Across The Universe

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Chapter 1 (v.1) - 1

Submitted: May 19, 2018

Reads: 487

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Submitted: May 19, 2018




It was better than expected.  Fresh, clean, and new.  Pristine.


Once they broke through the atmosphere, the world shone like a jewel in the sun, the clouds and ocean glimmering painfully in the rays of light.  It hadn't been as expected, Max had thought it was going to be a let-down, a show of something he had built up beyond reasonable expectations, but no, it rocketed past what he could ever imagine.


It was the last he would ever see of Earth, and he couldn't help but cry as he forced himself to accept that fact.  He had been obsessed with Earth as a child, constantly drawing it in various states and positions.  In a bitter way, he would miss the planet more than he would miss his family.  He could see them every day and talk to them as long as the communications were set up, but this place, this planet, it was singular, and it would not be feasible to ever come back.


Running his hands over his face, he forced himself to calm down.  This was what he wanted, this, in a way, was what he devoted the last twelve years of his life to, had experienced unimaginable pain to become.


He sighed and forced himself to take a series of deep breaths, ignoring the other people in shuttle.  There were twenty-eight of them out of the original thirty, and Dr. Goethe, along with the pilots guiding them miles away from Earth with each passing second.


Over twenty years ago, Terra Mage was found, hidden behind the star nicknamed Solas Lux, The Only Light, The Light of Life, on the edge of our known galaxy.  Terra Mage was exactly what everyone had been looking for since people had found out how to catapult themselves free of Earth's gravity; it was a nearby inhabitable planet, conceivably reachable, with everything a human needed to survive.  The only problem was seen when a probe was sent there.  The K8L probe found that the air would be impossible to breath, having no oxygen in the nitrogen mix.  It could, most likely, be terra-formed, especially since plants enjoy nitrogen rich environments, but the air would never be truly breathable, not for humans.


That was where Goethe came in.  It was no longer a race for space so much, as a race to see who could cause rapid adaptation.  With the Advancement Program, a severe nervous breakdown, and a team of mad scientists, Goethe won.  By doing so, he had also broken a lot of rules in the scientific community by bypassing animal experimentation and jumping straight to humans.  He had experimented on a fellow scientist who had gone into the program with him.  They both decided it was best, seeing as how it could be another twenty years before human experimentation was allowed, if ever.


On paper, the human was nicknamed Dolly, after a sheep, which had been the first cloned animal to survive beyond birth.


Dolly survived this time too.  Dr. Darian Mercutio lived without any apparent ill side effect.  Nicknamed Eve by the press, Mercutio had to answer for this insult to the community, while Goethe had to face trial for crimes against humanity and forcible torture.


Their government saw how useful it was, though, and stepped in, the trial was postponed until further notice, and eventually the people seemed to forget that a new type of human had been created.  Goethe was spoken to, and he readily agreed to try to fine-tune his methods, excited to find a new way to devise a new breed of human.


Goethe had said that Mercutio's survival caused a split in the line of humans.  No more did Homo Sapien stand alone.  Now Homo Supra stood beside, a step towards a new future.


Hidden away, Mercutio's survival no longer depended on proper algorithms.  It depended on not being found by people who thought the whole thing was evil.  No longer human enough, Mercutio was seen as a monster, a godless thing created by the arrogance of man.


The public dissent wasn't enough to stop the program though, and over a year later, they were accepting people willing to be changed into monsters to fly to a new world.


Max had been working on the program without thinking his feet would ever leave ground, not wanting them to, until a man in a general's uniform came in and lectured them.


Clearer pictures of Terra Mage than he had ever seen were shown, and he had to admit it was beautiful.  Wastelands of yellow sand were broken frequently by green rivers, rocks and outcrops of unidentifiable things painted the landscape as a surreal Earth, a supposition of what Earth could be, not what it was.


Almost as if it was dream, Max found himself signing up for the transformation, to become a denizen of a uninhabited planet.  He signed away his life and his humanity by the measure of the Geneva Convention.  Some people died in the last trials, so Max signed a waiver for that as well, giving up all his earthly possessions to his friends and family.  He tied up the loose ends, and then submitted to over a year and a half of agony.


That was something they hadn't told him in the flash little walkthrough they had done when he joined the AP, that his DNA would shred itself and knit itself back together, and that he would feel each and every fibre of his being destroyed.  For days, in an isolated cell, he laid immobile on the floor, in too much excruciating pain to even scream.  Blood drained out of every hole in his head, tissue expelled from his organs as they rewrote their genetic code, they destroyed themselves, making way for a more streamline system.


When the suffering was over, he was dragged out, cleaned up, and put right back in his freshly sanitized cell.  The action was not indifference, but a by-product caused by the Adam to the original Eve, who had become so violent that he had battered himself against his cell walls until he had died of severe internal hemorrhaging.


Max did not become violent, but one of the other twenty-nine had killed herself to escape the pain.  The second died in the oxygen deprivation tank, his brain pouring out his nose and ears, as if was being vacuumed out.


