Wolf transformed from his nerdy, 14 year old appearance into a grizzled sea captain behind the wheel of his square, flat ship he called the "Odell Lake".
A sea captain with a voice still struggling to break through puberty, cracking every now and again, but with a strange confidence that was impossible for me to ignore.
After he picked us up, 4 humans and an intelligent... something, that looked like a dog caterpillar (it was cuter than it sounded), thrown nearby by some weather event...
and the rest is still blurry. Besides Wolf, I was the only other one from his era, from the 2021 to his 1980-something.
The others three were all women, from what I'd guess to be the 1500s, near the fall of Rome, and a part-neanderthal from a few thousand years ago -- a few thousand years before I was born.
I keep forgetting that our eras don't exist on Earth anymore, since Earth doesn't exist.
That's one of the few facts that seemed to sink in as I muddled through, trying to wrap my brain around all of this.
We had been driving, or flying, for a few hours, and I could see a twinkling light off to the right... that sudden grew incredibly large as the ship veered toward it at incredible speed.
Wolf explained it was a spacedock. It looked science fiction-y, but old.. Ancient. Wolf guided around dozens of ships, all parked at extreme angles to one another.
"But why is everybody parked so haphazardly?", I asked.
"Everyone just parks relative to the plane of their respective home solar systems", Wolf replied.
"We're at about 60 degrees off the Milky Way galactic plane, and Station Friends is orbiting Ross 154, so..."
"Wait, Ross 154? From Friends?"
"Friends? Uh.. I'm not friends with anyone named Ross...?", Wolf stammered. "Is that a reference to something after 1989 on Earth?"
"Yeah. It was a TV show. Sorry, I-"
"No no, my apologies!", Wolf interrupted. "I need to get us parked now. You can tell me about it later."
There was what looked like an incredibly narrow slot cut out from the side of the station, and several spacecraft just hooked to the spacestation from any available part of the ship surface,
seemingly with random docking door locations.
But our spot was inside the station itself, And I could hear the bottom of the ship lightly rub against a resistance rod of some sort, as it guided us the rest of the way into the slot.
With a solid, "ka-CHUNK!", we were docked. It felt familiar... and I realized it was a floppy disk slot on an 1980s computer.
I realized we were in a flying floppy disk spaceship, maybe the most 1980s thing imaginable, which totally fit with Wolf and his personality.
Wolf gathered our group of 5 together from different parts of the ship, and prepared us for our stay.
They opened the docking port with a large, orange lever that I felt was there more for show than any actual use, because the door began to move after the first few centimeters.
Wolf cleared his throat.
"So, it's going to take about 12 solar days for the data to transfer off the ship, due to the compatibility issues, and the fact that this station hasn't been updated in at least 70 years.
" He led us through a porthole, and across to a ladder completely at odds with where I thought "Down" was supposed to be.
But upon grabbing the ladder, I was able to easily gain my bearings, and started down to the hallway below.
"There's an oxygen-ish breathing section, but I'd still recommend us humans to use nose breathers to supplement nitrogen, CO2, and so on, so we don't get too sick.
It takes a few days, but it'll get you eventually." And that was about it. Wolf shut up, as we followed him down the corridor, past several jutting hallways going at weird angles.
Some were several times the size of our hallway, but most were smaller - sometimes round, polygonal, slimy, geared, or streaming with water, or what looked like it.
After a few minutes, a blueish football surrounded in translucent neon green skin dropped down from the ceiling to my left, dropped down with a "Splut!
", and was then divided into many pieces as it slid into a vent in the floor, reforming on the other side.
Wolf touched my arm gingerly, shyly, and said, "Sorry... but try not to stare too much. Most of the citizens don't care, but some are really self conscious of multi-pedal aliens on the station.
Aliens? I guess we are, aren't we? Especially now, so far in the future, since Earth is gone and we're what's left of humanity... that we know of anyhow.
We stepped over a small stream going across the path, with tadpoles zooming along, and I caught snippets of conversation mainly complaining about the poor accommodations on the lower levels,
and I realized it was their version of Wolf, guiding denizens of whatever poor world had been just blown to bits, into some semblance of a community of survivors.
Yes, the accommodations were crap, but at least we were together.
Wolf stopped at a small door, only about 1.5 meters tall, but I was the only one who had to significantly duck to get inside.
And here we were, in what looked like a basement den. There were bean bag chairs, some folding chairs, and a two pullout sofas side by side, that had what looked like fresh sheets.
And in one corner, some bookshelves with hundreds of paperback novels. I looked through the titles, and the most prolific was Dean R.
Koontz, though there were scatterings of Stephen King, Anne Rice, and others...
and adventure novels, mostly knock-offs of Lord of the Rings books like the Shannara and Dragonlance series from the 1980s and earlier, and hundreds more.
But besides the Lord of the Rings books (which I eventually found), there were very few true classics of literature.
These were the books that Wolf must have been into when he was pulled here, like the rest of us, and he had somehow come across these titles in the years he'd been on this station,
and flying through space to help castaways like us, pulled here against our will, to make us more comfortable while we waited for.. Whatever came next.
I got to know the others as we sat and waited, as I explained different parts of the stories to the other humans, and the concept of reading to the part-neanderthal woman, Miuk,
who I just mentally called Milk to keep it straight in my head. She's the one I felt closest to, despite having the longest gap of time between when she and I were on Earth.
She was very fascinated with reading, with the bean bag chairs, with everything in an enthusiasm that was incredibly infectious.
It got me wondering about diseases transferred between aliens and ourselves, due to different immune systems and contagions travelling with us everywhere.
At some point, Wolf had explained that we would all stop aging at our normal rates almost immediately, and would live hundreds of Earth years as a result of... something.
I assume the fact I wasn't infecting our other friends, and Mike the dog (who I called the other Earth creature besides humans),
though with him being from the distant future when compared to when I lived, the other way around would seem more likely.
And that was our lives for the next two weeks, give or take. We all got to know one another, bonded over our lost world, but happily looked forward to what was next.
When Wolf (I found out was short for Wolfgang, a name he'd swiped from the movie Explorers) told us about when he'd first arrived many decades ago,
there were nearly no accommodations for Earthlings, since we were so rare. Wolf had taken it upon himself to change that, in the off chance more humans were to arrive here through...
whatever it was that pulled us here. I still don't know for sure, but it doesn't seem to matter to me anymore either.
Wolf had saved a few hundred of us, and other creatures that came before and after, from known history and lost eras that had gone completely unknown during my time on the planet,
all before he had found me.
Most had scattered beyond our corner of the galaxy to live on other worlds, but some were in other parts of the station,
which I found out was so large that we might never meet each other unless I were to send out an invitation of some sort.
This was the start of my new life, from the ashes of almost everything I ever knew.
I never did tell Wolf about the significance of Friends station orbiting a star called Ross, but maybe I will someday.
We're both set to live very long lives, and the galaxy is only just so big afterall.