Such a strange concept. A place that one feels secure. Home is a part of the family, the structural extension to it.
When I was a child, a time I am almost to old to remember any more, home was my parents house in Wasqua a satellite city of Kan'asnaya Prime capital of the then flourishing trade empire of the Third Reformed Galtancia Union. Wasqua was the place the Galtancian intelligentsia like to settle down. It was physically so close to Kan'asnaya Prime that you could reach the centre of the capital in 20 minutes if you took the solenoid train. Mass transit was very important to the educated rich there. It meant that they were still connected to the idle poor. They still took the train. They lived near the city. They actually commuted. They went right into the hear of the capital and visited their offices and labs and think tanks which were physically present in a mega-city that housed millions of the poor. I always thought that they were a bunch of hypocrites. It wasn't like them working there among the poor did through some magical way create new workplaces that any of the poor could afford to ever apply to, let alone get employed. The poor had nothing but the state leisure initiatives to keep them from turning into a desperate mob out of boredom and lack of perspective. At least the 'common' rich had the decency to hide in their own communities, far away from the eyes of the the poor living their lives in their own parallel realities.
My parents knew at least on an instinctive level that what they were doing was at the very least misguided. Both of them usually twisted to work instead of taking the solenoid train. They did not rub it in that they could actually pay for a job. My parents taught me to look at the poor and know their plight, so that I would understand my privilege better. When I was still a kid I didn't get it. What was so bad to have all the free time in the world? You were allowed to play all day long, got fed and clothed and could go to sleep whenever you wanted.
As I got older and got to school and university again I could not see what the fuss was about. Education was free for all. Of course there were schools that cost money to attend, but I never saw one of those from the inside. My parents were old-school academics and frowned up the very concept. So like most other people I went to a free academy. There everyone was pretty much equal. Sure there were cliques being assholes to each-other but having parents who actually worked was just one of the many reason why you could be shit to your fellow sentient.
University was even better, after home being my parents nest this was the first time I felt like I was establishing my own place in the universe. Still looked after with a safety net there to catch me in case I should stumble, but the net was well enough hidden that it was easy to forget it was there at all. There I learnt to establish my own version of home.
University attendance was purely voluntary because of this, this was the place you noticed the first big shift between the two classes. Many of the poor came from families that had been leisurely for generations where further education was discouraged. Not directly but implicitly. It was either considered a waste of time or by the more perspective of them as poisonous. You got your higher eduction. You reached an incredible level of competence and you got to go to the wildest parties. In a way the university years were like a strange mirror to our society a vision of how it should be. People all working together, everyone pushing themselves trying to achieve something of worth, part of the time. And the rest of the time partying hard, creating silly things, going all out artist. But even the most diligent student was usually done after around 100 years. That was the point when things changed.
There were always the lucky few. The poor that somehow caught the eye of some wealthy individual or organisation who would et them up with a first job. From there they could establish themselves become professionals and join the ranks of the people that actually mattered. These were always the shining examples. The proof that the 'system' worked. A system so effective that it was now the common practice pretty much everywhere in the known and civilised universe.
It was bullshit. Those who made it had won the lottery. It did not look like it nor did it feel like it because this was a lottery where people had to work hard and had were judged according to their perceived achievement to even get to apply. but in the end most people came out from the university and fell from the heady heights of academia back to the hard surface of reality.
Like me these people had become used to the illusion of autonomy to the idea that their thoughts and actions mattered. These people almost never lasted long. Bored to tears they either committed suicide or died of 'old' age barely reaching 200. Among my working peers the consensus was that the poor just didn't take care of themselves.
In reality their mental home was gone. There was no place of stability and peace for them any more. They could go back to their large brightly lit apartments and spend their time how they pleased. As long as it did not involve any form of productive activity. That wasn't home. That was prison.
I discovered with a morbid fascination that every sentient species I had so far encountered would waste away and die young under those conditions.
My parents were well connected and well off. I had won the lottery before even buying my first ticket.
Sure I had to work hard for my first few jobs. Jobs that paid so little that after all was said and done I had not enough money on my own to be able to afford my next job. Another rock against which the more determined poor were crushed. Got a job? Nice. No see how you go from this one to the next after having being paid less than it cost you to get it in the first place.
So thanks to my parents I got my work experience and thanks to my own determination I got to slowly build up my own fortune. I wanted my own ship. I wanted to go out into the universe and explore it. Despite millennia of endless expansion the universe was still full of unexplored solar systems, unknown planets undiscovered life that it was still a frontier that would go on for ever. I was going to be a prospector. An independent prospector. I would certainly not pay a company to be my pimp send me to wherever it had set its eyes, let me do all the hard work and then graciously hand me over part of my earnings in a magnanimous gesture.
No. I was going to be a real explorer with my very own ship.
