she was having difficulty navigating the seemingly endless hallways of black floors, black walls, and poorly lit rooms. It was wild, in her humble opinion, that the Explorer’s Group would have chosen this ungainly space as their major operation center. These computerized catacombs were practically mazes of interconnected spaces that, from her understanding, still remained largely unexplored.

          Before she gave up entirely, she did manage to find one of the navigational stickers that the Explorers had been placing all over the Grid for the last several years. She followed that, which led her back to a lift that would then carry her to the launch center and tracking facility.

          She thought she had just about reached her intended target when she came to a sudden stop, trying not to skid on the smooth surface of the floor. There was a small doorway to her left, off the main path, that led to a much larger interior space. It was lit inside, with dozens of machines blinking or pulsing in rhythmic patterns. Starla couldn’t help but walk inside.

           Just inside, she saw something truly amazing.

          A three-dimensional projection filled the room. There were small dots of blue, green, yellow, gray, and red all floating around her. Some of them had lines connecting one to the other, and other splashes of color were spread out here or there, looking like some kind of projected paint spill. Her curiosity got the best of her, and she wandered closer, reaching up to touch one of the dots. It shifted away as she passed her hand through it, and then returned once her hand moved away.

          “Who are you?” a firm voice asked, causing Starla to jump.

          She spun around to see a woman wearing a white coat with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows. She was holding a tablet in one arm and a writing utensil in the other. The woman had thick blonde hair that was tied up and large circular glasses that had dropped to the edge of her nose. She raised a brow as Starla looked her over.

          “Well?” she pressed. “Who are you?”

          “Oh, right. I’m sorry. I’m Starla Knight.”

          The woman shifted, lowering her tablet. “You’re the woman that flew the Albatross to the Lower Level?”

          “That’s me.”

          “I’m a fan of your work,” the woman said. “We haven’t had a chance to talk since your arrival, but I suspect that will change soon enough. My name is Elsie Lamarr.”

          Starla suppressed the wave of excitement and fear that swirled in her mind. Elsie Lamarr was the leader of the Explorer Group and the exact woman that Starla wanted to meet since she’d come to this place.

          “Do you know what this is?” Elsie asked.

          “No… I don’t.”

          “This room has been an empty void. There was no power, no lights, nothing. We always wondered why, here in the Grid, there was a room without purpose. Everything here served a greater goal. It didn’t make sense. Especially considering the design elements of this place. To have a singular room without copies upon copies of it elsewhere? It had to be significant. That’s what we assumed, anyway, but we never could figure it out.”

          “So, what changed?”

          “The day Ronin defeated the Yunai, the Evercrystal detonation created an electromagnetic pulse. It interrupted a lot of signals across the World Ship, not to mention the fireball and other thermal issues it presented. The entire World Ship went into a power reboot cycle. For a split second, every system from bow to stern restarted. It purged the system of the overrides that people like Anton Mertens or Scarlet Sun had put in place over the years. It turned on systems that hadn’t been on in centuries.”

          “What kind of systems?”

          Elsie smiled. “There is no better example than this very room. The lights came on, and this map appeared. A control panel over here allows us to interface with it. We weren’t sure, not for a while, but now we understand. This is the World Ship’s navigation system.”

          “Navigation?”

          “The World Ship is a spaceship, after all. It’s large, certainly, but it appears we can move the vessel if needed. We’re just beginning to learn the basics of it. We’ve dubbed the mechanism the Bubble Drive, though it has a much longer official name somewhere in the ship schematics.”

          “So then, these dots… are they planets?”

          “Some of them. The gray markers, the majority of the dots, are considered to be unidentified objects. They might represent a planet, an asteroid, or maybe something we haven’t considered. The yellow dots represent stars, of various kinds, all here on this map for us to see. The splashes of color are nebulae and entire systems of planets.”

          “And the green dots?”

          “Those dots represent other World Ships.”

          Starla’s eyes went wide. “What? That’s impossible. There have to be hundreds… maybe even thousands of them.”

          “They’re not all accurate, of course. For example…” Elsie stepped toward one of the dots, selecting it with her hand, and zooming the map in. The identification marker came up, labeling the World Ship with the number 2296. Starla felt a fresh twist of pain at the reminder of her home. “This system lists your World Ship as active, but we know that’s not true. The red markers on the map show other World Ships that are registered as inactive. We don’t really know how outdated this information is, but it certainly changes things for us. Finding World Ship two-two-nine-six was an overwhelming experience for us, and when it was all over, we knew there might be others, but we certainly did not predict this many.”

          “What’s the plan?” Starla asked. “Will we fly to them?”

