It's a Big Universe Pt.2
When they get inside the ship, Terran seals the door and leads Jace down the corridor. It might be a small ship on the outside, but some of the rooms have a spatial flux on them, expanding them into other-space pockets so there can be more space where there shouldn't be so much. Terran doesn't know how it works or why some rooms have pockets and some don't. He can't answer Jace when he asks. He can only shrug and say, "they came that way."
Jace seems skeptical about everything. Terran focuses on plugging in new coordinates for the autopilot so he can watch Jace watch the world disappear in seconds. His face is amazing. Earth the Second drops out of sight faster than a single breath, and Terran slows down the ship once they're out of orbit distance. Jace's eyes are big in his head and his mouth hangs open as he stares out the big window.
"It's so small," he says, hands pressed to the picture-glass, staring back at Earth the Second, that is indeed, very small at this point.
Terran comes over and smiles a little to see Jace so happy. "Have you never been in space before?"
"A couple times, for basic training," Jace answers, still staring. "But I didn't really get to look. Plus, those ships were so slow. You could still feel some pressure. They didn't have good balance like this ship. Where did you get it? It's amazing."
Terran doesn't answer that question. It doesn't matter, because Jace is turning towards him and grinning so happily. He stretches out his arms and Terran is confused right before Jace moves forward and hugs him. "Thank you," he says, but Terran isn't thinking about that.
He's thinking about how Jace is hugging me, Jace is touching me, I'm bad luck, Jace will get bad luck, Jace is touching me, I can't be touched, and he screams without meaning to.
Jace jumps back.
Terran feels himself shaking and he dives underneath the control panel without a second thought, wrapping his arms around his knees and trying his best to hide. Of course Jace can find him, since he saw him go under. Jace is crouching in front of him, face worried and hand trying to touch his knee, "you can't touch me!"
Jace pulls his hand back slowly. "Why not? You're shaking. Are you okay? What's wrong, tell me what's wrong!"
Terran shakes his head and tries to make his hands stop trembling. "You touched me. You can't, you shouldn't touch me."
"Because I'm bad luck."
"People can't be bad luck."
"I'm bad luck. No one ever touches me. You shouldn't touch me."
Jace has a peculiar expression now, something that Terran can't read and he's too tired from all his muscles tensing and his trip from Alpha Nine to Earth the Second and now his spaceship is slowly creeping to Century 726 so he can get Jace proper clothes, but he's not thinking about getting Jace proper clothes because he's so tired, and Jace is touching him again.
"Please come out, Terran. You're not bad luck. People can't be bad luck. I don't understand why anyone would think you're bad luck, but I don't think that. Please come out." Jace manages to coax Terran out of his head and he lets the other slowly pull him out from under the control panel and help him stand up, steadying him when his weary legs wobble. "You should probably rest. You kinda look like you haven't slept in a while. Tell me where to take you."
Terran hits a button on the panel absentmindedly and mutters, "sleeping rooms," to a metal ball that's suddenly hovering in the air.
The ball shoots forward and Jace follows it, holding one of Terran's arms over his shoulders, not questioning anything even though it's obvious he has several things to ask. He gets Terran to a sleeping room and pulls a blanket over him, telling him to "sleep it off" and Terran closes his eyes without even thinking about how he's left Jace to his own devices in a spaceship he's only just boarded. Merlin didn't mention that it would be this tiring.
Merlin didn't mention a lot of things.
Terran wakes up feeling awake but not particularly rested. That's normal enough. He pushes the blanket aside and tries to remember what exactly is different. What has he forgotten? He meanders out of the sleeping rooms and cuts through one of the unseen doors to get back to the command deck faster. When he sees Jace sitting at one of the windows, back facing him, Terran remembers what exactly he has forgotten.
He has another person on his spaceship.
Involuntarily, he makes a choking noise, jaw clenched to keep his teeth from biting his tongue off. Jace swings around and stands, then doesn't do anything. Instead, he tugs at his shirt and fails to make eye contact with Terran. It's a funny sort of silence that follows. Terran hadn't realized that there was a difference between a silent spaceship with only himself aboard and a silence between two persons. Having an extra person who wasn't making any noise somehow made the silence even thicker. That didn't make any sense, but there it was. A heavy, uncomfortable silence filled with harsh breathing in Terran's ears and the obvious discomfort in Jace's stance.
