Leon was hovering in that strange world between sleep and waking, where sounds cannot be placed, and true experience begins to meld into the dreamscapes of the mind. The first knock at the door seemed a distant echo out of those drifting half-dreams and did not rouse him. The second, more forceful, pulled him unwillingly back to what was surely reality. He groaned as he raised himself to his feet and shuffled out to the main room of his quarters. Another knock, and the abrasive sound grated against him.
“I’m coming!” He opened the door with slightly more force than was necessary. The sight of Damien standing in the corridor replaced his ire with surprise. Damien shifted uncomfortably as the seconds ticked away silent between them.
“Can I come in?” He finally asked. The spell was broken.
“Sorry—of course.” Leon stepped aside and allowed Damien to enter. “How are the engines running?”
“I wouldn’t know—I called out of my last shift.”
“Are you sick?”
“That’s what I told them, but no.”
“Then why—?” Damien anticipated Leon’s question and cut it off by holding up the roll of cellfilm he had brought with him.
“I found this at dad’s. I should have told you, but I thought I could figure it out by myself.” He reached out with the cellfilm, and after a moment’s hesitation Leon took it from him. Leon unrolled it, and when he saw what was printed on it his eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. Indignation swept through him and he turned angry eyes on his brother.
“How could you keep this to yourself?”
“I’m sorry.” Leon felt the anger within him quickly subsiding, replaced by the memory of what he had done after finding the sphere. He had wanted to hide it for only himself, though it were not his secret to keep.
“What have you found out about it?”
“Nothing! Nothing at all. I can’t make heads or tails of anything on there. The diagrams are so detailed I can’t believe dad drew them, let alone created the actual object. I can’t even make out most of his notes.” Leon examined the blueprint more closely and understood how Damien had become so lost. He too could make nothing of it beyond the fact of what it represented, and even that was only obvious because he had already seen the sphere.
“This was all you found?”
“Yes,” said Damien. “It’s illogical to think dad could have created that thing using only this—its definitely an original plan, but I don’t see any reworkings. No corrections of any kind. There’s no way he wrote out the inner mechanics flawlessly and then constructed it.”
“So you think there’s more blueprints somewhere?”
“There has to be. Not in dad’s belongings, though. It’s all been documented and uploaded—there’s nothing else there about the sphere.” Damien sat on the couch, exasperation emanating from him. Leon, however, could see a light glowing softly in his mind. It was like a door opening in darkness, the faintest glimmer of a lit room beyond beginning to show at its edge.
“Maybe not dad’s belongings—maybe someone else…” Damien looked at him searchingly.
“He and dad were always together when we were younger, don’t you remember?” Damien thought hard, seeking out the past.
“I think I remember him. I’m not sure I ever knew his name, though. Maybe I forgot.”
“Do you remember the letter dad left with the sphere?”
“He talked about Bergman in it. Bergman was the last Pioneer other than dad. They were close before he died.”
“Wait a minute—didn’t dad’s letter say he started working on the sphere after Andrew died?”
“Yes, but—hang on a second.” Leon went quickly to the computer interface and accessed the communicator. He found the name he needed and, after a short pause during which the connection was completed, Elle’s voice came through.
“Hi Leon.” Leon’s stomach moved in a strange way within him, like it was being filled with warm liquid. It may have been his imagination, but she sounded happy that he had called. He felt his ears grow red and became acutely aware of Damien watching him.
“Elle, do you think you could come to my quarters? It’s important.”
“I was hoping you’d call me. Is it about the sphere?”
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Okay, see you soon. Bye.” Leon disconnected and turned back to see Damien giving him a look of amusement, his eyebrows raised and a knowing smile twitching the corners of his mouth.
“Who’s Elle?” He asked slyly. Leon could not help grinning.
“Shut up. She’s the daughter of Andrew Bergman. We met at my office. She had a message from her dad, but it hadn’t been sent to her until our dad died. Damien, it was Bergman who started working on the sphere, but he died before he finished it, so he passed the work on to dad.”
“You’re serious? That would explain why there was so little to find in dad’s quarters—if he only worked on the final stages… Who knows how far along Bergman was when he gave it to dad! The sphere may have been almost complete, and dad just had to work out the last bit.”
“Exactly, and since Bergman was the one who started it, then most of the blueprints wouldn’t be in dad’s belongings at all!”
“They’d be in Bergman’s…” Damien trailed off into thought, and Leon’s mind surged like an ocean wave of excitement.
“We’re close to figuring this out, Damien.”
“Leon—I have to say this. When I came up here to see you, there was something else I was going to ask. When I was trying to understand this diagram, I had the idea that, if I had the sphere—if I could see inside it, I mean—then it would be easier to figure out. That’s why I decided to come to you. I knew you had the sphere—I had to know if you wanted to know the truth as bad as I did.” Leon’s thoughts were jumbled as he listened to Damien, but through the confusion came an overwhelming chorus of voices all screaming the same thing: no!
“I can’t take any chance of it being destroyed,” he heard himself say as if from far away.
“I thought as much,” said Damien. “In any case, I’m sure we can find what we need if we get into Bergman’s records. We need access to the ship’s man computer.”
“Elle can help us with that—she’s a computerist.”
As if on cue, a knock at the door signaled Elle’s arrival. Leon stood to let her in, and as she passed him into the room she noticed traces of distress still present in his eyes from the thought of the sphere’s dismantling.
“Are you alright?” She asked him.
“Yes, I’m fine. Elle, this is my brother Damien—he works in the engines.” Elle smiled, and she and Damien shook hands. Suddenly she froze, her eyes stuck to the cellfilm plan still laid open on the table.
“What is that?” She asked.
“That’s why I asked you to come,” Leon replied. “Damien found it in our dad’s belongings—it’s plans for the sphere.
“You’ve figured out how it works, then?”
“Not quite. We don’t think this is the complete process, only the final stages. We’re certain the rest isn’t with our father’s belongings, but he wasn’t the only one to work on it. This was your father’s life’s work, too.” Elle’s eyes lit with comprehension, the solution filling her mind as though it had been there all along.
“My father’s records… You must be right.”
“Can you access it?” Damien asked.
“Of course. Not today, however. Once the shifts are over the computer is locked tight until the next day. Not even the Computerists can access it unless there’s a malfunction.”
“Tomorrow, then?” Elle nodded.
“Yes. Second shift, I can search for it then. I won’t be able to let you guys in with me, though—Computerists are the only ones allowed access.”
“We wouldn’t be any help, anyway,” Leon said with a smile.
“Well,” said Damien. “I have to be at the engines first shift tomorrow, so I’m going to my quarters. Thank you, Elle. I’ll see you both tomorrow.” When Damien had gone, Leon looked at Elle. Elle looked at Leon. All around them Covenant breathed a thousand sighs, hurtling through the blackness of space. Here, in Leon’s quarters, they were beyond its immensity. The universe outside the room might have disappeared, leaving only the two of them, standing in each other’s shadow, each feeling as though they looked upon a bright star. Something beyond excitement stretched between them, tangible energy like an electrified cloud of intoxifying vapor. Leon stepped toward Elle, and the desire each of them felt lit like a stream of gasoline. A moment later she was in his arms and his soul was aflame.