Adrift

The rookie quietly stepped into Lieutenant Grantas’s quarters. Light from the hallway cut through the dark but did not hint at what existed beyond where its rays landed.

“Sir?” the rookie whispered. He waited a few seconds then tried again, a little louder, “Sir?”

A sharp intake of breath was followed by a sigh. “What is it?” a deep voice asked from within the dark room.

The rookie straightened and replied, “Sir, Commander Brun has requested your presence on the bridge.”

“Answer my question first. What’s the bump?”

“It’s…we’ve come across a vessel.”

“An enemy?”

“No sir. It appears to be empty. Our scanners have not picked up any life on board, but the hull is possibly thick enough to prevent an accurate reading. Commander Brun has requested your-”

“Yeah. I heard you. Go tell him I’ll be there in three minutes.”

The rookie hesitated.

“Leave the door open,” Grantas encouraged him.

The young man left and Grantas sat up. The room was not much bigger than the doorway. Only a bed and a small table. Grantas was a minimalist. Not out of necessity, but out of fairness. He limited himself to less than what his soldiers received. The only luxury he couldn’t pass up because of his position were his own, private quarters.

He stood and soaked in the brightness as if it were sunlight. His tired eyes did not shy away. His frame was larger than the doorway, and he had to make himself smaller as he exited. He wore a simple t-shirt, standard issue pants, and black boots which clattered on the steel floor as he made his way to the bridge.

“You asked for me Commander?”

“Lieutenant. Sorry to wake you.” Brun turned toward Grantas as he entered. “You should move your quarters closer to the command center.”

“I’m fine where I am, sir. What’s the situation?”

“Straight to the point. We have an unregistered, seemingly abandoned vessel eight hundred meters starboard. Scans don’t indicate a threat or any heat signature of any kind.” Brun pulled up a hologram of the ship. Grantas leaned on the table to get a better look at it.

“If it were an enemy ship,” Brun continued, “I’d simply blow it to pieces and move on. However, there are no marking to indicate it as friend or foe as well as no signal coming from it to aid in that determination. It’s structure is also bothersome. I’ve never seen a model like this from any shipyard.”

“The cylindrical architecture reminds me of a pre-contact exploration vessel.”

“One of my initial thoughts as well, but the size is beyond the technology of the time.”

Grantas nodded in agreement. Something about the ship made him uneasy. “Have you tried communicating?”

“No response.”

“A warning shot?”

“Also no reaction.”

“I suggest a wrecker crew sir. Have them haul it to the nearest deconstruction base and use it for parts. Looks like it has plenty.”

“A fine assessment, but protocol dictates, if this is a ship from the pre-contact era, that we search it for any atomic weaponry and seize said weapons as both asset denial and procurement. Your first instinct made my decision. I want you to search the vessel and report. If it’s clean. We’ll call the wrecker and be on our way.”

“Understood sir.”

“Take as many men as you need.”


 

Grantas finished pulling his undersuit on and helped Mathis into his exosuit. Mathis returned the favor and they prepared to jump.

“I’d prefer to have more than two men for this mission,” Brun’s voice came over the comms.

“Two is plenty, sir. I assure you.”

“I don’t doubt your track record Lieutenant.”

Mathis smiled at Grantas before pulling his helmet on.

“Distance?” Grantas asked.

“Just reaching 600 meters now.”

Grantas raised his eyebrows to Mathis who responded with a thumbs up. They crouched low and prepared for expulsion. 600 meters was a lot to cover. In the vacuum, they would cover it quickly, but it still be would be dangerous. Grantas held his hand over the hatch release then punched the button.

They shot out of the hull directly toward the cold barrel of the empty ship’s engines. There was little debris around the ship.

“Applying jets now,” Grantas said calmly.

“Applying jets,” Mathis repeated.

Their suits began pulsing air to slow their approach and adjust their trajectory. Another thirty seconds passed and they landed within the domed engine pads. Two large holes lay ahead of them. One was the designed propulsion release. The other was obvious damage to the ship.

