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EVENT HORIZON by Steven E.

McDonald (c) August 1997 Based on the motion picture written by Philip Eisner Dedication For my Dad, Edward Charles "Ted" McDonald, January 7th 1933-March 26th 1997 He handed me the keys to time and space. and For Sylvia, Cherry, and Jim, who believed and would not let "he then sadly fell silent" be the end of the story.

Prologue

Space is deep. Floating down through night, this thought came unbidden, shot across confusion. The darkness was impossible, filling the universe, pouring down and through, overwhelming. Beneath the cloak of reason rose mindless fear, a chilling wave that subsumed everything that constituted rationality and intelligence. Vertigo followed, the non-world spinning, passing by in an unbearable rush, no beginning, no end. Space is deep. The darkness faded, blurring. All movement and starlight flared. There was no warmth to be drawn from the brightness, nothing but cold that could eat through to the soul, cocooning it in ice. The scientific mind could find a loophole in the terror by speculating about this phenomenon, feverishly working to reduce it to a set of statistics. Of course it was cold: out here in vacuum the temperature would barely be above absolute zero. Space is deep. That whisper again, seeming to fill the universe. Floating, turning in this unreality, protected against cold and vacuum. No control, no volition, turning against will. Blue filled the starscape, coalesced, became a glowing blue orb. Far away and then closer in the mind's eye, close enough to see the patterns of mighty winds. Neptune stood against the star-scape, blue majesty in the starry bowl of heaven. This was nightmare, then, not dream; terror rather than release. This was something to be accepted more easily these days, now that time had dulled sensation and numbness was a way of life. The slate had not been erased, but there was no longer a need to feel anything, and that was good. More movement now, plunging helplessly towards Neptune, drawn in. Again,

the scientific mind attempted rescue, considering atmospheric components, wind speeds, planetary mass. The silent stream of facts and figures did not cause the terror to recede this time, and a scream rose, only to be lost in the cold silence of space. A fragmentary rational thought: this was normal, this was the way it should be. Once again, movement ceased. Painfully blue, rife with the energies of its monstrous winds, Neptune filled the sky. This had become a familiar image, from a time when a hole had been torn in the heavens and lives hurled into it. No sacrifice seemed enough to propitiate this angry god. There was a dark spot against the blue. Drifting, turning, moving closer now, close enough to make out the outlines of a vessel, sharp and clear, another familiarity in this unfamiliar terrain. Angles formed of titanium, steel, and plastic. Not a small ship, this drifting spacecraft; it had never been intended as a compact craft. A Gothic complexity from end to end, it reflected the passion and strangeness of its designers and builders, the inner world of its primary creator. The forward motion did not relent now. Closer and closer, then into the metal, into freezing darkness and then into blue light that washed through windows that had no need to be there. There was no gravity, no life-support, the only light coming from the cold brilliance of Neptune. Lights flashed and twinkled bluely all around, moving slowly and gracefully through the air, slivers and splinters of metal, glass, and ice released by some unknown catastrophe. This was the Gravity Couch Bay, lined with tall glass and steel containers, modern Man's version of Sleeping Beauty's coffin. No one slumbered in those coffins now, nor were any of the myriad instruments operational. In a dark blur, motion continued. Flashing red scattered the overwhelming blue of Neptune. This was the bridge, crowded with instruments, the air filled with particles of dust and ice. Neptune filled the thick quartz windows, illuminating the corners and crevices. The only relief from the frozen blueness consisted of a single red light, flashing on and off, a bright, bloody interruption, the sigil of an emergency beacon at work. Other lights flickered now, as though the ship were aware of an intruding presence aboard. Shadows chased around the bridge, vanished again, washed away by the glare. There was something else here. The lights flickered and cast shadows, but one of those shadows was not stationary. Floating. Space is deep. Turning without volition, without control. There was a figure at the helm console, hung in the microgravity, tumbling gently. A man, in a flight suit that seemed absurdly rumpled, the sleeves pushed back, indistinct darker spots marring the fabric. The man's arms were flung wide, frozen in place, as though his last act had been to fend something off... or, perhaps, to hold on to something that refused to be held in place. Gracefully, the frozen figure spun around. The man's face blurred from shadow to Neptune's harsh'light. He had been perfectly preserved in this environment, of course, that was one detail that could not be overlooked. The eyes were gone, torn away, the eye sockets somehow blackened, as though by cauterizing. Death had been traumatic and swift, the victim caught and frozen in the act of screaming. Turning, the corpse drifted closer, the face recognizable enough despite the mutilation.

Space is deep. Plunging back to darkness, and then to gray reality, awake, sweating, whimpering. Grasping, he found his handhold on reality in the shape of his name: Dr. William Weir, disgraced creator of the lost Event Horizon, the stuff of his nightmares. The name of the eyeless dead.

Chapter One Dr. William Weir opened his eyes and gazed upon a gray universe. Once more vented into pale reality without argument, vented into a mundane world that was, in its own dreary way, as bad as the world that lived in his dreams. Lying on his bed, sheets rumpled around his slender body, he stared at the dimly seen ceiling of his studio apartment. This part of awakening had become ritualistic over the years. The ceiling was his icon, his mandala, so lacking in features that he had discovered that it helped him focus. Over the years the ceiling had helped him find his way to one idea after another. Many mornings had been spent lying awake, images and solutions tumbling through his overactive brain while Claire ... He turned his head, frowning as beads of sweat trickled into rivulets and found their way into the lines and crags of his face. The dreams took their toll on him, even when he failed to remember anything more than a sense of unease. Once awake he could push the unease, even the terror, to the back of his mind, burying it there beneath facts and figures. He pushed himself up slightly, enough to reach the bedside light switch, flicking it with his thumb. The sudden brightness of the halogen light made him squint. The outlines of the apartment came into focus and he winced, trying to deny the sharp jab of pain that always came when he turned on the lights. The pain would pass; it always did. Framed photographs covered the nightstand, leaving no room for anything but the lamp. His glance over the pictures had become part of his morning ritual as certainly as staring at the ceiling and bringing himself into focus. The pictures were all that he had left, unless he counted the apartment decoration. He had had very little to do with that, unconcerned with the details as long as he was comfortable for the little time he spent there. There was one more picture on the nightstand, this one unframed. He picked it up, lying back in the bed, ignoring the cold places where he had sweated into the sheets. He stared at the image, trying to place himself there, next to her, next to Claire. She had looked ill when the photograph had been taken, her skin sallow and waxy, aging before her time. She had smiled bravely for the camera despite the way she had felt, despite the depression. She had always been strong, willing to fight her way out of the corners Life sometimes shoved her into. He closed his eyes, pressing the photograph against his forehead, willing time to turn back, willing things to change, wishing that their lives had turned out differently two years ago, ten years ago, from the beginning. "I miss you," he whispered, and his shoulders shook. He put the photograph aside, opened his eyes again. Nothing had changed, nothing ever changed, nothing ever would. The rules of his physical world did

but he could not be bothered to stoop to the chore often these days. precisely. Startled by the sound. Odd. . and smoothly. and a change of clothes. to an obsession with the gradual degradation of his body. opened the tiny refrigerator. that gravity demands so much of us that when we rest we fall asleep. Dressed. He clearly heard the sound of air whispering through the ventilator grill in the bathroom.with scalding water. The bathroom needed cleaning. for a time. He walked into the bathroom. he looked up into his mirror and applied the edge of the razor to his face. careful movement. staring. ungainly bubble of water before giving way to the demands of gravity. focusing on the bathtub tucked into a corner of the tiny bathroom. Drip. Shaving this way had been another enforcement of precision. He was a scientist. trying to stretch. in the "meantime. his joints. Once upon a time Weir had preferred it. One of these days he was going to have to put something fresh in there or arrange for a biohazard team to remove the fridge. ignoring the little signs of age in his back. and stared helplessly into its disorganized interior. throwing the towel over the rack when he was done. cold reflection of his eyes. habitually making a quarter-turn to go through the narrow doorway. he thought. filling a shaving mug. In his world there was no higher power than the laws of physics. slowly. he lifted the razor away from his face. it had assumed the air of reflex. reflecting slivers of his lined face. Drip. This method of shaving was an anachronism. As with so much else in that plan. He pushed the sheet away and eased slowly from the bed. half-heartedly smoothing out wrinkles. he went into the kitchenette. leaving him only with periodic e-mails from the gym about renewing his membership and an occasional pseudo-concerned note from his homeopath. Just deliver the super-bomb. New forms of life were being generated in there. then a quick bodywash that sloughed away the traces of sweat along with any accumulated grime. A quick leak in slow motion. not bothering to close the door. He picked up his comb and swiped carelessly at his hair. tolerated or ignored by those who knew of his proclivity. even strokes. Drip. he noted.not permit such things and would not permit him to turn back time. shaving in smooth. and no one really cared how a scientist looked. these days it was no more than habit. pushing it back into place. He felt very cold. That had eventually petered out. Slowly. He turned the razor slightly in his hands. He looked to one side of his reflection. He set out his shaving kit. From the bathroom to the closet. Denial of the process of aging--more an act of ignoring the physical in favor of the cerebral--had led. his breathing stilled for a moment. saw the hard. Doctor. he was sure. Water oozed from the faucet. coalescing into a large. the examination yielded only the usual archaeological data. toweled himself dry. He foamed his face carefully and picked up the pearl-handled straight razor. and we'll overlook your breach of the dress code. another element in the plan shaping his life. opening it out with a slow. seen as an affectation. he turned around. Drip. He turned back to the mirror and resumed his shaving. but knew that the temperature had not changed. Dismissing the image. He splashed water into his face.

already occupied the top rack. The stars were the main attraction in this habitat section of Daylight Station--Earth lay below them. Station Maintenance. Even so. irradiating the compound result in the microwave until it was suitably unappetizing and had developed a texture akin to wet. voided in dreams and nightmares. but they responded only to service calls. and he had made none of those for a while. Take a note. and was surprised at how dusty and unused his voice sounded. "This is Weir. Most of the people he knew or worked with tried to avoid needing anything from him. Weir never bothered to try and catch the glow. never had. Another mouthful of too-sweet mush. only the hard clarity of too many stars seen through vacuum. giving color to his gray world. water. gazed at him. Weir was not surprised at the face that appeared--he could not think of a reason why anyone other than Admiral Hollis' adjutant. waved his hand over the call pickup sensor. Weir. Hollis had never done anything to disabuse his adjutant of this notion. Composed. nothing came to him now. He tugged at his bottom lip. and he never really looked at the starscape. He reached out and opened the blinds that covered the window. then. if you leaned forward in just the right way. These days his mind was usually empty when he looked out this way. blotting out Lyle's face. nodded coldly. Lyle managed a smile and said. and all that could be seen from his quarters was a cheerful glow at the bottom edge of the window. The videophone buzzed angrily. He Opened his eyes. guileless. crusted with varying amounts of decaying oatmeal. her voice coming tinnily from the videophone speaker. beneath the "south" side. startling him. extracted a box of instant oatmeal. The screen lit and cleared. never let Weir forget how precious every moment of her time was. and waved a hand over the call hangup . Lyle's face. He could barely remember the last call he had received--no one called him unless they needed something." Weir closed his eyes for a moment. added milk powder.He opened a cabinet. sweetened sawdust. Admiral Hollis would like to see you as soon as possible. frowning at the blank-screened instrument. The starscape blazed in at him. perhaps. Hollis should have taught his assistant not to make an effort to hide secrets behind a diplomat's mask. as the third buzz began. She was making an effort. composed. putting the bowl into the dishwasher. Lyle." he said. Beyond any hope of rational explanation. retracing his steps to the kitchenette. dark. would be calling him. Several others. attractive. Lyle sat at the right hand of God. salt. he knew. then the last part of the morning ritual. The videophone buzzed again. Billy Weir: you need to socialize more. He scanned the nameplate--Microsoft-NYNEX--absently. then. smooth. He finished his oatmeal. he went to the window. Spooning a mouthful of this unwelcome body fuel into his mouth and chewing morosely. He knew. and too much sugar. He placed his glass on the kitchenette counter. "Dr. He closed the machine carefully and poured himself a glass of tepid water. because Lyle never took pains to conceal how tolerant she was when talking to Weir. his mind always being on something else. and made his way around to the phone. too young for the sort of position she held in the ranks of the United States Aerospace Command.

hoping to give Lyle the impression he was as clueless as Lyle would like. we're going to have a conference in sign language and grunts. After a few moments. and facilities. currently . making certain it was properly in place. Weir noted. Weir favored her with an aggravated expression. one of the doors opened and Lyle emerged. August 23. barely absorbing the images. so little time to do anything but sell your soul for a shot at the main chance. The military mindset would not allow a good man to sink completely. but the unsmiling man at the desk ignored him and stabbed a finger at the vid terminal near his right hand. He had found a was down the rabbit hole into Wonderland. He glanced down at his security badge once more. paying him no heed. He started to introduce himself. just the odd dismissive look here and there and otherwise blind ignorance. So many things to despise. still covering something. Symbols and seals and codes by which men lived. so to hell with Lyle if the adjutant had a problem with his manners. taking note of the date and time. Chapter Two The traverse through Daylight Station could not have been quick enough for Weir: He doubted that it was quick enough for Admiral Hollis either. but there was always one procedure too many to go through when it came to sorting out the mess. No more than nods were exchanged before they went into Hollis' office. All he needed was some overzealous security thug taking a dislike to him. had for years. Hollis' office was still impressive. in a flagrant waste of taxpayer's money. cold and clear. trying not to shuffle his feet while he waited.sensor. Hollis was not used to waiting for anything he wanted. knowledge transmitted to him in the form of a dream. Even so. but this time it was certainty. been printed into the synthetic-fiber carpet.. intent on their own business. He had hoped before. A video wall. The mechanism was unfamiliar. The transport disgorged him at his destination in the USAC Command section. Weir stood uncertainly in the center of the USAC seal that had. something he might have rejected without thinking twice before he began to explore ideas that delved into ways of rejecting or reconfiguring the laws of space-time. Lyle was still wearing her diplomatic face. Weir thought. Weir watched the double doors to Hollis' office. At this rate. strap-hanging in an empty car. walking quickly over to Weir. material. No bosun's whistle meaning boffin on the bridge. Seven years since . preferring to spend his time rooting around in the recesses of his mind. paid them no attention. He glanced up at the wall displays. and he had been encouraged relentlessly. until everything had gone horribly wrong. He knew his way around in Command. but Weir. He walked slowly into the main reception area. People flowed around him. The tube walls blurred by outside the station transport. There was a cold feeling deep in his gut. 2046. As soon as possible was not more than MilSpeak for now.. as though mercury had pooled there. they could not take the truth from him: he had found the rabbit hole and he had shown the way. with money. He doubted that many of those in the Command area knew who he was.

"How are you. The solar system faded up. lost in the huge office. unmoving. bathing the office in a faded blue glow that quickly coalesced. Weir thought. The video wall lit. Hollis glanced over at Lyle again. leaning forward and dropping the pencil on the desk. It was obvious that Lyle could give the Admiral no clues as to the next step. Hollis leaned forward. . Hollis looked back at Weir. Automatically. "I'm fine. Hollis said." The Admiral nodded sharply at his assistant. Unlike many people. confined within a box filled with stars. and had solid notions of what was and was not reasonable in the course of a project. idly playing with a pencil. her hands clasped behind her back. and sat back in his chair. watching Weir. kind. The USAC seal on the wall glittered with the light from the desk. Virtual boundaries surrounded the chosen area. Bill?" Hollis' voice was gentle. magnified until the occupants of the office seemed dwarfed. turned. Lyle passed by Weir and went to stand before the video wall. took up one side. watching Weir with the air of a concerned uncle. an object even more imposing than the ominous video wall. Weir had learned to trust Hollis over time. Hollis' desk was a dark monolith sitting to the back of the room. unsmiling." His voice sounded flat. The lights in the office were dimmed down. then turned back to Weir. Lyle produced a remote. forcing it to grow in size. Hollis steepled his hands and tried a small smile. Even so. All business now. but we've had something come up that requires your immediate attention. Hollis was uninterested in what was good for ensuring the annual appropriation. Hollis glanced over at Lyle. Weir noted that the adjutant barely flinched. In the heart of the video wall. Weir said. There was a long. in the pool of light cast by his desk lamp. sat Admiral John Hollis. he wished this meeting was over. Weir stopped in the center of the office. Other monitors around the room played views of Earth from several different BlackSats. arranged around an impressive black desk lamp that shone with halogen fury. uncomfortable pause. closing in on the eighth planet. Behind the desk. Lyle aimed and fired. gesturing with it. closed in. Hollis had been Weir's savior when everything went to hell in a hand-basket. and the view tilted and accelerated. and he could see deeper lines in the Admiral's face. Weir felt a pang of sympathy for the Admiral--there were no easy decisions. "I apologize for the short notice.blank. Hollis' hair had thinned. so that Hollis' lair occupied the most visible spot. Hollis waited. apparently from up her sleeve. sighed. There was a scattering of equipment on the top. Weir realized. It had been a while since they had seen each other. "Lyle?" This is it. looking like a bear considering mayhem. who had nothing more to say and no will or desire to invent small talk to keep his favorite brass hat entertained. despite the gruff manner the Admiral cultivated. no simple approaches to anything.

seven years ago.. "That ship was lost in deep space.Neptune shone blue and cold." Weir muttered. The Admiral sat up straighter." Weir said. Weir turned fully away from the video wall. Weir turned his head and saw that Lyle had a nervous look about her now. selecting a small stack to hand to Weir. hard. and he looked down at it as though it had taken on a life of its own and was becoming a threat to national security. giving Weir a hard look. Weir turned to look at Lyle. turning to stare at the video wall. trying to get his breath. but his heart felt huge and leathery. this happened?" He swallowed. then opening them to stare at Weir." There was another pause then. Lyle picked up a sheaf of papers. "I wouldn't bring you here on a hoax. "Incredible. but there were no needless . "It's the Event Horizon. "She's come back. "Houston wants Aerospace to send out a search and rescue team. Stepping away from the video wall and looking intently at Weir. That was not the way it was supposed to work. this. Weir mused. "Houston confirmed the telemetry and ID codes. back at the papers. mistake the Admiral's bulk for flab. A red dot was blinking in close orbit around the planet. watching Weir now with a flinty. If the Titanic sailed into New York Harbor I'd find it more plausible." Hollis said. not realizing that there was a hard man under that uniform. The Admiral's hand closed into a fist.. methane winds rearranging the patterns of its cloudy surface. who was watching him intently. Weir recalled too well that strange and unusual events did not go over too well with Hollis. Hollis was a damn good man." Hollis said. and then they could parlay and get to where they really needed to be. they'll attempt a salvage. riffling through them quickly. trying to force control. squeezing his eyes shut for a moment. "We need you to prepare a detailed briefing on the ship's systems for the salvage crew. People could. He looked up from the papers. going back to confirm the data he had been handed. pounding helplessly in his chest. Hollis and Lyle could run through their piece. trying to smooth it into place. hard look that had a dangerous edge to it. at Hollis. at Lyle. these military people? This was some kind of foolish game they needed to play. "At oh-three-hundred this morning." Hollis paused. waiting to see if Weir had anything to say.. TDRS picked up an automated navigation beacon broadcasting at two minute intervals in Neptune orbit. As far as he was concerned. approaching Hollis' desk. then one back." Weir took several steps toward Hollis' desk. The scientist settled for running his fingers through his hair. who went through them hurriedly. run by arcane rules. There it was: write a report and go away. trying to force his heart to slow down. trying to grab hold of the scientific approach before his growing excitement started him shaking. then at Hollis. at the video wall. investigate the source of the transmission. "This isn't some kind of hoax?" Hollis laid his hand flat on his desk. If it really is the Event Horizon." Passing by Hollis' desk. "These are the same coordinates as before the ship disappeared . Lyle picked up the thread." Hollis heaved a tremendous sigh. What were they expecting him to say.. His chest felt hollow.

Weir. That would be like . Now. "Like sending an auto mechanic to work on the shuttle. "This is not about me at all!" He turned back to Lyle. She had the look of a woman with a mission. Without it. "Lyle. measuring his words. even dangerous. staring at Lyle. "Your desire to redeem your reputation doesn't factor into this. then back at Lyle. determined to make Weir back down and forget this lunatic idea he had that he would hare off into deep space. "I have to go." Weir had been shoving anger into little corners of his soul for so long that he had been convinced that he could not lose his temper any more. meeting Hollis' eyes." He looked from Lyle to Hollis.." Weir had no intention of giving ground. "I designed that ship. willing the woman to back down now.." He held up a hand as Weir glared angrily at him and started to speak.soft edges. "You can't send a search-and-rescue team out there alone and expect them to succeed. There was too much at stake for everyone. I spent the last seven exploring every possible scenario." He hesitated." Lyle came back to Hollis' desk. speaking as though talking to idiots. Lyle could not understand that." Lyle took a step towards Weir. Lyle had a shocked expression. "This is not about my reputation!" he snapped at Lyle. trying to discover what went wrong. I have to go with them. "Dr. "It's not that simple." Lyle was face to face with him now. "I don't see how sending you would improve their chances. reached down to one of the scattered pieces of equipment. "With respect. and for good measure he glared at Hollis. running with the first thing that presented itself. Weir feared that the mission might well be to make certain that the salvage team traveled . her voice harsh." Weir said. he realized that he had made an incorrect assumption: his anger was only waiting for the right reason. Let them think him belligerent. His ship was back. play the recording for Dr. shaking his head. Both were watching him. They had to understand. we will never colonize new planets. we will never reach new stars. The adjutant seemed convinced that she had victory close at hand. His ship." he went on." Weir said softly." "But I know the ship. "you have no experience with salvage procedures. Mankind's evolution will end here. fury starting to burn white-hot inside him. Weir." He took a deep breath. "a written briefing can't possibly anticipate the variables on a mission like this. "I put fourteen years of research into this project. balling his fists. either rapt or guarded or both." Lyle said. He had always been miserable on college debating teams. the sort of look that comes when realizing that another person in the room is a dangerous psychotic rather than a simple milquetoast." Lyle's eyes narrowed. who turned his head. planting his feet. struggling for a simile." Hollis sighed and sat back. then at Hollis. "The Event Horizon. wary of the young woman. "was created for one reason: to go faster than light.

A couple of years did little to erase the mark. Lyle said. Here beginneth the lesson. Weir sat down. Lyle shut off the recording. He found himself gripping the sides of the chair. remembering. that chilled him to the bone and sent the hair on his arms and the back of his neck prickling up. It was a good idea to keep the Young Turks on their toes. touching the cold parts of his soul." Lyle said. barely heard. if she knew the correspondences to Weir's life. none of them daring to speak immediately. Weir sank back into his chair. Robert Oppenheimer was." he said. "The man held Oppenheimer's chair at Princeton. At first Weir mistook it for amplified white noise. Screeching. only the background noises of Daylight Station being heard. He felt for Weir. The terrible mixture of sounds suddenly broke. Then the strength went out of him for a moment. That's the trouble with women. nodding toward a chair.unencumbered. "You don't just dismiss Bill Weir. a tactic that made the woman flinch. Softly. his hands locked. men will go right up to the gates of Hell for them. chattering voices. Marks upon the soul could never be erased. eyeless. "Navigation Control tried to hail the vessel. a slick character who had the marbles of a press agent and the chutzpah of a berserker. his gruff tone meant to indicate that the listener should expect a miniature lecture. . Hollis thought sourly. "You're not seriously considering sending him?" Hollis turned his chair so that he could look directly into his aide's eyes. wondering whether he should ask if Lyle even knew who J. shaken by the sounds he had heard. It was a rare treat to see her unnerved. Out of the adjutants he had had." Hollis paused briefly. He shivered. "This was the only response. Lyle was the smoothest. and he slumped in his padded chair. Twenty-two years getting one finger indented. glancing down at the pale patch on his left ring finger. seeing himself floating. Chapter Three Hollis watched the door close behind Weir. sounds so primal that he had to struggle not to react instinctively." Waves of sound poured from the office speakers. considering the shape Weir was in and how he felt about the loss of the Event Horizon in the first place. The office was almost silent. The quiet lasted for a while. Allowing Weir to go on the mission had not been his preference. plunging back to nothing more than static. O Daughter. Something in those voices had somehow reached into him. no questions asked. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Lyle sliding forward out of the shadows. She stabbed at a button and looked up at Weir. but then he became aware of other things pushing out from the torrent of static: noises that caused him to recoil in his chair. limp. on the bridge of the Event Horizon.

her tone flat." "Some things you don't get over. he thought. His aide had yet to conclude the argument. "If the Event Horizon had worked. They would deal with it. Hollis could . Hollis was not about to make it easier for the adjutant--better for everyone if Lyle got everything shaken out now. She's docked in Bay Four. and Weir's an easy target. swallowed." There it was. She did not flinch away from Hollis' unwavering stare. "The Lewis and Clark just returned from patrol in the asteroid belt. categorizing stellar objects. And we have him here. her head cocked to one side like a faithful dog." Lyle said firmly." "Does he know that?" Hollis raised his eyebrows. then there was no other ship within reasonable distance of Daylight Station. moving smoothly back to business at hand." Listening faithfully or not. Lyle licked her lips. "They wanted a scapegoat." Hollis hated to do this to a hard-worked crew that was due for some downtime and R&R. one that was used to the pressure and knew how to take orders. I want our best people on this. "What's on your mind?" "He doesn't belong on this mission. "Bill Weir is the best chance we have at recovering the ship. He continued in a more reasonable tone. Lyle was not to be deterred from her course of objections." Hollis said." Lyle paused and Hollis waited. making Lyle jump. "That doesn't mean a damn thing." Lyle said. He had to concede that point. He's not responsible for what happened. while Lyle stood patiently. The man could use some serious recovery. but he had no choice. He had seen William Weir on his knees while the gates of Hell swung open before him. it sounds impressive enough. "Responsible or not.What the hell. If Lyle was pointing to the Lewis and Clark rather than an overhauled ship with a rested crew. he blames himself. surprised at the tone of concern in Lyle's voice. Perhaps this was Weir's chance for redemption. The Lewis and Clark had a crack USAC crew. "he would have gone down in history as the greatest mind in physics since Einstein. Never a good idea to blow a fuse in front of junior staff." Lyle nodded. Hollis had to give her credit for her willingness to take a flag officer on in an argument. the tension sloughing away like water off a duck's back. and this time his tone brooked no further argument from Lyle. calming himself. Hollis glanced involuntarily at his ring finger. if only because some people were unlikely to get over certain kinds of emotional trauma." Hollis slammed a hand down on the desk. "He's going." Hollis reined his temper in. "It's been two years since she died. Hollis inclined his head. "And then there's his wife. "The official inquiry blamed Weir's design for the ship's loss. God knows we've all wondered about Bill's mental state." Hollis went on. He's too close to it.

this one taking them much further than the Big Rock Range. rubbed at his face. The Lewis and Clark had been peppered with micrometeorites and feathered with dust motes that chewed into the metal as she sailed her way through the gulfs between Mars and Jupiter. laying hi their course as he read it from her navigational feed to his console. Inside. A good pilot. Miller thought. The ship was badly in need of a full overhaul. poised loosely in his con as he tried to remain relaxed. Her builders had essentially taken an enormous ion drive and built a spaceship around it. who was fluttering his hands over keypads. Behind thick quartz windows in the nose.." he told Lyle. The Lewis and Clark was not a pretty ship. Miller. perhaps even a partial refit. maimed. Smith was somehow blocky. She was well known to the Belters. an abrupt." A muscleship with armor that would make a cockroach cheer." Chapter Four The hull of the Lewis and Clark did a good job of reflecting the state of its crew. suggesting that the human component had been the last consideration here. Where she was slim and sharp. or someone was surely going to get mauled. Smith straightened.hunched over his console. but a lousy diplomat. Starck sat to the left. a configuration that one British wag had proclaimed to her captain. or murdered. Her hair was pulled back. and he had had enough clout somewhere to get away with demanding that she be assigned to the Lewis and Clark. the determined asteroid miners who dug their living out of the rock. "They're going back out. making a place for instrumentation and. Smith's scraps with Belters were few and far between. Captain Miller. stiff man. "Tell Miller to round up his crew. focused on her navigational readouts. Starck glanced aside at the pilot. cropped where she was trim. running cool but intense. There was enough elbow room. the bridge was a compacted nightmare of instruments on two horseshoe levels. grudgingly. Asteroid belt patrol duty offered little in the way of rewards and a great deal in the way of hazards and ship wear.trust their captain to keep them in line. looked down on his demesne. and someone usually got in between quickly enough to prevent anyone from getting damaged. but the feeling on these boats was that you had better maintain a friendship prayer on a long haul. she was no great comfort. pinned severely in place. She was on this crew because Miller had wanted her on this crew. for more than a few the Lewis and Clark was a lifesaver. giving her angular face the look of a professional ascetic. She could easily deal with a no-maintenance turnaround and another run. she could stand up to almost anything short of a high-speed encounter with a big chunk of rock. Two of those human components were packed too closely together at the front of the bridge. Smith sat to her right. Operator's chairs seemed to have been wedged into the best available positions that might still allow some movement. and . after long-haul duty out in the Big Rock Range. Suddenly done with his work. as being "All arse and no fore'ead. Fortunately. for a small crew.

he knew enough in the way of psychology and strategy that he could have them running errands and doing his laundry." Miller saw Starck purse needle the navigator. "Justin?" Justin looked up. The crew instead referred to it as the "war room. making his pilot's chair wobble gently on its gimbal mount. He was not a small man by far." Miller could tell what she was thinking there: isn't that unusual? As much as Smith liked to needle her. The net result of that was that he could not only strike terror into the hearts of those he wished to terrify. He appreciated the visual effect of this setup. although he could not see it-for himself. "We're past the outer you're ready. Does he ever relax? Miller wondered. Miller could not blame him for his feelings on the matter either. Miller tapped a switch on the main operations panel of his chair and was swiveled around and lowered into the center of the bridge. Miller said. Smith tilted his head back. and now this her lips at Smith's remark. "I can't more than my hand in six weeks." Miller had never approved of the term. then back at marker. believe this. He was not a particularly handsome man. "You know the rules. Starck glanced at her board. but had never gone so for fear that she would take offense. Is the course locked in?" "Locked and cocked. she liked to needle right back. Coming down from the con had the effect of Zeus coming down from Olympus. We can engage the ion drive whenever Starck's intelligence. he might have done well if he had pursued football seriously." . "Everything green on my boards. and a few even welcomed his dark presence. had never been particularly Miller turned his attention to the other stations in the lower section of the bridge. "Smith's right. we go. Captain? Mars has women. the image of the dedicated warrior. but he had chosen not to give in to the hints and coercion in high school. We get the call. Starck approachable. Some folks referred to this part of the bridge as "the pit. and he wanted as few of those as he could get on long hauls." Smith said. eyes shining." "If the shit goes down. her dark eyes guileless. brooding look and a watchful air. The boards for the ship's systems and mission stations were down there. Miller cultivated an intense. Skipper. I haven't gotten shit. As the chair locked in place. The pilot turned back to his station. Miller. Belters tended to appreciate him for his no-nonsense approach.sat back abruptly. Miller. "Neptune? There's nothing out there." a term he let slide. we'll be on our own." Miller liked far as to express that to her. It was going to be goddamned lonely out there. Smith liked to Mars. his back tensing up. The pilot had a look of deep concern. and no one on his crew used it. One of these days Smith was just going to explode on the spot. preferring instead to pour the contents of book after book into his brain." Smith said. but he kept and carried himself well. He heaved a sigh. sympathized. "Why not looking up at the Captain's position. Such terms tended to generate negative moods." Starck looked around and up now. looking down.

then turned back to his bridge crew. They continued onward to the crew quarters. while she waited for status lights to change on her boards-. He high-stepped to another storage locker. Everything had been stowed for docking. bunks folded up. his entourage behind him. They had been restocked for this mission. swinging around and stowing a freshly wrapped safety line in a storage locker. Justin was rising from his seat. stowed neatly. his crew following him through the ship. Everyone else was bitching about having to pull another long haul. "Start the countdown. Neptune. Along the walls of the bay was a row of extra-vehicular activity suits. "Don't start with me. "Time to play Spam in the can. the vid units locked down."T-minus ten minutes. Justin was waiting. a situation that was a relief to Miller. rather than a light. He took another look at his own boards. Starck said. even the galley cleaned up and cleaned out. Miller ducked and turned through the hatch from the war room." he snapped. Miller thought. Readouts on several monitors changed to show a digital clock. and smiled inwardly as he heard the tone of Cooper's footfalls change. as Cooper fell in with the others. Smith climbing in that stiff way of his. cleaning up after themselves every couple of days. and it was jacked up to earbleed level. Smith and Starck followed him down. Cooper had smartened up immediately. covering the distance in a fireman's slide. clearing a space. By that time they could have found it by following the sound of something akin to music. chairs and tables put away in their cubbies. grinning ear-to-ear at his captain's back. but had not yet had time to get things into the usual state of a long-haul galley." "Let's go. barely missed a beat. making the walls thrum in distressed sympathy with the beat. No wonder the damned thing was so loud. impervious to the pounding rhythm. . As long as they played the game according to the unwritten rules. Miller was glad he could count on his crew to maintain standards when necessary. hitting the power switch on the jambox that had been built into the top. who only tolerated the mess because it was particularly bad for morale to be thoroughly iron-handed. unconsciously adopting a military posture and gait. Better be something awfully important out there. Miller did not waste his time looking back. tall. Miller came through the hatch looking like angry thunder. Starck sliding down. he was content to let things slide." There was a bustle of activity. At least Justin had some excitement about this mission. black. his tone sarcastic. "Ion drive will engage in"--a pause." Cooper said. watching him with the eager intentness of a puppy. Before he had even focused on the sole live occupant of the bay. "Kill it!" Cooper. he was snapping. Coop. despite the pallor that the media liked to call Spacer's Tan.He waved a hand over his instruments with a casual air that Miller figured would be gone in another ten years. Justin was fresh-faced still. and bald. Below him. Miller swung around onto the ladder that connected the two bridge sections. There was a jambox at the end of the tunnel." Miller released his restraints and rose carefully from his chair. into the main airlock bay. the jambox speakers were using half the ship as a resonant chamber.

securing it. anchored in the deck plates. the little creaks here and there. . The rest of the crew had passed behind Miller by this point. broad tubes built for human occupancy. the maintenance crews had been redirected and all efforts aimed at a fast resupply." she said. she reshaped its effects while providing him wholehearted support. keeping his body language as non-threatening as possible otherwise. Gravity Couches. resonated through the ship. if only to allow the ship's doctor some elbowroom. listening to the noises of his ship." Miller turned his head at the sound of Bill Weir's voice. "Captain Miller. so he saw no reason to worry. he closed his mouth and swallowed hard. looking down at her. Finally. Miller turned back to Peters. spaceships never were. Weir. his jaw set. She looked up at him. it seemed as though Weir was going to insist on talking to Miller. The walls were full of surprises: there was equipment here that major earth-side hospitals would go crazy to get. Medical was a little more open and spacious than most areas of the ship. smoothing her dark hair back. but had nowhere to go. Weir was not about to be cowed that easily. stood against the walls. Dr. Peters finished her work and closed the access panel. looking as though he would prefer to be hiding in the head. gave him a smile. Weir sidled away from Miller.Peters was crouched down at floor level. Peters had somehow taken on the role of den mother to his crew. the hums. waiting only to be filled. Each of them had been opened and activated. Miller stood for a moment. changing all the rules when it came to the dynamics of crew relationships. The scientist was standing to one side of the crew quarters. instead. an access panel pulled up and placed to one side of her while she worked. the high-frequency hissing of blank gray monitors. almost closing the distance. Miller waited for the inevitable smart-ass comment from Cooper. ice and steel in his voice. She did not affect his authority. Vibrations traveled from the hull plates. Miller glared at him." Miller said. Staring back at Miller. "What's the holdup?" "Just loading the last of the CO2 scrubbers. giving them a warm presence they could confide in. Peters did not seem concerned about anything here. tall. The Belters were crazy about her too. Weir tried to flinch back. Cooper stopping and half-turning in the hatchway that lead out toward Medical. he tried again. Everything here was modular in format." For a moment. He took two steps toward Weir. then turned and followed Cooper out of the crew quarters. allowing swift reconfiguration in an emergency.. When the orders had come down from On High. as far as he was concerned. She brushed her hands together and stood up. he gave Weir an impatient look. That had been part of the restocking situation too. Miller relaxed a little. following Miller out of the crew quarters and down to Medical. and never mind the consequences. manifested as sound from the bulkhead. loading carbon dioxide scrubbers into the ventilation system backup. instead. but it never came. They were a better crew for it. Space was supposed to be silent.. "If you'll follow the rest of the crew. they'll show you to the gravity tanks. "I just wanted to say--" "The clock is running.

