Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Leaving Eternity part III

Darienne walked up behind California and touched his elbow to get his attention. Electrons flowed between the ions of his captain's jacket and her finger tips. He stopped talking to the person in front of him and turned slowly. "Ca..." he began and she shushed him.

"Darienne," she corrected. He nodded slowly. "May I meet you later... Somewhere?" she asked nervously.

He nodded again and said, "Captain's apartment, quandrant 3 tonight after the second bell."

They stood uncomfortably until the person California was talking to coughed politely. California bowed his head and turned back to continue his conversation. Darienne breathed out a sigh of relief as she turned and walked back to Farlene.


Darienne knocked on California's door and he answered. He smiled and stood aside with his arm stretched out to show her how welcome she was to step inside. Darienne nodded and entered. California followed her down the hallway to the living space and motioned to a couch. They sat across from each other, he in his large comfortable chair.

Darienne tried to relax him with conversation and small talk. California cannot relax. It is a simple matter of physics. If he relaxes, the weight of everything on Eternity will crush him.

Darienne finally got her point during a lull in the conversation. "Captain, I apologise for taking your time but I need your help."

California nodded slowly. "I think I understand," he said.

Darienne looked at her lap. "I have committed a capital offense," she said.

"Calista," California said, "Why did you do this?"

"So you know?" she asked quietly.

"I've known since I saw you on ship's day 32," he answered.

"That's why I need your help. I used someone else's identity to journey to the new planet in the hopes of finding a new life." She almost added the "with you" phrase she had practised.

He seemed to pick up on the missing phrase. "For me? You risked death? The automatic scanners will catch you no matter what I try to do. The security team are incorruptible. It's out of my hands."

Calista nodded. "I know," she said.

California leaned forward. "They will kill you. It seems septic and clean referring to it as 'ejection' but it's not. You will die."
For my wife, who dreamed it.

Calista nodded again, fervently. "It's worth it," she said. "We all die. Some of us delay it more than others."

California was perplexed. "You've committed suicide. I can't protect you."

Calista said, "Death is not a destination. It is an email that is delivered to you. I've released you from your obligations to me. I release you. It is enough to talk to you once more."

California raised his voice. "You know how they say that there is someone out there for everyone? How it's destiny? You said it yourself. 'There's someone who's meant to be there for me?' It's a lie. It's not me. You will release me? You could never bind me in the first place."

Calista deflated visibly. She covered her face with her hands, then dropped them to her lap. Tears streamed down her cheeks. "Most people think love is like the wind that blows," she said. "It's not. Love is the house that stands up to the wind. It is what remains after the wind is gone."

California raised his hand to stop her. "I'm sorry, Calista. Darienne, whatever. You have to leave. I can't compromise my position. The safety and success of Eternity is up to me."

Calista stood slowly and walked out. She paused one last time as she opened the door. California did not look up. She closed the door behind her.


As the passengers disembarked, California reviewed the reports from his captain's chair on the bridge. His first lieutenant stood nearby uncomfortably. "Sir?" he asked.

California waved him away. On his vidscreen was a security loop showing Darienne or Calista being led away in cuffs. As she is walked toward a red aperture she turns and looks at the camera. She smiles and steps through.

California pounds his chair with his fist and quickly wipes his eyes.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Leaving Eternity part II

For my wife, who dreamed it.

On the evening before docking day, the final preparations for disembarkation were being made. All the trash was gathered up and anything that could move was tied down. Eternity was set to enter the planet's atmosphere and would land safely on the surface in a carefully orchestrated manoeuver. Eternity would unfold in place and the colony and all her 900 souls aboard would start a new life. The mood aboard ship was ebullient.

Farlene was busy at work at Darienne's flat helping to secure belongings and furniture. While Farlene bustled about, Darienne seemed to deepen into a foul mood.

"I don't know why you're in such a funk, quite honestly. This is the best day of the entire trip," Farlene said, standing with her hands on her hips and surveying her handiwork. "Tonight they'll we'll have some guests over and have a huge block party. The captain will even come by!"

Darienne seemed to brighten. "Captain?" she asked.

"Oh yes, and his security team will check everyone's papers. It's just a formality, you know. I don't know how they expect someone to try to stow away on a ship without proper papers. People know it's illegal, why would they even try it?" Farlene asked.

"I wonder," said Darienne faintly.

"Why, do you know I read on the neighbourhood vidboard that two people were caught without proper credentials. I'm sure it was just a bureaucratic error. But nonetheless, they said that California had to eject them."

"Eject them," repeated Darienne.

