Disclaimer: This is a free work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. Copyright © 2020 Rhea V. May. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form, by an electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except quoted brief passages in a review, post, article or other pieces of content. This work is intended for mature audiences only (18+).
Terran Prime station—the Ark, 2398 TST
It was time she let go. Even if it wasn’t easy.
So much of her life had been tied to her parents’ death, Luna hardly knew who she was anymore. She became an astrophysicist to follow in both her parents’ footsteps. Accepted the five-year position on the Eye because her father’s journal led her to the Prime station.
She dedicated her entire life to solving the mystery revolving around the death of her parents, to explaining the weird phenomenon that had robbed her of her eyesight.
When she was nine years old, Luna had joined her parents on a trip to the Void, to the research facility built there. But on the way, their private shuttle encountered a weird wave of radiation and all the systems had crashed.
She remembered how scared she’d been, how she clung to her mother. How she screamed at her father when he decided to take a drone and approach to investigate.
Her father had seemed so excited, for reasons unfathomable to young Luna. As a scientist, she understood his behavior better now, the itching curiosity that wouldn’t go away until answers were found.
When he didn’t return to the shuttle, and the comms were lost, her mother took the only other drone to find her husband.
Left Luna alone on the silent, floating shuttle. Clinging to the viewingpane as her eyes tracked her mother’s silver pod.
A bright light flashed, and the shuttle rocked, and Luna passed out from the intense headache.
She woke up, still alone, and unable to see. In the fresh kind of darkness, Luna wailed. Pleaded. Sobbed. Then, bit by bit, broke.
Eventually, other shuttles arrived to investigate the phenomenon and saved Luna. She ended up in her father’s best friend’s care. For a long time, she struggled to overcome the trauma.
She still struggled, she supposed.
Yannis was also the one who arranged for Luna to take part in the medical study, which illegally gifted her with the prosthetics. Though the Enforcers came and shut down the clinic, Luna got a special dispensation and kept her prosthetics.
As a teenager, Luna had found her father’s journal among the rest of their possessions. Since no one had been able to explain what had happened to her parents, or what that white light had been, Luna used the journal as a starting point to her own investigation.
Apparently, her father started working on a new device that would be able to measure the gravitational radiation, using a pulsar’s rotational period. Since the Void’s been theorized to be caused by a quasar’s dispersion, he’d decided the research facility there would be perfect to test out his invention.
While her father had depicted his project in great detail at first, things got fuzzy toward the end. As the project advanced, his records devolved to short and cryptic messages, sometimes not making any sense. He became convinced someone was making copies of his work, trying to steal his project.
Which was stupid, because the improvements his work would bring to the available tech were insignificant, and only his fellow scientists would find any value in the invention.
There were no great profits to be made, so why would anyone care?
The last entry, the one Luna remembered word for word, said: My wife keeps bugging me to go to the Void. But I cannot. Not before the Eye. If what I believe is true… that truth changes everything.
But Luna knew her parents had never made a trip to the Prime, a fact confirmed by VALID’s records. And how could this decrepit station change anything?
This was what she came here to find out. To no avail. She found nothing, and was getting tired of constantly looking.
She felt like all she’d done was waste time.
In a way, she’d died there too, trapped in that shuttle. For certain, she never truly lived afterward.
Until now. Biting her lower lip to stop the smile from spreading, and pressing a palm to her stomach to stifle the squirmy butterflies, Luna opened the door.
Kalon, who was bent over one of his precious Kalthera, turned around and gave her a shocked look. His lips parted, but no sound came out.
“Hey,” she greeted him in a giddy voice.
Kalon shook his head, his dazed expression slowly shifting to disbelief. “Luna. What are you doing here?”
Oh. She’d expected his surprise, but this was… different. He sounded almost accusing. “I… um. I wanted to let you know I’m back from the Prime and… I mean, we have two more days of research, per our agreement…”
Kalon’s entire frame stiffened; even his tail stood in a straight line at his back. At her words, his expression morphed to something akin to awe. “You came back,” he whispered. Then he shook himself and cleared his throat. “Well, good. There’s a lot of work to be done. But… I’m happy you’re here, Luna, truly.”
“You thought I won’t return to your lab? What the hell, Kalon? Research or not, I’d like to think we’re friends. So, of course I’d at least visit.”
He shrugged, looking away. “I know I’m not the easiest to be around.”
Frowning, Luna denied his words with a brisk shake of her head. “I like being around you,” she declared. Was the burly Rakh’Sha blushing?
“Same,” he stammered, turning to fiddle with one of the Kalthera habitats.
Biting her lip again, this time for entirely different reasons, Luna went over her decision one more time. She supposed she’d been a bit impulsive when she’d packed up her stuff. And given her attraction to Kalon, it probably wasn’t the best idea. But she squared her shoulders and dragged the hovercart inside.
“Well, in that case… Hi, roomie.”
The pad fell from Kalon’s grasp and he tripped over his feet as he turned to her abruptly. “What?” He gaped at the hovercart, piled high with her possessions.
