Later that day, after we had really gotten to know each other. Caroline pulled out some incense and lit them. Within a few minutes, the cabin began filling with a nice incense aroma. It created a very peaceful atmosphere, and Caroline continued to tidy the bed.

“This doesn’t smell like it does on Earth. However, I was lucky to have found another species that uses incense to make indoor spaces smell like outdoors.”

I nodded in agreement. “It still smells great.” I replied. In all honesty, I had smelt little incense to tell if that was from Earth or not. It was just a pleasant aroma, and I felt relaxed because of it.

Once Caroline had finished with the bed, we both went into it. Even though it was the middle of the day at that point, we still both felt the need to rest and perhaps sleep. We continued to be very lazy and enjoy each other’s company. 

The three days after that went so quick and all we did was play, eat, sleep and train my muscles to walk again. It was a fun time getting to know Caroline. But the fact remained that I needed to build my house. 

We had talked a few times about re-materialising Periclum. However, it was politically tricky to do it. On the fifth day in the motor home, after not seeing the sun for so long, I contacted Captain Sagax and talked about re-materialising Periclum. I dressed in a suit without a tie, went outside onto the messy plot I called my land. The scorching sun beaming down, causing me to shield my eyes with my hands. I felt like a vampire that had only just woken up from a thousand year sleep. However, I was standing independently and ready to talk. I couldn’t quite help but feel anxious at that point, nervous to be talking to the Captain again, wondering what life will throw at me next.

At first she didn’t answer, however she called me back later. I went back into the garden after having a deep philosophical discussion with Caroline. Answering, Captain Sagax was once again standing in front of me. My nerves gripped me and I tried my best to explain the situation to her in a stutter. She looked at me, listening to my request.

“James, this is a hard request you are asking. There is no way you could do this under Tuhingan law. They will, however, perform a ritual where they burn Periclum’s body soon. It will be the first of these rituals we would have had for hundreds of years. I could, perhaps, request to download all the information from Periclum’s suit before the burning ceremony.” She seemed to have a moment where a thought crossed her mind. “Perhaps I could request the suit because we want to investigate the incident further. I am sure they would want to dress Periclum in different clothes for the ceremony. They should be able to cut him out. I’ll ask and contact you later!” 

After that, the Captain went. Me and Caroline spent the rest of the day talking about my dream home. On Earth, I never thought I would have the money to build such a building. But up here, I could build whatever I wanted. I always dreamt of my house overlooking a farm on the side of a mountain in New Zealand. A small stream would run through the house to give a constant supply of fresh water. It would run into the bath upstairs and spill over the opposite side of the bath, to spill down into the lower floor as a shower. Then go down to fill a swimming pool in a cave under the house.

I would have made one side of the house with glass and wooden supports. The other built up of stone. I would have shaped the roof in a large, roundish form from floor to ceiling with a pointy top, much like an upside down boat. In the centre of the house, on one of the straight walls, I dreamt of a chimney made of stone. To the right of that was a kitchen underneath an indoor balcony area at the top of the stairs. On the stone half of the house, there are two floors. On the glass side, there is only one and a tree would grow on the opposite side of the fireplace inside the house. 

The air was to be regulated from an effect that ants take advantage of, from warm air rising and moving out the top of the house. Vents in the lower wall and vents in the ceilings would open and shut on a computerised system to maintain a consistent temperature in the house. If we needed heat, underfloor heating operated by the computer or the fire from the fireplace would heat the house.

The stone chimney and fireplace could also double up as a large spit for cooking food or closed up to become a pizza oven. When the water from the stream enters the house, I would have it heated at the source where it came in. It would generate electricity from the flow of water and convert that electricity into heat. The floor on the glass half of the house was to be made of solar panels able to produce electricity.

We could feed some water from the swimming pool in a different direction. It was to go into a tank where it would be boiled and turned into steam. The steam would then go through to create more underfloor heating for the house. Then go to a large tank at the top of the house, convert back into water and then being gravity fed into the house after it had been distilled it through this process. 

