Across The Universe

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


Chapter 20 (v.1) - 20

Submitted: July 02, 2018

Reads: 85

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Submitted: July 02, 2018



Eyes opening his eyes, Max saw that several people were staring down at him.  "He's alive," Ortega breathed, seeming too shocked to really believe it.


"How do you feel?"  Goethe asked him, and Max took his hand.


"Stars are burning, but what set them on fire?"  Max asked groggily.




"No," Ortega shook his head.  "Sometimes they get like this after a near death experience.  They get all philosophical or deep.  I swear, sometimes you could get the answers to the universe by recording what they say."


"How are you?"  Goethe repeated, and Max focused his eyes looking past his friend.  There was a sort of tan cover above them, but it seemed like it was lighting up inconsistently.


"Uhhhh . . ." Max tried to think, but he could swear from the neck up was cotton.  "I dunno," he offered finally.


Ortega nodded.  "You'll figure it out soon enough," he assured him.  "You've been out for four days."  That sort of got Max's attention, he stared at the doctor.


"No," he said, because it didn't feel like that long.


"Yes," Ortega argued.  "I know because I've been keeping track.  You sure do like to scare me, though, don't you?  Very dramatic."


Max groaned and tried to sit up, only to be coaxed back down by both men.  "I'll let Daisy know he's up," said Nunia, who was working as Ortega's aid.  "She'll be happy to hear it."


Something niggled at the back of Max's mind, and he shot upright, his mind racing.  "Daisy!"  He said loudly.  "The-- the-- the . . . the arm, and-- and--"


Ortega waved his hand as Goethe helped him force Max horizontal again.  "She's alright, everything's fine," he said quietly in a soothing voice.  "She was a little exhausted and overheated, but she came around just fine.  It's you that everyone's been worrying about.  You nearly died because of your arm.  You're lucky that your mutation made you tougher than the average Joe."


Breathing hard, Max touched the spot on his arm, but there was no bandage.  He twisted around to see and there was only unblemished flesh.  "But, I had--"


"You healed yourself, pretty much," Ortega told him.  "You just needed a little boost in the right direction.  I've never seen anyone heal that quickly."  He shook his head, and Max's head fell back on the sick bed.


"What happened?"  Max mumbled, still trying to get his mouth around his teeth.


"Well, your suit was damaged and your arm was exposed to the cold of space," Goethe began, but Max shook his head, staring up at the ceiling.


"The, um, the arm, it wouldn't move," he told them, trying to remember everything.  Was that saiga animal real, or just a fever dream?  It didn't feel real.  "Then I guess--"


Goethe cleared his throat.  "Evers will explain everything once you're up," he promised.  "But you're still in need of downtime, so try not to stress yourself out too much."


Feeling his eyes slide shut, Max fought to keep them open.  The place smelled like fresh construction material and wet sand.  He could hear people talking in muted voices, and when he turned his head to the side, he saw clear polysilien separating him from the rest of the crew.  It was just enough to keep the medical centre sanitary.


Watching the ceiling, Max had the odd sensation he was in a tent.  That was when he realized that the construct was nearly translucent, filtering out the most of the rays, but leaving enough so that they had enough light to see by.


There was the sound of a door opening, and soon Daisy's worried face was over his, darker than ever.  Even her irises were dark now.  She raised a finger and nearly touched his nose.


"His focus isn't good," she said, and Ortega leaned over as she did the test again.


"Well, he just woke up," he reminded her.  "It's going to take some time for him to be where he was."


"Hi," Max said irritably.


"Hi," Daisy said, turning back to him.  "How are you?"


Max swallowed.  "My head hurts a little," he tried, and Ortega gestured to him.


"See, I told you he'd figure it out," he said to Goethe, then looked down at Max.  "Do you want a drink?  Or do you feel too nauseous?"  Blinking, Max thought about it.  "Take your time," Ortega encouraged.


Given a drink, Max was allowed to sit up, and he looked around out side of the medical centre, which was up against the one wall.  It looked like they were in an airplane hangar made of old, yellowing paper.  Up to one side, it could be seen that they were still building onto it, most likely creating the private sections for the bunks and showers.


Along the opposite wall, Max could see the science groups going over everything with a fine-toothed comb, including the water and the sand.


In the middle of the room was a mechanic shop for fixing up the rovers, and against the wall beside the medical centre, was rows of beds.  Max presumed that the boxes on the other side of the centre was food and water storage.