DJ swabbed Smith's arm with an alcohol pad. fidgety pain in the ass." Miller said." Weir shut his mouth. Cooper. who did no more than frown.. Making sure I get the point. Smith gave DJ an angry look. Peters kicked off her boots and started to shuck out of her flight suit. DJ approached. dropped the used hypodermic into a biohazard box. blanking everything out as usual. the gel feeders almost .Miller looked around. nodded. show Dr. who went to let it all hang out in his Gravity Couch. and impale. Time was moving. His name was written in black marker on a piece of masking tape stuck to an open area on the operations plate. and went on to Cooper. As far as Miller was concerned. offered his arm to DJ. intent on Miller. stabbed. the ship's doctor. gently. and climbed into one of the tanks. Justin winced. Weir. deciding. and laid down. To one side of him. stripping down to his regulation underwear. went to his tank. please. Weir was approaching. then. leading him away from Miller. the scientist was nothing more than a nervous. closing his eyes. The tube was lined with padding. DJ could not raise an objection. He looked around. He had stripped down to black bikini underwear. preparing the pilot for his time in the tank. Peters kept her light hold on Weir's arm as she led him over to an unattended Gravity Couch. and found DJ. going to hang it up in a storage locker. gestured to her. Weir to his couch. frowning for a moment at the silver pentacle hanging around Justin's neck with his dog tags. grinning. as Cooper says. Peters took the scientist's arm. sharply. There had been instances of people dying in a Gravity Couch. Weir looked the Gravity Couch over. DJ. Miller thought. as usual. Cooper. and woe betide those who thought to deprive them of their comforting icons. standing before his gravity couch with only his sassy attitude and a pair of dog tags to keep him warm. followed up with a pained smile. to have little or no reaction at all. had dispensed with even the smallest display of modesty. The last thing he needed was an insistent passenger getting in the way. his expression darkening. Just as the dog tags were permissible in the tank. uncertain. an almost pleading look on his face. DJ turned. Smith shook DJ's hand off. so was religious and matrimonial jewelry. She walked over. The Captain was pleased to see that Peters' mothering abilities were effective even on someone as relentlessly single-minded as Weir appeared to be. unfortunately. He pulled off his own boots and unzipped his suit. in a flash. to no avail. in the end. jabbed a hypodermic needle into the pilot's arm. however. found Peters." Miller turned his head.. over with Smith. swab. turned. "Captain Miller. Weir was not sure whether he should be offended or complimented by this very specific treatment. pressing the plunger down a bit harder than required. DJ moved over to Justin. DJ swabbed. "Not now. Miller offered his arm. "Peters. the ion drive would not wait for him. looked for a moment at Miller. Great bedside manner. had been trying his best to be underfoot since coming aboard at Daylight Station. Done with Cooper.

making the dark skin ripple. He had never even been able to tolerate local anesthetics for dental work--one look at that hypo of Novocain and he was fleeing for his life. focused on his work. Silently. Distracting himself. Still. and Weir knew that he had failed whatever sort of idiot test DJ had. he knew. "First time in a grav couch?" Weir swallowed hard. She looked at his face. "I've seen the effect on mice. the undertone of her voice suggesting to Weir that she thought Miller was just a big old teddybear under all the gruff authority. He closed his eyes and held his breath. "Your captain seems to have some sort of problem with me. An eyebrow raised. "Don't worry about him. As DJ withdrew the needle. it made him feel they could actually be friends. Weir did not feel singled out for special mistreatment. DJ came toward Weir. he had been terrified of medical procedures since childhood. also had inertial dampers that mitigated the effects of acceleration. "When the ion drive fires. he said. but it did not make the anxiety attack cease." Weir said. Trying to keep his mind of what was to come. flexing the muscles. Taking Weir's arm again. Irrationally. now. Weir thought." Peters smiled again. Weir said. place. and he had difficulty breathing. wishing himself to some other. inspecting the seals and checking the lining. "Yes. Without a tank. uneasily. DJ. reassuring. There . and found that his throat was dry. needles were the worst." she said. verging on painful. His chest tightened. "He loves having complete strangers on board. "Is that necessary?" DJ gave him a measured look. the force would liquefy your bones. Silent. who felt his chest tighten again. Weir thought. Scientist or not. DJ said. not answering for a moment. The ship. Peters' hand tightened slightly on his arm. DJ was at his side. his prayers were not answered." The doctor's tone was patronizing. kinder. smiling warmly at him as he tried to regain control. DJ took Weir's arm. Miller climbed into his Gravity Couch and closed his eyes. Miller dealt with." Very reassuring. DJ shook his head. more sharply than he had intended. swabbing it with alcohol. we'll be taking about thirty gees. Once again." Peters checked over the Gravity Couch with a practiced eye. Trying to decide if I'ma complete idiot or just blowing smoke. Miller straightened his arm out. she helped him to get into place inside the tall tube. and Weir bridled at this. Over at the other side of the medical bay. was administering a shot to Captain Miller. he disliked the process. going off to prepare herself. sighing. however--even Miller had been handled brusquely. He liked her smile.invisible. The treatment was not particularly kind. Peters giving way to him.

Weir dreamed. slowing the ship. Inside the heart of the vessel. entombed in the heart of the spaceship. and drunk the milk of Paradise. He was even more grateful for the warm lethargy that was beginning to steal over him. took stock of the scientist's tense posture. grateful that someone was at least paying a little attention to him. The doctor turned back. For fifty-six days the Lewis and Clark had answered only the call of its own electronic mind. stability ensured. out here at least. to see DJ disposing of the hypodermic and the swab. "Claustrophobic?" "Very. he knew this place. Fusion fire roared silently in the vacuum. Humanity . thickened. The world was dark. Weir faded. somewhere in the distance. Somehow. followed by a worse pain as the doctor injected the medication into him. became a swirling mass of noise. his senses cut away. somewhere. but it did not need them. A silent countdown followed. Unbidden. the USAC Lewis and Clark responded to its own inner voices. DJ slammed the Couch door. the massed choir of the damned pouring under and over. the Lewis and Clark turned to face back the way it had come. He saw Weir's expression. Weir winced. then. not right now. bit his lip. a deaf man. Head over heels. The Lewis and Clark flew on. Now it followed a new compulsion. approaching its target. Thrusters fired again. firing delicate bursts at just the right vectors to cause its lumbering bulk to slowly roll forward. another countdown began. The voice came again. up and down his arm." Weir said. but now it deepened. calling him. lines from Coleridge's unfinished "Xanadu" drifted across his mind: For they on honey-dew hath fed. stopping the roll. Its crew slept on. There was the sound of the door being dogged shut. formless. shamed the sun. a brilliance that. The ion drive ignited. reaching for the Couch door. first correcting pitch and yaw. Chapter Six There was a voice. leaving him void. Liquid warmth spread from the injection site. He was a blind man. Maneuvering thrusters fired in sequence. Chapter Five Fifty-six days out of Daylight Station. When it was done. He opened his eyes again. with Neptune looming close. the sleepers would awaken.was a sharp pain in his arm as DJ jabbed a needle into his arm.

. firmly anchored. answer its siren call. Suddenly. to find the voice. The voice came again. and he discovered that this did not concern him at the moment. voice hushed and bodiless. He had no sense of breathing. formerly dead. to the hatchway and found that his tentative steps were being made in twenty-league boots. "I'm so cold .. someone whispering. Fair enough.. The sound resolved slowly: a woman's voice in the distance. if only in hypersleep. to see. Lifting a hand. came to life. Whispering again." His Gravity Couch drained. and found himself wondering how a ghost could experience sensation. The door opened easily. No answer was forthcoming.." He felt ice creep from his crotch to his heart. filling his world. leaving him bleeding at the edges of his soul. "Billy. abrading him as it passed. each of them filled with an inert-figure suspended in dark fluid. He could not tell whether he was looking upon a sleeping man or gazing at a corpse." Drawn. Only he had been awakened and had emerged. His body was immobile. In a flash. he pressed his palm against the cold door.. his body. covering great distances through . whispering through the ship. he was staring at his own tank with its piece of yellowing masking tape stuck to the operations panel. He looked around. He could move now. they were all dead. that voice. eyes closed. eyes opening. then. Reassured by this thought. drip. he walked. his vision shading to green for a moment. A tiny corner of his conscious mind informed him that he was enduring the effects of his time in the Gravity Couch.tangled with inhumanity in that terrible knotwork of sound. reverberant in a place that should have been anechoic: drip. drip. if only in slow motion. Another sound in the distance. found the crew members still suspended in their tanks. The other Gravity Couches came into sight. "I'm so cold . The sound of water dripping where it was not supposed to drip. he somehow managed to open his eyes.. his viewpoint whirled about. Forlorn. . filled with tinted blurs. He wanted to explore now. slow-motion. that was how he must look. For all he knew. the sounds of a specter... pushing. the gel sluicing away with remarkable speed. His world was liquid.. and now it was becoming clearer. He was reawakening. Before him. Weir found himself back inside his own flesh. With shocking abruptness. Why is that? he wondered. He had no sense of panic. warm. The dripping continued.

The pilot's chair was soaked. though. and was pushing angrily to be free. hoping for a glimpse of her face. "I'm waiting. not even his. but even this had no effect on the woman sitting before him. he spun her chair. feeling the cold wetness. running in rivulets along the plating. the sound filling this reality with undertones of screaming. rose. a reflection. Whispering. making it rock on its gimbals.the ship. he said her name again. There was only the sound of the water dripping. feeling cold stealing over his fingertips. He could not hear the sound of breathing. A woman sat in the chair. glittering. nor did she move. crawling voices. streaming. No indication that she was even alive. something distorted." she said. He might as well have been touching a statue. her too-pale skin drenched. Dripping. standing in the second level. as though something lived under the skin. clenching it into a fist. There was something wrong with the reflection. "Claire?" There was no answer from the woman in the pilot's chair. hissing. "I'm sorry. hesitated. in the bone. As thought rooted to the deck. "Claire?" No movement. finding it in the moribund computer displays. . Panicking. The fear welled up in a dark torrent now. touching her hair. Uncertainly. He pulled his hand back. soul-poisonous and choking. he reached out to touch her shoulder. only water. Silence. The darkness swept through him. He looked down. The planes and contours of her face were shifting. Claire stared up at him. Water dripped to the floor of the bridge. He reached out slowly. Slowly. he whispered. Fear bubbled darkly within him. No reaction. straightening the fingers. Within several steps he was at the bridge of the Lewis and Clark. behind the pilot's chair. ignoring the cold. her sodden hair plastered to her naked back. no sound." he said. His soul splintered. She gave no indication that she knew anyone was there. Weir stood and stared. making pools. "Claire?" He forced his hand to unclench.

He knew that she wanted to get inside his head. he crashed to the deck. so familiar. yet he felt cold all over. through the darkness. Gel and saliva poured from his mouth. his right shoulder." he said. Surging from the darkness and silence. there was a loud hydraulic hiss. He gasped in another breath and the fires shot into his head. layered with ice. he lifted his hands and pushed at the door of his Gravity Couch.. a coffin too tight around him. perceived through a veil. trying to soothe. to allow him freedom to breathe. The last thing he remembered was Claire.Chapter Seven He fell through the silence. His tomb opened to decant him. in front of him. one hand on his shoulder. all sensation absent. There was something in his mouth. There was light. With no one to catch him and nothing to grab to stop his fall. Offbalanced. making him salivate uncontrollably. Unable to think. closing his mind down in a paroxysm of terror. He fought for focus. threatening him with suffocation and darkness. deafening in the confined space. then a humming that made him wince. then . intending to kick at the door. but he found that he could not reach it through the wall around his body. so warm. tried to close up. his voice little more than a gasp. trying to make it give way. his feet sliding in gel on the floor of the tank. had always refused that kind of help. The medical bay was a vague place to him. to deal with this latest crisis of his. The inner surface was slick with the remnants of the gel. into his belly. smearing as his hands slipped.. her voice urgent. "Claire . leaving him wheezing and moving weakly as the claustrophobia continued to shake him. There was a sucking sound too close to his head. too raw to withstand it for very long. "DJ!" Peters called. Weir fell forward. Peters was quickly at his side. hip. had mapped the geography of life gone awry. another on his wrist. and knee flaring with pain. His heart pounded frantically. He lurched backward. pooled by his face as he gasped for breath. coating his tongue. crushing in. making the veins in his neck and wrist pulse. He felt Peters' hands tighten on him. This effort availed him nothing. to pummel it with his heels to make it give. Blood seemed replaced with fire. but it would not come. Something wrong with Claire. he found himself surrounded by metal and plastic. trying to calm him-back to this reality he had fallen into. His lungs and bronchia flamed. and he was flooded with light. falling back into the world. Before he could strike the first blow. his mind and body too sensitive. but he refused that help. Something moved toward him through the bright blur. to reason out a proper course of action. He railed against her contact. adjusting so that she could take an ad hoc reading of his pulse. as far as he could go. His eyes opened. Her hands tightened again. a human fish drowning in oxygen. not wanting to release either the past or the nightmare until he understood it. Furiously. he pounded the heel of his right hand against the unyielding door.

the center of attention for the entire crew. His legs shook violently as he tried to stand. In his experience. leaning in to Weir and saying. All of the crew stood in a circle around him. looking down. concerned and observant. and his knees buckled. During that journey along the length of Skyhook One he had seen his world unfold and refold beneath him. he repeated his assertion: "I'm all right. "It's okay. Weir. a curious mixture of mother and professional medic. "I'm all right now. but the edges of the nightmare were fading now. trying to push Peters away." A little. checking him over for serious damage. DJ." DJ said. a great blue and white flower afloat in a bottomless sea. was too practiced. still bare-ass naked and utterly free of all concern. and the claustrophobia was easing. Weir closed his eyes for a moment as his body began to relax. . "Move slowly. Peters stepped away now. maintaining her calming contact." Her face came into view. however. taking an ill-advised window seat in the big elevator car on Skyhook One. He wondered what insights and visions awaited him now. Cooper seemed." he said. the muscles refusing to have anything to do with his intended course of action. the support. Weir looked up. and he found that he missed the contact. Weir wobbled for a moment. Reality had not spun around him as confusedly as this since the first time he had ridden to orbit. Just breathe. staring at him without flinching. DJ quickly looked Weir over before letting him go. Dr. but there was nothing to be done about that. Weir had no doubt that DJ could. emergency pack in hand. unsteady and queasy. perspectives changed enormously and abruptly. a dark Pan. on their short acquaintance. not willing to admit that the truth fell far short of the statement. here in the open medical bay. Weir wanted to fight her. have him sedated in a matter of moments. "You've been in stasis for fifty-six days. Stubbornly. helping him to stay upright. leaving a scattering of little stars flashing in his vision. There was a faint sense of embarrassment at standing there in nothing more than bikini briefs. too far ahead of him. if necessary. tried to push himself into at least a sitting position. She. and he found that it was becoming easier to breathe." To prove the point to those of the crew who doubted this assertion--everyone. knowing it to be a magnificent lie. following long periods of ennui. to be Peters' counterpart. "Damn. a humorous' male spirit. but finally managed to keep his balance. and she evaded his telegraphed efforts. There was a sense of relaxation in his chest. The graying at the edges of his vision began to recede. He looked up at DJ. At least there was Cooper. By the end of the journey. DJ caught him before he could tumble back to the deck. He pawed at the air. You're going to experience a little disorientation. You're okay. don't scare us like that!" Weir gave him a sickly smile. to keep struggling for his anguish. as far as he could tell--he tried to push himself to his feet. and he was not quite back in the real world now. DJ was a cold monolith. was kneeling beside him. he had come to an intuitive understanding of the geometry of space-time that had complemented his technical knowledge.relaxed as she said. Something dark had crawled into his dreams in the tank.

Miller turned towards Starck. was mainly admiring Starck's backside. then swung back. people. "No. in the middle of the room. Lacing up a boot. Starck flipped Cooper the bird. He had sent the Event Horizon and her crew down the rabbit hole. limbering himself up. Coop. Weir noted. "put some pants on. his face a study in thunder. Without looking around. "Is that an offer?" "It is not."Coffee?" "What?" Weir said. his domain. The crew had returned to purposeful movement. then zipped up his flight suit." the Captain added. Miller was already into his flight suit. DJ had stowed his emergency kit and quickly pulled on a flight suit. Cooper. put those on his hips. had opened the metal cylinder and was pouring coffee into a mug he had retrieved from one cubbyhole or another. in a corner. He felt unwilling and unable to accommodate anyone's needs right now--he was not sure that he could even manage to dress. His entire body felt toxic and his mind was sluggish. only an economy of movement that Weir envied and a fierce energy that left him apprehensive." he barked. while Smith." Weir frowned in understanding. drained of energy and knowledge. Cooper's eyes lit up as he smiled. "Starck. planted his feet apart. still showing no concern about dressing. but it was not enough to make Miller relent. "Do you mind if I get dressed first?" "Yes I do. Miller turned to follow. who was pulling on her boots. Still. There was no sign of playfulness about him." Miller said. leaving Weir standing. and DJ. Weir went in search of his own clothes. Starck was climbing into her flight suit. confused and disconsolate. He bunched his hands into fists. an expression that made his face hurt. Miller pulled on his boots. drawing an admiring glance from Cooper who." Cooper shrugged and turned away. thank you. followed closely by Starck. she growled back." . Whatever knowledge she had gleaned about Wonderland was his to hold first. she was not about to be bullied. He held this up for Weir to see. giving Cooper's crotch a withering glance. trying to understand how anyone could get used to the effects of long-term Gravity Couch suspension. surveying his crew. full of truths that were rightfully his. pulling out a large metal cylinder. turning his head. "Come on. At least they were close to their--his--goal. let's go!" Smith was the first one through the exit. quickly lacing them up. The Event Horizon was waiting. "why aren't you on the bridge?" Starck gave him an acidic look." was Starck's growled reply. "And. Weir honestly did not want to cross this man. did stretching exercises. Justin. "Coffee. Cooper trotted over to the wall.

Scribbling equations all over reams of paper did not prepare a man for the realities of deep-space travel. At the moment." Peters said. Either sleep or a nice warm corner would have done just as well. Both Cooper and Justin ignored this automatic response from her. Cooper once again snatched the ball out of the air. sneering at Justin. Weir leaned forward. Weir found it hard to care--if anything. with just about everything aboard designed to fit into a niche Or fold away. tilting the unit so that he could see the screen. not looking up from the video unit she was watching. He knew he was suffering from some kind of shock related to the time he had spent suspended in the Gravity Couch. "Don't play ball in the house. rather than using the Lewis and Clark's main vid system. Peters saw Weir looking over at her vid unit. The Lewis and Clark was a fine example of environmental engineering. hoping to combat the shivering. Somewhere along the way. Neither Peters nor Cooper had been able to convince him that the ship's interior temperature was reasonable--he felt cold. Miller. Starck. staring into Cooper's eyes. to do whatever it was that spaceship bridge crews did at times like these.Chapter Eight It seemed to Weir as though activity aboard the Lewis and Clark. For the moment. "You can't handle my junk. checking radiation badges. and Smith went forward. Peters had handed him a big warm blanket and he had wrapped himself in this. she turned slightly. tilting his head. unfolding tables. DJ was moving around in the cabin." The ball sailed back again. never paused for a moment. straight for Cooper's head. huddled on a chair at the side of the cabin. Cooper. curious about the video she was watching. taking out chairs. opening bunks. It was easy for the crew to make room or ready the ship for the powerful thrust from the ion drive. Peters watching a video unit. She had taken out a handheld unit. Justin caught it. he would rather be left alone. once begun. and he had a momentary flash of embarrassment at being caught in his peeping game. . their expressions gradually easing into mock display of contempt for each other. into the bridge. This particular misery was not something he had anticipated. The two men were engaged in pitching a small ball back and forth across the cabin. however. Weir thought. and the sounds he had been hearing confirmed his suspicion--this was something of a more private nature rather than a professional production of some kind. and Peters had finished setting up the crew's quarters and were now comfortable on bunks. Justin. don't ask for the heat. She turned her attention back to what she was watching. Rather than the negative reaction he expected. continuing to toss the ball between them. Cooper. Justin. but at the moment he would have preferred not to have any kind of ability to think. Papa Bear. apparently for something to do while he avoided talking to Weir. challenging. somehow managing to avoid DJ. turning them into a place to spend time. "When are you gonna put some heat on that?" He snapped the ball back at Justin. and Peters had set to in the crew's quarters.

watching. almost speaking to him. Mommy. "I talked to my ex. "I put in for a replacement for you. ribbons. and gave Weir a friendly. her slender frame. He saw the makings of a party. arid he had not singled out Miller's ship and crew. but not all. he thought." He might as well have pointed a finger directly at Weir." she said. without even glancing at Weir. USAC High Command was too far away. Somewhere deep inside Weir there was an ache. his reason for being furious with the world. The screen cleared to show a child in a wheelchair. giving her a sympathetic glance. Weir estimated the boy's age at four or five. "So everything's all right. or how long he had been in the wheelchair." She gave Miller a brittle smile that told the truth about her dilemma and her feelings. He'll keep Denny over Christmas and I'll get him this summer. Shame burned in Weir's chest. her clothes bright and loose on To Weir she did not look the slightest bit like someone who of time in space. Some of these physical dysfunctions could be corrected now. with the help of nanosurgery.. "No. a simple paraplegia of some kind. He chose not to address it. then blanked. laughing. spent a great deal and shifted and abruptly zoomed back. no. blurring first with a panning movement. then with a too-fast zoom. leaving the mind intact and the body more or less functional. cried. though the chair itself did not appear to have been heavily used. "Play horsey. play horsey!" he called. for that purpose. lifting him out of the wheelchair. The boy was grinning happily. flying him through the air. Miller softened momentarily. coming back to the crew quarters from the bridge. somehow ending up with him on her back. The image shook on the vid screen. It isn't my fault! he thought angrily. he had a passenger he could focus on. "Want to play horsey. too impersonal. Peters. . it's all right. his dark face unreadable. He had not planned this.Weir focused on the screen. He could make only a bare guess at the nature of the child's handicap. Peters came into view looking sunny and relaxed. waving his arms. He wanted his scapegoat. wondering how far off he was. mixed with an uncomfortable rage. Not quadriplegic then. Peters." Miller said. The image blurred again. heard the sounds of children and a thin background of music. smiled.. balloons. She bent and grasped the child in one long swooping motion that made the boy howl with delight. blinking as the image changed rapidly. a flash that was gone as quickly as it came. putting it aside. laughing. do you?" in a voice that bespoke motherhood and joy. "but on short notice like this . He kept his silence as Miller sat down next to Peters." Miller continued to look at her for a few moments. The boy held up his arms. Right or wrong. Miller did not seem to want to approach this rationally. choosing instead to accept the diversion of Miller striding through the hatchway. Weir thought. Peters shrugged and shut off the vid unit. understanding glance. Now Peters was trying to take that away from him by not letting Miller use her as a reason to put the screws to his enigmatic guest. on the screen.

Mom might let the boys get away with it. who looked impatiently back. "I am a lifesaver and a heartbreaker.." Weir was not sure how he should react to this particular display. meant to make Weir quake." The words had all the sound and authority of the Last Trump. Miller leaned forward. clasping his hands together." Cooper leaned down over the side of the bunk." Miller rumbled. Cooper grinned at him. up. "As you all know. Weir thought. He had managed to usurp the pilot's regular crew quarters chair. while Smith took up a position behind the chair Weir was huddling on. on its way from Cooper to Justin. his expression serious for once." "That's good to know. So DJ and Peters were the medical tag team. tossing the ball back and forth." he said. He did not expect this ad hoc truce to last. Starck and Smith arrived. pilot. anyway?" Cooper gave a show of thinking. "Two hours to Neptune orbit.. but there was no challenge there now. Smith looked down at him like the wrath of God. risking a crick in his neck. "All right. both of them looking tense. his eyebrows working.. amused. threatening to slide off onto the deck. Helplessly. Dr. It figured. you wanna stow that?" Justin clutched the ball to his chest. medical technician. for a moment. Starck sat down next to Miller. everybody knows each other. also coming back from the bridge. Smith's pronouncement out of the way. He gave Weir a kissy-face stare that made the scientist flinch back. "I am your best friend. Cooper and Justin paid the psychodrama no attention whatsoever. So what are we doing all the way out . Peters. "This is Cooper. one dealing with the broken ones Peters could not easily fix. Cooper hauled himself back onto his bunk. DJ. Starck looked at Miller and said. "All boards are green. looking around at his crew. his dark eyes unwavering. looking abashed. "Okay. Justin grinned and Starck snorted." "Trauma." Cooper said. Justin said. we have an addition to our crew. while Peters offered a "I told you so!" look. Miller looked around at Cooper. neither of them paying Weir much attention. Miller gave the younger man an impatient look that was tinged with the suggestion of violence. Behind Weir. his voice singsong.He glanced quickly at Weir. Taking his cue. Weir.. Smith. my XO. this is: Starck.. he looked at Miller. Weir looked around. Smith intoned. leaning forward. The ball whizzed by him.. softly. "Ballast. "He's a rescue technician. but Dad was home now. sliding smoothly into the gap that Miller granted him. Justin." DJ said. What the hell do you do on this ship. "Justin.. everything's five by five." Cooper interrupted. so he chose to avoid a response altogether. who was lounging insouciantly on his bunk. listen up. his expression deadly serious. ship's engineer--" "You can call him Baby Bear.

Skipper?" "Dr. A Code Black classification was not something a crew like this would hear on a regular basis. very unpleasant. The crew had not known that beforehand.here. letting the crew have time to look at each other. giving him a chance to go on.. turning to look at the bedraggled scientist. stuffed into a spacecraft that had very little to do with human comfort. with bureaucratic interchanges turning into nightmares of documents. protocols. shook his head. Weir waited. Interservice rivalries had not waned since the paranoia of the 1950s. So. and formats. and presented with a small crew that was almost openly hostile. I'd like to say how much I appreciate this opportunity--" Miller rolled his eyes. that the mission they were on was without precedent. "Everything I am about to tell you is considered Code Black by the NSA. He wished he could hide. it was bigger than USAC." Weir paused. we lost both ships. The crew was finding its own level for this. "You don't need to tell me about Code Black. He doubted it. resisting the urge to shiver." Cooper looked around at Justin." Miller took a deep breath. . This was not his job. Instead. Weir cleared his throat. "we did not volunteer for this mission. The source has been identified as the Event Horizon. Weir took a deep breath. Weir?" Miller said. hesitating. "And the last time the USAC attempted a rescue this far out. and he knew the odds for success in most situations. anger radiating off of him in waves. This in mind.'" There was dead silence. He tugged the blanket more tightly around his body. Weir. he would still have demanded to go with the salvage crew. classifications." Weir heard the attempt at joviality in Cooper's voice. Weir wondered if they would develop an increased respect for him. please .. he was wrapped in a blanket. Coop. Baby Bear. It is three billion klicks past even the remotest outpost." So there was another root cause of Miller's attitude. We were pulled off leave to be sent to Neptune. At the beginning he had imagined dramatic pronouncements and grand moments. Weir took a deep breath. Whatever was going on here. codes. "That means top secret. For USAC to accept a National Security Agency Code Black without apparent comment indicated something very serious." he growled slowly. From his bunk. cut to it. "First of all. What Weir knew and he believed Miller would eventually learn was that the Event Horizon was extraordinary. Rescue and salvage was Miller's life. Had he known how things were to have worked out. "Dr. he said. It was time he tried to smooth things over. The rescue tech simply could not sustain it. "The USAC intercepted a radio transmission from a decaying orbit around Neptune. Cooper looked back at Weir. then at Miller. Justin said.

