For anyone who enjoyed Convergent Space here is a little bit extra – the prologue that was written but never used.
‘Do you know who you are?'
‘We know who we are – Do you know who you are? – What a stupid question – Who are we again?'
Tihn Forlihn blew out a breath and it hung in the cold still air. ‘What do you remember?'
‘Too much – Everything – Nothing – You need to be more specific – We can see the future – No we can't, we can correlate events – We have predictive powers – No we don't – Yes we do, they just aren't working – He asked about the past - Who wants to talk about the past?'
‘What's wrong with you?'
‘What wrong with us? – What's wrong with you? – Something's broken – We're confused – No cohesion between our constituent parts – Nothing to guide us – Nothing to hold us together.'
Above them in the pale grey sky the huge burn ship waited, dominating everything, dwarfing everything. It was almost fully loaded now. The last of the private ships owned by the richer fraternities and covens were being swallowed up through an opening in its obese grey-brown hull and its 120 engines, each powerful enough to drive any normal ship, were beginning to spark into life.
It was an ugly ship. Different sections of the hull had been made at different times from different materials and it looked old and worn-out when in fact this was both its maiden and its final flight. Its bank of massive engines was separated from the hull by a flat rectangular shield that ran the full length of the ship. Unlike the patchwork body of the ship, the engines looked slick and new, fashioned from highly polished metal that twinkled in the light of the nearby sun.
‘I need to ask you some important questions. Only you have the answers.'
‘What questions? – What answers? – We'll try – No we won't – Who are you anyway?'
‘I told you, I'm Tihn Forlihn. A Phlegar, like you all once were.'
‘Forlihn, that rings a bell – Of course it does – But why? – Who knows! - It's our name isn't it? – Is it? – Of course it is! – Oh for heaven's sake!'
Tihn shook his head. How could he possibly be related to this schizophrenic mess? Did he really risk his life for this? He looked up at the burn ship.
‘I suppose we'd better go.'
‘Where are we going? – You know – He already said – Try to pay attention – Did he actually say where we were going? – Not specifically – Well then – Just stop arguing!'
Tihn had arrived the previous evening, ditching the treacherous skiteship in the cold waters of the partially frozen lake. It had been hard enough to pilot what was essentially a flying coffin (in size, shape and reliability) so he'd been dreading the landing. He was convinced the skiteship would malfunction and burn him to a crisp on entry to the moon's atmosphere. It didn't but while he was swimming ashore in the freezing waters of the lake he'd been alarmed to see how quickly and heavily the ship had sunk to the bottom.
When he stepped ashore the cold moon was already packed with passengers waiting to board the burn ship and he'd caused quite a stir. Now the ice-sheet was empty apart from the debris they had left behind. There were still a few stragglers like himself, some taking the opportunity to sift through the discarded belongings left behind on the ice – packing cases, bags, upturned food containers and other rubbish - looking for anything useful, valuable or edible. People who weren't travelling with their fraternities or covens would have spent everything to buy a ticket on this flight. That meant leaving with nothing and it was a long, long journey.
He had signed up for this trip as a last resort. He'd made a mess of everything and this was one sure fire way of making a new start. There was nothing keeping him here and anyway it was traditional for his people to do this: take flight, press on, run away… But still he wasn't sure it was what he wanted. It meant everything he'd done up until now would be wiped clean, forgotten. It seemed such a waste.
Tihn began packing things up. He deflated the blow-up chair and put it into his rucksack then folded up the bed and hung it over one shoulder. Finally he lifted the orb from the temporary podium he had fashioned out of the ice and slipped it into his rucksack.
Then he set off across the ice, making for the ferry that would take him into the bowels of the giant ship.