The Second Sun


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Also featuring

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Scene Title The Second Sun
Synopsis The launch that sends four people into space starts off bad, and just gets worse.
Date October 13, 2010


Dark and starless and spacelike.

Ground control to major Tom


Ground control to Major Tom

It's the best way to describe space travel by untrained individuals. It is a terrifying, painful experience. The rumbling and shaking of the rocket feels like it's going to seperate flesh from bone, and as the sky viewed thorugh the front windshield panels begins to darken, the ache of decompression sickness begins to set in as the shaking starts to settle. Joints flare, bones scream, bubbles in the blood create the feeling of a full-body charliehorse as muscles contract. With three other people, Melissa Pierce realizes her purpose on this mission, mitigating the agony felt by her companions— but being able to do nothing about her own pain. She is in a constant state of discomfort, every joint in her body screams with the slightest movement, her skin is tender to the touch, and by the time the blue sky ahead fades to nothing, she can feel this ache coupled with that of her own ability pounding behind her eyes.

Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

By the time stars are visible, by the time gravity begins to relinquish its hold on the shuttle, Melissa's pain has reached a plateau of a steady, constant ache that has her fingers trembling, body set still and rigid to try to minimize the hurt. It only takes a few minutes to reach an area of zero gravity, but the journey itself will be a much— much longer one.

Ground control to major Tom

Outside of the shuttle windows, the sky is black fading to blue, faint pinpoints of starlight very barely visible up ahead. An errant lock of Melissa's hair where it is not tied up drifts weightlessly past her face, a snaking tendril coiled in the air. Nearby, the batteries from the microwave cannon float like black building blocks, tilting and bumping in to the padded overhead consoles.

Commencing countdown, engines on

Stars eventually become fuller, brighter, and the blue horizon begins to darken entirely out the side windows. There's a muffled clank that vibrates thorugh the interior of the shuttle, something either breaking off or attaching or opening, there's no way to tell without any formal training. Lights flash above and below toggle and box switches, streams of numbers pour across one monochromatic black and white screen beside Ryans, while another display terminal shows some sort of alignment chart, another screen what looks like a sin-wave.

Check ignition…

A green light flashes above the front seats, beside a scrawl of Chinese writing, and there's no clear indication of what any of it means. The shaking has stopped entirely, and while a dull pain lightly pulses in each of the passengers, it is evident from the glassy quality of tears welled up in Melissa's eyes that something is affecting her differently than the others.

…and may God's love be with you.

Space is a terrible, dangerous place.

Some people might cry out when they're feeling what Melissa is. And no sane person would think less of them. But pride and simply being used to normal types of pain means that she can grit her teeth and tightly grip the arms of her chair. It doesn't make the pain any less, but the white-knuckled grip helps keep her from making a sound that would have her thinking less of herself.

The moment that the force of the launch slackens enough, she's unstrapping and fumbling in her backpack, searching for the most precious item she brought with her on this fun-filled trip. A small bottle of prescription pills.

A few pills are pulled out of the bottle and shoved in her mouth, and she quickly caps the bottle and stows it in one of her pockets before she loses it. They're swallowed dry and she leans back, eyes closed, body tense with the pain.

No, space isn't the fun-filled jaunt part of her hoped it would be. Damn movies.

Even with Melissa damping down the physical pain by a couple orders of magnitude, what remains of the stress of launch - plus the injuries Gael picked up on the way in - and on top of all that, the psychological slap of going up with next to no relevant training, still makes for one hell of a body blow.

If there's anything else that makes it easier to bear, it's having ramped up with the increasingly cramped plane flights involved in getting this far; the launch is simply the latest and greatest in a series of such trials. It's the sort of thing he might have arranged himself, if he'd been organizing the mission and known then what he knows now.

Linus isn't exactly a tough guy. And it turns out that the girlish screams aren't coming from Melissa. His screaming persists until he sees the window turn black, when he closes his mouth and eyes and just prays to any diety willing to listen that he really doesn't want to die.

When the rocket slows and begins to make its journey to high orbit, he relaxes his body and remains seated in his chair, trying to collect his thoughts and reorient himself. "Oh Christ, oh Christ.. holy shit.." He raises his hands, looking at them. "I'm alive. We're alive." A pause. "Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages.."

He feels like he's an old man again.

The ache, that fills Benjamin Ryans' joints, he hasn't felt for several months. It's a familiar sensation, as he rubs a hand over his knee, but there is no complaint. Honestly, he's had worse pain.

Unbuckling carefully, he reaches out to grip the back of the chair before he lifts too far from it. As he drifts weightless, he has to close his eyes for a long moment, as the world spins a little. It's been awhile since he had to deal with situations like this. The closest he's even known was the expansive waters of the ocean.

Eyes open again and Ben spots his fedora floating just a few feet in front of him. In the weightlessness of space those few feet seem much further. He really wants his hat back.

A flashing cursor appears on the console in front of Gael and Melissa, flickering white before blocky font in merciful English begins scrolling across the screen.

benjamin, can you plug the remote access terminal in to the console? there should be a socket near this display that matches the plug on the device bennet gave you

It has to be Rebel, from the lack of bothering to capitalize anything yet still have the cognition for punctuation. As the message scrolls across the screen, Ryans retrieves his hat while the blocky shape of a car battery drifts past his head, clunking against the back of Linus' seat before bouncing away in the opposite direction slowly. There is, admittedly, something amazing about weightlessness.

With perscription pain medication swallowed down, Melissa knows it will take a little while for it to kick in, but the codeine tablets will help dull the hurt for a while, and the rattling inside that orange plastic bottle implies that there's at least plenty to last her the trip— however long or short it winds up being.

