"The boys have to go into the stasis pods." Red's own stomach growled loudly in answer. T shook his head vehemently and Alt only shrank down into his seat.
The situation wasn't good. They'd gotten off world with a ship but no food. Even the gruel back in the prison sounded good compared to nothing.
"I don't suppose you have a way to get us out of this." Dag smirked. He had crossed his arms and even cold reality didn't dampen his sense of humor.
"I didn't really think this far ahead," Red laughed even as his stomach growled demanding to be heard.
Ember stood off to the side, disconnected completely from her ship. Her cheeks glowed pink as she listened. She would survive no matter what.
The Ember was hovering around Atiria, a small class 3 star that in another billion years was due to go supernova. But for now, it's radiation was perfect for energizing the engines of Ember's vessel and through it herself. It happened to be the closest star for fill up which made it both dangerous and necessary. Thus far no other ships had pulled up alongside them demanding their surrender so in Ember's perspective they were safe for now. She kept the channels open for anything even as she listened to Red and Dag speak.
"I'm ok with the boys going into stasis," Dag started. "But how long till we can get to New Elysium?"
"Two weeks," Ember stated flatly, no emotion in her voice. It was just the facts, as much as she hated saying it. "And that's on a high burner."
Red nodded, running his hand through is hair, a habit of his whenever he was trying to solve a problem. "What's in this sector? Any place we can stop?" Any place where they wouldn't ask questions? The unspoken question hung in the air. It had been years since Red had any contact with the outside world. He had no idea if any of the people he'd run with were still on the outside. Let alone still running around. He had no idea what was out there now to scan him, catch, how far technology had come or fallen.
He hated being in the dark. He at least had a direction. T, he would get that kid to New Elysium, where someone could fix his spine. That much he could do and from there? He didn't know.
New Elysium seemed like a promise of something, but until he knew the situation? Better to lay low. Extremely low…
"Outer worlds," He started. "They probably still have a few augs running around, may even have security."
"They're always years behind catching up to the latest technology," Dag caught his train of thought. "I bet they even still have neuro-links we can use. They probably still work." Dag uncrossed his arms and looked at the boys. "First things first. Boys, into stasis, less mouths the better. Believe me, you are getting the better end of the deal here."
"I've been in stasis before." T held out a hand to his friend who shook his head. Alt's eyes wheezed as he zoomed in and out, a noise Red was coming to associate with panic from him.
"I'm going in with you. And we'll both come out at the same time." Alt nodded.
Ember moved over and hugged both boys. "See you guys the other side." She said, smiling. These two she would at least get to New Elysium, all of them would make it. Dag noted the sudden tension in the room and hustled the boys out.
Red stared at the floor for a moment. The truth was there was nowhere on the ship he could escape Ember. She didn't have to physically be in the room with him, but once connected every part of it hummed with her presence.
"Red," she started. Ember couldn't understand the reluctance he had to even look her way. She had wondered if some of it was his old prejudices against Neo-Tokyo returning but then dismissed that idea. He wouldn't have worked so hard to get her out. She still hadn't told him she could hear him when he was hefting her around like a rag doll. She wanted to talk about it, but realized that he didn't want to, or couldn't yet.
"I'm going to run a system's check," he glanced up at her and then quickly away.
"Wait," She started but he was already out of galley before she could say anything more. She sank down into the chair and drew her knees up, wrapping her arms around them.
Red escaped into the small hallway and wandered towards the pilot's chamber. He probably should have gone to his quarters but he was pretty damn sure Ember would have followed him there to talk. Talking was the last thing he wanted to do. He focused on the problem at hand, realizing that they did indeed need to talk and that was about the closest outer world they could get to. Crap. He started to move back towards the galley. Peering inside he noticed Ember sitting alone in the one of the chairs eyes staring at nothing. Remotely connected to the ship she probably knew he was coming back towards her before he'd made it into the galley. He steeled himself, focusing on the problem at hand and not whatever it was he knew she wanted to bring up.
"Thank you." Ember stared at her hands for a moment. "Why did you help?"
Red glanced at her sharply. "Did you want to let it go on?"
"No." She was silent a moment. "If I had been anyone else...would it have?"
That conversation bloomed into his mind before he could stop it. The moment he'd stopped Karik from raping her in the prison, when he'd learned an ugly truth about himself. He's stopped caring. Stopped feeling, and a glimmer of hope that escape might be possible had shown up and he'd reached out and grabbed it without regard for many of the others that were in the prison. He'd been desperate, he'd taken the few he'd really cared about and left the rest. Hell, he would have left Ember too if she hadn't been so damn selfless.
