Chapter 18: Epilogue

Copyright© 2016 by Vincent Berg

“LAUNCHING!” the voice announced in Peter’s ear. The capsule vibrated, a hum resonated through the capsule, and the settings on the display fluctuated wildly. He didn’t understand why they even included the meters. It meant nothing to those inside the vessel, only to the designers who developed the ISSDD transport mechanism.

Suddenly, the surrounding walls were gone and he found himself deep in space. Glancing out the window at the inky blackness, he was glad Eric Morgan insisted on the increased oxygen and airlock in case something went horribly wrong again. He wasn’t sure it would do much good. He couldn’t see anything, so there would be no way to avoid another accident. There weren’t even many stars in the distance. This region of space contained a dark matter world for good reason. It was both dark and hostile to physical entities like him.

“00:02:33, in place and everything checks out. Nothing discernable outside, monitors don’t detect anything. The cameras are preparing an external display so I can orient myself. I should be ready soon. I hope you know what you’re talking about with this space walk. As far as I’m concerned, I’m just the remote cameraman. I doubt anyone besides Eric can observe anything. Since he’s gone, I’m not sure there’s any purpose to further manned missions here.”

The monitor dinged, so he called up the new display. “The engineers were right; the new cameras are significantly improved. They show the planet clearly. I’m facing the correct direction, but still can’t see diddly. At least I didn’t land on top of anyone. Preparing for spacewalk.”

With a combined sense of dread and excitement, Peter Markus double checked his suit’s oxygen supply before recycling the capsule’s air. When the display signaled zero pressure, he took a deep breath and swung the hatch open.

When Eric died, he’d shocked the world. No one realized what he meant to mankind’s future until he was gone. The riots didn’t start right away. Without social media to organize around, it took time before the chaos began. The release of energy when he passed caused a fifth of Manhattan to black out. It took four days to restore the electricity. During that time, the only lights were the fires burning in front of police stations around the city. Everyone realized the SWAT team was responsible, but they blamed law enforcement in general and the officials at 1PP in particular. The twelve-floor NYPD headquarters at One Police Plaza were assaulted with firebombs, protests and fires. The first three floors were heavily damaged, with extensive smoke damage to the fifth floor.

Although it was a small contingent who felt Eric’s powers threatened their ability to control world events, the people’s anger was primarily directed at the CIA. The President ordered the entire agency shut down, all the administrators replaced, and their international responsibilities transferred to other nations. Ironically, it made the United States more secure. No longer seen as the world’s oppressor and cast as the defenseless savior of mankind’s future, they were free to concentrate on other issues. While the terrorist groups continued, public sympathies switched as the world’s attention focused on a new future full of promise.

New York’s Mayor, Police Commissioner and several other city officials lost their jobs for initiating Morgan’s arrest. Congress united in granting NASA free reign in exploring both this seemingly empty region of space, now referred to as Morgana, and other areas beyond. Peter was one of the new recruits. As a younger, recent Navy pilot, he was felt to possess greater mental dexterity—required if he interacted with the aliens—something he wasn’t looking forward to.

Outside the capsule, he wasn’t any more convinced. Once again, he saw less here in open space than he could at home on a dark night. He knew where the alien world sat, but couldn’t detect anything.

“00:07:12. I’m outside the ship. Nothing distinctive to report. No sign of any...”

Peter felt something touch his mind, as if some invisible ghost reached in through his forehead and began playing with his memories. Instead of inky blackness, he observed Eric Morgan at the moment of his death. The moment the handcuffs snapped into place, he saw his body dissolve and slough off his soul. He witnessed it as a real physical entity. The image was more detailed than anything he’d ever experienced. The glowing figure sparkled with the hopes and disappointments of Eric’s life. He watched as the new being shivered, underweight, underfed and struggling for survival. Just before it faded away, his alien hosts transported Eric’s soul much like the ISSDD vessel traveled through interstellar space. His essence appeared here on the invisible planet residing below Peter.

There, several different glowing energy creatures worked to stabilize Eric’s bodiless form. They fed him energy and applied orbs which seemed to be some sort of medical device. As his strength grew, he glowed brighter. As the vision faded, he could feel Eric working his way through his brain, touching various regions.

Peter understood what he referred to as a mental handshake. Anytime they communicated again, he’d recognize it. That was apparently how the aliens reached out and rescued Eric when he died. Eric created a quantum entanglement linking him to Peter’s brain. His perspective was reshaped by the idea he was dealing with an incredibly advanced level of technology, rather than vague religious concepts.

The name “Eric” appeared in his mind, and he realized he triggered various memories to create words so they could communicate.

“Peter Markus,” he said, before realizing he couldn’t hear him inside his suit. But then, his name flashed across his thoughts. Eric had tapped into it.

“These aliens ... rescue me,” he heard, though the thoughts originated within his own brain. He realized Eric was still figuring out the basics of language, so this might take time. He glanced at the time display on the side of his helmet. They didn’t have long for an extended training session.

“Did you plan to come here when you died?”

It took a moment, but he responded in kind. “I suspected it might happen for some time, but realized I couldn’t stand to be restrained. I slept in the streets because I couldn’t survive inside buildings. I yearned to be back among the stars.”

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