Grantas opened his comms. “Damage within the engine walls. Possible critical failure to propulsion.”

“Take it slow,” Brun’s voice called into their ears, “We don’t know what could be aboard.”

They entered the damaged area. The engines were cold.

“There’s no way this thing is moving again,” Mathis said.

“Engines dead. Damage irreparable. I’d get that wrecker crew on standby sir.”

“Confirmed. I’ll make the call once you give the all clear.”

Grantas and Mathis moved through the hull and into the innards of the ship. They cleared each floor of the living quarters and found no one.

“No atmosphere in the living quarters.” Grantas checked-in.

“Confirmed.”

“Make your way to the bridge and find a blueprint of this vessel. I’d like a designation if possible,” Brun said.

“Yes sir.”

They moved to the bridge. They found no atmosphere there either. Mathis tried a screen but there was no power. He popped a panel and looked inside.

“No go,” he told Grantas.

“Please confirm.”

“No power,” Grantas said. He pulled a small unit from his suit and hooked it up to what he guessed was the main display. “I’m using a portable to see if we can pull some data.”

“Proceed.” Brun said over the comms as Grantas finished connecting the unit and powered on the display.

“All escape pods have jettisoned. Distress signal was…disabled.”

“Confirm. You said disabled?”

“Correct sir.”

“I don’t like it,” Brun said, “Let’s wrap this up. Is there a weapons bay?”

“Yes. Centrally located. Looks like we passed it on our way here.”

“Confirm any atomic designations and get back to the ship.”

“Yes sir.”

They descended into the belly of the ship. They entered the armory. Grantas’s heart sank as the chamber extended beyond the lights of his suit in all directions.

“I don’t like this.” Mathis said over the local comm channel.

“Neither do I. Lets check the perimeter and don’t lose visuals. Make sure you set way-points so we can get an accurate reading. Then we can make ensure we search the entire area.”

They walked for thirty minutes before they came across their first munition box. It was six feet in length, three feet wide, and three tall. They unlatched and lifted the lid. Grantas hadn’t thought his luck could turn worse. Inside was a designation two atomic missile.

“Atomic weapon confirmed,” he commed, then signaled for Mathis to continue their search.

“Atomics confirmed. How many Lieutenant?”

“Sir” Mathis called out. Even over the comms Grantas could tell it was hushed. He made his way over to where Mathis was standing in front of another munitions box. Another was a few feet further. They followed the growing trail toward the center of the room where they discovered mountain.

“Oh my god.”

“Confirm Lieutenant. How many Atomics?”

“Commander. If I tell you to leave us behind, I want you to warp to the nearest weapons facility.”

“What going on in there?”

“It’s a World Eater.”

“Dear God.” Brun’s words were so quiet Grantas nearly didn’t hear them. “Get out of there immediately.”

Atop the mountain consisting of hundreds of atomic missiles was resting the head of a creature. It’s jaw extended into the darkness beyond the range of their suit lights. Grantas and Mathis slowly backed away from the creature as if their silent footsteps would wake it from its hibernation.

“If we detonated those missiles-,” Mathis began as they finally made it back to the door, but Grantas cut him off.

“Those things are drawn to radiation. They thrive off of it. If we detonated even one of those, let alone hundreds, it would only make it stronger. Our best option is to return with enough firepower, draw it out of this husk of a ship away from those things, and kill it.”

They moved as fast as Grantas deemed safe. They made it to the engine pads and jumped, blasting their propulsion gear to its max speed. They were halfway to their ship when Grantas saw another ship appear at the edge of his vision. It’s deep orange color and geometrical design immediately designated it as an enemy ship. Three more appeared, each twice the size of their own ship.

“Sir,” Grantas called.

“We see them Lieutenant. Notify me when you’re on board. We can’t win this fight.”

Mathis reached the hull first and opened the hatch. He entered and waited for Grantas.

“Maybe we don’t even have to fight this one,” Grantas said. He reached the hatch and closed it.

