Sunday, 7 November 2010

This Empty Space

Grant smacked the side of the console with his hand.

“Nothing!”

“You already said that.”

Linda glanced briefly in Grant’s direction, her lips quirking in annoyance. It bothered her that he clung to old, pointless mannerisms. She thought it showed an inability to control his impulses. She had explained to him a number of times that the console was just a screen; that the scanning, the processing, the extrapolations were all done half a kilometre away in the ship’s Kore. Physical force to the console was pointless; the only thing it could possibly achieve would be to damage the console itself. But still, Grant would hit it every time it didn’t behave as he expected. After six thousand, four hundred and thirty nine years she thought he might have learnt. But no, it was the same as with the food tubes, the same as the discarded synth-skins he left on the floor. He never had any personal consideration toward her.

“Look for yourself.” He said.

She pulled his feed onto her secondary console.

“Nothing...”

“That’s what I said, remember. Twice.”

Grant rolled his eyes. Linda always thought she knew best. She was always telling him how he should behave without any respect for his personality, no matter how many times he pointed out he wouldn’t have been picked if any of his deficiencies (her word) would have threatened the mission. Six thousand odd years was a long time to spend in close proximity with someone who behaved like a Victorian housekeeper. He knew what mattered and what didn’t. It didn’t matter if he hit the console; it didn’t matter if he left a little nutri-paste in the tube and it really didn’t matter if he left his worn synth-skins on the floor, since the bots would get them (that was one she really couldn’t let go of).

They looked at the screens. Then they looked at each other; really looked at each other, for the first time in thousands of years.

The scan was definitely active. The minute particle trail the ship always left was there, for a short distance. But that was all. And that was very wrong.

“Shutters?” Grant asked.

Linda nodded and motioned at her screen.

The shutters, immobile since they had left the solar system, slid silently aside, as smoothly as the day the ship had first spun its engines up. Outside, where distant galaxies should have been visible, there was nothing.

They rotated the bridge around the circumference of the ship, a six hour journey. They said nothing. There was nothing to say.

There was nothing to see.

“We should wake them up.” Linda said. Eventually.

“And tell them what? That not only did Earth disappear while they weren’t looking but now the whole universe has gone.”

“Maybe not so bluntly.”

“Let them sleep.”

“You forget the protocols.”

“No, you forget what it was to be human. Let them dream.”



(author's chatter)

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