The transit through the portal back to our normal universe all but trashes the specialized ships Mara and her Awoken had designed for the voyage. The advanced materials making up their ships’ hulls were stretched, and warped, and torn away by the passage through the micro singularity, not to mention the five ships that had suffered missile impacts and still survived the journey. Perhaps even worse, transitioning between realities devastated many of the Awoken’s electronics. From AI’s Mara’s Awoken made it back to our solar system, yes, but they did not arrive with a powerful post-Golden Age fleet. Instead, they limped to our asteroid belt in search of resources and shelter.

The first ship they find is an old, Golden Age, AI controlled “habitat tender”. That is, it’s a forest ship! During our Golden Age, this ship went out, snagged a comet, then built a domed forest on its surface. It would have been the perfect starting point for the Awoken if its forest had not caught fire some time before. Still, the ship had reactor power and gravity and was even continuing to support life in the form of insects and rats. I love this section because it is a reference back to one of the more cryptic original Destiny 1 Grimoire Cards “Ghost Fragment: Awoken”.

Soon, Uldren’s scouting flights find a large collection, a Reef, of other ships that had tried to congregate together for survival during the Collapse. Mara orders that they strip what remained of the Awoken’s battered Hulls in order to fix up this reef of still partially functional ghost ships. Once they restore gravity and power, the Awoken will be able to start building habitats and industry and start having children. Remember, the Awoken in our solar system number in the tens of thousands at most, and have no warships and few weapons. They do have some powerful personal and ship-based maltech weapons from the Distributary, but most of those are far to powerful to be used within the confines of delicate starships adrift in space.

Mara, being Mara, is serious about the whole thing, but Sjur is giddy. She’s already thinking about forging bladed weapons since they don’t have the spare resources to build firearms, and she is considering how to get ship to ship communications and sensors up and running without any spare fuel to launch satellites. It’s then that she starts talking excitedly about launching things into orbit around their ships and asteroids and even the sun without using rockets or explosives.

Amusingly, Sjur’s excitement is contagious and even gets Mara into the spirit of things. Even with serious work to be done, Mara can’t help but think of the sight of her partner straining mightily against her bow and launching communication satellites off the surface of their ships. Sjur is having the same thoughts:

I’ll be the first woman in the universe to place a comsat in heliocentric orbit with a longbow.

“You’re absurd,” Mara tells her, but even she is looking forward to exploring and rebuilding this new Reef with Sjur at her side. Somehow, even though Mara is outwardly calm, Sjur picks up on and comments on her excitement. Normally, this would just be a sign of two people knowing each other very well and picking up on subtle signs, but Mara responds with an odd question:

Sjur, can you hear what I’m thinking?

At first, Sjur begins to deny it. As special as the Awoken are, and as close as she and Mara have become, they cannot read each other’s minds… but then, Sjur gasps mid-sentence and scolds Mara playfully for something that Mara apparently just thought at her. One can only imagine what could cause that sort of reaction in Sjur.

As the Awoken start the long work of making the Reef habitable, they also begin experiencing strange, almost life-like visions. Faces and images of people they know or knew appear to them as they work and as they sleep. Some of these seem so real that they even drape shrouds over their statues to prevent the real, physical works of art from being mistaken for visions. All the Awoken feel a strange new hum of energy in their bodies, as if they are connected to something new and different than they were before. And many of these vision concern Mara.

Around this time, two amazing discoveries are brought to Mara’s attention:

The first comes from Kelda Wadj, the head of Mara’s Techeuns. “We’re all a bit magic now,” she tells Mara. She and her fellow thinkers and scientists have found evidence that the Awoken now have a small but measurable amount of acausal power. This limited ability for the Awoken to violate the laws of physics seems to be tied to their thoughts and emotions. This slight acausality will eventually be the reason that the Awoken persist and remember each cycle of the Dreaming City when a normal human or alien would have been reset each time the city goes through its loops.

As usual, Mara seems to have some greater insight to this new power, but she says very little about it. Mara briefly mentions that this magic likely comes from the Traveler and possibly the Darkness or the mixing of the two, but she keeps whatever else she knows to herself. Kelda Wadj is more interested in how they will classify this new magic. Do they try to describe it in terms of physics? Do they just accept that it is space magic? But if this power can be influenced by thoughts, how exactly does one teach it or explain it? Kelda is like a scholar trying to decide how to explain the newest mystery they have fund.

At one point during their conversation, Kelda Wadj calls Mara “your majesty” to which Mara recoils. Mara says that she doesn’t wish to be called that. She insist that the Awoken are now part of a democracy. Sjur, Kelda Wadj, and the others around her all roll their eyes. After all, it was Mara’s multi-thousand year plan of cunning and ruthlessness and compassion that brought them all back to our solar system.But Mara still seems to seriously want to treat her fellow Awoken as equals. This will have some serious, disastrous implications within days or weeks. But first, the other amazing discovery barges into the room in the form of Mara’s brother.

Uldren has just returned from a scouting mission to Earth, and shockingly, he has a serious slash wound across he neck! But this is Uldren we’re talking about. Stubborn and adventurous. He’s holding a makeshift bandage of cytogel to his bleeding neck while grinning an excited grin.

“Aliens!” he rasped. “I found aliens, and one of them cut my throat!”