“On board,” Mathis relayed.

“What’re you suggesting?” Brun asked.

“Fire at the World Eater.”

“Are you insane Lieutenant?”

“Fire at the World Eater. Once we see movement from it, we warp to the nearest facility and prepare to return. Let them fight that thing while we make ready. With any luck, they take each other out.”

“But if they somehow do manage to kill it. They will have…what did you say? Hundreds of atomic missiles?”

“It’s our only chance sir.”

Grantas looked through the small window of the hatch as the enemy ships approached. They would all be dead once they got in range. He almost sighed in relief when he saw a projectile fire from the bridge. It headed straight for the abandoned ship, impacting near the engines. A few seconds later, the World Eater burst forth. Grantas barely caught a glimpse of it before his view turned black as his ship entered warp speed.

 

Arithmetic

Luke laid down on the couch with a sigh. He waited a few seconds then began.

“It all feels like a constant countdown, you know? Like I’m constantly calculating how much time I have before I have to be at work next, or how much time before I should go to sleep so I can get a decent amount of sleep before I have to work. I even calculate the hours I have free or try to guess how long an obligation is going to take. I’m constantly figuring my life into blocks of time. I know it sounds stupid and doesn’t make much sense, but I feel like I do it in an attempt to get the most out of the time I have for myself. In the end though, I feel like it does the opposite. That I set up an expectation about what time I have and try to figure out if I can fit what I want into that time block. If I can’t, I often give up on that task altogether. Even if that task was something dumb like watching a show. If it’s an hour-long show and I only have an hour, sometimes I don’t watch it because I know I’ll have to go do something else before it ends.

I feel anxious all the time about stupid stuff. When I realize I don’t have the time to do what I want to do, even if it’s just sit down and read, I get sad because I feel like I’m not in control of my life. I feel like everything is constantly tugging at me and I can’t shake it off. Between work, helping my parents, my relationship, yard work, hanging out with friends, even talking to you sometimes feels like too much, which is absurd. I talk to you because I do feel better afterwards and things don’t seem so glib, but I’m always trying to figure out what is happening next. What should I be doing besides what I’m doing right now? I’m doing it right now. I’m thinking I should not be laying on this couch talking to you, and that instead I should be cutting the grass or catching up with someone I haven’t hung out with in a while. This all seems crazy. Right?”

He heard a few clicks behind him and waited. A second passed and he felt the need to fill the silence so he continued.

“I mean. That isn’t normal is it? At the same time, I feel like it is. Everyone is constantly trying to fit more in their schedule. They are always connected. Looking at their phones. Checking all the notifications. That’s another thing too. Sometimes I feel like I have to check my social media so I don’t miss anything. I’ll always answer texts as quickly as I can. But that’s another thing. I feel like I don’t hang out with my friends that much anymore. Yeah, we talk sometimes on the phone and text a lot, but we don’t meet up like we used too. I understand the few that have babies now and that takes up a lot of time, but it should be easier, right? I mean, there is only so much you can do with a baby. It just sits there. Why can’t it sit there while we hang out?”

He paused. This time there were three clicks, but still no answer. He sighed again.

“Maybe it’s just that I’m getting old,” he said, “Maybe I feel like I should have accomplished more by now. I know what you’ll say. That I shouldn’t compare my accomplishments to others, but I can’t help it. I have dreams, but I can’t find the time to work on them. Maybe it’s because I don’t really want to. Or that I’m afraid to fail. Or even because it’s simpler to have the dream and think about than to actually do it. And what happens once you achieve that dream? Then you have to come up with another one. Doesn’t that seem weird? Wouldn’t it be easier to just not have one? To just live life with no aspirations and enjoy where you are and in the moment? But that would just be existing, and I can’t just sit there and do nothing. Yeah, TV and video games can help pass the time, but you don’t get any real feeling of accomplishment from those. I’m not going to wake up one day and think ‘Man, I was really good at that one game. I totally nailed that match that I won online against a stranger,’ you know? That stranger could have been a little kid. I’d never know, but I’d think it and then get sad because then I’d believe that I beat a little kid at a video game. Who would feel proud of that?

