Shadows On The Cave Wall
Disclaimer: I don't own any rights to Odyssey 5. They belong to other people. Written for krazykipper.
Chuck sat on the back porch of his house – their house, his and Paige's, chugging lemonade and staring at the back yard. His leave from NASA wasn't up for another four days. He knew he should be thinking, planning, figuring things out, but his mind had turned over all control to his heart. His aching, broken heart. He took a gulp of lemonade and the sun came out, spreading brilliance over the yard, brighter and brighter until he lost all vision in the blinding white.
Neil toyed with his pen, his mind far from Mr. Darling's lecture in U.S. Government class. Though his mysteriously improved grades were holding, Neil hadn't had any concentration in any of his classes for over a week. None of his teachers seemed inclined to call him on it, though. Apparently losing your mother bought you license to daydream in school. The death of his mother caused a huge painful rip in Neil's reality, such as his reality was. He felt like he'd lost his father, as well, since Chuck's grief seemed to have killed his fighting spirit. Neil understood better than he liked to admit. What was the point of struggling to save the earth when it wouldn't bring Paige back? To his father, any future they might save looked bleak and loveless, but for Neil, the loss of his mother had focused him even more on the task at hand. Who knew? What with time traveling consciousness, sentients, synthetics, and aliens who lived outside of time, anything was possible, even something that might restore his mother to his timeline. He was too young to give up on his future.
"… can anyone tell me? Neil?"
Neil looked up at the teacher, startled, and everything in the room suddenly faded into white emptiness.
Kurt lit small votive candles discreetly placed around his apartment, preparing his place for the arrival of Jennie, or, Gina – he'd better figure out what her name was as quickly as he could manage. He started the CD player – five discs, carefully chosen – hours of music he hoped would be needed. He checked the oven and then the clock. Five minutes until she was due. What else, what else? He decided to fry an onion, he'd often found the scent of a frying onion worked as an aphrodisiac. It certainly said that the man of the house was a gourmand. He reached for the chopping knife – and his apartment dissolved into white.
Sarah finished doing her hair and makeup and left her dressing room with just a few minutes until air time, eagerness in her step. One of the stories she would do the segue into tonight was of particular interest to her, and to the whole Odyssey 5 team, she guessed. She'd do the news and then give Taggert a call to see if he'd watched it. Her assistant handed her the written transcript that would be on the teleprompter. Sarah nodded her thanks and glanced at the pages to be sure they were in order. Perhaps she'd call Neil first, she decided. She found Chuck abrasive, and his mood these days was hard to predict. The lights made the news anchor set glow a welcoming warmth. Across the set, conferring with the camera 2 operator, she spotted Troy who gave her an encouraging smile and nod. She smiled back and headed for her chair. The klieg lights shone brighter and brighter until she saw nothing but white.
"Fire RCS thrusters," Angela said. Commander Romanenko complied, and Angela deftly turned the orbiter so it was flying tail first.
"Prepare for OMS activation," said the Houston controller in her headset. Angela acknowledged, and her crew swiftly ran the checklist and fired the OMS engines, slowing the shuttle from its orbiting speed so it would fall back to Earth. All went smoothly. Angela glanced at Commander Romanenko. The cosmonaut's gaze flicked nervously over the displays, ready to criticize any failing. Angela was well familiar with the kind of misogyny that assumed a woman would inevitably screw something up. Her father had written the book on it and Taggert had added later chapters. Rather than be trained into meeting those low expectations, her courage always rose to surpass them. She knew she was good at this.
" Mach 20," she reported. "Fire RCS." Romanenko punched the buttons, and Angela pitched the spacecraft over so its belly faced the atmosphere and was once again flying nose forward. She watched the heat on the exterior sensors climb as the orbiter burned its way into earth's atmosphere. She glanced at the checklist strapped to her thigh because she was supposed to consult it, despite having the re-entry procedure memorized down to her bones. She flipped a switch on the forward RCS when the temperature reached 888 degrees celsius. "Burning surplus fuel," she said.
And everything went white.
Notes: Sorry about the stupid "scene change" lines, but ffnet won't let me use any rational section break indicator like extra white space or a series of asterisks or other characters, and I don't want horizontal rules all over my fic unless I can make them small, which I can't. Grrr.