He hoped that what he was about to say would change the perspective of this crew enough for them to be of use to him in retrieving his ship." There was silence now. He knew what she had to be thinking: there could be nothing to salvage. Miller let the racket go on for a few more moments. In the end. Cooper was getting wound up now. no one had known what had happened. then stood up. but he was no psychologist. "Everybody shut up!" Silence fell again. hearing him yelling angrily. seven years ago?" Justin winced. Standing behind Weir. out here at Neptune. Starck snapped. that the ship blew up . what. There had been a desire for a deep-space research platform after the successes in exploiting the asteroid belt." "The law of relativity prohibits faster-than-light travel. said. Weir took another deep breath. and the Event Horizon project had played into that. Smith growled. He looked as though he was about to slide down from his bunk to stalk furiously around the crew quarters. having introduced them to the idea of cover-up and conspiracy." "How can we salvage--" Peters started. "that she was a deep-space research vessel. the ominous edge gone from his voice." Starck said." Weir went on. Cancel our leave and send us out on some bullshit mission!" as he waved his fists in the air. "That's impossible!" She looked around the cabin. "Let the dead rest. "You can't do that. the reactor blew. all playfulness lost.. their expressions shocked. That was juicy. turning to Weir. These people were still trying to deal with the concepts and ideas illuminated by Einstein. Weir's ears were ringing. holding his hands in the air as he bellowed.. It had not been possible to keep the Event Horizon completely secret once the pure development process was over and the construction process began. now leaning closer to him." They were all staring at him again. "The Event Horizon was the culmination of a secret government project to create a spacecraft capable of faster-than-light flight. probably considering quarks to be the noises made by ducks and tachyons as something you used to hang a picture. a confused expression on her face. something for them to fasten on to. . man. "She was lost with all hands. Weir did not think that Cooper was about to turn violent. an angry. He figured that there was no good reason to put theory to the test in this case. that its reactor went critical. ". Smith. Weir turned his attention back to him. "What was made public about the Event Horizon. before Weir could answer Smith. No one had known what might happen. hiding the truth in plain sight." Weir turned to look at Smith. "Let the man speak. none of that is true.. or even Gribbin.. threatening presence.Her eyes flashing as she turned to glare at him. aside from a few bits of radioactive debris. chills racing up his spine. almost surged forward. had not even suspected. and he had their undivided attention. they were unlikely to reach as high as the work of Hawking." Miller sat down again. but it had been possible to keep a lid on the true nature and purpose of the project. This was not something they had heard about. "Yeah.

Her voice had a glassy edge. and the pilot took a step backwards. "Say this paper represents space-time... "Excuse me . "'Layman's terms. "Relativity. Weir shrugged." He stopped." he said. Weir shot him a look. this time marked with a B. One day he had known how to bend space and had then set out to prove it. these in turn fold space-time consistent with Weyl tensor dynamics until the space-time curvature becomes infinitely large and you have a singularity ." They were all watching intently now.. "Fuck 'laymen's terms. but it was the only way he knew how to get even a fraction of the concepts across. "In layman's terms.. What did they expect? There were non-Euclidian geometries involved here. trying to compose himself. Now he had to explain it to these people. still trying to reduce the concepts. The ship doesn't really move faster than light"--he gestured with his hands. and many human minds could not go around the requisite corners. spotting the edge of something." He scribbled another X. "We can't break the law of relativity. a pure blend of mathematics and practical physics. He had cracked the sky. "Now.. Doggedly..' what about English?" Weir opened his eyes." Miller was staring at him. making the paper snap in his hands. more shocked at Weir's abrupt action than outraged at his audacity. it's difficult to.. That did not matter now." He paused for a moment. picking up a pen as he did so." He trailed off again. Cooper was lunging over the side of his bunk again.. . sighing. "Well. on the inside of an open locker door. his blanket becoming more precarious with his motion--"it creates a dimensional gateway that allows the ship to instantaneously jump from one point in the universe to another. but. as it bounced shut. The name on the locker door. a poster.. No matter what. you see . he said. He quickly marked an X on the pinup. and tearing the poster down. Weir turned back to the other crew members. but we can go around it. "And you want to get from point A here to point B here. trying to bring things a bit closer to the level of those he had to deal with. putting the letter A at one side." Smith started.'" Weir closed his eyes momentarily. What's the shortest distance between two points?" The crew members stared at him as though he had turned into a raving idiot. was SMITH. yes. feeling helpless as the equations glowed across his mind. "It's all math.Patiently.. light years away." He slapped the pinup onto the nearest flat surface then made a half-turn. He knew that his audience resented being thrown back into grade school. not saying anything else. How in the name of hell was he supposed to get these concepts across to people who could barely function without an Ezy-Guide and good fortune? He looked around the cramped crew's quarters. trying to understand him.. reaching out without thinking. "How?" Starck asked. he still felt like an advanced Jungian in a room filled with Freudian novices. holding up the poster. you use a rotating magnetic field to focus a narrow beam of gravitons. "Let's try this. Weir said. shaking his head..

genuinely curious. who took it gingerly." He sat back. "Until now. Everyone turned to stare at the scientist again. Melodramatic but functional." Justin was frowning now. so that point A and point B coexist in the same space and time. "How do you know all this?" There was the $64. "She vanished from all our scopes." Miller grimaced. "I built it. his blanket forgotten. movement he drove the pen through the layers of paper." He paused. "So if the ship didn't blow up. The ship reached safe distance using conventional thrusters. his enthusiasm and drive draining as the memories flooded back in. taking the foundations of his entire life. lost in the past. Smith hadn't even complained about the wanton destruction of his pinup.. vicious.000 Question. "That's what we're here to find out. The Event Horizon had torn a hole in the heavens and his life had been sucked into it. "Where has it been the past seven years?" Weir sat back. the sun's closest star." He held the poster up. With a fast. Disappeared without a trace. frowning. "I can see why they sent you along. "The shortest distance between two points is zero. "Like a textbook." Weir said." Justin was watching Weir intently. though. those days in Central Operations. annoyed and embarrassed. looked at Miller. but his eyes were full of curiosity." He handed the punctured poster back to Smith. who proceeded to glare back at them. Everything had come crashing down in such a short span of time. obviously putting the bits and pieces of information together and coming up with a result he liked less and less with each passing moment. they received the go-ahead to activate the gravity drive and open the gateway to Proxima Centauri. For good measure." Chapter Nine . looking at Weir as though the scientist might turn rabid at any moment. The Captain was watching him intently. After the ship passes through this gateway. replaying those hours. "What?" "Wrong. remembering. "A straight line. he added. trying for a sympathetic smile that he knew was forced and looked uncomfortable. looking at them intently. "That's what the singularity does--it folds space." Cooper made a noise that indicated that he was either impressed or coming to a boil. He lowered the poster. He needed to know.. "It's called a gravity drive. space returns to normal. "All the systems looked good . Weir squared his shoulders and said. The other crew members turned to stare at the engineer.Finally." Weir paused for a few moments." He had a confused look. All the systems looked good. as though he was certain something was missing from the answer. what happened?" "The mission was going perfectly. folding it so that the first X was over the second." Weir said. Justin said.

" Weir said. They had gone as far as possible in the crew quarters. all of his posturing and his energy drained for the moment. but Weir I was managing all right. who sat impassively in his chair. "Jesus." Smith said. of course. concentrating. It was a howl from a soul abandoned and despairing on the far edge of hell. DJ had his head down. "but TDRS did receive a single transmission. were having a hard time staying put and listening to the playback. then back at Weir. then moved up to the bridge for the second part of the show. could still sense the inhuman swirl beneath the static and corruption. "We're not even sure that it qualifies as language. listening to all that Weir had to say without spending his energy to comment." Weir said. The other crew members. Weir nodded. Weir tapped another key. So far. Peters looked up at Miller. DJ looked up at him. but it seemed to be the best that anyone could do at the time." she said. "Houston has passed the recording through several filters and isolated what appears to be a human voice." He felt a little more in control now. There had been no communication from Earth regarding further refinements. intent." It was stretching things somewhat to describe that voice as human. causing them to respond with spasmodic physical movements before anyone could gain control of themselves." Surprised. fitting into a corner. "We haven't been able to confirm any live contact. but he could still feel the effects. his expression dark. as the playback ended. leaning backwards. then the next part would freeze their blood. They looked at each other. this one shook them to the core. he knew. "Excuse me?" . her words coming slowly. Weir felt it in the darker recesses of his soul even now. He reached out and pressed a key on a nearby computer keypad. "What the hell is that?" Smith whispered. He looked as though the voice had cut straight through him. but had chosen to sit quietly. It was obvious to Weir that Miller considered his crew to be far more than mere functional appendages. Miller looked at Weir. If the introduction had rattled the Lewis and Clark's crew.The bridge was not a place for fast movement. his arms crossed over his chest. even Miller. The sounds ceased abruptly. Weir watched their faces as the recording played through. watched them . If the first recording had spooked the crew of the Lewis and Clark. Weir thought. having heard it several times. Miller had assumed his throne. "It doesn't sound like anything human. Weir raised an eyebrow. a little more together. at Weir. The terrifying sound that poured from the bridge speakers had become familiar before leaving Daylight Station. Some of the elements rose and fell in a familiar pattern while others seemed to rise and fade in new patterns each time.become pale and fearful as they endured the voice of the Event Horizon. "Latin. He was staring at Weir like a lost man.

" Miller leaned forward." The bridge was suddenly filled with the sound of a blaring alarm. It's a dead language. who refused to flinch. There was no trace of his sense of humor now. ." Weir said.. losing the thread. then hesitated for a moment. Strapping himself in. heading for the flight seat that had been made ready for him." DJ said. DJ. then said to Weir. He had never been able to make the math work for a time distortion. "Stations. her lip curling." He took a deep breath. Coop.DJ opened his mouth again. "No one. "I mean . please. disbelieving. This time he tried to focus on the voice. "Right there. He had considered just about everything along the way.. He was coming home to his ship." Weir tapped the key again." Cooper stared at DJ.. It's too distorted. hearing something in the sound. Miller leaned forward. people. his eyes on Weir. "Latin? Who the fuck speaks Latin?" Starck looked around at Cooper. "That sounds like 'liberate me. but in light of the transmission." The bridge cleared as Peters. looking down at DJ. "You're convinced the crew could still be alive?" "The Event Horizon only had life support for eighteen months." Cooper looked up at Miller. almost looking inward. tried to sketch words out of the electronic muck. "I have to think that some endured until now. a dubious expression on his face. consulting readouts. Weir clambered down the bridge ladder. "Can you translate?" DJ licked his lips. Some of the playfulness was creeping back into his expressions. including the possibility of some kind of time distortion that might have thrown the Event Horizon seven years forward." "Mostly dead. "I can't make out the rest. "'Liberate me'?" DJ turned to face Miller. "Here we go. steepling his hands. "'Save me. do we get hazard pay for this?" "You heard the tape. "Play that back. "It seems impossible.' " Cooper turned back to DJ. He stared directly at Weir. Miller looked up. "It sounds like it might be Latin. his voice.'" He frowned.. his voice firm. considering the possibilities." He took a deep breath." Miller said. his voice gruff. he noted that he was almost excited. The Captain had a wry expression. "We're looking for survivors. and the voice screamed through the room. "Skipper. now looking at Weir. and Cooper raced back for their standard stations. "From what?" Miller sat back." Weir said." Miller said.

" Smith echoed. Miller . Miller looked over the Heads-Up Display on the main window. It was easier to draw the pertinent data from his own readouts. Blue light was replaced by blue-tinged gloom as methane clouds rushed by the bridge windows. "Heading three-three-four." Miller felt the ship shifting. "Crossing the horizon." Scanning over his displays. Optimum approach angle is fourteen degrees. sometimes fatal. keeping the heat away from the main body of the ship. Graphic images flashed and scattered across the displays. That gut-wrenching racket Weir had played was an indication that something strange was going on here. Smith said. with one significant image locking into the center of the HUD. Weir could twist space to his heart's content. The hull temperature was rising as they ploughed into the atmosphere." "One-four degrees. so he turned his attention to those instead. but he could never gut-fly a ship like this one. no matter how far out they were. You had to be flexible. also ignoring the HUD. and Miller felt the ship adjusting course again. He smiled." Miller looked over his instruments and made some quick decisions. "We have a lock on the Event Horizon's navigation beacon. "Come around to three-three-four. You could not set expectations and go charging into potentially deadly situations with preconceptions locked into place. and included the ship's registry codes and other identification. firing a controlled sequence of bursts that would kill some of their velocity and tighten their orbit. As far as Miller was concerned. He could feel the thrusters moving to new positions. Miller said. second-guessing these situations was a bad idea. There. squinting at the bright blue light pouring in through the thick quartz." He made some quick corrections. Smith said. Miller watched his instruments as the Lewis and Clark continued its cautious descent. Starck. but the ablative shielding and heat tiles were holding up beautifully. At times like this. Chapter Ten Lewis and Clark was closing on Neptune. They were starting to encounter the fringes of Neptune's atmosphere and from here onward the journey could turn into quite a roller coaster ride.His creation. The information in the display came from the main ID transponder for the Event Horizon. focused on his boards. "Make your approach vector negative fourteen degrees. Miller was in his element. he wondered what they were going to find when they met up with the Event Horizon. announced. Miller scanned this new display with some satisfaction. he thought. There was something else now--a mild vibration that traveled through the frame of the ship.

"Keep us slow and steady. the Event Horizon should have been slowed by friction." He doubted there would be a response." Smith shook his head. buffeted by Neptune's outer atmosphere. "Yes. this is . almost fearful. but there were protocols to be followed here. "This is U. . giving every . "Range to target ten thousand meters and closing. "Everything green on my boards. Justin. Answers. Starck's fingers flickered over her boards as her eyes took on a slightly unfocused look. do you read? This is the Lewis and Clark hailing Event Horizon . watch it ripple under the skin. As its orbit decayed into the atmosphere. sir. It made Miller feel like a fresh steak placed before a starving dinner guest. see if anyone's listening.. Skipper. Weir!" Miller called. He glanced up for a moment.S." Sympathetically but firmly. "Starck. Miller said. continually gathering information. Miller turned to Starck. pulled down by Neptune's gravity and torn apart before the atmospheric pressure crushed the pieces. turning back to his controls. it could lead to disaster. Miller had to wonder how the Event Horizon had managed to stay aloft." The pilot looked up and around at Miller... They needed answers. Miller could read the tension in the man. "We're all on edge." he said crisply. That ship was built to go faster than light. At a time like this. We are in for some chop. his voice firm. at Miller. "That's not it. you might have thought he had not heard Smith. He leaned to the side. now." Miller shut out the sound of Starck's voice as she did the contact mantra.. the man had not budged from his position since being sent there.would have sworn that Smith somehow fused his mind to the main piloting computer. "Dr. Weir was in the hatchway in a flash." Some chop. get on the horn. Smith. Smith knew differently. There were times when Smith displayed a mastery of understatement. Smith was making the mistake of thinking things through. that's just wrong. this is wrong. how's my ship?" Justin was looking from display to display." Miller said. "Captain. sir.." Miller did not want to debate the issue or to discuss oddities and fearful symmetries. He had a worried. looking up at Miller with undisguised excitement. "It's in the upper ionosphere. Listening to him." He turned back to his boards again as the ship shuddered. looking down in the direction of the extra seat and Bill Weir. We're a long way out. "I think you want to see this." Smith was saying. Event Horizon... "Matching speed . expression that told Miller that Smith had been asking the same kind of questions about the Event Horizon. Aerospace command vessel Lewis and Clark hailing Event Horizon. "Bring us in tight. Give the scientist credit." Weir clambered up the ladder and onto the flight deck.

anybody home?" Starck looked up." . as though trying to force them back. "Nine hundred. the camera mounts were icing up as the icy clouds struck. "Fifteen hundred meters." Smith said. Miller realized that he had begun to hold his breath.." Miller looked away from his visual displays. shook her head. Weir grabbed a stanchion and braced his feet." Miller said. Without turning. something big . Smith had it under control. The beep vibrated in Miller's teeth and made his ears hurt.impression of not noticing the shuddering of the ship as it pushed its way through the fringes of the Neptunian atmosphere. five thousand meters.. They were fine." The Lewis and Clark shook violently and rolled sideways." The graphic flashed confirmation: something there. . who was trying the exterior cameras. waiting for the command to helm that would get them out of there. they're screening thencalls. "One thousand meters. "Proximity warning!" Justin called. He looked back at Miller. Weir was leaning forward. "Where is it?" Starck went over her instruments. punched a control. sir. "We're right on top of it." Smith was saying. save their asses. Surprises like that were never easy to deal with. he breathed out. trying to see something through the bridge windows. The weather was thickening out there. staring at Miller."Range three thousand meters and closing. Smith said. The deicing systems were being hard-pressed to keep pace. trying to force his body to relax and quit trying to find a good place to run and hide. "We've got some weather. With an effort. his voice urgent. Weir looked back at Miller. shaking her head. "If they are. making himself breathe normally. or into a change of course. trying to pick out his ship. He swallowed hard. Now his voice held warning." Smith said. "Dead ahead. "Where is she?" Weir said. seven hundred. "I can't see anything. Starck was silent for a moment as Smith's hands flew over the controls. waiting. "We're getting too close. eight hundred meters. still holding on to the stanchion." Smith announced. each word harder and harder than the last." Neither could Miller. "The scope is lit. Compounding the visual difficulties. they were okay. trying to see past the clouds of methane crystals. we're gonna hit!" Starck whirled." Smith muttered. then turned back to the window. peering out through the windows. Warning lights flashed red as a shrill beep pulsed through the bridge. "I noticed. "Starck. It's right in front of us. then at Smith. putting an animated graphic up into the HUD. The ship righted itself but continued to vibrate. The scientist peered through the thick windows.

The clouds had swirled away around the starship. Finally. The proximity warning continued to beep. creeping up slowly. Miller stared into this darkness and felt cold. "There she is." Miller raised an eyebrow at this uncharacteristic announcement. He stared for a few moments. a thing of arching girders and strange angles. taken it in without anyone noticing it. his expression unreadable to Miller. but somehow managed to keep his precarious handhold on the bridge." Weir said. Daddy's little girl is out there."Starck--" Miller began. The Event Horizon could easily have swallowed the Lewis and Clark. Chapter Eleven The ship bucked and shook. and turned to point. Miller saw the Event Horizon. Smith shook his head. that is one big ugly fat fucker. The hull sounded in response to the thrusters. He had never felt cold in space before. Weir and his team had created something that was more Gothic monstrosity than spacecraft. cautiously matching velocity. unbuckled. "Can we go home now. Miller was not sure that he liked that tone. he said. with no features instantly visible. his mouth working. please?" Justin had gotten himself into a position to see the Event Horizon." Weir said. stepped onto the deck so that he could go forward. They came around again." For the first time." she said. He let his chair down. Weir was almost hurled forward. Starck and Smith complied. pride in his voice. "It should be right there. No one spoke. "My God. enormous and dark as it threatened to blot out the blue of Neptune. "Jesus. He stepped forward. leaning over Smith like a dark spectral presence. then settled. into the windows. He . but this did not aid in perception. "Reverse thrusters full!" Miller yelled. The Event Horizon was a dark blur as the Lewis and Clark' shot past it. leaving it at the eye of the storm. a father protecting his child. "She's not ugly. but having no luck. Miller found himself trying to pick details out. shedding velocity and changing vectors under emergency power. Miller thought. of darkness and depth that the naked eye and unaided mind could not estimate. The Lewis and Clark screamed. His voice held an angry warning tone. but he understood it. only to stare in shock as the clouds parted.

had had enough of that damned proximity alarm now. a bit more abrupt than required. "Can we move in closer?" "Any closer and we're gonna need a rubber. in the heart of the starship. through his feet. He reached down and punched the defeat switch. you up for a flyby?" "Love to. for interstellar crews who might spend a great deal of time researching newly discovered worlds. Seeing this craft was providing Miller with a different perspective on Bill Weir. They had a job to do here. The Lewis and Clark drifted in towards the Event Horizon." Smith growled. nudged along by gentle taps of the thrusters. refusing to look at the ship they were passing. He suspected that someone had had the idea to make the ship large and comfortable. It's playing hell with the IMUs." he said." Starck muttered. "Range five hundred meters and holding. "Look at the size of that thing. It was time to face the beast. a sign of respect for Miller looming over his shoulder. Weir moved forward. We can dock there. using his least convincing tone of voice. Smith frowned angrily. He turned to look at Smith. coming back to business abruptly." Smith said. the Event Horizon was a dark Industrial Revolution monstrosity. Miller could feel the bursts through his fingers. This was not a ship that was easy to knock down. His hands floated over the controls. focusing. "Picking up magnetic interference." Miller said. looking into the belly of the beast. silencing it. Another course change." Starck's fingers were dancing over her board. An arm jutted from the sphere. Smith concentrated on his controls. a workplace. ignoring Smith's warning glare. and readouts changed. a foul juggernaut tearing the heavens apart and polluting the remnants with its effluvium." "Switch over to the trackers." . could feel the pulse of the ship and know when there was something wrong." Smith said. The Lewis and Clark eased into motion. falling into shadow. "Smith. They came up under the Event Horizon. using the displays where needed. "Do it. leaning over Smith and Starck. Miller's eyes narrowed. and he wondered what they were getting themselves into here. "Turbulence is dropping off. Starck's fingers flew again. Miller felt the cold creep into him again. To Miller's eyes. Something spherical loomed within the shadows. dishes and antenna elements. "There's the main airlock. wrought from iron and powered by coal. Weir leaned forward. pointing. Smith's hands moved over the controls. the future as envisioned by Ste-phenson and Brunei. covered in small pods.

" Miller leaned further down." Starck said. probably. in the meantime. trying to take a closer look. was watching out of the main windows. Starck shook her head and bit her lip as she looked over the displays. On the monitor. switching his monitors over to a view from the main camera on the Lewis and Clark's boom arm. Carefully." Even then. "Smith. Smith spread his fingers in the glove. the odds are lousy. flashed with data. turning to Smith. The hull's intact. he nudged the salvage ship in toward the airlock. Miller expected her to come up with an answer any moment now. stopping and starting at Starck's tapped-in commands." Starck's displays lit. The end of the boom spread open like a flower. leaks. the mechanical hand spreading wide. Smith floated the hand in towards his target." Smith slipped his hand from the waldo glove and looked up at Weir. his expression dismissive. refusing to jump to conclusions until all the evidence was in. but there's no gravity and the thermal units are offline. He flicked controls. "Something's wrong with the scan. "Starck. "It's not a load-bearing structure. turned his head. "The reactor's still hot. "Be careful. buckling it." Starck said. "Bio-scan is online. sir. I'm . touched it." She was silent for a few moments. "It is now. He smoothed at his close-cropped hair. "Find 'em. give me a read. Nothing serious. He liked it a lot when his crew was efficient and smart. "Do they have pressure?" Starck nodded. looking over her displays. she frowned. looking over her screens." He turned to Miller. "Affirmative. Slipping his right hand into a waldo glove. Floating the arm by the antenna cluster. Smith extended the boom towards the Event Horizon." Smith nodded." Miller nodded. Miller thought. trying once again to stay out of the way. intent on the pilot's work. "Radiation interference?" Miller said. His hand closed in the glove. killing excess velocity with little blips on the thrusters. her fingers moving over her console. Weir. "We've got several small radiation sources. Instead. trying to pick out the details. Weir was hanging back." Miller tried to make sense of the displays himself. but the angle was wrong and all he got was a strained neck muscle. mentally organizing the data. the attitude vanishing." Weir said. calling up different readouts. uncertain. I'm showing deep cold. Starck. use the arm and lock us onto that antenna cluster." "Already on it. The crew couldn't survive unless they were in stasis.Miller pulled his attention away from the spherical structure and turned to Smith. "There's not enough to throw it off. Miller watched over Smith's shoulder. "Locked in. Cautiously. the mechanical fingers closed around the main part of the antenna cluster.

Once the ship--" "Captain." Weir breathed out. we do it the hard way. Go get your bonnet on. room by room. found his next target down at the engineering console. "Stay here on the bridge. then added. The last thing they needed was for the main designer of the ship to be stomping around." Miller looked around as Weir took a step toward them. carefully extending the heavy plastic tube from the Lewis and Clark to the Event Horizon. Justin." Miller turned around. turning away from the frustration of her displays. Miller let him have a few breaths to get used to the idea of defeat." Miller said. and he went to sit down. giving Miller an impatient look. wouldn't that affect the scan?" "I'd still get a location. "That is unacceptable. deploy the umbilicus. "Yes. "Very well. coming closer to Miller. Weir started to follow Justin off the bridge. This is where I need you. Mr." Starck said. and now his temper was certainly fraying. Weir stopped and turned." he said. "but these readings. sir!" before leaving his station and heading for the hatch. locking the docking collar in place over the outer . Chapter Twelve Down in the airlock bay. they're all over the ship. It doesn't make any sense. trying to squeeze the tension from muscles that had no desire to be untensed. "Okay." Weir interrupted." He looked from Starck to Weir. relaxing." Miller took a deep breath." Miller straightened up." Miller hissed in frustration. but I can't get a lock on the location. Weir said." Weir said. Miller headed for the hatch. we'll bring you on board--" Sharply. squaring his shoulders. "Could it be the crew? If they were in suspended animation. "Deck by deck. "that's the way it is!" Weir glared at Miller in abject silence. While he expected Weir to be aboard the Event Horizon sooner or later. firmly. "I need you to guide us from the comm station. "Doctor.picking up trace life forms. snapping back with a crisp. Miller watched the monitors while Starck deployed the umbilicus. "I didn't come out here to sit on your bridge. getting in the way and giving orders no one could follow. back to Starck again. he much preferred it to be later. "Once we've secured the ship. "Once the ship is secured. his face set and his attitude filled with a desire for argument." Justin displayed an unseemly level of enthusiasm for this suggestion. "I believe you're up for a walk. Starck. Miller felt relieved. hurrying to keep up with the younger man. Help us to do our job. I need to be on that ship.

He walked over to Miller. as were Peters and Justin. despite the smart-ass approach to life--and he smiled now at seeing Justin setting up a safety line. Miller thought. "I'll be all over it. Coop." Cooper was all serious business. Cooper dropped Miller's helmet into place. Miller was already fully rigged for EVA. "Radiation I can handle. turning away from DJ and nodding to Peters." DJ finished checking over Peters and Justin for problems with their suits. sealing it securely.. DJ nodded. Warning ." It was a bit more than his shoes. Cooper seemed to have an almost infinite capacity for extra-vehicular activity." he said. where being outside was a daily occurrence. If anything happens. In a serious voice. Miller turned away from the monitors as Cooper." Cooper made a face at this. confirming the helmet seal. "It's Justin's turn.. There was a resounding clank as the main lock disengaged. Justin turned as he entered the airlock. Cooper was ready to hit space at a moment's notice--all he needed to do was get his helmet in place. "Come on. doubly muffled through two layers of helmet. pulling out the end of a safety line and attaching it to an eyebolt on his suit. Miller stepped into the airlock." That's all we're probably bringing back for you. but confined his revenge to making Justin bend down a little so he could double-check the younger man's helmet seals. still making visual safety checks--one of the reasons Miller respected the man. Cooper said. his voice muffled by the helmet. At least Weir and his team had done something that followed standard protocols. allowing the door to slide open. old man. but their lives would have been far more complicated. The door rolled shut." With a wave. even as he reached out to check the integrity of the line and its connection to the eyebolt. the locks engaging with a hollow boom that resonated through the ship. Now step aside. Miller's crew could have managed without using the umbilicus. followed closely by Peters and Justin. getting an approving nod from Cooper. A liking for EVA was a rare thing even in the Big Rock Range. "You've had plenty EVA. "It's the dead ones I can't fix. "Opening inner airlock door. Skipper. as he tensioned the line a little more. She turned and tapped the control panel in the airlock door. said." He finished his check of Miller's suit and stepped back." Peters said. "Any survivors are gonna be hot. I already put my shoes on. "You still need the rope?" Cooper said to Justin. Clear the door." Miller said. Cooper had followed them." Miller said to DJ. behind him. "I thought you were one of those spacemen with ice in your veins. "I'd rather be on the rope and not need it. Cooper backed out of the airlock." Justin tugged on the rope. checking seams and connectors. "than need it and not have it. "You just keep your nose clean. Baby Bear. Miller noted. Stay on station. the bulky suits making it a little difficult for them to move in the airlock bay.door.

" he said. "Clear and open. Once in a while a figure would drift into range. helping to keep it stable as long as the . "We've got pressure. electronics." Miller said. motioning for Justin to get it open in a hurry. and then go in to open up all the secrets hidden within the ship. He pressed back against the airlock wall. Light poured in from the umbilicus. waiting. Peters. made tinny and distant by the radio system. The outer airlock door opened. The seconds ticked away. the feeds showed only the featureless interior of the umbilicus. Weir turned his head. then. Three of them were direct video feeds. and names had been overlaid in the lower right corner. turning himself carefully. Miller turned and stepped out. more that they would have needed additional equipment to identify. The inner airlock door opened slightly. measuring the return response. Atmosphere from the Event Horizon would fill the umbilicus. Weir focused intently on the monitors now. Peters scanned over the readouts. Starck had indicated that Weir should follow her down into the lower level of the bridge area. Dr. He and Peters got out of Justin's way. Justin floated up to the inner airlock door. Weir was beginning to react with excitement as Miller. taking in the different displays. The device emitted bursts of sound. inserting this into the airlock operations panel." Smith climbed down behind them. Miller could hear the low hissing of air being evacuated from the airlock. Starck sat down and started activating monitors and consoles around them. Through his helmet. Next to Weir. Silence around them.crystals of ice. Peters pushed by him. his eyes on the monitors. Weir?" Miller. Perhaps it was to the good--let the professionals face any initial danger." Miller did not waste time with the Event Horizon's outer airlock door. the monitor for Miller's video feed was directly in front of Weir. shot through with the sounds of the suit systems. "You've reached the outer airlock door. He saw no reason to object to this slight change of environment. Waving him to the seat usually occupied by the engineer. Justin. He should have been with them. and Justin closed on the Event Horizon. "Video feed is clear. "Are you with us. but he could not win every battle.lights flicked on. odd creaking sounds from the material. getting a thumper up against the inner airlock door. so he did as she requested. He reached to his utility belt. "I'm with you." she said. At the moment. frozen dust. The cotton-wool feeling of vacuum. and electrics warming and cooling. Something looming up on the monitors now. Starck said. air aspirating through the suit ventilators. Time code. Particles swirled through the gap-. putting the thumper away on her belt. extracting a slim tool. launching himself. Justin quickly complied.

