Across The Universe

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


Chapter 7 (v.1) - 7

Submitted: May 20, 2018

Reads: 92

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Submitted: May 20, 2018



It was closing in on midnight, and Max was sitting in the light-box, the dial upped to full, and he was willing Solas Lux to come back, his bare feet gripping the seat in front of him.  He found that he unconsciously held things with his toes, something he had been unable to do before.  He felt it was some sort of regression to his more simian ancestors, and he wondered how close to the truth he was with that.


After supper, Daisy had gathered the rest of the supras in the seclusion of the bunk room, not even Goethe was there to make them feel like they were being observed.


She told them she was aware that certain mutation were happening and that some people were embarrassed or ashamed of the new changes, but they were as good as family, and no one in that room was going to mock them for it.  Mentioning seeing someone's changed feet, Max felt relief when she didn't say his name, but he was surprised when she mentioned her own gills without saying who they belonged to.  He saw an exchanged glance between two others, and clearly they were aware that she was talking about herself at the time.


"There's no shame in what we are," Daisy told them, looking them over.  "We aren't always going to be the same, there are going to be some singularity."  There was a silence, and Margaret took off her shoes, showing that her feet had done the opposite to Max's.  They were highly webbed, only the very tips of her toes had been spared.


"It's hard to walk," she told them softly, her words almost too soft to hear.


A few other's came forward with their changes.  Fangs, larger irises, someone managed to hide the fact that they were growing an extra finger on each hand.  The changes were between the mundane and the bizarre, but nobody said anything as each thing was shown or spoken about if the placement was intimate.


To give them another shock, Daisy turned her back to the rest and pulled her shirt over her head, flexing her muscles.  It wasn't immediately apparent as to what she was showing them, but as they crowded around her, it became obvious and stupefying.  Just above her last ribs were two excess bones, and as she moved her back, the apparently useless flanges wiggled up and down.


"What are they for?"  Lee asked, reaching out to touch one, flinching back when it moved under the pressure he put on it.


"Dunno," Daisy said, pulling down her shirt.  "I just know I have them."


After the sharing portion of the evening, Max went over to see what was playing in the rec room, lost interest in it halfway through, then went to bed.  He couldn't sleep, the narrow bunk was suffocating him and he quickly had to leave it.


The rest of the place had been empty, and he didn't have the attention span to try and read or watch something, so he wandered around until he found out that he kept showing up at the light-box, then he tried to get in, surprised to find it open.  He slipped in, and strolled around the room a couple times before fiddling with the dial and staring out at the moon that was showing.  It was either Romulus or Remus, but he wasn't familiar enough with them yet to know which was which.  The station was passing between the moon and the planet, and the sheer mass of the moon was enough to nearly make his knees turn to jelly.  It felt like the station was going to crash into it, but it was miles away, no more likely to pull them into its gravitational field than Terra Mage was going to catapult them away.


Looking at the moon, Max squinted at the brightness of it.  It seemed brighter than Earth's moon, and he got up to peer down at Terra Mage, craning his neck at a very awkward angle to look at the ground far below.  Surprisingly, he could barely make out shadowy non-shapes below.  The moon was bright enough to sort of light it up, that meant that once they were down there, night could be nearly as bright as a very cloudy day.


Eventually, Max grew tired of watching space, and he closed the window again, before resuming his nocturnal journey.  He was bored, and he recalled that Daisy slept in the life science office, her claustrophobia too strong to allow her to sleep in one of the bunks.  He wondered, hoped, that she might still be awake.  He hadn't thought of what they might do if they both were insomniacs, but he was too tired to focus on that.


The door to the life science office was open, but he stopped a distance away when he heard the voices.  Typically, it was in a language that he didn't understand.  Goethe said something quietly.  Daisy answered, and Max leaned against the wall to see inside the room.  Daisy was sitting on the desk and Goethe was standing close enough that their legs were touching.  Daisy said something in a low voice, pulling away slightly.  In response, Goethe moved back a little as well, but kept shifting his weight from foot to foot as if he wanted to move in close again.Daisy sighed, sounding pained.  She reached out and held his hand, staring at it as she turned it over in her grasp, petting it with her long fingers.


