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​​​​Twenty-Four

When you return to the Plourde, everyone except Captain Shelley is already in the break room. Eckstein hands you a drink that smells strongly of alcohol.

"To Bjorg, and the find of the century," Bonner says, raising his cup.

Everyone raises their cups, too, before gulping down the contents.

Eckstein slams his cup down on the table. "Even if we're going to have to host Halcyon because of it."

Nervous laughter erupts around the table.

"Who's Halcyon?" a small voice chirps.

You blink at the child who creeps from beneath the table. Were your people so desperate that they had to take children to war?

"Don't be stupid," a woman in chef's whites snaps.

You open your mouth to protest.

The chef continues before you can speak. "Halcyon's the Mer Enforcer. Even Humans know her name. Stupid cupid."

The child…no, the cupid, you realise as your cheeks heat in embarrassment, sniffs in disdain. "Oh, you mean the siren whose heart is colder than a shark's. Pity. Sirens are usually much more fun."

"If she can neutralise the robots and any AI, we'll all be thanking her. That whole Colony could be ours." Bonner looks wistfully at the wall screen, which continues to show the video you now know by heart.

For a moment, you consider it. Not having to try and scratch out a life on one of the tiny volcanic islands dotted all over Delta, the water planet. To live in a city again, with technology like on Tito.

"I'd join her strike force, if it meant first pick of a place to live in the Colony," Chef says, her eyes misty.

"I wouldn't mind smashing a few robots, if it meant having a home again, with grass and space to run," says the man beside Chef.

"Just don't try going for a swim with Halcyon, or you won't live long enough to call any place home again," Eckstein said. "There's water in that city, Triton."

Triton huffed out a sigh, sounding surprisingly like a horse. "Yeah, yeah, I saw. I could control myself. Even I'm not stupid enough to try to drown a siren."

"What was it like, Bjorg? Would you want to live there?" Bonner asks.  

You close your eyes, and instead of the video, you see the real dome, down on Omega. Just like Alba. Like home. "In a heartbeat."

"Let's hope Halcyon clears it for habitation, then," Shelley says, gesturing for a drink. "I'll request that the crew of the Plourde gets first pick when it's open for settlement. When the war is over. Which can't be long, if we're the proud owners of the most high-tech city in the system."

"I'll drink to that." Chef hands her a cup, then proceeds to pour another round.

Everyone raises their drinks in a silent toast this time.

Too late, you remember that Human shuttle you saw outside the city. Likely flying reconnaissance, just like you. They'd probably seen the same videos, inviting you to the Colony. After all, why add that last bit about ending the war and how there was room for everyone if whoever was in the Colony didn't want everyone?

Titans had fled Earth centuries ago, for a fresh start on a new planet where they no longer had to hide their natures from ordinary Humans who hated them.

Perhaps it was time to try living in harmony with Humans again. After all, they'd shared a planet for millennia. It might be chaos at first, but so was the start of any new colony. If you wanted to, you could all make it work. In time.

Hope hangs heavily over the table, for the first time in you can't remember how long.

Maybe the planet needed a new name. Not Omega, the end, but New Hope for a new beginning.

THE END

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