"Are you okay now?" Jace asks hesitantly.
Terran is glad that Jace was the one to speak up first. He is very bad at this, this communicating thing. It's so weird having someone else to bounce his thoughts off of. He isn't sure that he likes it yet. But there's time. There's all the time in the world.
"Yeah," he answers, unsure of himself, but trying not to show it.
"Um, I noticed that there were coordinates in the system. Where are we going?"
"Century 726." Terran walks over to one of the windows and taps on the picture-glass.
Immediately the glass goes black and then silver, writing appearing on what was now a screen. Terran swipes his hand over it, bringing up the keypad and typing in what he desired to show Jace. Then he pushes it over to the bigger window so they can both see it clearly.
"So, these are the Centuries. They were originally uninhabitable, but seven hundred years ago a colony was created on Century 191. After that they spread out to each of the ten Centuries and now they're all inhabited by all sorts of species. Each Century is named for the number of original survivors for the first year. Century 726 is the biggest one and you can buy almost anything there. Anything legal. What's legal in this part of the galaxy anyway."
Jace stares at the window with fascination glowing in his eyes. He steps closer and tentatively puts his hand to the window, moving the picture so he could see the different Centuries. "Wow," he says, awe clear in his voice. "Have you been here a lot?"
"Um, mostly I go to Century 410, because things are more relaxed there," he's lying, things are not so much relaxed as they are simply quieter and people are more tolerant of lonely boys with bad luck spaceships. "But I wanted you to see something amazing. Plus," he adds, watching Jace play with the window screen, "you need some new clothes."
Jace looks down at his clothes, patting his pants absentmindedly. "Oh," he says again, lost in the wonder of it all. "Do they wear very different things out here?"
"They wear all kinds of different things," Terran grins at him, liking how Jace looks at him like a little boy. "There's all sorts of people here, Jaceie. Everybody dresses how they want to. And all the Centuries are different. There's a lot more Radiants on Century 239 and a lot more Zamas on 726."
"Radiants? Zamas?" Jace echoes weakly.
Terran shuffles over and taps the screen again, throwing up a new picture. "Radiants. They're like an old order of, um, what would you call them…"
"Priests? Wizards?" Jace offers, looking at the long-necked species curiously.
"Sure." Terran doesn't completely recognize those words. They're probably old Earth vocabulary. "They do stuff with starlight. And they're always glowing faintly. Their leader, the head Radiant, is kinda scary. I avoid them, even though they're not bad."
Jace seems to be processing this information rather well, considering. "And Zamas?"
Once again, Terran changes out the picture on the window. "Their old planet crumbled and they all live on the Centuries now, but mostly on 726. They're into old tech, but like, even if it's old-fashioned, it runs really well. I've got some Zama-tech on my ship. I'll give you that room. It'll be easier for you."
"I'm a quick learner," Jace spits out hurriedly.
Terran laughs then, a funny sort of sound that he doesn't recognize. When was the last time he laughed? He doesn't remember, but it's an odd feeling. He stifles it a little reluctantly and smiles at Jace's pouting face. "I know, but still. Zama-tech is a lot more like Earth-tech than anything else. From what I've heard. You should start slow. There'll be plenty more for you to learn."
"How do you know it all?" Jace asks wonderingly. "Have many places have you been to? How long have you been traveling the universe?"
Terran suddenly doesn't feel like laughing anymore, or smiling, even. "I don't know," he says sadly. "A long time."
"Have you been alone until now?" Jace almost whispers it.
Simply nodding, Terran wipes the window clean so they can see into the star-dotted black of space again. "I don't keep very good track of time when I'm alone."
Jace just pats his shoulder awkwardly, nothing to say to that.
Terran doesn't like this feeling in the air so he changes the subject. "Are you hungry?"
This time Jace laughs, and it's a lighter sound that Terran's was, all tightness and rusty vocal cords. "Yeah, kinda."
"I'll take you to my favorite place on 726. The buzzwater there is the best."
"The what?" Jace's back to looking completely bewildered and Terran feels a smile creeping back onto his face.
"You'll see," he says, pointing out the window. Century 726 is growing larger and they both watch it for several moments.
Terran fiddles with the controls as he punches in the password for the planet gate. He can almost hear Jace gaping in awe.
"Wow," Jace says again.
"Wow," Terran says after him, smiling for real. He's going to be hearing that all day, probably. He can't wait.