1 She Is Doing Well

- Sol Calendar 2687-03-15 , 2100 GMT -

He never gets tired of the view. As the shuttle exits the stratosphere, he looks on as the clouds disappear. To look on as the ethereal clouds disappear, to be replaced with a blue sky. He only has enough time to appreciate the majestic beauty of it before the blue disappears, to be replaced by an empty blackness.

After everything that has happened, this last view of Earth seems particularly apt for him. Is he running away? Or is he moving onward towards better possibilities? Not even he is sure of the answer.

It never gets old for him. Each trip into space is as astounding to him as the first time. Moreover, with each trip, he is forced to realize the real risks involved in space travel. It is of no wonder that humans have been fascinated by the stars for so long with all the monuments and relics dotted around the world with their reverence towards the stars. Stonehenge's purpose is a mystery but the astronomical alignments give strong hints. The Great Temple of Amun-Re was built with the worship of Sun, specifically the mid-winter rising sun. The Indian 'Siddhantasiromani' was a valuable treatise on astronomical calculations. The Chinese was the first to record a supernova, albeit that it was interpreted as a divine omen. The Warren Field calendar in Scotland is the oldest calendar currently found, preceding the next recorded calendar system by almost 5 millennia. The worship of the stars and the unknown has been a core trait of humanity.

And now mankind has achieved spaceflight. From a race limited to crawling on the ground, we have reached and conquered the heavens themselves. 6 centuries after the first manned rocket into space, we are now freely flying in the void. We have initiated colonization of 4 planets now and another 21 are undergoing terraformation projects. Never again mankind need fear being restricted to extinction on a single world. The creation of the HyperLight engines was a big boon to us, made possible by the discovery of the Adrian-Kazuya Theory, named after the 2 researchers involved, though in all honesty, those 2 was more accurately mad scientists on a rogue path. They were actually bent on discovering how to bend light to initiate time travel, but instead by accident, discovered a method of travelling that actually allows us to surpass light itself. Imagine their surprise when their testing equipment, which they expected to send to 15 seconds in time, either forward or backwards, was instead found to have travelled to the moon. While it may not equal the 'eureka' moment of Archimedes, it certainly does merit a funny mention not the least because it took them a decade to be able to again replicate that incident reliably.

"Mr. Zuman, we will be engaging HyperLight engines soon, please strap on again if you've unbuckled."

The captain, Steven Jones, announced over the cabin intercom.

Brought out of his reverie, Zuman Ralph takes a quick glance towards his cabin door, and resumes looking out the window.

Honestly, he is thankful towards the 2 mad scientists. His own personal research direction was inspired by their madness, and it is due to this that he is on this flight. To where you ask? Alfrun Space Research Station. Located just outside the solar system in an errant asteroid field, the surrounding asteroids renders it undetectable to scans and the minerals inside the asteroids tend to confuse more detailed sensor scans. Add to that the fact that this field is gazetted as the world government sector and that tends to discourage casual flyby scans.

Why the need for secrecy? Zuman is part of the world government's black ops research team on the study of light. Sounds simple sure, however, the full scope of the project is to explore on all aspects available on how to utilize light. From the most mundane such as how to develop better light source, to genuine research such as making a better version of the particle accelerator, to how to weaponize it. Weaponizing light sounds so simple and stupid. After all, it is just light right? How are you supposed to weaponize something so ubiquitous as light? However, we have been fascinated with the idea of using light as a weapon since ages past, yea, even since the ancient Greeks. We have descriptions of Zeus using his lightning bolts as his weapon of choice to show his wrath, we have stories of mages and wizards using bolts of light to blast their enemies out of existence, and more recently, we have holoshows of space explorer using laser weapons in space warfare.

A slight shake and the outside view of countless stars becomes a plain grey glow, signifying that the shuttle has made the jump to hyperlight. Sighing gently at how apt the view is for his current mood, he presses a button and a partition gently slides down, blocking the depressing view from his sight.

"Sir, we've made the jump to hyperlight, it's ok for you to unbuckle now, maybe stretch your legs if you want. As usual, our trip will take around 12 hours, give or take half an hour."

Announced Steven over the cabin intercom.

"Sure thing Steven, and thanks as always for the smooth jump."

He replied back via the intercom.

Looking around his cabin morosely, he decides that he'll just take a nap until then.

"Steven, I'll be taking a nap until we arrive. Wake me up if any emergency happens."

"Alright sir, rest well."

"Thanks."

Nodding, he was just thinking of lying down when there's a knock.