Sorry. I got a bit off topic there. What were we talking about? I guess it doesn’t really matter,” he sighed, “I just get so stressed out. I know it’s about dumb, small things too, which makes me stress about stressing out. I appreciate you letting me vent. It does make me feel better just to get this stuff off my chest.”

He looked over and into the eyes of a beagle. The dog placed one paw on Luke’s shoulder as he laid on the couch and shuffled, clicking its nails against the hardwood floor. Luke smiled. “Thanks buddy. You want to go for a walk?” The beagle’s tail started wagging. Luke got up and grabbed the leash.

They went outside and walked for an hour. The entire time they were out, he never once thought about anything he’d said on the couch. He simply enjoyed the sun setting on the horizon and the fresh air. He was able to forget about time altogether. He enjoyed the calm and quiet of the twilight hours. He let himself forget about everything, despite knowing it would all be there again tomorrow.

 

A New Life

Humans often speculated the meaning of their existence. They knew life on the planet had begun in the form of plants and fish and smaller mammals. Life itself was pondered by many humans because it seemed near unfathomable that they were the result of extreme chance; of being on a planet that held an atmosphere and was the perfect distance from a star whose orbit did not deviate enough to prevent conditions that encouraged life. This chance, however great, created a rift between many, causing humanity to segregate itself into different sects of ideology. However, all of them were correct in a way that neither could comprehend. They were allowed to grow and populate the planet because the planet itself allowed it. The human population grew and grew until it reached ten billion inhabitants. It was around this time when the tremors began.

Earthquakes became consistent. After the first year, when the earthquakes grew in frequency, many governments dedicated teams to study the cause of them and provide insight into the changes the planet was undergoing. Arthur Denali was recruited by the Chilean government to study the earthquakes and provide insight as to how they might alter the nations landscape. The main concern centered on how the quakes would impact the mining industry.

Arthur took the job for several reasons. He had been studying earthquakes for over ten years and knew his field, he needed the money to support his two young boys who were both starting their teenage years, and he was genuinely interested in what was causing the quakes themselves. He was certain there was a cause, and he wanted to find it first.

Leon and Christian were on the couch watching the game when Arthur walked in. They were sharing a bag of chips and never tore their eyes away from the screen.

“Did either of you make dinner?” he asked. Leon shook his head without looking away from the game. Arthur sighed, put his bag in a chair, and turned on the stove. He grabbed a pot and a pan and made a simple pasta with meat sauce. When he was done, he divvied the meal onto three plates and took two of them to the boys.

“The last one to finish does the dishes,” he said before returning and grabbing his own plate. They tore into the food, occasionally eyeing each other’s plates as they raced to finish. Arthur watched the game while he slowly picked at his own plate.

“Done!” Leon yelled and slammed the plate down on the coffee table.

“There are still noodles on your plate,” Christian objected.

Arthur pretended to look over their shoulders before saying, “Sorry Christian. He finished first.”

“But…” The younger boy began and turned toward Arthur with sad eyes that were growing too old to draw much empathy.

“You can wait until after the match,” Arthur said. Christian smiled and turned back to the game.

Arthur finished his plate then grabbed his computer before sitting down in the chair next to his boys. He opened the laptop and logged into an international database established to share information regarding the earthquakes and speculate the cause of their increasing frequency. Arthur primarily logged in as an observer. He rarely posted more than the day’s readings at his location. He scanned the readings from other parts of the world hoping something would come together from the information. After gathering what he could, he set up his seismometer and settled in to watch the final twenty minutes of the match with his boys.


 

The rumbling woke him. He sat up and looked around for Leon and Christian. The later opened the door of their room letting Arthur breathe before turning his attention to the seismometer. This quake had been greater than any previous ones. It stopped after nearly three minutes. He scanned the readout. It had maxed at 6.0. As he began his calculations to predict the next cycle, he was surprised by another quake. This one was softer, measuring in at 5.4, but also lasted nearly three minutes.

