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Space, the Final Frontier

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“Space, the final frontier.” 

 

Perhaps it was a soliloquy, and perhaps Rose knew that no one could hear her. She didn’t particularly want anyone to hear her, not really, but there was something calming about speaking just to the emptiness of space. She stretched out, looking out the port window of the spaceship she’d called home for the past three months. 

 

Rose Stratford hadn’t expected to find a home on the U.S.S. Radiance . She knew that since she was just a little girl, moving to the colony of New New York, she wanted to explore space. The stars were her companions, and she wanted to see them in person one of these days. But the idea of boarding a spaceship was alien to her until the Hoax. 

 

The Hoax wasn’t what one might expect, but something entirely new. An alternate reality within black holes, studied by the famous explorer and astronomer Sir John Herschel. Humanity had yet to discover any truth about black holes, any answers to what lay within, and Rose and her brother Samuel had decided to remedy that.

 

It wasn’t factual, but they had the science that supported some of their stories. Others were purely fiction, written to feel slightly less alone in the vast emptiness of the universe. They began as a way to cope, and ended with, well… the Radiance. In both the actual thing and the ship, the Radiance made itself known.

 

Margaret Cavendish was an anomaly, a person that defied the realms of truth and fiction. As she began to glow, lunar energy illuminating the room around her, her hands radiating warmth and light and the majesty of the universe, the boundary between science and magic was tweaked. 

 

From the Radiance, Rose certainly hadn’t expected to meet her hero. Sir John Herschel, or John, as she was slowly becoming more and more used to calling him, had arrived to demand answers as to who was publishing “journals” in his name. However, when he saw the radiant Margaret, something changed. 

 

His loneliness, for one thing. As he invited the Stratfords and Margaret aboard the U.S.S. Radiance , the ship became just a bit more like home. Rose was a quick learner, and jumped to action whenever she could to assist around the Radiance , but it was times like these where she was content to sit and stare out.

 

The Radiance was quieter today. John was up in what he called his “tower”, which in actuality was just his quarters on the ship. On his walls were maps of the galaxies he traversed on his own, and in red pencil, markings and notes that surrounded Margaret and the Radiance. To discover the truth, he decided, was to rethink everything humanity already knew.

 

Rose liked that about him. Always curious, always thinking again and again. He was never satisfied with just one answer, there always had to be another out there. It was part of what drew her to stay on the Radiance . (The other part, of course, being the prospect of traveling through space.) 

 

“Miss Stratford?”

 

Speak of the devil.

 

Rose turned around, looking away from the port window to see John. He wasn’t quite as tall as his photographs made him out to be -- in fact, he and Rose were nearly equal in height. His hair had grown out since his most recent photograph (which, for purely professional reasons, Rose kept in her portscreen case. Just in case she forgot how he looked, you know, for professional reasons.) and fell into his face, just slightly tousled.

 

And his eyes. His eyes . Rose had once complained that she could never tell what he was really thinking, but after knowing John, she could tell. His eyes were cautious and calculating, but they lit up when he got excited. They shone in the starlight, and Rose had found herself wanting to see that glimmer more and more as they grew closer. 

 

He was a handsome man, Rose decided, and frowned. Is this what Samuel meant about the celebrity crush? That was an issue for another time, she decided, and cocked her head before answering. “Yep, that’s the name. What’s up?”

 

John made his way over and sat next to Rose by the window, looking out. “I’ve hit a wall in my studies and I need to talk it through with someone. Is that alright?”

 

Of course it was alright, Rose loved this. But rather than immediately throwing down her portscreen and saying “Absolutely, yes, literally I would love to listen to you talk for ages because I am a huge nerd and you’re so incredibly cool and also handsome but I don’t want my brother to tease me,” she resorted to a simple, “Sure, lay it on me.”

 

“We’re about to be passing through a band that I’ve called the Timeless Band, it’s a point where, no matter what, time starts to get odd. I’ve experienced time loops here, it’s not pleasant. However, if we try to go around it, we’ll have to try to negotiate peaceful travel with the Sunship .”

 

Ah. The Sunship , the commonplace name for the starship commanded by members of the Sun , the organization that had published “Herschel’s Journals”. Samuel and Benjamin had been a member of their fleet for what seemed like ages before the Hoax, that’s where they’d become close. Despite that charming background, however, the Sun wasn’t friendly, not to the travelers, and Rose knew that. Peaceful travel would be difficult, she could tell. 

 

“Is it possible to jump through the Band?” Rose offered. A strand of her hair fell into her face, and she blew it away. “Reach hyperspeed and jump from one edge to the other?”

 

John frowned. “It’s possible, but the jump may trigger a response from within the ship’s mechanics that would make it more dangerous than if we’d just…”

 

“Gone with the flow.”

 

“Precisely.”

 

“...It’s still worth a shot, isn’t it?” 

 

His frown deepened, and John shifted to extend one leg out in front of him, the other still bent upright at the knee in front of him. More casual than Rose had ever expected from such an influential traveler, but it was so John . “It is.”

 

Rose’s mind was beginning to churn with ideas, and she stood up, heading over to the navigation space, pulling up the emptiness around them on the screen and enlarging it. “...Look at that, Herschel.”

 

“What?”

 

“An asteroid.” She pointed to a spot on the screen, hurtling towards the Timeless Band. And then, it stopped. Just… stopped, only for a moment, and in the blink of an eye it was on the other side of the band. John stopped and stared, and even from here, Rose could practically hear the gears in his mind turning. “It looks like it’s-”

 

“Passing through the band without a jump. And without alteration.”

 

“Could it work?”

 

“Follow the asteroid’s path.” 

 

“If we stay in its shadow, then-” Already, Rose was plugging in coordinates, altering the course of the Radiance ever so slightly to follow the asteroid’s path. Another one was already spinning towards the Band, Rose could see, and if she just sped up slightly…

 

The transition from space to the flow of the Band was similar to something Rose had only heard of in old stories. A riptide sweeping sideways, going against the flow of the ocean around it. Perhaps it was that reminder that made something in Rose’s heart swell in the best way -- for so long, she’d dreamed about becoming something more, about stepping into the light and adventuring, and now it was finally coming true.

 

And then they were out of the Band. John’s face was illuminated in light silvery light as they exited, radiating off of some… thing outside the port window. 

 

Immediately, Rose’s mind switched from “Oh, wow, pretty man” to questioning. The light, the source of it, whether it could be of use in their expedition to find the origin of the Radiance. Maybe it could provide Margaret with answers, maybe it could light the way for Benjamin and Samuel. Maybe it could bring Rose into the spotlight, finally. 

 

“What… is that?” 

 

John’s voice once again disrupted her inner monologue, and Rose looked out the window to see what he was looking at. Her eyes took a moment to adjust, shifting from the blinking, clearly artificial lights of inside The Radiance to the vast nothingness of space.

 

And, of course, to the source of the light. A pod of what seemed to be celestial whales swam through space, dancing in the darkness. They were undeniably beautiful, be it because of their grace or because of the soft silver light that radiated from them, and Rose felt something warm blossom in her chest looking out at them.

 

“...You know, John?” Rose whispered, grinning. “I think we’ve found something new.”

 

This was what she had always wanted. This was more than her life back in New New York. This was excitement and intrigue and adventure.

 

This was her voyage.