"You're in the central corridor. but his voice was shaky now. trying to get some sort of perspective. He started to crane his head forward. thanks. "Yeah. this is not what we were looking for here." Justin and Peters froze where they were. Miller's spine was chilling. they had stepped into some kind of access corridor. closer. he realized. He looked up. The lights they had with them would show them almost nothing. courtesy of the suit radio. "I don't know. Their helmet lights caught ice crystals whirling in the silent darkness. A human tooth. but the corridor was seemingly endless.docking ring seal remained intact." he said. "Looks like it was pulled out by the root. "Jesus. his helmet light reflected from a ceiling. and light scattered around them. As far as he could tell. "What is it?" Justin said. Justin continued working. I can see it's a tooth. complete with the root. Small objects afloat in microgravity tended to prove all three of Newton's laws of motion. DJ. As it was." Trying to wrench his mind away from the scale of the starship. "I. only to be swallowed in the darkness." DJ added helpfully." Miller was about to suggest they pick a direction when his attention was taken by something hovering just at the edge of his field of vision. trying not to move too fast. . an immense pool of darkness broken once. rear molar. "It's huge. focusing on the object. "DJ?" DJ was normally unflappable. This was not the sort of statement Miller wanted to have made dead-center in his head. This place is a deep freeze. Weir's voice was in his head now." Miller said. "Hold on a second. It was small and white. quietly and firmly. he thought. and he looked around at her. Justin stowed his tool and checked his line as Miller led the way into the Event Horizon. uh. "Ice crystals everywhere. It connects the personnel areas to engineering. One too-quick move here and they would be chasing this particular mystery down the length of the corridor.in a while by a deep blue patch of light that he assumed resulted from windows filtering the light from Neptune." That was more for Weir's benefit than anyone else's. Shocked. He could have used a hundred times the candlepower. Time for the pragmatic voice. think it's a right. Miller edged down. "Everybody hold your position." Yes. The inner airlock door opened all the way. a doorway into pitch darkness." Peters said. edging around. Miller said." Miller rolled his eyes. Somewhere far over his head. Miller glanced around. around. he said. and he could feel the hair rising on his arms.

all right. Starck gave Cooper an annoyed glance. "Justin. This mission was beginning to give him the creeps. Whatever had happened to the Event Horizon seven years ago.This was not getting off to a good start___ Come on." Miller and Peters started cautiously down the corridor. "What is that all about?" Weir and Starck were both staring at the bizarre image on the monitor displaying Miller's video feed. stretching his arms out. The image on Miller's monitor shifted. who was trying to progress of the flying tooth. His dreams came back to him. surprised at the suggestion of Gothic design here. Cooper did not stick around to debate the point. pushing his feelings aside regain his professional demeanor. smiling. they would eventually arrive at the bridge. nudging Smith aside as he leaned between Starck and Weir to stare at the monitors. looking away from the monitors. He passed through an archway." he said. "All right. Weir looked at Cooper. inspecting the coupling. leaving the bridge after a curt nod to Starck. Near the floor. a box caught his attention." He turned to look at Justin. Miller stood up straight. the motion sending the vagrant tooth spinning away down the corridor. wondering what sort of answer he could have given him. "Dr." and trying to will search the follow the forget to Justin turned his head. Justin was good. slowly. Weir felt as though he had entered a timeless place. aiming for a wall. but he was young and sometimes impetuous. In contrast. "Get back to your post. Miller shook his head." Miller said. If Miller had his bearings right. then turned back to the monitor." Smith said. It took him a moment to realize that the archway disguised a join in the corridor--sections of the main corridor had been joined together this way. and that was just not acceptable. "what's this?" . He stopped and turned carefully. sir.hard. Peters and I forward decks. There was an explosives symbol on the cover. turning over in midflight. Weir. "I won't. it was beginning to seem that the end result was catastrophic and ugly-Cooper had arrived at the flight deck now. haunting. shaking his head. trailing line." Weir wondered whether it mattered if Cooper spent his time here on the bridge or down in the airlock bay playing doorman. one where the shadows lengthened and the light twisted all the images. Justin tackled the travel issue by kicking off. flecked with frozen blood and little bits of flesh. "This is some weird voodoo shit!" the rescue tech exclaimed. He vanished down the corridor. Cooper. rather than simply being welded or bolted. Miller could just about see him smiling through the faceplate. Don't breathe. "let's move on. The tooth floated there lazily in midair. and kicking off from there to increase his momentum. take engineering.

What are they for?" "In an emergency. There were eighteen Couches in the bay. no easy route to the answers. Miller and Peters had reached the Event Horizon's Gravity Couch Bay. "Negative. No one left alive. It was hopeless. Against all reason. Chapter Thirteen Weir scanned the monitors with an almost boyish enthusiasm. finally." She was at another coupling. This would be one of the places they would find any crew members in suspended animation. looking for all the world like mechanical molluscs. and the panic button led to a collection of explosives out in the open. but everything aboard the Event Horizon was designed to be on the large side. Miller sighed." This made sense to Miller. as Peters and Miller each walked along a row of Gravity Couches. Not everything gets covered up in a prototype. "We found the Gravity Couches. "They're all over the place. Weir sat back.Before Weir could answer. "Here's another one. The crew could use the foredecks as a lifeboat. drained. "Any crew?" Weir said." Miller said. "They're explosive charges. "That means they didn't abandon ship. nine on each of the two walls. though he had some difficulty seeing it from an aesthetic point of view--all this immensity. Peters said. Miller joined Peters and they began moving down the corridor again. "So where are they?" he asked. this grandeur." Peters said. They had to . shaking his head. they destroy the central corridor and separate the personnel areas from engineering. all essentially the same in form. No answers were forthcoming. hovering over another of the boxes. The Event Horizon had been the prototype. Weir held out hope that they would find someone alive. trying to figure out what was really wrong here. Miller was looking around again. "I can see that. and function as those on the Lewis and Clark. She pointed towards the other side of the corridor. Peters said. size. Justin's progress was more dizzying than informative." Weir said. empty. then." The radio link made her voice tinny. of course. The bay itself was considerably larger. concentrating mainly on the feeds from Miller and Peters--right now. They nestled into the couplings at floor or ceiling level. Miller could pick out those within range of his helmet light." Looking around.

he might even have found something biblical about it. in fact. He was looking into a long corridor section. Everything he had done ended up in a condition of hopelessness. and to give his camera a better chance to pick up what he was seeing. The door opened with ponderous grace." Miller continued. Weir. in favor of more considered movement. Weir smiled. though it was an empty smile." She shook her head again. perhaps the biggest pressure door he had ever seen in his life. "I've reached the First Containment door. He looked up. the image from Justin's camera stabilized and focused. looked into the darkness of the Event Horizon and tried to think of Claire. There was surprisingly little noise. Huge. Cheerfully. From Justin's vantage point. he was extremely impressed. it was big. There must be something aboard the ship. but he figured most . Captain. Weir turned his head to look at her and saw frustration written in lines and knots in her face. Hopeless. trying to will something into being there. "Starck. As Weir watched. going by the tinny sigh over the radio link." "The engineering decks are on the other side. Weir shook his head. The engineers who had built the ship had. Justin felt a flash of annoyance at the scientist. He reached out and touched the access panel at his right hand side. set this section of corridor to spinning like a turbine. "I'm running diagnostics now. They gave no sign of having been used." Miller said." That should have been impossible. Justin was delighted to see yet more mystery revealed behind this First Containment door. "Nothing's wrong with the sensor pack.. He moved forward to see more clearly. Weir reflected. he said. but he was surely one condescending sonofabitch when he felt like it.. Justin had given up his fastball flying technique now. A change in the frantic movement on Justin's monitor drew Weir's attention away from Starck's predicament. Dr. it looked as though alternating sections were spinning in different directions. but he could not get the focus now.know. The video monitor showed nothing but one empty Gravity Couch after another. Weir might be one of the most brilliant minds ever to juggle an equation. "any luck with that scan?" Starck's hands were playing over the console in front of her. Despite himself. tube-shaped. Justin stood before an immense dark door. Justin did not bother to acknowledge Weir's statement. Weir's fists clenched. for some arcane reason. Goddamned big. a shell outside the access tube whirling at dizzying speed. glaring at the readouts. could not bring her back to mind. I'm still getting trace life readings all over the ship. Miller knew that too. If he had believed in such books of mythology." Weir answered. "They're empty. As it was. Justin was about to encounter one of the truths of the Event Horizon..

looked down at the floor. "Looks like a meatgrinder. His heart was thundering in his chest and his breathing was roaring in his ears. "You okay?" . Weir said. Justin suspected that the same result could have been achieved with half the equipment and a quarter of the power. He continued his exploration. "Fuck!" Miller yelled. Finally. "You still haven't seen any crew?" "If we saw any crew. "No casualties. She took a deep breath and started to reach for the door controls. Miller's skin was crawling with cold. "You're at the bridge. over the walls and floor nearby. that they should not have come here." he said. moving cautiously through the room. "Cool. looking for clues and coming up with nothing. inspecting everything." he said. It looks like this place hasn't been used. reflecting his helmet light." he said. empty biohazard and sharps containers. Doctor. "Miller?" Starck was demanding over the radio link. but he wasn't the one who had the brain the size of Betelgeuse. what's this door?" Peters asked. Someone tapped him on the shoulder. She had continued all the way down the main corridor until the corridor had ended in a pressure door. All of the tables were empty. Ms." He turned his head. His head spun as he tried to focus on this weird assembly. Under his breath he muttered. Weir." Weir said over the radio link. ready to strike out.of it operated in vacuum to cut down on friction. Dr. whirling. An empty glove drifted past his faceplate. either the operating theater or some kind of surgical lab. so you 're into big showy rigs. ducking out of the way of a wandering forceps." He took a step forward. Nothing to be seen. just an ugly assortment of floating hardware to con-'tend with. "It allows you to enter the Second Containment without compromising the magnetic fields. his breath echoing in his helmet. "What's all this do?" Weir said. and stepped forward. his hands coming up. "This place is a tomb. Over the radio link. trying to get his bearings back. and as he turned his head he caught glimpses of surgical instruments and equipment floating aimlessly in the microgravity. She played her helmet light over it. He stared at it as it floated away. Peters. tumbling slowly. Miller passed through a hatchway into what appeared to be some kind of medical facility. he looked away. "I'm in Medical. He was beginning to think Smith was right." Secured drug lockers." Okay. you'd know about it.

He settled in to start hacking into the ship's systems. Weir hunched over in his seat. Finding a computer console. his hands clenched into fists."I'm fine. Wasn't it? Peters had managed to open the hatch to the bridge. That was good." Weir gazed at her. Miller's going to save them. He could feel the clamminess of sweat on his skin. He turned. a frozen mass of blood and tissue that had once been a living . warmth. "He served on the Goliath.'" Weir shuffled information in his mind. air." Miller snapped. resourceful. cooled by the air circulating through his suit. nothing more. flooded both ships with pure oxygen. tried to get his heart to slow down to a more normal rate." DJ said over the radio link." he said. finding a briefing table and several chairs." That was one of the great spacer nightmares: a ship filled with oxygen was a deathtrap about to happen. but the flash had thrown off her night vision for a few moments. "The Goliath? Wasn't that ship destroyed in a fire?" "They were trying to rescue a supply shuttle bound for Titan." Starck said. There was a brilliant flash of lightning. "If anyone's there to be saved. She looked over the table and chairs but found no indication that they had ever been used. He had had enough of fishing around in the dark. no one would have made it. a small briefing room that the crew would have used for mission discussions and assignments. unnoticed. Taking a deep breath. "The freighter's tanks ruptured. her face set. She started to look up. high up on a wall. checking displays. Miller was strong. storm activity going on in the atmosphere of the planet beneath them. Starck turned to him. This was an antechamber to the bridge. leaving behind." She moved slowly around. He stared at the monitors. he set to work. "Miller and three others barely made it to a lifeboat. "I'm on the bridge. then. which put a stop to any further questions from DJ. He slowed his breathing. glancing quickly around. but nothing new was revealed. she eased inside. thoughtful. If not for Miller. "Okay. No one's got more hands-on experience in this. "Where are they?" he whispered. She turned to move deeper into the bridge. He's one of the few captains who've ever worked the Outer Reach. slowly. "Are you sure you're--" "I'm fine. the words coming as a reflex." she said. They needed light. "Your pulse is elevated." That got Weir's attention for the moment. Only inanimate objects. pushing the fright to the back of his mind. "He's been past Mars?" Starck turned her head.

I'll see if I can find the crew from here. Miller worked at the science station for a couple of minutes. but the disc would not move any further." Weir said. They needed to restore power to the Event Horizon as quickly as possible. Peters. he said. Carefully. she slipped the probe into the video unit. She pressed down. then at Weir." Smith said to Starck." she said. It might the questions about the disappearance of the Event considered. She tugged again. checked that it was receiving power. jamming there. "It's stuck. trying to pull the laserdisc away from whatever part of the mechanism was jamming it in place. reading the details of the bridge as best he could. A tiny laserdisc emerged halfway from the unit. This was something he could deal with. Peters grasped it carefully and pulled. Pausing for a moment. They needed that disc. extracting a small probe. his face an angry mask. We're not going to find anyone." He watched as Peters' camera view moved. and was suddenly rewarded by displays lighting up. feeling around until she was sure she had the eject mechanism. "Ms. "It's really jammed in there. and the view on her monitor shifted again. "This place is dead. peering at the monitor. felt something give. Nothing happened." Peters said. without success. needed it badly. "I see it. she would be glad to see Weir's mind put at She tried the probe again. "What is it?" "Ship's log. This did not seem to help. She reached down to her utility belt. pulled back. ignored Miller's monitor and Justin's continuing walk into engineering." she said. It was really nothing more than a small videodisc unit built into one of the consoles. She leaned down. Starck leaned over. A small green light was glowing in one corner of the operations panel. She sighed. frustrating herself in the effort. then might well answer a even answer some of Horizon. Something was finally going the way he wanted it.human being. Peters stepped toward the log unit. She reached down and pressed the eject tab. "turn back and to your left. growled softly. All things ease. ' The science workstation has power." Weir ignored him. please." He got back to work. Once . She tried the eject button again. bringing something new into view. It lot of the questions about the fate of the crew. He was staring at Peters' monitor now. He smiled to himself." Weir said softly. but it was enough to keep a running record of bridge and ship activities.

Miller said. mouth open. contorted. The veins stood out. "Explosive decompression. beneath that. was frustrated. "I found one. Good enough. aiming her lights up at the floating corpse. tugged harder. only to find herself being struck by something with considerable mass. something hard." Starck said. catching hold of the edge of a console to stop herself from moving any further. She turned helplessly. The dead man's eyes had been gouged out." Weir had to agree there. A man's face. Her tone utterly professional. A face came into view. her breath catching in her throat. she reached out with her left. she reached up. This time it came free. but it did not feel as though she was in any danger of her control slipping. DJ came into the bridge. she put all of her strength into getting the disc loose. and they'd be lucky to identify him easily. "Alive?" "Corpsicle. swollen tongue protruding. Holding on to the laserdisc with her right hand. She pushed away from the body. Over the radio link. Justin had finished his long walk. She stared for a moment. sending her spinning and tumbling in the microgravity. She flung an arm out. trying to stabilize herself long enough to get back to a position where she might be able to stop her motion. "Decompression wouldn't do that. staring at the screen. She lifted her head. All the air rushing out of her in one explosive gasp. lit brightly by her helmet lamps. Whoever he was. all over his face and neck. Anchoring herself against one of the console units. rebounded from a wall. snagging the corpse by a foot.again she grasped the disc and pulled. bloated and frozen. Weir sat back now." she said. "What happened to his eyes?" Smith said. grasping cloth and. pulling it down. DJ shook his head. she said. joining Weir and Starck at the monitors. Chapter Fourteen . he was a mess. managed to bounce herself down to the deck." Her heart was pounding. regarding the face of the dead man on Peters' monitor. but didn't. going by the images. thought she had it this time. Her heart leapt into her mouth as her helmet lights flashed on something floating in the bridge with her. That would have to wait for the time being.

The board was alive and functional. He tried not to think about the radiation level. sank for dozens of meters below. batting balls of coolant out of the way. feeling pleased with himself for a moment. operating in standby mode. but it was very little help. "Coolant level is on reserve. but this was off the scale. putting pieces together as he gathered data from the console. splashing over his fingers. his head filled with an annoying buzz that he knew he would not be rid of for some time. The lights came up abruptly. There was a console nearby. He floated himself over to it. lights coming on at all angles. I thing. he hauled himself down. That chamber had lit up too. . His helmet light reflected from a gray slick that seemed to coat everything in the alcove. There must have been a coolant leak. he was able to get how much of the gray stuff was actually hanging in the air. finding himself in some kind of operational alcove that opened out into a huge spherical chamber. finding that the viscous fluid had indeed coated just about every surface. Other floating globules of liquid caught the light from his helmet. It was not easy to see anything. He had only a moment to try and figure out which way to turn before something wet and massy struck his suit. The curving walls rose for dozens of meters overhead. He had expected a large open area here." he said. Grabbing the edge of the console with one hand. facing out into the larger chamber. He looked around. but within the safe-line. He turned his attention away from the control area and looked out towards the larger chamber. anchoring himself as best he could while he used one glove to wipe coolant away from the console. trying to clear the stuff from his helmet. beneath the muck. He managed to get some of his light back. coated by the same thick gray fluid as a another globule struck his helmet. this shit is everywhere. almost blinding him. This was already trouble. He tapped keypads and was rewarded by the appearance of a variety of readouts. His attempt at cleanup yielded good results. Looking around." He tapped in more commands.Justin walked slowly out of the spinning tube. "Man. and not likely to get much better if he stayed in here. a rippling darkness studded with the spiky forms of control rods. He could. The air was thick with lead-gray balls of coolant. For the benefit of those on the bridge." the Second at his faceplate an idea of just Fluid in can't see a damn That wasn't quite true. Liquid gray shot up in front of his faceplate. microgravity was a menace. He reached up. mainly causing them to become smaller balls of coolant. see some dim lights on the board. "The reactor's still hot. "I'm in Containment." He wiped and helmet lights again. Then his light was gone. out in front of his hands. he said. his mouth hanging open in awe. "I did it!" he crowed. He looked around. Justin stood and stared for a few moments. There were baseball stadiums smaller than the Second Containment.

" Smith was silent for a long moment. seeing lights overhead that appeared to be barely more than twinkles in the night. as black as midnight. "Justin?" It was Cooper. He could not stop staring. having to strain to do so. Weir felt relaxed. even if it did feel a little like being on the inside of the universe's biggest Iron Maiden. For a while the images had been smeary. The Event Horizon was not in the best shape. Parts of the device seemed to be moving. "What is that?" Starck asked. The voice jolted him back into place. He did not want to consider what it took to create something like the strangeness lurking in the heart of this darkness. He felt faintly sick. the surfaces slick and oily. watching Weir. Trying to make sense of the construction. "That's the Core--the gravity drive. Justin estimated it to be at least ten meters in diameter. At the center of the Second Containment. "I think I found something." he said. It was tricky to watch--even seen through a relatively poor vid feed. not bothering to hide the pleasure he felt in his creation. shifting. He had the feeling that there was enormous power here. He looked upward. and down onto the gantry that led out into the center of the Second Containment. thanks to the coolant. even if the corporeal form could make the . He had to wonder at the design ethic behind all of this--Weir and his team had to have lived by night alone to have created something as grim as this section. trying to take it all in. clearing the image up considerably. occupied on the inside by a huge dark sphere that resembled nothing more than a rotted. "You didn't have a very happy childhood. Weir. letting him grasp his professional state of mind. The human mind was not meant to go around such corners. pointing at the construction hi the middle of the screen. a broad torus covered on the outside by a series of spikes. The addition of decent amounts of light had helped. Justin felt his sense of perspective being twisted around. From this point of view. Weir sat forward. but Justin had managed to remove most of it. "You built that?" "Yes. perhaps even capable of carrying out its intended function of warp flight. was an unholy-looking construction. the containment unit was even more impressive. perhaps larger. playing hell with rational perspective. His gut clenched. Starck. The heart of the ship. the device seemed to shift and twist. did you?" Justin eased past the main console. Time and space were under siege." Smith turned to look at Weir. mottled orange. and Smith were huddled around the monitor carrying Justin's video feed."Holy shit. but it was still flightworthy." Justin said.

dimmed down. The radio link hissed like a snakepit for a moment. Justin. The last thing they needed now was for this thing to crack open and spill itself all over the ship. Starck shook her head. ?" Her voice vanished again. Starck jerked back.. focusing on the sphere inside the torus." Starck looked at Weir. something had been awry with this mission since they had located the Event Horizon. She did something with the console." Starck was repeating. either the lamp terminals or the battery unit getting crocked by the flying sludge. Something was awry. then static took it again.. He was used to the notion of crossing between the worlds. "I think I see something. He leaned in toward the Core. Something rippled across the surface. He reached up and tapped the lamp. but chose to remain silent instead. trying to maintain his position as he pushed it out toward the Core. pulling out a tool. Starck looked around. vanished. There was a beep from the console next to Starck." The monitor cleared for a moment. The life readings just went off the scale. come in. He closed on the construction. was displaying readings into the red sector of the scale. His helmet light flickered off. "Pull them out." "Something's wrong. going over the displays. There was a hiss of static in his earphones. Starck gave Weir a worried look. his voice forceful. and reached down to his belt. on. He hesitated for a moment." Smith said. "I don't know. Justin's monitor flared with static. but Weir could not get a clear view.journey. Then again." Starck said." he said.. Justin . but this was a doorway it would be safer not to go through. "Hold on a sec. Weir said nothing. startling Weir. a sensor unit that would give him a better idea as to whether or not there was a rupture in the Core.. before the filters cut in and squelched the racket. then Starck's voice breaking through for a moment ". Probably just a result of the coolant splashing into his helmet. Weir thought. frustrating in its quiescence until now. "What is it?" Weir said. while Smith leaned down between them. Justin activated the sensor unit. startled as Justin's monitor went to static. watching her. Weir almost spoke up in agreement. rippled again. Weir sat silently now. . his face ashen. "You're breaking up. The bio-scan display. wondering if he should deal with it before going on.

had an unreal clarity. all he would want to do was throw up and shake. a force beyond reckoning that reached around him. In front of him. Then the power. . Papa Bear's coming to get you. the containment unit seemed to be sharper. Shutting his mind off. but the surface felt soft.. the Event Horizon loomed up ahead of him. There was no sound. the hand held out with the pressure sensor against the Core. Justin was in trouble. Justin fell into the space between the worlds and was gone. . Baby Bear. Unresisting. he thought frantically. enveloping him without pause for consent or complaint. almost as though it was composed of some kind of organic material. A quick suit check. watched it pay out fast and slow. Baby Bear. When it was over. embracing. Justin's safety line was unreeling at an insane. "I'm gone!" Cooper yelled. The inner airlock door closed behind him. "Three-fifty meters. Now it was paying out at a rate the counter had problems tracking. He plunged into the airlock. The void rose up around him. Chapter Fifteen Cooper was not in the mood for this. Reality began to tremble around the Core. a thumbs-up. impossible rate. spongy. four hundred meters. All around. The shifting sensation stopped. slapping the control to open the inner airlock door. somehow taking on the color of nothingness. Hold on. Even the arm of his suit. got it on. not in the slightest. the Core darkened. He had expected it to be a firm contact. you'd better be kidding me. clearer. His heart was pounding and he felt crazy. The outer door hissed open. as though everything around him had focused. revealing incredible amounts of detail. he dove into the umbilicus. He grabbed his helmet. Justin looked up from the sensor.Justin pressed the sensor unit up against the side of the spherical unit. Cooper had tracked the line usage from the start. He hated this more than anything. Like a nightmare. intruded into his universe. Justin was aware of light.." he read off. Right now there was no time to think. DJ helped Cooper seal the helmet down. the adrenaline starting to pump now.

The wave pulled him up from his haven. The hatchway to the medical bay slammed open. It couldn't have been. Starck. screaming. She caught the back of one of the flight seats. floor. expanded. The wave swept on into the bridge. The wave caught him in midair. His trajectory away from the wall took him back into the console. as though refracted through water. he told himself. sent him flat against the wall. The safety line tightened again. went spinning crazily away. bounced from the wall. pushing coolant away and into the walls. Weir blinked. a wave traveling silently out from the Core. winding him. Reality warped. the wind knocked out of him for a moment as he caromed away toward the opposite wall. The Event Horizon was beginning to resonate now. but giving him something to hold onto. ceiling. Cooper shot down the corridor. Swept outward. Swept into the antechamber. shoving the dead man up against the bridge windows and causing Peters to bounce helplessly from the deck. The safety line going into the Core tightened. Smith. ricocheted away as the wave passed. He managed to roll before he hit. Windows vibrated as it passed. . swearing. and Weir were startled as Justin's point-of-view monitor tried to clear for a moment. The wave passed through the Second Containment walls as though they were air. twanged. the door buckling and a hinge tearing.Chapter Sixteen Darkness rolled out. folded in upon itself. Miller grabbed the edge of the computer station he had been working on. Space contracted. hitting the wall feet-first. The wave ripped down the main corridor. Debris erupted. and slammed him into the bulkhead. holding on for dear life as momentum spun her around. a vague image rolling amongst the static. Medical equipment peppered him. down the main corridor. Debris swirled before it. trying to clear his vision--he would have sworn that the image was of a man's face. Light bent. A wave of medical debris swirled up before the wave. wrenched him away from the console. The wave swept on outward. relaxed. slammed into walls. the console. kicking off again. ducking as debris pelted him. the superstructure sounding with a deepening roar that suggested that the ship was about to tear apart. spun him. sang. then rippled. flotsam that had been equipment or component parts of human beings.

The radio link hissed and went silent. "The hull's been breached!" The main pressure door to the bridge was closing. DJ would have to take his chances in the airlock bay. ." Starck snapped. Absurdly. shockingly familiar because he had spent so much time unconsciously on alert for it: the sound of air escaping into vacuum. The Lewis and Clark began to rumble." Starck said. Starck had turned to her boards. Smith was frantically checking a console. They were losing atmosphere. There was another sound too. Behind Weir there was a loud bang as something shorted out. Smoke drifted around it. With a low grinding sound. The ship began to shudder and rattle." Weir stared at the drifting smoke. "What--" Smith started to say. or wherever he was. the stuck door. Starck turned and ducked as a console flashed and sparked next to her. Starck opened her mouth to say something.. She looked up. The wave struck. His question did not receive an answer. Metal was screaming somewhere in the ship. the pressure door stopped." "There are pressure suits in the airlock. he wondered if Peters' vid unit would be okay.Justin's monitor cleared to static again. getting answers from those that still worked. Miller's and Peters' monitors suddenly filled with static as well. trying to get the door moving again. "We're losing atmosphere. The smoke followed. The bridge lights flickered and dimmed. "Go!" They sprinted for the hatchway.. A Klaxon was sounding now. emergency lights flashing. her face holding an urgency that bordered on panic. half-closed. the superstructure stressing as the gravity wave passed through. "The safety circuit's failed. a freight train sound that was incongruous out here in deep space. "We lost the starboard baffle. The bridge was filled with smoke that drifted lazily towards the hatch. ready to seal them off. It would tear her up to lose the recording of her son. After a few moments he looked up. To Weir it felt as though reality was trying to twist. "The fuck was that?" Smith yelled.. a lazy snake. shaking his head. and he smelled ozone and burning insulation. ripping through the bridge. he could hear the sound of systems failing and metal tearing. Deeper in the ship.

What am I. deep in the dark. suspended. dark. We cannot suffer the innocent to live. He was Within.Chapter Seventeen Dark. like fire breathed into the air. The points of light fell into the circle. peeling out the contents of his mind. Cooper shot through the opening into the First Containment. There was a sound of pain. stripping him naked. he brought it close. of anguish. The concept seemed almost a curse. then? Dangerous. he kicked off again. Another answer that made no sense. Lines of light fell from point to point. the dark passing through him. You are not the one I need. Without knowing how he did it. The darkness had no end. It profits us nothing. I touch all things. Justin spun away through the darkness. What was wrong with purity? You know too well where the line is drawn. but it did not slow him down. Lady be with me-Pfagh! The darkness struck him. crushing. The sight sickened him. Points of light pierced the darkness. Oriented. Innocence. Silent and cold. All that remained of his consciousness fell away from him. overpowering. slowing long enough to get his bearings as he approached the whirling tube. pouring the pieces of his soul into a pool that floated in Nothing. Who are you? I am. Because of this? Yes. A circle of light. trying to reintegrate himself in the warm soul-glow. A five-pointed star within a circle. a hope. A shield. The darkness was not driven back. .

and made his way to it. bigger this time. one arm flung out ahead. Something light hurtled from the depths of the darkness. praying that it would be enough. slick and cold. He finally managed to put them both into a slow backwards tumble. The safety line had not slackened. He drove the business end of the screwdriver into the side of the control rod and hung on for dear life. came up against the side of another control rod. He splashed through several of them. hurtling upward. growling. Justin. They were heading straight for one of the long control rods that lined the containment chamber. It seemed almost alive. splattering coolant left and right.. slammed into him.sailing through the microgravity like an underpowered version of Superman. following it down into the main area of the Containment. taut across the room. trying to change their position. the pulse from the Core providing additional impetus.. Cooper put his hand on the line. He clutched Justin tightly. angry. he managed to kill his velocity by grabbing the main console. Cooper started to back off. closed his eyes and begged the gods for mercy. There was another pulse. Cooper kicked off. It went into the Core. Cooper twisted. a fatal encounter if they struck it head on. rebounded." Cooper whispered. which meant that it was still likely to be attached to him. an effort that almost dislocated his shoulder. The line went all the way down to the Core. or been pulled in. A human figure." Coolant was once again forming wandering globules. Reaching out. limp as a dishrag. Cooper turned his head frantically. "Hold on. kicking out. "Oh my God. Baby Bear. a cold black explosion. Cooper's heart skipped a beat and his skin felt so cold suddenly that he could have sworn his suit heater had quit. He caught sight of Justin's safety line. Justin had somehow fallen into it. The Core was a pulsing black mass poised in the middle of the gloom. his heart racing. his arms wide.. It . It went slack. They slammed into the wall. He shot down the tube and into the Second Containment. He almost cried with relief. The Core rippled and pulsed outwards. tumbling them slightly. sending them both off on a new vector. He felt the control rod slide by beneath his backside. Cooper was ready by then. holding on to Justin with one arm and gripping a long zero-g screwdriver in the other. Justin. making angry noises at the obstructions.

surveying the damage. Small mercies. ceiling. no apparent bleeding. don't do this___" Clutching Justin to him. but there were no overt signs of physical injury. The suit was still secure. Starck was just completing her suit-up. "Justin. no visible holes or signs of air loss. His helmet was already on. and he was holding a . deck. Miller realized. wondering if he could pray enough to bring them both out of this mess in one piece. "Captain Miller. The last vibrations had subsided now. Cooper closed his eyes tightly." Smith said." he said. softly. Cabinets and lockers had been blown open. Justin's head lolled to one side. "Baby Bear. and floor. looked him over. There was no way to tell for sure until Justin's suit came off. It did not seem likely to repeat itself any time soon. Some medical instruments had been buried in the walls. the door hanging by one bent hinge. Cooper extracted the screwdriver bit and put the tool away on his belt. giving his suit a visual check as best he could. which meant that DJ was taking a terrible risk himself. Whatever had struck the Event Horizon had moved on. Cooper figured he was going to be aching for the next two years. He pulled the younger man close. Auto-keying his radio.. some bouncing gently from the walls. He turned around.was a hell of a way to stop. he thought.. he kicked off again. he rose out of his protective crouch. No indication of air leaks. Chapter Eighteen Medical instruments and debris whirled lazily in the air. turning his attention to Justin. contents spilling out to add to the general airborne chaos. As far as Weir was concerned at the moment. getting her helmet in place and locked down. The hatch was buckled and torn. Between hitting the wall and this ad hoc braking maneuver. Behind him." Miller sighed and frowned. Smith had managed to be in a suit faster than Weir had ever imagined it could be done. you talk to me. "Smith." Cooper said. Cautiously. "don't do this . DJ was patiently helping him with the details. he said. the best way to make a man feel clumsy and incompetent was to make him get into an EVA suit in a hurry. ceiling. give me something here. Miller suddenly felt ice cold. but it was more with relief than annoyance. the Core pulsed with dark malevolence. "Can anybody hear me?" There was an almost immediate response from Smith. The engineer was still breathing. where the hell have you been?" "We have a situation here. aiming for the exit.