"This officially sucks. Seriously. We're talking big donkey dick sucking," Melissa mutters, teeth still gritted. Her focus is, for the moment, all on getting the pain to abate, so she doesn't even seem to notice when being unstrapped and moving has her not quite in her seat anymore. She'll likely freak out shortly though. "And please. No more screaming. Migraines are not fun."

Gael just stares at Linus. The flash of panic is understandable, but the part that came after it? "Stop that," he says, putting a deliberate edge into his voice. "That's just what we need, is for George Takei to sneak up behind us and knock us out." Okay, not really, but it serves to both acknowledge the other man's outburst and vent his own.

"Screaming? Who was screaming. I definitely wasn't screaming." Linus inclines his head to Gael, giving the man a helpless shrug. "Did you hear any screaming? I didn't hear any screaming." He frowns when the man tells him to stop his jokes, though. "Geez, sorry. Just trying to not freak out."He slowly unbuckles himself from his chair, and begins to maneuver about slowly.

This take astronauts training - a lot of training, and training that takes time. Time they haven't got. This looks like a job for.. ingenuity! Linus undoes his belt, thankful he doesn't actually need it to hold up his pants, and hooks it across something to pull him closer to Melissa. He whispers quieter, "Hey, you okay? Looks like we have to go with Plan B.."

All bitching, screaming, and complaining is ignored by the oldest of them as he pushes the fedora on his had again. The whole effect of the fedora and duster on the older man in zero gravity is like watching Harry Dresden novel in action. Minus the magic.

With the duster floating around him like a cape in blown in the wind, his works his way closer to the panels and their flashing. This forces him between Melissa and Gael. Blue eyes regard the text and he gives a short nod, not that Rebel could really see it.

Pulling on flap of that coat around, he digs the object out of the pocket and reaches past Melissa. "Excuse me." He murmurs, as he reaches to plug the object in. "Alright, Rebel, buddy. Hows that?" He asks the panels, not sure where to look really. "That got it?"

Text types out over the screen as Ryans attaches the device to the console. It's a hard-hack to be sure, but one Rebel is capable of navigating through.

thank you. now flip the toggle switch on the console above you at the ceiling.

There's several toggle switches there, admittedly, but Rebel displays the Chinese character that matches the one on the switch on his screen. A flip of the switch causes a humming whine to echo through the shuttle, followed by a crackling voice coming over the comms external speakers. It sounds like a trinity of people speaking at once, two of them speaking English and a quieter, baritone, voice speaking Mandarin.

«Thank you. We are now in control of the autonomous navigation systems. The time for travel will be: Sixteen hours, seven minutes and eighteen seconds. Do you have the microwave emitter assembled?»

Apparently Rebel wasn't watching.

"Quietly," Melissa hisses when Rebel speaks. "And the emitter is gone. We're on plan B. So try not to make my headache worse or we're totally fucked." She cracks an eye open to peer over at Linus. "You cool? Think of it as an adventure. or whatever helps."

"It did work, though. Tell the builder thanks for his effort." Gael rubs his eyes, then instinctively looks around to work out which direction the bulk of the speaker sound is coming from. "But yes, all we've got now is the batteries, some of the cabling, and whatever the Chinese installed or loaded before we kicked them out. And the shuttle itself." Hopefully ramming speed is more like plan Z, but it is on the list.

Linus says, "I'm here, aren't I?" Linus chuckles softly, holding himself in spot with his belt still connected to something that doesn't look very important. Despite his proclamation of bravery, his brow knits and lips turn into a slight frown, pursing in thought. "Then again, I'm asking myself why that is..""

A glance goes to each of the crew, before Ryans glances at the console again, now that he's flipped the switch and Rebel is able to speak to them. There is a kind of comfort in knowing the technopath is there.

"I would have preferred to not have to use you, Linus," Ryans counters the young man, before glancing at the panel. "We had issues with the shuttle taking off before we got it in. we're lucky to still have Gael." And that is the honest truth.

"What's the plan with the kid?" He asks the technopath outright, a hand resting on the console, gripping it to keep himself from floating too much. "The plan was to use him from the beginning, was it not? So I am curious to hear what it is."


Two thirds of Rebel takes legitimate offense to that, and the other third is just indignant.

«We were hoping to not have to consider this option, but it is the reason that Linus Agron was chosen specifically for this mission. His ability allows him to convert solar radiation into heat-based energy. With proper exposure, we hypothesize that he would be able to outright destroy the satellite with a single burst, reducing it to small enough debris that would not risk causing harm when they re-enter the atmosphere.»

There's a moment of long pause between Rebel's thoughts, and in that time the stars outside of the cockpit pivot in front of the windshield ports like so much display on a flat-panel television. Without gravity there is no centrifugal force, making the shuttle's slow turn a subtle but unfelt motion.

«Linus will need to exit the shuttle to collect solar energy, expell the energy at the satellite when we arrive, and be retrieved from open space. There is an airlock at the back of the shuttle, automatic bay doors that I can activate and provided Linus is tethered, he could be retrieved…»

Rebel sounds a bit dubious about that last part, however.

"And I'm not gonna be able to assist with the retrieving, because my job is to make sure that he can function out there. Hence why I so don't need a migraine when we get there. You're welcome, by the way," Melissa mutters, the discomfort making her a wee bit grumpy. "So just ignore any nosebleeds. They're expected for this."

Gael looks more than a bit dubious about himself, narrowing his eyes and taking another look around the cabin. "Pain issues aside" - he doesn't actually voice a thank you, but he does meet Melissa's gaze, silently acknowledging her contribution even as they continue to discuss tactics - "can he survive being exposed that long? Is there a suit for him— and even if there is, would it be damaged by the blast as well?" This is addressed as much to Linus as to the voices on speakerphone; he must have some idea of the limits of his abilities, or else Rebel would have sent someone else who did.

