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The Kingdom Of The Blind: Chapter Twenty

At last, after a centuries-long space voyage, Holly and her man Jase are heading home - home to Planet Earth.

As with all the very best novels, the reader feels sad to bid farewell to the central character, brave, resourceful Holly Parmentier. If this is your first encounter with Brian William Neal's thrilling space odyssey, click on The Kingdom Of the Blind in the menu on this page. Start reading, from Chapter One, then on and on, allowing yourself to be rocketed across space and time on an unforgettable journey.

There's the best possible news for fans of Brian's super sci-fi tales. In the coming months Open Writing will be serialising more of his novels. Watch out for his take on a Star Trek adventure.

Holly and Jase stood at the portal, their arms around
each other as they watched the bulk of the Asimov slowly
receding. It had taken weeks for the arrangements for
leaving to be made, during which time Jase had improved
to the point where he was virtually the same as he had
been before the accident. Holly had helped with the
awakening of a select few of the colonists. Some of those
chosen had, sadly, been beyond total recall, and would
forever be damaged, to varying degrees. Councilor
Rattray had been one of these, as had Captain Patel.
Others were more fortunate; among them, Yuri Selenkov,
friend of Serge Volkin, had recovered almost completely,
and was now helping the Clarke’s people get the Asimov
ready for the return journey. He would return to cryosleep
for the majority of the trip back to earth; the Clarke’s
medicos and engineers, however, would transfer back to
their ship once the Asimov was under way.

The experience of the outward journey, and the fact
that the awake crews had not really had anything vital to
do, had told them that the computer was quite capable of
running the ship on its own. When it reached the solar
system, a ship would be sent out to meet it, and bring it
and its people home.

But, for Holly, the best news had been that Caleb
Strong had also recovered, and was well on the way to
becoming his former self. She and Jase had spent several
hours talking with him; Caleb’s recall of what had
happened was not as complete as Jase’s, and they had
decided not to tell him too much of the details about
Hoddle, and the killings. Caleb, for his part, did not
complain too much; Holly believed he preferred not to
know, and that suited her fine. It also suited her that he
seemed not to recall what had happened in the shower when
she had first awakened him. Or if he did, he never
mentioned it, simply saying that he had decided to return
to earth with them.

Holly had taken her leave of the computer, and had
found that, not surprisingly, a sad and difficult thing to
do. She had come to enjoy the machine’s company and
wit, as well as the personality of the entity on which it
was based, and she knew she would miss its reassuring
presence. When they got back to earth, she resolved to
read up about the famous author, as well as some more of
the stories he wrote. Not all of them, of course. The man
had written over four hundred books, and Holly had more
to do with her time.

Exactly what she and Jase were going to do when they
got back had posed a question for a while. They would be
at least two hundred years out of date in their respective
fields. Holly had initially thought that it would affect Jase
more than it would affect her; Shakespeare and Milton
never changed, but electronics and computer science had
made huge advances.

However, this problem had been solved when the
captain had informed them that there were educational
programs that could be assimilated subliminally while a
person was asleep. Because Jase had a basic knowledge of
those subjects, he would receive some of the programs
during the short cryosleep on the journey up to lightspeed.

Whether or not they would stay on earth, or join
another colonizing mission, neither of them knew. They
had not spoken much about that, but had simply resolved
to wait and see. Jase had asked Holly to marry him, and
she had said yes; they would be taking care of that little
detail when they arrived back on earth. And as the captain
had said, Procyon would still be there, if they wanted it.
Holly and Jase looked at the stars, with the looming
bulk of Procyon behind the receding ship that had so
changed their lives. They stood by the viewing portal,
watching as the Asimov dwindled quickly to a pinpoint of
light among the millions of others. Holly turned and
looked up at Jase.

“You know, if we stay on earth, we’re going to have to
find something to do, and somewhere to live.” She smiled
mischievously. “Any ideas?”

Jase grinned. “Well, there’s a house in Pacific Heights
in ’Frisco that I know of that I could probably buy back
from the people I sold it to. After all, it was only a few
months ago, relatively speaking. But we’ll need some
cash.”

Holly smiled. “You heard Captain Henshaw. It seems I
might own a starship. Maybe we can trade it back to the
Federation for a small salvage fee.”

They stood by the portal, happy and content, watching
the stars. A short while later, the ship’s doctor informed
them that it was time to enter the Clarke’s cryosleep
chambers. They found these to be vastly different to the
sleep cells on the Asimov; soft and comfortable one-
person beds with a transparent cover, and no sign of the
messy gel or intravenous I.V. Instead, each cell was
contained in an anti-gravity field that protected the sleeper
from the ravages of acceleration.

They lay down and made themselves comfortable, then
smiled at each other as the covers descended. There was a
moment of cold, and then they were asleep. They would
stay that way for the next eight months, after which time
the captain had pledged to wake them in time to see the
ship go to lightspeed. Henshaw had promised them that it
was quite an experience, and neither of them wanted to
miss it.

But for now, they slept; their long ordeal was over, and
they were at peace. And the ship accelerated towards the
speed of light, on whose far side lay home.

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