Smith!" Miller barked. "It still has air and reserve power." Smith said. the ship had some very . "Weir's right. hearing the hiss. We can activate gravity and life support. "We're losing pressure at two hundred and eighty liters a second. and DJ turned to stare at him. the circuit's fried--" "Do we have time for a weld?" Miller asked. His was a voice you would choose not to argue with." DJ said." "No one's dying on my watch. opened his eyes. "Peters. There was a long silence.conversation with Miller." He stopped in the corridor. "We lost the starboard baffle and the hull cracked. his face set. Starck. We are fucking dead. The radio was already active." Starck said. "We don't even know what happened on that ship. tried not to sigh. For all the design work thrown into the Event Horizon." He started toward the ruined hatch as Smith said. there was only one option left to them. She moved across the main consoles. In three minutes our atmosphere will be gone. Smith." Peters said. sounding angrier and angrier. got his back up against the wall. listening to the damage reports and Smith's pessimistic liturgy. checking his suit and making sure his helmet was properly sealed. As far as Weir could tell. Starck came over to Weir. "The air won't last. checking readouts. "But--" "You heard me. are you with me?" I'm ahead of you." "I'm not getting on that bastard. Weir pictured Miller racking his brain for a solution to the dilemma and failing to come up with anything acceptable. Smith was saying. Mr. "It could be contaminated. I'll meet you at the airlock." Weir said. "and our oxygen tanks ruptured. "What about the reserve tanks?" "They're gone. He envied Miller that cool detachment." Miller closed his eyes again. DJ was suiting up quickly now. DJ slapped Weir's helmet onto his suit. Weir stepped towards Smith. Our safety seals didn't close. "The Event Horizon. Get on board the Event Horizon." Smith said. throwing switches." Smith said. "It beats dying." Weir turned to the pilot. To Weir the Captain sounded as steady as a rock. Smith. "What?" Smith said." "No one's breathed that air in seven years. Smith." "We can't stay in these suits. Weir reached up to seal it.

between those shear points. taking on a new solidity. Cooper shook his head. where did you go? . The Core rippled with blackness and seemed to turn in on itself. coolant or no coolant. Cooper figured. sheared through. then counted to ten under her breath. then scrabbled his way upright. aloft once again. making sure he was still breathing. an effort to make certain Justin was safe. Baby Bear. Cooper held Justin close. She turned to another part of the console. They had spread a considerable length of rope around the place after Justin had emerged from the Core. seeking the source of Justin's condition. tingling sensation through her body. he thought. artificial gravity units ramped up. "Bringing the thermal units online. Peters jumped back as it shattered on impact. He looked down into the Second Containment. He tracked the sections. Something else caught his attention.standardized instrumentation. humming. The dark energy seemed to bleed away to nowhere. his back against the console. He almost made it all the way before the artificial gravity pulled the two of them down. and slid down until he was sitting in the coolant again. Sections of Justin's safety line. not just mass. scattering frozen flesh and blood across the deck. Both were lying on the gantry. and the thought of what might have happened froze him. The gray downpour ended abruptly. She had the boards figured out and operating. leeching his strength. but not all of it had come out. across the Second Containment. pressing a keypad. He turned. None of it. leaving them lying in a slick gray pool. None of this made any sense. Oh." she said. Cooper heard the warning and aimed for the deck. Suddenly she had weight again. It was nowhere to be seen. Cooper propped Justin up. arced down to the deck. "Hold tight and prep for gees. Beneath the decks. Rings appeared around the main casing. In the Second Containment. trying to shield his faceplate with an arm." she announced. Peters felt the rising fields as a pulsing. They hit the deck in a rain of coolant. There should have been a couple hundred meters more of the line. The frozen corpse. but he knew exactly where it was. She pressed another keypad. making sure she had her feet planted firmly on the deck. Both ended at the Core. spinning slowly. using the console for leverage.

"We're all here." DJ said. She had spent the past ten minutes running one diagnostic routine after another. Starck followed Weir into the ship. He smiled. Miller turned back to Starck. Miller did not expect the move to go much further than that. Miller glared at his pilot. the rest of the Lewis and Clark's crew coming behind him. unblinking. He reached the airlocks just as Weir arrived. He seemed comT pletely comfortable aboard the ship. This is the only oxygen we've got for three billion klicks. Smith trailed in reluctantly. then lifted the helmet off." Miller said. DJ arriving right behind her.Chapter Nineteen Miller raced through the Event Horizon. looking them over. Chapter Twenty The Event Horizon rippled with light and power. "And if it's contaminated?" "I'll let you know. lifting a hand. This mission had gone to hell in a handbasket and it was going to take a miracle to pull them back from the edge." Miller took a deep breath. hanging back as much as he could. Watching him. and he had no time to waste in strolling down to the airlocks." DJ stepped forward. Miller breathed out. Weir moved easily between the different bridge stations. "Everybody okay?" Miller said. knowing full well that none of his crew would like his next selected move. who had taken up residence at the communications workstation. oblivious to the signs of carnage around him. hurriedly. but he no longer had any time to waste in cajoling the man along. bringing things back to life." "I still have to test the air. "Let's find out how much time we just bought. Miller shook his head. He undogged his helmet catches and heard the hiss of the seal opening. "Okay. DJ was watching his face. "No time. restoring power. his feet pounding against the deck. Even harder to accept that Weir had spent relatively little time aboard the vessel before its ill-fated maiden voyage. coming alive. Time was a critical factor now." Starck said. Weir's body language displayed an almost inhuman eagerness. taking a deep breath. Miller found it hard to accept that the scientist had spent seven years away from his pet project. He exhaled slowly. Miller was mildly surprised. On the bridge. trying to ascertain the state of the .

If he was going to keep everyone alive. and it had cost lives. "We can take the filters from the Clark." Weir had paused in his peregrinations around the bridge. "What about the life readings you picked up?" Starck grimaced." she said. then turned his head to look at Miller. There was something strange in Weir's eyes. frustrated.' Right before the Clark got hit there was some kind of surge. tapping her fingers on the communications station. right off the scale." "Not for long. it's not the crew. . DJ had barely complained about cleaning up the mess." Starck nodded again. "With the filters from the Clark we've got enough breathable air for twenty hours. frowning. "I thought of that. He had not had all the information when the Goliath went out from under him. Starck nodded. Miller looked up at it too. some worse than others. "No one's coming to help us. feeling helpless. Right now everyone was a little weird. Weir looked down from the bloody wall." Miller had to agree with her on that score." She coughed suddenly. "The antenna array's completely fried." Miller's voice was flat. but he had to find answers. "We've been over every inch of this ship and all we've found is blood. "Whatever it is. looking at a bloody smear high up on one bulkhead. he was standing silently. "Carbon dioxide." Miller considered a couple of possibilities. The only complete corpse they had discovered so far was now packed piecemeal into a cryogenics unit in the hope that they could get it back to Earth for analysis and disposal. then said." She looked directly into his eyes. "The Event Horizon sensors show the same thing--'bio-readings of indeterminate origin." She sat back. "The CO2 filters on the Event Horizon are shot. "Not enough oxygen?" "Oxygen is not the problem." Miller nodded. At the moment. no high-gain. he needed all the information that could be gathered. "But you can breathe it." Miller knew he was trying to get blood from a stone with this line of questioning. There were many more around the ship. but now it's back to its previous levels.communications equipment." "So where are they?" He looked around. "What's causing the readings?" Starck looked back at the silent comms board. accepting that judgment. but Miller pushed the thought aside. After that we'd better be on our way home. She looked up now. "This air tastes bad. no laser. playing the brave soldier to the hilt. "It's building up with every breath we take. We've got no radio. then shrugged." Starck said. covering her mouth. rubbing her face." she said.

he had been certain of that since Weir had started to explain what all this was about. extracting the basic patch applicator. then keyed his suit radio. The patch would be durable. because he would rather be here than aboard that monstrosity of a spaceship. In twenty hours we run out of air. the Lewis and Clark was a speck. Out here all alone. The metal had buckled together. taking a closer look. He reached to his utility belt. We should be able to repair it and re-pressurize. Against it. sir. He tossed the empty applicator away. Vapor was still leaking slowly into space. He knelt down carefully." He paused for a moment. a dizzying experience if he wanted to look in that direction. He kept his attention entirely on the Lewis and Clark. "Captain Miller. Just ahead of him. there was a long rip in the hull plating. Smith thought. pulling out a zero-gravity nailgun. then. Weir remained silent. Neptune passed below him. "How's the ClarkT" I'm fine. you copy?" "I'm here. the Event Horizon was a frightening beast of a ship. The compound went in almost as a gel. not watching to see it begin to fall in a decaying orbit toward Neptune. Smith clung to the hull of the Lewis and Clark." "We don't have time. one magnetic boot at a time. emptying it into the tear. doing okay out here. Chapter Twenty-one Even with lights cutting into the darkness of it. and secure once it was riveted into place. This was a hell of a way to earn a pension. "Understood. tearing like aluminum foil under the pressure of the wave that had struck the two ships. but quickly foamed and spread. a pilot fish accompanying a whale. Smith. Smith. Within moments it had hardened. He bit his tongue. Jesus. There was something sick and unholy about that ship. He began riveting the edges of the patch into place." he said. though not pretty. "It's going to take some time. but af least it got him off the Event Horizon. Miller was doing all he could." Miller said. a huge construction that was difficult to comprehend. am I sounding insecure or something? Miller's tone was almost condescending. bulky in full EVA gear and cautious as he moved forward. which was fine."What happened here?" Miller asked." That certainly put things into perspective. Feeling like a brother to dust. "I've found a two-meter fracture in the outer hull. . He reached down to the utility belt again.

for this to have happened to him. been somewhere that his conscious mind could not accept. to issue an "at ease" command. She turned away abruptly. and ships hurtled on through the darkness. Miller had expected the scientist to be falling apart by this point. battered state of the spacecraft. too kind. it was hard to believe that there was anything seriously wrong. There was too much debris. She headed for the bridge. too everything except time. trying to push her mind away from the annoyance. and her heart ached for him. squeezing her eyes shut. Looking at him. and this condition was his best defense. but even that tension and exhaustion in his crew. She looked down at Justin. Weir was the exception amongst them.All tied to each other in one way or another. given his earlier behavior. Even so. Too much of and answers. Peters thought. slowly. Starck could barely sit still. "but he's unresponsive to stimuli. watching her. "How is he?" she said. She found his studiously neutral expression to be irritating. Justin was stretched out on a diagnostic table. man. . DJ was doing everything he could. planet. but that discounted the gory. Chapter Twenty-three Miller had gone so far as edict could not overcome the much evidence of mayhem. There were things to be done." DJ said. air. lounging there as though he hadn't a care in the world. He had taken up a position at the briefing table. He seemed to be sleeping. "His vitals are stable. Chapter Twenty-two Justin had retreated somewhere deep inside himself. DJ stood at the other side of the bed. covered with a thermal blanket. Cooper had not been able to fill in many of the details--he had been in a mild state of shock himself. He was too young. She looked up from Justin." Peters looked down at Justin again. He might not wake up at all. Miller suspected that it was only the issue of their air supply that kept her from pacing about like a caged cat. too much blood. He might wake up in fifteen minutes. He had seen something. It could be that Weir was simply comfortable on board the Event Horizon. willing the pain back. heard something. Let the grizzled old combat veterans fly the desperate missions. The mask he wore was nothing more than his way of coping with the situation. Perhaps he should never have been assigned to this particular vessel in the first place--at this age people ought to be confined to milk runs.

Our primary objective now is survival. keep an eye on Justin. people." the rescue tech said anrgily. I want the bodies." "One of my men is down. This was not new information." Miller snapped. nodding. hiding her emotions as best she could." Starck closed her eyes. The scientist looked ." Cooper grabbed his ball out of the air with a loud smacking sound." Starck sat for a few moments." Peters straightened up. More irritating was Cooper--he was bouncing that ball of his. Miller turned to look at a video monitor. Peters had turned around from the bridge windows to listen to him. pitching his voice low enough to avoid being threatening while still maintaining authority. He trusted them to pull together. That means we focus on repairing the Lewis and Clark and salvaging whatever will buy us more time. He was not about to allow Starck to quit trying now. "Starck." "Fine. "is finding out what happened to this ship and its crew. I want to know what happened to him. "I told you. "I want to know what's causing those readings. I want you to go through the ship's log. take samples from these stains. see if we can't find some answers. who was staring out of the bridge windows. that person was as good as dead. No one was going to be cajoled by cheap humor. I want to know whose blood this is. better he do that than come up with something wilder. Smith was still working on the hull of the Lewis and Clark. "Our secondary objective. Weir was staring at him. He looked at Starck.she fidgeted constantly. I want them faund. sighing. an unnerving focus. Miller suspected that Smith could have been finished long ago--he just did not want to be back on board the Event Horizon. and I'd like to have more than my dick in my hands. but he was gratified that they could still follow the protocols. sometimes glancing over at Peters. Peters." Weir did not flinch away. thinking it through. "He was inside the Core. "Okay." He looked around at his crew. DJ." That brought a couple of weary smiles. getting to work. meanwhile. wondering if he could get them out of this mess. I want you to repeat the bio-scan." he said." "Do it. If the crew is dead. As soon as any of them quit trying." Miller said. Miller turned to the briefing table. compare them to medical records. amylase proteins. Miller turned away from the monitor and faced his crew." Starck turned away. however. and he figured Weir would pitch in. "DJ. "there's been a change in the mission. "Dr. "I can use the station in Medical." Weir was shaking his head. Then she looked up at Miller. He took a deep breath. In less than eighteen hours we will run out of breathable air. but the circumstances were wretched and their resources far too tight. "I'll just get the same thing--" "Not acceptable." he went on. Miller kept quiet about it. sat quiet. "Yes. Weir. "I can reconfigure the scan for C-12. the relaxed look lost now. her expression determined. Two months from now I fully intend to be standing in front of the good Admiral giving my report.

"because the gravity drive was not activated. ". Cooper was silent for a few moments. the ball doing no more than ruffling his hair. Miller nodded at Cooper. you weren't there. something Weir . This was all that Smith was his attention to distortion?' " Weir hesitated for a moment. Whatever happened to him could happen to all of us. who was warily resuming his seat. intent on Cooper. a desperate look on his face. ignoring Cooper. "It was like ." "That's not physically possible. putting words to the clutter of images.. "Cooper!" Miller reached out and plucked the ball from the air." Cooper glared at Weir. At that point all they had on hand was chaos." Weir continued. it was like . So don't talk to me about physics. interrupting Weir." "--and the gateway can't have been open. Finally Weir shrugged and said. there was something missing. Cooper sat down heavily. "And then Justin j appeared and then it.confused. you're not going to listen to this fucking pogue--" "It can't just turn on by itself. Miller gave Weir a hard look. liquid." Weir hesitated for far too long. Miller turned Weir. They could also have damaged the Lewis and Clark. juist as he had looked confused when Cooper had tried to explain what had happened earlier. "Excuse me. " 'Gravitational at Weir. sending the ball at Weir's face. Cooper turned angrily. trying to find his way back into memory. The ball struck the rear bulkhead and caromed off into the deck and back into the air. Cooper!" Miller barked.. Miller had hoped to get something more out of Weir during the briefing. To Miller's surprise. "Dr." As far as Miller was concerned." Weir snapped. Weir." Cooper was becoming unfocused. Weir.. but found no cure for his helplessness there. His scrutiny made no difference in Cooper's attitude or posture. Justin may die. "If a burst of gravity waves escaped from the Core.. boneless. And then the rings started moving again and it froze solid. forward. His hands were clenched into fists. Dr. giving his assent for Cooper to continue. He leaned forward. a pause that told Miller that the scientist was trying to sugarcoat the truth. Cooper saw an optical effect caused by. shocked at Weir's tone. They could have made Justin seem to disappear. "I know what I saw and it wasn't a fucking 'optical effect'!" "Mr." Weir snapped." Cooper said. those rings only stop moving just before the gravity drive activates. hesitating again." Weir was set and determined... they could distort space-time... rising from his seat. "Mr. Reluctantly.. Weir said nothing. Cooper stared at him. If they weren't moving. the scientist ducked fast.. working on the Lewis and Clark. Cooper swallowed and tried to compose himself. Cooper subsided." Weir frowned." Cooper turned to Miller. "Gravitational distortion. Cooper. "The gateway was open. "Skipper. onto the table. He was faintly glad elsewhere." Cooper looked up at Miller. "Maybe Mr. glaring he needed--Cooper acting like Smith. nothing was there. he looked at Miller. watching Cooper. His right arm snapped back. that would mean the gateway was open--" "Then that's what I saw.

Given Weir's ability to produce one on cue and trap it within the Core.. but the Core itself had an eerie rippling effect.. It had been speculated that the 1907 Tunguska incident had been caused by a quantum black hole rather than a meteorite. leaning down on the briefing table. He seemed infernally cheerful. Now . looking it over like a loving father. was at ease again. It becomes a black hole. "How much time do you need?" Miller said. not even light. walking around the Core. Weir sat forward.. Miller began to consider less civil methods of getting information out of Weir. and he knew it. Weir turned and looked up at them. there was enough power there to fold space-time nicely. what is in the Core?" Weir was silent for too long again." Weir said. All around them. Miller thought." Starck was staring at the Core. inspecting it. "And you created one." Weir trailed off. looking abashed at the weakness of this answer." Not as much power as Weir would like everyone to think." she whispered. unwavering. Weir. "The most destructive force in the universe. staring wildly at Miller. Either way. becomes so dense that nothing can escape its gravity.. "What's in the Core?" "It's complicated . You arrogant son of a bitch." Weir said. Miller reflected. Miller almost expected him to reach out and pet the thing. watching the Core uneasily." "Yes. . power hummed and sang of enormous energies. "We have seventeen hours and forty-two minutes. quietly. "A black hole. a sense of a great dark power somehow confined to a small space. "What could cause them?" Weir was silent. the scientist seemed to make a decision. Weir had a tiger by the tail in here. staring helplessly at Miller. Neither of them trusted Weir's pet Tinkertoy.was avoiding saying. by contrast. "When a star dies. using his clenched fists for support. taking several steps closer to Weir. The rings were moving slowly. He was ready to bet that Weir's Core actually dealt with quantum black holes as postulated in the work of Stephen Hawking and others in the last two decades of the twentieth century. "We can use that power to fold space-time. Chapter Twenty-four Miller and Starck stood at the end of the walkway into the Second Containment. Suddenly. it collapses in on itself. Miller felt dwarfed in this space.

The Event Horizon could be there in a day. then she followed her captain. my name is Jonah. "You let us board this ship. It's perfectly safe. Another structural status report." Weir was trying to stare Miller down. Captain Kilpack and his crew had been meticulous about making log entries. but it was not working. getting a closer look at the machinery as it moved around. with the exception of the Core itself. It's under control." Miller took a deep breath. . "and you didn't tell us?" Weir turned to face Miller. Miller felt vaguely sick. seemed to be coated with coolant. "If it worked. you need to know. "You can come down." Miller said to Weir. "I want this room sealed. barely able to comprehend the man's attitude. Starck stared at Weir for a moment more. for a moment at least. Justin is dying. but had not had much of any consequence to record. Given our current situation. The black hole is contained behind three magnetic fields. There was nothing yet. She sat back.to brief you on a need-to-know basis." Miller turned around and started back up the walkway. I am an appetizer. Everything in here. Miller and Starck stopped before the Core. Chapter Twenty-five Peters squeezed her eyes shut and rubbed at her face." Miller stared at Weir. and growing angry at doing so. "My ship is in pieces. the tedious log visuals from the bridge flight recorder. staring up at it. then walked down to the Core. Overhead." Sotto voce to Miller. She sighed. It gave Miller the uncomfortable feeling of walking willingly into the belly of the whale. knowing she was starting to fade. even though she knew that was unreasonable. Somewhere the idea had lost its humorous edge. He waved an arm." Miller and Starck exchanged looks. The Second Containment is off limits."It would take the Lewis and Clark a thousand years to reach our closest star. Hello. Starck said. Even at this close a range. Weir watched them leave. It would not have bothered her so much if she had something to show Miller. trying to rein his temper in without success 'No one goes near that thing. folding his arms. "My instructions were ." "Under control?" Miller growled. "There's no danger." Weir smiled. pointing to somewhere out beyond the confines of the Event Horizon. the Core played optical tricks. trying to blot out. the power sang.

Where Denny's atrophied legs should have been. He looked up at her from the table. She should pick him up. He had not moved or woken. became clearer. struck the deck. pulling it back.. Then she saw what she had missed before. backing away. walked past Justin.. The sound started again. This could not have been Denny. a sheet covering him. something made a rustling sound. His usual mask had slipped a little. like a bag of angry snakes. like something moving over paper. and she remembered the vid she had been watching on the Lewis and Clark. never having been readied for use. something writhing beneath it. revealing concern. "Mommy. what was calling her. Cautiously. Denny. . suddenly weak. Not certain why she was doing so. The hairs rose on the back of her neck and she felt her arms breaking out in goosebumps. the plastic pulsing up and down. trying to break through with nothing more than fingernails and determination. slowly. "Justin?" Justin was still lying on the examination table. Denny.The lights nickered. Horrified. she thought. . she reached out and grasped a scalpel from the instrument tray that DJ had set out for any further emergencies.amused at a world that insisted on being silly to his perspective. something was squirming frantically. playing horsey. He reached up to her. Her son was on Earth. beneath the plastic.. she reached out and grasped the edge of the plastic cover. The scalpel slipped from her fingers. She stood up. Startled.. his waist and legs still beneath the plastic. and she spilled over with love for him. nerveless. she looked up.. as though this was just the best game in the world. knowing she had to get him out from under there and that they could figure out the explanations later. and he giggled again. but the lights had steadied again. She gasped. The examination tables were covered in plastic sheeting. became the sound of someone scrabbling at plastic. His eyes shone." Denny said. holding a collection of blood sample containers in rubber-gloved hands. looked up at her and giggled in that way that he had. that's what Mom does. needing to know what was under there. She turned around. Behind her. She looked back down at her screen. Something had made the sound. following the sound. she dropped the plastic sheet. with his father. The plastic around the last table was moving. She started to pull the plastic further back. bounced with a tinny noise. DJ was standing in the hatchway. "Peters?" She turned too fast. almost losing her balance..

despite his earlier eagerness. no matter how he tried. or whatever was masquerading as her son. which got around having the umbilicus in the way. "You been out there a long time. You know what God "When I was a kid. It's nothing. "I'd rather spend the next twelve hours outside than another five minutes in this can. An EVA suit keeps you alive but makes you smell very." Cooper trailed off. Suddenly. If anything. undogging his helmet and pulling it off. His hair was matted down. becoming elusive. "I'm very tired. shuddering. fervor that Cooper found you know.. It's nothing. trying to focus on her work. The inner airlock door hissed open and Smith stepped into the bay. crazily. "What's wrong?" he asked. very bad in the process. to go faster than light. Her son. trying to clear her mind.. slick with sweat. that's all. The images were trying to fade.She turned back toward Denny." Smith's eyes were filled with a more than a little spooky. I mean." Smith opened his suit. That meant more airlock bays. Smith said." She made her way back to the workstation. that's like the Tower of did to the Tower of Babel. "How is Justin?" Smith asked. totally out of it and well on the way back to Earth aboard the Lewis and Clark. He could not push the images out of his mind. interrupting the silence. Cooper shook his head. it's crazy. She looked back at DJ again... This mission was totally. "Trying to break my record?" Smith sat down heavily on a bench. he would have preferred being in a Gravity Couch. but what I saw today . "I. out of hand. "Same. seen decompression. my mother used to tell me I was And she was right." Cooper made a moue of disgust. I pulled a lot of ops in my time. "This ship." Cooper said. trying Babel. She squeezed her eyes shut. then reached down to get his boots off. She hesitated. don't you? He cast it . The table was empty. putting the blood samples aside. looking him over. was gone. radiation . getting his gloves off. gonna go to a bad place." Peters started. "You don't need to tell me that.. Chapter Twenty-six Right now EVA was not precisely the thing Cooper wanted to do. The one positive thing here was the size of the Event Horizon. unable to say any more..

There was something moving inside the image. but then realized that it would then have simply stopped playing." she said. "What is that?" he asked her. cutting the racket down. sitting in the center seat. Hail and farewell. Kilpack raised a hand in salute and said. His crew. There was definitely something there. All of a sudden." Little did they know. "This is the final entry in the ship's log. hit the door control. but he could not make it out at all now. Kilpack said. We have reached safe distance and are preparing to engage the gravity drive and open the gateway to Proxima Centauri. Tom Fender." Cooper sighed. we got enough shit going on without you going biblical on me. On the screen. and pressed the play control. . There was something else on the disc. were gathered behind him. "Ave atque vale. The video display cleared. Without waiting for Smith to check him over. many smiles. There was a burst of static across the screen. put it on. shaking his head. Captain Kilpack appeared on the screen. A terrible sound came pouring from the speakers. and Stacie Collins. Chapter Twenty-seven Miller. and ducked through. He reached out. all eighteen of them. trying to resolve the image in the frozen frame. there was more than static on the screen." Cooper picked up his helmet. I'd like to name my station heads Chris Chambers." "I wonder if they made it?" Miller said. Peters was squinting at the frame too. He squinted at the screen. and Weir had gathered behind Peters as she recalled the last entry in the Event Horizon log. "I want to say how proud I am of my crew. this was the main event in the Event Horizon's maiden voyage. he walked over to the airlock. Miller thought. shrieking and inhuman. tapping the pause control. hearing the hiss. very attractive. A few solemn faces. She had found nothing useful so far. Peters shook her head. "Smith. At first Miller thought the log disc had simply run its course. "I can run the image through a series of filters.down. DJ. quietly. To Miller. Janice Rubin. being outside had become very. Dick Smith. and sealed it. He looked excited. Peters yelped and reached for the gain slider. something out the depths of their nightmares. as well he should. shutting off the system.

squeezing by as soon as they could. he sounded as though he believed it too. "What's causing the drain?" Miller asked. ." Weir turned away from the console and opened a wall panel. Behind the access panel was a cramped-looking duct. "I don't want anyone else going near that thing." Without warning. Weir's boots vanished from sight. not waiting for the main door to open fully. Weir tossed the flashlight and tools into the duct. To Miller. Weir ran for the door. He shook his head." Weir said. Miller shook his head. "Proceed. and waved him over to an access panel on the wall. there were tools and flashlights inside. Weir was a walking contradiction. I'll check it out.try to clean it up. Miller nodded. surprised at how fast Weir was able to move. examining the readouts. The duct seemed to go for quite a distance. "Go!" Miller said." Miller said. He caught up with the scientist halfway down the main corridor." Weir said." There was a chance that they might learn something useful from the scrambled section of the disc. He looked at Weir. He had a terrible suspicion about the reason for the drain. To Miller's surprise. Weir handed tools to Miller. removing bolts and magnetic clamps. Miller could see circuitry and modules inside as he bent down to look." Miller took off after Weir. dubious. turning to Miller. the lights faded out slowly. as Weir went over to the main console. "The rest of you stay here. not an easy trick for a man as tall and broad-shouldered as Miller. reddish wash. "A power drain. looking baffled. Miller had to agree--something had been activated. "Maybe a short in the fail-safe circuit. before DJ could head for the door. illuminating them with a dim. He almost filled the duct. but he seemed to have no trouble moving. They set to work silently. wrapped toolkit. then hauled himself inside." "Of course. Emergency lighting came on. Miller handed him a flashlight and a small." DJ said. They ran together through the First Containment and down the tunnel into the Second Containment. "The magnetic fields are holding. "The Core!" Weir snapped. "I hope you know what you're doing.

" Justin hissed. counting off circuit panels for Miller's benefit. DJ made it across the medical bay in record time. the bio-scan just went off the scale.. Something bad was going on here. as though he were being electrocuted. Justin suddenly arched. "Can you hear me? Justin!" There was something going on. She hit the intercom switch. the sooner he would be out of there. greens. but he had not been off Daylight Station for years. on the off chance that his patient was regaining consciousness. He crept forward. A yellow light began flashing in the upper left corner of the console. . trying to hear. albeit unfocused. a remnant of the torturer's art. DJ leaned in towards him. DJ looked up.. "E-Three . E-Five . Justin was in the throes of an epileptic seizure.. all of his muscles becoming rigid. DJ leaned over him. His breathing echoed in the cramped duct.. a sign that Justin was coming out of the coma. Something bubbled in his voice.Chapter Twenty-eight The air in the operations duct was even more stale than the air circulating in the main part of the Event Horizon. So far nothing had seemed to help.?" Starck had settled into a routine at the engineering board. DJ felt cold. New lights joined the first--more yellows. Starck stared. He wished he had had a chance to sample real Earth air once more before coming out here. ready to intervene if Justin's seizure showed signs of being dangerous or of throwing him to the deck. "Captain. thrashing about on the examination table. This might be a breakthrough point too.. and the sooner he did it. the meters immediately pegging at the end of the scale on all readouts.. a feeling of dread stealing over her. E-Seven . "Justin!" DJ said. alarmed. "Who? Who's coming?" "The dark!" Justin hissed. "What is--" she started. His voice sounded broken.. where are you. Justin's mouth was working as he tried to speak. The bio-scan flickered to life. He had found himself unable to conceive of taking a journey back down the length of Skyhook One." She shook her head. only to realize that there was little he could do at the moment. and his eyes were open. Weir managed to tolerate it with difficulty--there was a job to do. "He's coming.. trying to hammer the bio-scan into behaving itself.

and set to work. opening his eyes. "I seem to have a problem with my light. a handful of sparks flying off. His voice echoed away into the darkness. A woman's voice. ready to panic. plunging him into darkness. Module E-12 was making a curious spitting and fizzing sound. making the metal boom. which might explain why this one was dying now. annoyed at the timing. Weir reached into the module and yanked the board out. far away and far too close. as though at the bottom of a cavern. Water dripped again. He pulled more tools out of the kit. seeing only darkness. He knew that could not be so. Weir produced a screwdriver from the toolkit. but enough to indicate a potentially serious problem. "Um. Miller had handed him one of the Event Horizon's flashlights. There you are. The walls pressed in upon him. He grunted. "Billy. and banged it against the duct wall. "Come to me. there was the sound of a single drip of water. His breath came in a ragged gasp. readying himself to get out of the duct. his breathing difficult. As he started to back up. Claire could not be here. trying to make it work. Weir felt cold. Captain Miller?" Weir said. but it did not help. but even those had limits when it came to their life.It might have been laughter. opening up the module in a few moments. Weir looked up. her voice soft by his ear. The light dimmed again. The flashlights had been equipped with lithium-ion batteries. He banged the flashlight against the side of the duct. uncomfortable work. slowly. He knew that voice. "Claire?" he whispered. He felt as though he was falling. Somewhere in the pitch darkness. knew it all too well even now." She could not be here. The cause of the problem was immediately evident--one of the circuit boards was quietly frying itself. "Captain Miller?" he whispered." There was no answer from his radio. giving in to desperation. alone. . but the removal of a board meant installing a bypass so that the system would not go looking for the missing chunk of circuitry. or along the duct. his flashlight began to flicker. The artificial gravity had been turned on. very faint. He shook it. These modules were triple-redundant throughout the Event Horizon. over and over." Weir said. Weir closed his eyes." Claire said. echoing in the darkness. The flashlight gave a last fitful glow and went out. Getting the bypass in place was a minute or two of cramped.

which meant Weir had gone pretty far into the thing. inches away. Wet hair hanging like seaweed in her ashen face. his chest hollow. He bent down again. pointing at Miller. keeping the storm of panic away from himself. The sounds of inferno filled the air. He heard his voice echo somewhere deep inside. and he almost screamed. but the red glow that he was seeing was not something he would have expected from the Core in its normal state. He knew he was looking toward the Core. trying to see something in the darkness. focusing on calm. The holocaust whispered. To his surprise."Be with me. When he opened his eyes again." Claire whispered." Miller squeezed his eyes shut. the burning man was gone. He took a deep breath. finding the edge of the duct with his fingers. The flashlight flickered to life. but there was no answer. "We just lost all power in here. Claire stared at him. or if there was something in the duct that was blocking radio signals." he called into the duct. The darkness inside the duct seemed to be total. The surprise gave way to fear. .. He straightened up." she said softly.. Chapter Twenty-nine Miller bent down to look into the duct. but he could not be sure if that was because Weir had not said anything since crawling into the duct. The figure lifted a blazing arm. he was successful. The glow at the Core resolved into a humanoid figure consumed by fire. "Don't leave me. fire dripping from it like water. "Forever. and Miller felt a wave of heat pass over him. The radio link had been silent for minutes.. Weir?" Nothing. wondering what was going on with Weir. "Dr. Even the main console had gone black. He was about to straighten up when all of the lights went out. He took several steps back.

but everyone else had gathered back on the bridge. sitting back at the briefing table." Weir said. his arms folded and a troubled expression on his face. apologetic. Miller figured he probably looked about as burned out as the rest of the crew by now. Miller knew he was lying. "I saw nothing. it's real. DJ. folding his arms and looking down at Weir. Weir had emerged from the duct looking like death warmed over. His voice sounded rusty. DJ was mooching about on the bridge. Smith. truculent. a scalpel in his hand that he was unconsciously flicking against the leg of his flight suit. She looked at DJ. you heard it. trying to put Miller's vision into some sort of psychological pigeonhole. looked thrashed. "Carbon dioxide poisoning produces hallucinations. This is different." "No. She looked from one to the next.. "I didn't see anything. His expression never changed. "that you were traumatized by finding the body on the bridge?" Peters' head snapped up and she gave him an angry glare. I saw my son. They all turned to look at her. you were in the duct." Weir said coldly." Weir said." "Peters is right." Smith said. "I've seen bodies before. They had been around this particular track once already. But I'll tell you something--this ship is fucked. He was lying on one of the examination tables and his legs were ." Miller said. Weir. He wondered what the scientist had seen in the duct.. "Goddammit. To Miller." Peters said. "You must have seen something.Chapter Thirty Cooper was still outside. what about you?" Smith was leaning against the hatchway." . if he had seen anything at all. impaired judgment--" DJ was saying. his easy manner gone away completely. who was staring blankly at the two of them." she said." "No. it was not a hallucination!" Miller turned to Weir." "I did. looking uncertain. "About an hour ago. "It's not like something in your head. "In Medical." She trailed off. Even Weir. working to contain her emotions. Miller could not figure out how DJ had so far failed to draw blood. "Isn't it possible. "and I don't have to see anything. but he was not sure that Weir was lying about what Miller had experienced. he looked about ready to bolt from the Event Horizon at a moment's notice. "Dr.