“What’s happening dad?” Leon asked, more curious than scared.

“I’m not sure,” he answered. The quakes had never been back-to-back before. They were consistent but spread out over several hours. If his new calculations using the previous time-frame and the new data was correct, the next one would come in roughly four hours. He packed his equipment and loaded the car. He returned and gave the boys his usual speech. Go to school, do your homework, clean up the kitchen, and try to make dinner that was more than simply chips. When he left, another quake occurred. He kept his eye on his watch as he waited until it was over. It lasted three minutes and had happened only forty-five minutes after the previous two. A second quake followed, just like earlier, and his phone rang as the trembles subsided.

“Yeah,” Arthur answered. “I know, I know….Yeah….It may be too soon to tell….Tell you what,” he pulled out his notes from the morning quakes and looked them over, “If we get another round….Yeah, two in a row….Yeah….If we get two more in the next hour, let’s call it….Okay?….Okay.” He hung up.

“Everything all right dad?” Christian called from the doorway.

“We will see,” he saw the concern in Christian’s face, “Go pack a bag and tell your brother to do the same. You two can come with me today.”

“What about school?” Christian said, trying to act genuinely concerned about missing his education and failing miserably.

“You can skip today.”

Before Arthur finished his sentence, Christian had bolted back inside the house. Arthur packed extra provisions for a worst-case scenario that he couldn’t shake out of his head.

The boys had loaded into the car and Arthur was driving toward the office when the quakes began again. Again, there were two, lasting three minutes each with a five-minute pause between them. Arthur’s phone rang.

“Yeah…Yeah…Okay.” He spun the car around and headed toward the ocean. After an hour, they were safe from any areas at risk of landslides. His phone rang again and he answered it. “Denali……what do you mean underground?………..Okay, okay, send me the coordinates and I’ll meet you there.” He dropped the phone in the cup holder and adjusted his course yet again.

“Dad…” Leon started from the backseat.

“Everything’s okay,” Arthur cut him off. He was too panicked to worry about lying and he didn’t want either of them to know how worried he really was.

They drove for hours. The rumbling of the quakes stayed consistent but increased in magnitude. Arthur had Leon pull out the seismometer and place it in the empty seat. Taking readings in a moving car skewed the results, but it provided Arthur with the information he needed. The quakes were increasing gradually. The last one had been a 6.8 give or take a few decimals for the road conditions.

The steady frequency of the quakes gave people an expectation and allowed their fears to subside a little. Many had gathered out in open areas. Only a few had packed up and gotten on the road. Arthur weaved through them on his way to a place he’d never been. The sky was growing dim when they pulled up to the gates. It was still midday, but dark clouds filled the sky. Two guards approached Arthur and asked for identification. He provided his badge the government had issued him and they let them through. He drove into a hangar and they were all then escorted into a small transit car that took them below into a bunker.

Arthur was greeted by his boss who walked him down a hall. They passed a series of glass windows and Arthur saw the president sitting with a group of men in heated discussion.

“Was that-”

“The president? Yeah. They brought him here this morning after the second set. I need you to give me updated after each grouping. They have been consistent so far. Your boys can stay with you. In fact, they won’t be allowed outside the room.” Arthur was led into a room full of equipment. “Use this phone,” his boss showed him an old landline receiver, ” to contact me.” Then he left.

Arthur surveyed the room and rolled up his sleeves. “Leon. Look after Christian. Don’t leave this room.” He bent down and placed a hand on each boy’s shoulder. “Everything’s going to be okay.” He pulled them in for a hug.

He ran from machine to machine for the next several hours, calling his boss after every set of quakes. The quakes were growing stronger. The last set registered at 7.6. They were also beginning to grow in frequency. Arthur predicted the next wave would come in seventeen minutes. His boss came in twenty-three minutes later when the next wave subsided.

“Arthur,” he said, “It’s over.”