          Elsie laughed. “Maybe, someday long in the future, we’ll unlock the secrets of World Ship travel and explore the cosmos. For now, we’ll study and learn. It’s not an exciting adventure, but it’s a foundation that could lead to amazing new discoveries.”

          Starla nodded. “I want to help.”

          “I’m sure your knowledge and abilities will be an incredible asset to our work.”

          Starla smiled ever so slightly. “Thank you for that.”

          “Now, all that said, it’s time to go. The Mayor is giving a speech today in Town, and I’d like to attend.” Elsie pressed a button and the projection faded, then she led Starla out of the large room and toward a new and exciting future.


          In Town, the main street was bustling with festivities. A full year had passed since the fateful day of the Yunai Incident, and folks were eager to let loose and celebrate the success they’d shared. There were booths set up with games for kids and adults, scientific expositions from the Explorer’s Group, and the local businesses had opened their doors and were giving away food and prizes. It was a scene of jubilation for all involved.

          In front of Town Hall, a large stage had been constructed and throughout the day various bands had been playing music for the audience. The local artist groups had grown significantly over the years, and it appeared there was a band popping up every week that filled some new niche genre.

          It was nearly midday, and John Davis was standing at the entrance of Town Hall looking over a handful of notecards. His speech was coming up soon, and he was feeling incredibly nervous. He fumbled through them for a moment before a hand came to rest on his shoulder. He looked to his left to see Ruby Rose there and she smiled warmly at him.

          “You don’t need to be nervous,” she said. “Today is a good day. No terrible announcements. No bad news.”

          “Of course,” John said, smiling. “It’s just… well, we don’t know that the Yunai was defeated, right?”

          “I believe it was,” Ruby said. “It wouldn’t have stopped. Not when it was so close.”

          “Ah, I suppose you’re right. I just… it’s hard to exude confidence when I’m not even certain myself.”

          “Ronin said if his plan failed, the World Ship was doomed. The fact that we’re all still here makes me feel like he pulled it off. That’s the reality I live in, John. You should come hang out with me sometime.”

          John rolled his eyes, then looked at the stage where he was about to be giving an address, one year to the date from when he spoke for the very first time as Mayor of Town.

          “Have you seen them today?” he asked, ignoring the stage for now.

          “No, they’re supposed to arrive today on the Albatross.”

          John shook his head. “I still can’t believe William got that thing running.”

          “He had help from Elsie and the Explorer engineers,” Ruby chimed in.

          “It’s incredible work. I hope I never get on it again, but I’m thankful we have a vehicle that can transport people between the Upper and Lower Level again.”

          “A necessity in this day and age,” Ruby agreed. “Now, it’s time, dear. Get out there and make them laugh, make them cry, and then send them back to the party so we can get back to the party.”

          “Yeah, right.”


          John walked down the steps of Town Hall and onto the stage. As he stepped up to the front microphone to greet the crowd, he caught sight of Olivia and Scarlet near the back, taking their place in the group that was gathering to hear his speech. He hoped his nerves weren’t showing as much as he felt like they were, but he gave a final check to his notecards and then looked out at everyone and smiled.

          “I hope we’re all doing well today!” he said, louder than he expected.

          The citizens roared in response, a jovial cheer that confirmed his hope.

          He gave the normal introductions, welcoming the town council and the representatives from Sanctuary and Danketsu. He thanked all the local businesses for their efforts today and Willow Creek Farms for supplying so much food to feed everyone that came to visit.

          As he spoke he became more relaxed, and his nerves melted away. There was a sea of smiling faces and excited people that were happy to be there. Like Ruby said, these people weren’t sad or bracing for unexpected news. This was a day of celebration and a day that would be long remembered in their collective history.

          “Citizens,” he said, hitting a good volume level at last. “As we all celebrate today, as we cheer one another on and prepare for the future, I want to take a moment to reflect on the past. When I first arrived on this World Ship, I had no idea what life was in store for me. My time in Town has been filled with adventures, standoffs, and the confrontation of multiple creatures that were beyond my wildest imagination. Each and every step of the way, I have been surrounded by the absolute best of the best. In our darkest moments, we have always found a way to unite and build toward something bigger and better than ourselves. Out there in the crowd right now, you’re all going through your own adventures. Here in Town, in the Upper Level, wherever you might be, there are a thousand stories being told, and we are all bound to one another through this World Ship. This place… is where stories begin, like mine did the day I arrived from the Core. This place,” he paused, his eyes moving to Olivia. “This place is where stories end too, like the brave sacrifice of Ronin Sun one year ago.”

          Olivia nodded ever so slightly, acknowledging his statement.

