Excerpt for Gemini: A Story of Brothers by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Bedard Gemini







For Matt,

Run like hell.

Chapter 1: Reunion

Going home the long way wasn’t the plan.

The time it had taken me to reach the wormhole from Earth and then Io from the wormhole had felt like forever, and that had only been a couple of days at the most. Now we were talking five months. Two to get to Mars and another three to get back home.

At least it was sort of working in my favour. I’d always wanted to try a gravitational assist, or “slingshot maneuver” as some people liked to call it. It hadn’t been easy since…well, how the hell would I know exactly how to do the slingshot maneuver with Io? I was lucky to manage it at all or that we were even on the right side to cut the entire thing in half, let alone get it right the first time, but I guess at one point or another, advanced math actually becomes useful in life. Really, I was just thankful for how far space technology had come by the time this whole thing happened. If it had been thirty years ago and the shuttle wasn’t running on a Galileo-style engine, I’d be an old man be the time I made it back home.

Okay, I’d actually be twenty-seven, but you get it, right?

Once I’d gotten the shuttle far enough from Io, Cody finally woke up. He coughed a little bit, letting the sulfur dioxide from his helmet leak escape his lungs before he took in a few well-deserved heaves of oxygen.

“Hey, sport.” I said. “You feelin’ alright?”

“Wha…Tom?”

I couldn’t really blame him for not looking ecstatic to see me. We weren’t on bad terms or anything, but thanks to that last big fight I’d had with my parents, I hadn’t seen any of them in over a year. That wasn’t to say I hadn’t stayed in contact with him. We sent e-mails back and forth whenever we could, kind of helped by the fact that he was just as interested in my work as I was.

Well, as interested in my work as I was until I got booted out for several reasons. “Impulsive, irresponsible, a danger to himself and his crewmates” were the three I remembered most. Tell you the truth, everything would’ve been fine had I not wandered off the last time I was on the Moon, stumbled over a huge rock and cracked my visor. To be fair, though, that was probably the scariest thing that had ever happened to me at that point. Had my co-pilots not gotten the lander going and grabbed me, I probably would have been dead in a matter of minutes.

That had really been all Carlie needed to get the agency to suspend me for three years at the most, and when you’re an astronaut like me and you’re stuck on Earth and not even allowed to think about your job, you need to take up alcoholism to avoid going completely insane…really. Not joking. Earth is that boring.

“How did you…” Cody started, but coughed one more time and lost his train of thought. “Never mind…where are we?”

“About two months from Mars.” I said. “And just for the record, you’re never going to space again.”

I expected him to put up a fight, and he did, but it was almost like he agreed with me to some extent. Nearly losing one’s life to something one loves has that effect, I suppose.

“Says you.”

“Yeah, says me. The guy who busted his ass flying through a wormhole to pick his little brother up off of freakin’ Io. Talk to Carlie. She’ll tell you the same thing.”

Carlie. The reason I was even out of the agency to begin with, and also the reason I was able to get back in on such short notice. I don’t want to sound sour when talking about her, but life is harsh and so was she at some pretty inconvenient times, and she clearly felt the need to beat me over the head with it when her face flickered onto the monitor.

“Tom. Status report. Do you have Cody?”

“He’s here. He’s a bit dazed, but he’ll be alright.”

She nodded, and I could see her breathe a sigh of relief. I expected as much. The most irritating thing she’d ever said to me was that she cared more about Cody’s safety than I did.

“Okay, good.” she said. “I’ll be sure to let the higher-ups know. They’re trying to cover up sending you alone to handle it.”

Carlie had originally arranged for me to take a few other astronauts along to hopefully make things smoother, but the agency wasn’t willing to waste a ton of money on a rescue mission for a single missing person. Granted, that had been their fault in the first place, but that was beside the point.

“Anyway,” she said. “Get back to the wormhole as fast as you can.”

“Uhh…funny story about that.”

“You missed it, didn’t you?”

The wormhole that brought me here (and just so happened to be the reason Cody was this far from home) was Plan A for the return, but lo and behold. It had been steadily breaking down over the few days it took me to reach it from Earth and get through it. By the time I landed on Io and got Cody out, it had faded away as though it were never there at all. Where did it come from? Why had it lasted just long enough to go and dash my hopes of getting home faster?

