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Denizens: Epilogue 2

The two surviving crew members of the spaceship Hermes, who travelled further and faster than anyone before them on a journey that was to change the course of human history, pay tribute to fallen colleagues.

Here are the final paragraphs of Brian William Nealís epic sci fi adventure story.

And so it endsÖ

But as with all great novels, there is no end. Once read, a well-told story stays with you for ever, working on your imagination in unexpected ways.

If you have not been involved in this gripping tale from the beginning, please do click on Denizens in the menu on this page. Hours of satisfying reading lie ahead of you!

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LEGACY


Near Oxford,
The English Republic
November, 2511

A weak sun shines bravely through the scattering of high cloud as the three figures walk slowly along the path between the rows of gravestones. They walk quietly, not speaking; the man and woman arm in arm, the priest by their side.

There is nothing in their demeanor to suggest that this is anything other than an ordinary group, come to remember a long dead relative or friend. Few people die these days, and the small cemetery is deserted. The man wears a light topcoat, the woman a simple black dress, and she carries a small wreath of flowers woven together. The priest is dressed in street clothes, a plain one-piece dark suit, and the white of his clerical collar shows above the black of his shirt.

The three appear to be in early middle age, which marks them as people from the first days of the New Age, who perhaps had even witnessed the Change; possibly, they might even be Originals. They pass along a row of plaques set into the ground, then halt before one of them. They stand in silence for a moment, looking at the small square of metal, then the woman kneels and places the wreath on it.

Calvin and Karen Ferguson stand before the simple plaque, remembering their friend. Beside them, Bishop Sean Driscoll also stands, his head bowed and his lips moving in silent prayer.

Karen dabs at her eyes, as she always does on these occasions. Although it has been more than six hundred and fifty years since they returned from their epic journey, they still feel the loss of the friend they now commemorate.

Since their return, this visit has become a yearly pilgrimage. In a few days, they will return to their home outside Phoenix, after making two stops along the way. First, they will take the orbital shuttle to the small New Zealand city of Nelson. There, they will meet John Peel, and together visit another cemetery and lay another wreath on another plaque, this one with the names of Thomas and Jennifer Stoddard engraved into its surface. Then they will return to America, to a churchyard in a small Vermont town, and meet with Charles and Jean Redfern. There they will lay a third garland of flowers, and remember another friend long gone from them.

As the only survivors of the Hermes mission, Cal and Karen were in great demand for a long time, and even now they still make the occasional lecture tour. They see Arnold and Julia periodically, and are regular guests at the lodge of Joe McCulloch, Chief Sky Eagle of the Navajo.

Now they stand quietly and remember Jonathan. They have often speculated on what his life, and his ultimate fate, has been. Whatever befell the quiet, gentle genius, they are sure he had been happy. Remaining in the Holy Lands had been what Jonathan had wanted more than anything else, and they hoped that fate had been kind to him. Who knew? Perhaps he had even achieved his dream and seen for himself, or even met, the carpenter from Nazareth on whose star he had hung the banner of his destiny.

They have left their two boys, aged eight and eleven, back at their hotel in the care of a nanny, so that they can be alone. One day, they will tell their sons the full story of the light speed experiment, of the alien, ítau, and the friends who did not return. And, of course, the Denizens. For if you cannot remember, then what is the point of long life?

Karen takes a single red rose from her handbag, as she always does, and places it on the plaque. Then she touches her fingers to her lips, again as she always does, and the three turn away and walk towards the exit. Young Jonny and William are waiting, and they can be holy terrors if left on their own for too long.

At the gate, Cal shakes Seanís hand, and Karen embraces him. Then, while the Bishop walks off in the direction of the college chapel, the two former members of the Hermes team stroll away down the tree lined street to where they have left their skimmer. The man whispers something in the womanís ear, and she laughs, a bright, happy sound in that somber place. Arm in arm, they walk away.

They will be back.
And Humankind will go on.

THE END


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