Linus looks away from everyone else when they look his way, not wanting to show any sign of nerves or weakness at this point now that the fact he has to go out in the vacuum of space without any sort of protective suit is out on the table. He lets out a breath, still looking away when he speaks up.

"I don't get to wear a suit. Even if my ability wouldn't destroy the suit, or at least the hands of it, the visors built into those things reflect the UV rays that I need in order to power it. I can survive for about thirty seconds, with about fifteen of consciousness. So after fifteen, you better start reeling me back in, because I won't be doing anything anyway."

Even if there had been protests at the use of kid, it wouldn't have phased the man. It's easy for people to forget he's old enough to be father or grandfather of a lot of the people on the mission. Well, minus a third of Rebel and well… Gael. To him, the rest of them are kids, lacking in life experiences.

"Alright." Benjamin doesn't sound all that happy about it, but what else are they going to do. "Don't like it, but it needs to be done." He straightens and sighs heavily, eyes shadowed some under the brim of his fedora. "We're going to need some sort of rope." He pushes back from the console, floating to where he can grip the back of the seat, though he about bumps it a floating brick. "And maybe we should get these batteries strapped down, before someone gets clocked in the head." He sounds more amused then anything about that.

«There should be anchoring lines in the cargo bay beyodn the rear door of this cabin. They are typically designed to clip to space suits, of which there are not that would fit Mister Agron. But it could be looped around his waist and clipped to itself. From the cargo bay Linus will be able to have full exposure, and presumably enough time to gather solar radiation for one singular shot at the satellite before losing consciousness.»

Rebel's voice reverberates with tinny quality through the cabin, even while the world outside the shuttle seems to drift aimlessly; a sea of black and starlight as the shuttle finishes its pitch and turn. «That is all the information I have for you at this time. I will be in touch once more when we are closing in on the satellite system.» No goodbye, no pause to wait for one, just a crackle-pop and the speakers turn off. Rebel lacks any of the typical social graces found in people.

But for all that there is something unsettling about Rebel's demeanor, the distraction coming into view helps detract from it. It's a glow, soft and blue, shining in from the port-side windows of the shuttle. There, hanging heavy and huge in view, Earth dominates one side of the ship, a swirl of blue, white, green and brown that fills the port-hole shaped window.

Fewer things are more humbling.

"Like I said. You want me able to use my ability later," Melissa says before she catches sight of the planet and the pain fades from her expression. She still feels it, but it's overshadowed by the awe of the view before her. She pushes out of her chair, nearly smacking her head into the ceiling. It takes a minute before she's at the viewport, staring out, open mouthed. "Oh man…Look at that. Oh god that's beautiful. That's…god," she whispers.

In a little while, they're going to be putting a fellow human being into a ridiculously dangerous situation. Nothing about that is new in Gael's experience. The sight of the marble, on the other hand— no matter how many pictures they send down, they can't convey the presence of it. It feels right, somehow. For the time being, he falls silent, joining Melissa in appreciating one of the few good things about going through all this.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Linus rubs his eyes with one hand, and when he opens them, there is that view of Earth in the viewport - blue, green and misty, and most important, humbling. "Oh, wow.." He stares at it for a good while, perhaps imagining in his mind many things - like what the people below are doing, blissfully unaware of him and this shuttle as it careens through outer space.

Then he raises one hand, squinting his vision with one eye shut tight to place the Earth between thumb and pointer finger of his raised hand.. as if he could crush the Earth between them. Instead he changes the position of his hand so that it looks like he is cupping the Earth in his palm. He smirks, then resums gripping his belt with both hands. "I'll be ready, when the time comes."

A battery is in his hands now, the momentum the black mass sends Ryans backwards at a lazy pace till he bumps into another of the seats. The attempt to corral the wayward equipment is abandoned at Melissa's words. The old man pushes himself to one of the other windows, fingers catching the lips to steady him.

It's a unique view only allowed to a select few, but here he was given the opportunity. It was a moment that Ryans wishes his family cold see. It was breath taking.

Hit with a sudden overwhelming feeling of homesickness, Ryans presses a hand to the window. Benjamin might not be a very religious man, but he can't help but think, Is that what you see when you look down on us, Mary? It's a heart wrenching thought.

Within Earth's glow, the journey into space and high Earth orbit is a long, arduous one. Sixteen hours spent confined in the hold of a space shuttle leaves little else to do for most of the crew. They hadn't packed for a long trip, they hadn't prepared enough for this journey, and that much is readily evident. Over the course of their long journey away from home, Melissa Pierce finds her painkillers kicking in, lending way to a comfortable sense of softness to her ache that accompanies the weightlessness and lack of equilibrium. For all that these opiates and the bouyancy of space would be inviting to sleep, she has to be able to keep her focus to keep the team sharp.

Rebel never contacts the crew during the extended voyage, and while Ryans occupies himself with anchoring down the batteries and exploring the cargo hold, it becomes clear that this journey up was a resupply mission for something, with palettes of bottled water and freeze-dried food sitting in the hold, tied down to avoid damage and jostling while in weightlessness.

Sixteen hours is a long time. Enough time to lose focus on how long it's even been, as Earth slowly begins to shrink out the windows. She never becomes too small, always a dominant sphere hovering in the empty void of space, serving as a somber reminder of how alone everyone is in the universe, and putting some perspective on terrestrial conflicts. Everyone arguing, fighting and killing over their own corners of that tiny world, like bickering children trapped in a car for a long ride, unable to get along.

Thankfully for the crew of a hijacked Chinese space shuttle, they have better road-trip etiquette than the rest of the human race.

