Ends and Means - Part One
Alex sat defeated at the end of his cot--hand in head, elbows on knees. Sleep was but a fantasy anymore. This ship, these people, this future, all of it poked and jabbed unmercifully as he inched closer and closer to the cliff of sanity, peering over the ledge into a sea of insanity below. Only the smallest of bumps would take him over, over and down into an abyss from which he'd never be able to escape. Maybe his brother's suicide affected him more than he thought. Maybe this entire reality around him was nothing but a dream, his mind twisting and turning in some psycho symphony designed to hold him forever.
Adding to the already heightened level of anxiety Alex had developed on this trip to the future, the attack on this secret Interpol moon base seemed but a small step required in order for home to be more than a dream. There was a detachment to everything around him. Alex didn't truly feel apart of the goings-on around this ship, in this time. He felt like an observer, really, just watching as things happened around him, to him. That proved problematic. He had participated, after all. He had helped to finalize the plans for the guidance system on the charges that, in a few short hours, would destroy an entire building and the tens of thousands of people working inside. Still, he didn't feel like he was a part of it all. He was working on a way home, a way to escape and never look back, or forward, however you chose to look at it. His life this was not--merely a temporary point of existence that required no justification.
Alex stood and walked toward the door. His feelings of detachment bothered him. The only thing in this entire screwed up mess that felt real was the woman across the hall. Katlyn came from his own time and place; Katlyn had to feel the same way he did, didn't she? And if she didn't? Did that make him loonier than he expected? Maybe, maybe not--either way, Katlyn was the only one he could talk to about this. The last thing he wanted was for anyone that belonged in this time to know he felt the people here weren't real.
As he stepped across the hall and reached out to knock on Katlyn's door, the door opened.
"Hey, mate," Jared said, slapping Alex on the shoulder. Clad only in shorts, the pilot slipped by and wandered down the hall.
Frozen in place, muscles tensed to the point of strain, Alex struggled with a growing violence deep in the inner recesses of his soul. He was a man of the mind and had never raised a fist in anger, but that foundation of physical suppression cracked and splintered ever steadily.
For now, the cement held. He gazed at the tousled hair framing Katlyn's unique face, his eyes unable to meet hers. He thought he might of said hi, or hello, but if he had it didn't register.
"What is it?" she asked, tying her robe closed. The rope around her waist might as well have been around his neck. "You look terrible."
Why had he come? What did he want with this woman? "I needed to--there was something I wanted to..." Alex fought for the words, for the ideas that had prompted him to come over. The sight of Jared knocked everything out of his mind and left him gasping like an old man taken off life support.
The next thing Alex knew he had a glass of water in his hand and he sat on a chair in Katlyn's quarters. The remnants of a strong grip faded from his arm, giving hint to how he found himself inside.
"Talk to me, Alex. What's wrong?"
"Ever since I laid eyes upon you, I've wanted to wrap my arms around your body and pull you against me. My lips have ached for your lips, dying every second they're unable to make contact. I need you, Katlyn. In this bizarre world with these bizarre people, I need you to anchor me into the reality that is ours. The reality I'm trying to bring us back to but can't do without your love and your support."
"Oh, Alex!" She said breathily, her long lithe body diving into his and pulling him in to a deep, passionate kiss that melted the world away.
Alex blinked away the fantasy to find Katlyn still seated on the end of her cot, watching him with dark eyes that were too pretty to exist. "It's okay," she said. "You can talk to me."
"I--" Alex closed his eyes and sighed. Maybe peanut butter wasn't such a bad option. At least it didn't talk or breathe. "Ever since--" The words lingered on the tip of his tongue.
Katlyn knelt in front of him, her hand reaching out and resting against his knee. She gazed up into Alex's face. "We're in this together. If we can't talk to each other, who do we have?"
The proximity, the touch, it was all too much. A potentially embarrassing situation was growing and he had very little time to avoid it. "I just wanted to say things are progressing quicker than I expected. I should have a prototype up and running in a few weeks."
With that, Alex stood and spun on his heels, moving toward the door. "Better get back to work," he called over his shoulder without looking back. He imagined for a brief moment Katlyn staring at him with wide eyes dripping with disappointment. Reality dictated she probably thought he was a freaking lunatic.
Sometime after the ugly incident with Katlyn, Alex tossed and turned uncomfortably on his cot. As he lay there in a heap of distraught thoughts, his brother's voice pierced through the darkness of the room and his dreams.
"Never was good with the ladies, little brother."
"And you were," Alex mumbled. "Must a been twenty women at your funeral."
"Remember what I told you?"
"Confidence. Women are all about confidence. Doesn't matter how ugly you are, doesn't matter how much a weak, pathetic little weasel you are, if you are confident, you are golden."
"And what are you?"
"Bullshit. You just need to work on using the confidence you have in your work with other parts of your life."
"Thanks. Now get out of my dreams."
"You don't know that she was boffing him. There could be a perfectly reasonable explanation why he was in her room with only his shorts on."
"If you're trying to help, stop."
"Okay, fine. We won't talk about Katlyn. Let's talk about this assault instead. You know you need to stop them. Why are you ignoring the situation until it's too late?"
Alex rolled over on his side, draped his arm across his eyes. "It's none of my business," he said. "This is their universe, their lives. I'm just a visitor."
"Whether you like it or not these people are real, Alex. Those people on Calisto are real, too. Just because they exist 500 years in the future and you're trying to get home and will never seen them again doesn't mean what's about to happen is right."
"Oh, right. I'd almost forgotten. Daniel 'All life is precious' Sterling is out to save the world."
"Innocent people will die, Alex. Doesn't that mean anything to you?"
Alex sat up, staring into the darkness. "What do you want from me? Huh? What do you expect from me, Daniel? Tell me, please. Lord knows I won't be able to live with myself if you're not controlling my life even after you're dead."
"I want you to wake up. I want you to open your eyes and see what is happening around you. This is not some game where lives mean nothing. This is reality, Alex. This is life we're talking about here. The choices you make, the things you let just happen, will have an impact on all life just the same here as it would back in your own time. Would you sit in your little basement and let your neighbors go around killing each other back home?"
"They're trying to save humanity. How is it my place to tell them they're wrong? You're all about the sanctity of human life, Daniel. So why are you wigged out about this?"
"Because there are 45,000 human beings in that base and all of them will die."
"And how many will live because of it?" Alex knew Daniel's answer. This conversation repeated numerous times in the past.
"It's irrelevant. A life is a life. Who are you, or anyone on this ship, to say that those lives down there are acceptable losses for a greater good?
"Again I ask what you want of me, Daniel. I'm in no position to stop them. I can't wave a magic wand and say some magic words and suddenly they'll see what they're doing isn't right."
"You're right, you can't. But you can try. Sitting on your ass, feeling sorry for yourself and ignoring the situation isn't the right thing to do. Stop looking at this as a dream, Alex. You're living and you're in position to do what needs to be done to save those lives. You will regret it if you don't at least try."
"I'll regret it more if I don't get some sleep. Leave me alone." Alex dropped back down on the cot, trying to push Daniel out of his mind. Nevertheless, his brother's old words held power over him; they echoed in his heart long after the voice faded.To be continued...