Vin'nyla clutches their worn-out elevation device. Their friend, the fragrance seller from Bhopal, stands beside them, a true believer in the power of elevation.
Vin'nyla's eyes narrow with determination as they gaze at the Welcome Habitat below.
The fragrance seller from Bhopal understands the gravity of Vin'nyla's impending action.
Vin'nyla takes a deep breath, realizing that every action is a positive action, even if it has a negative result. S/He asks, "What could be better than a short, uncomplicated life that goes out in a blaze of glory?"
The fragrance seller from Bhopal smiles knowingly. "Nihilism."
"Yeah," Vin'nyla says with a sense of purpose, referring to the rebellious spirit of the past.
S/He hands the fragrance seller from Bhopal a dub of their elevation data copy, contemplating the impact it could have.
The fragrance seller from Bhopal's eyes light up with excitement.
"I'll let you know as soon as something happens," s/he promises before making their exit.
Alone again, Vin'nyla contemplates their actions. "Hey, you got 'Honor thy error as a hidden intention,'" s/he mutters to themself, drawing inspiration from a popular cryptic phrase.
As Vin'nyla stands there, pondering their next move, a visitor approaches. "Hey, mate, uh, you want a card?" the visitor asks.
Vin'nyla takes the card, realizing that in this world driven by conformity and surveillance, s/he is not alone.
The artifact, discovered on Hobbes Prime, is an ancient crystalline structure, which emits a peculiar energy. The visitors delve deep into its intricate patterns, they begin to experience vivid visions – echoes of an imaginary space. Phantasms of alien landscapes and fantastical realms fill their mind.
Embedded within the crystalline structure is a gateway to the Welcome Habitat, a multidimensional ethereal realm where the boundaries of space, time, and imagination converge.
The Welcome Habitat is a place where sentient beings exist as luminous entities of pure thought and energy and collaborating on infinite creative endeavors. Architecture defies convention, with structures constantly shifting based on inhabitants' desires. Time and distance become subjective, allowing for experiences that span from cosmic events to intimate moments in the blink of an eye.
As the visitors navigate through the Welcome Habitat, they encounter inhabitants extending a special welcome. They invite those from Kepler, Gliese, Trappist, or Tau Ceti f, as well as starving artists, tree-huggers, junkies, vegetarians, junk-food eaters, those who think the earth is flat, those who don't work, or those who can't communicate. The Welcome Habitat offers hospitality to those who got lost and wound up there by mistake, as well as to visitors, tourists, seekers, and doubters.
The artifact from Hobbes Prime, it seems, is not just a key to imaginary space but a portal to the Welcome Habitat itself. The visitors, now intertwined with the luminous entities of the habitat, navigate this multidimensional realm to understand its connection to the echoes of an imaginary space and find new imaginary friends.
Zak glides through the cosmic silence, light-years away from the busy hustle and bustle but anxious chatter in the Welcome Habitat. Aidan's world is gripped by paranoia.
Aidan feels the distance between them.
Starlight filters through the windows as Zak settles into their solitude. Zak's interior is minimalistic, with every item meticulously chosen to maximize utility and minimize clutter.
As s/he messages Zak, Aidan gazes out into the vastness of space, a reminder of their escape from the world's chaos.
"And everything is OK with you?"
Only the landing has been dragging on for one hour… Here's the status: 'Your number in the queue: 15568. Number of vessels ahead of you: 8300. The queue has been paused. We will keep you updated.'"
"I don't quite understand."
"There's a traffic jam in the landing zone. Let's see how it goes."
"Ahh, I saw that in the news. Everybody has to wait, even millionaires."
As they continue their conversation, the exchange turns more personal, but their communication feels strained at times.
"I would like to have a quick meeting with you."
"I am busy."
A text message appeared on Zak's holographic screen, illuminated by the dim lights of their small space. Zak is halfway between the Welcome Habitat and the distant colony of Centauri-9 when the message from Aidan flashed before their eyes.
“So yeah - I guess I'm leaving the Welcome Habitat tomorrow. Even though I don't really want to. Do you know what it's like at spaceports… Do you think I can ever come back?"
Zak is contemplating the words. S/He hasn't seen Aidan in person for months, not since the virus has swept across the Welcome Habitat, forcing everyone into isolation and uncertainty. Before that, Zak has embraced a nomadic lifestyle, traveling between colonies and space stations. But everything has changed.
“If I were you, I wouldn't stay in the Welcome Habitat. The situation is just unpredictable.”
Aidan stared at the message, a sense of longing and anxiety gnawing at her. The isolation of space had never felt so real.
Zak continues their journey through the endless void of space. The Welcome Habitat is now a distant speck in the rearview mirror, and Centauri-9 looms ahead, promising a fresh start for their endeavors.
Aidans has opted for an isolated tranquility, but a part of Aidan obviously longs for vibrant streets. Aidan can't help but feel disconnected from the world.