Sol Earth Songs
By Laura Schiller
Based on the Across the Universe Trilogy
Copyright: Beth Revis
"Dance With My Father", performed by Luther Vandross
"If I could steal one final glance,/one final step, one final dance with him,/I'd play a song that would never, ever end - /How I'd love, love, love/ to dance with my father again."
Nothing in this universe makes Elder feel quite so lost as listening to Amy talk about her parents.
It's not only that he hates to see her sad, or even that it's his own fault she will never see them again. It's the way her eyes light up when she describes her father: how he danced with her when she was small, picking her up and spinning her around until she giggled herself to sleep. How he mediated between her and her equally stubborn mother, until all three of them sat down for a peacemaking pancake brunch or sci-fi marathon. It's the way her light fades again when she thinks of her parents' frozen bodies on the cryo level, and how every day, she regrets never showing them how much they meant to her.
Every time he remembers the contempt in Eldest's voice ("I pray to the stars above that he puts some sense into that empty head of his!") Elder cannot help but envy Amy in secret. It's selfish and irrational, but it's true.
She misses Robert Martin as he was – but Elder misses Eldest as he should have been. Some days, he cannot decide which pain is worse, and it's one of far too many things he cannot tell her.
"Stars", performed by Terrence Mann (Les Misérables)
"Stars … in your multitudes/ scarce to be counted,/filling the darkness with order and light./You are the sentinels, keeping watch in the night. (…)/You hold your course and your aim (…) /and if you fall, as Lucifer fell - /you fall in flames!"
On nights like this, Eldest cannot shake the feeling that his first Elder is still alive. He knows it's a delusion, but it persists – he feels that any moment now, if he looked over his shoulder, he could see the boy's accusing eyes glaring back at him. See the child he taught and cared for, the part of himself he rejected and discarded, coming back to take revenge. It is his guilt speaking, and he knows this. Over and over again, he tells himself he has no reason to feel guilty.
On nights like this, all that can calm him is to look at the stars. Not the contemptible little lightbulbs on the Keeper Level, but the real stars, down by the release hatch where he has sent so many citizens to their final rest. Their silver glow against the darkness of space represents everything he's striving for: order and harmony. Everything the first Elder's rebellion threatened to destroy.
Over and over, he tells himself he did the right thing. It's the only way to live with what he has done.
"Let My People Go", performed by Amick Byram and Ralph Fiennes (The Prince of Egypt)
"Once I called you brother,/once I thought the chance to make you laugh/was all I ever wanted./(I send the thunder from the sky, I send the fire raining down)/And even now, I wish that God would choose another - /Serving as your foe on His behalf/is the last thing that I wanted … "
Sometimes Bartie would give anything to travel three years back in time. Back to when Eldest's firm, but steady rule kept the ship running as smoothly as it could; when the pastries from the wall slot were full-sized, the rain fell on time, and there was peace on the streets of Godspeed. Back when the only rivalry between him and little Elder was over who could run to the garden faster. Back to the time before everything fell apart.
He did not want to believe it, but the evidence is before his eyes. He has seen the leader who promised freedom of expression, torturing Harley's father with the wi-com enhancer to silence his protests. Making an example of his death with the patches reading "follow the leader". The last thing he wants is to fight his younger friend, but he considers it a duty.
Someone has to stop Elder from breaking the promises he made, from dealing out life, death and oblivion at his own whim; from letting all that power twist his soul the way it twisted Eldest's. Someone has to save Elder from himself.
4. "Piece of Heaven", performed by Giorgia Fumanti
"Have you ever seen the light/of the stars out in the sky?/Did they ever touch your heart with their grace? (…)/There is a piece of heaven all around/everywhere you go./ There is a piece of heaven all around,/didn't you know? Didn't you know?"
"All I had to do was die a little," says Elder, smiling wryly from his hospital bed, "And you get a new planet."
"You stupid idiot! I don't want the new planet without you!"
She doesn't even stop to think before saying it, which is how she knows it's true. Her recent thoughts about the definition of home come back to her with a new and fierce conviction: if home is the place where you feel safe and cherished, her home is with Elder. If she had lost him just then, not even the entire endless sky could make up for it.
It's not only the fact that he's beautiful, that his strong body, soft dark hair and those chocolate eyes make her heart melt. It's not a matter of last resort, either; if she had a choice, she'd still choose him. Not one boy in a hundred would treat her with such kindness and respect as he does, but still not hesitate to argue with her when she's wrong. Not one would share her sense of humor so well, or match her awe at the beauty of the stars in quite that innocent way.
He is her starry sky now, and it's time to let him know – preferably though actions rather than words.
"My Immortal", performed by Evanescence
"You used to captivate me/by your resonating light,/Now I'm bound by the life you left behind./Your face, it haunts my once pleasant dreams./Your voice, it chased away all the sanity in me."
The first time Elder tried to talk to Victria about Orion – who he was, what he did, why he had been frozen – she punched him. The second time, she refused even to answer.
It was all the freak's fault, she told herself. The redhead from Sol-Earth was poisoning Elder's mind. Orion was her friend, her literary mentor, and the kindest man she'd ever known. He was the only light of hope left in her world after Luthe had torn it to pieces. He was not a murderer. He couldn't be.
But the more she went down to the cryo level, the more she looked into his frozen, panic-twisted face and poured out her soul in one-sided conversations, the more her views began to shift. She understood hate now, that cold fire in your heart, urging you to strike back at your enemies no matter what the cost. She also understood the redhead, better than she cared to admit. Amy had to be telling the truth.
If Orion had truly believed that the colonists were meant to exploit them, might he not have resorted to desperate measures after all? Just once, for the greater good?
The third time Elder told his story, Victria believed him.
By then it would not matter to her if Orion had killed every frozen on the cryo level, if he'd only come back to her.
6. "Demander pardon" ("Apologize"), performed by the full cast (Shérazade)
"Apologize, apologize/Time must pass until anger is proven wrong./Apologize to those you may have hurt/and change the seasons' course for love."
Their first sunset on Centauri-Earth is breathtaking. While one of the binary suns is already slipping over the horizon, the other still shines, brighter and fiercer than a dozen heat lamps. Together, they bathe the sky in a flood of pink, lavender and red, touch the nearby trees with gold and the lake with their sparkling reflections. Most of the would-be colonists are awed, some are terrified – but Amy flings herself down in the soft golden grass, spreads her arms, and smiles up at Elder with the purest joy and wonder she's ever seen. He knows the feeling. It's exactly how he felt the first time he saw her.
"So that's the sky," he says matter-of-factly, teasing her. "Hmm. Pretty. Got nothing on your hair, though."
She snorts a laugh and pats the space next to her. He has so much to do – give some kind of welcome speech; oversee the building of a shelter; help unload the cargo and, frex, what should he do about Orion and the other frozens? – but he can and must take time to savor this moment with her, and so he lies down too. The grass is softer than he expected, springy, and he feels himself grinning back at her like a loon.
It's beyond brilly to see her smile again. After their last fight about Orion, he'd been afraid to lose her for good.
"For what?" he asks, with honest bewilderment.
"For holding a grudge for so long about … the unplugging thing."
"There's nowhere in the universe I'd rather be right now," she breathes into his ear. "And no one I'd rather be with."
He understands that she has forgiven him, really forgiven him at last. This, more than anything until now, is the crowning moment of his life.