Day 723

There are two Possibilities. One; humans have given up after a nuclear war killed half the planet, in return, those without money either succumb to the trash or sort it. Two; humans have abandoned Earth, took to their spaceships and gone on the journey to their new planet.

Thea Alderson has a reluctant foot in each one, tasked with the notion of slowly losing her mind in the first, and an invisible, intergalactic foe in the second.

One thing is clear, however; when humanity is involved, nothing is ever easy.

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20. Protests

 

Chapter Twenty - Protests

Possibility Two

 

Daniel was adamant that he wanted to cook when they all returned to the MJ. He chopped vegetables with a certain kind of viciousness and tossed them in the pan with a distracted mind. His hands shook as he ladled noodles and vegetables into bowls, and he slopped more than he usually would have.

They ate in heavy silence.

“I don’t want to want to talk about what I saw, I’ll need time, but I’ll be alright,” Daniel said and filled his mouth with food. Thea didn’t miss the way his hands went to the marks on the back of his neck because she was tempted to do the same.

Marlene washed the dishes when they were finished, her sleeves rolled to her elbows and soap suds covering her skin. “If I had known that they were treating you two rooms away I would have done something. Anything.”

Eddie scoffed and coughed when Thea sent a look his way.

“I’m sorry, I got caught up in it all. They had me doing soil samples for the tether and the debris going into the atmosphere to see what effect the Nothingness had on it. I let science dictate my brain.”

“Its okay Marlene, we forgive you. This planet has torn us apart,” Thea asserted and led the shook girl back over to the table. When they sat they held each other’s hands, Thea’s gripping onto Daniel’s wrist with delicate fingers. His hand barely touched Eddie’s and the fingers fidgeted slightly. “We need to come together and come up with a plan.”

“We need to get off this planet,” Eddie grumbled, gulping and looking at his crewmates. "This planet is certainly different to what humans thought it was going to be; it's not safe for us."

Thea knew that they all looked sickly, gaunt and horrible. Even when Marlene hadn’t been physically touched the realisation of what she had been doing, and who she had trusted, had all been terribly wrong. Since the Proxima drugs had been flushed out of their system they had to rely on their own concoctions and the results were less efficient than they needed.

“We can’t,” Marlene whispered, looking up from the table, “Giles and Soma have tracked the Nothingness meticulously, it’s still there, if we leave the atmosphere we’ll become victims.”

“At this point, I’m willing to take our chances,” Daniel muttered, whatever he had seen had shaken him to the very core and even when the light caught on his eyes they seemed haunted.

Marlene smiled grimly, a mere lift of lips as she tapped Thea’s hand, “The Nothingness is in a constant state of flux, becoming unstable and stable at certain points. When it is stable it is attracted to Element 119 and when it is unstable it destroys it. The more elements it consumes the more stable it becomes but Element 119 is an exception to this. Soe figured it out, its why Soma is so obsessed with it.” She rushed off, breaking the circle of hands, to retrieve her notebook. “I think Giles and Soma are partially wrong and that the Nothingness may be attracted to Silipoma, the second most abundant element in Proxima’s crust. All areas it has become the most stable at has had this element. Either way, maximum saturation stands at eighty per cent Sacrivium, we currently stand at sixty-four.”

“Surely too much of the element would be disastrous, even if our planet increased its oxygen levels, combustion and temperature increases would be more likely?” Eddie proposed, watching Marlene’s laps with interest.

Thea looked at Daniel who had his head tipped back to the ceiling, his eyes shut. His silence was telling, and she rubbed her thumb across his wrist. He opened his eyes and looked just like he had in a Richer City building; vulnerable and needy. She smiled and blinked; the Daniel she knew came back to her with a grin.

Marlene rushed to the drawers built in the walls and removed a marker pen. She held the lid in her teeth as she wrote on the surface of the table, maths equations and chemical symbols overtaking the wood. Thea didn’t have a hope of distinguishing them, but Eddie craned his head in interest. The pen lid was placed in her other hand when she needed to speak.

“Oxygen takes the next abundant at ten per cent, all other elements pale in comparison to the top three, oxygen is highly reactive with high concentrations of 119. It’s why Proxima has to rely on Sacrivium to ease their respiration rates so they use it but do not produce it as we do. They can combine in certain circumstances to produce Sacrivium-oxide but that’s dangerous, providing concentrations of gas, almost like our carbon monoxide.”

