The newspaper had some random person’s name on it. It’s not like it went from “Iris West-Allen” to “Iris West” or “Iris West-something else”. It’s entirely possible that Iris ended up going into TV journalism, which is what I think most of us want anyway. Barry and Iris have always been destined on every Earth and in every timeline.
- Grell Sutcliff & Madam Red in “Lycoris that Blazes the Earth”
(I love how Madam seems genuinely frightened/uncomfortable even in front of Butler Grell. She’s so afraid of this person since the beginning yet she was at that point relying her entire existence on Grell. And the way Grell is bored by Madam’s emotion is just… never mind just read my tags)
“I still can’t believe it.” I breathe, as I peak out the portal window of the Varia. All around the ship is utter blackness, speckled with distant balls of fire- blue, white, red.
Captain Aya is belted into the command center, controlling the ship, leading us towards our destination. ETA: six more Earth days. Awesome. As neat as all this space travel is, I miss solid land.
Trotter laughs, checking all the ship’s switches and gauges. “Yeah, Taylor, neither can I. If someone would have told me five years ago that I’d be included on a cosmic space expedition, I’d call you crazy. It’s amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish.” His dark hands flip a switch, a light flicks off in response. He turns himself around, looking at the captain. “Thrusters are off, we need to conserve energy.” Aya nods.
A petite body floats past my line of sight, her blonde hair free floating in the zero-gravity atmosphere. Or, well, I suppose it’s a lack of atmosphere. Anyway, she floats on by, tumbling. “Heard. Ya know, I don’t mind being here for 6 more days. This space walk thing is so fun!” She flashes a beautiful smile back at me. I feel my cheeks tug in response.
A loud shutter echoes through the ship. Turbulence? In space? Strange. But not the strangest thing to happen yet.
It seemed almost like a dream when my name was pulled for the raffle to be included on the space expedition. My friends and I had entered in as a joke- as if any of us would get it. And sure enough, I did. I almost didn’t want to come.
But then I met the crew and saw the ship. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Thick wings to sustain several types of temperatures and travel times, large hulls to carry a copious amount of supplies, medical equipment I wasn’t even aware existed. It even had machines that would cause objects to hover! Amazing!
Sorry, sorry, my inner nerd broke out.
Another shake rattles through the cabin and Adair- a middle aged women with a heavy brow, caramel skin, and a focused mouth- looks at me. “You’re strapped in, correct?”
I look down at my seatbelts- if they could even bother being called that. They were more like thin sheets of metal that bolt me safely into my seat. “Yep.” I flash her a thumbs up. “But shouldn’t you all be strapped in as well?” My eyes flash to Colby, who is munching on a protein bar. Space may have no sense of up or down or left or right, but in the direction I am facing, she is suspended upside down. She smiles at me again, a small smudge of chocolate on her lip.
“We have important jobs we have to do, Taylor.” Antoine grumbles. Antoine is an older man with dusted grey hair and profusely hairy arms. I assume he must be Italian. He just has so much hair! He’s sitting at Aya’s side, watching the radar and the screens that constantly refresh to keep us prepared. I assume he’s such a grump because he wasn’t captain. I heard from Trotter that the space program claimed that “Antoine lacks leadership skills.”
Don’t get me wrong, he is very smart. He knows everything about relativity and quantum physics and all that jazz, but he’s just kind of a dick. “And those important jobs require us to move, since we are short an experienced astrona–.”
Captain Aya tapped his shoulder abruptly. Her stern voice cut him short. “We aren’t short. Taylor is just an extra. One that we can teach and mold and share this unique experience with.”
I also don’t think he’s too keen on a random student he doesn’t know being on his flight crew.
Colby floats her way to me, “like a student!”
Trotter laughs, reaching down into the bull’s cabinets, his top half completely obstructed from my view. “Exactly.” He said as he groans.
First, a blip bleeps at Antoine’s station. Then, a rapid succession of blips. Now, I’m no navigator, but usually things on a radar aren’t good.
Not six days early, at least.
More rattles thunder around the Varia. Adair grips a locket around her throat, one that I know has a photo of her daughter and two grandsons.
I peer out the porthole, curiosity peaking my interest. “What’s happening?”
The plexiglass is covered in a thick green fog. I don’t know when this was produced, because I’ve been staring at this window for a good few days in my straitjacket of a seatbelt and it’s been crystal clear. Now, I can’t see at thing. Not even black.
Captain Aya secures her belt, flicking a switch. An alarm sounds, loud and demanding. Antoine’s radar is shrieking with beeps, constant and annoying.
Panic builds in my chest and suddenly I can’t breath. “What? Hey, what’s going on?
Adair is fumbling with her belt, but her shaking hands fail her. I can hear her mumbling in Spanish, saying prayers no doubt.
The Varia’s captain shouts, "code 451! We have a fire in the fans, a leak in the oxygen tank, and system failures in the crew quarters.”
Darkness engulfs the entire ship. “And the flight deck!” Aya’s voice is tight but panic lines her words.
My breath is labored and my heart is pounding in my ears. I hear someone screaming. Vaguely, I’m aware that it might be me.
“Taylor, shh, Taylor,” Colby’s voice is directly in my ear, drowning out the sounds of alarms and panicking and chaos. Her hands are unfastening my belts and shoving me down a corridor, into a small, compact tube. “This should take you home. I’m gonna go go help the others. We’ll be right behind you.”
Before I can say anymore, she’s clasping a safety belt on me, and pressing a flickering button. “Emergency,” it glows into the darkness of space. A thick sheet of metal forces Colby to remove her hand from my cheek.
Silence crashes around me, almost louder than the alarms. There are no windows in this small room. There are no switches, or nobs, or lights.
Pressure is forced on my chest, my whole body, until I feel like my eyeballs are going to pop out of their sockets.
The silence is broken by the sound of metal shaking, hinges snapping, metal scraping against more metal.
I grow dizzy. I must be spinning. Is it considered spinning when you are in space? I wonder at the back of my mind.
A sharp lurch causes my breath to leave my lungs and my eyes close-revealing more darkness- but a more comfortable darkness. A darkness of unconsciousness.
We were lucky to have spotted the black hole in time. It was the last gasp of the Visitor war. They wanted their revenge, even if they couldn’t have the planet.
There’s a terrible and perfect simplicity to black holes. Aside from mass, charge, and angular momentum, they are featureless empty voids.
Black holes eat their secrets.
The Visitors, for all their power, were not gods. They could only aim the black holes they made because they were heavily charged. We exploited that, sending legions of hastily magnetized battleships and cruisers speeding past it, all on carefully charted courses.
The hole could only be deflected so far, and it came down to three possible destinations; Earth, the moon, or an orbital path that would swiftly take it into the sun. The sun would stand for millennia, it was simply too large to eat at once, but what would happen to our descendants as the light slowly went out? What choice did we have?
So we watched the moon slowly fall in on itself, the black hole gouging deep equatorial canyons as it spiraled inwards. As it compacted, pieces of the moon were flung out, some impacting the earth, but most remaining in orbit.
I was outside every night, watching the moon die, eager to witness all I could, even if it was through tear blurred eyes.
The night is now lit by a thin white line, a silver ring, the last gift of our moon. Space is as safe as it ever was. The black hole is a predictable neighbor and its gravitational field is no different than the moon’s was, provided you’re far enough away. In fact, if you look closely, you can sometimes see it lens the light of distant stars as it passes in front of them, blurring it like an errant tear.