By Stirling Edgewood
Bear the Ember, Chapter 14: Swing Re-Set
“I’M NOT CONVINCED THESE COORDINATES ARE CORRECT,” she shrieked.
She was leaning close over his shoulder, speaking in an uncomfortably loud voice, directly into his ear.
“I’m telling you,” he whined, “this star does some weird stuff. It doesn’t stay in one place like a normal star.” He twisted a bit in his chair, trying to move his auditory canal further from her booming voice.
“IT IS NOT THE CORRECT LOCATION. IT DOES NOT MATCH THE STAR CHARTS. IT’S ONE THING FOR STARS TO DISAPPEAR, SOMETHING ALLTOGETHER DIFFERENT FOR THEM TO MOVE AROUND, AND THEY DEFINITELY DO NOT MOVE AROUND. I DON”T WANT US TO WASTE VALUABLE OBSERVATION TIME ON THIS.”
He winced, her voice still thundering painfully against his eardrum. He slid a bit further away from her in his chair, until he was trapped against the armrest, and could go no further. “Uh, actually, stars are always moving. We’re moving too. So we need to keep adjusting our telescopes constantly if we want to make observations. With this star, it doesn’t seem to be moving to the spot where the star charts say it should be. How about just a quick peek, then we can look back at where the star charts show the star should be. You know, that place where we have been looking for two days now, but haven’t seen anything.”
“OK, OK,” she relented. “BUT ONLY FOR A SECOND.” She had leaned in closer again, and her voice was penetrating into his skull like a drill. “IF OUR RECORDS GET AUDITED, THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR MISUSING OBSERVATION TIME WILL LIE SQUARLEY ON YOUR SHOULDERS,” she warned.
“Based on my calculations of the anomalous motion, we might find it right about here,” he explained as he punched in the coordinates. The stars on the screen began to slowly swing.
“IT’S MOVING REALLY SLOWLY,” she observed.
“Yeah, the scopes are huge, it takes a lot of power to redirect them. Besides, they’re delicate, so you want to move them carefully. It’s like trying to drive a freight train with the precision of a watch.”
“THIS IS TAKING FOREVER,” she complained.
He noticed that she was moving closer to him. And closer. A feeling of claustrophobia began to build up. He looked at the screen, watching the stars gradually slide across it. Then he looked at her, slowly moving. Then he realized she was tracking the motion on the screen with her whole body.
“Uh, I think you can just, um, move your head. Or not move at all and just watch. You’ll still be able to see everything,” he suggested.
But she wasn’t paying attention. She slowly shifted, leaning half over and half in front of him, so he had to strain his neck to see around her to the screen.
“WHEN WILL WE BE THERE?” she asked petulantly.
He bit his lip. Finally, the screen stopped moving. A few dim points of light winked in a field of black.
“IS ONE OF THOSE OUR STAR?” She asked hopefully.
“I don’t think so,” he said dejectedly.
“OUR STAR MUST BE IN THER SOMEWHERE,” she insisted, leaning further forward. He stretched his neck wider to see around her and get a look at the screen.
A bright disc of red light suddenly erupted.
“THERE IT IS!” she exclaimed, jerking upright in triumph. The sudden movement released the pressure on his chair. With his body leaned far out to one side, the chair teetered precariously on two legs for a moment, then tumbled to the ground. He rolled over into a sitting position on the floor in the corner of the cubicle. Carpet burn stung the side of his face, and his right ass check was a bit sore. But he didn’t care. Because she was right. Their star had suddenly come to life again, right in front of their eyes.