Damien Binder hunched over the small table tucked in a far corner of his quarters, back to the door, body close in around the cellfilm sheet before him. Only his eyes had moved during the past hour, tracking slowly, methodically over the lines that spiderwebbed the thin sheet, trying to decipher the meaning he felt hidden just beyond his reach. In his father’s quarters, the diagram in the center of the film had grabbed hold of him. A sphere dissected, laying bare the intricate inner workings—an branching network with no visible organization. Upon seeing it he had been certain it would hold the secrets he had longed to know since the moment he first entered the sphere. Now, though, he was no longer sure. The notes along the margins—cramped writing with thin arrows underlining, connecting them to various locations on the sphere—was hard to decipher at best and nearly illegible in some places. After he and Leon left each other earlier in the day, Damien had come straight to his quarters, calling out of his work duties in the engine room with a pretended illness, and immediately set to work puzzling over what he had found. An hour later, he had learned next to nothing of value. The intricacy of the schematic was nearly impossible to follow, despite his training in mechanical devices. When he tried to trace one line within the complex maze of the sphere’s image, he found himself losing the thread almost as soon as he picked it up. Frustration was gnawing at him, but he fought hard to keep it at bay. He had to find out the mechanical principle behind his father’s work—he would not give up until Isaac’s secret was known to him.
Another hour gone, and his eyes were swimming with fatigue, his mind unable to process the image on the cellfilm as anything more than a blurred circle surrounded by tiny clouds made from Isaac’s minute script. Damien stood on aching legs, shaking his head to try and clear away the fog that was seeping in around the edges of his thoughts. He sought the boundary between perception and memory—a line his father had somehow crossed, but which eluded Damien’s best efforts. While searching Isaac’s quarters, he had been sure that finding the blueprint would unlock the secret, but now he held it in his hands and had gained nothing. He walked the length of his quarters and filled a cup with water from the dispenser set into the wall beside the communicator. He drank deeply, then stood staring at the screen, the controls that could connect him to anyone aboard Covenant in an instant. Leon could help, he thought. He navigated through the ship’s directory, found Leon’s name. His finger hovered over the button that would connect them, but he hesitated. It was not Leon, he realized, that he needed. It was the sphere. Would Leon give it to him?
Damien was at least certain of that much. He felt a stab of regret over what he had said after using the sphere for the first time. Coming out of that first vision, out of a world of fire that had scorched his eyes, his skin, filled his lungs with burning air, he had feared it. Over time the fear lessened, then morphed into the curiosity that now brimmed within him. Leon would wonder at the change If Damien told him of the blueprint, and his desire to puzzle out the sphere’s secrets, to see inside and find its heart, he was sure Leon would object. For Leon, the sphere worked—that was enough.
Damien left his quarters, determined to clear his mind before he returned for another attempt at cracking the blueprint. With no destination, he began to wander along the ship’s corridor, meeting only a handful of others who were not assigned duties for second shift or who, like himself, had found reason to abandon them. Had he not been nearly as far from the engines as it was possible to be aboard Covenant, he might have worried about running into someone who knew of his supposed sickness. He made no effort to mark the time as he walked, and eventually found himself in his level’s forward lounge. Damien saw others some distance away, sitting in conversation by the entrance to another of the many residence hallways that terminated in the lounge. They were too far away for him to hear any of their conversation, which meant that he was unlikely to attract their attention. As he stepped forward to the edge of the lounge, his nose pressed almost to the glass that marked Covenant off from the void, he was in essence alone.
In trying to avoid thoughts of the sphere, Damien ensured it was all he could think about. If it were in his hands he would have been swallowed by its visions of Earth, for his mind was consumed with images of its cold, unyielding surface, the silk-thin lines of its construction like a map of his own consciousness. To try and forget was futile. He pressed his forehead to the glass viewport, his fists at chest height, pushing against it, vibrations from the ship’s lifeblood pumping through him. If an answer to his struggle lay hidden among the stars, he would have found it, but the only stared back at him. When he made his decision, it was an acquiescence to what he had known was inevitable all along. The blueprint was nothing without the sphere. He had to see, touch, experience the real thing if he was to possess its secrets.
He had to go back to his brother.