A flashing red indicator on one console is the first warning anyone gets that the destination is being reached. Rebel's voice returning to the speakers with a crackle-pop is the next.

«Impending arrival at Orpheus-I Satellite. You should have visual confirmation out aft-side windows.»

They do, and the sight itself is a lonely one. Drifting in the depths of space, all alone, is the source of all this trouble. Nearly twenty feet long, made of shiny plates of white plastic and sun-bleached logos that can barely be seen, the over decade old Orpheus-I satellite floats like an abstract artistic depiction of an angel, solar panel wings spread out from either side, a crown of silvered, wrinkled metal and insulation at its top, satellite emitter array for feet.

«Make your necessary preparations.»

When Rebel gives the head's up, Melissa looks back to the window and the orb visible out it. "Look ma, I can see my house from here," she whispers, before drawing in a deep breath. Time to work. She pulls her pills out again, popping a few more in preparation of the grueling task that she's about to take on.

"Guys? You gotta keep Linus as close as possible once he's outside. My ability has a range limit. Twenty-five or thirty feet. So I'll be close, but stay out of your way. So just ignore me and focus on his position," she says as she moves back to the airlock.

By the time the satellite comes into view, Gael has had time to grow… not really accustomed to moving around while weightless, but good enough at it to get Linus through this relatively intact. He hopes. Giving another of the anchor lines an experimental tug, he looks back and nods. "I think we're about as ready as we're going to be."

Linus almost jumps out of the chair he had strapped himself back into after he finally got tired of floating around the cramped shuttle, or he would have jumped out of it if it weren't for the straps. When Rebel's voice clicks over the comm, he closes his eyes for a moment before unstrapping himself from the chair and beginning to float over to the cargo hold.

"If I make it back from this, I am never washing these clothes. They will forever be the clothes I wore while I was in outer space. If they don't get destroyed, anyway.." He shoots a glance to Melissa, frowning weakly. "I really appreciate what you're doing. If things go wrong, and you can't handle the pain, or I get too far out.. I understand. I won't blame you."

A pause. "Not that I'll have much time to place blame, but still.. thank you." A look to everyone. "Thank all of you, for believing a nerd like me could do something to make a difference. I'll do my best. Just.. pull me in, alright? No matter what happens, pull me in. I don't want to.. I don't want to die out there and be left to float away, forever, and nobody knows I'm dead."

Ryans says, "Okay…" Ryans says softly, propelling himself back towards where the hatch that leads them to the cargo hold. There he joins Gael, while he tugs at it, Ryans picks up the end of it with the hook. "You're going to do fine." The old man states loud enough for Linus to hear, though it's hard to know what the old man's true thoughts are. He busies himself with looping the length of cable to get ready to loop around the young man's waist several times to assure he doesn't slip free.

He still doesn't like this and Ryans is nervous for the kid. He hazards a glance to Gael, pressing lips into a fine line, not their first rodeo of doing risky things, but normally it is Ryans doing the risking.

The automatic winch that the life-line is connected to is sturdy, designed to serve as a safety for astronauts on a space walk. While it normally is clipped, like Rebel said, into a space suit, wrapping it around Linus' waist and tugging it taut before clipping the carabiner back on the braided metal line works almost as good.

The half-cylinder shape of the cargo hold is a memorable feature, the kind usually seen on videos of space walks or satellite repairs. While this is going to wind up being the former, it certainly isn't going to be anything resembling the latter. In the cargo hold, the brief rumble of thrusters bursting pressurized gas out to pivot and twist the shuttle into place prove that while there is no sound in space, sound can reverberate through the pressurized hull from the outside.

Television gets that half right.

«The shuttle in in place and has reached it's proper align— »

Rebel's voice cuts out from the speakers, followed by a darkening of the shuttle as instrumentation panels go dark one by one and the sound of the oxygen scrubbers winding down and turning off leaves the interior of the shuttle as quiet as a tomb. The only light, now, comes in thorugh the port-hole windows.

A moment later, a voice reverberates through the hull of the ship over the comms, sounding like it is being broadcast on the same frequency that Rebel was.


No one on the shuttle recognizes the meaning of a word in the Sumerian language, but Melissa Pierce recognizes the voice of Rupert Carmichael as it resonated through the hull on Rebel's frequency. A moment later, there is a jostling as the shuttle shufts, thrusters firing as the craft begins to turn away from where it was being angled.

Glancing to Linus, Melissa shrugs a little. "You might not, but I will. And you're not gonna die." Then she pauses as she hears his voice, and she glares at the speaker. Then it clicks. "Oh you little fucking bastard!" she yells, moving over to the speaker. "Rebel! Ignore that little dickweed! Take us back to the satellite! Rupert, I swear to god when I get back I'm gonna go apocalypic on your ass you skinny, cowardly, piece of shit traitor!"

She looks back to the boys. "Hurry. We've got to hurry. I don't have time to explain so just move your asses!" Because really, do they want her to stop and explain Rupert now? Nevermind that she just wasted time yelling at him.

Click. Click click clickclickclickclick. "What the hell is going on." A suddenly frustrated Gael thumps a fist down onto a flat section of the console, looking over toward Melissa. "Move them where? If there are manual overrides, we need to know where they are!" Already he's got one hand on the nearest handhold, ready to pull himself into an inertia-fueled jump at a moment's notice.

When the shuttle goes dark, Ryans whole body gos still. "Rebel?" He calls out, his gruff voice carrying through the hull. Letting go of the line, the old man propels himself towards the front. Only a hand out in front of him, keeps him from smacking his head into the windshield. "Rebel." He barks out, with a furrow of his brows, eyes scanning over the panels, before he looks out the front at the satellite watching it start to drift away.

