She was holding on to something that was little more than a string of pain and light. It was her father, though, and she kept calling to him.
“Dada, please, don’t go! It’s me! It’s Jeanette! Please!”
I am so pleased you are okay. I can go then, out of the pain and muddle into the hope. The clarity and the hope.
“I’m here to bring you back! Please come with me!” she pleaded.
I can rest now that you are safe. I can go forward now, not back.
She couldn’t take it, and she screamed an ugly scream. “Dada, don’t leave me! Don’t leave me all alone!”
The brightness was now a shape, It had her father’s face now, and it looked at her now the way it had looked at her from over her bed, from by the table as she did her homework, from in the park when she had scraped her knee.
But you know I had to sometime, Jeanette. You’re growing up, you’re becoming stronger. You’re doing things you never thought you could do--that I never thought you could do. You have to grow up and become your own person. There comes a point that I have to let go.
“Dada, no, please no, that’s Death talking through you--I’m still a little girl and I have a hole in my heart that belongs to you! I can’t let you go! I won’t! Come back with me!”
No, Jeanette, it’s sad, but it’s for the best. It’s something to learn from--to grow from. I see it now.
“NO!” she shouted. “THAT’S--NOT--IT!”
Jeanette grabbed onto pale shining hand with both of hers, and pulled it with all the strength she had to her breast--to her heart.
The echo of a color--then something like a real color--move through her father’s spirit. His smooth brow furrowed and his head tilted to one side.
Oh Jen--my little girl--!
She pulled and pulled--and he ceased to rise. His hand reached out to touch her hair--and she drew him down and in, where they were both wrapped in angel’s wings.
Captain Ngozi Makena Odile’s voice rang out. “We have him! Disengage and retreat! We are out of here!”
In answer, O Tse’s pike with the feathered blade grew terribly bright, and he swung it in a great circle and swiped the chaos monster’s head from its shoulders. “For my tiger,” he snarled--and then ran.
The Ark was once again a thing of neutrinos, and rising unimpeded and undetectable from Haven. Within a matter of ship’s minutes, they were across three universal barriers, and in the glitter of stars.
In the Ark’s palatial gun room, The Captain presided over the celebratory dinner. The mixture of Exiles and River Daughter’s crew were celebrating, and Wynken, Blynken, and Nod were all over the travelers. She made one announcement. “We will be marking ship’s time for a few days for our targets will make a full recovery--but we will also be conducting a molecule-by-molecule combing of the ship to make absolutely certain that there is not a single trace of that thing that managed to get on board. Both of these measures are necessary if we are to make our next objective--rendezvous with the main Exile fleet!” It was greeted with a shout of approval and a series of toasts to the Captain.
Jeanette was not at the dinner. She was, sitting by her father’s bedside, telling him all about her adventures. Walther had re-created Terence’s body with one of his much-discussed hand gestured, but Dr. Ransom was getting used to it again--impeded a bit by the fact that conversion into a neutrino structure was not precisely one-to-one.
“I have to say I really like St. Bunnyface the Enlightened, even if he did make some questionable choices,” Terence said.
“He was just trying his best,” Jeanette said. She went on with her story until he fell asleep. She picked up his dinner plate--he had eaten all of it, which pleased her, and was taking both their place settings back to a drop in the hallway. Walther was standing there.
"You know I’ll be leaving soon,” he said.
“I wish you wouldn’t,” Jeanette said with reluctance.
“What’s ahead of you is war, and I’m less than useless in that context. But that way, at least you can take full credit for your accomplishments.”
They walked back to Jeanette’s cabin. Jeanette sat in a suspensor chair while the angel sat on the edge of the bed. “You of course can come visit whenever you want, now that you know the trick with the portals. It’s not much, but we call it Heaven.”
“I think that’s a dad joke. A Heavenly Father joke.” Jeanette said.
“I still have to get in full wacky shape,” Walther answered. “It’s been a while.”
“I have two questions,” Jeanette said.
“Go ahead,” he said.
“The first is, is Jennifer Random Transcendent me in the future?”
“Oh, a good one! Yes and no,” the angel said.
“I’ll explain. You know I told you about the show of your adventures that I’d been watching?”
“Yes, and I don’t like it.”
“Well, after a while they did a reboot of the show, but with an older and sexier main character--you know how it is. That’s Jennifer. So, yes and no.”
“That’s so weird, but okay.”
“And the second one?”
“Do we win?”
“Do you really want to know that?”
The angel bent over for dramatic effect. “The answer is--yes, you do. Not completely, because you know that’s not advisable, but the Balance is readjusted in favor of Imagination, and much fear and misery goes away. You all come through fine.”
“You aren’t going to ask me for the cheat codes?”
“There are cheat codes?”
“Well, yes and no.”
The angel burst out laughing, and Jeanette joined him.
Five ship’s days later, Lord Silvertyger Elphinstone, Earl of Maurya, walked onto the bridge of the Ark of Infinity, in humanoid shape and resplendent in new mirror armor, made by the crew under his specifications. He was joined by Dr. Terence Ransom, hand-in-hand with his daughter Jeanette.
“Reporting for duty, Captain,” he said as he saluted the Captain.
Ngozi Makena Odile gave him a relaxed salute in return. “Glad to have you, milord. We--”
A klaxon interrupted her.
“We are under attack, Captain. A fleet of neutrino ships,” the communicator said.
“Beat to Quarters! All hands to their guns!” The Captain shouted.
Then she smiled to her companions. “Here we go,” she said.