System Nine

October 22, 2008
By Sarah Aikin, Reno, NV

“Why does it have to be so desolate Jack?” D.C. leaned against the thick plexiglass that separated what was left of the human race from the cold, vast emptiness of space. “It’s so empty.”
Jack stepped forward, hands deep in his pockets. He too looked far out into the starry universe. But he saw something that D.C. didn’t, and a wide smile spread across his masculine face. He leaned down close to her delicately pale features, reaching out for her hand.

“It’s not so empty. C’mon I want to show you something.” He grabbed her hand and led her down the small corridor, following the flashing red lights upon the floor that led to the docking station.
“Where are we going?” D.C. couldn’t help but smile. Her life had changed dramatically since Spek Five and Twenty-six had found Spek number Eight, on it was Jack; and he quickly came to mean more to her than any other person she had met. He pulled her swiftly along behind him, and turning his head back briefly.
“You’ll see.”
“I haven’t seen anyone this excited in years.” She laughed without restraint for the first time in what felt like forever.
“There hasn’t been a reason to be excited, until now.”
They entered the docking station, where a flurry of activity was occurring. Jack let go of her hand and told D.C. to wait there. She watched as he approached the Spek’s second in command, a bright young Captain straight out of training. Jack pulled something out of his pocket and showed it to the Captain, whom nodded and pointed to the right. Jack turned around and flashed a smile, then motioned for D.C. to follow him.
“What’s going on?” Jack only grabbed D.C.’s hand once more as he pulled her into an elevator. The box slowly descended down three levels, and the cool female voice announced “Pods.” D.C. was in disbelief, she had never been outside the Spek. Of course everyone knew about the pods, but Spek Five only had two and no one besides officials knew how to fly them. Spek Eight however had rows and rows, and apparently Jack had what was needed to fly one, a license.
“Why are we going out of the Spek?” A slight wave of apprehension washed over D.C. She found her feet planted on the dock, as Jack opened a pod and hopped in.
“Are you coming?” Jack’s smile was enticing, D.C. smiled back and jumped into the other seat.
Pods were small, only two seats. Shaped like bullets, they moved with remarkable fluidity through the limitless ocean of stars and celestial clouds that made up the never-ending universe. As the glass shield closed over and in front of them, Jack slipped the intricate seatbelt over D.C.’s torso, then sat down to her left and pressed every button at least twice. In front of them the metal doors twisted apart to reveal a circular doorway to absolute freedom. Jack’s hand paused above the starter handle.
“Are you ready?” D.C. looked over at Jack’s handsome features, following the way his black hair flowed over his dark eyes that sparkled with untold excitement.
“Let’s go.” Jack slowly pushed the starter forward. With a large jolt the thrusters switched on and in moments they were shooting out of the dock and into the open world. D.C. took in deep breaths of air as Jack maneuvered the speeding bullet with beautiful skill. They twisted and dove, flying through invisible hoops. D.C. clutched tightly to the armrests of her seat, as the propulsion plastered her against its back. The Pod slowed down by a great degree and D.C. laughed.
“That was fun.” Jack looked into D.C.’s swirling chocolate eyes.
“That’s not even why we’re out here.” Jack said with a smile as he pushed the pod forward he began.
“Way back when, when the Earth was dying the human race wasn’t the only species preparing. In what could easily be described as the most dramatic evolution in the absolute shortest time possible animals of all kinds were changing. From the inside out many species morphed, their bodies shifting to be able to live outside of the atmosphere. Despite what people may have told you about when the Earth died, wild animals weren’t running about, in fact there were few animals left. Only the ones that couldn’t evolve quickly enough were left to die, but by the end of the world most newly evolved species had already fled to the stars. The Universe is practically infinite; most people will never get the chance to see them.” D.C. listened intently, eyes fixed on Jacks’ moving lips. He stopped and looked over at her, smiling broadly before slowing the pod and shifting his gaze out through the wide clear shield.
A shimmering iridescent light was approaching them; D.C. squinted at the moving beams. Before she could question, her breath caught in her chest. Spiraling and diving in front of them were creatures at least seven feet long. Bright shifting rainbows flowed beneath their pearly skin.

“What are they?” Her voice was soft and her chest finally released her breath. Jack reached over and gently laced his fingers with hers.

“I think they might have been birds once.”
D.C. studied them for a moment, trying to remember the pictures she had seen of birds searching for the resemblance; which she found in their long wing like arms that propelled them in circles and sweet playful dances over and around the hovering pod. Their elegantly arched bodies flowed like water amidst the emptiness. Their eyes were individually unique, each having its own personal color. They trilled and chirped like angelic birds. They danced and sang for Jack and D.C., casting shimmering rainbows across their euphoric faces. Nearly twenty minutes had passed before the largest with navy blue eyes rolled away with a melodic goodbye. Each one followed him, singing out its own delicate goodbye, only one paused in front of them; it was the smallest with golden eyes that shone hopefully. With the longest harmonious farewell it sped through the void, floating on the wake of its elders.

Jack and D.C. sat still in the pod, hands held tightly as they watched the birds until they were nothing but another star in the sky. D.C. felt tears coming to her eyes, never had she witnessed something so beautiful in her life, and she probably never would again; she would miss their joy terribly.

“Where do you think they’re going?” she whispered to Jack. Neither of them turned their gazes away from where their living stars had disappeared.

“They’re probably searching for System Nine too.” Jack pulled his hand away from D.C.’s as he pushed the starter forward and swung the pod around, back to the flying metallic Speks; the only home either of them had ever known.

They docked the pod, and Jack helped D.C. out. They walked slowly back, up three levels, and the long walk to the connector box that moved from Spek Eight to Spek Five in complete silence. They stood for a moment, both hands occupied with the others when they reached the connector. Slowly Jack pulled D.C. into his muscular chest, holding her tightly in his arms. D.C. let a few tears fall from her aching eyes, something she hadn’t done since she lost her father. Separation came too soon, but D.C. had to get back on Spek Five before the connector was shut off.

“I didn’t want to make you cry.” Jack whispered as he looked down into D.C.’s tearful eyes.

“I know.” D.C. furiously wiped the tears away.

“See you in a bit.” Jack smiled at D.C. He paused for a moment, unsure. With a slight shake of his head he began to turn, but D.C. reached out grabbing him by the arm, she swung him around. Standing on her tiptoes D.C. leaned against him, and reached up pressing her lips to his. Without hesitation he wrapped his arms around her, kissing her deeply. D.C. pulled back towards the connector box that began to sound a warning that there was five minutes until it shut off for the designated sleep hours. She smiled softly as her eyes met Jack’s

“Thank you.” She reached up and kissed him swiftly on the cheek, then turned and entered the connector that travelled across emptiness to Spek Five. Before the doors closed, D.C. waved and whispered goodnight.

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