"Melissa's right, we're running out of time." Shit. Frantically, he looks over the panel, hands hovering over it, not liking that it's dark.

He then spots the box that Rebel had him plug in. Picking it up, he's careful not to pull the wire out. Unfortunately, he doesn't know much about this stuff. "Linus!" Ryans snaps out the name, turning towards him, motioning him closer. "This box that Rebel had me plug in? What do you know about these kinda things? Anything? Like.. if we unplug it?"

Seriously, Ryans was born before all this. He knows shit about it.

Looking about as the power cuts out, making sure the cables secured around his waist are.. well, secure, he looks confused when the power goes. "Huh? That's.. not a good sign." Then a different voice comes over the comm, and Melissa seems to freak out at it. It doesn't take long for Ryans to bark over at him, and Linus raises his hands instinctively. "Okay, okay! Give me a second!"

He is silent for more than a second, but maybe no more than ten while his mind churns through the geek information stored in his head. It's a lot to sort through, so it takes a minute to recollect the right information. "Uh.. yeah! If you unplug it, whoever is controlling the ship won't be able to control it anymore. So we will be able to get the door open, I think.. but.. then Rebel won't be able to help us get home, either."

"Shit, shit, shit. You are so fucking dead you motherfucking bastard!" Melissa moves back to the speaker, letting the boys do what the boys are gonna do, and trying to get through to Rebel herself. "Rebel, you gotta listen to me. You gotta stop. You gotta stick to the plan. You're stronger than he is. Don't let him do this to you. Don't let him use you anymore. If you do, your plan fails. The Institute will have the satellites. Rupert is a traitor. You've gotta listen to me. Please! Focus and push past his persuasion. I know you can do it!"

She drops her head, eyes closing. Where's a helpful member of DHS when you need them? "Rebel, you gotta try. C'mon. Take us back. Give us power. Help us get the job done, get us home. You're better than he is. And we've got families, we can't abandon them for Rupert's scheming. Please try!"

While Melissa tries to talk Rebel down - what kind of crazy-ass Evolved can hit Rebel with persuasion, anyway? - Gael is still poised to move, yelling back toward Benjamin and Linus now. "What if you unplug it, and then plug it back in after we've taken out the satellite?" Then again, if Rupert's influence holds up, then he might not help land the shuttle anyway— or might even crash it out of spite.

There is a huff of frustration from the old man, brows furrowing as he studies the little box in his hands. "He's not exactly any good to us at the moment, is he?" Ryans glances back at Linus and asks a question that would probably sound silly for anyone else, "Like Gael asked. When we're done — can't I just — plug it back in?"

It sounds so straight forward to the Company agent. "Well, any other bright ideas folks?" Benjamin asks, glancing back at the other men, since Melissa is busy using her own tactics. Glances out the window show them getting further and further away.

With an exasperated expression on his face, Linus has one of his rare moments of bravado that are so unexpected, but at the same time happen frequently enough lately that maybe there is more underneath the surface than even he knows. "Just unplug the damn thing already, Indiana Jones!" Always the joker.

Then he turns his attention to the hatch door, ready to leap out into the embrace of the vacuum outside. It's not going to be a warm, happy one. He knows that - but if he makes it back, he'll know that he did it. And right now, the anticipation is killing him. This needs to get done, or he might faint right now from the worry he puts himself through, shaking like a fish out of water.

That's all the confirmation Benjamin needs as he reaches to unplug the device from the console. He'll even ignore the jab, this time as long as they can get the mission done. "Get ready, we won't have much time." He barks out settling himself in the seat there, ready to operate the winch.

That's all the warning they get before Ryans pops the plug out and severs the connection with the panel. He can only hold his breath and wait.

That's all the confirmation Benjamin needs as he reaches to unplug the device from the console. He'll even ignore the jab, this time as long as they can get the mission done. "Get ready, we won't have much time." He barks out settling himself in the seat there, ready to operate the winch.

That's all the warning they get before Ryans pops the plug out and severs the connection with the panel. He can only hold his breath and wait.

The moment the device is unplugged from the console, all of the internal lights come back on and the oxygen filtration systems wind up again with a rumbling whirr. When the power is no longer routed away from the consoles and Rebel's control over the ship is no longer given access, text flashes across the screen nearby to the port the remote access device had been plugged in from, a series of slowly scrawling white text.

Rebel is attempting to breach the firewall. He is going after the computing systems, but he'll never make it through in time before the network security kills him. A virus he was implanted with is controlling him. You need to continue the mission, no matter the cost.

Whoever it is, they have different spelling tendencies, but who could possibly be accessing the communication systems from thousands of miles away from Earth's surface is an unknown. Alia herself can't reach this far, and she was the only other technopath on the mission — Presumably it isn't Hal-9000 either, Rebel seemed to be filling that ominous role a second ago with the cargo bay doors.

You just handle your damned mission and don't screw it up.

Then, perhaps with more finality and fatalism than silent text could possibly convey:

I'll handle Rebel.

"Motherfucker!" Melissa yells before looking at the others. "GO NOW!" And she moves over to the airlock as quick as she can in zero grav, and Gael and Ryans are suddenly left without her pain numbing, as she focuses it all on Linus, ensuring that there won't be a delay, as there would be if she waited for him to get shoved out before turning up the juice. But it doesn't stop her from muttering, "God I hope that's Wireless." It's the only other technopath she knows with this kind of oomph, anyway.

"Wait, what? What are—" Gael tries to cut in - he's got a feel for Alia's skill with high-tech devices, he still isn't sure about Linus - but once it becomes clear that everyone else is on the same page, including whoever's on the other end of that terminal that just fired up, he stops trying to second-guess things. "Thirty-second window, on my mark!" he yells, reaching meaningfully for the airlock override.

