Midnight at the End of the Universe pt. 6

Isolde Drarm grew up alone.

Her intelligence set her apart from the other children her age. They never knew what to make of her. Sometimes they teased her. Usually, they left her alone.

Mathematics, literature, even music. They all came so easily to her. She advanced through the education system rapidly. A prodigy, they called her. Praise rained down on her, but only, it seemed, when she excelled. Companionship however, eluded her. She was always alone.

It wasn’t until her freshman year that she found her first friend. Hustling across the campus, anxious to not be late for her next class, she collided with a fellow student. Alika was her name. She was setting up a stage for a public meeting for the university’s LBGTQ alliance. Flustered and riddled with anxiety over the incident, she apologized again and again. Alika smiled and accepted Isolde’s apology, wringing out a promise to attend her next speech.

When Isolde was able to attend Alika’s next speech, she was impressed. Alika had a natural grace and eloquence that made her seem mesmerizing. Unperturbed, even when a small group of trolls started heckling her, Alika stated the mission goals of her group without missing a beat and received a standing ovation.

Isolde shyly spoke to Alika after the meeting and was again amazed at how gifted a speaker she was. Alika had a gift at understanding people, at seeing to the heart of them, and helping create a connection between the two. Isolde, without fully understanding it, was falling in love.

Their friendship was deep and insightful. Alika helped Isolde to understand herself and her complex feelings. Being several years her senior meant that Alika could not return fully return Isolde’s affections, much to Isolde’s dismay. But, she eventually accepted it. Alika was the first to give her the nickname “Izzy”.

Izzy received a curious text from Alika one night. Izzy was doing an all night practice session before an important exam. The message said that Alika was woken up by a strong smell in her room, but the thought of getting up to find out the source of the odor was making her dizzy. Her last words were that she was going to ignore it and try to sleep through it.

Isolde managed an A+ on her exam. She hustled over to Alika’s dorm room to tell her the great news to find one of Alika’s other friends crying in her room. A stroke had killed her friend overnight and Isolde’s world collapsed.

Struggling to make sense of her best friend’s death, Isolde threw herself into medical science, her other passions forgotten. Her need to understand Life and Death pushed her into the top of her field. And other related fields. The possibility of life on other worlds and what form that might take sparked her imagination.

Life on Earth was lonely without her friend.

Onboard the Remembrance, the massive, rotating space station, Captain Katherine MacNamara was luxuriating in a zero gravity shower. Squeezing rinseless soap and water from pouches onto her body, then towelling off the excess moisture, Katherine hasn’t felt this clean in months. The Calamity had run out of personal cleaning products some time ago.

Exiting the shower room, Katherine floated over to the closet of the officer’s quarters she had discovered. Opening the doors, she discovered it full of uniforms. Rifling through them, she found that they closely matched her size. Donning a fresh uniform, she continued her search of the room. No personal items, no pictures, no name on the door. A blank room. Were the clothes and cleaning products shipped ahead of time? Who unpacked them?

As she left the room, she saw Isolde leaving a room farther down, also in a fresh uniform. A smile involuntarily broke across Katherine’s face. Izzy was radiant, even with a frown upon her face. Isolde saw her and smiled back. “They have toothpaste, Mac! I brushed my teeth!”, she exclaimed.

“I know! It’s amazing!” Mac floated over. “Everything is here for us! We can live here comfortably, and once we make it to the command area, we should be able to find out what happened to the crew and occupants.” The stress of the last 8 months and the terror of the void slowly was slipping from her body. She gently takes Isolde’s hand in hers, “Come on, let’s finish this.” Isolde nods and together, they leave.

“Officer’s quarters are here,” Katherine muses, “so Command should be just ahead.” The officer’s deck has numerous features that the pair pass by: workout room, small cafeteria, a break room filled with games and screens, and a small corporate branded coffee shop. “Everything for the officer on the go,” Isolde mutters. She motions to tie back her hair, but remembers that she cut hers short last month. Phantom hair syndrome.

“Why is this station here?”, she asks.

“Why does it have exactly everything we need?”

Mac turns to her, “This is a miracle. A Godsend. A chance to start over.” Her eyes soften. “We can start over Izzy, a fresh start”. She smiles.

Isolde looks at her, longing and confusion warring inside herself. She pulls her hand away from Katherine. “Too many questions…”

Isolde moves on, past her captain, to the command deck.

The door is locked. Electronic passkey. Isolde looks at Katherine and motions to the scanner. Katherine takes out her old passkey, the one she used on the International Space station, and taps it on the scanner. To both their surprise, it beeps pleasantly and changes color to green. The door opens.