“And that’s not even factoring in what would happen when the Nothingness makes contact with the planet,” Eddie said and they both paled.

“Either way death is to be expected, I just doubt Soma cares,” Daniel finally inputted, balancing his head on his hands. “She’s doing it for the Greater Good.”

They all sat back in their chairs, relying heavily on the wood to support them. They no longer felt comfortable with Soma and even the small distance to her house made them shudder.

“Sorry to interrupt my crew but we have a news alert,” Helix began, and a hologram glistened over the surface of the table. It was a newsreel, a Nocta Prima presenter holding a clipboard and saying words without a translator. Helix provided subtitles across the bottom as he converted the words into English. The conflict and wariness over humans had been debated with the government and with the revelation of the Sacrivium experiments the Nocta Prima wanted them off the planet. There was an order that if the humans did not leave quietly and peacefully; force would be used to achieve whatever necessary.

“This is bad,” Thea whistled, bracing her hands against the table.

They watched as mobs formed and signs were constructed. The Nocta Prima knew where they were, and they were coming for them.

The hologram looped back and flickered, “There is also Bulkhead and Nala at the door, requesting entry.” The hologram was quickly replaced with the camera footage from the front door. Bulkhead looked behind himself nervously and watched his wife pick her nails.

“Why would we gain you entry after what your bosses have done to us?” Thea said as Helix opened up communications between them.

Bulkhead scowled at the camera as it swivelled towards him, “Because as a part of the Milit I know what kind of force they have behind them. That plus citizen support and the mob would carry your ship off like it was a pebble.”

“It’s in your best interests to let us in, isn’t that what humans lean towards?” Nala said, “We have a safe location where none of us will be detected. Everyone is protected; everyone wins.”

“You lied to us, abducted and experimented on us and you expect us to follow you?” Eddie inputted, “How stupid do you think we are?”

Nala rolled her eyes and turned away, “I don’t personally care if you’re carried away, but Soma needs you if you don’t comply we shoot you down anyway. Your choice,” she nodded at Bulkhead who shouldered two energy charges and as he turned there were two more strapped to his back.

They couldn’t escape the atmosphere and they couldn’t stay there either. There was only one safe location. Thea sighed.

“I know its not ideal, but we may have to,” she said as she leaned away from the communicator. She looked at Daniel and as Marlene and Eddie shouted their protests he kept quiet and nodded his head.

“Wherever we go we’ll be hunted on an association with them,” Daniel inputted, and Thea sharply looked at him, “If they know the only safe location and shouldn’t we go there? I’m not saying we trust them, but we need to save our own skins just as much as they need to save theirs.”

“All in favour of letting them in say aye,” Thea decided, and it was a half and half split, “We settle this with rock, paper, scissors then,” she said and both she and Eddie lined up, slapping their fists against their palms. She chose paper. He chose rock.

Thea nodded, “Helix, let them in the outer chamber, seal the doors from there and don’t let them into the main deck,” she ordered. When the order was carried out she exited her chair and made her way to the sealed doors near the entrance.

“This is what is going to happen,” Thea commanded, watching the two Nocta Prima. Up close they looked even more exaggerated compared to the visual feeds they had gotten from Helix. “You’re going to give us the coordinates for the safe base and we’ll drive there ourselves. I’m not trusting you two anywhere near the controls and for the time being, you’ll stay here until we arrive, is that clear?”

Bulkhead’s apendi flares, all three of his eyes bulging as he took a step farther. But it was Nala who slapped her hands onto the door, her robes twisting around her as she stood braced on the glass.

“Who do you think you are? You are just a human who–“

“I may be human, but your group of mad scientists abducted half of our crew and experimented on us without our permission. You are in no position to order us around and last time I checked you are not the boss of us,” Thea said with her hands on her hips. She was the boss around here, on her own ship, and the Nocta Prima was not going to intimidate her.

They said no more to her, consulting each other with their familiar hand gestures. They seemed to be battling with one another before they came to a decision. Bulkhead was the one who told her the coordinates, “Helix, Eddie you got that?” Thea asked to the ceiling and when it was confirmed turned back to the cockpit.

