The beacons and the sweeping beams of the Interdiction Array glittered ahead of me, an out-of-place brightness against the faint dusting of the Void. I sat in the command chair, eyes half-focused on the view outside and half on the image on the overhead monitor.
There, the Sun hung faintly against the darkness. Out here, at the edge of the Void, it was but a little brighter than the only slightly dimmer and slightly more distant stars beyond. Still, it was the only Sun I had ever seen in the sky and the thought that I would probably never see it again caused me to doubt once again the course I had sat myself upon.
I rested my hands on the controls and noticed that they were shaking slightly. I took a few deep breaths to calm myself and the shaking diminished but did not cease. I sighed. I had been waiting out here too long.
Unfastening my harness, I allowed myself to drift upwards out of the seat a bit and stretched. I then punched the heat button on the coffee pod and fumbled for a cigarette. I would have liked something stronger but after several days with no sleep I couldn’t take the chance of getting too relaxed.
“At least I’m not talking to myself yet.” I thought, then winced. I had said it out loud. Oops. So much for that.
I lit the cigarette and took a deep pull from it. The shaking faded and I released the smoke in a long stream. As I did, Agatha projected herself into the cramped cockpit and glared at me.
“You really should return to the cabin and get some sleep.” she said. “By my estimates it will be at least two more days before the equipoint is clear of the interdiction zone. You will not be able to function if you continue this way.”
I shook my head. “And what happens if someone comes out and realigns the Array before then? I’ll have to make a quick decision about what we are going to do. It’s better if I stay here.”
“And what *will* you do?” she asked, folding her arms and looking down her nose at me. “If the Array moves then the point stays closed. There won’t be anything more that you can do here than you can do from your bed. Except leave for home that much faster.”
I didn’t have a good comeback for that, so I pulled the bulb from the coffee pod and busied myself with injecting creamer into it. Agatha was right of course. Hell, she could fly the ship into and through the equipoint better than I could. And she wasn’t very happy with this plan of mine anyway.
Actually, I’m not sure Agatha was ever happy about anything. I looked at her avatar again. Agatha always reminded me of a spinster librarian. She appeared as a fiftish woman with grey hair worn in a tight bun and wearing a high-collared, full-length skirt that was always buttoned all the way up. Her arms, in puffed-shoulder long sleeves were always crossed before her and when she was annoyed, as she was now, she would glare at me over her anachronistic, square-framed glasses. Sentients tend to choose their avatars based on their personalities and her’s fit her perfectly.
I shook my head. “We aren’t leaving and we aren’t going back. If someone shows up I’ll think of something.”
She continued to give me her discontented stare. “Someone *will* show up. They have the same data you do. In fact, it was their data that you looked at. They know what the equipoint drift looks like and they won’t take the chance of letting it clear the zone. I don’t know why you think otherwise.”
Sighing again I took a final drag from the cigarette and shoved it into the disposal slot then refastened the harness and tasted the coffee. Hot and bitter. Appropriate somehow. I held the bulb with both hands over my chest, feeling its warmth, and stared out the viewport again.
“Because they’ve forgotten.” I said, half to her and half to myself. “Because they don’t look at the stars anymore. Not with wonder and not with fear. We went there and found nothing so now we don’t even care. We think there is nothing there for us so we’re content to just stay home.”
Agatha shook her head. “You’re wrong. They know what is out there; pain and suffering and death. That is why they went home. And that is why they will keep the equipoint closed; so that what is out there will never come here again.”
I said nothing but continued to look out at the glittering Array. Agatha stared at me for a few more seconds before shutting down her projection. I sighed and leaned further back in the command chair, feeling very tired and alone.