Midnight at the End of the Universe pt.1

Onboard the E.M.S.X. Calamity, all is chaos.

Alarms, Klaxons, flashing lights.

“Re-routing power from Auxilliary!”

Smoke, sparks, hissing, rumbling.

“Fire suppression systems coming on-line now!”

“OH SHIT! OH SHIT! OH SHIT!”

“Mac! You’re on fire!”

“Not now! Trying to deactivate the drive!”

“FUCK! FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!”

“Somebody shut Jax the fuck up!”

The heavy sound of a fist striking flesh.

“I can’t shut the drive down! We need to kill it at the source!”

“Aye, captain!”

A figure unbuckles itself from its safety harness in the flashing lights and begins floating. A skillful kick sends the figure floating down a dim passageway.

“Pressure loss in multiple sectors! We’re bleeding air!”

“We can’t do anything until Abe gets the drive down!” The captain turns her head away from the control console for a brief second. “ABE! Tell me you’ve got it!”, she screams.

Tense moments go by. An unconscious man lists in his safety harness.

A groan shakes the entire vessel, metal grating against metal. The sound vibrates through each crew member, through their bones, through their minds. It seems to go on for an eternity, each crew member crumbling under the onslaught.

Then it ends. The vessel is swallowed in darkness.

Captain Katherine McNamara snorts and jerks violently in her harness, the action rousing her from her slumber. She had been dreaming a dark dream. Looking at her console, that indicates the health of her ship, the Calamity, she see that a few of the coloured indicators were red, a large number were yellow, and a happy few were green. Her left arm ached from burns sustained when a panel shorted out and ignited part of her uniform.

Satisfied that certain death was not an immediate concern, Mac turns and examines the rest of her crew. On her left, asleep, is Lieutenant Isolde Drarm. Astrobiologist and Chief Medical Officer of the Calamity. Isolde yawns, then opens her eyes. She regards Mac with a sleepy smile, “So, are we dead yet?”

Grateful that Isolde’s irreverent sense of humour is still intact, Mac smiles back. She slides her hand slowly down the right side of Isolde’s face. Isolde snuggles her palm for a moment, then notices the burn on her Captain’s arm. “We need to get you down to Medical soon, before infection sets in.”

“Later”, Mac sighs, “You need to head down to engineering and check on Abe. I’ll check on Jax” She turns her and examines the other unconscious crewman. Isolde salutes, then unbuckles herself and launches herself down the corridor.

The unconscious man seated at the communication hub is dressed head to toe in product labeled garments. The Great Thomas ‘Jax’ Jackson, pop star and idol of millions, slumbers in his harness, a slight bruise forming on his left cheek. Katherine can barely conceal her disgust that such a glory obsessed person is on her ship. She impatiently checks his vital signs, slightly disappointed that he is still alive, gives him a solid pinch to wake him.

“Ah! Not the face!”, he rocks in his seat, jolted awake. He immediately reaches for his cell phone and uses the mirrored surface of it to check his face and adjust his hair. “Dumb science bitch sucker punched me,” he mumbles, fingers gingerly touching the slight bruise on his face.

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?” The words drip with menace as Captain McNamara turns slowly and stares Jax down. Jax immediately looks away and fusses with the camera controls at his station. “Uh, nothing. A little concealer will make it disappear. No one earthside will notice. Say, why are the screens down? My audience needs an update.”

“Abe had to power the drive down,” Mac replies, irritated, “we’re running on backup for the moment. Don’t worry, you beloved fans haven’t been out of contact for long.” She starts cataloging the alerts on her control panel, diligently ignoring him. Jax tousles his hair this way and that, trying to make it look the exact right amount of disheveled as was popular back home.

Abraham Stanford, engineer and technical officer is curled up and floating listlessly in Engineering, snoring loudly. Isolde looks fondly at him, she makes a mental note to check on his sleep apnea soon. As she moves to examine him, he jolts awake.

His eyes roll back in his head, his body goes rigid and he begins shaking violently. “Mmmgh! Mmmgh Grgh! Vvrh!” Spasms rock his body. Isolde rushes to him, and watches helplessly as his right shoulder dislocates with a pop. “Abe! Abe!” Isolde flips open her portable med pack and starts filling a needle with relaxants. Abraham’s right knee cracks under the force of a strong spasm, a bulge appears in the knee and a red stain follows, spreading quickly.

Isolde grabs Abe and slams him against a wall, holding him as steady as possible, and injects him with her syringe. Abe, spittle flowing out of his clenched mouth, slowly starts to calm down. His mouth falls slack and opens, allowing several bloody, shattered teeth to float free. Isolde watches them for a split second, then activates the communication panel nearby. “Medical emergency! Abe is down! I need help!” She pulls out a knife and cuts off the right leg of Abraham’s uniform, examining the damage as she waits for backup.

Katherine and Jax float into the room. The captain nimbly floats over to Isolde and Abe. A floating tooth bounces into Jax. He recoils in disgust, then flicks it away. Isolde gives a brief update then adds, “We need to get Abe to Medical. I’ve got him stable enough for transport.” Mac nods, then says “Ok, Jax, help Isolde with Abe. I’ve got to stay and get the power back up.”

A “Ewww” escapes Jax as he clumsily helps maneuver Abraham down the circular corridor. The captain turns and faces the power core. Isolde had carefully strapped Abraham down on the exam table when the emergency lights flick off and the regular lights switch on. “Christ, about time,” Jax exhales in relief and pulls out his cell phone. He turns on the camera and starts recording. “What up Earthlings? The Calamity has been calamitied!