. Miller was glad to see Smith cooling off. DJ took a deep breath. at Smith. Ah shit\ Miller thought. Smith froze in place. that's enough for one day.Weir turned to look at Smith. DJ twisted away. squeezed. "I'm sorry. taking a step toward Weir. a dismissive expression in place. grabbed him by the upper arms. "I need you back on the Clark. You make a mistake out there. DJ looked helplessly at Miller. attempting to soften the a flash. releasing Smith. Of all the moves DJ could have made. fists swinging. in the finish.. "Smith!" Miller growled. . certainly nothing as fast as this. Finally Smith said. finding his way into one of the corridors that lined this end of the ship. He needed a few minutes to walk off the anger and the growing stress. giving him a look that threatened to shred the younger man on the spot. Smith seemed to want to look everywhere but at his captain. using the pilot's momentum against him. "He's fucking lying! You know something--" Miller got in front of Smith. He would never have expected this sort of thing from DJ. even relaxing a little. "Let's not make it worse. "Sir. DJ raised the scalpel. Smith lunged at Weir. "That's it. not that Weir stood a chance of bringing Smith down." "We're a long way from home and we're in a bad place. Smith swung around in Smith's flight suit with Continuing his movement. I don't know why I did that." Weir said. who regarded the pilot with a stony expression. but the litany and the expression stopped that. "You don't need to be a fucking scientist to figure it out!" Smith yelled. "Thank you for that scientific analysis. pressing the tip of it just below Smith's ear. in a calmer voice. Smith ignored his captain." Miller said. you understand?" Smith had started to try shaking Miller off. crossing the bridge. he left the bridge. All they needed now was a physical battle. grasping one hand. "You break all the laws of physics. He let the scalpel fall to the deck as he stepped back. I. nobody's getting home. he met Miller's eyes. not impact. but. DJ slammed Smith up against the bulkhead. The scientist flinched back. "DJ!" Miller yelled. I need you calm." Miller shook his head. Smith!" He glared into the pilot's eyes. "you think there won't be a price? You already killed the last crew--" DJ reached out and put a hand on Smith's shoulder." Miller could have kicked Weir for his blatant attempt to provoke Smith. I need you using your head. Without saying anything more." "Carbon dioxide. shuddering. Smith. letting the pilot go. he saw DJ moving closer to Smith." he snarled at Weir. Out of the corner of his eye. His hand blurring. his tone sarcastic. Mr. slamming DJ back.

"You've got to listen!" she said. "That doesn't mean it's not true. Unfinished business. he might have thought the ship was breathing. hurrying to match pace with him. always checking the corners as she moved. displaying signs of life. The effort left her almost running to match Miller's long strides. "I didn't say that. A dark sensation swept through the ship. and Starck was constantly glancing around herself. ' To what? What are you saying? This ship is alive!" Starck shook her head. probably. They were all becoming afraid of the Event Horizon." Starck pushed her pace. Finally. determinedly hewing to his course to nowhere. Miller stopped abruptly." Her stare was unwavering. sort of an immune system--" Miller increased his pace. trying to examine the concept rationally. Miller's course had taken them through the ship into an airlock bay. Weir thought. "What is it. "I don't need to hear this. still avoiding looking at her. merely kept going.He was aware of Starck following him. He wanted nothing more than a couple of minutes alone. like they were all part of a defensive reaction." Starck said. he said. Miller did not break his pace." Miller looked at her for a long time. sitting at the gravity drive workstation. Lieutenant?" "I've been studying the bio-scan." Chapter Thirty-one Time passing. trying to keep up with Miller. I said the ship is reacting to us. "Starck. He turned to face her. most likely something he ought to take care of. silent." Miller raised an eyebrow. "Miller. If Miller had been willing to accept the notion. "Don't tell anyone what you just told me. The lights flickered throughout the ship. . "Proceed. but he was not going to get that. "and I've got a theory." Miller was breathing hard. do you know how crazy that sounds? It's impossible. It's getting worse. And the reactions are getting stronger. causing her to stumble. unable to fathom it. Miller was barely talking." she said." "I think there's a connection between the readings and the hallucinations. Smith had left the Event Horizon.

watching it spin. ' The curvature of space becomes infinite and physics . lost in his rapture.Peters had returned to Medical. trying to adjust to her simplistic perspective. "Yes. I told her that wasn't true. not caring if she understood him or not. "Claire used to tell me I loved the Event Horizon more than I loved her. to put it in the simplest terms. but between the lack of communication and the difficulties with the bio-scan. while he gazed at it. unraveling the intricacies of it in his mind. "The singularity. but she had been frightened. it sort of. If the ship's engine is a black hole." He waved at the wireframe model. She looked at the embedding diagram for a moment. The funnel-shaped wireframe image could tell him a great deal." Weir said. that's all. almost curious. it was not telling him anything he did not already know. Old wounds had opened up again. suddenly enjoying himself." "Well. never quite went anywhere. He could not get the image of Claire out of his mind. Weir thought." Starck was looking at him." Starck said. The sides of the funnel never quite touched. Dr. almost amused. DJ and Starck were still on the bridge. For the moment. it sucks the ship in and then spits the ship out somewhere else. It rotated slowly on the display in front of him. "What is that?" "A phase-space model of the gateway. physics just stops. obviously with something on her mind. Weir. softly." he said. "It's possible." "Exactly. A region of pure and unmitigated chaos. It was hard to concentrate right now. she was frustrated and angry. leaned down over his shoulder." . which was just as it should be. following the curves and lines with her eyes. I think you're in love." He half-smiled. looking at the display." Weir said. under normal circumstances. being as thorough as possible in the time they had left. "If I reconstruct what happened when the gravity drive was activated--" "It could tell us where the ship's been for those seven years. "That's the black hole. focusing on one of his favorite subjects. Thank you for rambling through the obvious. Starck was trying to make herself useful." "Except the Event Horizon got spit out seven years too late. Starck walked up behind him. when you power it up. "Why." Weir said. For his part. "basically.. She had returned to the bridge looking even more frustrated than before." "Hmm." Weir nodded. either for Justin or of what she might see. absently. She had chased off after Miller.. Weir had settled down with the gravity drive workstation and a nice embedding diagram. She was studying the wireframe intently. old nightmares. I just knew the Event Horizon better. DJ was scraping blood samples from the bulkheads.. yes." Weir said.. He was growing impatient with Starck and her questions. "Tell me something.

. pushing herself out of the chair. "Do you think you can give me a hand with this?" Without replying. Flatly. joining DJ. The sound was growing closer and closer. shadows were beating sticks on oil tanks. he sat forward. Behind them. forming some kind of wormhole. trying to remember. deafening her. it's still open. a bio-scan display was just starting up. . and pulled back the edge of the sheet. She looked around. unfocused. She had fallen asleep in one of the medical section's chairs and now had back and neck aches to go with the exhaustion. She looked around. He continued to watch the wireframe. Whatever ice had been broken had just as quickly been refrozen. what was coming through it? Chapter Thirty-two Somewhere in her dreamworld. he said. changing in a way that he had never seen before. The sheet had been draped over a pair of nitrogen tanks. wiping at her mouth where she had drooled a little. If the gate was open. Starck moved away from Weir's station. which was just as well by Weir. There. he noted. Off to one side." He sat back.. she crossed over to the untidy jumble of person and linen."Claire is your wife?" Starck sounded as though she was warming to him. Justin had somehow fallen from the examination table.. taking the sheet with him. galvanized. The wireframe was distorting." he whispered. "Justin?" she said. The funnel was opening out beyond the singularity and staying stable. He kept his eyes on the shifting wireframe... "She was. "Impossible. She died. "Justin!" No answer. DJ said.. Justin was not beneath the sheet. in the shadows. "The gateway never closed . Everything was fuzzy.. shocked. chilled.. Nothing like the suggestion of domesticity to break the ice." Weir did not bother to respond. Peters woke with a start. shaking his head. "I'm sorry. Her ears were ringing. wildly. causing a great booming to resound through the desert landscape of her sleep. Suddenly hopeful." Starck almost recoiled. Suddenly.

working on the bloodstains. a sleepwalker's face. "You didn't hear it? You must have heard it!" "Heard what?" Starck said. over and over. The metal was groaning. The booming. DJ and Starck were at one side of the bridge. winded from her run. She turned around. but she couldn't tell on first glance what he was doing. She had heard that sound in her dreams. wheeled right. parts of the door mechanism and structure loosening. How was she supposed to know? "Make it stop!" she screamed at him. He walked slowly toward the door. growing louder and louder. "What's wrong?" Peters was gasping. thundering sound crashed on after her. turned around. rivets popping. the crashing sound of the shadows as they came. his hand held out. growing louder. slammed the pressure door. lost for answers. The door shook with the impact. It echoed through the ship. her breath coming in short gasps. The crashes were coming closer and closer together now. grimacing. DJ stood by her. They had all turned toward her.There was a familiar metallic pounding in the distance. impossibly loud. DJ started toward her. Her heart was pounding. whirling around. staring. Weir had walked away from his console. reaching for her. Peters screamed again. "What are you doing?" Weir had reached the door. and ran like the wind. His face was a blank mask. willing herself to relax. starting to loosen up. Terror swelled up in her. She was shaking. She took a deep breath. she noticed. rage and terror and pain mixing together. it was coming toward Medical. Peters shrieked. She sprinted onto the bridge. her mind empty of everything except the need to get away. terrified. Starck had her hands over her ears. somewhere in the darkness of the Event Horizon. coming towards her. Whatever it was. She thought she felt the shadows closing around her. "No!" . seemingly oblivious to the thundering and vibration. She sprinted for the hatch. She had no idea. "What is it?" DJ yelled at her. Starck went after him. The sound was momentarily cut off. bolting it. Crash. but it was beginning to seem that the evidence of her own senses was in doubt. She could not believe it. There were rattles interspersed now. The door boomed again. shaking his head. Weir was at the other side of the bridge. backing up into DJ.

stared at Starck. he tried to shake off her grip. Put off the reaction as long as possible. "Please. "What is it?" Starck said. There was a loud beep from one of the consoles--the ship systems workstation. a weight that descended upon the room." Keeping her eyes on him. distracted. DJ left Peters and went over to the workstation. "That's a negative. "I'm all right. Blankly. the sound terrified Peters. DJ looked around." he said. there was no telling what he could be doing now. and to hell with whatever was out there. The quiet was brutal. Peters raced through the corridors. Cooper. Smith. "Justin. A light was flashing. They left Weir standing in the middle of the bridge. DJ and Starck trying to keep pace with her. Starck. any of you in the airlock?" Miller's voice came back. "The forward airlock. . she could spend some time healing in the tank and get the rest over with when they got back to Earth. She was growing frantic again." she said. Weir. the pounding started again. raising his other hand. Even at a distance. Somewhere in the distance. grabbing his arm. staring at Starck. his face furious now. "Miller. but she had managed to get him into a wristlock. There was a general scramble for the pressure door then. twisting his arm back." Peters tried to slow her breathing. Something unknown was out there. and she remembered. Weir. "In our current environment. If he had been affected the way that Weir had. wondering just what was going on with Justin. She could not afford to be weak now. she remembered as she turned. swearing at herself for forgetting in the first place. looking it over." she said. Something lifted from Weir. Peters' ears were ringing. "self-control is an asset. He swung himself around toward Starck. forgotten. baffled. This time it was moving away from them. feeling as though they had been stuffed with cotton wool. Starck released the scientist and stepped back. Dr. His face cleared. They raced into the forward airlock bay." Peters' mind cleared for a moment. stop the shaking." Starck keyed the radio.and Starck remained frozen in their violent dance. she thought. deeper into the ship. frightening. The pounding ceased abruptly.She dove toward him. He lowered his hand. Weir. A monster without explanation.

Grabbing a handhold.Justin was there. and then Starck was saying. Starck said. he swung himself to face Cooper. He. Miller. Chapter Thirty-three It was getting to be crowded out here. Cooper and Smith unbolted an access panel. Miller thought." Jesus Christ." Miller looked up from the work at hand. Cooper. shining a light down into the compartment. She slid to the floor. "Justin. hoping for the best. Smith grunted. pounding her fists on the metal." Cooper said. Cooper and Smith were watching him intently. no!" at the top of her lungs. "Stay here! Don't stop working!" "Captain. DJ had not been very hopeful about Justin. running across the bay. letting it float nearby while they attended to the job at hand. surrounded by an assortment of zero-g tools. Miller froze. "What about the accumulator?" The radio pinged. screaming. The compartment beneath the panel was a mess of scorched wiring and battered components. their work forgotten. screaming at Justin. it just gets crazier. Starck?" "Justin's in the airlock. feeling the lining of her throat inflaming with the force of her shout. "He's awake. moving it aside. his eyes cold and dead. and Smith had ended up together on one section of the Lewis and Clark's hull. "What?" Miller said. He was not wearing a suit. He wanted the insanity to stop just long enough for them to get home. "Come in. expecting the worst. he's in the airlock. sleepwalking." Cooper snapped back. "you need me on this!" . Peters tried to increase her speed. Miller thought. and Peters had basically entered a state of denial. "What's going on in there. moving slowly. He stepped into an open airlock. he's not wearing a suit. Peters slammed into it. turning. "We'll have to re-route through the port conduit to the APU. He reached out to the controls on the inside of the airlock. annoyed at the interruption." Stark said. Together they lifted it. The hatch hissed shut. Justin stared at her.

"Gimme status. drifting sideways and up." Starck said. He was going to have to shed some of that and change vectors sooner or later. Taking a deep breath and cursing his fortunes in this world. Starck worked frantically at the airlock control panel. "He's engaged the override. her throat feeling like liquid fire. stepping back. orienting himself towards the bulk of the Event Horizon. her voice urgent. went to work on the access panel for the airlock. "I'll try." Miller changed his position. There was no response at all from the panel. shoving himself from section to section. If she could stop the outer door cycle. All she needed was some way to screw up the outer door mechanism. talk him down. I'll get him. Starck. He started to move. short of hammering on the panel with her fist. pushed himself onward. She turned. "Open the door! Open the door!" Justin's expression did not change and he did not look at her. touching the control panel inside the airlock. "He's in some kind of trance. digging into the circuitry. Coming to him. The huge ship was blurring by beneath him as he gained more and more velocity. Frustrated." Miller said." Miller swore. Cooper. wishing he had a full EVA thruster pack on his suit. He had executed a localized shutdown of the artificial gravity. a utility function that had been intended to help transition delicate cargo between zero-g and local gravity. He was not about to lose anyone. . not on this mission. DJ was peering at Justin through the hatch window. Not Justin. trying everything she could think of." she said. Try and make eye contact. trying to snap Justin out of his trance. "Justin!" she screamed. took a step. "Can you shut it down?" Peters asked. "Fix this ship." DJ turned and ran out of the airlock bay. he kicked off. or to at least get his attention. Justin looked like a man lost in a dream." He was using the Event Horizon as a means of propulsion. or we'll all die. He reached out again. slowly. they could take their time getting the inner door open again. she smacked her hand against the control panel. Turning to Peters.The last thing Miller needed right now was for Cooper to start grandstanding over Justin. She had it open in a matter of moments. "He's engaged the override and we can't open the inner door. "You better hurry. he said. slowly. not now. and that was going to hurt." Starck said. I'll be right back. Peters started hammering on the hatch.

"Yes. "Did you hear it?" Justin said.. almost crying: "It won't stop. Starck came over to stand beside her. There was nothing on the other side of that door but space. "Can't describe it. The darkness was coming. tied into the radio. listening. Weir moaned. Justin turned slowly around." "Keep him talking. The tension went out of him. "It's inside and it eats and eats until there's nothing left.. we heard it." Justin said. suddenly. "It shows you things . Justin! Open the door!" She coughed. there are no words. "What shows you?" Then Justin. " 'The dark inside'?" Peters said. his head in his hands. and had the aching arms to show for it. on the bridge." Justin said.. softly. He had made one vector change already.. The hair stood up on the back of Peters' neck.." she said. sitting unmoving. . willing to lie. "What. He had not missed a moment of the conversation. the effort of so much yelling taking its toll on her. Justin. He leaned forward onto the console. Miller's breath was coming in hard ragged gasps now as he made his way along the hull of the Event Horizon. sharply. Peters nodded. to stare at the outer door of the airlock. "Do you know what it was?" "It gets inside you. her voice sounding remarkably calm.. Justin?" Peters was saying. The intraship intercom system was open. trying to keep his mind blank and empty. There was no tension in his body. "The door.Peters was still hammering at the door. almost a sob. His voice was flat..." "From the Other Place. had moved to the communications. He hung in the microgravity like a mannequin. the voice of someone dead." Justin was moaning. "Yes.. workstation." Justin said.." Starck whispered.. "I don't understand. staring at Justin. to do anything if it would save Justin. his voice carried through the airlock intercom. horrible things." A shuddering breath.." Weir. her hand hurting. He sat rigid. "The dark inside me." "What does?" Peters said. it goes on and on and on. He sailed onward. Weir closed his eyes.

Miller passed from shadow to light and back to shadow. Neptune turned beneath him, the Great Dark Spot malevolent at the edge of his vision. The other crew," Justin said, softly. He lifted an arm, the movement causing him to turn slowly in the microgravity. "They're there, they're waiting for me. They're waiting for you. I won't go back there ... I won't...." Peters pressed up against the airlock door, trying to keep her expression calm. There had to be some way to break through to Justin, some way to make him continue to find his way out of this fugue or whatever it was that had overcome him. "Justin," she said, using her best motherly voice, the one that worked so well with Denny, "look at me. Look at me. Open this door." DJ was back, sprinting into the bay, his medkit in hand. He almost slammed into the airlock, gasping for breath. Starck said, urgently, "I don't think she can talk him down." DJ looked at Justin, gently floating in the airlock, then at Starck. He stepped away from the airlock. "If he opens the outer door he'll turn inside-out." Peters was watching Justin, trying to marshal her thoughts. Starck was still trying to do something with the airlock control circuit, her hands lost in a jumble of wiring and circuit modules, her face beading with sweat. "Almost got it," Starck muttered. "Come on, Baby Bear," Peters said, "open this door." Justin was staring at her now, his eyes devoid of spirit. She could not imagine what he might have experienced in the heart of the Core. Justin had been changed, stripped of himself. He raised a hand, touching the hatch window. "If you could see the things I've seen, you wouldn't try to stop me." "That's not you talking," Peters said, her heart breaking. "Come back to us. Come back to me, Baby Bear." Hope surged in her as Justin's hand moved, floating toward the switch that would open the inner airlock door. She tried to will him to make the final motion, throw the switch, open the door, get this nightmare ended. His hand moved again, stabbing at the outer door control. "Noooo!" Peters screamed.

Warning lights flashed on, inside and outside of the airlock. A Klaxon honked warning, reverberant, even louder inside the airlock than outside in the bay. Justin covered his ears with his hands, squeezed his eyes shut. From somewhere, a computer voice, all modulated reason and no humanity: "Stand by for decompression. Thirty seconds." Inside the airlock, Justin opened his eyes, staring. Peters gasped.

Justin's eyes were clear, alive. Whatever had taken hold of him had been shaken off, at least for now. He reached out with one hand, making his motion worse. "Hey ..." he said, slowly, sounding confused, "what are you doing?" He turned his head wildly, making his spinning motion worse. Peters could see the realization strike. "Oh my God. Oh my God!" He lunged for the hatch. Peters whirled. "Starck!" Starck pulled back from the airlock access compartment, her expression horrified. "I can't! The inner door can't open once the outer door has been triggered. It would decompress the entire ship." The computer continued to count down, heedless of human dilemmas. Justin screamed, "Get me outta here!" He swung a fist at the door, but all it did was make him bounce. "If that door opens, I'm gonna--oh God, my eyes!"

Peters was losing her battle against hysteria, hanging on grimly. "We have to do something ... oh God ..." Counting down. Miller caromed from one piece of superstructure to another, hurtling through space in a dizzying, sickening parabola, kicking off again. "Captain," Starck said, "Justin just activated the door. It's on a thirty-second delay." "Patch me through to him," Miller said. Kicking off again, hurtling along the endless Event Horizon. Nothing compressed about this ship, and never mind the origins of its name or its main drive unit. He could hear the computer counting down. "Justin," Miller said, his tone firm, authoritative. "Skipper," Justin gasped out, "help me, help ... tell them to let me in!" Brusquely, Miller said, "They can't do that, Justin. Now listen carefully--" Miller came over the edge of the ship, caught himself on an antenna, swung over. The muscles in his right arm protested at the brutal misuse. He kicked off again. There. He could see the bulge of the airlock. "I don't want to die!" Justin screamed. "You're not going to die!" Miller snapped. He kicked, flew on. "Not today! I want you to do exactly as I say and I'm gonna get you out of there, all right?" And I hope like hell that I'm not bullshitting you, man.

There was a low thump as the air pumps started. Justin looked up, and around as air moved by him. The airlock was being evacuated rapidly. "Oh God, it's starting," he cried. "Justin," Miller said, his voice coming from the intercom speaker overhead, getting thinner, "I won't let you die." Justin was crying helplessly, the dark and the cold pressing in on him. His tears flowed from his face, hung in the air. "Help me," he whispered. He started to hyperventilate, trying to hold on to as much oxygen as he could. "Tuck yourself into a crouched position," Miller said. His voice had a father's authority, and Justin tried to obey it, hurrying, pushing against the wall and huddling into a corner. His tears were turning to blood as the pressure dropped. "My eyes," Justin muttered. It felt as though someone was trying to push them from their sockets. He moaned with the pain. "Shut 'em," Miller yelled, his voice fading as the air went away. "Shut your eyes, tight as you can!" "Five seconds," Starck said, her voice sounding muffled. There was a low booming sound, as though something had hit the superstructure near the airlock. "Exhale everything you've got, Justin," Miller was yelling. "We can't have any air in those lungs, blow it all out!" Justin had squeezed his eyes shut, clamping his hands over them. He could feel the blood, slick, sticky, too much of it, far too much of it. "Oh God, oh God," he whimpered. He was going to die, he knew he was going to die. The darkness would have him, the voice would have him. Somewhere in the distance, the last fading sound of Miller's voice. "Now, Mr. Justin! Do it!" Justin breathed out, hard, everything gone in one last spasmodic moment, one last silent scream. The outer door slid open.

Chapter Thirty-four It was a matter of timing now. Miller hunched down, watching the airlock, his concentration becoming absolute. He had about five meters to cross, he estimated.

The airlock opened. There was a puff of vapor as the last of the atmosphere blew out, carrying Justin with it. The engineer was curled up into a ball, his arms wrapped around his knees. Miller sprang up and outwards, pushing as hard as he could, grunting with the effort. He spread his arms as he leapt outward, seeing the brightness of Neptune. He slammed into Justin, tumbling them both back toward the ship. There was more pain as he struck the side of the airlock, but he disregarded it, turning himself, holding Justin with one hand while he used the other to pull them both into the open airlock, keeping one boot pressed up against the side of the airlock in case the door decided to try and close on them. They tumbled inside. Miller reached out and slapped the switch that closed the outer door, going more by gut instinct that anything else. The door closed, too slowly for his taste. Justin floated in the middle of the compartment, his ice covering his skin, his face covered with a layer of streamed from his mouth, nose and eyes. Capillaries had his face and hands, very likely in other places too. If experience, Justin would spend some time looking like a The outer door locked. The count in Miller's head told him five seconds had elapsed since the door had opened. The airlock began to repressurize quickly. That might do more damage to Justin, but that was a chance they had to take. Miller despised the lack of options, but he was not about to abandon hope. He reached out again and slapped the control that triggered the artificial gravity, cradling Justin as he slowly dropped to the deck. Through the window in the hatch he could see the anxious faces of Peters, Starck and DJ. A green light. Miller reached out, hit the switch to open the inner door, then flattened against the wall as Peters and DJ rushed in. "Oh God, Justin ..." Peters said. DJ went to one knee, his medkit open already. Peters knelt on the other side, taking Justin's wrist. DJ got Justin's mouth open, slipped in a tube. There was the hiss of oxygen. "I've got a pulse," Peters said. "He's alive." She reached out, pulled an instrument from DJ's medkit, unrolling a blood pressure cuff, slipping it over Justin's bicep. "Pressure?" DJ said. Peters looked terrified. "Forty over twenty and falling." "He's crashing," DJ said, flatly. veins bulging, pinkish frozen blood that had burst everywhere in he survived this road map of hell.

They were drowning and no one realized it. Let's get him to Medical. What was the point of fighting back.. let's keep him breathing. go. almost frantic: "His peritoneum has ruptured. it seemed. what would he have said to a power source that involved the inescapable energies of a collapsed star? The physicists have known sin. It was too late. He had tried to watch Neptune. no matter how valuable they were. Robert Oppenheimer. too late in the day.." Miller had managed quite a rescue. his tone ironic.Blood suddenly bubbled from Justin's mouth and nose. DJ again: "One thing at a time. flowing from the Core at the heart of the ship. DJ saying. He gasped desperately. Miller.. he's going into arrhythmia--" They were losing one. pure oxygen feed. no matter how much they might be loved. breathing energy in and out. In times past. but he had no heart for that." Then Peters. Oppenheimer had said later. It was a live thing. only to be pilloried by a world that wanted the destructive forces without the moral boundaries. but that was what he was good at. all hands down with the ship. He could have turned his attention to scanning for the rings of debris. or trying to locate the Neptunian moons. he's bleeding out. "That's good. rendered out now.. Peters. choked. 15ccs fibrinogen . pressure's still dropping . frightened but holding that professional edge: "Christ. Blood sprayed the airlock. get the nitrogen out of his blood. "Intubate. at a dead run. Chapter Thirty-five Weir sat at the gravity drive console on the bridge." DJ said. fighting to survive? The darkness swallowed everyone eventually. I am Death. He doubted that Miller was as brilliant a rescuer as they would all need. everyone had been lost. the only way to deal with the darkness was on its own terms. the Destroyer of Worlds. Peters. Voices in the air. In the end. go!" All three of them bent to pick up Justin. Start the drip. dismayed by the explosion of one tiny atomic device . and then screamed hoarsely.. spattered DJ. quoting the Bhagavad Gita. J. but he could not focus on the planet for very long. giving in to that one last . Weir thought. Miller not even stopping to get his helmet off. listening to voices in the air and watching a phantom spin on the display in front of him. showing the hotspots and the magnetic flow. . "He can breathe." The computer model of the gateway swelled on the display before him.

the changes within the heart of the ship. The galvanic force was as much a going concern now as it had been when Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley had written Frankenstein. compelling. seeping into the empty places where his soul had once lived. The rest. a lover's caress. Gravity drive will be primed for ignition in two hours. still close to tears. urgent: "We have to defib . suspended in a bilious green gel. clear!" The bang of the defibrillator. "enough to get him into a tank. Chapter Thirty-six Cooper and Smith had remained outside. If they were to survive. Weir included. had congregated in the Gravity Couch Bay of the Event Horizon.plunge into the unknown.. Miller walked over to her." Miller said. her face a mask of grief. he needed everything he could possibly accumulate. her eyes big. Miller was more exhausted than he had ever been in his life. He'll live. the sound of a body convulsing under the power of electricity." "We'll make it. working as fast as possible on the Lewis and Clark.. He with the most electron-volts wins the game. his body damaged as much by the work that had saved him as by the original trauma. except for Weir. firmly." . "How long?" "CO2 levels will become toxic in four hours. slowly. He felt the surge of power." Starck said. He figured they all were in shock over Justin . "We were able to stabilize him. Almost losing Justin was as bad for her as almost losing her son. Medical detachment could go only so far. DJ. hating to do this to her now. A live thing. but it had been close. She looked around at him." DJ was saying. Justin was now floating in one of the Gravity Couches. "Good work. hating the fact that he could not avoid it. DJ and Peters had managed to save Justin in the finish. "We need to know what happened to the last crew. red-rimmed." He looked at Starck. it shifted before his eyes. In the end. if we ever make it back. Peters was standing in front of Justin's Gravity Couch. She looked as though she was ready to fall down at any second. The screen cleared. He had become a patchwork man... medicine had not progressed far. Gently. The diagram drew him in. he realized. keeping his voice gentle." he said. he touched a switch. Pristine text flashed up in place of the embedding diagram: Commencing gravity drive initialization process. Before it happens to us. Weir seemed incapable of that sort of emotional investment. "Peters. soft.

' What does that mean?" Weir looked up at the tank." He blinked. Weir watched Peters leave." she said. Weir turned and walked out of the Gravity Couch Bay."I'll get back to the log. "I want to know why one of my crew tried to throw himself out of the airlock. he said. "I don't think it means anything. He could be useful on the bridge while the minutes ticked away." Miller said. said. her hair streaming around her face. Peters walked away from him. I won't go back into Medical. "You built this fucking ship and all I've heard from you is bullshit!" . The truth. his wife. He stared. "I want to know what caused that noise. She was getting the thousand-meter stare. making the scientist step back. off into her own personal distance. Weir looked at him." Starck said. dark trails flowing from her hands. "Thermal changes in the hull could have caused the metal to expand and contract very suddenly. At the moment he was not certain that he could do anything for any of them. her voice weak." Weir sighed. "That's right. Angry. following down the corridor. It must be very difficult for her right now." Miller said. He waved a finger under Weir's nose. unmoving. his tone dark." "Fine. He knew she had been very attached to Justin." Miller said. leaving the Gravity Couch Bay." Weir said. She was naked. standing next to him. had tended to mother the crew. It was not Justin in the tank. It was Claire. Without waiting for an answer. suddenly uncomfortable. "You weren't there. Starck. Miller had walked over to them. he turned around. unwavering. almost threatening. "Justin said something about 'the dark inside me. Justin had been interesting to contemplate from an engineering point of view. She looked away from him. perplexed. He heard footsteps behind him. "But on the bridge. the whole truth. Without thinking. "Where were you?" "I was on the bridge. wondering what mission Miller had sent her on this time. looking down at Weir. just in terms of how much damage a human body could sustain and still keep on functioning. causing reverberations'--" "That's bullshit and you know it!" Miller shouted. Miller almost ran into him. Justin floated in the Gravity Couch. He wished there was something he could do for her. and nothing but the truth.

"What do you want me to say?" Weir muttered darkly. Miller contained himself with an effort. Miller turned. breathing deeply of the foul air." Miller said. He reached a junction. He had been furious enough to want to smack Weir silly. "Where has it been for the past seven years?" Miller said. made a left turn. Weir had changed somehow. trying to figure out the direction it had come from." Weir said. There's a lot of things going on here that I don't understand. "I don't know. and he brushed past Weir. "To what? Where did this ship go? Where did you send it?" "I don't know." Weir said. Weir watched him walk away.' what is that?" "I don't know!" Weir yelled. This time it was the Captain's turn to step back. "Don't leave me!" The voice echoed along the corridors from somewhere in the distance. Jesus Christ. "You said this ship's drive creates a gateway. They might yet need the scientist. we would have been here a lot sooner. Weir was a case and a half in himself. Doctor. his skin crawling. It was interesting how disarming honesty could be. does he have to be so goddamned useless? There was more there. hardening." "That's exactly what we don't have. Weir thought. though. taking a step toward Miller. Truth takes time. but had known better than to let fly. . If 1 had that answer. something he had yet to put his finger on.' " Miller grimaced. stalking. heading off down the corridor toward the bridge. Chapter Thirty-seven Miller stalked through the corridors. "The 'Other Place. Weir got himself under control. taking the long way around to the bridge. Miller thought. trying to keep his patience. considering the circumstances. "I don't know." Miller was losing his temper again. his tone darkening. trying to shake off the residue of anger that lingered after his attempt to get answers from Weir. his attitude altering. " 'I don't know?' You're supposed to be the expert. a man trying desperately to get blood from a stone. and the only answer I've had from you is 'I don't know." "Yes.