The powers that be decided to have a laugh, I suppose. It is kind of ironic that I’m a theist and a scientist (to some extent), but one could accurately claim I believe in a god only when it’s convenient for me. Now was not one of those times.

Carlie turned her attention from me and smiled at Cody. I really couldn’t believe I was getting jealous of my younger brother at that moment, but there it was and here I was starting to regret being desperate for female attention a little while back.

“Hey, Cody. How’re you doing?”

“Well…not sure I’m ever gonna go back to space again, but other than that, fine.”

Carlie laughed and so did I, but I could tell he was serious. It wasn’t just him submitting to me, either. This had hands-down been the worst few weeks of his life, and the further he got from the source, the better. About that time, the control manager slid into view with a smile on his face.

“Our man of the hour?” he asked.

“Yeah, Owen.” said Carlie. “This is Cody.”

“Good to meet you, Cody. I’m Owen Uldrin. I manage the control center…and, uh, for the sake of full disclosure, I advised against your brother being the one to get out there and save you. Feel free to like me a little less. He already does.”

Cody shot me a look that everybody always gave me. It was the kind of look that made assumptions based on the fact that I was 6’2” and almost two hundred pounds. Being a scientist apparently didn’t prevent people from thinking I might have been a high school bully.

“He didn’t stick you in the jaw, did he?” Cody asked. “Last time somebody told him he couldn’t go somewhere, he just about knocked the guy’s teeth out.”

“Nah. He still made time to threaten me, though.”

I sighed. So it was a tag team now, was it? I guess I could give him credit for handing me a chance to apologize to him since I’d been wanting to after thinking it over.

“Uhh…listen, Owen, about that…”

“Don’t worry about it. Familial concerns do that kind of thing to people.” he said before he looked back at Cody with a strong show of interest. “But to business. Cody, this is mainly so we can take necessary precautions for any future voyages, but could you tell me exactly what happened to you?”

We sat back as interested as could be as he let it all out. Granted, we got no definitive answers as to what really happened, not like he’d have any, but hey. At least now we knew him getting stranded on Io was 75% his own fault. The other 25%? Everybody else for letting him go there in the first place.

“We were getting out in a hurry because of these earthquakes that were going on. The other astronauts said it was because one of the volcanoes was about to go off and we didn’t wanna get caught in the blast radius. I went to the cargo hold to make sure it was secure, but I forgot to tell them where I was going, and then the ship started shaking and…well, y’know.”

“I see. And we narrowed the possible causes of the cargo hold’s separation to an EMP. You know what that is, right?”

“An electromagnetic pulse. Yeah, I’m familiar with them. But if it was an EMP, wouldn’t the entire rocket have shut down? I’m no expert, but that can’t be all there is to it. And it wouldn’t have torn a big chunk off of the ship, anyway, right?”

Owen smiled like he’d just won the lottery, and so did I.

“Kid knows his stuff. You’re on the right track. An EMP wouldn’t shut the rocket down. Tamper with it and maybe even cause a brief engine failure, but it otherwise wouldn’t do a lot to it. We really thought of everything when designing the shuttles.”

“Except losing the cargo hold with someone still inside, apparently.” I muttered.

“You.” Carlie sighed. “Zip it.”

Cody and Owen laughed while I groaned in disgust. What was it with Carlie and making me look like a tool every three seconds? My anger was short-lived when Cody looked like he’d thought of something crazy. Looking up, his tongue pressed to his cheek, his forehead wrinkled. I’d seen it enough times to know what it meant, and it looked like Owen had the general gist of it, too.

“What’s wrong, Cody?” he asked.

“You guys probably know more about this stuff than me, but…y’know, the wormhole, the EMP. Where’s an EMP supposed to come from on Io?”

“You’re thinking they’re both deliberate sabotage?”

Cody shrugged. I guess even he thought it was ridiculous, but Owen had his hand raised to his mouth and his eyes full of curiosity.

“You might be on to something there, Cody.” he said. “First off, yeah. Where’s an EMP supposed to come from on Io? And judging from one expertly removed piece of a top-of-the-line shuttle…yeah, deliberate sabotage wouldn’t be that bad of a theory. Who’s to say there isn’t life out there wanting to establish contact with us?”

Carlie sighed with the trademark snarky look that she usually reserved for me (a condescending half-smile with a raised eyebrow) and said “Or your inner Star Wars fanboy has his talking head on.”. I guess I wasn’t that special anymore, but at least I now wasn’t the only one to receive her special brand of scorn. Owen scratched at the back of his head, making the same conclusion that I did and deciding retaliation wasn’t worth it.