The Command module is impressive. Row upon row of computers monitoring the day to day life of the Remembrance. Comfortable chairs. Plenty of room. Cheerful aesthetics. The Commander’s station is majestic: three banks of screens, terminals surrounding a deluxe chair. The entire station at one’s fingertips. Mac slides into the seat.

Running her fingers over the console, Mac feels connected to the entire station. The hairs on the back of her neck start to rise. A faint noise catches her attention. Barely audible. She’s heard it before, when they first entered the station. So familiar…

“Hey Mac”, Katherine is jarred out of her revery by Isolde. She is floating by a bank of monitors. “One of these monitors is picking up sound from somewhere.” Katherine starts punching in commands into her view screen, zeroing in on the source. A flashing icon catches her attention. Command level access required. Curious, she punches in her ID.

Isolde, after flipping through two dozen cameras, discovers Jax in the auditorium. Jax is singing a love ballad to an empty theater. Isolde listens for a while, impressed with his skill. She turns to Katherine, “Captain, I found Jax. He’s the source of the noise.” Katherine looks up from her screen that she was reading intently, annoyance clearly written on her face.

“What is that idiot up to? Where is Abe?”

“Uh, don’t see him anywhere.”

Katherine’s eyes keep flicking back to her screen.

“Izzy, go grab Jax and then see if you can find Abe. Come back here once you’re all together. I found something that could be big.”

“Yes sir,” Isolde salutes sarcastically and leaves the command room.
Euthros peyya

 

The title makes to sense to Katherine but the contents of the information packet thrill her to her core.

The Remembrance has a massive Hadron drive and the crew had orders to use the time dilation effect from activating the drive to “ride out” millions of years as the black hole collapsed and “spat out” a new universe. Then the Remembrance would seed life on nascent worlds using genetic material stored in the central hub of the station.

“Seeding new life…” she mutters as information flashes across the screen.

“Izzy and I could live together, again and again, across thousands of worlds, throughout history!”

Pulling up a file on the central hub, Katherine feverishly plots a course to the genetic sample storage area.

Isolde makes her way to the auditorium as Jax continues to sing. He stops occasionally to perform skits. The external speakers of the auditorium have been turned on and Isolde can hear every word, every inflection. Jax can uniquely modify his pitch and tone to appeal to a variety of audiences. As much as she hates Jax, she is impressed by his ability. “No wonder he was the most famous man on earth.”

The Auditorium is fully illuminated as Isolde approaches, flood lights shining on every corner and into the “sky”. The doors are locked, however. Shouting futilely against Jax’s songs, Isolde finally storms off in search of a communication console, cursing herself for not equipping a communicator when she was in Ops. She waits a surprisingly long time at the console waiting for a response.

Katherine finally appears on-screen, the image behind her shows that she is no longer in Ops. “Oh, hey Iz, did you find the others?”

“I’m at the stadium but can’t get in. No sign of Abe here. Where are you?”

Katherine smiles, “I found something amazing! Forget the others and meet me in the central hub, R&D area. Oh, and swipe your access card, I’ve improved your security rating. You should now be able to enter all areas of the station.”

Isolde complies, confused at her captain. “Forget the others? That’s not how we do things. For better or worse. we’re Family. The only ones we have left.”

Captain MacNamara sighs and relents. “You are correct Lieutenant, I apologize. Just meet me here and we’ll find Abe together.” She switches her screen off.

Isolde looks at the blank screen for a moment, then swipes her access card. With her new status, she easily accesses the cameras and runs a search for Abraham Standford, starting from the cafeteria where they were last all together. Jax is singing a power ballad in the background.

The security cameras are ubiquitous throughout the station, and provide unparalleled imagery of the events that happened.

Abraham, looking sad and forlorn, sings an obscure and slightly disturbing song.

Thomas Jackson turning and assaulting him viciously.

Thomas throwing the prone body of Abe out of the cafeteria.

Abraham’s body floating through the empty central corridor.

He seems to come to near one of the elevators, a complete wreck.

He drags himself onto the lift and activates it.

Abe exits the lift and painfully makes his way to the E.V.A quarters and then climbs into a suit.

He exits the station and spacewalks to the nuclear cannon machinery.

He enters the cannon via an access port and waits patiently as the cannon powers up and fires, disintegrating him instantly.

The blood flowing through Isolde Drarm turns to ice as Jax hits the high note in his song. She looks back to the auditorium and spots that the main doors are now open. Breathing heavily, her senses fully aware, she cautiously moves towards the elevator bank.

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