Just one of those things."Where are you?" he shouted. He felt weak. He stepped backward. screaming out a plea across time. pulled out a small service medal. a cold. He unzipped his flight suit slightly. Chapter Thirty-eight The Gravity Couch Bay was deserted now. He hurled the pipe down the corridor he was facing. There was an emptiness in his head now. scooping up a short section of pipe. DJ walked toward him. There's no evidence of excessive levels of carbon dioxide. weary. please help me!" A hollow voice. He just climbed into the airlock because he felt like it. heard it clang as it hit. Slowly. "Any change?" Miller said." DJ raised an eyebrow. clattering as it bounced and rolled away. He had kept it with him since it had been awarded to him in a service essentially devoid of pomp and . checked the readouts. fighting the tears. "Get out of my fucking head!" he screamed. Or anything else out of the ordinary. turning. watching Miller carefully. went over to the tank. no change. "I've analyzed his blood samples. showed it to DJ. surprised." Miller straightened up.." Miller laughed.' He hunched up. DJ whirled around. "Another man?" Miller nodded. but the echoes were the only answer he received. Miller smiled. grim sound that he knew would transmit to DJ the depths of the defeat he felt. putting his head in his hands. "Of course not. his back against the corridor wall. His voice reverberated in the corridors. "What do you want?" he shouted. Miller bent down. DJ walked in. "Oh God. Corrick. driven more by instinct than anything else. angrily pushing against the hopelessness." he said. stumbled over sections of piping on the floor. whatever the job had turned into. reached inside. Something was troubling DJ. trying to marshal his thoughts so he could get on with the job. "We almost lost him today. had been sitting quietly in deep shadows.. Miller turned. DJ was tough to rattle. "No. however. the memories. except for Justin floating in his tank. Miller was not planning to try to retrieve the Event Horizon. the shame. They were going to have to figure out how to transfer Justin to the Lewis and Clark eventually. Silence. dead for these years. he slid down until he was sitting. Miller. I will not lose another man. There was a long pause.

a smart-ass kid on the way to making a name for himself in the service. not knowing what sort of sense he was making. He had always wondered if he should have gone back. Corrick saw the fire and froze. the ceiling. "Screaming for me to save him. "Four of us had made it to the lifeboat. determined. you should be a shrink. Miller thought. his gaze unshakable. Had the circumstances been slightly different. tried to retrieve Corrick. "I shut the lifeboat hatch. He knew that they would both have died. "Have you ever seen fire in zero gravity?" Miller went on. Miller had considered the kid a bit of a geek.. "Maybe. Those in the lifeboat would have died along with Corrick. He could not have gone back." Miller said. "It's like a liquid. and I don't know how long I can fight it. it "knows about Corrick. It knows what we're afraid of." Crawling up Corrick's legs. remembering. "maybe not. softly. just as they had in the corridor. finally. "You never told me.. suddenly.. And then the fire hit him ." . The Board of Inquiry had commended Miller for his forthright actions in saving the others. "Young guy. DJ. and he was gone. It knows about the Goliath. He was with me on the Goliath. a bit on the skinny side. I'm losing my fucking mind." DJ said. if any." DJ said. Just stood there screaming. . from nothing to destruction in the time it took to draw a breath." A laughing face. He did not tell them the complete circumstances of Corrick's death. .circumstance.. but he liked him anyway. it slides over everything. along his arms." Miller swallowed. It served as a reminder. It had been an oxygen fire. but it was hard. Corrick was still on board when the fire . a lot like Justin. The truth needed to be told. It knows our secrets. Corrick. staring. "Go ahead.. Damn you.. dripping over him like hot white rain. a living thing that melted metal and sang with a monster's voice. his chest hollow. "But this ship knew. He had lived with this for too many years now. frustrated.. Fast and hot. "The only thing I could do." Miller slumped. Miller tried to get the words out. screaming." Miller said. He pushed against his block. The memories flooded in again. had thought he had the grief and rage stored away somewhere else." DJ continued watching Miller. "I never told anyone until now. across the deck." he said. the bulkheads. I left him behind. but it did not remove the guilt. softly." Roaring around corners. It's in all our heads. almost impossible. not a trauma doc. "Edmund Corrick." "What did you do?" Miller was silent. there would have been no survivors of the Goliath. silent. DJ waited. letting the images play. say it. burning.

his expression wavering... It's a warning. gave him the suggestion of hope. then plunged on. Who knows where it's been ." He looked at Miller." "Hear what?" "The final words. "No. sir.' " Miller shook his head. but listen to this final part. "They sound like 'ex inferis.' " " 'Save yourself from Hell.' " Miller tried to untense. Miller stared at him. "Better be good news. "I've . "It's not a distress call. Both Miller and DJ whirled at the sound." DJ licked his lips.. Cooper. trying to work all of this into something coherent. beyond reality." Miller said." "It gets worse. How much worse could it get? "It's very hard to make out. I don't.. If they made it out of here. Miller stood up and followed him." Miller said. the ablative case of inferi.' Inferis." Miller had no answer for this and could find nothing to say that would make any sense. "Do you hear it? Right there. pulling up the filtered version of the recording USAC had picked up.." Cooper replied." He glanced at the workstation again. as Miller's nerves were jangling from the unholy racket. "And I think I made a mistake in the translation. this ship has passed beyond our universe. up at Miller.DJ's tone pulled Miller out of his misery for a moment." DJ hesitated for a moment. The things that had happened aboard the Event Horizon defied reason. "Captain Miller?" It was Cooper.' But it's not 'me' .. There was a jovial tone to his voice.' " DJ glanced down at the console. it's 'liberate Tu-temet. "But if Weir is right. what are you saying? This ship is possessed?" DJ was shaking his head. his mask starting to slip away.. He nodded towards the Gravity Couch Bay workstation. 'From Hell. "And what it's brought back with it. and Miller's nerves tightened another notch. DJ stopped the playback... "You know something." Miller could have kissed him. but he could not. saying nothing. " 'Save yourself. I've been listening to the transmission again. The intercom hissed as the circuit opened. "Starck's telling me this ship is alive." DJ walked toward the workstation. he was going to have nightmares for years to come." "Go on. . Partway through it." DJ started the recording again. DJ tapped in commands. I can't believe in that sort of thing.." DJ said. "I thought it said 'liberate me. what it's seen. now you're saying . " 'Save me.' " DJ said slowly. "Yes. "We are ready to repressurize the Clark and get the hell out of here.

opening the surviving atmospheric tanks. Coop. "We're still venting trace gasses. "We're going home. conserving energy until the repairs were complete. undogged his helmet. The air had a slight metallic tang to it. "Back in business. tempted to smack the thing with her fist to see -if that would achieve anything. Cooper." he heard Smith say. "Twenty minutes. but it was nectar compared to the state of the Event Horizon's air. All of the systems had been powered down. Cooper said. into the ship. Relief flooded him." Miller said. Chapter Forty They were running out of time and she was getting nowhere. His rules. watching the readout for the EVA suit's exterior pressure sensor.Chapter Thirty-nine Cooper and Smith remained on station on the hull of the Lewis and Clark. Air arrived as a thin mist at first." Miller said to himself." Cooper said. Miller stood stock-still. His ship. The log was stubbornly refusing to resolve into anything useful. Peters frowned angrily at the sciences workstation display. fading away as the pressure increased and the air warmed up. Miller smiled. lifting it off. Miller thought. He reached out and turned a manual valve. but Miller knew that was intended for Smith's benefit." Smith said. She might even resign from USAC. Denny needed her. "All right. "It's holding. Miller suited up again and went down though the umbilicus. keeping an eye on their patches." he said. He took a deep breath. try and make her way as an groundhog." "You're a lifesaver. a counterpoint to Smith's excitement. Time to get on with it. "Cross your fingers. The Event Horizon could go to hell. "She's holding!" Calmly." "Twenty minutes. Gimme about twenty minutes to plug the hole." Cooper said. heading for the bridge." "About goddamn time. She was tired and she hated spending her time doing this--she just wanted to get out of here and go home. .

stared out of the bridge windows at Neptune. got to the intercom. it was too clear.not know quite how to react to it.. Starck had not been particularly coherent in her message to him. Colors blurred. If it was intolerable. left her seat.Rapidly. who was busy at the other side of the bridge. "Sweet Jesus. including Captain Kilpack. Miller!" Peters somehow found a seat.. The coffee mug slipped from her fingers. The computer was finally managing to break through the signal noise. She stood up. stretched. The bridge had to have a microwave. There was movement. Tears streamed down her face. To one side of Kilpack." she said. Images began to form. solidified. considering how much other stuff had been crammed into it. There was. staring. "Starck. As far as Miller was concerned. To her surprise. sat down heavily. her voice hushed. She could not bear seeing the log playback. There were four of the Event Horizon's crew in the image. The process was rapid now. and turned to Starck. Weir and DJ had arrived just after him and now stood to either side of him. other than with disgust and horror. She went over to Starck. but she knew that would be impossible. "It's cold. Miller stood behind Starck. a crew member was somehow contorting himself impossibly. picked up a mug. Peters felt numb. Starck looked around. not that this helped her aching back in any way. The image on the display was flickering and rolling still." "I don't care. she typed in another set of.. not looking at the screen. despite the best efforts of the software. his right arm twisted. coffee spilling over her boots. She tried to empty her mind and wash away the things she had seen. She turned back to her workstation. boneless. She closed her eyes. stood by Peters." she said. his head tilting back. something was actually happening with the log video." she whispered. Starck turned. filled it halfway. she could probably find some way of warming it up. She turned again. she figured. shattering on the deck. but she had somehow managed to get the point across--Peters had managed to clear up the scrambled log entry. did . changed. "You got any coffee?" Peters said. making something of the recording. His features were unrecognizable. He could not believe what he was seeing. nodded. .. instructions and smacked the enter key with more force than necessary. watching the screen. Peters was sitting in another bridge seat. "Miller .

Both of them were covered in blood.. The question was answered a few moments later. Yet he did not cease his maniacal thrusting. dislocating. pulling them up. Shakespeare from high school or perhaps later. pouring down his arm. over his chin. smiling. Where his eyes had been were empty sockets. The man with his arm down his own throat had continued his contortions. Miller remembered. Miller wanted to turn away. With soft. sickened. The woman turned her head. around his mouth. In a deep. His head lolled to one side. He had grasped a handful of his innards. Miller could see the man's shoulder loosening. glutinous sounds. Kilpack said. A chunk of bleeding flesh fell and struck the deck. she wrapped around him as he rammed himself into her. Full fathom five thy father lies. had to see it all if he had any hope of ever understanding what had happened here. She made no move to release him or push him away.. could not imagine what he was trying to achieve. Miller. spraying her. So much blood. In the palms of Kilpack's hands. she drove her face into her partner's neck. In a blur of motion. The other man had now forced a good part of his arm down his throat. seeming almost exultant. More blood there. The Tempest coming to mind as Kilpack held out his hands. the man shoved his hand into his mouth. Blood oozed down over his cheeks. . to shut off the playback. were his eyes. opening her mouth. She drove into the wound again. Beyond Kilpack. a torrent of it. forming words. There was blood everywhere in the image. Blood pumped freely. the man withdrew his arm. those are pearls that were his eyes." . Kilpack turned. tearing. held out now like an offering. heedless of the blood. from his nose. loose in death. Continuing the impossible motions. lined with torn flesh. There was a distant wet sound. . The woman bit again and again as her dead partner continued his thrusting. what he was being driven to. tearing the wound wider. biting down. a man and a woman were engaged in frantic sex.. Blood bubbled up. to end it now. Kilpack opened his mouth slowly. .Starck blanched and looked away. streaming out from his mouth. but he had to know. tearing into the flesh. releasing them to fall wetly at his feet while he swayed. dead eyes staring into the distance. though he seemed oblivious to either pain or injury. Kilpack turned. His lips moved. dripping blood and flesh. She had dug her fingernails into his back. drenching his shoulder. leaving gory tears that streamed blood down his back. "Liberate tu-Temet ex inferis. nestled in blood. strange voice that was nothing like the one Miller had heard on the earlier log entries.

"We came here to do a job. his expression agonized." "We are aborting. "What about my ship? We can't just leave her--" "I have no intention of leaving her. "The crew is dead. "Fuck this ship. get the CO2 scrubbers back into the Clark. Weir. It was a voice that could cow any crew member foolish enough to cause it to be summoned. Weir had watched the log playback and he could still beg for the life of this evil ship? "Take one last look around. wishing Weir would get the hell out of his face. Miller let Weir catch up." He glared at Weir for a long moment. then turned." Miller said." "You can't just destroy her!" Weir cried. Weir stepped in front of him. There was silence on the bridge. maybe just cease to be. Without missing a beat. staring at him. "Then move the tank. chasing him down the corridor. "Don't do this.Miller could take no more. slapping the workstation. Our orders are specific--" "To rescue the crew and salvage the ship. Dr. This ship killed them. angriest voice he could summon up." Weir was in his face again. Weir snapped. shutting the video playback off." Miller said. "We can't leave. moving fast." DJ said." Miller snapped. DJ. as coldly as he could. Weir didn't even flinch. "I will take the Lewis and Clark to a safe distance and then launch tac missiles at the Event Horizon until I am satisfied that she has been vaporized. his voice flat." "It's done. "Peters. determined. Dr. download all the files from the Event Horizon's computers." Miller said. He turned and walked off the bridge." Miller said. he turned to the others. the hell out of his way. Chapter Forty-one Weir had a death wish. He reached out. The scientist just could not let things be. using the coldest. "Starck. get Justin transferred to the Clark--" "We'll have to move the tank. Weir. "We're leaving." Weir was not about to be put off." Ignoring Weir. would not let go and get on with his life. Miller was sure of it. . Now he was coming after Miller again." DJ nodded and left the bridge.

Weir was barely visible in the darkness now. Inwardly Miller raged. hated the flying buttresses and faux-Gothic arches." Starck." He backed away from the intercom." Miller walked toward the scientist. challenging." Weir whispered. He might as well have never been there. drenching the corridor in halogen brightness. "Goddammit!" Miller snapped. vanished in the darkness. come in. though Miller could see his eyes well enough. angry. turning the corridor into a place of shadows. but he was having trouble seeing him now. more at Weir than at Starck. even if it meant having to patch Weir up and ship him back under medical conditions. . but it seemed as though the voice came from all around him now. like smoke in a breeze. "Starck. over the intercom." Starck said. willing to fight.. grabbing hold of his flight suit and turning him around abruptly. even his eyes fading into the gloom. echoing in the darkness. casting pools of darkness everywhere under the emergency lighting. Weir was not cowed. the emergency lighting flickered on." Weir was gone. I want off this ship. Miller hated the lunatic design of this ship. Focused. There was fear and anger in her voice. what the hell is going on?" "We lost main power again. Miller lifted his arms. "Weir!" No answer but echoes.. The lights went out." Weir whispered. "Miller. The scientist had a savagely angry look to him. Weir was nowhere in sight. hoping that this would be the end of it. The main lights suddenly flared up. could get away from him. stopped. "She won't let you. "Starck. "Just get your gear back onto the Lewis and Clark. After a very brief pause.. leaning over him. or you'll find yourself looking for a ride home. knowing it was not. "You can't leave. breaking Weir's hold on him. slamming the scientist back into the bulkhead. Miller lowered his fist and pushed Weir away from him. backing away until he found the nearest intercom panel. get those files and vacate. Miller ran forward. She knew as well as he did that these power losses were nothing to do with the state of the Event Horizon." Miller said. "I am home. . He stared at Miller. So it would be one more thing to try and explain to Hollis. Miller raised a fist. More than aggravation now. "Weir?" he called. Weir was moving back into the shadows now. Once again. Doctor. burning with hatred. wondering how Weir could pull a stunt like this. willing to end it there and then. Weir lunged at Miller. aggravated."Watch me. and he turned away from Weir. looking around.

"All hands. She lost her grip on the scrubber. getting it boxed.He went back to the intercom. . praying that their ordeal would be over soon. The cylinder slipped free suddenly. both aware that they would need almost every one of them. let's go. not caring if he broke it. each taking a case of the scrubbers and heading out of the Second Containment and into the corridor. She took a deep breath. "Shit!" "Leave it. getting hold of the end of the cylinder. let's go!" The hell with it. "We don't have time." "You want to suffocate on the ride home?" Peters called up to him. and Peters found herself falling behind Smith. "Goddammit!" Peters growled. intending mayhem if he did. not expecting to find the scientist. packing the slick cylinder away. The case was heavy." Smith called down. "This place freaks me out. Not wasting time in gloating to Smith. racing through the ship to retrieve all of the CO2 scrubbers they had used to try keeping the air somehow breathable. They worked their way steadily down into the Second Containment. Perversely enough. missing it as it fell into the coolant around her feet. giving them enough time to get started on the voyage back home and to get help once they were close to Daylight Station. pulling a last cylinder out. Weir is missing." Smith was saying. Smith had lost a cylinder in the sludge himself. Spacecraft designers had not progressed far beyond the Apollo days when it came to processing atmosphere. refusing to come out as easily as it had gone in. pulling it free of the muck. I want him found and contained. Chapter Forty-two Smith had joined Peters on the Event Horizon. offbalancing her. she turned around and got back up to the storage boxes. They finished packing up as quickly as they could. She bent down and fished around. Smith was yanking cylinders out of a wall compartment while Peters went down to retrieve the last of them. "Last one!" The cylinder was stubborn." He set off jogging in the direction he had last seen Weir. slammed the side of his fist into it. hauling back. both frustrated at the distribution of the cylinders. She decided she was not going to worry about it--Smith was halfway to crazy anyway. disappearing from sight. "Let's go. and only Miller was capable of keeping up with the man. She ducked down. They would still be useful on the Lewis and Clark. the scrubber compartment had been placed directly under the Core. but they could manage without it. "Come on. Dr. who loped ahead like a man possessed." Smith called. calling up to him.

She could not allow Denny to be taken by this monster.. He was more than likely halfway to the main airlock by now. "Mommy . She climbed into the service duct. desperately.. but her determination made her quick. Her heart pounded. She wondered what he had seen. It was dark in there. She could still see the Core from here. She had an involuntary flash of memory. into its dark heart.. looking both ways before continuing. How could Denny have been brought here? Miller was right.. stayed around to help him. Peters bent down. unaware that she had stopped. looking from side to side. In a whisper. she knew that. She started to turn back. Another giggle. "Denny?" she said again.. At the corner of her vision. trying to see into the deep shadows. There was no way of knowing what else might be in here besides Denny. she knew that. cramped down and in the dark when the lights had gone out. a dark shape within the darkness. She turned back. She put down the scrubber case and started back toward the Second Containment. There was the scrape of metal upon metal. childlike. There was nothing else to see. She had loved him always . She wished. shocked.. that she had thought to pick up a flashlight before coming in here. a better existence than the one she had afforded him. Her son deserved a better fate than this.. she said. Her head was filling with fog again. trying to see inside. she remembered. "Den.?" she called. the log playback cascading through her . aware that she had lost sight of Smith. She had to know. she saw a swift movement.. echoing. "Den .. a tiny figure that dashed across the Second Containment's outer area. her voice barely even a whisper. It couldn't be. She tried to clear her mind. There was an open access panel in the outer area of the Second Containment." A plaintive voice. ?" she whispered.. Something was wrong here. in the form of Denny. She had left him behind on Earth and this evil ship had somehow reached out and brought him here. She stopped at a junction. gone back to space when she should have stayed with him. "Denny?" She turned back to look down to the Second Containment. She had to move along almost crab-fashion. the length of the duct reflecting the little light that there was.There was a giggle behind her. Peters crept forward.. and she had fled from him too. so far away. "Smith?" Smith was gone. and here was hers. She stopped. There was nothing to be seen. The ship used the dark corners to get at them. Weir had been stuck in one of these service ducts. ducking her head.

something like running feet. make him safe. The machines were dark. "Hold on. you can . humming with the ugly sound of harnessed energy. Nothing. She eased ahead. looking to either side again. barely visible in the dimming light. She ran forward. the end invisible in the gloom. came to a junction. looking around. Ahead of her a small figure was running. ' The shaft ended at a catwalk. She began climbing the ladder. searching. The laughter was becoming clearer and clearer the higher she climbed. She straightened up. She no longer knew whether she should laugh or cry. kept going.. looking up the shaft. She eased across the junction. She continued onward. There was a whisper behind her that could have been Denny's voice." she said." Her arms and legs ached beyond belief. trailing it. She felt the sound in the pit of her stomach. She fought it down." he said. "Denny?" she called. The lights flickered. "Denny. turned wildly around. given him this. The lights flickered. Great machinery rose on either side of her. and her stomach turned. The low.. "Den?" she called. She pulled herself up onto the icy metal and stood up. "Denny?" she said. Not now. echoing in the distance. moving steadily up the shaft. seeing nothing. Denny was standing a few feet away. but she could not be certain of that. clear and bright. shining dimly under low lighting. staring. There was a sound behind her at the junction. "Mommy.mind. This time the whisper was in front of her. A child laughing. but she would not let the pain stop her." she whispered. hoping only that she could get back to the Lewis and Clark once she had retrieved Denny. come to Mommy. He was standing. making her head hurt. All she wanted was to get him out of here. The catwalk wove between the machines. "Mommy's coming. reddened. moving on. "You can walk. No choice. angry hum of the machines deepened in tone. The laughter echoed down the shaft now. If it had somehow brought Denny here . She turned around. amused. She came to a vertical shaft. not while she had a chance to save her son from the Event Horizon. "Denny. and she turned back again. She had no idea where she was in the ship. The ship had brought him here." She knew the ship could be playing a game with her.

walk ... oh, my baby ..." The tears were starting now. All she could think of was Denny, of getting him out. Another few steps and she could get him out. "Wanna show you, Mommy," Denny said, holding out his arms to her, just like he had held his arms out at his birthday party, "wanna show you something--" Another step and she could hold on to him. The catwalk disappeared from beneath her. Screaming, she fell, plunging down. There was nothing to grab hold of, nothing to save her. She turned over in midair, seeing the darkness of the Core, then passing it, turning again. She slammed into the deck in front of the Core, feeling her body bend and splinter, the pain terrible for a few moments before it faded into a general numbness. She could not move, could not feel anything. Her breath came raggedly, suffused with blood. "Denny," she whispered. A pool of blood was spreading out from under her. Even if she was found now, she knew that nothing could be done for her. She had fallen too far, too hard, there was too much damage. She wished she could move. Twenty meters above her, she could see Denny looking down at her, clapping his hands. He giggled.

Chapter Forty-three My ship, Weir thought, walking through the darkness. My rules. The Event Horizon had its hooks in his heart, he knew that. He refused to accept the possibility that his wishes could be irrational. Far from it, in fact: his desires were in accordance with those of USAC, to retrieve the ship and resolve the mystery. Miller was a madman, driven by a terror of the dark. He had no way of knowing what had happened here, what that bizarre log entry meant. For all Miller knew, or could know, the log entry had been an elaborate fake, hidden behind a blind of signal noise. On the basis of this, Miller was willing to destroy the Event Horizon. Billions of dollars had gone into the project, along with millions of man-hours and astonishing amounts of resources. He walked through the darkness of the First Containment, into the separator tube. The sections spun around him, their vibrations feeding through his body.

He had poured his. life into this vessel, had dedicated the lives of many others to its development and construction. It would seem that the lives of its first crew had been sacrificed in the course of its maiden voyage, lost in the headlong rush of some kind of madness. The Event Horizon had been a story of blood and pain . . . his blood, his pain. Once she had vanished, he had been nothing, had had nothing.

Except Claire. Once she was gone, he had become a dead man, walking through the days. One day his body would have caught up with his mind and he would simply have stopped, shutting down like an obsolete piece of equipment. USAC had not been willing to fund another grand experiment in starflight, not without knowing just why the first one had culminated in tremendous and embarrassing failure without even basic telemetry to show for it. He could not give them answers. They would not give him another chance. In the end it had been people like Jack Hollis who had kept him going. The return of the Event Horizon had been his resurrection. He was not going to walk away and die again, spending his days as a zombie until his heart ceased beating. He walked past an abandoned CO2 scrubber case, incurious. Let Miller do what he would.... He passed into the Second Containment, passing an open service duct, unable to recall if he had closed up the one he had been in. Perhaps not. It did not matter, anyway, not now. What mattered now was completing the jump, proving the point. He walked down toward the Core. He stopped, staring, his mind working without formulating anything. "Oh no," whispered, dismayed. "Peters...." Even in the gloom, he recognized her. She seemed to have fallen from a great height, considering the way her body was twisted. He looked up, seeing an open service access overhead, one that would have been accessible from the magnetic containment generator bay. He went down to her, crouched down, tried to figure out what he should do. Her eyes were open, black as a result of the fall, and she was not breathing. There was a lot of blood, a lot of damage, and he doubted that she had lived long after the impact, if she had survived the fall at all. Peters had been kind to him. He had no friends in this world, and he was always grateful for a little kindness here and there. She had shown him that.

He grieved for her son, back on Earth. He stood up, looking down at Peters' body, wondering if he should report this immediately, or let it pass. Miller would blame him, either way. "Billy," a familiar voice whispered. Slowly, unwilling, he looked up. Claire was standing before the Core, a pale reflection with eyes of milk. Her hair hung around her as though immersed in water. She was naked, water dripping from her, and she was radiant with cold. Weir stared, his eyes widening. Reality blinked and time turned upon its head. She lay on the bed, sapped of energy, drained of vitality, unable to function any longer. She stared at the wall, she had stared at the wall for

hours. He could have gotten her off the station if he had wanted, taken her down Skyhook One and into the real light of day. He was dead though, and he had no compassion for her condition because she could not have saved him from the doom imposed upon him. Weir looked frantically around. They were back on Daylight Station, back in his past. He turned back to her. "Claire," he said, but the reaction he had hoped for was not there. He walked toward the bed, toward her. "Claire, it's Billy. I'm home...." He reached out. Reality blinked and there was the sound of water running. He turned his head. Claire stood in the bathroom, brushing her teeth with methodical strokes. He glanced back at the bed, but it was empty, unmade, unwashed. He had hardly been there, working himself into a stupor as he tried to solve the mystery of the Event Horizon without the resources he needed. These were moments in time. He could not change them. He knew that, knew all of the theoretical physics behind the laws of the immutability of time. He had bent space between his hands, but time had mastered him. He walked toward her, reaching out. "I know I wasn't there for you," he said softly, slowly, despising this sudden flood of platitudes, hating himself with each word, angry at a universe that could be so cruel as to do this to him. "I'm sorry. I let my work come between us, but I'm here now, I'm here. If you could just let me hold you. I've been--" Reality blinked, sweeping away his words, his thoughts, sickening him in the transition. His pulse raced,, and he felt the surge of adrenaline. Time was sliding beneath him, there was no time.... Claire sat on the closed toilet, carefully shaving her legs with his straight razor, her strokes fine and even. She had always been good at that, teasing him in the early days when he worried that she would cut herself. Time was moving and he was growing frantic. If she could hear him, if he could touch her, stop her, anything ... "Claire, please don't do this," he said, trying to make her hear; she carried on, oblivious. "We don't have to stay here, we can go somewhere else." Gentle stroke after gentle stroke, wanting, to look her best. He should have done this, should have said these words to her, should have taken the actions that would have made a difference. Earth was not the best place to live, but it would have been better than this. "Another place, anywhere you want to go, just don't do this. I've been so--" Reality blinked and he swayed on his feet, trying to keep up, trying to make it stop. More water was running, a bathtub filling with steaming water. She sat by the tub as it filled, idly testing the water with her fingers.

"it's all right. and I have such wonderful things to show you. unable to go far enough to have an effect. not again." she said." "Billy. no!" he screamed. slid down and along. He fell against her.. looking down at her. but she did not hear him. releasing the pain. Claire. like running water... Gone. and reality blinked." she said. He had not known he had so much emotion in him."Oh God.. the anguish. Reality blinked. Now she was standing in front of him. She touched his face. "I'm pleading with you. tearing. a dark setting for her pale. Blood flowed freely.. the terror. He was alone. I've been--" Reality blinked and his soul twisted. you're with me." She touched his cheek. . her cold fingers reached for his eyes. Weir raised his hands to his eyes. The razor touched her wrist. grief and terror mingling.. stroking. "so alone. The Core rose behind her. Pain shook him. The rage. You'll never be alone again. Claire was gone. "It's all right. His nails sank into the flesh. He seemed to be watching through glass. tumultuous and terrible. He looked up. Then the other wrist. You're with me now. weeping. please." he whispered. Reality blinked and he was standing by the bathtub. could not see him. "I've been so alone. He fell to his knees. The water had turned a deep shade of red. Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?"Not this. The razor dropped to the floor. Blood streamed down his face. His weeping turned to enormous sobs. wet body. Gently. please don't." Tears streamed down his face. He began to scream. her fingers burning. harder this time. please. her hair floating in a wreath around her pale face. difficult holding the razor in the left hand. especially now. his face burning with the radiant cold from her belly.. He looked up.

head down. everything here was just. Chapter Forty-four Cooper hung head-down over the ad hoc weld on the baffle plate. being a pain in the ass and an intrusion into the sacred space of his helmet." Smith on the radio." "Roger that." Smith said. "I'm done. he thought. Shithead. So he was a perfectionist. hey. Smith thought. As far as he could tell. He had had his fill of this mission. come in. In a moment he was into the umbilicus. "Peters. Smith turned his attention to unloading CO2 scrubbers. "Get your ass back on board! Weir!" Weir ignored him.. he was reborn. Smith. Done with Cooper.. the Destroyer of Worlds. Weir ducked around a corner.. peachy. wondering where Peters had got to. "Weir." he said." he said. and cut the connection." Cooper sighed. and that was something he did not want to do. He could have happily throttled Weir.. sounding none too happy. Smith keyed his radio." he said aloud. If she did not show up soon. "Captain. Figures it would be my watch. He had better be careful what he said--in the end Smith was the one getting them home... Exultant. be two minutes. He saw a movement out of the corner of his eye and turned toward it." Captain. Weir had been aboard the Lewis and Clark.. making one last check for flaws. moving like a madman as soon as he hit microgravity. Let me secure my tools. "it's about goddamn time--" It was Weir. of that ship. "How much longer you gonna take. Cooper thought sourly. And Smith can kiss my happy ass. probably heading out here when the Captain had been calling for them to watch out for the scientist. "Solid as a rock. Keeping up with the scientist was turning out to be worse than cat-herding. and of Weir.I am Death. tops. not Peters. Weir!" Smith shouted. Smith could be such a humorless dork at times. furious now. Cooper? I want to get out of here. The tone of his voice worried . "Zip that shit. spidering up the length of the umbilicus toward the Event Horizon. well.. he was going to have to go back to the Event Horizon and find her. said.

Overhead.Miller. heading for his ship. There would not be much time.. You know I can't do that. Captain?" Smith sounded startled. He slowed from the fast jog he had been maintaining along the Event Horizon's main corridor and found an intercom panel." Smith said. crazy bastard! "Smith! Fuck!" He smashed his fist into the intercom panel. Smith. get out of there. Something was beeping. That son of a bitch! "Get off the Clark now and wait for me at the main airlock. He pulled open a storage locker. The wiring was still shorting out." He looked up again. "Get out of there now!" Miller snapped. the explosives symbol standing out. keying it on. stripped wires were touching an exposed electronic circuit. "Smith. ripping open lockers and spilling their contents to the floor. "Go ahead. but Smith was not answering him.. but maybe there was enough. "No. going cold. "Where is it. "I just saw Weir messing around on the Clark. away from the ship. starting to turn back to the intercom. Smith plowed on through the Lewis and Clark. If he could get the charge out into space. It looked as though something had been yanked roughly out of that spot. he knew it. . shorting out with a small shower of sparks. we just got her back together. A small box." Smith moaned. bolting from the airlock and racing into the Lewis and Clark.?" he muttered. then turned and ran down the corridor. He shook his head. Captain. closer to the floor." he said." Smith took a step back. The stupid. started to reach in. "Weir could have put it on the Clark. Miller sighed. and Miller turned his head to see. crudely severed. Peters could get mad at him later." "Come again. Smith thought. not caring how much damage he did. He was going to be too late. "One of the explosives is missing from the corridor. He turned to the intercom. heading for the airlock." Miller said. sending her vid unit flying. "Where is it?" Smith?" Miller was yelling at the intercom. shrapnel being the only problem then. He ran into the crew quarters. trying to figure out where the scientist could have put the case. no. most of the explosive force would be wasted. emptying Peters' locker. What the hell is he up to now? Something popped and hissed nearby. caught his eye.