They were put through extremes so that their new bodies could adapt to new strengths.  Lungs grew and strengthened, splitting into four so that they could breath in both oxygen and a highly poisonous nitrogen compound.  Max could hold his breath for nearly an hour, thanks to the deprivation tank.


As their bodies changed, their hearts slowed so much that in a relaxed state, they could easily pass for corpses, with their undetectable pulse and their frigid body temperature.


Goethe was more friendly than Max had expected.  He had thought Goethe would be more along the lines of the mad scientist variety.  He was that too, but more caring of his test subjects than his formula.


When it became clear that they were survivors, that none of them would be as volatile and mindless as Adam, Goethe gratefully told them that they would be trained and soon they would be on their way to Terra Mage.  It had been a relief to hear those words, and Max sagged in his seat as other people asked questions about what to expect, or how long it would be before the journey began.


It would be months yet, but the time would come.


When it did, Max realized he had no one to say goodbye to; he had already said it all.


Strapped into a seat, Max sat beside Goethe.  The doctor grinned at him as they listened to the announcement that in less than a minute, they'd be taking off.


"And now starts our adventure," Goethe said, and Max nodded in agreement, looking out the window.  He wanted to see Earth until there was no trace of it left.


It took another year to get to where they were going, but it was with great relief that they saw the station that hovered above Terra Mage.  It was an over-glorified steering wheel, with a shallow W connecting the inside.  Yet it seemed welcoming and homey after the vast emptiness of space.  Max had expected there to be a void between the stars, but he hadn't thought it would effect him so much.  With nothing to see, the ports might as well have been painted black.  With nothing to see, not even a horizon, it brought such a strange clastrophobia and cabin fever that no one was left untouched by it.  The sensors had been a relief, telling them how much further to go in a sea of emptiness.


Docking took twenty minutes, and then there was decompression which made it impossible for Max to focus his eyes.  He hardly noticed . . . this was the last stop before he set foot on Terra Mage, and he was going to be one of the very first people to see the sky from the sister Earth.  No one had dropped from the station yet, they had been waiting for the supras to join them.


There was restless elation when the massive steel doors opened and let them into the station.  The newcomers had to wait to disembark; the station crew was crowded around, applauding them on their arrival, their very being.  Seeing new faces and new, larger surroundings, many of the thirty-one newcomers cried, happy to be somewhere other than a cramped ship. They were hugged and welcomed, walked arm in arm with their new family, brought to new quarters.


A guy named Charlie slung his arm over Max's shoulders and lead him, after the rest of the progression, to a pigeonhole in the wall of bunks, with a little round door for privacy sake.  Charlie explained that with over sixty people on board, there wasn't enough room for everyone to have their own quarters to sleep in.  Max agreed that it made sense, unconsciously noting that Charlie didn't have a green 13124 sewn on his uniform.  So, Charlie was just a regular person, not a supra.  As if knowing Max's silent appraisal, Charlie pointed back the way they came.  "Yeah, Daisy's the one you'll want to talk with," he told him.  "She said that you guys will want to talk with her and get used to everything."


"Who's Daisy?"  Max asked, setting his small bag of clothes on the hook by his cubby.


"Oh, she's one of the nicest people you'll meet," Charlie assured him.  "Come on, I'll introduce you."


Walking down a bright, sparkling white hallway, Max was reminded more of a hospital than the shuttle they had arrived in.They came to the hatch that led to the arms of the central W, which housed most of the engines and the artificial gravity machine, kept from the majority of the ship to avoid massive fatalities if they were ever to seize or malfunction. 


Going along, Charlie slowed as they neared a woman on her knees, staring intently out of the thick glass wall into the inner portion of the arm.  After a moment, another woman appeared head rising above the floor from behind the glass.  The one behind the glass looked expectantly at her spotter, and the first signed something to her, causing the second to drop out of sight again.


It turned out that the meeting would have to wait a few minutes because Daisy was busy helping readjust the electromagnets that created a spatial gravity field.  They watched her bob around behind thick glass as she took silent cues from the woman, who Charlie told him was named Karen, who was checking the gradual effects of Daisy's work on a monitor.  Charlie helpfully stated that it had to be done in a painstakingly slow manner otherwise if it was done to0 quickly, a person's flesh would be ripped from their bones and flung to the ground.


"Good to know," Max nodded, turning back to the women in time to see Daisy plummet out of sight.  He flinched unconsciously, as if he would have been able to go over to the hatch and pull her to safety in time.


"Ah, she's got it," Charlie said, straightening slightly.  He bent his knees and bobbed.  "Can you feel it?  I'm sure you can, you've spent all that time in zero."  Max could feel it, and he thought it was amazing that either of them could even walk with all that pressure exerted on them.  Goethe had warned them before they docked that they would all have to get used to gravity and single force direction again, pointing out that meals could be exceptionally tricky times for other astronauts.


Karen opened a hatch, and Daisy rolled out onto the floor, wearing a rock-climbing harness.  Max supposed it was so she didn't fall all the way to the bottom of the glass room once the magnets were realigned.  With practiced moves, the women untangled themselves and set the equipment aside in a hidden compartment built into the wall not far from where they had been working.