"Sir, Steven told me you'll be taking a break. Once you wake up later and need refreshments, just give me a buzz over the comm channel."

The voice of Serra Lee, his PA came from behind the door.

"No worries Serra, you go on have a chat with Stevens. Bet you have some catching up to do. I'll buzz you if anything"

"Thank you sir."

Serra replied in a grateful tone.

He just smiled sadly at this. Serra and Steven have been engaged for 2 years now. The only thing stopping them from tying the knot has been the chaotic schedule. Apparently they insist on having the ceremony on earth with all their relatives and some close friends attending. But with his project at such a crucial stage, the ministry in charge of his project insists on having every hand on deck. That means Serra has to follow HIS schedule for now. And while his last short holiday on Earth would have been a good time for the wedding, Steven was called away for another sensitive mission at that time.

"Oh well, good thing it's him in charge this time, at least that takes a bit of the guilt off of my mind."

Whispering to himself, he gets on the bed.

"Well, how am I supposed to sleep now eh?"

-

2330 Hours

-

Eyes still wide open; he just spends it looking at the ceiling.

-

0130 Hours

-

Restless stirring on the bed. He tries changing his posture countless times but to no avail.

-

0330 Hours

-

(Oh damn it, I'll just review my files for now.)

Thinking such, he goes to the cabin desk and brings up the files he always keeps with him. Looking at the graphs, diagrams and calculations, he calms down a bit.

(Might as well get something done huh.)

And so he slowly loses track of time while working.

-

0930 Hours

-

"Sir, we should be arriving there within 10 minutes. Steven will be shutting down the Hyperlight engine in 5 minutes. Please buckle down as we'll be entering the asteroid field immediately after. "

Serra told him from cabin door. Apparently she saw the cabin notice that he's awake and entered, being one of the few with the privilege to enter without knocking. He gave her this privilege himself after that one time where he got knocked on the head from a particularly rough flight re-entry where he ignored the buckle down warning.

"Huh? Oh, thanks Serra for the heads up."

"No worries sir."

"By the way, my project is nearing the end, so I think you can really start planning with Steven about the big day."

"Eh? Will do sir, thanks for the heads up. But, sir, how about you yourself?"

Being his PA <1> who is also required to keep track of his activities, she is naturally aware of what happened, and thus she is surprised that he would have the mood to care about her.

Privately, she is worried about him and asked Steven for advice during their chat, to which Steven replied

(I think it's better for us to give him time. I've known him since I was a kid, heck, my da knows him since my da was a kid. When you've known someone that long, sometimes it's harder to meddle in. The best we can do is just stay at the side and catch him if he falls. He wouldn't want anyone looking over his shoulder, but catching his fall is a different story.)

"I'm okay Serra, really. Also, I want to make sure my cute PA and handsome little Ven get a good ending yeah."

With his melancholy, that appellation of 'little Ven' accidentally came out.

"If you say so sir."

She replied gently, sensing that's all she can safely say for now.

-

"Dropping out of HyperLight sir."

Steven announced on the intercom.

"Thanks as always Steven."

-

With a gentle shake, the shuttle docks with the station.

-

-Shuttle Airlock, 1030 Hours-

At the exit, he stops for a moment at the airlock before looking seriously at Steven while Serra watches from behind him.

"Ven. I told Serra this, but just in case she worries about me instead, my project is ending soon. You both might wanna have that talk about your big day. Also, give your crew my regards and my thanks for the smooth ride."

"Thank you sir. You know that you're always invited to the wedding."

"As if you dare to not invite me. Your dad would give you a good beating if you did."

Zuman smirks at this, a hint of his old playful self surfacing.

Steven could only smile wryly at this and just waves him off. He turns back and goes to his crew for the maintenance checklist.

"Alright Serra. I'll be heading to my quarters to freshen up and at 0900 hours, I'll head to the medbay for my usual checkup."

"Will do sir. See you there then."

Serra smiles at him, happy to see that small bit of cheer from him even though it was at the slight expense of her man's pride.

-

- Medbay, 1300 Hours -

"Good to see you again Mr. Zuman. How's your holiday? Wait, I thought it was supposed to longer? I seem to recall you telling me about it quite a lot before going."

The cheerful nurse Karina Kent starts grilling him as usual.

"It was fine. Something came up so I had to cut it short."

"That's a shame. Anyway, how's your fiance? I recall that you said this holiday was a surprise visit to your family and fiance?"

This question silenced him and it was a while before he answered her.

"She is doing well."

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