Through the windows. and started pulling out the contents of the locker. He doubted it would be long before it detonated. praying that none of the shrapnel from the blast would puncture his suit. His crew was dying. His ship was dead. The beeping was louder. turning so that he could see the drive section falling. a warning light on top blinking in time with the beeps. Thunder rumbled through the air. He quickly opened the bag. opening out of the Lewis and Clark's midsection like a flower of light. letting clothing fall to the floor. his voice soft with his grief and rage. the drive section spinning away with fuel trailing and flaring." he said. white light had momentarily replaced the blue of Neptune. "I gotcha!" Almost ecstatic. bounced off."I gotcha!" he said. "DJ. yanking it out. Miller walked slowly forward. The force of the blast tore the ship into two ragged pieces. The nose section had tumbled past the Event Horizon and out of sight. No time to prepare to-Miller raced into the airlock bay. Smith sat back. closing his eyes and sighing. the forward section beginning a slow tumble as it passed over the Event Horizon. . The beeps stopped. "What's happened?" DJ said. A steady tone sounded. The explosion was silent in the vacuum. The Event Horizon receded into the distance. staring through the airlock bay windows as pieces of his ship tumbled away. leaving no more than minute scratches. Metal shards struck the window. Cooper clung desperately to a stanchion. The flashing and beeping had grown more rapid in the past seconds--the charge was reaching the end of its countdown. clearer. The drive section was tumbling into Neptune's atmosphere. Klaxons sounded and he could hear the sound of pressure doors slamming as he tried to pick himself up from the deck. The explosive charge was nestled in the clothing like a wicked uncle's idea of an Easter egg. He keyed it. he grabbed a duffel bag that was sitting on the floor. and he screamed in negation even as the thunder faded and a wave of heat and light slammed him back into the corridor. Miller turned and walked slowly to an intercom. providing that enough fuel remained.

he changed the channel. muffled by the intercom. He released the corpse. . Weir tore at him with a terrifying strength. DJ was picked up."The Clark's gone. sent flying through the air. In a swift. but it was no use. his lack of eyes no handicap. The doctor stared up at his tormenter. "DJ? DJ. Frantic. From one he took surgical needles. frozen. Miller was still trying to get a response over the intercom. he began threading a needle. Now he stood by the intercom. You see him. DJ kicked. letting the blood spray for a few moments." DJ said." DJ had finished tidying up in Medical. smashed helplessly into storage cabinets. "I can take care of Weir. slammed into an examination table. still oozing a little. intending to look for a reasonable weapon. rage slowly rising as he considered Weir's actions. He turned DJ around." he said. Weir smiled. keyed it again. Weir was waiting for him. finally. "Smith and Cooper are dead. The drive section was disintegrating. Weir strode through the carnage." Miller said. DJ started to scream. but Weir's red right hand slammed into his throat. fighting away from Weir. He was capable of killing. exact motion. his eye sockets nothing more than two bloody holes. downloading the med logs and getting his equipment in shape. putting aside the scalpel he had used. From another he took thread. It was Weir. come in. blood on his lips. His face was covered in dried blood. DJ closed his eyes." There was a flash of white light. and turned his attention to cabinets filled with surgical instruments. smiling. Something crashing. silencing him. you take him out. Pain flared into his head. "Understood. pulled back his head. like steel and glass falling to the deck. Weir cut DJ's throat from ear to ear. picked up again. bending down to pick DJ up. He turned around. Weir. "Be careful. There was an odd sound from DJ. Sitting down to work." The intercom hissed. especially when the target was murderously insane.

shaky. he would pay for his efforts. instruments scattered. Would have curled my hair if it wasn't already. Resolution clearing his mind. hanging over an operating table at the far end of the medical bay. but functional enough for killing Weir. driven beyond exhaustion." There was blood everywhere. a mess. he found a tool locker with a nailgun inside. hard." Weir said. he set off for the bridge. Cooper decided. First step. his voice soft and strange. The crazy bastard had tried to get the bomb off the ship. He reached Medical. staring. ready to deal with the problem at hand. trays toppled." Miller swore and ran out of the airlock bay. The Event Horizon was in the distance now. a poor tool overall. barely allowed the hatch time to open. It was. his mind blurring. His boots clamped firmly to the hull plates. Miller fled from Medical. knowing that if he survived now. staring. Miller walked closer." he whispered. that much he knew from the radio transmissions. against Miller's orders. trying to avoid pushing himself away from the wreckage. He breathed out. The wreckage of the Lewis and Clark's front section had passed over the starship and away from Neptune. Chapter Forty-five Miller raced through the Event Horizon. He had been eviscerated. The orbit would stabilize eventually and then start decaying. DJ's midsection had been opened neatly."I told you. . DJ had been suspended in a cocoon of bandages and surgical tape. He oriented himself carefully. Cooper figured he was either shaking off the panic and terror or falling into complete hysteria when it occurred to him that there were surfers back on Earth who would kill to get this sort of ride. Time to go. His throat gaped open. "Oh God. Then he was back in the world. Somewhere. "She won't let you leave. He stopped. "DJ. he figured that the drive section had been kicked back toward Neptune and was most likely vaporized by now. Smith was gone. Given the location of the bomb. or lack of it. his organs placed in an orderly fashion on the open surface of the table.

but managing to undo the binding around her throat. ready to fire. Someone was sitting at the helm. Starck suddenly breathed in. He could do it. He worked at the wire. His voice was flat and dead. He disconnected the hose from the main tank." he said. looking left and right. Air puffed from the valve. The hatch was open. he stepped inside. He moved around the helm position. This was the critical factor now. leaving a crystal trail pointing to where he had been. liquefied. freeing her. This trick had worked for some people in spaceside training. Not Weir. He was reading one tank full and one tank at half pressure. He set to work on her arms and her ankles.. froze. He moved forward. cutting his boot magnets off. misted." He was going to space the crazy bastard. shove him out of an airlock and watch him die in vacuum. apparently staring out of the main bridge windows. Miller could see that she was becoming cyanotic from the slow strangulation. ready to open fire with a hail of rivets. Slowly.He looked at the readout for his air tanks. he closed one of the main valves. No movement. He eased his backpack into place again. unhooked it and pulled it out. Carefully. gathering speed. readout nickered and told him he was on his reserve air supply. He began to move toward the Event Horizon. This was the really tricky part." he whispered. wire wrapped around her throat to keep her head up though she was unconscious. "Get you out of these . It was Starck. Even in the gloom. her wrists bound to them. legs pulled back. He opened the valve. where assorted gasses were easy to extract from the asteroids. kneeling down and putting the nailgun on the floor. that he swore. . looking over the nail-gun. he got his backpack pulled around. It was popular in the Big Rock Range too. The. wired into the helm flight chair. He could barely breathe. the nailgun feeling hot in his fist. Working quickly but carefully. shutting off the full tank. He wrapped himself around the full tank. Relief flooded through him. Blood trickled from her throat where the wire was cutting in. trying to stay aware of the bridge around him. "Weir. "Hold on. but not for others. slowly. Miller stalked toward the hatchway that led into the bridge. within reach. Even that was better than he deserved.. a great painful gasping noise that startled him. The remains of the Lewis and Clark spun silently on. reaching for the valve as he oriented himself to the receding Event Horizon. Hesitated. He raised the nailgun. cutting his fingers.

you'll blow out the hull." He grinned broadly. Starck lunged sideways. He backed away carefully. Weir reached out with his free hand. appearing with the silence and skill of a ghost. barely paying attention to Miller. Cooper had just drifted into view." Weir said." "What are you talking about?" Miller said. His voice was a cracked curiosity. trying for the nailgun. into a bulkhead. "Do you know what a singularity is. A countdown timer appeared.. Miller thought. Miller rose. Miller could barely believe it. peering into the bridge. Weir was behind him. the undertones dark and demonic. Words appeared on one of the screens. flipped a switch. "It is nothing. Miller had to work hard to cover his shock. running backwards. Do you wish to engage? "What are you doing?" Miller said. "I don't need them anymore. marred his flight suit. aiming it at Miller's head. It snapped up again. then I have seen the Devil. knowing he was too vulnerable." The nailgun swung back to point at Miller's eye. moved an arm. A six centimeter nail struck the thick quartz glass of the . Miller turned. New text appeared on the display: Gravity drive engaged. If he could keep Weir distracted-Weir turned so fast that he seemed to blur. he watched Miller.. You'll die too." "What makes you think I'll miss?" Weir said. reached out and tapped a key." Weir said. Lines of dried blood coated his cheeks and chin. In the same move. backed away. her eyes widening. He grinned again. Weir snatched up the nailgun. we won't need eyes to see. He has a point there. before Miller could do anything about it. His hands were blood-red. light with perverse humor.Starck opened her eyes. This was more than madness. hitting Starck so hard that the navigator was hurled across the bridge. "Where we're going. "You'll see. Activation in T-minus ten minutes. stared at him. Weir had taken the same road that Kilpack had gone down. Miller? Can your mind truly fathom what a black hole is?" Sightless. black lines of thread clumsily zigzagging across his eyelids. stunning her. His eyes had been sewn shut. He smiled slightly. pristine text against a dark background: Gravity drive is now primed. He lowered the nailgun again. spreading his arms joyfully. "It's a liberating experience. "Your eyes . Something moved at the edge of the bridge windows. tapped pads. then shifting his aim to Miller's right eye. Miller started a lunge for the nailgun in Weir's hand. Miller thought. And if God is everything. The nailgun made a loud spitting sound. Displays lit up. "If you miss me. Absolute and eternal nothing." he whispered. stared past him. Weir moved like greased lightning.

Miller's nose was beginning to bleed. "Give me your hand!" he screamed.. slamming it down in the path of the pressure door. holding his other hand out to Starck. Weir seemed oblivious to the effects of what he was doing. Weir was picked up by the rush of escaping atmosphere. The temperature was dropping rapidly. losing her battle against the outrushing atmosphere. Behind him there was the sound of the nailgun firing and the smack of a nail going into the window.. Miller almost smiled. Miller turned around.bridge windows. He managed to grab hold of the door frame. Miller turned and ran. heedless of the glass chopping into his hands. cold enough now to form a layer of ice on . trying to grab hold of something. The Event Horizon had a lot of atmosphere to dump. reaching out. "Come on!" he yelled to Starck. the nailgun held out. The bridge window shattered. the pieces pouring outward with the atmosphere of the bridge. Weir turned to look at Miller. slamming into Weir's midriff. blood starting to stream from her nose. grabbing the first almost-loose item that he saw." she shouted back. Weir spread out like a starfish. Miller turned. hoping his voice would carry. Her hands were slipping and she was gasping for air. that was for sure. Miller could hear the glass creaking. but it was too late. Weir vanished. Cooper suddenly vanished from the window. buried up to the head. he yanked it loose. A web of minute cracks radiated out from the impact point. rising. With a yell of desperation. A gale plucked at Miller. some kind of compressor unit just outside the bridge. he leaned into the bridge. somehow getting hold of the shattered edges of the bridge window. The scientist flailed wildly. He started to haul himself back inside. slammed into the helm console and bounced up toward the shattered window as he flailed. hitting the deck and rolling through. clinging to the side of a console. bloody ice forming on his hands and face. The pressure door was moving. I can't. Cooper was a resourceful cuss. leaving behind a crystalline trail. One of the less secure bridge monitors ripped free of its mountings. Starck was conscious again. sailing towards the window. Straddling it and putting a hand on the door to help keep it propped open. Trailing bloody crystals. "Your hand!" Starck lunged toward him. trying to regain his grip. He stepped toward the window. trying to take him from his feet. "I. He closed his hand around hers. diving for the door. the nailgun falling from his hand and flying out of the window. pinning himself in place.

battered. screaming. As she came she kicked the compressor. pushing him. Cooper tumbled in. Their veins were bulging as the pressure continued to drop. cradling Starck. Miller crossed the Bay." Miller said. The winds died down. "The door. The door jerked forward in its track. opening a tool cabinet. moving slowly as it came in. Starck fell on top of him." Miller yelled. a Klaxon began to sound. his hands on his knees as he took a deep breath of . "Cooper!" Starck shouted. In the depths of the ship. but they had made it and Weir had not.their arms. pulling his helmet off. pulling her back with him into the corridor. The compressor pulled free. The pressure door slammed shut. and he rolled desperately. but there was no way of knowing yet. All Miller could see was a humanoid shape. "It'll cut you in half! Let go! Let me go!" "I'm not leaving you. She ran to him." Miller said. Starck looked like hell. frantically trying to remove his helmet. and he hauled back with all the strength he had left. "I'm not taking any chances. trying to get them up against a wall. crumpling the compressor slightly. opened the clasps. "It can't be him." The airlock hissed open abruptly. flew toward the window. drowning the pains in the rest of his body. coming to a stop." Starck said. He bent double. He had no idea what Weir might be capable of--for all they knew. He did not want to think about the level of capillary damage they were both experiencing. loosening it. deep in the nose of the ship. His lungs hurt beyond belief. Chapter Forty-six "The forward airlock. taking down a zero-g bolt-cutter. It made a more than adequate bludgeon. almost taking Miller's boot heel. It could be Cooper. hefting the bolt-cutter as he walked towards the airlock. The dim light was no help and the flashing light inside the airlock did nothing but confuse things. and half-frozen. They were alive. Miller gasped for breath. he might consider an involuntary unsuited spacewalk to be no more than lighthearted fun. They ran into the airlock bay." Starck yelled. making the best speed they could to Airlock Bay 4. "Stay behind me. They got to their feet.

Miller was grateful for that--Justin had been spared some of this insanity." Miller said. giving Miller an unwavering look. "We blow the corridor. separate it from the rest of We stay put--" "And the gravity drive goes where no man has gone before." Starck said angrily." he gasped. said: use the foredecks as a life boat. He straightened up. a display flashing. trying for another deep breath. the others following." "Will this shit work?" Cooper said. Activation: 00:06:43:01 "Weir activated the drive. "I'd rather be dead. He keyed in pulling up a schematic of the ship. Miller commands. "It's over." "Then we blow the fucker up. "Dr. Like Weir the ship. "Let me breathe. went over to the workstation. pointing. "You're okay now." "It's not over." Cooper said. "Can you shut it down?" "I don't know the process." Starck said. Chapter Forty-seven They entered the Gravity Couch Bay at a trot. "It worked for Weir. Miller stopped and turned." Starck said. Gravity drive engaged. He doubted anyone was in the mood for ironic comments. "How? The bridge--" "The bridge is gone. "What about Engineering?" Miller gave her a hard look. Weir was the expert. his eyes narrowing." Cooper said. looked back at Weir." Miller said." "I don't want to go where the last crew went. A workstation was active. We've got to shut it down. unperturbed by the recent events." ." Cooper must have been down to the wire when he started back. He did not smile.the dank air and started coughing. staring at him as though he had followed Weir into the mouth of madness." Miller said. Starck turned. "Prep the tanks. "let me breathe. I'm going to manually arm those explosives. Justin was still floating comfortably in his tank. Miller realized. "You prep the Gravity Couches." Cooper glanced at the workstation. "Blow it up?" Starck said. following Miller's look.

he dropped quickly to one knee. Reaching a coupling. watching the readouts to confirm the proper rate of gel flow into the tanks. It was a redundant check. In Medical and on the ruined bridge.." Starck stared at Miller for a long moment. as though trying to burn his face into her memory. He nodded at the hatch. She activated three of the empty Gravity Couches. but it still needed to be done. and a single switch. "Miller. checking each one. He took a deep breath and ran. they were in fine shape.. "I'll go with you--" "Just get those tanks ready. reaching down to pop the catches on the cover of an explosive charge. He smiled. "I'm gonna activate the emergency beacon. repeating the process. hurtling along it as though trying to break every sprinting record in the book. . All things considered.Starck stepped toward him.. confident tone and knowing that he was failing miserably. There was an unlit indicator on the charge. not now. So far so good. He made it to the central corridor in record time. They were almost out of time. moving toward the hatchway. He peered down into the access tube. knowing it to be false." he said. Cooper grabbed a flashlight from an open locker and pulled open a floor access panel. closing them again." he said. then turned back to her work. going over to the main workstation. Just in case. Leaving the cover off.. One of the switch positions was labeled MANUAL in bold letters. the bio-scans were going wild again. She watched him vanish. attempting a reassuring. opening them.. hurrying as much as he dared. "Hurry. He lifted the cover off. then sat down on the edge. Behind her. then reached to her right." Starck said." "Be right back. On this trip they did not need to worry about the state of the inertial dampers--they were unlikely to be picking up much in the way of thrust. Chapter Forty-eight Cooper and Starck went down the rows of Gravity Couches. checking the display panels. As long as everything worked in the life suspension systems. he went to the next charge. lowering himself into it. "Close it behind me. She stared at him for a moment longer." Cooper said. The hatch closed with a dull sound and he was alone. two of the tanks began to fill with green gel. and stepped through the hatch. she did not want to spend any time alone.

Something wet and sticky struck his shoulder. dripping at intervals. Another low thud. back from belowdecks. Before she could turn around. backing away. It had somehow been fused open. She screamed. Somewhere in the system. the Core darkened.off the scale. still grinning. He closed the panel and backed up. soaking into his flight suit. In the Second Containment. came for her. grinning at her. Working quickly. the sound came again. finally locating the breaker that controlled power to the emergency beacon. reaching out to the control spikes. shocked. . but Gravity Couches were not her area of expertise by far. Behind Starck. something thudded against the side of one of the Gravity Couches. working his way along the circuit panels. but the third was darker. Slowly. Two of the Gravity Couches had filled with green gel. muscle tissue flexing as he worked his jaw. He turned his head. The tank exploded in a torrent of glass shards and thick blood. there had been a fluid containment failure. but USAC would eventually pick up the distress beacon. trying to focus. She would have to drain the tank and activate another one. A face pressed up against the glass of the tank. There seemed to be something moving in the tank. The panel in front of him lit up like a bad night in Las Vegas. rippling as energy built up within it. still forming. She had never heard of this sort of gel breakdown before. looked up. but it could not be. startling her out of her focus on the workstation. he rigged a bypass. It would take hours yet. "Cooper!" she screamed. Reality ran like water. allowing the gel to degrade. the electronics distorting the data to try and make it fit within the parameters their designers had set. restoring power. She leaned toward the tank. Cooper crouched in the access tunnel beneath the Gravity Couch Bay. Weir. She stared for a long moment. more liquid. If she hadn't known better. trying to figure out what could have gotten into the fluid. Weir. she would have thought that the liquid was blood. she walked over to it. She expected to see Cooper. Dark lightning curled around it. the white of bone showing through. the skin incomplete. Weir's face had not finished forming yet. Blood was running in a rivulet along the ceiling.

you copy? Cooper?" He swore under his breath. marked with a red radio sigil. He turned. given that they were still within this solar system. He found an intercom panel. "Starck. came after him. he reached inside and removed a small radio detonator. and heat washed over him. Chapter Forty-nine Miller knelt. She was covered in blood. one red. . coming headfirst down the ladder like a gigantic spider. Carefully. Cooper saw raw muscle. Cooper bent to help her. "Repeat. He pressed the green button. The Hellhound had arrived. staring down at them. tried to get to her feet. moving cautiously to look upward. The corridor flared with red light. Cooper ran. Weir oozed into the vertical access. or to landfall on any seemingly hospitable planet. one green. almost catching herself on the ladder. staggering. This system had been built with fail-safes in mind. granting the possibility that the computer-controlled systems might be offline or destroyed. she's ready to blow. He hissed as he moved. There was a second switch inside the container. There were two buttons on the radio detonator." There was no reply from the intercom. "Run!" she screamed at him. "Starck?" he called. shoving him away. Starck fell. Red lights glowed through the gloom of the corridor.He started back toward the vertical access. keyed it. distorted tissue. "We're armed. Starck. far too much of it to be from one single person. The only thing he could do now was run like hell and hope he made it. Blood was splashing into the access tunnel. He was almost down at the First Containment now. A small cover popped open. He would be racing the clock to get back to the Gravity Couch Bay before the gravity drive activated. opening the last of the charges. losing her grip. rolled over. He flipped it. "Starck?" He reached the ladder. She landed awkwardly on the deck. flipping the switch. This was the important one. marking the location of the couplings." he said. we are armed. He looked up. In an emergency the Event Horizon's crew could have made it home to Earth.

spewing towards him. You stood there and did nothing. showering him with hot plastic and metal. and his shadow grew tall in front of him.The burning man had returned. darkening. flowing over the walls. a wall-to-wall holocaust. They were about out of time. I begged you to save me. The burning man pointed. fire flowing over the control spikes. shocked at the sight that greeted him. carefully. feeling the heat of the fire going past him. expecting to see his latest adversary. The main door to the Second Containment was closing. skinning his side on the door. The floor here was slick with coolant. Miller turned and ran frantically into the First Containment. He looked at the detonator in his hand. shaking his head. He looked up.. no matter what. his voice crackling and popping like flaring tinderwood." the burning man hissed. or in response to the flames." The voice crackled with anger and the flames brightened momentarily. liquid and swift. either in answer to the Core. He turned. over the surfaces. Fire poured around him. The door was not quite closed. covering his head. An alarm shrieked. .. fetching up hard. "Do you think I didn't want to?" "You abandoned me. afraid. The door was shut firmly now. "Corrick . pouring through the air. the ceiling. chasing him like something alive as he fled into the separator and toward the Second Containment. The flames were almost at his heels. She would get Cooper and herself taken care of. "I begged you. "You let me burn!" The flames were almost white as the burning figure howled. parts splashing into the coolant and ricocheting from the bulkheads and the door. dove headlong through the remaining gap. He pushed harder. He was afraid of where he was going. filling the corridor with fire from wall to wall. Flames gouted through the tiny opening. "You left me behind. Red light washed over him again. blocking Miller's escape. The paint on it bubbled with the heat from the other side. He rolled aside. the howl becoming a terrible scream of rage and accusation." Miller said. He slammed into the main workstation console." "I couldn't. The heat was threatening to suffocate Miller. "That's not true!" Miller screamed. He took an involuntary step backward. he had always expected that amends would someday be due. The Second Containment was a fury of fire. Miller stood up. Was there any hope that Corrick would ever understand? Did it matter? In his heart. and he regretted his reassurance to Starck." Miller said. and he could not get his balance. the floor. The console exploded.

Something cracked in Miller's side. his hair singed. He rolled over and pushed himself up. his clothes burning. now. There was a reptilian coldness there. The body was larger. Miller knew. "Weir?" he said. Facing the burning man. tasting foul. but all he found was me. The creature had some of Weir's form. humming with the power that was building. a look that spoke of millions of years. He fell into the coolant. His head went under the muck and coolant went into his mouth. "No! You're not Edmund Corrick. There had been just too much . "Look at me!" the burning man commanded. but this was not the Weir he knew. its color shifting through blazing white.." the creature said. a small. Long nails cut into his flesh and blood ran. too large. knew the truth. I know you're not. or at least some of the truth.The Core glowed cherry red. smashing it into Miller. Miller swung. losing the detonator as he struck the deck. forcing himself past his reactions.. The burning man was walking toward him." Without thinking. but it reeked of an alien nature that left Miller with a sense of horror that transcended anything he had ever felt. corrupt sun in the heart of chaos. The burning man swung his arm. The monster had eyes. because I saw him die!" The burning man stopped. The face was Weir's. but he was not fast enough. stunned. barely able . Miller tumbled and slid. sitting in the coolant. The burning man was beside him. "Well. Runes had been etched into Weir's forehead and cheeks. choking from the taste. Miller started to back away. what the fuck are you?" "You know what I am. misshapen. too deep. orange. William Weir stood before him now. "The poor fool. The creature hurled him away.. The Second Containment was dark. leaving only a ghost of heat. into a bulkhead. the coolant bubbling and steaming where his feet came down. The coolant had at least doused the flames on his clothes. spitting coolant out. The flames faded away. He was reaching for the heavens. Miller screamed as his fist was slowly crushed. "Don't leave me!" He turned toward the crackling voice. and he slid down. "Weir is gone." Miller stared. but its voice was remarkably like that of the scientist. They glittered green. but the skin appeared to have the texture of wood. trying not to vomit. but Miller was not having any of that now.. Miller shouted. a right cross that the creature caught easily.

saw them torn apart. The creature walked slowly toward him. "Do you see?" the creature whispered. He thrashed around again. dropped by either Smith or Peters. and Cooper had been crucified upside-down over the Core. He wished this would be over. blinking. He was drowning in blood and suffering. swirling through his mind. "What do you want from me?" He was weary." the creature said. long enough. destroyed from within and without. thrashing. "Respect. His hand struck something under the surface of the coolant. Starck. "No!" Miller cried. twisting. He reached down. Very soon. trying to break the contact. "They're not dead! You didn't get them!" "Not yet. grasping. too much of it for him to accept. then surged up. grasping his head." Miller screamed. Or did you think you could profane this place without it coming to my attention? Did you think you could come pounding on my door and I would not answer?" "Why don't you just kill me and get it over with?" Miller hissed. Miller came to his feet. The creature staggered back. "Kill you? I don't want you dead. He saw. shaking its head. endless. The visions surged back. found a familiar handle." It bent to look at him. The creature grinned. horrific. He sank beneath the coolant for a moment. "The reverence I deserve. crouching to face him. slamming it into the creature's head. blood dripping from their bodies. and this time his head came away from the creature's hands. trying to make the horror stop. I want you to live forever. Miller struggled." The creature reached out to him. "Soon. Miller writhed. "Do you see?" the creature asked. "Confess your sins to me. I feel the weight of Edmund Corrick's death inside you." Miller raised his head. The pain jarred him free of the cascade of images for a moment. "Leave them alone!" . In moments he saw the bloody fates of the original crew. bringing the CO2 scrubber up and around. too much to withstand. degraded. Just the opposite.to breathe. "Let me show you. Justin. Images cascaded through his mind. A CO2 scrubber. "I am your confessor. He could not break the creature's grasp. its parody of Weir's voice almost a caress." the creature said." "No!" Miller screamed. tilting its head.

He knew things were broken. "Hurts. The control rods were entering the Core now.. At this rate he would not last much longer. doesn't it?" Miller screamed at the creature. making it stagger. Hoping blindly. "You will struggle against me with every ounce of strength you possess . coolant washing over him. In a blur. The creature kicked out. The creature reached up." Miller lay in the coolant. All around. An improbably long tongue eeled out of its mouth. "I had forgotten how good that can taste. He swung the scrubber back and forth. Pale fire ripped through him. time to go. with all the force he could muster. swelling outward. Weir. lifting him. Miller closed his hand.. "I don't ask you to embrace me with blind faith. each blow sending the creature staggering back. getting to all fours. the others . "You should be flattered I've taken an interest in you. Pain flooded his body from head to foot. flinging him into the coolant. It's time." Beyond the creature. the control rods were moving. he thought.. filling the runes. "I will win you. He could not move. snapping the creature's head around. softly.. letting the fury take him over. "Yes. Miller slid again." it hissed. licking at the bloody runes on its face. A great deep rumbling filled the Second Containment." the creature said. He saw blood pouring from an open wound. Miller slammed into the deck. . revealing more runes. traveled down the length of its body. moaning." "Don't count on it. organs. trying to get to his feet. ripping it from Miller's hands. there had to be internal bleeding. But you will fight." Miller hissed through clenched teeth. scything. hard in the coolant. it had Miller." Will you now? Miller rolled over. pleased. He swung again. The creature stood over him. Dark fire flashed through the runes on the creature's face. pushing a bow wave of coolant ahead of himself. they were easy. His fingers touched something small. Darkness seemed to be filling the universe.He swung the scrubber again. ribs. The creature squatted over him. hurling it away. It smacked its lips. the Core was a deepening darkness. right up to the moment when you surrender to me willingly. intricately woven together. too. snatching the scrubber out of the air.

He could smell the stink pf its breath over everything else. The more profound your despair." The creature was folding its body into a kneeling shape by him. held it between their faces. smiling. The creature grasped Miller by the front of his flight suit." the creature said. And. Chapter Fifty Starck and Cooper were in a side corridor when the explosive charges went off. The creature came down to him. Through a red haze of pain. after all of it . growing stronger as the Core continued its progress. Miller glared into the hellish corruption of Weir's face." He pressed the second button. made it to a window. he said. "I will give you endless days of pain.. in the end.. He tried to rise again. screaming.. Reality had melted around the Core. "You want me to burn in hell?" Miller said. changing. Miller said. In the distance. you will thank me. the greater will be my pleasure." A surge of movement. "You want to take my soul? Sorry. "I see. It bent until its face was centimeters from Miller's. They got up again. choosing his destiny there and then. it's not for sale. unwavering. It was a mass of brilliant runes now. sending them both tumbling to the deck. so sorry. he thought. holding him in the air. "Do you see?" the creature said. "Go to hell. regretting nothing. The universe was being swallowed by the heart of this ship.Sorry. mistakes?" "I want to reward you for them. "immeasurable agony. along the control rods. Without irony." He raised his fist. He fell back into the muck. The Event Horizon seemed to lift and leap forward. and could not complete his movement." Miller said. pulling free. its humming reaching a crescendo. the walls shifting. becoming part of the Core's intolerable blackness.. still eye to eye. Starck. "Do you see?" "Yes." the creature said. vanishing. It was framed by the chaos that had been the Second Containment. The Core grew. Energy pulsed forth. lifting him from the coolant. The drive section of the Event Horizon had plunged into the atmosphere of . rippling along the surfaces of the walls. the Core swelled. "You want me to pay for .

his light shining into her face. all that was left was a dark gap in the cloudscape. They were witnessing a black hole forming and working. paused as it swallowed the main part of the drive section. Within a few moments. a whirlpool forming. no strength in her arms and legs. She leaned against the window while Cooper watched the place where the other half of the Event Horizon had been. Two males.. opened. She fell to the floor. some of its velocity leeched away by the separation of the foredecks. her heart breaking. She had known that Miller would not be returning. She struggled. knowing that her captain would not be coming back. "Miller. Three tanks were occupied.. The thing that had been Weir had suddenly abandoned its pursuit of the two of them. taking their chances that USAC would mount another rescue mission. They might well drift forever. growing. Suddenly. kicked. There were three of them. lost. She turned away. She could not speak. panicking. disgorged her. the bloody floor. one female. swallowing it up. wondering how she could have been seeing things outside of her body while she was unconscious in the tank. Neptune's clouds becoming ever more agitated the more the Schwarzschild radius contracted. Chapter Fifty-one Darkness. scenting more interesting game. finding the shattered tank. The astronaut bent to help her up.Neptune. and even that was being filled in as Neptune's winds worked to erase the scar. no matter how much of a brave face he had put on. The tank drained rapidly. The blue clouds were swirling around it. in full EVA gear. One of the astronauts approached Starck's tank. A black sphere was growing around the heart of the drive section. Three beams of light cut through the darkness. watching the clouds fill in the last place he had been. their lights playing over the interior of the Gravity Couch Bay." she whispered. Even more quickly. her eyes opened. They would have to get into the Gravity Couches soon. The black sphere expanded rapidly. She looked up. Starck touched the cold quartz of the window. the black hole shrank. .

is he ." He pulled his helmet off. "Cooper. it's me. reaching for her. Weir smiled at her. "You're all with us now. Her mind filled with thoughts of others. trying to break through her screaming. "Starck." "They're fine. Starck. everything going fine until she had opened her eyes and begun screaming for no reason that anyone could see. we're okay.. Justin . only that it had been traumatic in nature. She continued to scream. and had known it would always be with her. grabbing Starck's shoulders. onto a bio-stretcher... The rescue tech ministering to her turned around. -END- . to comfort her.." Cooper said. gently. we're okay . come on now." he said. "You're with us. No one in the rescue team had a clue as to what had taken place here. "We need a sedative here!" Cooper." he said.. pushed the rescue tech aside. who had decanted in nothing more than his birthday suit and had yet to put on a stitch of clothing. undogged his helmet. yelling. ." But she had seen the face of the beast. softly... it's okay. his eyes strange and alien."You're safe now.. they're with us. "It's me. She began to scream." The astronaut reached up. his darkened face covered with runes. trying to get through to her. They had emptied the second tank and gotten the woman.

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