Goethe touched her cheek as he stepped closer again, resting his hand on her waist.  They kissed and he hooked his thumb under the hem of her shirt, slowly lifting it before stopping and pulling back.  He told her something, and Daisy suddenly became very agitated.  She replied, her words fiery and rapid, her hair flying loose around her face as she shook her head.  Goethe shook his head, muttering something, and Daisy laughed humourlessly.


Her next words were spat rather than spoken.  There was a moment of silence, and Goethe cleared his throat, allowing Daisy to pull his head towards hers, letting their foreheads bump together. Goethe said something that sounded like he cut himself off, unable to finish the sentence.


"Yeah," Daisy nodded, encouraging him.


Goethe said something else, but Max didn't hear it because as Goethe trailed off, mumbling, he moved his face into Daisy's neck, just to be shoved away harshly.  She snapped at him, her tone acidic, her quiet words full of venom.  Max thought she was rejecting Goethe, perhaps Goethe had crossed a line.  Max straightened up, ready to step in.


Goethe replied to her charge, his words a little thick, but he didn't touch her again.  Daisy exclaimed something in a long tirade, her hands flying up in the air for emphasis.  Making a choking sound, Goethe hugged her, even though she was limp in his embrace.


Silently, Max stepped away from the scene and went back to bed.  It was none of his business what had been going on, but while Daisy had seemed irritated, she didn't seem to be in need of a hero.  He hoped he hadn't made the wrong call.  Goethe seemed like a good guy, but that meant nothing; they always say it's the quiet ones you have to look out for.


The next day, he overheard Evers talking to both of them along with Ortega, asking if it was safe to force the rest of the supras to adapt to the light quicker.


"It's dangerous, you saw what happened to that one," Goethe said.  "No one thought he'd survive."


"But now he can handle almost the whole effect of it," Daisy argued.


"I will not have my supplies depleted," Ortega stated firmly, cutting his hands through the air to punctuate his statement.  "Not so we can just move faster.  She did it in increments, they can too."


"But he went from none to a quarter," Daisy said, turning to the doctor.  "I'm saying two to three, not much, but more than a single shade every day.  Everyone is tired of the slow progression."


"Progress," Goethe corrected in a way that seemed more automatic than thoughtful.


Daisy barely glanced at him.  "Evers, you wanted to get down there, well, so do the rest of us.  If it means small burns, I'm willing to risk it."


"You are!"  Ortega rounded on her.  "But who has to put salves on their burns?  Where will the salves go and how fast will they disappear?  As far as I know, there's no pharmacy down there."


"Let them heal on their own," Daisy said carelessly.  "It may toughen them to infections."


"And it might kill them," Goethe put in, nodding.  "It's too risky."


"You don't have a say," Daisy said, turning to Evers.  "You do."


Looking from between the three of them Evers looked like he wanted to be anywhere but there making that decision.  While Daisy had a reputation for being ruthless when it came to things like this, it looked like both Ortega and Goethe would vastly protest and refuse to let it go on.


"Ask them, if you don't agree," Daisy said, when Evers remained silent.  "Let them say whether they're willing to risk it."  She glanced at Max, unintentionally drawing the others' attention to him.


He held up his hand.  "Don't mind me, I'm just eavesdropping," he said, and Daisy jerked her hand at him, as if to say, 'see?  What are you waiting for?'


"You were burned," Goethe said, pleading for some reason.  "You know how painful it is, you wouldn't suggest that the others go through that."


"My med bays are not big enough for twenty-seven burn victims," Ortega bitched, crossing his arms.


Pinching the bridge of his nose, Evers shook his head.  "You said they were more halfway through the whole business?"  He asked Daisy, who closed her eyes, exhaling.


"The season is moving on, we might not have much time to-"


"As asked you about their progress, not opinions on farming," Evers interrupted firmly.


"Yes, about that," she intoned flatly.


"Then we'll take the next week to get ready for the launch, since it won't take longer than that to full adapt to the rays, right?"