“What’s over?”

“Everything. The president called a national emergency four hours ago urging everyone to get below ground. The first volcano erupted two hours ago, since then-”

“Volcano?”

“Yeah. There have been hundreds, maybe even thousands, erupting all over the globe. Spewing ash and gas into the atmosphere. No one can survive outside. The earth is cracking to pieces and-”

“Hold on,” Arthur stopped him. He grabbed papers from all around him, scanning the information, processing the meaning within it. He was on the edge of understanding what it all meant. Then it clicked. “Oh my god,” he whispered. He looked at his boys.

“Arthur! What is it?” his boss nearly yelled as the next set of quakes began.

“They’re not earthquakes,” Arthur said, “They’re heartbeats.”

Breaking Free

They sat on a cloud and watched the city below. Each hugging their knees to their chests. Connie was thirteen. His body, however, was twenty-six with strong muscles, short but shaggy hair, and crystal blue eyes. Beneath the stained shirt and patch-worked jeans was deeply tanned skin littered with scars. He was born for labor in the metal factories and had been doing so for eleven years knowing nothing else. He met Brendan by chance.

Brendan was a year younger. Twelve years old, but biologically her body was twenty-two, and male. She had strong muscles made for heavy lifting. Her skin was pale due to working the night shift loading ships headed off-world. She first saw Connie by chance after her work day ended. She was exhausted and making her way back to her room when she was him heading toward the shipyards. He had just woken up, hair disheveled, and groggily walking through Lexington Park. His eyes were what caught her attention. They seemed sad, but also caring. She knew him in that moment to be someone who longed for a connection. Just as she had.

For the next three weeks, she would come to call him “the boy with blue eyes” because she was too afraid to approach him. She would linger in the park after her shifts see him. He always walked the same path and his hair always seemed to be disheveled in the same pattern. He would also have a burrito hanging out of his mouth most days. She almost believed him to be a machine like the rest of the population did. Bred for a purpose and treated like property. Not born but grown. But she knew his habits were his own despite being trained and regulated at every moment, because she was created his equal. She had her own habits outside of her parameters.

Her walk home had slowly changed course the previous weeks to coincide with his, albeit in reverse. Two men. One walking away from a hard day’s work, the other walking toward one.

“Hi,” she said in a voice she always hated. It was deep. Fitting for her body, but torture for her self.

“Hey,” Connie replied.

The interaction was brief as they quickly passed and headed toward their destinations. Brendan went home and thought about it the remainder of the night. Connie worked his ten-hour shift then went home to bed.

They repeated their hellos the remainder of the week. The next day started the weekend and the park had a few more citizens around in the morning when they passed each other yet again. Brendan’s body grew less exhausted as she saw Connie come into view.

“Hi,” she said, her voice a tad higher from her excitement.

“Hey,” Connie said. Then, just before they passed, he stopped. “What’s your name?”

Brendan almost continued but her surprise halted her stride. “Me?”

“Yeah, I’ve been seeing you a lot lately. Seems only right to know your name.”

“I’m Brendan,” she said. Her heart threatening to rise further into her throat and prevent further speech.

“Connie,” he said and extended a hand.

“Nice…nice to meet you.”


 

They’d perfected their routine within a few weeks. Every morning they could spend one hour together before their monitors warned them of breaking curfew. Connie would often have to sprint to work while Brendan wandered to her small cube. The room was the same as every other workers. Furnished with only a bed, a microwave, and a small screen in the ceiling. She hadn’t turned hers on since meeting Connie.

She would wake up a little early to meet up with Connie as he got off work. They would spend an hour together, just talking, before their monitors called them away. They tried not to talk about work, which was hard at first as it defined their lives, but they soon began asking more intimate questions. Learning each other’s quirks. The things that set them apart from the thousands of other workers that lived hidden in the city. Forced to their cubes when not working except for the trips in between.