“Well…yeah. Yeah, maybe…listen, I gotta check on some things. Tom, can you do a basic checkup on Cody and make sure he’s doing alright? We’ll see you when you get back.”

Time for my sweet yet subtle revenge.

“When or if?”

“When. What’s with the sudden self-doubt?”

“Hey, you haven’t exactly had a lot of faith in me, so…”

“Just do the damn checkup, please.”

I smirked while Carlie shot me the trademark look and Owen walked off-screen. It was childish, but worth it just for those few seconds. I flicked out a flashlight and got Cody to follow it with his eyes, then grabbed a cuff to check his blood pressure, then tapped him on the back and listened for any possible fluid buildup in his lungs. He coughed again, this time sounding a bit more strained and phlegm-filled, but otherwise, he checked out fine.

“He’s good.”

“Okay.” said Carlie. “Let us know if anything changes…what?”

I’d been staring at her a bit longer than was comfortable by the sound of it. It wasn’t anything important; just remembering all the other times I’d been talking to her this way. The ice hadn’t been as thick, then. It wasn’t very thick now, to be fair, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t still cold and unforgiving.

I damned myself every time I had looked at her since that day I came home from my big Moon accident. That had somehow been my day of perpetual stupidity and selfishness. I wandered off and nearly got myself killed, and before that…

“Nothing. See you in five months.”

I really wasn’t worthwhile to her at all. Not anymore.

She looked like she had something else to say as her mouth open and closed a tiny bit every few seconds, all while she was trying her best to avoid eye contact with me. All that eventually came out was “Yeah…sure…” before she shut the monitor off. I knew I’d messed that moment up the second she reached for the power switch, and it was pretty clear Cody was thinking the same thing when I turned around and saw him smirking at me with a raised brow. As much as I hated to admit it, my little brother had a knack for perception. If he wanted to find something out about someone, he could just say anything, read their expression, and have it in an instant.

And I certainly wasn’t doing a good job keeping myself hidden from him.

“Yeah…soooooo…” I started.

“You really can’t get along with anyone but me, can you?”

Even that was a stretch at that point.


Chapter 2: Reconnection

As those long months back to Earth went by, I often found myself looking out the window at everything in the infinite space. No human being had ever been out this far into space, and I doubted one ever would for a while after this whole wormhole fiasco, so why not take in the view? The second we landed, I’d officially be back on suspension and wouldn’t see anything like this for God knew how long.

But what was I wasting my time with that for? I had family on board. Family I’d been estranged from for way too long, which finally addressed the elephant in the room: what in the world was I supposed to say to Cody? The last time I’d seen him, he needed my help getting his bike out of the mud. Now here he was looking like…well, an eleven-year old version of me. A much snarkier one that reminded me way too much of my ex-girlfriend who I wasn’t even sure wanted anything to do with me. Sure, he liked what I did, but did he still like me after I’d spent all that time away from him?

The bullet wasn’t going to bite itself. As soon as Cody did his second series of zero-gravity spirals, I drifted my way towards him. I was surprised to already find a smile on his face that lit up when I knocked a bottle of orange pop his way and grabbed my own as it floated by my ear.

“Thought I’d sneak that on with me.” I said. “That’s still your favourite, right?”

“You know it.” he said, bursting out laughing when I failed to realize my drink had shaken up quite a bit and the results smacked me in the face and even went a little ways up my nose.

“Not funny, man. That’s like that training exercise in the free-falling airplane. You know what happens when you puke in zero-gravity? It comes back and splats all over your face.”

“Hey, I had to do that crap, too, you know. They didn’t hand me a spacesuit and say ‘Off you go to the final frontier’.”

“Christ, they may as well have said that. The new director is all about cutting costs wherever it’s necessary. I swear he’d have just left you for dead if he wouldn’t have been pretty much charged with manslaughter.”

“And you’d probably kick his sorry ass into next Tuesday.”

“Where’d you learn to talk like that?”

You know what I was just saying about him reminding me too much of Carlie? That couldn’t have been truer when he blasted me with her trademark look. Just the thing I needed when my face was already dripping wet and I was ready to sneeze up a liter of cola.