          “This place,” John continued, scanning the audience again. “This World Ship is where we have found love and new life, and where we have endured loss and pain. We have made new friends and families, and we’ve said goodbye to dear friends. Our story is already amazing and powerful, and it deserves to be remembered. That’s why today is our World Ship’s first officially recognized ship-wide holiday.”

         The audience clapped, cheered, and celebrated for a few minutes. John didn’t try to quell the energy, instead letting it wash over him as he too admired the energy.

         “Ronin gave us a future,” John said proudly. “What I know, having seen all that I’ve seen, is that whatever that future might hold, this World Ship and her citizens will face it with the same bravery and determination that we have shown in every other challenge. It might not always be easy. I know the damage in the Upper Level has already had an impact on our lives, and the years ahead will be spent with plenty of repair work, but that work will be done. We will overcome. Right now, new families are growing, new towns are being settled, and we face a future that is bright and full of hope. I stepped into the role of Mayor of Town with trepidation and uncertainty, but I did so because I don’t just want to be a leader, but to be an example of the potential of every citizen on this World Ship. I hope I always achieve that goal. To everyone out there, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I won’t let you down, not here in Town, not in Danketsu, not in Sanctuary. I will speak for all citizens because that’s the future I want to see! Thank you, Town! Thank you, everyone!” 

          The street was filled with thunderous applause as John retreated from the stage. He rushed back to Town Hall and right into the loving embrace of Ruby Rose.

          “How’d I do?” he asked.

          “Nailed it,” she said. “Now, hurry up. I want one of those turkey legs before Nancy sells them all!”

          “Alright,” he said, smiling. “Time to relax.”

          She nodded, then practically pulled him all the way to the Diner to get the prized piece of food. Once she had it in hand, she found a bench on the main street and sat to enjoy her meal. John spent most of his time shaking hands and thanking citizens for coming to the celebration. He was making his way through a small pocket of excited folks when he was stopped by Olivia Sun.

          “Mayor Davis,” she said, smiling at him. “Nice to see you.”

          “Oh, no. You call me John.”

          Olivia chuckled. “That was a good speech.”

          “I hope so,” John joked. “I wrote it!”

          “I’m sure Geoffrey could have used an honorable mention,” she said, raising a brow. “You left him out.”

          “He told me to leave him out,” John said. “I’m okay with that. Folks here don’t know what to think about Geoffrey. They do know what to think about Ronin.”

          Olivia’s smile dropped, just a fraction, and she nodded. “Perhaps you’re right. I just wish Ronin had been able to see this happy ending.”

          “Ronin did get a happy ending,” John proposed.

          “How so?” Olivia asked, furrowing her brow.

          “He got to see his daughter grow up. He got to see the amazing woman she turned into and the future she would have ahead of her. Every day that goes by, from now until the end, we owe it all to Ronin. The end of his story is the beginning of everyone else’s story.”

          “I forget sometimes you are a writer and a politician.”

          “If I recall, you hired me because of that exact reason.”

          “Seems like ages ago.”

          “That’s because it was.”

          “Well, it looks like Town is in good hands. I’m glad for it.”

          John gave a lopsided grin. “That sounds like a goodbye.”

          “Sanctuary is good,” she explained. “I’m enjoying my time with Scarlet.”

          “I suppose you’ll find your way back here someday?”

          “Someday, probably,” Olivia agreed. “Not today.”

          Behind Olivia, a few of the citizens appeared to be getting antsy for their turn to talk to the Mayor. She shot a grumpy glare at a few of them, then smiled and turned back to John. “You’ve done good work, John. I don’t know if I ever thanked you for it. The World Ship is in strong hands with you at the helm. I’m glad I get to be a part of your story.”

          “The story of Town?” John asked with a chuckle. “When I retire I should write a book.”

          “Someday,” Olivia said with another chuckle. “I’ll see you around, Davis.”

          ”You too, Olivia.”


          The crowd of citizens eventually dissipated, and John returned to Ruby’s side as she was finishing the last of the turkey leg she’d purchased. She leaned back on the bench and let out a long and satisfied sigh. When she looked at John, her face sank.

          “Are you okay?” she asked. “You look… sad?”

          “No,” he said. “Not sad. Just… emotional.”

          “Tender-hearted.”

          “I can’t argue that.”

          “Well, all that sappy stuff aside, you talked a lot about the future today. So, where is Mayor Davis going to take us now?”

          “Forward,” John answered. “Ever forward.”

          Ruby patted him on the back, and the two of them stood to return to Town Hall. John knew that tonight the streets would be cleaned, the citizens would get some sleep, and tomorrow would be a new day. Tomorrow was the beginning of a new story, one that he’d get to help write. He smiled at that and gave Ruby’s hand a squeeze as they walked.

          “Ever forward,” he said again, more cheerful this time. “Together.”


The End.

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