It took some searching but I did manage to track down an old prospector who was about to settle down. He wasn't really active any more but just cruising the around the cosmos looking for a planet to start his own species. He had a nice hyper-driven capital multiformer the Deep Gate in which he an his family state were looking for just the right place. I bought myself into the expedition helping them find their own piece of heaven, reasoning that once they had settled down they would not need all their inter stellar ships any more. They would need some extra resources though.
I was right. However I was not prepared for the outrageous prices they wanted. Even with a steep fellow explorer discount the ships were quite outside of my reach. There was enough demand for the ships that there was hardly any hope for me to just sit it out and wait for them to get a bit more reasonable in their prices.
The following months I spent in limbo. Not the inter-dimensional bar sadly. Instead I was caught in a difficult situation not sure what to do. I was sitting on considerable assets, on a mostly unexplored planet that was being prepared for civilisation seeding. The Deep Gate was very well equipped and the expedition leader a very experienced explorer with a huge net of contacts. Chance that this colony would turn into a success were high. I myself was a pretty decent prospector myself by then so it would have been rather easy to go, do my job and buy a promising claim on the planet. Being there early with the first wave I could establish my own country and live of the profits. It certainly felt like the more prudent plan. Getting off colony was easy but very expensive. The people who came to Deep Gate knew that there were only two kinds of individuals in the colony, those who were going to stay there for good and those desperate to get away. Thus the prices to buy into the crew of any visiting ships that intended to leave the system any time soon were ridiculous.
Furthermore I was starting to feel at home on Deep Gate. I had made a lot friends during the search for the planet. Relationships that had only deepened during phase one of the colonisation process when were were charting the planet starting to gently terraforming it into the direction it was supposed to go. Building automatic agricultural hives and mining stations were other challenges that just reinforced this feeling of belonging, driving forward those mental roots that turned a place into home.
I would probably still be sitting there discussing genetics with my familial tribe trying to plot a course for our sub-species that was to populate this new world had I not found stumbled over the Void Dancer. I was looking for the old explorer to discuss terms on a claim on a group of islands near the planetary equator which I and my new friends wanted to have for ourselves. It was the perfect combination of a place rich in various resources while at the same time being pretty close to the definition of a natural paradise for all of the species among us. He wasn't at his office. One of his assistants directed me towards what we jokingly called the deep museum. A large store room deep in the heart of Deep Gate where the old man kept mementos of his long life.
Like me the old man was a humanoid of presumably terran descent. We had through our science reached the point where we could keep our bodies in a state of constant youth, however our minds had problems coping with that. While evolution slowly worked its way towards our new realities it refused to be rushed. The main problem was our memory. The first two hundred years were unremarkable. Something were forgotten, others remembered, the usual stuff. After that point though things started to slip away. Memories that should be kept forever started to slip. The further back they lay the easier they faded. Cherished childhood memories were rather hardy compared to other experiences but even they would vanish. Complacency in terranoids usually led to awkward surprises.
Surprises like growing up as an only child only to return home during the summer break to find your parents sitting in the living room with a cloud of guilt hanging heavily over them, their heads bowed as in supplication. In front of them standing with fire in her eyes a woman who turns out to be your sister. One of two.
Which is why it is important for most terranoids to keep mementos. Things strongly connected to memories that they can use to reinforce them so as to not let them be washed away by the tide of time.
Judging from his collection Alejandro Kanno the old explorer was extremely old. Old enough to have no idea when he was born. Like all people his age he would have to go through his collection looking for clues to see how far back his memories reached.
The day I was looking for him he was deep inside his memories, I had never been that far back before. I had made my way past his many memorabilia often stopping to have a look at one of the more impressive or mystifying items. These were indeed precious memories many of the exhibits were priceless. This reminded me of the stellar legends one tends to hear about the people who losing their fortune because of some evil twist of fate have to start selling their mementos and so bit by bit losing their past and in the end their personality.
When I was at school there was a man that was always sitting in front of the great fountain in the park we walk through each day from the solenoid train to school and back who reading a book. I have no who started the rumour but everyone at my school 'knew' that that guy was an ancient who had had to sell all his mementos and lost all his memories damning him to spend the rest of his days as one of the idle poor unaware of his noble past. The man almost never looked up from his book but when he did he had this intense look in his eyes, as if he was looking for something that he did not remember what it was any more but would recognise once he saw it.
I shuddered. I was slowly reaching my own third century and growing older that story just became more chilling.
After while I found my self leaving the cramped confines of outer part of the deep museum entering a huge open space. The smell of dust being replaced by those of ozone and synthetic oil. The museum had turned into a hangar. In the middle of which stood what I first thought to be the largest aero-plane I had ever seen. A sleek metal craft that was painted in blinding light and black shadows by strong floodlights. The ship dominated the entire space dwarfing everything around it. It's appearance was so imposing that I did not notice that Kanno was squatting in front of the ship, looking up at it, his chin resting on his hands.
I did not know it back then. But that ship was the Void Dancer.
My one true home.