“Please tell me you’ve got something we can actually dick around with.” Cody spoke up once he’d stopped laughing. “I honestly can’t take another long space cruise with nothing but the wall keeping me busy.”

“Another? Was the trip with the other guys that bad?”

“Yeah, it actually kinda sucked. I wasn’t allowed to do anything while I was with them. I mean, they didn’t care if I hung around while we were going because that’s pretty much what they were doing, but my teacher kept calling to make sure I was taking notes and crap.”

“You serious?! That’s Jorgenson, right?”

“Yeah! I get the chance of a lifetime and she turns it into a freakin’ project that I gotta present to my class! Bet you anything I still gotta do it when we get back despite me almost dying back there!!!”

“Hey, you think that’s bad? She caught me passing a note to my friend Becca once and started giving me a five minute speech about why that was wrong in front of everyone, and you know how I feel about stuff like that.”

The short answer: I didn’t like it. At all. You patronize me, I stick you in the jaw…well, in that case, I actually just stood up and left the room. I got detention for a week, but it was worth it, and it was worth telling the story to Cody when I saw him crack a smile and then burst out laughing when I told him about walking out. He burst into another fit of coughing as he laughed, this time getting a blob of phlegm out of his throat.

“Jeez, man, watch it!” I said as I launched myself away from it. “That thing’s not gonna go away on its own!”

He went ahead and yuked it up at me again while I guided his spew to the nearest air vent and let it get sucked away. I knew whoever would end up cleaning out the ventilation when we got back would find it and all the other crap that got sucked down there and maybe confront me about it, but really, what was the alternative? Letting it float around and splattering on my face while I was sleeping.

“But seriously, you got anything we can pal around with?” Cody asked.

I did, throwing him the nearby game controller and booting up Halo on the monitor. Carlie had already warned me twice about playing video games on the screen she used to contact me, but put yourself in my boots for a second. You’re stuck on a spacecraft for at least a couple months. You’re in zero gravity so you can fulfill your dreams of flying around like Superman…for about five minutes, and then it gets boring. You start looking out the window at the stars, which look pretty sweet…for about five minutes, and then that gets boring. Then you grab the nearest ball-shaped object and start bouncing it off the walls and trying to redirect it back into your hand, which is actually kind of fun…and you know what happens after five minutes. Then you look at the air lock and ponder on how that valve opening the door to cold empty space is starting to look real friendly.

…okay, I made that last one up, but you get what I’m saying! And really, how appropriate was it that of all the games I brought on board, Halo was the one I always landed on at the end of the day? You know what else was appropriate? That Cody kicked my ass without even trying. I may have been training myself up over the past few days, but Cody lived and breathed this game. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was part of the reason he made this career choice so early in his life.

And then I kept thinking that over and over again whenever he managed to sneak up behind me and whack me over the head with the energy sword and then proceed to do that certain thing that people don’t like happening to them in first-person shooters. The same thing I’d been thinking before Cody had managed to clear the tension.

“Cody…are Mom and Dad still mad at me?”

He paused the game and opened and closed his mouth a few times over the next few moments. Not a good sign. I’d been feeling sorry about everything long after it happened, but with how long I’d spent away from my parents combined with how I had barely spoken with Cody in that time, I had a terrible feeling the wounds hadn’t healed. Carlie possibly venting to them about me probably hadn’t helped matters much…or at all.

He seemed about ready to finally give me an answer that would rip my heart’s separate chambers apart when the voice of Lady Buzzkill herself rang out from the screen.

“They’re not proud of you for acting like a jackass, I’ll say that much.”

“Excuse me, but how is it you know more about my family than I do?” I spat when I switched the game off and Carlie’s face popped up in its place.

“You’ve got nobody to blame for that but yourself, sport.”

She found new ways to get under my skin every time she saw me. First it was that damn stupid look, then it was constantly reminding me that she was four years older than me as if that actually meant something. She didn’t even act her age that often, making that little quip even more irritating.

And then came the more obvious bit: “What did I tell you about playing video games on the call monitor?”

“Coming from one who has never been in an isolated chamber in space for several days because she’s too scared to fly in a damn passenger plane.”

“And you wonder why I got you suspended. Has anything changed on Cody’s end?”

Cody’s next nasty-sounding cough answered her well enough. She bit her lip and looked like she had a fair amount of concern welling up, but dismissed it for now.

“Doesn’t sound too good. Did you do another check-up?”

