Across The Universe

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


Chapter 12 (v.1) - 12

Submitted: May 30, 2018

Reads: 70

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Submitted: May 30, 2018



Sitting in front of a console, Max cleared his throat, waiting for the connection to Earth.  It took time in many ways, because there wasn't exactly a direct line to the friends and family of those on the station.  A request needed to be sent to command, and then a line was sent back with a date for conversation.  At least with the bloated communications and difficulty to set a date, he had been able to pass off his failure as not his fault, but of some faceless person.


There was a blurred image and then he saw his parents, though to be truthful, he would have rather it was his dad and his brother.  His mother... could be difficult.


"...Can he hear us?"  His dad asked his mother quietly, before turning and squinting at the camera.  "CAN YOU HEAR US?"  he repeated, and Max pulled back a little.


"Yeah, Dad, it's just like talking to you over the computer," he said, smiling at them, trying to ignore the insignia behind them that stated they were on government property.  It wasn't like the government ever had a bad history of tapping calls or anything.


"Maxine!"  His mother squealed, clasping her hands to her bust, making Max want to hang up right then and there.  Dad elbowed her, trying to get her to shut up, and she looked at him as if she hadn't a clue why.


"Don't call me that," Max said as patiently as he could.


"Well, it must be dangerous, living like that there, wouldn't it be safer to-"


"It's dangerous, you talking like that," Max cut her off, frowning.


"What's it like," Dad said, as if unaware of the discomfort.  "I know you haven't landed yet, but they say you can see it from there, the, the station."


Max tried to think of a good description, but all he could come up with was, "It's, uh, yellow."  A poet, he was not.  He wished he could tell them about how from the station, you could see the distortion of light over the hills and valleys, the terrain so rugged that there were places that never were lit.  He wanted to say that the water below only ran in narrow rivers, but they shone so brightly in the light that it was like gold shining up at them, or how every fourteen days the moons would be able to be seen from the same plateau, but not at the same time because they'd both be on opposite horizons, but what he could picture, he could not put into words.  "It's beautiful, though," he said, after his dad stopped chuckling.  "The sun, is... well it's bright, but there's no comparison to anything else you've ever experienced."


"I heard you could get third degree burns from it," Dad said, ignoring Mom sulking beside him.


Thinking of the agony of the first day, Max nodded mutely.  "Yeah, I'm sure that's true."  He explained the concept of the light-box, knowing he was dancing around talking about life on the station and life back home, but he didn't want to talk about how he was changing and how he was being treated.  He didn't want to hear about how great his brother was doing, because, despite loving him deeply, Max knew he was a disappointment in his mother's eyes and Viktor was a good person to lay the extra love on.


It seemed fine though, because Dad seemed more interested in hearing about a planet he'd never set foot on.  Eventually, Max gave them a run down on life in the station, emphasising how boring it was, and he got to hear about how Viktor was doing in his private practice.


"And Maxi-" Mom started, and Dad nonchalantly cut her off.


"And Maxy, stay safe," he said.  "What you're doing is dangerous stuff, and, yeah, they probably teach you what to do if you meet hostile aliens, or space zombies," he paused for a laugh, and Max smiled, "but accidents will happen.  What did I always teach you boys?  Be prepared..." he trailed off, gesturing for Max to finish.


"...For the worst," max said obediently.  He held up  his hand and they signed off.  Falling back in his chair, Max ran his hands through his hair.  Well, he thought, it hadn't been as bad as he presumed it would be.  He was surprised that after a year of radio silence, they hadn't been chattier, though.


Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, his dad always said, and Max wondered how they were supposed to do that when they didn't even know what the worst was.


Walking back to the hub, he went past the countdown on the portal that some unknown person had put up.  Three days it said, and he pulled his sleeve over his hand and wiped off the bottom of the three so that it made a short two instead.  Two days, and they'd plummeting to the ground.  he wondered, and tried not to, about how many people were going to die when the time came.  Seven minutes was a lifetime, and it was probably going to be the end of someone's because of the panic or some flaw in the system.


He had gone through the simulation and every time, he came out shaky and unsure of himself.  Usually he got ahead of himself and pulled the cord too soon, so he had to stop resting his hand on it, but then he couldn't find it so he would 'die' in the simulation for not pulling it quick enough.


It did nothing to convince the others he wasn't an idiot.


In the canteen most people were too quiet, while a few were too loud, trying to compensate it seemed.  Everyone was nervous, but most were excited too.  Max would be one of them if he wasn't certain he was going to die on impact.