Snorting at his expression, Luna hurried to explain. “I checked with Coltram if it would be okay to continue my work from your lab. And he gave his permission. Since I know you have a second cabin in your living quarters, I figured it would also be easier if I moved here altogether,” she finished, gesturing to the side door leading to the lab’s small apartment.
Kalon blinked, but remained silent, his features frozen. Okay. She might have pushed too far.
“I’m sorry, Kalon. I… realize now I took this decision without consulting you first. And—“
“No. It’s fine,” he said quickly.
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to feel pressured. Or invaded.”
Kalon shrugged. “It’s change and I don’t like change. But… I’ll deal with it. I’m just surprised you’re taking my research so seriously.”
After that, Kalon exploded into a flurry of activity, helping Luna carry her things to the cabin, and clearing a desk near his own station. Luna kept peeking at him from the corner of her eyes, trying to assure herself he wasn’t downplaying his discomfort, but he seemed content.
“So, how have you fared during the solar storm?” she asked him after they finished.
“How have I fared? How have you been? I heard there was a black alert on the Eye. And Commander Corvald notified everyone to start using their Bio-Sigs with the comms.”
“Yeah… it was weird. I don’t know why the black alert has been issued. All I know is that the whole thing was very hush-hush. And that the Commander and his CSO and CTO were in meetings afterward almost non stop. There are some rumors, but nothing official yet.”
“I haven’t heard anything either,” Kalon said. “Nor been called to attend a CC meeting.”
As Head to the biology department, Kalon should have known more. Strange. Luna hummed, then dismissed the whole thing with a shrug. They fell silent after, Kalon fiddling with his plants, and Luna transferring her work files to the console on her desk.
When she looked up a while later, the blood froze in her veins. She might have made a sound, for Kalon startled and turned to look at her. “Luna? What’s wrong?” he asked.
“What is that?” she demanded, abandoning her seat, and approaching his console in a daze.
Her eyes trailed over the familiar graphs, her hand stretching out to trace the curves of the hologram.
“Where did you get these?” she grated. “Kalon?”
“Luna… I don’t understand. These are the Kalthera radiation spikes registered during the solar storm. And they’re the same as always. You see, several times during the plant’s development, the Kalthera will change its print…”
Kalon continued his explanation, but Luna could no longer hear his words. Tears sprang to her eyes, and she shook her head, denying the truth.
This was impossible. This connection couldn’t exist.
And yet… it did. And it changed everything, even as the questions she’d asked herself so many times before multiplied.
“Luna?” Kalon sounded unsure. “Are you alright?”
“No,” she answered in a harsh voice, wiping the tears away. “This is crazy.” Inhaling deeply, she tapped her Correslink, searching for the correct files. “Here, look.”
Projecting her own graphs into the air next to Kalon’s, the two of them compared them. They were almost identical.
“I don’t understand. How do you have these?” Kalon whispered his question, his head moving left and right as his eyes tracked the curves and hollows of the graphs.
Gesturing to her own holo, Luna told him a part of the truth. “These graphs show the measurements obtained after a strange phenomenon near the Void, almost twenty years ago.”
“Twenty? But the Kalthera were discovered much more recently than that. So how can it be?”
“I don’t know, Kalon…” Just when she was ready to let it all go, this happened. Luna clenched her fists, angry at the universe for constantly conspiring against her. Would she never find peace?
“There is evidence indicating the Kalthera had been around for much longer. A professor at the Zin University tried to date back to the first plant, but the experiment failed. So, I guess what you’re saying could be possible…” He turned and gripped her shoulders. “What I don’t understand is what upsets you so.”
He didn’t get it. How could he, when he didn’t know her story? As far as he was concerned, the Kalthera was linked to a strange occurrence in the Void, the only place in the known universe where strange things happened all the time. So, what? Scientists everywhere had agreed a long time ago the cosmos was tied to every life form.
“And the thing is,” Kalon continued when she didn’t reply, “because I was tracking the Kalthera, my sensors picked up similar spikes around the Eye. There’s no discernable pattern I could find, the spikes don’t seem connected to any other event… but I didn’t have an astrophysicist like you until now. You can see what I cannot.”
Luna pressed a hand to her chest, where a small flame of hope flickered. The possible connection between the Kalthera and what happened to her parents, as unlikely as it might be, redoubled her determination. It was a lead.
Even if nothing would come out of it, Luna couldn’t ignore it. She owed it to her parents to follow it. She owed it to herself.
Looking at Kalon, she wondered if she could trust him with the truth about her parents’ death. Would he believe her, when so many others didn’t?
Still half-dazed, Luna followed Kalon to his console, where he pulled up every one of his graphs and showed them to her. He seemed excited now, probably because he finally had someone he could share his research with.
She tried to focus, but all she managed was to nod dumbly, her mind busy considering all the implications. All the connections.
With this revelation, she added another tier to her puzzle. But she also felt closer to a solution.
Kalon dragged a chair for her, and she sat beside him, resting her head on his shoulder. He stiffened at first, but the more he talked, the more he relaxed, until his arm curled around her shoulders and he drew her closer. Luna closed her eyes, a smile curling her lips, despite everything.
Touching seemed less taboo to him now.
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