“Yeah. It’s just a cold from the looks of it. No symptoms of anything else so far.”

“Don’t count anything out. There’s no telling what all that sulfur oxide might have done to him.”

“Done to him? So what it might have done to me isn’t important all of a sudden?”

“There’s a time in every man’s life when he learns he isn’t the center of the universe. Clearly you’ve yet to reach that time.”

What a shame the time of words hurting me hadn’t come to an end. Even if it was just a joke and I deserved every bit of it considering our rocky history and how it was about 85% my fault, you can’t honestly tell me that wasn’t just plain mean, which begged the question of whether or not the situation could get even more uncomfortable for me.

Then I remembered that my brother was twelve years old and had every excuse to make fun of me.

“Bro, you walked right into that.” he laughed. “You know you did.”

“Seriously?” I asked, shooting him a betrayed look. “My little brother isn’t gonna back me up when my ex-girlfriend’s stabbing me in the back?”

“Hey, that’s what happens when you get caught in a web of your own bullshit.”

And that was what it was like as all that time started to go by. Cody and I would goof around, play video games, get scolded at by Carlie, and then I’d have to listen to a half hour of them making jokes at me. Every once in a while, Owen would pop up and ask how Cody was doing, not really caring what we were fiddling around with as long as we didn’t get sucked out the air lock. I found it ironic that the guy I’d wanted to stick in the gut the first time I met him was easier for me to talk to than a girl I’d known all through university. But you know what was worse than that? Having my own brother go from being happy with me one minute to cracking middle school- style jokes at me the next. If you don’t know what a middle school joke is, it’s basically how most twelve-year olds act like insensitive pricks even if they aren’t really like that, thus making jokes they think aren’t mean, but are really terrible things to say to someone.

On the one hand, Cody continued to surprise and impress me with how witty he’d become in the few years I’d been away from him, and it did do my heart good to see that he was basically a mini version of me. But on the other hand, he was still my brother, and hearing how willing to tease me he was (while funny at first) started to really wear thin and eventually suck all the fun I thought I’d have with him. Soon enough, it was back to the same shit. I left him alone to goof around as he pleased while I got work done around the shuttle. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to look at Carlie’s face anymore or hear her voice. I left it to Cody to answer the calls, using the excuse that I was busy checking the fuel and circuitry and all that. Sometimes I actually was, but most of the time I was just hiding in the background, wondering what I’d done to deserve this. Everyone I used to love now either ignoring me or making me the butt end of a joke. My own parents wanted nothing to do with me, and though I couldn’t really blame anybody but myself, it still stung, especially when I knew Carlie still had it in with them and was indirectly rubbing it right in my face.

“What, is he avoiding me or something?” she finally asked Cody about the third time he tried to make the excuse work.

No shit, I thought to myself as I stayed out of range of the screen. If she caught even a single smidge of me out of the corner of her eye, I was screwed.

“He’s busy checking the cargo hold.” Cody said.

“He’s been ‘checking the cargo hold’ for like the past three times I’ve called. I know he’s getting you to cover for me, Cody. Tell him if he’s a man, then he’ll…”

That tore it for me and I finally nudged Cody out of the way. The first thing I saw was that stupid look that I was just sick of seeing by now, and I watched with hidden satisfaction as it faded into a confused frown the second she got a look at my snarling face.

“Dude, what got up your ass?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing. Just my ex-girlfriend and my little brother ridiculing me behind my back for days on end while I’m stuck in a damn air-tight container millions of miles from home. I’m just peachy. How about you?”

“I’m listening to my ex-boyfriend bitch and moan about his situation, thinking he’s Han Solo and can get girls to fall at his feet by acting like a total jerk. Does that count for anything?”

“It would if you’d answer me one thing. Why in the hell are my parents staying in contact with you and completely ignoring me?”

“Your craving for attention is showing, number one. Number two, have you ever actually tried getting in touch with them? I talk to them because I like them and they like me. Of course, if you’d stop being a big man-child every once in a while, you’d all probably be on good terms right now.”

Goddammit, there she went. That stupid condescendence that made my blood boil like hot water. I got it from everybody at some point, and I’d definitely got it the most from her. It was honest to God like she was asking me to jump through the monitor like it was a window and slap her across her smirking face. I’d settle for words, though.

“Better a youthful man-child than a rotten old bag, at least.” I snarled.