"Right," Daisy sighed.


"Then I don't want to hear another word about it," Evers said, pointing at Daisy as she opened her mouth to protest.  "Not.  Another.  Word."


"But if it's two-"


Evers raised his hand as if he wanted to swat her in the temple.  "What did I just say?!"  He looked at the three men.  "And you?  Don't you have something useful to do?"


Ortega and Goethe were not to be so easily dismissed, but Daisy stood in front of Evers, her arms crossed.  "I'm not changing my mind about this," he warned her, and she tipped her head back to glare at him better.  Evers licked his lips and began pointing at her again.  "You take undue risks and I'm willing to let that slide as long as it doesn't involve the rest of them.  You can put your neck under the axe whenever you like, but if you risk my people, you will feel my boot going up your ass, do you understand?"


Daisy frowned at him before saying something rapid in Italian, walking around him.  Evers turned.  "Do not pretend that you don't understand me!"


Daisy spun on her heel.  "I'm not, I'm calling you a prick!"  She shouted at him.


A thought coming to him, Max went in the opposite direction, waiting until he saw someone familiar, someone with a big mouth.  He was happy to spot Lee leaning against the wall reading something.  Quickly saying what he had overheard, Max asked him what he felt about the whole thing.  It was predictable that Lee felt the same way about it, and they went in their own directions, looking for more supras to speak to about the situation.  It was only right; it was their bodies, they should be able to decide on the risk.


After only talking to a few people, there was an announcement over the intercom system, ordering everyone to the rec room to review a demonstration on their evacuation of the station.  Apparently it was time to start getting ready for the fall, seeing as how it was getting planned for the end of the week.


Reluctantly, Max followed the streams of people to the room, sitting in the back with the rest of the supras.  It was a force of habit for all of them, since their eyes were more sensitive to light and they generally had better distance than the humans.  He could see better back there, but what he saw when he sat down was Lee passing his monitor to the person sitting next to him.  The person looked at it for a minute, ignoring the people talking at the front of the room, then pass it to the person beside them.


It went down the line, and Max glanced at what was on the screen before passing it on.  He had guessed correctly that it was a note telling everyone what he had told Lee, and Max glanced at him, only to see Lee was focusing on the display.  Turning to the front, Max saw an image on the wall depicting the two shuttles coming off of the docks and plummeting to Terra Mage.  That might have been fine, a bit terrifying falling to the ground at a few hundred miles an hour, except they were being depicted as being outside the shuttles.


Apparently it would take more energy than the shuttles were capable of outputting to safely lower the people to the planet.  Travelling through space hadn't been a problem since there was no gravity an they needed minimal propulsion to speed across the stars, but lowering themselves to the ground a safe enough speed would be impossible, especially since the components that put them beyond the pull of Earth's gravitational field had broken off to keep from slowing them down as they flew beyond the mesosphere.


"The groups will be divided equally between the two shuttles," Niemand explained, pointing to the the picture.  "Once we break through the stratosphere it will be imperative that you disengage from the shuttle otherwise the increasing speed of the shuttle will pull you along with it and you will be unable to get your parachute open before you hit the ground.  It will take seven minutes from the launch to the landing, so your suits will notify when you will have to pull the cord."


There was a general murmuring, and it seemed that it wasn't just Max who thought that this was a bad idea.  Niemand waited a moment for quiet before continuing.


"Since there is too much risk having it automated, you will be in charge of pulling the cord yourself," he said.  "In those seven you are responsible for your own lives.  You will have to make sure you unstrap yourselves in time and you will have pull the cord."


"We understand!"  Nunia said loudly, waving her hand for him to continue.


Niemand stared at her before going on.  "Starting today, the shuttles will be packed with the materials that had been left out because of their sensitivity or some other reason," he told them.  "Names will be randomly drawn for assistance, and also starting today is a simulation for the drop.  I am aware," he glared at Nunia, "that you've been put through the simulation before, but for the most recent of you, than was more than a year ago, while for the oldest of us it has been at least five years if ever."