As you can see, I spent a lot of time thinking about this property when I was young. How I could make a self-sufficient house with all the water I could want. However, the rest of my land would have had to be used for a farm to produce food. This time, though, I could produce food from thin air and would have no need for a farm. If I built this dream home, it would overlook the lake. I would have neighbours here, but I am sure there would be ways I could make my property more private. Besides, I would have to get the glass to change shade throughout the day to give the illusion of night, since the sun never moves here. 

The prospect of doing all of this excited me. However, searching alien databases for materials and earth like objects worried me. I wanted to get that database from Periclum’s suit, so I could have Earth materials and Earth technology inside. 

We didn’t hear from the Captain for the rest of the day. Instead, I went out and walked around the lake with Caroline for the first time. I was anxious considering what had been happening and hoping that no one would recognise me. No one did. Everyone continued on, going about their strange activities. There were aliens that swam deep into the lake, then surfaced and walked onto the beach. They appeared to have gills, yet could breathe the air on land. 

There were these large slug like creatures enjoying the sun and eating this disgusting looking, gloppy material. There were even aliens that flew around us. Some suspended their house high in the sky off of very tall artificial trees. I often looked into the lake, suspecting that there was real estate hidden under the water. Everything just fascinated me. 

We brought some strange food and water with us. So we had everything we needed for a day of walking. I loved spending every minute I had with Caroline. Every moment I was awake with her felt great, considering that the nightmares got worse each night. I woke up sometimes shouting, dreaming of robotic arms cutting me up and dissecting me while I wasn’t able to move. Laying on a table.

Caroline tried to soothe me the best way she could. She tried her best to make sure I could feel the best I could. But it could only distract me from the issue so much. I loved every moment, but the stress of the situation was still there, still hiding at the back of my mind.

The next morning, after breakfast. The Captain contacted me again. I took the call in the garden. “James! I have some good news. The family allowed us access to the suit to further investigate their son’s annihilation. There is one issue though. When they heard of your request, they declined to allow you access to any files that remained on his suit.” The result disappointed me after waiting so long for a response from the Captain. 

“Is there any way we can gain access to that data?” I asked.

“I will work on it. But all I can say is that the family has a firm opinion about this. There isn’t much I can do.”

I had an unusual amount of anger wash over me at that point. I was getting frustrated with the situation and the fact that no one seemed willing to help me. Periclum helped me so much and was my friend. He died trying to help me. I wanted to go to his funeral or whatever this ceremony thing was. Wanted to meet his family and ask them myself. I didn’t want to understand at the time why everyone was being so difficult with me. Just that I needed to change this situation.

“I’ll go to the ceremony and talk with them myself. Could you tell me where and when it is?”

The Captain looked shocked at the suggestion for a moment. “I thought you would want to hide from all of this, James?”

“Captain, I will not miss the chance to say goodbye to a good friend. I want to apologise to his family and be there for him, just like he had been there for me many times.”

The Captain gulped at the way I was talking. “James, I don’t think it is a good idea…”

“Captain…” I paused for a moment. She just looked back at me, waiting for the next sentence. “Send me the ceremony details.” I replied after.

She took another deep breath and continued to look at me in silence for another moment. It seemed like her defences were coming down. “Okay, I am sending you the temporal coordinates of the event now. Please try to be respectful to the family!?”

“I will Captain. You know me.”

“No James, I’m afraid I don’t.” She disappeared at that moment and then I received a message about the event.

I went into the motorhome and told Caroline about the encounter and sent her the data the Captain sent me. It surprised Caroline at my sudden assertiveness on the situation but agreed that it will be good for me to attend. I suggested we take the motorhome there. Thinking the drive would be fun, I requested I drive.

I had driven many times on Earth and was desperate for some control and familiarity. The controls of this motorhome seemed similar to what I was used to, and I was excited to get behind the wheel. 