They got up and dusted themselves as they looked at him curiously.  "He's one?"  Asked Daisy, dusting her bottom.  Charlie nodded, and the women came closer, inspecting him closely.  Max was just about to protest the attention when he noticed something wrong with Daisy's eyes.  She blinked, and there it was, for a fraction of a second, there seemed to be an inner eyelid that closed before the other one.  


"Don't worry, you're not a freak to me," she assured, holding up her hand.  He saw that her thumb was slightly too long, an extra joint making it more finger-like.  If he hadn't noticed the split flange, he would had definitely seen the higher webbing in her fingers.  She looked like she was built to be highly aquatic.  Unconsciously, Max flexed his fingers, feeling the webbing on his own hand.


Gently, she picked up one of his hands and looked at it.  His thumb was typical of Homo Sapien.  He wondered if that would change as time progressed.  She shook his hand as if to hide her examination.  "I'm Darian, but most just call me Daisy," she told him, smiling at his recognition.  "I'm the prototype."


Max had lot of questions, but he wasn't sure where to start, or if she would appreciate the sudden barrage without him even introducing himself.  Questions could wait, he reminded himself as he swallowed, remembering the simple steps of proper manners.  "I'm Max," he told her, and she smiled warmly at him as Karen took up his hand and introduced herself as well.


"We're so sorry that we hadn't been there when you guys disembarked," Karen told him.


"I'm sure it's a relief, though," Daisy added, and Karen nodded in agreement.


All those new faces right off the bat must have been overwhelming," Karen said, then pointed over her shoulder.  "We had to fix that, that's why we weren't there, we weren't snubbing you."


"Charlie's showing you around?"  Daisy asked, cocking her head, leaving part of her sentence unsaid, 'or do you have questions?'  Max decided he had a lot to ask, but he could wait.


"Yeah, he showed me the bunks so far," Max said, trailing off as Daisy was called to by people up the hall and she held up her hand in greeting.  She half-turned, holding up her hand in acknowledgement.


"Come on, much to see," Charlie told him clapping him on the shoulder.


"I'll come with you to the kitchen," Karen announced.  "I didn't have breakfast."


"Don't believe her, she's always says that," Charlie told him, waving goodbye to Daisy, who bid them farewell, telling Max to come see her if there were any problems.


Listening to Karen and Charlie argue over whether or not she tended to fib about not having breakfast, Max glanced in the window that doubled as an energy source, picking up the rays from Solas Lux.  In the reflection he saw his tired face and further back behind him, he saw Daisy greeting several supras, who couldn't wait to bombard her with questions.


The galley was a wide circular room without tables.  If you wanted to sit, you had to pull a tab out of the wall and it lowered like an ironing board.  Signs on the wall stated if you lowered a seat, you put it back.  It was underlined and several unnecessary exclamation points had been added, showing that it was a commonly ignored rule.


The walls were filled with blind cabinets that were fit to burst with all of the packaged compressed meals, enough to last close to seventy people for over six years.  It seemed to be an act of overpreparation, but space exploration had a bad history of a lot of things going horrifically wrong.  As well, if things took longer than expected on Terra Mage, it would sustain them nicely until they could figure out what to do.


Touching a paper by the door, Charlie told him that that was the names of ever single person on the ship.  "If you're interested in learning who everybody is," Charlie said, and shrugged.  "Not everyone is, most people can't, even if they wanted to."


"We're going to be spending the rest of our lives together, though," Karen remarked pointedly, but Max was unsure whether it was directed at him or Charlie.  "So it might be nice if we at least attempted to know who our neighbours are."


Max took down the list, the amount of names taking up most of the page, yet it seemed less than he would have expected for sixty-six people.  He found his name and hung up the list.  It would take some time, but he would learn the names.  He already knew almost half of them, so another thirty or so wouldn't be that hard.


"Not much of a talker, huh?"  Karen asked leaning against a wall and popping a cupboard open.


"Give him time!"  Charlie huffed.  "He just got here!"


"I think I'm in shock," Max said, folding a seat down.  "I mean, it was hard enough to believe that I was in space, but now I'm across the universe, and it- it's all a bit much."


Karen nodded, holding up a silvery pouch.  "Hard to believe, yeah?"


Charlie shrugged as he propped himself up in the doorway, his arms crossed over his narrow chest.  "I'd say you get used to it, but we've been here for about three years, and I still sometimes have to look out the window to look below to try and make it sink in, but it hasn't yet.  I wonder if it'll be any different down there."


Max nodded, he knew the feeling.  He looked at his thumbs, wondering if they were going to change.  For the second time since getting on the shuttle, Max thought he might have made a big mistake he could never come back from.


"When the captain says it's time, we can go down there," Karen said, misinterpreting Max's silence.  She took a seat down and sat beside him, careful to not spill her food, which was lumpy and brown with streaks of white.  It could have been Salisbury steak, it could have been mashed potatoes with gravy.  Tasting it wouldn't have told him, so it was anyone's guess what it was.


"But," Karen went on, "general consensus is that it won't be longer than a month now that you guys showed up.  We couldn't get the party started without you!"  She hugged his shoulders with one arm, giving him a squeeze.  "No reason to wait any longer."

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