Author : Martin Berka

Krinna Lorens blinked as she woke up. She felt extremely refreshed, and was wide awake in about 15 seconds – sleeping was healthy. The lid of the bed slid aside, and the date appeared in front of her, hovering in mid-air. With a start, she studied the purple-tinted numbers again. Yes? Yes! She’d been waiting so long – those five years had felt like an eternity, no matter what she’d told herself – and it was time. A quick glance at his last message confirmed it – she had until mid-afternoon.

Sending the display away with a thought, Krinna sat up and climbed out, carefully. She dressed simply, ate (purely out of nostalgia), and spent several hours checking the news and downloading updates. Yes, it took a long time, but she wanted to be completely clued-in when she saw him again.

After triple-checking that she was ready, the 32-year-old surveyed the tiny apartment. It had served her decently for the last five years. Sure, it was slightly larger than a jail cell (though considerably better-equipped), but without Jeff around, it fit her living style. She’d always been the more practical of the two. Agreeing that her fiance should go on the trip was perhaps her only lapse, but the opportunity had seemed so rare, and the financial benefits, substantial.

Without a backward glance, Krinna stepped out the door, which locked behind her. The antique elevator took her up 14 floors, to what was once known as “ground level.” Being a cross between the real sky and ground areas, it was kept open and reserved for foot traffic. The street-like area was full of aliens, though she could tell that many of them were theoretically human, somewhere beneath all the modifications. She couldn’t blame them, since she had gotten the bare minimum herself, in the last few years. The rapid trend changes still tended to catch her off-guard, but one of the newly-downloaded patches kicked-in, and she confidently made her way through the crowd.

The transit center was nearby, and she waited several minutes before a one of the space elevator cages returned to the ground, using the opportunity to check the Expected Arrival Time on the public network. She reached the spaceport with a half-hour remaining.

The incoming ship was obsolete, launched as part of a third-contact wave of knowledge exchanges, to a star system some 15 light years distant. Despite relying on once-amazing advances in propulsion, it had taken just over 32 millenniums to arrive at its destination (and after alien improvements, nearly 20 to return) with its small crew of robots and 95 stasis-bound humans sent for their artistic, scientific, and technical abilities – including Jeff. He would spend about five conscious years away, and they had agreed to wait for each other. While he flew off and spent five years on the alien world (waking a few times during the voyage to reply to her messages), Krinna spread the same time evenly across fifty thousand. The routine quickly became familiar – awake every few centuries, explore the new world order, and try to fit in for a several months. The people she met during these “visits” were very helpful, though over time, they increasingly questioned why anyone would wait for the future, when the present was so wonderful.

But the present had included Jeff’s absence, until now. The ship docked, and he returned to a changed world, immediately heading in Krinna’s direction.

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