For the first time in a long time, Capa felt truly alone. Eight people living in a ship the size of Icarus II, over such an extended period of time, didn't make for a life of seclusion. No matter where he went, he never felt completely isolated from the rest of the crew. Everywhere he looked, there would be some reminder of his companions in evidence-photos of the crew taken at Christmas time adorning the walls, Cassie's books strewn around the dining area, dirty dishes lying around because somebody couldn't be bothered cleaning up properly that day. And there was always noise. The ship was a constant humming sound, interrupted frequently by the clattering of feet on the deck, or the chatter of raised voices in the distance. There was always somebody nearby, reminding him that he was never truly on his own.
It had bothered him in the beginning. He liked being on his own; he needed space and peace and quiet, he needed to be able to think. His one retreat was the payload, the one place where he could count on a bit of solitude. But even that had not remained his own for long. Cassie, growing restless and lonely as the months stretched on, had begun to visit more and more often as they became closer friends. He figured she just liked having someone to talk to, and after a while, it no longer bothered him when she buzzed him over the intercom; in fact, strangely enough, in a way he came to welcome her presence there. She helped take his mind off things sometimes, and she understood. And that, well, that just helped make things bearable. It was worth giving up a bit of privacy for that.
But now Cassie was gone. Was she even still alive? Mace was dead, Trey was dead, Corazon, Searle, Harvey, Kaneda, all dead. So that left him, all alone at last, the mission left to him. "Do it, Capa. Do it..." The last words Capa heard Mace say as he listened to him die over the headphones. He was the only one left to separate the payload from the ship, the only one with a chance of completing the mission. The survival of all mankind rested on his shoulders. He had never felt more inadequate in all his life. He couldn't afford to fail, but he didn't think he had enough strength in him to succeed.
He stood in silence for a short moment when he came across Mace's frozen corpse, before turning to the computer system and readying the emergency separation procedure. He could feel the ship shake as the payload and ship detached. Digits flashed on the screen in front of him. Four minutes. Four short minutes before the payload ignited, destroying the ship he had called home, before hurtling directly into the sun.
Never before had the walk towards the entrance to the payload taken so long. Each step seemed like it took the time of a thousand, and fear and pain weighed heavily on him, so heavily he feared he would not be able to move. But still he walked, one foot in front of the other, slowly, slowly, carefully. The lights flickered as he made his way through the abandoned passageways, casting darting shadows across the walls. He felt like he was walking in a dream. Or, to be honest, through the worst kind of nightmare.
He knew he was falling even before he saw the ground rise up to meet him. And he couldn't stop himself. His flailing arms met with nothing but thin air, and all he could do was watch as the ground come closer. He hit the floor with a resounding crash. For a moment, the breath was knocked out of him, and he couldn't even remember how to move properly. He cursed and cried, spittle dripping down his chin as he banged his head against the inside of the spacesuit helmet. He curled his hands into tights fists, beating them futilely off the ground in frustration. Time was swiftly running out and he couldn't even move. He was stupid and slow and weak, and because of that everyone would die. Godammit, move, you bastard! His muscles felt like jelly. On your feet, now. He tensed his arms, and slowly began to push himself up from the ground. His heart hammered loudly in his chest, the noise almost deafening, beaten only by the sound of the gasping of his breath. Come on, faster, faster, faster. He staggered as he pushed himself up, grabbing onto the inadequate support of the walls in a bid to keep himself upright. Sweat trickled down his face, stinging his eyes, as he slowly resumed his journey. He wobbled frequently as he continued down the passageway, and each time, his heart seized up in terror, waiting for the floor to rise up and greet him again. But he didn't fall. He staggered along, panting heavily, his eyes fixed on his destination.
The hatch gradually came closer and closer, and he grabbed onto it tightly as soon as it was within an arms reach. He struggled to turn the handle, panicking as it caught at each turn, terrified that it would jam and refuse to open. But open it did, revealing the corresponding hatch to the payload, stretched fifty metres away from him, and nothing in between but open space. The sky was a vibrant orange around it. He remembered then the dream he had. The dream where he was falling into the sun. Capa had never pegged himself for the psychic sort, but it looked as though his dream was about to come true. He was about to fall down directly into the sun. He could hardly breathe as he prepared himself to jump. It didn't help that his legs felt frozen to the ground. For a second, he forgot his fear that he would fail. All he could think about was falling, falling, falling. His heart clenched painfully inside his chest, as he stared into the great wide orange abyss. He couldn't do it. He just couldn't. The distance between the ship and the payload was growing greater and greater, and he couldn't do a thing.
And then, a voice came unbidden into his mind. Cassie's voice. The only dream I ever have, is the surface of the sun. All at once, he was back in his tiny cabin with her, her skin glowing in the blue light, her dark eyes and big smile. Every time I shut my eyes, it's always the same. She had dreamed the same thing. Was she as frightened as he was now? Was she even alive? Would he ever see her again?
With the image of her face in his mind, and her words echoing in his ears, Capa jumped. Launching himself from the open hatch, he screamed silently as his body was propelled across the endless gap. It felt like the weight of the entire universe was pressing in on him as he flew across the empty space, crushing his every nerve. And while he fell, he remembered something he had heard as a child. When you're about to die, your life flashes before your eyes. He had marvelled at that. Imagine, he thought to himself, replaying your entire life before you die. It wasn't entirely true, he thought numbly as he fell. He only saw parts. He saw his dream. He saw himself fall into the fire. He saw his family, the people he had left behind, who waited for him on Earth, hoping against hope that they would see him again. A wasted hope. He thought of the family he made and lost on this mission. Kaneda, Searle, Harvey, Trey, Corazon, Mace. And he thought of her. He thought of Cassie.