They found the cloud a few days after they noticed the citizens eyeing them. During the week, the park was usually empty, but on weekends a handful citizens decided to enjoy the small patch of nature. The only one within one hundred miles of the coast. The cloud was an older installment meant to increase use of the park. It was a novelty that died quickly, but it became their safe haven. They would rise into the cloud and sit for their stolen hour before returning to the ground and parting ways.

They grew close. Shared secrets they didn’t know they had. Desires destined to go unfulfilled. Connie wanted to learn music. Brendan wanted to travel off world. Every night, she loaded ships with containers. Never knowing what was in them, but knowing it was something valued more than she was. Meant for people who lived lives above the labor she performed. She wanted to go out into the universe with what little time she had left. She contemplated hiding in a container but knew she would be found and returned if not retired.

“You could do it you know.”

“Do what?” she asked.

“Get off world. Find a life out there somewhere.”

“I’d be lucky to make it five minutes before getting caught.”

“But what if you weren’t?”

“You know how to get these off, smart guy?” she asked, lifting the monitor.

“I have a few ideas.” He said it jokingly, but a seriousness settled with the words.

“Real funny,” Brendan said. She tried to force a laugh but Connie’s face stopped her. “You’re serious?”

“I’ve been sneaking shards of metal from the yard-”

“You know what they’ll do if they catch you.”

“Just listen. There is more for us outside of these.” This time Connie lifted his monitor. “We may have been bred to work, but there is a life out there we could live. Even if they caught us in five years, ten, or even one, it would be better to than staying here until they throw us away. Any amount of time away from this life is worth it.”

Brendan agreed with everything Connie was saying, but she realized she valued his life too much when weighed against the risks.

“Think about it,” he continued, “We could build something for ourselves. We have to give ourselves this chance. You’re the only family I’ll ever have. You’re like a brother to me.”

He’d been holding these feelings back from her. Now that he had finally said them, he seemed more open about the idea and spoke freely as the weight lifted from him. She noticed how he grew more animated, but the weight he threw off had crushed her. Suppressed her own weight that she struggled with. Solidified the fears that prevented her from speaking her own feelings. From telling him her truth.

“What do you say?” he asked.

“I say…. it’s risky.”

He looked at her, waiting for an answer.

“But…” she finally added, “not impossible. We would need to plan it very carefully.”


 

Everything was in place. Connie would remove his monitor while in his cube where it would look like he was sleeping. Then he would meet Brendan as she finished her shift. She would have two containers ready with the necessary supplies to survive the deep space travel in the crates. He would remove her monitor and place it along her usual route home to reduce suspicion before they took off. Her monitor would get noticed once the two-hour time limit passed and she wasn’t back in her cube.

Connie arrived as planned and Brendan had him climb in the crate she’d placed out of sight of the other workers and foreman. She sealed it and carried it onto the ship. She loaded two more crates before grabbing her own. She stacked it on top of the field of supplies and hopped in during a brief moment when no one was looking. She sealed the crate as best she could from the inside and hoped no one noticed her absence.

A half hour passed before she heard the ship bay doors closing. The containers vibrated slightly as the engines came to life and an excitement flourished within her stomach and chest. She let it escape into a smile as she lay in the dark. She smiled despite the immense fear still gripping her. The fear that someone would open her crate and find her indiscretion. Find her trapped within the small space that was her entire life. She smiled through the fear at the life she was dreaming in that moment.

Former Strangers

The rattling faded away into nothing as Gerard finished his third drink. He’d never been fond of traveling, but he found the train entirely tolerable with a tumbler of whiskey. It helped him relax and let his worries fade away as well.

Gerard preferred to travel in solitude. He’d found an empty cabin and pulled out a book to distract him further. The luxury of his loneliness was lost when a woman entered his cabin. He was miffed she hadn’t asked his permission but didn’t want to invite conversation so remained silent. He stole glances from behind his book. She paid no attention to him and he began to resent silence.

“Who are you?” he finally asked, putting his book down.

She smiled. For better or worse, Gerard found himself smiling back. Silence was no longer an option, and he was surprised to find he preferred it that way.