He turns the camera around, covering Abraham unconscious on the table and Isolde, expertly tending to his wounds. She notices his camera and scream, “Get the FUCK out of here, you idiot!” She snatches the camera out of his hands and flings it out of the room. It floats down the corridor, spinning end over end.

Jax chases after the phone and catches it. He turns it over and sees a handprint in blood across the screen. Isolde’s hand, Abe’s blood. He turns back to Medical, “Bitch. THE PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW!”

“My people!” He turns and floats to the second floor access hatch. Living quarters. Thanks to significant sponsorship, Jax’s quarters are the largest of the group. Screens line every wall, each black with the words NO SIGNAL flashing on each. “Dammit,” he sighs. “Record! and transmit as soon as we reconnect!” The screens light up, each showing an image of Jax as he floats around the room. Faint music plays in the background. His latest hit song.

“Well folks, this is Jax! Live, kind of, from the E.M.S.X. Calamity.”

He starts undressing, his well toned body glistening in the warm lights of his room. Flexing as he takes his clothes off, the cameras watching his every move.

“The Hadron drive worked, I think? I mean, I don’t know the specifics, but it was supposed to create a stable micro-black hole in front of the ship while the two stabilizing “pins” kept the black hole mobile but active.

As he spoke, smart devices in the computer system picked up on his speech and supplied helpful visual images;

The large crescent-shaped design of the E.M.S.X Calamity,

The Hadron collider built into the superstructure of the ship,

An animation of two molecules spinning along the collider and slamming into each other at the mid-point of the distance between the two crescent ‘tips’,

A miniature black hole forms there and begins to suck in the Calamity,

The crescent tips glow with a visible energy, pushing the black hole ahead of the ship, while the gravity of the black hole pulls the ship towards the black hole.

An endless loop.

The speed generated is immense.

“A Carrot leading a Donkey, that’s how they described it,” Jax concludes, as he slips into another branded uniform. “Time dilation slows us down while the rest of the universe keeps going on. A few hours for us is a few YEARS for everyone back home. My fans will be going through a mid-life crisis and falling in love with my music all over again!” He smiles.

Jax pulls himself down into a seat in front of a mirror and straps himself in. several makeup kits are secured to the table in front of him. He begins to touch up his face.

“Anyway, our shakedown tour was to take us from our starting point of the Moon, out to Pluto, currently on the far side of our Solar System. While we’re there, I personally am going to go out and drop a flag on that mofo #demiplanetnomore”

Jax begins to thanks his many sponsors, it was through their generosity and his fame combined that the Calamity was funded. Various ads appear on the numerous screens lining his room. Jax’s smiling face is reflected back at him a hundred times stretching into infinity.

At the medical suite, Captain McNamara glides in. Isolde turns, taking off bloody gloves, “Captain, Abraham is now stable. He’s sleeping for now, I’ve done what I could for his leg, he’s going to need a replacement for his right tibia. I’ll need your authorization.” Mac nods in acquiescence. “I’ve also pulled his damaged teeth and am 3-d printing a new set for him.”

“Captain,” she says, “I’ve never seen a reaction like that in Abe before. I initially thought Epilepsy, but that would have been caught in training and he would have been washed out of the program. CT scans show nothing unusual. MRI is scheduled next.” She tosses her gloves in a biohazard container.

“Is it the Hadron drive?” Her eyes lock with Katherine, steady, calmly. Katherine floats over to Abe, strapped to a bed, and studies him. “Izzy, I don’t know.” She takes Abe’s hand in hers, “the earthbound Hadron collider has been functional for years. It’s been studied back and forth. There should be no surprises left. But, he was pointblank at the source when he shut it down. Something could have hit him through the shielding.” She lets go of his hand. “Or maybe he was adept at hiding his condition. Either way, we’re stuck out here with him. We need to watch him.”

Isolde floats over to her and they embrace. They kiss briefly, tenderly. Mac pulls away, “Do what you need to do to get Abe up. Then I need you on the bridge, we still don’t know how far we made it. We could still be floating around the moon.” She smiles and pulls herself out of the room toward the bridge.

Some time passes. Mac, Isolde and Jax are in their seats in the bridge room fiddling with their control panels, each lost in thought. Mac turns and says, “Everyone, here is the situation: The Calamity was in orbit around the moon. We activated the Hadron drive and it malfunctioned immediately. We managed to disable it but it blew out all power except backup. We are now blind, no radio or sensors of any kind. We have the means to repair or replace them but it will take time. But we are alive, and that is a great thing. We have the supplies to last three times our mission length. We can stretch that out to six times with our combined knowledge sets. We will make it home, I promise you that.”

Isolde smiles and nods. Jax flips a few more switches at his console. Cameras light up, showing him in his seat and the occasional shot of the others at their seats. He looks up and says “Hah! Got it!”

“Mac! Uh, I mean Captain, I know the only reason I’m here is due to the financial backing I brought, but I am a trained communication officer. I made sure that I had it covered.” he pushes himself back from the console. “I’ve been working for a while now on the external cameras. Hardware, software, it all checks out as fine, fully operational. So here you go:” He hits a button and on all their screens the image is that of complete and utter blackness extending away from various points of the ship.

“The cameras are working fine, I promise you.”

“So tell me, WHERE ARE ALL THE STARS?”

End part 1.

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