While the words are written in a foreign language, they messed with the winch a little to test it during the long wait. Ryans turns in the chair and leans to watch the progress of what is going on, working to ignore the intense pain that Melissa had been masking. He's rather be over there getting the kid ready to go out there, but he needs to stay there and run the damn winch. "Good luck out there, Linus." Two fingers touch the brim of his fedora in a salute before he turns back to the panels.

"I don't want to screw up either," Ben murmurs, in response to the unfamiliar voice.

This is ground control to major Tom, you've really made the grade

There is no one in the cargo hold to witness what is happening to Linus, no one to see the way his hair kicks up when the cargo bay doors begin to crack open and oxygen is vented out into space. The sensation is like falling, but backwards, as Linus is yanked up off of his feet by the pull of vacuum. At first it's just cold in the shadow of the cargo bay doors, cold and empty and all of the air is rushing past his ears and then ripped from his lungs. The reflexive motion to hold his breath hurts more than anything else, like losing your wind after a fall but while being kicked in the neck, and when Linus' mouth gapes open there's a spurt of blood from between his lips, blood vessels beginning to rupture in his eyes from the rapid suction being placed on his body.

And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear

The cargo insie of the hold clunks soundlessly where it lays strapped down. Linus can no longer hear, but he can feel, pain, intense and unbearable pain pulling at every corner of his body. In the shadow of the opening doors as he drifts from the decompression burst through their opening mouth, Linus can see the sun reflecting off of the distant satellite, growing further away by the minute.

Now it's time to leave the capsule if you dare

But then, his pain begins to fade. Serenity fades into place. Inside of the shuttle, Melissa Pierce collapses as she feels the wave of disorientation from Linus' pain hit her like a sack of bricks. An involuntary yelp escapes her throat, followed by a choking sound as she clutches her head and slouches aside against the wall beside the cargo bay door. Tears well up in her eyes, blood begins to trickle and stream from her nose at internal hemmorhaging at the overlimit taxing of her ability.

This is major Tom to ground control, I'm stepping through the door

Then, the sun hits Linus, and everything changes.

And I'm floating in a most peculiar way

His clothing blackens and crisps, not from some sort of solar wind or radiation, but from the heat emanating from his body. Light radiates from Linus' skin, bands of color like the aurora borealis begin to shed off from him in the shape of a humanoid shadow, and from the shuttle windows, Gael and Ryans see not one sun in the sky of space, but two.

And the stars look very different today

The pain is gone, replaced by an overwhelming sense of euphoria. Linus feels invincible, like Superman when first exposed to the golden rays of Earth's sun after crash landing from Krypton. He burns away all but scraps of his clothing, solar flares of brilliant yellow-gold plasma leap off of his shoulders, back and arms, rays of scintilating light and color shed from his body and the shuttle's electrical systems flicker and sputter from the electromagnetic radiation he's emitting.

Here am I floatin' 'round my tin can far above the world…

Conscious swimming from lack of oxygen, Linus' brief sense of immortality wanes, as he realizes the gravity of the situation he's put under, and the weight — responsibility— of the power he's sudden realized that he commands. Bright and hot has an entirely different meaning here in unfettered access to the sun's ultra-violet radiation.

Planet Earth is blue and there's nothing I can do

He has a job to do.

Though she kept from screaming before, Melissa can't contain the sound this time, and it's one of agony. She claws at her head, trying to make the pain in her head stop. The blood isn't even noticed, though later she'll do her best to clean up every drop. Just so her DNA isn't here. Right now though, it's all about the pain.

But then, for Melissa, that's more often than not the case.

She curls into the fetal position, and when she loses the breath to scream, she whimpers, unable to stop. She's overused her ability before, but not like this. Never like this. And all the migraine meds in the world aren't going to help her right now.

The aches and pains in Gael's body - latent up until recently - are back in force, but compared to what Linus and Melissa are going through, it's peanuts. Just one more thing to be dealt with. Just in case anything goes catastrophically wrong with the oxygen containment, he keeps a tight grip on a nearby handhold, ready to close the hatch again as soon as Linus blasts the damn thing and gets reeled back in.

In the span of five seconds, Linus feels the most intense pain he has ever felt in his entire life - the kind of pain so intense he might have to spontaneously grow a second pair of knees to buckle over on to, if he could buckle over at all in a place without gravity. But in the end of that time period, all of that pain, all of that fear and doubt and worry, ebbs away from him like the clothes that crisp, blacken and fall off his surprisingly athletic looking frame.

That only leaves ten seconds of consciousness left. It is now or never. With the immortal words of Bonnie Tyler blasting in his head, the scene from Short Circuit II where Johnny Five chases down the bad guy on the pier playing before his eyes, Linus meets the suctioning pull of space head down, pushing off the floor of the shuttle voluntarily, being whisked away into space faster than he expected. The sudden tightening of the cord around his waist, the digging of it into his flesh would shock all air from his lungs if he had any left in there.

Seven seconds of consciousness.. all of the light and power the coalesces around his frame, all the energy that courses through every fiber of his being is directed through his hands. They glow as hot as the sun itself, two miniature models of the center of our planetary system. This persists only for a moment, as those twin balls of energy soon turn into two white hot lances of pure power that draw a line towards the angelic looking satellite as it twists and turns in the black void.

The black of that void is interrupted by something truly angelic, as where there was once a satellite, there is now nothing more than an explosion. On Earth, Linus can produce temperature that equal half that of the surface of the sun. Out here, one can only imagine how much heat and power rocked the satellite. If there was any worry about debris, any at all, there should not have been - there can be no debris when there is nothing left.