He didn't deserve to be here, let alone in the same room with Ember.
"Hey, we need to figure out where we're landing," he started, still staring at the floor.
"I told you not to take it with you." The words were low and quiet and enough to tear down the wall he'd been building up brick by brick. Just like that the guilt roared up inside of him before he could stop it. A tidal wave that refused to be denied. He sank into the nearest chair.
"I don't— "
"The hell you don't know what I'm talking about." She got up and moved closer, Red still stared at the floor. "Look at me, Red. Look at me!"
Red, breathing hard dared a glance up at her face. "I told you not to take it with you," She repeated.
Red's anger flared, he stood up and for the first time in days looked at her. "What do you know about it. You were right, if you weren't essential to the plan I wouldn't have interfered. That doesn't make me any better than Karik." He'd said it out loud. Even with his outburst, she stared at him, her expression never changing.
"But you hate yourself for it." She whispered.
"I left all those other people," He sank down to the floor again. "I could have saved more and I was too worried about getting a few out, there were so many more…" His shoulders shook. "I'm not any better than Karik," he said again to himself.
Ember was at his side in an instant. She sat next to him and put her own back against the wall. "When I was flying, we were ordered to strike on New Caledonia."
Red listened as he stared straight ahead. Ember didn't look at him as she spoke. "What happened? I barely remember that…incident."
"Rioters on the streets? People plotting to strike from New Caledonia into the heart of Neo Tokyo?" Ember laughed. It sounded bitter. "New Caledonia was a peaceful community. They had a few unrest issues but nothing compared to what the media said. We were ordered to blow it up. And that was after they had us spend a few days there while the higher ups were deciding what to do." Her voice caught. "Innocent men, women, and children because an example had to be made somewhere and they decided on a new settlement with the smallest population. They had done nothing. Nothing. Wrong."
Ember inhaled. "And we did it." She turned to look at him. "So, I know what it's like to feel the guilt, and what it's like to say never again am I going to let that happen."
Red was staring at her now. Their close contact comforting, even if the stories they were sharing were gut wrenching. "And did you?"
Ember stared at her lap. "I never got the chance to say no. The purge happened, I found out my brother died… The elites got jumpy."
They both stared at the space in front of them, in companionable silence. Red popped up. "New Caledonia? Did they strip it after they blew it?"
Ember furrowed her brows in confusion as she followed him to her feet. "Not that I know of…why?"
"So how long do those food packs last?" Red started walking to the pilot's chambers.
"Coordinates are set. You realize this is a long shot, right?" Ember followed, noting their reserves were full, they could take off at any moment.
The ship shuddered as the engines kicked in. The artificial gravity on the ship stalled for a moment and Red was suddenly tempted to turn it off. A hard lesson learned after years of exploring space, kids growing up in low to no-grav could no longer step foot on a planet's surface. Their elongated limbs had a spindly look, reminiscent of the slender man bed time story. Every ship now had its own artificial gravity system in place. Humans needed it, period.
Dag burst in on them as they made their way towards the pilot's chamber. "Kids are in bed." Dag responded to Red's questioning look. "Did you two kiss and make up?"
"Sort of." Red glanced over at Ember, who only shrugged. Her cheeks were pink and Red lifted an eyebrow and then completely forgot about it as he filled Dag in.
"It's a long shot."
"Fuck, you two are like echoes of each other." Red snapped glancing between the two of them.
"Great minds," Dag tapped his head with his metal arm.
"They might have something there we can use. The surface is clean, breathable, no jumpsuits required."
"Unless there's radiation." Ember stood near the entrance to her own chamber and turned lifting her shirt as the metallic arms that connected her to ship snaked out and snapped into her back. She rose like an androidial angel and pushed into her own chamber where she too could recharge.
"Buzzkill!" Red called after. He got smile in response.
"Seriously, you didn't kiss and you know?" Dag's voice had dropped to a whisper.
Red shot Dag a look. "It's not like that between us."
"Whatever." Dag sat in a chair behind Red as he watched Red scan the screen. They could see Ember floating in her room and making turns while suspended. The ship copied her every move. Red watched for a moment and then turned his attention to space. It would take them a day to get to New Caledonia, he was going to be starving then. He hoped something would be there. They would at least have water.
He turned his attention back to Dag. The bigger man was still staring at him expectantly like he had a good story to tell. "Nothing happened," he snapped. At least nothing that he was going to talk about it. The truth was, he'd been close to reaching over and doing just what Dag had suggested, until the idea that there might be something left in New Caledonia popped into his mind. Survivor's guilt be damned…if they weren't in dire straits, it was the worst time to have a good idea.