The Perimeter
by Ashley Hibbert
forum: The Perimeter
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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The Perimeter



I looked up from the mangled bulk-head and into the distance between the ripped hull.

          It was some explosion that had created the gap, yet the ‘Brigand’s sensors hadn’t worked out what had caused it. That was our mission. Yet the team’s presence and purpose had ceased to be of any importance.

          My eyes fixed on the sight I beheld.

          The rift was wide enough to see both the twirling clusters of stars that made of our galaxy’s bulk, and the other end - the void.

          The void was big. Very big, very vast, and very cold. It was the expanse that separated our galaxies from its neighbours: darkness itself. Not blank however - for ‘nearby’ galaxies were visible if one searched for long enough. 

          Yet they were silent, and still.

          Maybe unfriendly too.

          The void captured the eye in its simplicity, its absolute nothingness. For there was practically nothing - out there, dark matter was scarce, and light scarcer.

          The listening post stood out like a light-house from the spiral galaxy it belonged to. We were on the horizontal plane, the spiral arms like the twirling skirt of a dancer. Somewhere in the nearest spiral - home. Not for myself or any of the crew. Home for our species. Earth - a tiny orb in a tiny system surrounding a tiny star. 

          Here in a universe without end - just billions of other galaxies spurting out in every direction, pushing back the limits -

          “Wakey wakey MJ.” Startled, I looked up and saw a white vacuum suit floating towards me. The galaxy slipped along the shielded visor. Yet I knew the voice, and I knew the torso.

          “Liz. You surprised me.”

          “No shit - but if not me it would have been the Brigand’s warp-drive as she headed back in.”

          She was right - the sight of darkness would have held my attention until my air ran out.

          “So what’s happening on your end?”

          “Still haven’t found what blew the station apart - a generator implosion most likely, yet there’s little plasma on the hull and debris.”

          “First strike, perhaps?” I theorised, and imagined a smile covering my sister’s face. We’d often discussed the idea of galactic neighbours coming for more than just coffee - but over the past few days spent in hyperspace on our way to the unmanned listening post, everyone had.

          “Well next time you see one of your ET friends, say ‘hi’ for me.” She laughed, and pushed off with her thrusters towards the rest of the team. I followed, watching the workers and scientists rub shoulders like white Amazonian ants, carting huge plates of titanium in their wakes.

          Inevitably and undeniably though, the void drew me back. I looked into the distance, into my past-

“Look at the darkness, not into it.” My mentor and the ship’s engineer, Tristian, asked. “What do you see?”

          “Nothing - no, wait. A few glitters - galaxies right?”

          “Right. Now if you pointed a strong enough telescope into the darkness within those galaxies, what do you think you’ll see?”

          “More galaxies?” Tristian smiled, and concluded for me:

          “And within those galaxies there would be more galaxies - and the further you went the more you would find?”

          My mentor’s smile faded. He nodded.

          “Big place, huh?”

I nodded within my helmet.

          “It’s a big place all right.”

          In the corner of my eye, against the core of the galaxy, I watched the EVA team return to our floating island in space.

          I went to join them, and then remembered the small metallic sphere I had found above the computer panel. My scanner had described it as an intricate, dynamic object, containing an unusual matrix of energy. I made sure the velcro sealant on my pouch was secure. I wanted to show the others - find out what it really was, though somehow I already knew. It was a message, belonging to whatever entity had arrived on the edge of our realm. Like us, looking for someone to talk to.

          I looked out into the void. Somehow, it wasn’t so cold and lonely.



copyright 2004 Ashley Hibbert.