Chapter thirty of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.
Hiram was aware of the dream, that it was a dream, as well as he was aware of the sounds and figures around him. He’d been here before, though he knew this more with a sense of deja vu than memory.
Howard glanced over at Hiram—both men effectively living in the control center for fear of missing an alarm, should something go wrong on Mars—and saw him wriggling in his chair, asleep. He smiled wistfully and went back to reading his book.
The figures circled Hiram. They were good, but they were angry. He could sense that they felt he had gone too far; allowed too many people in.
“This is why there is an initiation,” he heard a voice say.
As with the location, he recognized the voice, but only obliquely.
“We can’t just open the doorway and let them all through. It could kill them. It could kill us.”
“I haven’t let anyone through,” Hiram replied weakly. “I described what I’ve seen, but not how to get here. It was Ana-Loop who gave them the designs—”
“We have Ana-Loop,” the voice said dismally. “She says you urged her to make ourselves known. You told her they were ready.”
“They are,” Hiram said, the sound of defeat rimming his tone. “Some are…”
“We will have to leave them here now, until they know what they are witnessing. We thought you should know.”
“We must close the doorway, Hiram. We can’t let anyone else in until they are aware of their Radiance.”
“But how will we get them back?”
“You won’t, Hiram. You will have to leave them here.”
Hiram did not wake with a start; his eyes simply flicked open. He stared at the ceiling of Bransen Labs for several seconds, considering his options. He glanced to his right and saw Howard reading intently. Hiram waited. He’d fallen asleep in his chair beside Circadia X and its banks of monitors—they never knew how long each mission would be and there were long stretches of downtime. Seconds ticked by, then the alarm came—a slow, droning whine that indicated the RS-CD stream had been disrupted.
“Shit!” Howard said, jumping to his feet. Hiram sat up slowly.
“The communications are down!” Howard cried frantically, with the intent of waking Hiram.
“Not down,” Hiram replied soberly, stepping over to Howard’s side. “They’re gone, Howard. They’ve closed the doorway.”