Title: High in the Sunlit Silence
Fandom: Sunshine (2007 movie)
Title from "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Cassie shivers on the slick floor, her broken ribs grinding with every movement, her head pounding dully, blank darkness beneath her eyelids. She'd imagined this moment, especially after things started going badly, despite or maybe because the thought had frightened her; when she was dreading it, it had lurked in the back of her mind like a predator stalking her, looming in the darkness. But between then and now she's been pursued by a real monster, she's faced her death with open eyes, she lies on the floor of a bomb that's about to reignite the Sun. The pain is at once piercing and distant, overshadowed by the triumph that she and Capa completed the mission. The crew of the Icarus II completed the mission. Cassie's not afraid anymore, as she concentrates on breathing evenly against the pain, and she isn't letting herself wonder what it will feel like to burn.
Pinbacker's hoarse breaths have slowed to a rattle; he won't be getting up again for one more attempt at sabotaging their mission. That's good, since Cassie's pretty sure she can't get up again to stop him. She tries to move her head and only confirms what she already knows; she doesn't feel 'up' or 'down', any direction, only a burst of pain that drowns out the impact when she drops her head again. But she doesn't have to get up. Capa can take it from here.
Cassie wishes, a small wish, futile but comforting, that she could see Capa one more time; she imagines his quiet smile, his curly hair and his eloquent blue eyes. She'd told him she was afraid, sitting beside him in this bomb bay, looking down at the wrench loosely held between his long fingers, and he'd told her he wasn't and why. He'd described how the bomb's detonation would develop like the birth of the universe, renewing the Sun, saving the Earth. "A new star born out of a dying one," he'd said, his eyes earnestly blue like the summer skies in her earliest memories. "I think it'll be beautiful."
It had sounded beautiful, while Cassie sat with Capa in the bomb bay, but not real, not in the face of their impending deaths, not enough to cancel out her fear. Now, though, she thinks of the Sun expanding and glowing, the ocean of fire she dreamt of rising and overflowing; she thinks of the skies brightening over Earth and the permanent winter thawing, and she smiles, even though it hurts.
She hopes Capa will get to see it happen, for just a moment, before everything is over. She wishes they all could at least be here to see it, Captain Kaneda, Harvey and Corazon, Mace and poor Trey and Searle, the salvation they've all trained and worked for. Searle would really have appreciated being engulfed by sunlight, Cassie thinks, remembering his hours in the observation room, and his warm voice echoing from the Icarus I; a sob sends a sharp pain through her chest, making her cough, and the air feels thick and sludgy as she tries to pull in a breath. But of all of the crew only she and Capa made it here, and her breath wheezes back out of her, her body growing heavier and colder as she drags more air into her lungs. Soon she may not even notice when the bomb goes off.
Pinbacker groans faintly and then there's silence. A few heartbeats later the still air twitches and eddies over Cassie's cheek. If she opened her eyes she could see Pinbacker where he lies, make absolutely sure he's down permanently, but she'd rather pick something else for a final sight. She'd rather hold the image of Capa in her mind, the thoughts on his face as he watches his theories prove themselves, as the Sun catches fire from the bomb he built, as the surge of light pours over him.
The air swirls icy over Cassie's skin, and this shiver hurts enough to make her gasp. Shouldn't the bomb bay be heating up by now, she thinks hazily; as if in answer, there's a burst of radiant warmth, over her, inside her. Impossible, beautiful warmth, like the breeze in those distant early-childhood summers, the almost unheard-of days when it was possible to stand outside in shirtsleeves, to turn one's face up and feel sunshine on one's skin. Comforting, peaceful warmth, like the first moment after Cassie realized she was pregnant, hand curved to her belly, over the new life there, before she remembered her mission, remembered the world around her, remembered she could not possibly keep the baby.
Cassie doesn't know how this can be happening. She wonders if she's hallucinating, but the warm air feels so soft and real. She opens her eyes, expecting to see Pinbacker's gory corpse and the dim expanse of the bomb bay beyond, but that's not what she sees. She gasps, her eyes widening, and when she rolls to her back to see better her ribs let her; her arms and back have stopped hurting, she can breathe as easily as ever.
Cassie is warm, Cassie is amazed, as she looks up at the surface of the Sun hanging over her, taut with energy, golden and swollen and dripping with light. There is no darkness left, no danger, no pain, and Cassie can picture Capa gazing at this spectacle as the Sun swells towards her, ever fuller, ever brighter. She can see, in her mind, his outstretched hand, the sunlight filling his blue eyes; she reaches upwards, and her hand streams translucently with sunlight.
There isn't a floor beneath her, there isn't air around her, just light, just warmth. Cassie floats suspended before the resurgent Sun, reaching out towards it; she smiles as she watches her hands glow until they can no longer be seen, and she knows she shares this last sight with Capa as she fades into the expanding sunshine.