“The drive would take us about two days to get there!” Caroline said.

“The ceremony is in three days. We have plenty of time. We could see the sights and sounds of The Liberty on the road.”

She looked at me a moment more like I was crazy until I could see her thinking about it. “You’re driving!?”

“I am. I will get us there.”

“Not without directions, I’ll navigate!”

“So you want to go?”

“Yeah, let’s go.”

After a short while, I was starting the motorhome up and realised that the controls were very intuitive for me to understand. There weren’t any gears, and all I had to do was push on one pedal for acceleration and the other for brake. It appeared to have a stick for indicators and some buttons for the lights. We were soon ready to go.

To begin with, we set off with a jerk. But I soon got the hang of accelerating and found it fun to drive. At the start of the drive, Caroline was giving me instructions on how to drive, but eventually turned to navigating us. It wasn’t long before I drove us out of the small town we lived in and onto an open road full of grassy fields.

We passed many towns and villages. Each looking different, however, it was clear Tuhingan lived there. The buildings looked the same. They were small boxy buildings made of what appeared to be a concrete mixed with something else to give it a green tint. The windows seemed to be flat against the outer wall, with large concrete panels stuck together for the frame and some transparent resin for the window itself. 

It was a bit of a boring drive. Me and Caroline didn’t talk so much. I was in a rebellious mood and had frequent stops at cafes and places of interest on the way. There were no natural wonders, however, there were quite a few wonders of architecture. We got a few stares every time we stopped, however no one bothered us. Luckily, the Tuhingan’s are quite a shy race and they didn’t dare approach me even if they recognised me.

We stopped off at a hotel on the way since we had been cooped up in the motorhome for days. It was nice to get a bed that was designed just to be a bed. Once again, me and Caroline enjoyed each other’s company and then we continued on our journey after breakfast the next day. The hotel staff were kind to us and they explained their hotel is away from the cities and villages because they like to be alone. They never followed the news and considered us to be a delightful couple, wishing there were more people like us stopping by. The charge for everything was cheap at three hundred energy units. 

I felt rich, but I suppose everyone was in this great ship. There weren’t many visitors to the hotel and the Tuhingan family who owned it seemed to care more about their large family than getting more guests. The family comprised of six husbands and four wives. They had around sixteen kids altogether, all running around the hotel. They welcomed us with open arms into the family and it was so nice for a change to feel accepted. At least for a night.

When we left, we promised we will be back again. Then continued on the road, passing towns and villages. Looking at their architecture. Then stopping at the side of the road to have something to eat. However, when we ate, we wouldn’t be anywhere close to a populated area. We never planned it that way, but it felt more comfortable.

Inside, I felt nervous. My anxiety trying to pull me down and I kept fighting it as I drove. Thinking this is my decision and I will stick to it, no matter what. I kept driving, getting closer to the ceremony. I began calling it a funeral, even as Caroline explained it isn’t correct because they hold a funeral because of death and this was an annihilation. 

To me, there wasn’t much difference, and at that point, we were getting close. I wanted to prepare myself that night and didn’t want to be around anyone else other than Caroline. So we parked in a woodland and stayed the night. That night, we ended up walking through the dark woodland. Looking at all the animals that lived in there as we grew more tired. 

There was never night on the Liberty. They could not create it. But we grew tired according to our schedule. It was an amazing time to have been holding Caroline’s hand through the woodland and just spending some quality time with her. We both were silent throughout most of the walk, but I enjoyed the fact that she was there.

That night was full of nightmares and I woke up a few times. Caroline tried to soothe me back to sleep. But it wasn’t so good. I felt the need to go out and have a midnight stroll through the woodlands. Although it was still daylight, the darkness of the woodland kept me in a tired state and the coolness of it made me feel relaxed.

