“Transition ETA is three minutes,” Chidlow’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker. The crew had been strapped back in for nearly an hour, but she’d been keeping the personnel in the back apprised of their progress over the PA system.
Khan and Fangen initiated shutdown procedures across their control boards, bringing down everything from communications to propulsion. Based on their experience during the previous crossing, Chidlow had ordered every system shut down except life support. She hoped a proper shut down would prevent damage during transition.
Anthea reached for Jin’s hand, lacing their fingers together as they waited. Though the crossing was a new experience, he seemed so calm. She should be the one taking it stride since she’d experienced the transition before, but she knew it was the very reason for her unease. Coming through it unscathed the first time was something of a miracle. Being forced to endure it again was a nightmare.
Barzelay finally clamped his mouth shut at Chidlow’s announcement. He’d been going non-stop since they’d reassembled in the cockpit. Maybe his own nerves were catching up. There was a vast difference between talking about theories and being a part of the experiment to prove them. She hoped he was right about his theories, for all their sakes.
“Velocity is steady,” Khan reported. “Estimating transition in sixty seconds.” With that report he powered his console down. His last action was to reach over and punch a large yellow pushbutton to make the viewport shutters slam home.
The stars disappeared and the overhead lights winked out. The systems were down and they were effectively blind. Anthea saw Barzelay’s face in the glow of his wristwatch as he silently counted down the seconds to transition.
Jin gave her hand a comforting squeeze. She sensed his head turn to her in the darkness and turned her own. He whispered across the space between them.
“I love you, Anthea-chan.”
Anthea gripped his hand tighter. “I love you, Jin.”
Anthea jerked forward in her seat. The straps held her in place, but some invisible force struck her chest like a hammer, driving her breath away. Jin’s hand was wrenched away in the darkness. She tried to call his name. Her breath wouldn’t come.
Tremors wracked the shuttle, more intense than before. Anthea heard screaming from the back of the shuttle. Khan let out a curse. The glow of Barzelay’s wristwatch flailed up and down.
A shriek split the air, the sound of rending metal. Some piece of the shuttle was torn away, but they could still breathe.
Anthea worked to calm herself and take a decent breath. She tried to reach out for Jin but his chair was too far away. She tried to call his name but her voice failed her.
Then it was over. The tremors stopped and the shuttle moved through the heavens like a ship on a glassy sea.
“Get the systems back up,” Chidlow ordered. “And somebody give us some lights.”
“Jin?” Anthea managed to croak. There was no answer.
“Systems coming online,” Khan said as his console started lighting up.
“Looks like the communications array weathered the storm,” Fangen said. “We should be able to bring up Houston in a few minutes.”
“Jin?” Anthea said louder.
The lights came up and Anthea looked Jin’s way. Her heart died.
A sharp wail cut through the air from the back of the shuttle.
“No, no, no, no,” Anthea started chanting, praying she’d wake up from her nightmare.
“They’re gone,” Barzelay said.
“What?” Chidlow demanded.
“Caygill and Mandelstrom,” Barzelay’s voice was ragged. “They’re gone.”
Bonell came up from the rear. “The Lunar Base crew is gone.”
“We have to go back,” Anthea begged. “We have to go back.”
“We can’t,” Khan said, “it’ll tear the ship apart. We barely made through in one piece.”
Anthea wrestled with her harness. “Jin’s back there! We have to go back.”
“Look at the status board,” Fangen said. “We lost a cargo bay door. We’d never survive another crossing.”
“But they’ll die back there,” Anthea wailed. “Jin will die.”
“What happened, Doc?” Khan asked.
“I don’t know that I can,” Barzelay said. “There’s no reason they shouldn’t have made the crossing with us.”
“Then where are they?” Chidlow said.
“I don’t know,” the little scientist said.
“Give me your best guess,” Chidlow insisted.
“If they’re not trapped between the dimensions somehow,” Barzelay looked at Anthea, sorrow clear on his face, “then it’s likely they were left floating free in space, pulled from the shuttle during the transition.”
“No,” Anthea whispered and started to cry.
“I’m sorry,” Barzelay said.
A voice broke through on the radio. “Armstrong this is Houston. Welcome home. You’re earlier than we expected.”
Chidlow turned and punched the transmit button. “Houston, there’s been an accident…”
“Mommy, did you hear me?”
Anthea wiped a stray tear from her cheek as she broke from her trance. She looked up to see her daughter reading Goodnight Moon.
“I heard you, baby,” Anthea searched her daughter’s face, always able to find traces of the girl’s father. “How are the drawings wrong?”
“It’s the wrong color.”
The little hairs stood up on the back of Anthea’s neck. “What color should it be, Luna?”
“Why, green and blue, of course.”