Welcome to Week 15.
My Challenger: Jules
My Challenge: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars... go with the one that offers potential of stars." - Oscar Wilde
Who I am Challenging: Miranda
What I Challenged Them With: All that glitters *could* be gold...
"We'll be breaking every known law of relativity..."
"Not exactly... In fact, no, no we won't. We're 'side-stepping' them. Do you not pay attention during class?"
"Man was not meant to travel this way!" He turned and stared out at the black hole, at the brilliant light of so many stars on the verge of falling over the event horizon. Like fire flies, he thought. Stars zooming in from seemingly nowhere as others blinked and fizzled out once they reached that point.
The point of no return.
"Theoretically, you mean."
"You said 'the point of no return'," Chandra said, a small smile on her face as she strapped on her foot-gear. "And I said, 'Theoretically'." She stood up, grabbed her helmet from her locker, then slammed it shut as she turned to face him once again. "You best finish suiting up. We're heading out in five."
"But man was not meant--"
"In case you haven't noticed, I'm no man." Chandra turned and headed out the door. "Five minutes!" she called back, her voice echoing back to him.
Kennedy twitched. He hated his space suit. He hated this tiny craft. He hated that it felt immoral to "side step" known laws of the physical universe.
He hated that he wasn't more like Chandra.
He readjusted the belts again, if for nothing else, than to occupy the fingers that would give everything up to be back on Earth; to feel a blade of grass; to reach up toward a star that wasn't graveside.
Chandra plunked down on the seat beside him. "Ready, cowboy?"
He blinked at her, attempting to convey nonchalance.
She punched him in the shoulder playfully. "Oh, buck up. We won't be cutting the trip short if you soil your suit."
He apparently needed to work on his conveying skills.
"DS-Twelve, this is Hole Jumper One. Beginning preflight checks," she said into her in-helmet mic.
"Copy that, Jumper One. Begin preflight check when ready."
Kennedy tapped his helmet. "Is your com static-y?"
"Nope, and neither is yours. Hand me that pencil, will you?"
"You see? You see? This is a perfect example of why we shouldn't be doing this!"
"A... Pencil?" She quirked an eyebrow at him as she grabbed it from his hands.
"How many different types of ink pen have been invented for zero-gravity situations just like this? Huh? And yet we come back to the trusty pencil! If we can't get ink to flow out in a way that doesn't require--"
"Stow it, Kennedy," came a voice over the com.
"Jumper One, begin preflight."
"Yes sir," Chandra answered. She shrugged sympathetically at Kennedy then began the rundown.
"What if what?"
"What if the tests were wrong? What if, when we jump out of the four dimensions and cross over that event horizon..."
"It's okay to be scared. But we've run the simulations, we've sent over and brought back the cams and bots and rabbits and monkeys..."
"Yeah... I know..."
"We'll be all right."
"But how do you know?"
"Because I know."
He absorbed this statement, this faith, this improbable possibility. Then he turned to her and said, "You realize that monkey was never the same, right?"
"And maybe we won't be either. But I plan on attending the funerals of several stars today so that tomorrow? Tomorrow we can start saving a few."
"We're attempting to play god."
"We're attempting to save our galaxy. And hell, if god ain't gonna do that for us, we better start playing god, or we're all fucking dead."
He remembered being amazed at how gray everything was. Granted, the gray only lasted a split second--check that. It seemed to last only a split second. And then they were there--or not there, depending on where you were on the side of time.
Not to mention the other three dimensions that, until this point, no other human had managed to leave.
"Breathe, Kennedy! Dammit, breathe!"
He turned to face Chandra. Then his glass mask fogged up.
"Oh, thank goodness! I have no idea how long that was, but get a grip, turn on your suit-stasis, and don't lose it on me, okay?"
He saw her smile. Then he saw her frown. "What?"
"I... I don't know." She shook her head. "Come on, let's start up the cams, see what the hole is like on this side of relativity."
Switches were flicked, screens lit up, images began to appear. "Everything seems in order, just..."
"I know," Chandra agreed. "Odd. Bluer, yes?"
"I would say 'aqua-er'," he replied, tapping one screen which seemed to be distorted.
"You can't pick a real color, can you?"
"Do you see this?"
"What?" Chandra frowned.
"The matter--or, the singularity--the middle, the fucking middle of the black hole!"
"When you take away the four dimensions..." Kennedy trailed off.
"But the cams we sent over. Why didn't they see this?"