“Oh, that’s real mature, sport.” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Or did you already forget you used to sleep with said ‘rotten old bag’?”

“Yeah. When she was there.”

That set her off in the exact way I was expecting. She sputtered for a few moments, looked over her shoulders to make sure no one would be paying attention to her, then turned back to me with an admittedly scary glare and flat-out blew her top. Even Cody sensed it judging from how he bolted out of the screen’s range the second he got a good look at Carlie’s face.

“Really? You’re still sour over that? Something that by the way was more your fault anyway?!”

“Oh, I’m sorry! Everything is supposed to be about me but only when it’s regarding something bad, is that it?! Might as well make me a verbal bulls-eye as long as I’m millions of miles from home, right?!”

“Grow up, you big pansy!!! You’re twenty-four years old, not seven, and the sooner you realize that, the less I’ll regret ever getting with you in the first place!”

I didn’t know if she really meant that, nor did I care. I always regretted acting like I deserved the last word in every argument I ever had. Petty crap like that was the reason I hadn’t sorted things out with my mom and dad or why Cody seemed more distant from me than ever. Or indeed why a girl I thought had been the one at some point was now questioning my manhood and effectively calling me a worthless kid without actually saying it. I knew I’d regret it this time, too, but that didn’t stop me from deciding that this conversation was over.

“You know what, I’m just gonna shut this off now.”

“Dammit, Tom, don’t you dare!!!”

Too late. I slammed the switch as hard as I could and shut the communication link off. The alert beeped a couple of times as Carlie furiously tried to boot up and start screaming at me again, but I just floated there glaring at it until it finally stopped. The tense silence afterward was only broken by Cody deciding to get one last bitter punch in before I left the building.

“Sheesh, just like an old married couple…” he said.

In the most disgusted tone I could muster up, I replied “Might as well be…”, and then floated away to the cargo hold to take inventory. Now, despite all the middle school cracks and him basically getting along better with everyone than I could and rubbing it in my face, I hadn’t once let any bit of my anger out on Cody. Part of me still thought I deserved it for not being there for him in the past little while, and another part of me knew he didn’t deserve getting snapped at after he’d just barely gotten off of Io alive. Keeping that in mind, I floated off and kept working, eventually managing to settle myself down and even start to enjoy my work again.

Regardless of that, the next few days that passed with that outburst still fresh in my mind and his, Cody wouldn’t say two words to me or even look at me. Anytime we came close to making eye contact, he looked away, and he was really good at hiding his emotions about certain things. Under normal circumstances, if there was something in his mind that he didn’t want to share or feel, he’d take it with him to his grave. Most kids his age were fidgety or nervous whenever they tried to hide something, but he’d managed some pretty impressive fakes in his time. I still remember him getting a bad grade on a social studies test a few years back and managing to keep a lid on it for the rest of the year.

But things were different now. We were different now, and now I knew that whoever said that change is a good thing never had to live with their estranged little brother in a rocket for months on end. And that was ignoring the fact that his nasty cough was not only still there but steadily getting worse with each passing day.

Cody wouldn’t go anywhere near the monitor anymore even when it was sounding off to let us know Carlie or Owen was trying to get through to us. When the noise started to get on my nerves, I finally drifted over to the panel and disabled the communication line, hoping that would be the last annoying thing I’d run into for a while.

“Oh, Jesus, what now?” I growled.

The moment I’d cut the line, the monitor started to glitch out. I whacked it around a little bit since that’s exactly what you do to a piece of tech that costs more than a car to repair, but no dice. I threw up my arms as the screen kept flashing and moved to turn it off when it seemed to do exactly, only to start flashing blue again moments later. So it was playing around with me now? Great. Another reason for me to put my foot through it if I’d actually be able to make any kind of impact in zero gravity.

That didn’t stop me from giving it a good hit, and I can’t fully claim to know since I’m no soldier, but what happened next felt like a flashbang had gone off right in front of me. My vision went blurry and my ears started ringing painfully, and all I could do was float there with my mouth dropped open. In the few seconds that I found myself unable to move any part of my body, I wondered how in the hell that even worked. I hadn’t felt any sort of spark like a short circuit, but I still took very special care and slipped my suit’s gloves on as I unscrewed the panel. I checked every wire. They were in top shape when I left, and they were in top shape now, so what had that been?

“Brain, please don’t break on me.”


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