Flash felt uneasy. He missed his daughter and longed to hold his grandson. He couldn’t shake the sound of that sweet echoing voice.
It wasn’t that he was unhappy. He looked around the mothership at the family he had assembled. He couldn’t take credit for any of them. Pensive Lem, playful Poikani, serendipitous Bucket, and even the supportive K.D. Head rounded out his improbable family.
In some ways, they were very different from each other, and yet they were all made of stardust, products of the same universe, and thus they were the same.
There were missing pieces. Necessary pieces.
A thought gnawed at Flash Meridian so that Lem noticed it.
There is so much to see here in uncharted space, he said when she asked, but I wish we could go back to Olo.
Poikani and I have wished the same thing, she replied.
Bucket’s only concern was that he would be left behind. He dreamed of holding gemstones to help the Ololians build them into structures on the plain. He could hover with the whales, floating high above the sea of crystals like Flash had done. Perhaps he could deliver room service to guests staying in the top floors of the castle, or hold things for people living in the reeflike mountains.
He’d been isolated for so long, floating in empty space, and calling out for someone to acknowledge him. He did not want to be abandoned again, to return to the solitude of cold darkness.
The vote was unanimous.
Everyone’s mood changed once Flash asked the K.D. Head to alter their course. It was that simple.
They were in no hurry. There was no perceptible change other than everyone’s anticipation. It would be a long journey, but they knew where they were headed.
Flash hadn’t realized how stressful it was flying through space with no destination in mind. There were so many possibilities. So many surprises. Any one of them could hold wonder or disaster.
Now that he was on his way back to Olo, the relief was obvious.
Flash loved Olo, and was happy to know that Lem loved it, too. He hadn’t been sure of this. Lem tended to keep her feelings to herself. Now she talked excitedly to her son about the unique and colorful place.
First and foremost, Flash looked forward to seeing his daughter, but he also looked forward to having more room to move about in. He couldn’t imagine a more beautiful place than Olo.
Bucket calculated how many gemstones he would be able to hold based on their size, and then the weight of a bucketful based on the type of stone.
Rubies have a density of 3.97-4.05, he said, while the density of amber is 1.05-1.09.
He explained to Poikani that faceted stones could be packed more tightly than raw, uncut ones, but he wouldn’t mind either way.
The Ololian book became a travel guide for Flash and his traveling companions.
News from Olo’s surface appeared in the book.
Poikani read about the fishlike creatures that swam in the silver rivers. He studied the different varieties and their unique habits. When he showed the bucketfish to Bucket, he grew excited, and felt they would have a lot in common.
I could hold one, Bucket said in a faint and dreamy tone.
Some varieties had a habit of swimming out of the water and darting about in the treetops. Their colors closely mimicked the tones of the branches. They were camouflaged if they stopped to rest in the cool shade. When startled, a whole school of them might explode from the highest boughs in a display unlike anything seen on Earth. The entire crown of the tree would appear to expand and shrink again, or swirl dramatically, independent of wind.
Other varieties, like the pumpkinhead, were brightly colored, primarily in yellows and oranges, but when the light hit them, they sparkled in rainbow hues.
The ruby Bucket held was the closest he had come to a planet. Unless there was something he had forgotten. Perhaps something from before the beginning.
The whole universe is full of friends and family we just haven’t met yet.
Flash couldn’t seem to remember a time before he knew Lem. Their souls had become intertwined, or perhaps they had always been. Maybe they had known each other in another world or a previous life. As for his daughter, she was a part of him. Their spirits were inseparable, despite whatever distance lay between. Still, he longed for physical proximity.
He felt a connection to everyone around him and to his ship, which seemed to have a personality because of the K.D. head.
You can find friendship anywhere. Bucket joined the mammoths, the mer creature, the king and queen, and even the whales as friends who helped Flash on his journey. They were all a part of his story, cemented into place like the stones in the castle wall, and his picture would not be complete if any of them were missing.
Flash had been wishing for someone like himself. What he hadn’t realized at first was that everyone was like him. Everyone was different from him, too. Their similarities allowed them to relate to each other, while their differences made them all the more interesting.