Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Project: Superluminal 001

Project Superluminal

    I did not realise how dim the universe had become until the day she appeared and illuminated it in front of my eyes. Usually when you get to know people, they kind of fade into you your life. At first they are just some person. You make first contact. Exchange a few words. As you meet them again a couple of times they start to come into focus until you recognize them, not as some stranger but as the complex individual they are.
It was different with her. The first time I met her she was already there. Fully formed a complex and fascinating creature. She strobed into my life. A few flashes here and there were she was, with her eyes as deep as open space and a mind always hungry for the new and exciting and I could not help but be swept along.

    The first time I met her was on Dead End in the Saint Saviour system. We both were working at a dead-end job biding our time, waiting for a better tomorrow. She was a wandering polymath that had been lost the publisher she was writing a travelling diary for, while I had been declining third rate prospecting jobs for a bit to long. In a way it was both our fault that we were stuck analysing data for a shitty knowledge mining company. Kira was actually looking for a new field that she could master and had not really been paying much attention to the political comings and goings of the Laallan Federation where her publisher was based. I on the other hand was fed up and to be sincere to proud to take another prospecting job coming well nested in inverted commas where I was supposed to go into a centre of civilisation to make a proper assessment of their status for an interested far away third party. I wanted to do some real prospecting. Plunging into the void of space, discover new planetary systems do some proper exploration, or at the very least visit a silent system to which contact had been lost.
    Well had we done so we may have noticed that the Xelthian Empire was going through one of its inevitable militaristic surges, the Laalan Federation was falling rapidly into decadence collapsing out of interstellar travel and the rise of the Shifting Destiny movement. In short the most important routes from Saint Saviour to the rest of the universe led to war zones, vast regions spiralling into deep isolationism or where in the process of social upheaval. For me it meant that I was shit out of luck. No one was interested in prospecting any more. Flying into a more stable zone was also out of the question. It was to far even for my ship for one, besides I had not the slightest idea into which direction to set out to reach one in the first place. To bad that I had no cultural charts made by a prospector about the nearby galaxies...
    For Kira things looked more promising. The Shifting Destiny was pushing some wild very progressive ideas forcing a renaissance of art and science in the systems it swept through. However they also froze the economies of the civilisations were they gained power. Nothing to ruinous but if you weren't established somewhere where the Shifting Destiny was happening you had to bring your own wealth with you. She might have made it work by also writing about them however her erstwhile employer had decided that all this talk about foreign galactic powers was simply a waste of time when there were so many much more pressing topics on the local interstellar level. You had to bring your home in order before you should even entertain the thought of considering what the other out there were doing. Bam. Job gone. Like me she was caught by surprise so going into a long sleep was out of the question. Too expensive.

    So there we were in a horrible office following ancient traditions of trying very hard to appear like warm humane spaces and failing at it in the most spectacular ways. One thing I had learnt in my long life was that there were certain things that bound all living things together, no matter how strange we might seem to each other at first after a while we would find things we had in common, a base that allowed us to communicate with each other. Never have I seen places more alien than those of shit workplaces, they somehow always managed to miss these common points with tragi-commical certainty.
    Kira worked in a different immersion chamber than me, but one day when I had to ask a question about some standard operating procedure I met her. She was the only one there that could answer the question. I always used these moments to socialise, on one hand it helped me my ability to communicate with other sentient beings and it was a method to stay away from my work for a little bit longer. Apart from that when you do actually listen to people you often learn something new or interesting. In this case she told me about her writing gig that had imploded and I told her about my work as a prospector. Somehow I got a bit overenthusiastic and went into some of the more obscure technical details of my work. When I noticed that I had been going on about the peculiarities of gas giant probes it was to late, I had been waffling about technical details that while certainly fascinating would send everyone not from the field away screaming. Either that or into a deep dreamless coma. I stopped talking. Thinking about a way to change the subject to something more conventionally interesting. It was then that I noticed that her mouth made a very slight 'O' shape and here eyes were wide open. She was actually fascinated what I was saying and as surprised about it as me.
    I did not see her for a few days after that first encounter. The next time it was her who approached me during one of my breaks. She asked me if I had ever been to a sun sculpture a star that had been carefully remodelled by a helio-shaper into a new form. I told her about a few that I had seen and the strange beauty of decaying sun sculptures that were slowly returning to their normal shape when she started telling me about how she was trying right now to find a helio-shaper to learn the craft herself. This lead to her telling me in increasingly greater detail how you could turn a star into statue and hearing her talk about it was utterly fascinating. When her break was over she gave me a quick smile and disappeared. I left behind slightly shell-shocked. I had not been that fascinated by a topic in a long, long time. A deeply unsettling thought. I had become a prospector because I was always driven by a deep hunger for the new. My curiosity was almost pathological. Yet that short conversation had fascinated me more than anything that I could remember in a long time.
    It turned out that this was not a coincidence. Kira would appear every once in a while, or we would meet each other by chance and every time we did so we would have a conversation about some new topic, each time what we would be talking about would become one of the most interesting things in the entire universe. When  our minds met they would boost each other opening new facets and perspectives to whichever topic we might be exploring at that moment. It was utterly intoxicating.
    In time our meetings would become more and more frequent, until the day when we saw each other every day and without really noticing when it happened had turned into a couple.

    I was sitting in a stylish bar with a stunning view over Dead End situated on the planetary spoke that connected Dead End to the orbital rail that ran parallel to the planets course around its sun. The prices here was even more stunning than the sight but today I had decided that it was time to live a bit. At least I was trying too. After many, many years together Kira had left. I had no idea why. And with her she had taken the deep sense of wonder that had come with experiencing the universe with her. Back in the day pooling our skills we had escaped our shit job and Dead End and travelled the universe. Our special talent had never stopped working. What ever we did it was twice as intense, twice as exiting, twice as moving when we did it together than when doing it alone or with someone else. Those years had been intoxicating and now I found myself going unexpectedly cold turkey. I looked at the drink in my hand. It had no answers. Just a mellow taste of vanilla and caramel and enough alcohol to wrap my rising depression in damp numbness.
    It had happened a few days ago. I had been still asleep in bed when I had felt her hand softly stroking my hair. I managed to open my eyes a tiny bit and mumble something that I hoped sounded like words. I wish I could remember her face better. I know that she had smiled. I had thought at first that it was a tender smile, but now I thought that it might have been a sad one. Then she faded away. At least that's how it felt like when I drifted back to sleep. When I woke up some time later my apartment felt cold and grey. Kira was gone.
    Under other circumstances I would not have been that bothered. Her leaving in the morning was a pretty ordinary occurrence. But the empty feeling that was left behind wasn't. That day I went to our usual haunts looking for her. But no one had seen her that day. That evening I went to her flat but it was also empty. Her home usually a warm, comfy place filled with the playful chaos caused by a mind full of great ideas but led astray by poor impulse control felt dead. Even her presence was gone.
    'Where could she have gone?' I asked my drink it just shrugged its ice cubes. What was I supposed to do now? Was I supposed to do anything at all? On one hand she had disappeared under rather mysterious circumstances on the other hand she'd just been gone for a few days. She was the type of person who would leave on a sudden whim to visit a cultural happening she had just hard about. She had never done so without telling me though. Even when telling sometimes meant that I got a trans-galactic broadcast message after a couple of days with her standing in a crowed in the middle of a concert telling me where she was and how brilliant the event was. This time there was just a cold silence.  
    Kira had vanished into thin air. The most important person in my life had vanished taking with her a significant part of my soul. 'I have no idea how', I told my drink 'but I will find her. Where ever she has gone I will find a way and follow her.'