"Beautiful, isn't it?"  Goethe asked, as Daisy hopped up on the table beside Max.  "You can see that they've spared no expense in making it pleasant and homey."


"So, it's not better than the station?"  Max asked, still feeling groggy.


Daisy shrugged.  "There's more room, I think," she said.  "But he's just sore because there's less privacy than before."


"There wasn't that much then!"  Goethe told her.


Throwing a comradely arm across his shoulders, Daisy gave Max a squeeze.  "At least if you get tired of being in here, you can camp outside.  If you're willing to risk coming face to face with that thing again."  She put her palms together in front of her face and splayed her fingers, mimicking it's horrible face.


"That was real?"  Max asked incredulously.


She looked at the far wall where the tests were going on.  "Yeah, I was starting to think it wasn't either, but if we both remember it, it must be real," she said, but Goethe looked doubtful.


"You're the only ones who've seen it," he told them.  "Nothing else has shown up on the scanners."


Max took another sip of the reconstituted juice, and Daisy patted his back.  "Tell him what it looked like," she suggested quietly, and Max wondered if it was a shared delusion if it would look the same to both of them or not.  Would they have compared notes in that state?


"It looked like a saiga, but it was bigger, I think, and it didn't have hooves.  It was like it had bird feet, but, y'know, without the toe in the back?"  He nodded, looking in his cup, thinking about the creature.  "Its face opened up like-- like the bottom of an octopus, you know where the tentacles spread away from the body?  Then the strips of its face that opened up, there were all these sharp, hook-like teeth, and the strips wiggled as it moved towards us . . .  It was kinda freaky, really."


Daisy held up her hand, as if she was saying 'well?', and Goethe relented slightly.  "Fine, but you're the only ones who've seen it," he insisted.  "So with that in mind as well as the circumstances, it should be taken with a grain of salt."


"If we discovered it, does that mean we get to name it?"  Daisy asked facetiously, leaning on Max.


"If we do, I vote for 'Bob'," he said, taking a sip of juice.  That made the other two lighten up a little, and they laughed.


"Mm.  Bob, the might-eat-your-face-saiga," Daisy said, trying to keep her smile away.  She glanced at her watch.  "Uhhh . . . I guess I have to go back to work, but you guys have fun."  She patted Max's leg and hopped down, smacking Goethe in the shoulder as she went past.


Watching her cross over to the banks of tables, Max set his cup beside him on the table, beginning to feel more alert.  "What did happen?"  He asked Goethe.  "With the drop?  The arm was fused shut.  If I hadn't been able to pry it up, Daisy would be dead right now."  Goethe looked at his feet, obviously uncomfortable to be talking about this, especially hearing it.  "I thought they were being checked regularly to make sure something like this didn't happen," Max pressed.


". . . I'll go get Evers, and he'll tell--"


"Why don't you?"  Max asked.


"Because I'm not an authority," Goethe said shortly, then ran a hand through his hair, a sure sign that he was feeling anxious about something.


Max waited a beat.  "I don't need an authority," he pointed out.  "I don't need an official statement, though I'll probably get one anyways."


Relenting, Goethe told him that they were studying parts of the shuttle to figure out what had happened to cause the arm to seize like that, especially since Daisy said the arm moved out then back into place before that with no trouble.


Then came a bit of information that Max hadn't been expecting; Daisy's suit had been tampered with, the motor of her heater had been short circuited, and her oxygenator had been broken with a wire forced through the mechanism.  After a pause, Goethe told him the most damning thing of all; Karin, who had been in charge of taking care of the suits had walked out into the wilds of Terra Mage to face the elements.  She hadn't made it past two yards away before suffocating.


Scrubbing his face with his nails, Max tried to take it all in, but something struck him.  "Neimand was in charge of checking shuttle functions," he said, remembering how he had pressured Daisy to be the first one out.  The first one out had the furthest to walk because otherwise they'd be crawled over as people claimed the seats beyond.


"We can't prove anything," Goethe said, surprising Max, who would have thought he wouldn't call for a reservation of judgement.  "There's no proof of anything, except the tampering of the suit.  And if Karin was guilty, actually guilty, we'll never know because she's no longer here to defend herself."


"I thought she was her friend," Max said slowly, looking over at Daisy working with some plant across the room.  He had liked Karin, even if they had never been that close.  She seemed friendly, in a distant manner.  But with this new knowledge, he felt that there were things there that he either missed or overlooked.


"Maybe she was," Goethe sighed.  "We'll never know what really happened."

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