She settled herself back into the pilot's chair, her team around her as they lifted off from the landing pad they had been assigned. Proxima was different from the air, and although they didn’t go as high as they could of, just high enough to be above the clouds, everything looked innocuous and small from up above.

That was until something fired at them.

“That’ll be the defence sector!” Bulkhead shouted from his containment.

“Why don’t you help us then and fire your own charges out of the port!” Thea ordered and out of the side of her eye she saw him curse and fire his gun through the window Helix had opened. Nala meanwhile took the other charge and started firing at the door.

“Stupid humans,” she muttered and gave up when the doors held, choosing to help her husband shoot out of the window. Bulkhead was disobeying his profession and his support to Soma and their cause held strong, impossibly strong.

There were pulses of blue and green charge, as the energy blasts, and she gritted her teeth as she took the wheel and jerked it sharply. They pinwheeled for a moment, Eddie typing away at programming and shouting orders at Helix as their shields came up and their invisibility fields activated.

“This is not a good time to hurl, not a good time,” Daniel was repeating to himself in the back, holding on to his stomach over the seat belt.

“If you hurl aim away from me,” Marlene groaned, holding onto her own stomach.

“I’ll aim for you specifically.”

The ship barrel rolled and sped, looping and descending until the charges reduced and died. They were hit by one or two, the frame of the MJ trembling under its weight but the forcefield held strong. When they were in a space of free air the crew exhaled in relief.

They docked near a beach house and the two Nocta Prima were out of the doors as soon as they opened. Soma greeted them at the door, her grin dissipating when she saw the frustrated looks on her two companions, twisting even further when Nala brushed past her.

“Welcome, you’ll be safe here,” Soma said, directing them into the house. It was large, too large for them all, but half of the rooms had been converted into laboratories and studies, Giles exited one which had floor to ceiling posters and drawings tacked on the walls.

“I thought we were safe in our last base,” Marlene muttered angrily, getting settled in the main room, drawing a blanket around her shoulders to beat the chill that came from being so heavily on Nola.

“I get that you’re angry with me…” she trailed off, stepping back when Marlene suddenly stood from her place on the couch.

“Angry with you? I’m livid, not only did you capture my friends, use my brain to add to your mad scheme, but what your suggesting is absolutely diabolical. Did you know that whatever you’re going to do is most likely to emit gas and kill those it comes into contact with, even cause mass fires?” When Marlene was angry, she was angry and only serious matters could set her off. It was her flaw of being too trusting that made people take advantage of her.

When Soma didn’t move, along with the other three Nocta Prima, the thought was confirmed. They knew the risks. They knew about the possibility of genocide.

“God, I don’t know why I liked you,” Marlene muttered.

“Because you like everyone,” Daniel murmured and smirked as Marlene glared at him.

“Sometimes I don’t like you.”

The Nocta Prima tried to talk to the humans for the rest of the night, but they sat on the couch, huddled together in solidarity. They listened and watched as Helix showed visual feeds from across the globe, the holograms demonstrating widespread panic. The government wanted to find them but also locate the sect and arrest them. They wanted to wait for the Great Silence.

In the background, they could hear the Nocta Prima discuss their next moves. Nala shouted that she didn’t want to go back to the docking station, but Bulkhead talked her down. She would go there, hijack it and emit a charge of elements into the atmosphere to attract the Nothingness back to them. By the time it came close enough, the planet would be at maximum saturation, Soma planting and distributing the liquid Sacrivium into the soils and waterways.

Marlene scoffed as she realised what she had helped them do, her own soil samples only methods of trial and error for them. “How could I have been so stupid?” she cried, sinking her head in between the pillows.

“That’s human error, we all do it, don’t beat yourself up about it,” Thea assured her as she carded her fingers through Daniel’s hair. He had finally slept, and although he murmured Harry’s name in between breaths, he did not scream or cry out.

“At least you realised before you could push us all away,” Eddie gruffly intoned, “We’re better together than apart.”

Thea had to agree with him.

There was officially a countdown ticking down above her and the hands of times worked against her. They didn’t have long. They may as well spend their last few hours together and Thea knew that they would go back to their ship, the only place that they recognised as home.

She slept fitfully, feeling her crew move around her. But they all woke up when Helix echoed from their wristbands again.

“My systems cannot continue.”

 

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