Three.. two.. one.. click. Just as Linus's eyes dip closed, the last remains of the bright flash of sunlight dissipating into space before them, his power cuts off almost immediately, and his body floats aimlessly, arms and legs spread wide as his head rolls back. He actually looks quite peaceful, serene - a half smile on his face as he pivots and turns in the void. He did it. Whatever happens in the next fifteen seconds.. he did it. For fifteen seconds, Linus Agron was no longer the loser next door. He was Superman.

Even as all that goes on outside the shuttle, Benjamin Ryans has an interesting view from his seat in the Captains chair. Softly he's counting even has he listens to what's happening behind him. Instinct wants him to check on the girl, call it the father in him wanting to protect someone younger, but he has to ignore it. He has to count.


Even as the word passes his mouth and there is an intense flare of light, his punching the button for the wench, to pull the young hero in. "Get ready, Gael! In coming." Ben calls out, even as he eyes move to watch what's left of the satellite.

The recall button on the winch begins pulling Linus inward, dragging him by his aching midsection, even as his solar flares begin to dissipate and the glowing hot metal of the braided metal wire wrapped around his body is scalding his flesh. He's unconscious, limbs moving in accordance with the twist of joints as he's dragged back in to the cargo hold. Smoke issues off of his body, his hair is singed and clothing charred like he'd been in a fiery car wreck. Terrible burns around his midsection blister white and char black where the cord bites into him, heated up by his own fading corona.

Wavering ripples of aurora light shed from Linus body as he's pulled in between the slowly closing hydraulic press of the cargo bay doors. A light turns on above the airlock door, reading repressurising, followed by a noisy hiss as oxygen from reserves is pumped in to the cargo hold. The moment that light above the door goes from red to green and the airlock and cargo hold are given their proper oxygen levels again, the bolt inside slides unlocked with a noisy clung.

Melissa can't feel Linus' pain any longer, she can't feel Linus at all. Only the throbbing ache of Gael and Ryans hit her periphery again as well as the ice-pick drive of pain behind her eyes that has bled her crimson all down the front of her dark bodyarmor and clothing, glistening wet in the dim, spluttering light.

Ahead on the forward consoles, there's an electrical snap and a crackle-pop, followed by smoke issuing up through the seams on the console.

Unfortunately, Melissa can't think quite clearly enough to note the absence of Linus's pain. Or the smell of smoke. Or…well, anything but the pain. Which says something for someone who prides herself on having high tolerance to pain. On letting herself use it when causing pain in others. She can't even form words just yet, or she'd probably be begging for it all to stop.

As soon as the hatch is closed, Gael is up and on his feet again, still blocking out his own share of hurting as best he can. "Help her, Ben!" he calls out, meanwhile kneeling down next to Linus and checking for a pulse, looking to see where the burn damage is worst. "Were there any medical packs in cargo?" Dammit, he should have thought about that ahead of time.

At the snap and crackle, Ryans' hands come off the board, with a softly and fiercely snapped, "Son of a bitch." There is a moment of concern as he watches that smoke waft up from the board.

That can't possibly be good.

He doesn't have the time at that moment to think about it, when Gael's shout pulls him out of his worry. Benjamin pushes himself out of his chair and with a foot against the edge of the console he pushes deeper into the shuttle.

The weightlessness carries him past Melissa's pack, which he pauses to grab. "Gael!" Ben calls out as he starts to the back again, pushing the pack in the other ex-agents direction while he moves to look after Melissa. "Did good, Melissa." There is reassurance in that rumbling voice, kept low cause of her obvious migraine. "Let's get you cleaned up and strapped in securely. First things first where are your pills?" For the life of him he can't remember where she put them.

Linus is in terrible condition, his skin is swolen, bloated looking and pinkish red from the suction. He looks like a puffyed out version of himself, eyes swolen shut and skin blistered bloodily around his midsection where the hot metal had burned into him. His clothing peels away like parchment flakes at Gael's touch where knuckles brush what was left of his shirt's collar, feeling for a pulse. It's there, and it's rapid beneath the puffy flesh of his neck.

For a man who was just exposed to the depths of space, Linus Agron has a strong, fever-pitch pulse. His skin is warm to the touch, but there is a noticeable problem in Gael's assessment of the young man's condition. Flakes of charred clothing float weightlessly nearby to Linus' body, even as the shadow of an oncoming backpack soars floatily through the air.

Pulse: check.

Breathing: Negative.

Across the shuttle where Ryans stands beside Melissa's crumpled form, he can hear another pop-snap from the console, and the lights inside of the shuttle flicker again, followed by a bulb overhead burning out with a pop. Over on the monochrome CRT display on the navigation console, a message is displayed across the screen in blocky print:

Manual navigation is shot. Electrical systems are—

Uh oh.

Even as Melissa's ability falters, then gives out, she whimpers. She's overused it too much, the headache isn't going to fade anytime soon. "P-p-pocket," she manages to stammer out, eyes closed as she continues to hold her head, trying to make the stampede inside stop. Of course, cargo pants have many pockets, but there is one that has a pill bottle shaped bulge in it. "D-don't feel him."

"Let Gael worry about him for the moment," Ryans says gently, even as he looks for the right pocket. Don't worry he's careful not to bad touch the pain manipulator, only tugging the pocket open and extracting the bottle carefully. A glance at the label and he doles out a slightly bigger dose.

In his opinion, she is gonna need it.

"Alright, young lady." The pills are pressed into her palm, before Benjamin tries to gently move her towards one of the chairs, a worried glance going to the console. It catches his eyes and he moves closer, Melissa still with her. "Oh no." It's whispered ever so softly, tho she can hear it.

"Huston we have a problem." The words rumble like a big cats purr, but lacking emotion. It's no time to show the panic he's feeling.