Poking at his bag of food, his advanced taste-buds doing nothing to help his dinner become more appealing, Max looked around the room.  Now it was easier to spot the supras at a glance, Solas Lux having darkened them all considerably.  Not to mention the fact that several of them had more visible mutations.


No one else seemed to know about the claws though.  That was another commonality they shared, retractable nails, and no one knew why the jump-started evolution decided they needed them.  They grew fast and they kept them short, trying to keep them from being noticeable or snagging on something.


The separation from humans and supras was widening as there came to be less things to do.  For the most part, all that was left was to exercise and run simulations, and you could only spend so much time doing those.  So, the supras would sit in the light-box, blinds open to full, the feeling of the sun more attractive than sitting in a dark room watching a movie picked by the majority.


As well, the need to be in touch with each other had caused them to mob the life science office to sleep around Daisy, the sleep capsules claustrophobic and inhibiting.  Though, seeing as how Daisy was already claustrophobic, her being surrounded on all sides seemed to be a double-edged sword.


Shaking his head, Max turned back to his meal as his right eye began to burn.  Stupidly, he rubbed at it, feeling something thick under his eyelid.  He ran his finger over the seam of his lids, his fingernail slipping between and scratching something.


Swearing, he threw the meal in the trash and got up to find out what happened.


The mirror in the bunk room was free, so he leaned in, trying to see if he needed to annoy Ortega about this.  Forcing his eye open, Max didn't see anything, but once the air hit it, it burned more than ever.  His eye tried to blink, but his fingers were holding it open.  In double vision, in the mirror and his own eye, a white flash went across his right pupil.  Jumping back, startled, Max held a hand to his chest, breathing hard.  He took a gulp of air and went back to the mirror, cautious as if he expected it to bite him.  Opening his sore eye again, Max felt his eye twitch, felt the muscles tightening around it, then, slowly this time, the whitish membrane went across and stayed there a moment, protecting his eye.


The worst part of it, was that he could feel it there, lingering between oculus and lid, feeling utterly foreign and uncomfortable.


Examining himself, Max was both annoyed and relieved that his other eye had currently been spared, but he imagined even if it was opaque, it was useless to have it only on one.


"Vanity's unattractive in a man," he heard behind him, so Max turned around and showed Nunia the nictitating membrane.  She pulled back, horrified and she hissed in disgust.  It took her a moment to realize what it was, and Max blinked it back into place.


"Isn't it supposed to be clear?"  She asked, still put-off.


Max shrugged.  "Whether it is or isn't, it's beside the point," he assured her, presuming it was safe to say that she hadn't gotten hers yet.  He paused as he realized he wasn't aware if anyone else got them.  The changes in the others was a sort of background thing; something you only noticed if you looked for it.


"Go see one of the experts, that looks bad," Nunia told him, digging in her bunk for something before leaving.


Turning back the mirror, Max pulled down his lower lid again to see the milky white membrane.  He didn't want to see anyone about it, he was tired of being poked and prodded.  It was probably nothing, it would probably turn clearer the more it was subjected to light.


But what if it didn't...  And where was the other one?


Sighing he went around the station, looking for one of the three who'd know best, all the while rubbing his eye.


He found Goethe and Daisy in life science, which wasn't unusual, Goethe didn't seem to want to be far from her, but what was unusual was the fact that he was extremely battered.


Having stepped into the room before realizing something was off, he overheard Goethe say, "They called me a nazi, can you imagine what that's like?"


Daisy was applying something to his cut up face.  She shook her head.  "I'm Jewish, so it would be very strange if they called me that," she murmured.  "They'll call me something else, I suppose, though."  She glanced over her shoulder at Max, her look telling him to say what he wanted, and if it wasn't important, he should leave.


He opened his mouth to say something, to offer a word of comfort, but he knew it would mean nothing, that words lose their meaning when things turn serious, so he just shook his head and left.  As he went out of the room, he heard Goethe say in a low voice, "But that's what they did, isn't it?  Experimented on people, removed their personhood..."


"That is not what we did," Daisy told him firmly, and the silence that followed seemed pointed.


"How can you be sure?"  Goethe asked.  "We might not have denied people their rights or their humanity, but destroyed them, and for what?"


Max ran a hand over his face and picked up his pace.  For some odd reason, he didn't want to hear them talk about ethics and morality when the worst of it was done.  Questions that maybe should have been asked before the human trials were over.

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