The three stayed in Low King Hans's estate for another few days as they awaited their departure to the capital. Avi, Carina, Bhoora, and Rachit arrived at the sky port sometime near dusk. They had been instructed to gather their things and prepare for departure for Jerusalem. Amos accompanied them there before saying goodbye at the entrance.
“I haven’t felt this excited in years,” Rachit said as they walked toward the private terminal of Low King Hans. “Maybe never.”
“Do you mean you’re excited to be going to Jerusalem?” Avi asked.
“Or, because you get to ride a spaceplane?” Carina interjected.
“All of it,” Rachit exclaimed.
"Are we sure the shuttle will be big enough for Bhoora?” Carina asked. Avi was about to respond, but as they turned the corner, the conversation ceased immediately. A colossal aircraft, larger than any of them had ever seen, was hovering above the landing strip. It was not shaped like the bulbous vacloft skyliners that dotted the sky. Instead, it was sleek and sharp. Its construction was from black reflective material.
“Uh,” Avi said. “I think it will be big enough for Bhoora.” They all laughed at their former concern. It looked as if the entire population of Tamesh City could fit within the space plane, and there would still be room to spare.
“Look,” Carina said. “They’re loading animals in the back.” They looked like tiny specs compared to the massive fuselage of the shuttle. Animals of all kinds were being led up a ramp and into the voluminous compartment. “Why would they need to take animals to Jerusalem?”
“The delegation parade is Old School,” Avi said.
“Old School?” Rachit asked.
“It’s a saying. I heard Hans use it. It means traditional, I think.” Avi explained. “It’s tradition to have animals from each province walk in the parade with the delegation.”
“We're going to look pretty silly, not having any animals with us,” Carina said, but then seemed to realize the same thing that the others simultaneously had. They all three looked at the giant grizzly, their trail partner and friend. Bhoora wrinkled his nose, apparently not sure why everyone was staring at him.
“You hear that, boy,” Avi said as he patted the good-natured companion. He dug his fingers into the bear's thick fur. “You're going to be in a parade,” Bhoora grunted, probably more because of the scratch than the excitement of being part of the Jerusalem delegation.
“Ah, my new friends,” Hans said. They all turned to face the Low King who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere. “We've had quite a week, haven't we?”
“Yes, Sir,” Avi said. Carina agreed. Rachit folded his hands across his chest as he addressed King Hans.
“I’d like to thank you for your kind mercy and your generous guidance, Your Grace. I’m deeply grateful for your wise leadership.”
“Ahh, Rachit. I learned mercy from the Emperor. All the credit goes to Him,” Hans said as he gave Rachit a friendly pat on the back.
“Sophia,” Hans called. Forward from Hans's entourage stepped the kind woman who had attended to Avi’s companion animal for the duration of their stay. “Please escort Bhoora to his accommodations.”
“Yes, Sir,” Sophia said. She stepped forward and gave Bhoora a friendly scratch under his chin. She knew how to reach the bear's heart. She spoke in a warm motherly voice to the giant bear. “Do you like fruit? Of course, you do. We have fruit of all kinds. You'll love it. We even have—"
Avi grinned as Sophia led Bhoora toward the line of animals streaming into the shuttle’s rear compartment. Avi had a tinge of concern, thinking of the last time he left Bhoora unattended.
“Don't worry, Avi,” Hans said, almost as if he could read his mind. “Bhoora will be in the lap of luxury.” Rachit, Carina, and Avi laughed at the unfamiliar saying. Obviously, seeing the humor as well, Hans chuckled. “What, you didn't know luxury had a lap?” He gestured toward the plane as they giggled together. They walked gleefully in the direction Hans was leading.
“May I ask a question?” Carina said as they moved toward the shuttle entrance. “Why does your kind talk so funny?” All of Hans's entourage snickered a little at the question.
“My dear,” Hans said. “I’m twelve hundred and seventy-four years old. Don’t you know that old people talk funny?” They laughed more as they came to an open hatch on the side of the orbital shuttle.
They followed Hans up the wide ramp into the yawning opening at the side of the craft. The size of the plane was nearly unbelievable now that they were close. As he walked up the ramp to board the shuttle, Avi wondered aloud.
“Why do we need such a large shuttle?” he said, but the answer was immediately clear as soon as he stepped into the interior of the space jet.
It was like stepping into a tubular city all its own. Hundreds of people were mingling around on the inside of the tremendous sky vessel. The interior fuselage offered a multi-level lounge equivalent to a ten-story building and as long as a city block. The center was open in a colossal mezzanine. Each level had a balcony that looked down on the massive open-air compartment. The jovial sound of celebration was hanging in the air as they stepped into the crowd. Many of the people who were aboard already had drinks and snacks and more were being distributed throughout. Avi had never been on a spaceplane, but this was not what he had expected.
“All right, folks, all aboard?” King Hans said, somehow able to be heard throughout the interior of the shuttle. Avi and his friends laughed once again at the charming peculiarity of the Low King's sayings. The crowd cheered at hearing his voice but quickly hushed down where even a whisper could be heard. They were waiting for something. Hans spoke up.
“Greetings to you, the 712th C.K.E. Tamesh City Delegation to Jerusalem. Welcome, to my space shuttle. I call her Sky City. I hope you like her.” Hans let his voice raise at the end. The crowd erupted with cheers but quickly quieted again. Hans continued. “Let’s bring honor to our families, tribes, province, and our Emperor as we represent Tamesh City in the Holy Captial. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!”
Hanz’s speech concluded, and the noise of the crowd rose again. Music and singing echoed out from somewhere in the back of the giant compartment. Colored light danced along the interior architecture of Sky City. Someone passing by handed Avi, Carina, and Rachit a pouch with a straw.
“What is this?” Rachit asked.
“It’s a drink,” the attendant said. “It’s good to stay hydrated when you go into zero G.” At the words, Carina cooed.
“What's zero-G?” Avi asked.