"Why yes, it's a capital offense, you know," said Farlene noticing some cabinets that hadn't been secured properly.

Later that night at the block party, Darienne and Farlene were seated at a table. Farlene was the centre of the party, telling jokes and holding court in her section. A contingent of security officers approached, followed behind by the lumbering gate of captain California. The tables erupted in applause as the revelers stood up and saluted with full cups of simcohol.

"Three cheers for the captain!" raised the cry.

"Hip hip!" shouted others.

California pretended to be bashful and held up his hands to placate the crowd. "Thanks everyone, sit down. Enjoy yourselves. My team and I will come by and talk to all of you. Go, sit," he admonished.

As California approached Farlene's table, he noticed Darienne who seemed to try to shrink and hide from sight. Farlene waved excitedly and motioned for California to sit at the empty seat between herself and Darienne. He nodded and sat at her request.

Farlene said, "Oh, captain, it's such an honour to see you. Everyone on Eternity is grateful for your skills in piloting us here without incident. Your leadership is a great role model for our society!"

California deferred, chuckling. He turned his attention to Darienne. "May I be introduced?" he asked Farlene but was looking directly at Darienne.

"Oh yes, of course, how rude. This is my mother's daughter, Darienne. Darienne, this is of course captain California," Farlene said.

California seemed surprised. "Darienne? That's a nice name. You reminded me of someone else I used to know."

Darienne shook her head emphatically.

California looked quizzically at Darienne then turned back to Farlene. He said, "Well, enjoy yourselves then. We'll need to see your papers of course. All the proper procedures and we'll be on the ground in no time."

Farlene nodded and California stood, making his way to the next table. Farlene chided Darienne for her bad manners. "Goodness gracious, Darienne, if your mother could see you now she'd be positively embarrassed. You never made eye contact with the captain and didn't even say a word. Why I never," Farlene trailed off as she saw the tears streaming down Darienne's down-turned face. "What's wrong dear?" she asked.

Darienne said, "It's all over Farlene. Today's the last day. There's no more."

Farlene grabbed her hands and held them in hers. She said, "No Darienne, it's just the beginning. We're on a new home world. Imagine the new life ahead of us. This is the best day of our lives!"

Darienne shook her head and stood, pulling her hands from Farlene. "I've got to go," she said and hurried in the direction of the captain.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Leaving Eternity part I

For my wife, who dreamed it.

Eternity city was easy to get lost in. Although N65443-LS (portal class) was 1 kilometre on a side, the layout was designed to be deceiving. There were several distinct portions of town laid out roughly in quadrants, but all of the streets had bends in them and intertwined in three dimensions. It was on one of these streets in quadrant 2 that Darienne lived and spent her days.

Darienne always presented a sad and forlorn face to the city of Eternity. Many of the passengers on the ship would suffer from depression or malaise despite the efforts to break up the boredom of the trip. However, Darienne had been depressed since boarding and during some of the yearly events and celebrations when most other passengers would divert themselves and be happy.

Her best friend and neighbour, Farlene was always cheerful and would attempt to cure Darienne of her dour mood. Farlene was Darienne's mother's best friend and it had been a pleasant coincidence they had met on this transport trip. Farlene had immediately arranged for their house assignments to be arranged next to each other. She had not met her friend's daughter until this trip but was excited to have a built-in connection (no matter how distant) in the city.

Darienne would nevertheless refuse to cheer up. Through a series of conversations over the months and years, Farlene had managed to make out that Darienne had left the home planet on aboard Eternity so that she could pursue her love for a mysterious stranger. Darienne never explained if the man lived in Eternity, or if he was already ahead at the new planet waiting for her. Even if that were the case, as Falene surmised, why was Darienne so sad when she should actually be excited and happy to meet up with him when the arrived?

The captain of the ship, California, was a strong burly man who spoke slowly and decisively. Whenever he made televised announcements of Eternity's progress or of upcoming city events, Darienne did seem to lighten her mood considerably. California was known as a hands-on manager and he often met with people in Eternity, sitting on various chairmanship meetings and neighbourhood improvement projects. He was also the final executive administrator of the ship and city, meaning that he was a kind of unelected president.

He often liked to visit quadrant 2 although his staffers never quite understood why he liked to spend time in that lower-class section. Like Darienne, California was often moody and slightly depressed. Although he enjoyed himself at public events and put on a bright face, he would often sit in his captain's chair and stare at a screenvid holding the picture of a woman he had once known. Everyone assumed it was his wife or daughter although he never spoke of her.

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