The armoured shutters of the gate clanged hard. “Doom, doom” — something rumbled heavily somewhere deep inside. There was silence. The secret hangar of the hierarchs of the temple was not particularly impressive. It was a small room modestly decorated with heavy purple canvases with Bartle's sayings embroidered on them. At the wings of the hangar, the only escape pod stood lonely — a modest and discreet ship, with thousands of its twins roaming the fringe sectors. Last chance for salvation...
The temple's own engines were silenced a couple of days ago, and yesterday the entire machinery deck was lost. And now there was only local emergency lighting in the hangar. At the time of escape, there were several thousand people in the temple. And now, by the last hangar, only a couple of dozen survivors and uninfected Jericho could be found: a small detachment of military men, a couple of civilians and a dozen children. All those who survived the pandemic and the subsequent slaughter in the narrow corridors and echoing halls of the temple.
— The ship cannot hold us all, — the lieutenant gathered all the survivors separately from the group of children. — We decided not to take the arks out of the temple, but to hide them in the forbidden halls. Fortunately, it is not too far from the hangar, and I know how to open the hidden gates. I think that the horde will follow us. The arks attract it, and it should give you some time.
— We won’t break through the blockade, — quietly said a young beautiful woman, with a boy of about three or four leaning against her thigh. He glanced at the lieutenant and the other soldiers in armour with fear and admiration. — The Imperials and the traders will not let us out of the sector. They destroy all the ships at the gates.
— There are cryo-pods in the escape vessel, — the lieutenant turned his eyes away from the boy. — If you use them, the ship will be able to reach the next safer gates at subluminal speed. The flight will be long, but the cryo-pods should stay intact.
— How many are there on the ship?
— Enough only for children...
— It suits us, — the woman proudly looked him straight in the eyes. — Use this chance. There will be no other. — The boy, as if he understood something, quietly began to cry.
The lieutenant gathered his squad in front of the inner doors. In the middle, containers covered with cloth and therefore formless lay on automatic trolleys. Inside were the mysterious arks of the Liu family — ancient symbols of power and unity, according to legend, received by the founders from the hands of Bartle himself. The main secret and value of the Temple of Last Hope.
The doors opened, and the squad quickly left the hangar. The heavy folds shut behind them forever. The woman moved away from the control panel towards the children.
— It's time to go to bed, — she patted her son on his wiry curls. — You have a long journey ahead of you.
“Doom, doom” — something rumbled behind closed doors of the inner gates.
After a long time and in a completely different place.
— They are so emaciated, poor things!
The children's hospital wing for low-income citizens of the Federation at New Eden could not provide the most luxurious conditions, but the treatment bays were not the oldest model and could well provide recovery even in the most serious condition.
— They say they were found on a broken ship somewhere in the area of New Ceres. The children were all alone, no adults. Poor orphans. Terrible times, — the pitiful sister sighed. The dark-haired one is so small and so cute. I will write him down as Ramirez, Robert Ramirez.