At that moment I loved those woodlands and could have stayed there for many years, just enjoying the surrounding nature. But I had to face this ceremony, and we were almost there. The next day, we continued driving. We came to the place where the ceremony was. A sudden feeling washed over me as I thought about whether I should be there. I felt anxious and felt more and more like I made a mistake and I shouldn’t be there. 

Caroline attempted to soothe me by getting me a delightful meal. It didn’t help so much and I ate little it since I felt sick with anxiety.

The ceremony was that afternoon and I felt anything but ready to face Periclum’s family. Especially since my visit was unannounced. I did this trip through frustration and anger at all the hurdles I had to go through. Now I sat here doubting whether I made the right choice.

“No” I announced. No to going to the ceremony, no to seeing the family. I realised I wouldn’t able to talk to any of his mothers or fathers. I found myself lost.

“You will go!” Caroline said as I was telling her I wouldn’t.

“What?” I replied, shocked at her response.

“You will go! We didn’t go all this way for nothing. It’s the main reason we are here. If you won’t go, I will!” she said with a defiant tone. 

I looked at Caroline and felt myself cornered. So far, I have felt like I was in control and Caroline was agreeing to anything I was saying. It was a surprise when she was turning to me to say this. I didn’t know where to place myself.

“You need to do this, James! It’s important that you get closure from this!” I felt angry that she would turn against me like this. Force me to do something I didn’t want to do. I was trying to figure out something concrete to fight back at her with, something she can’t argue against. I tried to think and in that moment I realised I was wrong. 

I wanted to come here. I wanted to meet his family. There was a dread inside me, fearful of how others will react to my presence. I had to do this and come out the other side. I took a deep breath to calm myself down. Feeling a tear fall down my cheek. At that moment I realised I didn’t know how to feel, what to do. I was lost in myself.

I was sat on the driver’s seat when Caroline came to me. She took me by my arm, “come on James, we can stay on the outside of the group and watch from a distance.”

I looked at her for a moment as I was trying to think through the fog that was my mind at that moment. I took a deep breath and smiled a weak smile. “We need to get the information from Periclum’s suit!” I said as my voice jittered and I tried to stand up with some meaning.

Caroline took a deep breath and looked at me. “We don’t have to do that now. Let’s just get some closure.” She said to me with sympathetic eyes.

I looked back and wondered when she became so wise in these things. I looked into her eyes and then hugged her. Thankful for her being with me.

“Thank you for everything you are doing for me.” she hugged me tighter back, and we embraced each other for a moment. We pulled apart to look at each other in the eyes and then kissed a passionate, long kiss. I was so emotional at that moment, I just wanted something to numb the pain, to preoccupy my mind and she was right there. 

I was trying to take control of the situation since I felt my control slip away at that point. I would have done anything at that point to keep control of that crazy situation. It was a struggle as I was still processing everything that had happened to me since I left Earth, still trying to figure it out. This moment, with Caroline, felt like one of the few things I had control over. Something that felt exciting and directed. I knew what was going to happen next because I made it happen.

As we were enjoying each other company, the time for the ceremony crept up on us. Caroline was the first to mention something.

“James, shouldn’t we be getting ready?” she said as I embraced her.

She was right. It was a pleasant distraction from reality when we were together, but we needed to be out the door already. I sighed. 

“Okay, let’s get this done. Do you want to go for a shower first?” I said as I got up.

“James, go!” she said to me. I stared at her for a moment, blank minded, unsure how to continue. After a time, I nodded and went to the bathroom.

We cleaned up and dressed up. We looked our best for the occasion. I tried to stand high as I looked in the mirror and promised myself everything will be okay. Then it was soon time to leave.

We walked towards the field the ceremony was being held. Then made sure that we were on time to avoid awkward conversation before the ceremony began. We came through the trees on the outer edges of the field where they had piled an enormous pile of logs. A coffin sat on top of the pile, and it looked as though they were prepared to light it with flaming torches in their hands. 

We stood there, close enough to hear them but far enough to avoid mingling.

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