into the wild blue yonder

Your rating: None
4
Average: 4 (8 votes)

“Riley McDaniels, I know you’re not a scientist. You do things with computers that I’m still not sure are possible,” Pembrooke says, raking fingers through well-abused hair, “and we don’t need more scientists! If all this works out, we’re gonna need you. You understand technology, just intuitively. You’re quick on your feet, you don’t need your hand held, and you’re fearless! Come on, what’s a little wormhole travel between friends?”

Riley’s bite of hamburger is distinctly annoyed. “Let’s ignore the fact that we could blow up the planet somehow, Pem,” and her stare is hard enough that Pembrooke doesn’t argue with the hyperbole, “and focus on the destination. You’re creating an artificial wormhole. And this isn’t Stargate, we don’t have a giant circle that will do it for us, and honestly, I don’t see Richard Dean Anderson anywhere. How will this not end up in total disaster?”

Pembrooke collapses onto a chair next to her. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, that’s the thing. It could very well not work. We could end up as atoms or subatomic particles scattered across the universe. But – what if it works? What if we end up somewhere, somewhere so far away that we can’t even detect it from Earth? What if – aliens! Come on, aliens. You could take a selfie with an alien.”

Riley’s mouth twitches. “Fine… fine! Yolo, right?” That twitch turns into a grin. “Science is crazy, man.”

It’s nearly a month more until Riley walks into the room where white lab coats flutter as physicists check their math and nervous engineers make final adjustments and Pembrooke is waving at her. She waves in return and shoulders her pack. She picks her way through the crowd. Each inch she moves the light buzz of anxiety under her skin grows louder until she starts to hope she doesn’t puke in front of this many people.

Pembrooke makes a speech as both the leader of the Morris-Thorne Project and of the team that will be making the journey. It’s a good speech. Pem’s good with words like that, and there’s a lot of stuff about shells of exotic matter and scientific exploration. Riley’s a little more focused on the fact she’s about to traverse a traversable wormhole. She has good Google skills, she read up on the theory, and she spent long hours in Pem’s lab asking questions. And making sure the damn woman ate.

So she gets it. Sort of. She’s just not prepared for this. She joined the project because she can code and build computers and innovate within the bounds of the technology that’s available. She wanted her work to maybe go somewhere billions of light-years away. She wanted to be part of the cause and give the scientists something to work with.

If her knees are a little shaky at this point, it’s because the machines are starting up, data starts being collected and projected onto nearby screens, and she never intended to be here.

The surprise for Riley is that the contraption that introduces the exotic matter – or something – and actually creates the wormhole is quite small. It’s about a dozen cubes of delicate machinery rigged together in a sort of circular pattern with steel holding them in place and holding them up. The machine’s duplicate is in crates that are coming with them. Someone named it something impossibly complex, but everyone knows it was just an excuse to call it STARGATE for short. So, they’ve got two STARGATEs. They've got a team of eight unlucky bastards that’ll walk through it, provided it doesn't tear a hole in the universe. And they've got a Dr. Pembrooke Stanley to lead them.

There’s polite applause as Pembrooke joins the team in front of the ‘GATE, shoulder-to-shoulder with Riley.

“Alright, everyone,” comes a voice over the intercom, Dr. Wiley – or something, who had enough degrees to be named the director of the Morris-Thorne facility, “preliminary data is promising, and the generators are holding at optimal power levels. In three, two…”

'One' brings a quick-flash of light and steady noise that thrums through her chest. Riley stares as lines of energy begin to connect from one cube to another. It becomes a web of light and Pembrooke laughs, eyes bright and wet. Riley swallows and reaches for her hand as an almighty crack rocks the building. The energy converges then, and a steady, green circle is suspended between all of the cubes.

Pem cheers along with everyone else, and Riley very nearly lets herself collapse. That means it worked. Dr. Wiley lists off the data that’s streaming across the display in front of him. The anticipation, the excitement – even Riley can feel that. She’s struck with the sudden realization that she’s walking through that. And no one has a single clue as to what might be on the other side. She laughs because this is insane, and she laughs because this is the best moment of her life.

“Well, hop to it,” Pem says with a blinding grin. Riley smiles, too, because Pem knows the risks and her zeal for discovery and exploration weighs more than fear. “With any luck, we’ll be home for Christmas.”

“Please, you’re looking forward to a vacation. A science vacation.”

Pem just laughs and tugs her along towards the event horizon.

Riley doesn’t even think about backing out, not when she watches the last curls of Pem’s afro disappear. She just walks into the green and -- stumbles out onto grass that looks a little too blue. She gets to her feet and squints around. Forest. Trees. A little animal peeks out of the leaves but darts right back into the shadows on six legs.

Pembrooke Stanley is magnificent in her joy and breathless wonder.

“Told you so.” She kisses Riley’s cheek.

Riley looks up at the rainbow canopy above their heads and laughs. “Yeah, you showed me.”

About the Author: 
Christina Finley is a twenty-three-year-old writer who recently graduated from Washington State University. Their interest in science fiction began with Star Wars and continues with Stargate: SG-1 and Star Trek. When not writing, they work at a library, play video games, and read spectacularly trashy romance novels.