"I don't know." He began running calculations. He tapped keyboards, consulted screens. "This is incredible."
"Mass... The mass... All those stars and planets and light and matter that have been sucked in, sucked down, compressed into that single point... I don't..."
Chandra punched him. "Seriously, Kennedy, if you don't learn how to complete a goddamn sentence real fucking soon, so help me, I swear, I'll leave your ass here."
"I'd live forever," he mused.
"Alone. Now what were you saying?"
"Over here, on this side of time? It's not a black hole at all. It's a white hole!"
"You going monkey on me?"
"No-no-no! Look!" He pointed to the furthest-most left screen. Where large bodies of matter were being expelled over the event horizon.
"The birth of a dark-matter star..." Kennedy confirmed.
"It's... It's so beautiful."
They watched for what seemed to be several minutes as stars and planets spun out erratically in all directions, flung out of the singularity with rapid profusion.
"But--wait," Chandra interrupted. "Did you say 'dark-matter star'? Dark matter is nothing more than a vast, thin collection of molecules and atoms, invisible to the naked eye but with a gravity equal to that of most other..."
"Yes. Equal to that of other stars or planets that we can see."
"They were wrong. All those scientists, all those years, for the last sixteen centuries. All wrong. This, Chandra, is really what dark matter is."
"We need to get back."
"Just--just a little longer. Please."
"It is beautiful..."
Gray. Of course, the gray seemed to last for only a split-second, depending on where you were on the side of time.
"There they are!" shouted the commander as the tiny ship popped up on their radar. "Jumper One, Jumper One, this is DS-Twelve, repeat, this is DS-Twelve, do you copy?"
Silence. "Jumper One, this is DS-Twelve, do you copy?"
More silence. "Captain, start pulling in that ship."
"And alert the medics to meet me in the landing bays. Hopefully it's just that their coms have malfunctioned."
He strode through the halls, his mind pondering the millions of things that could have gone wrong, from the inane to the fantastic. Medics fell in behind him, but he didn't acknowledge them, barely registered the fact that they were now following him.
He reached the landing bay just as the small silver craft was lowered by boom onto it's landing pad. "Get me a ladder!" he shouted to one of the crew.
As he climbed the now-positioned ladder, he ignored the fact that they still hadn't popped up the cap of the craft on their own, ignored the fact that he could see no movement behind the glare of the lights. He reached up and grasped the ice-cold emergency latch and the cap popped off and fell down the other side.
Two sets of very ancient eyes pivoted from sunken flesh...
"Caaa...." one of them said.
"Fooo..." gasped the other.
More men appeared on top of a ladder on the other side of the craft.
The commander tried to regain his composure. "Get them to the infirmary."
The doctor came into the commander's quarters.
"Doctor? What is it? That--they... They are Kennedy and Chandra, yes?"
"Well, yes. They were Kennedy and Chandra."
"They passed away about half an hour after we got them into sick bay. Commander, I'm so sorry."
"Time. That's all it was," the doctor said. At the confused look on the commander's face, he continued, "They died from extreme--and I do mean extreme--old age. Their biometric readings were... well, let's just say for as old as they were, our machinery and technology couldn't even begin to fathom..."
"From popping back into time, apparently," the doctor continued. "They both managed a few words, but on review of some of the cams, when they popped back into time... Well, let's just say we never... We never expected footage like that."
"What did she say? Chandra. What did she say?"
"She just kept muttering 'monkey,' over and over."
"He said..." the doctor choked up. "He said," he continued, voice quavering, "that forever was longer than anyone could imagine."
"I don't understand."
"Apparently what takes a split second physically to pop back into time," the doctor said, "takes an eternity for the consciousness to do."
"Sweet Jesus. You mean...?"
"That's exactly what I mean."
"And he also said he was never so happy to see stars again."
Previous Challenges I have answered:
- [Week 1: All of Me]
- [Week 2: Child's End]
- [Week 3: Seeking Bonds]
- [Week 4: Just So You Know]
- [Week 5: Justice & Mercy]
- [Week 6: Tale of a Fateful Flick]
- [Week 7: Hell or High Water]
- [Week 8: Streaming Summer]
- [Week 9: Piss & Vinegar]
- [Week 10: Set It Free]
- [Week 11: Four Horsemen, Three Gods, a Transgendered Devil, and Lazarus Under a Pear Tree...]
- [Week 12: Worth a Thousand Words...]
- [Week 13: On the Down...]
- [Week 14: Hey Mister, Can You Spare Some Love?]