"He's not breathing," comes from the cargo hold, while Gael grabs Melissa's backpack and hooks it around one arm to keep it in place while he leans forward, pinches his fingers over Linus' nose, tilts his head back and leans down forward towards the young man in an attempt to recussetate him.

Ahead at the forward console, the message on the screen changes in response to Ryans' vocalizations. It's possible that whoever it is serving as their guardian angel can hear them, but not communicate through the speakers.

Power is intermittant. I am g

The lights flicker, the screen wobbles and when it comes back on the message is typing itself a little ahead of where it had been.

tempt to guide you down. Whatever ha

olar flare damaged your syst

uckle up.

If it took sixteen hours to ge to the satellite, it will likely take close to the same amount of time to get back to Earth. Whatever context of the buckle up was lost in translation likely implies the bumpy landing to come. But is this Rebel they're speaking to, or someone else?

Looking over his shoulder, Ryans can see through the doorway into the carto hold, where Gael is pinning Linus's prone body down, hands on his chest, managing firm compressions before leaning down to breathe into his mouth again. The lights flicker, buzzing noisily, and Earth is tilting into view out the windows again.

They're either going to make it home, or make a shooting star.

The pills are blindly swallowed once they're in her hand, and Melissa doesn't seem to really know what the hell is going on anymore. It doesn't register that she's being moved, or that she's covered in blood. The severity of the entire situation is lost on her. She, better than anyone, knows how easily pain can make it difficult to focus on anything but the pain. Hopefully the pills start working. Soon.

While he works to get Melissa is strapped into one of the seats, Ryans watches the monitor, concern plainly etched on his face. "Alright. Good luck." He tells the flickering text, still looking worried. "Be careful."

A large hand grips Melissa's shoulder briefly, as he leans close to instruct, "I know you're in pain right now, but I need you to try and watch the console, while I help Gael try to bring back Linus," He lets go and starts to move before he adds, " — and pray if your any sort of religious. To get home we're going to need it." That said, Ryans propels himself to back to assist with Linus.

"Come on, damnit," Gael leans up, both hands pressing down two fingers length up from the bottom of Linus' sternum, repeating compressions before hunching forward again and trying to breathe into the lifeless young man's lungs. Ryans' drifting form floats thorugh the doorway into the cargo hold. Sharply inhaling when he sits up, Gael snarls as his hands come back down on Linus' chest. "Breathe!"

Though I'm past one hundred thousand miles, I'm feeling very still

Through the ark of space, a Chinese space shuttle tracks a path through the night, trailing smoke from the exterior into the void of space. Molten debris of metal and plastic are drawn down towards the Earth along with the shuttle on its long journey home, a ship sailing across a star ocean.

And I think my spaceship knows which way to go

"Ryans," Gael snaps as he looks up to the old man's frame as he drifts in from the cockpit to where Gael is struggling to perform CPR in zero gravity. "He has a pulse, it's— " his breath can be used for better things, and Gael leans down, lips pressing against Linus' as he breathes in sharply to his lungs, Linus' chest rising from the exhalation of breath. Sparks crackle through the lightning, followed by the beeping of an alarm on the console in front of Melissa. Everything is in Chinese, she can't tell a damned thing of what's wrong through the language barrier and haze of pain.

Tell my wife I love her very much, she knows

Out the windows of the cargo bay, Earth's blue hemisphere shines brightly, a swirl of clouds over azure seas and multicolored landmasses. Smoke begins to fill the cargo bay, followed by an explosion further down the back, sparks and shards of plastic flying in every direction. The shuttle jostles to the right, but due to the zero gravity Gael looks to lean in the totally opposite direction when he is, in fact, staying stationary. Ryans pushes off of the floor, drifting over to where a fire-extinguisher is set on the wall, then moves towards the presence of choking smoke and flames.

Ground control to major Tom, your circuits dead, there's something wrong

The shuttle turns sideways as it falls down towards the pull of Earth's gravity, tilting sideways as thrusters fire in the front, trying to pivot the vessel around again, even while pieces of metallic shrapnel from the destroyed satellite rains down along with the heat-scarred ship.

Can you hear me, major Tom?

"Breathe goddamnit!"

Can you hear me, major Tom?

Flames lick over the front of the shuttle, surging up the blackened nose, then over the windshield panes. Thrusters eject white steam as the nose angles up and the shuttle begins screaming down against the upper layer of Earth's atmosphere, pieces of debris from the satellite beginning to crisp and burn up, turning to bright streaks of fire as they streak against the atmosphere. The shuttle's underside begins to surge with heat and flames, shooting up along the underside of the shuttle.

Can you hear me, major Tom?


Can you…

Dark skies begin to turn blue, stars start to fade and the shuttle's engines kick on the moment an oxygen atmosphere is reached. Flames roar out of the back of the shuttlecraft and flaps on the wings pivot to try and catch the air, pulling the nose up further as the space shuttle punches through a cloud layer, white froth and mist peeling away from the plummeting vessel as dark red soil comes into view, an expanse of desert as far as far as they eye can see to every end of the blue horizon.

Here am I sitting in my tin can far above the Moon

A sudden, wheezing inhalation has Linus Agron's back arching as his eyes snap wide, fingers clawing at the air as Gael leans away from where he was breathing into his mouth. Swolen eyelids nearly force his eyes shut again as he stares at Ryans, floating weightlessly in the cargo bay behind where Gael looms over him, spraying down an explosion of fire with a burst of suppressant foam. On the console in front of Melissa, as she hears Linus take that sharp breath, there's a flicker of the screen in front of her and writing scrolling across the screen: Sixteen hours until we reach Earth. I think the systems will hold now. — Wireless

Planet Earth is blue…

They're going to make it.

…and there's nothing I can do.

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