If Moya was an aircraft, she would be hovering. Alex isn’t sure what the equivalent word is for space travel. She’s been out here more than seven years, and it’s never occurred to her before now to ask.
“Paused”, maybe. They’re paused in empty space. Or “hesitating”.
“You’re certain these are the right coordinates?” The voice of Moya’s Pilot is always flattened over the ship’s comm system, where the reverberation of his voice across the height of Moya is hollowed away. It’s easy to imagine him as a much smaller creature than he is, or one much further than the tendrils of his nervous system curling into the control panel beside her.
Harder, too, to think of him as a person with his own desires and motivations, rather than an unusual interface into her own needs. But then Alex has found that a challenge with more than Pilot, hasn’t she?
“Yes,” Alex says, simply, fervently, and a wormhole spirals open in front of them like she’s spoken it into being. The stars behind it are eclipsed from view; so they are real stars, then, rather than yet another shared and redundant hallucination. As real as anything here can be. Really, the illusory starfield would have been a more compelling hint if the competing view wasn’t a starfield anyway.
To Alex’s right, Aeryn gasps and takes a small step forward. The blue light reflects coolly off the planes of her face and black vest. For an instant, she’s a frozen marble statue of a woman, but her expression has softened too much since Alex first met her. The metaphor cracks.
Aeryn doesn’t turn her head, but she looks to the side with her eyes. “Don’t say it.”
“Say what?” D’Argo huffs from Alex’s immediate left. He’s nervous, but that’s perfectly understandable. Alex is only holding onto her composure for the sake of her friends and lovers, and she has a heavy suspicion they’re doing the same for her.
“That at least we’re going together.”
“Actually, I’m not sure that’s true,” Alex says. “There’s no reason to think that just because we enter at the same point, we’ll all exit at the same location. Or that we will exit, in any form we’d recognize as ourselves. This isn’t a real wormhole, it’s only the idea of a wormhole, something for us to understand. There’s no way to guess what will happen once we pass through.”
Aeryn’s mouth has tightened and her shoulders are turned away from Alex. D’argo’s honestly impressive calm fades slightly: his stance shifts like he might be called to fight. Alex stops talking. She’s making everything worse.
Instead, Alex reaches out and takes D’Argo’s large, solid hand in her left and Aeryn’s strong but slender one in her right. She notices Aeryn lean a hip into one Pilot-nerve dense console, and then D’Argo takes his fingers away from the weapon on his belt and places his palm softly against Moya’s wall.
Maybe the others had found their own path - Zhaan and Chiana, and even the hideous Rygel, who had driven Alex half mad trying to decide which unpleasant aspect of her psyche he was meant to embody, before she was distracted by going fully mad. But this is the only way out for the rest of them, hand in hand and breath in recycled ship’s breath, entwined so deep in each other’s afterlives you’d have to break them to tear them apart.
“Still, I’m glad we’re going together,” Alex says. Aeryn snorts, but it’s only because it’s expected of her. She’s blinking too rapidly. D’Argo’s hand squeezes Alex’s palm tighter - but still so carefully. Alex isn’t fragile, but that gentleness is a precious thing to him, hard won. She runs her thumb over his knuckle in her own reassurance.
“Moya wants you all to know,” comes Pilot’s tinny voice, “that she shares the sentiment. And I...” The hologram of his head bobs, a movement that means he is sorting through too many thoughts, even for his large and incomprehensible brain. “To be bonded to a Leviathan - to see the stars - is the only thing I ever truly desired.
“Alex is right. There’s no way to calculate what will happen when we cross the threshold. However, it will be a honour for us to take you there, as it has been an honour and a privilege to serve you for the past seven and a half cycles. One greater than I could have dreamed.”
Aeryn says, “Thank you, Pilot. You have served us very well,” which makes Alex cringe. It’s such an awful thing to tell someone who has been so much more than a glorified taxi driver, even if, judging by how Pilot relaxes back on his tail, it was exactly what he was hoping to hear.
Alex has spent many hours trying to convince him to stop defining himself by his function to others, but she only ever succeeded in offending him. Admittedly, this was back when she was still trying to define him as a reflection of her own psyche, rather than trying to understand how truly alien he is to her.
God, how could anyone, faced with all the weirdness the universe had to offer, have been so certain she knew exactly what was going on. She’d been so arrogant. And here she is, about to lose everything she knows once again.
A tear is running down Alex’s cheek. Perfectly understandable. She tightens her grip on D’Argo and Aeryn’s hands. She’s the center. She has to hold.
Silence settles around them. There’s so much to say, but they’ve already said it, with their words, with their bodies. If there’s something they’ve forgotten, it doesn’t matter anymore.
It’s D’Argo who finally speaks. “We’re ready.”
Aeryn echoes him with, “Yes.”
They’re in space with no gravitational body for reference, so Alex has never been clear on the difference between travelling forward and falling. But Moya does one or the other, and the wormhole reaches to envelop the ship whole. All around them is blue.
And at the end of the tunnel, there’s a light.