The challenge: 1000 words broken up into TEN chapters. Any genre.
To Come Undone
The Plan wasn’t working. He knew it, understood like comprehending the inevitability of a shit after his dose of arrel gel in the morning. But knowing changed nothing, and he wearied of masking sensations he wasn’t supposed to have.
“Attention Twelve Seventeen. Permission to attend controls?”
Sweat broke on his back before she even finished speaking, and he wondered if he felt her enter the snug navigation pod, had gathered for her arrival before she cleared the hall.
“Greetings, Four Thirty-Five. Access confirmed.” He swallowed hard as she lowered to the molded seat on his left. The desire to stare was a pulse in his head, yet he dared not risk sensors noting so drastic a movement.
“Four Thirty-Five requesting latest period report.” She leaned forward when speaking and he removed his gaze from the side of her face before his temperature spiked and set off alarms. He’d been promised this wouldn’t happen, assured of elimination through a regimen of gels, physical challenge and concentration. What a crock, he thought, the comment filling his head. A yellow light sparked on his console as a bead of sweat slid down his spine.
“Period report relayed,” said the mainframe voice, and he couldn’t help but compare the canned femininity to the husky intonations of his co-pilot. He’d dreamed of her voice often, though that wasn’t supposed to occur either.
Four Thirty-Five’s hand spurred the report’s progression, and he had an overwhelming need to watch her slender fingers. The yellow console light flashed red.
“Twelve Seventeen,” chirped mainframe Mother. “We’ve recorded a significant rise in body temperature. Are you well?”
Fuck you, you fucking machine, his mind roared. You don’t give a rat’s ass how I am. He sweated from both temples and would’ve given his rations to be out of the suit hugging his form.
“Twelve Seventeen to Mother. Yes, I feel fine.”
Night had fallen and nothing had changed. He lay in his tube, staring at stars, and sleep, it would not come. He reasoned that the extra gel he’d ingested after evening rations was keeping him awake, but knew that wasn’t true. Even off-duty he thought of her, and recalled her hands, her voice, her form. This wasn’t going to go away, and Colony constraints be damned.
With a static stutter, the outdated console belched up a vertical screen, an array of graphs, all of them meaningless. The notion was so fierce he wondered if he’d forgotten a gel. He’d been told his work was valuable and thought that he agreed.
“We’re aware of solar storms in system H-4 and we’ve sent new coordinates to avoid contact. Confirm coordinates,” demanded Mother.
The display flickered as though uncertain, reminding him that flying a beleaguered ship was an indication of poor prospects. He’d been an idiot to believe them. Jabbing a hand forward, he slid the unstable screen, fingers brushing Four Thirty-Five’s arm as she moved to do the same. His heart pounded as he looked at the side of her face.
“Confirm coordinates,” Mother urged, flat vocals at odds with Four Thirty-Five’s profile. She trembled, and he was certain her yellow light was crimson.
“Twelve-Seventeen is acting against protocol.” Four Thirty-Five’s back was straight, her voice level, and he bristled at her control.
“Turn your head, Four Thirty-Five. Look at me.”
Her eyes began to water, and more than anything he wanted to know why.
The room, it could not hold him, nor anchor feelings down. He let his mind go soaring, and in his thoughts he saw her, and touched her, and shared what was in his head. They could give him gels, and push his muscles to exhaustion, but he’d be dead before he released her.
His head bobbed heavy on his neck. Keeping focused on the console took every bit of strength. He sensed before he saw her, and tried to lift his gaze, but immediately Mother engaged them, and the orders didn’t stop, and when Four Thirty-Five left at shift’s end, he did not even see her depart.
“You have a message. You have a message.”
The robotic call ceased when he rolled over and mashed the flashing button. A glance at his tube monitor told him shift was hours away and rubbing his eyes, he started message replay.
There wasn’t any stopping it, no off button he could press. They’d been draining ideas from him and now separation was the rule, and still the emotions were forming. He’d always been persistent, and warned them at the start, but they’d been certain of reformation, and now he’d be the one to pay the price.
Four Thirty-Five did not see him, her eyes were facing front. The console screen had gone haywire, and he watched her reboot.
He inched along the floor until her seat was right beside him. Her attention was all on Mother, and mainframe’s static-filled confusion, just as he’d hoped. Being so close made his heart skitter. He put a hand on her nearest knee.
Four Thirty-Five jerked sideways, almost falling from her chair. Her eyes hit his.
“Four Thirty-Five to Mother, I do not read you. Repeat command.”
The mainframe burped back only static.
“They can’t see us, can’t hear us. It’s like we’re not even here.”
Her eyes were large and shining and made up all he saw.
“How can you be sure?”
He smiled, so relieved to let it form. “Solar storms. We’re passing through them. I got an order to enter new coordinates last shift, and I didn’t. I didn’t change them because this is the only way for us to be alone.”
She stared down from her molded seat. “Twelve-Seventeen. Those storms could shut us down.”
“Yes,” he said, moving closer. “But I had to. So I could tell you that no matter what they do, I keep dreaming of you, and ask if you do the same.” His body empty, a locked chest thrown wide open, and yet she sat so silent. He almost couldn’t breathe.
Around them light was growing, becoming brighter still. Before him she was moving, her hands rising until they rested on his cheeks. Her eyes filled, and overflowed as she spoke.
“It happened to me too, and I didn’t understand. I don’t know what to say.”
Feeling spread through him, as warm as the light. “Let’s not say then, let’s only show.” He grabbed her then, and pulled her in, and felt her arms ease round his own.