Slouching in his seat, Max tuned Niemand out, listening around the room for something more interesting than his voice.  He thought of the light-box and felt almost starved for it, his mind moving from this room to the other one, imagining it full orange light.  He wondered if the vibrancy would change when they were on the ground, if it would be filtered to an almost white like the sun was, or if it would stay like this.


Dozing, Max jerked awake when he felt something shake him by the collar of his coveralls.  It was Lee, and he was pointing to the hallway.  The assembly was over, and everyone was leaving.


They bypassed the canteen, ignoring the people going into it.  Like for most things, they were consciously on subconsciously following Daisy's lead, and now no one ate more than one meal a day, usually going without for several days instead.


It was strange that Max didn't miss eating, but perhaps it was more so he didn't miss eating the rations.  He wondered if it would change once the meals weren't mystery semi-solids in a bag.


Mealtimes were spent doing other things.  Some people used it for more recreation time, while others took it to find something useful to do.  Max used the time to be taught by either Karin or Charlie what would need to be done to care for the embryos and after their peculiar non-birth.  He was amazed that they were willing to take a chance on him, but Charlie tried to burst his bubble, saying he wasn't doing anything important, really, and Max explained anything would be better than pulling weeds.


Lee, on the other hand, was on the station for the exact opposite reason.  He had actually been trained in plant life, poached by the government to play farmer on an alien planet.  He kept talking about how wonderful it would be once the major plants were done and they could move onto the other ones he was looking forward to, namely lemons, peanuts, and chili plants.


"Two words," Lee said, holding up fingers to match the number.  "Stir and fry."


Helping move the embryo pods, the animal nursery workers had to move around the planters in the tight space as seed pods were pulled out, drawer and all, a lid fitted over the exposed top.


Drawers converted to cases, their future was carried out of the room and into the shuttles to be dropped from a extreme altitude.  Max tried to explain why he found that funny, but he seemed to be the only one who found it amusing.


Likewise, on other parts of the ship, things were cleared out, with exception a tallied amount of rations and the medical supplies.  The contents of the med bays would be packed within the hour of launch, not before in case of any medical emergency.


Anything that was of use to them and wasn't in immediate need was packed up and sealed away, much to the annoyance of most of them since that meant no more diversion through games or media.  Evers suggested that they spend any downtime working on their physical fitness or on reviewing the heavy workload to come.  That did not help them feel less annoyed.


All that was left in the life science office was Daisy's sleeping bag and one drawer that was stuck from unknown causes.  Everyone tried several times to rip it out of its socket, but the drawer wouldn't budge.  Eventually, they gave up, and went to the light-box.


Once the door was shut, Daisy was hit with the information that she wasn't alone in her belief that the whole thing needed to be accelerated.


"You can't speak for everyone," she told Lee, yet looking around the room.


"I'm just being the messenger," he insisted, before turning his back on her.  "Who wants to vote to get fried?"  Nearly everyone raised their hand, the exception being Max, who felt he didn't have a right to vote since he was practically immune already, and Nymadawa, who objected to Lee's way of asking about pushing their limits.


"It's going to hurt," Daisy informed them after a long silence, as if second-guessing herself after pushing for this.  "You know how uncomfortable it is now, and it won't get better when it's stronger.  You will blister and you are at a risk of having your skin split open if it gets too much."


"Then we'll start small," Margaret shrugged.  She looked at Max.  "It's not like were going to go full bore, right?"  He rolled his eyes, and Daisy finally agreed.


Watching them, she adjusted the dial to one above where they should be.  The rest looked slightly uncomfortable, but Lee pushed until Daisy went up another.  Some people were actually squirming in their seats, but no one was willing to step down.  The general feeling was that they were there now, so they might as well work past it.


"I could really use a book now," Nunia said, her voice strained.  A few people laughed in agreement, but that was the most said about it.


As the hour ended, the rest of the them were darker than they were normally, a few had peeling skin or minute blisters, and at the end of the enforced time, no one wanted to linger around the box.


Once the room was empty, Max, who had been standing by the wall because the room had been filled to capacity, he went over to where Daisy was standing, and moved the knob so it was open to full.


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