– Daddy, tell me the story of how we were saved.
– OK, love. Have you got your bear Benji?
– Yes, he wants to hear the story too.
– Then let’s start…
In the final days of an ancient planet, four ships were sent out to the four corners of the universe to seek a new home. The planet’s resources were severely depleted at this point and the escalation of natural disasters had wiped out a large percentage of its population. But the survivors pooled what resources they had left to launch their ships into space. Each ship carried a crew of two hundred and the genetic material for thousands of plant and animal species. After six months, each ship passed beyond maximum communications range and was left alone to face its fate. No more was heard of three of the ships. We know only the fate of the fourth ship, Fortuna.
– Fortuna was our ship, wasn’t it?
– Yes, that was our ship. And after four centuries of travel, it was battered and overcrowded, its population having tripled during its journey. One day, it was hit by a meteor and left so badly damaged that it could no longer sustain itself as it had successfully done for so long. It was in these desperate times that they met a god.
– What did the god look like?
– At first, the crew thought they had drifted into a dense nebula, vibrant with colours. Most of the crew heard a haunting melody in their minds, resonating with loss and loneliness. But the Captain heard an actual voice asking him what their purpose was. He wondered if he had gone mad but he replied that they were the remnants of a dying civilisation, seeking a new home. The ship had enough stores to feed its crew for two more months with strict rationing. The voice said it could get the ship to a viable planet in that time. In exchange, it asked the Captain only for his company. The Captain agreed mainly for the sake of his crew but also because he was lonely too, as his wife had been one of the fifteen killed when the ship was damaged.
– What happened next?
– The nebula contracted around the ship and pulled it along faster than it had ever moved before. For six weeks, the Captain talked to the voice inside his head, sharing his life and his people’s past history. In the first week, the Captain asked the voice its name, but the nebula had forgotten if it ever had a name – it believed it was the last of its kind. In the second week, he gave the voice a name, Sola, and introduced it to centuries of literature. In the third week, he discovered that the voice liked music, especially the blues. In the fourth week, the crew were relieved when the melody in their minds lightened, streaked through with notes of hope and tentative joy. In the fifth week, the crew acquired a new addition to its science team, yet it was as if she had always been with them – her whole lifetime suddenly part of the fabric of their minds. In the sixth week, the Captain married Science Officer Sola and the ship arrived at its destination, a habitable planet with verdant continents and sapphire oceans. The nebula disappeared and the crew wondered if it had all been a dream.
– But mummy stayed with us?
– Yes, but that’s our secret. Mummy chose to become one of us. For the others, she has always been one of us, but she wanted you to know the truth. She kept her vast knowledge, which allowed her to help us settle here, but she became frail and human, giving up her immortality to be with us. You know what that means, don’t you?
– Yes, you and me and Benji must love her as hard as we can for the rest of our lives because it’s the only way we can thank her.
– That’s right, love. Now, time you were asleep.
– Night daddy.
– Night, night princess.