Insignificance At A Distance
by Philip Stetson


“I want to make one of those, Jae,” May eventually said. // “Make one?” // “Yeah, a planet. I want to make a planet.” // “I don't think just one person can make a planet, May.” // “Calmar did!” // I laughed, “Yeah, I guess he did. Not very quickly and not without a lot of help.”

At first I was only concerned with finding out who did it. Not necessarily why or how. The how in particular was baffling, but the why didn't really seem to matter.

See, my father was a first class citizen on Zajsk, not necessarily famous or rich, but he was well respected among his peers. My sister was still in school, attempting to become an energy engineer for Calmar Co. I had left years ago to become a soldier on Calmar's Northern Disjoint. I never understood the consequences of this. As with all men, I loved my family, even with our differences. I never expected them to leave me so suddenly.

I had come home after five years. I was twenty-six now and had left the Northern Disjoint in protest. I had spent three years being trained to be a killer for hire. They wouldn't admit this. They being the Calmar Army, but that's what they did. They trained us to kill and then kept us paid in order to do their bidding. I left quickly before the ceremony to induct me into their ranks.

And now, after traveling around the system for two years, I was home.

It was dusty. It smelt of mildew and age. My family hadn't been here for years. The light filtered in through the shutters of our living room illuminating the dust shifting slowly through the air.

The lights were off and no one was home.

My instincts immediately told me to leave. Obviously something was wrong here. What was wrong, I was not sure. Maybe they went on an extended vacation without telling me. Maybe Dad died while I was gone and my sister couldn't tell me for some reason. Maybe... maybe they moved?

I really wasn't sure. But this certainly wasn't right. The air had that undertone to it, a depth that smelt wrong, incorrect. And while I stood in that doorway, the world behind me, I knew I shouldn't walk in because I didn't want to know the truth.

Someone was behind me.

“Sir, can I help you?”

I turned around. In front of me was an older gentlemen standing just down the steps of the stairs leading to my home. I recognized him.

“Mr. Terry, it's me, Jae.”

He looked at me for a second. I could tell he recognized me, even though I had aged so much. His body gestures implied that something was wrong though. He shifted just slightly onto his right foot, the one I knew to be his good leg. His hands went into his pockets and he looked just above my head towards the metal dome covering Zajsk.

“Who?” He said. It was more command than a question.

“Jae. Jae Tell. I live here in this house.” I continued to look at him but he wouldn't look back at me.

“Son, I've never met anyone named Jae Tell. This house is up for sale and no one lives here. I suggest you head elsewhere.” This time he looked at me in the eyes. They shook nervously.

“Do... do you mind if I look around back?” I wasn't sure why I was asking permission, but I think he knew why I was.

“Son, there's nothing in that house for you...” he said, choking on some words, “Just, go somewhere else, please.”

I had known Mr. Terry all my life until I went to Calmar. He was a strong, brave man. I enjoyed playing with him when I was a kid. He used to swing me around by my arms. My father and him would sit in the living room talking politics late into the night. He was not a man who would forget me.

But this man was not that man. Something had broken him.

“Mr. Terry, I... okay, I'll leave.”

I walked down the stairs slowly. His eyes watched my every move. I watched his. Five steps down and I was on the ground next to him. I realized just how much taller I was than him now. His gray hair was well kept and his casual suit well tailored, but his body and will had aged.

“I need to find my family,” I said as I passed him.

“Don't we all, son?” He said. He turned away from me and walked down the sidewalk towards his home. He was limping more than he did before.


I wasn't exactly sure where to go from here. Zajsk had been the world I lived on for 21 years, but things were different. I headed downtown. The silver shimmer of the dome above my head felt warm and I decided to take off my coat.

My friends had headed downtown when we got here. The three of them had never been to Zajsk before and they seemed to find it fascinating.

When Jeremy had first gotten off the tram and stepped onto the metal ground, he seemed surprised at how warm it was. I think he had expected some shiny, iridescent world frolicking with steel creatures and people wandering around wearing aluminum clothing.

In reality, Zajsk was nothing too spectacular at all. Yes, it was entirely made of metals, but the builders took very special care in making the foliage look and feel realistic. They made sure that the ground looked and felt like a proper organic dirt ground. The main marvel of Zajsk wasn't the ground but what was above it. The whole sphere of a world was covered in a metal shell used to keep the planet habitable. Skylights the size of sideways skyscrapers looked out into the stary expanse, but otherwise, when one looked up, all you saw was the shimmering light off the polished metal.

But that had not reduced Jeremy's excitement even remotely. Soon after we had landed, he sprinted around looking at all the plants, covering his eyes in order to stare at the dome above. He always acted like a child, which often made me forget that I wasn't too much older than him.

Lost in thought, I jumped a little in surprise when a man sped past me on a bicycle towards the center of Birsk. Downtown was close now. I couldn't quite see it, but the air smelled different, more metallic, as I got closer. I saw a bicycle stand nearby that had a public phone. I stopped to give my friends a quick update. Sitting on the warm circular bench, I waited for him to answer.

“Hello?” the voice said.

“Hey, Lars, it's Jae. I'm heading downtown. Are Jeremy and Anna with you?”

He sighed, “Yeah, they are. Jeremy has been dragging us around this whole time. He seems to be surprised at the lack of art supply stores. He did spot one of his pieces, though.”

“I bet that made him happy,” I bent forward putting my elbows on my knees.

“Did you get to see your folks?” he asked.

“No, that's why I called. They weren't there.”

“Weren't there?” I could tell he knew, “why weren't they there?”

“I'm not sure. Well, I have ideas why, but...” I paused for a second, “but I don't think we'll find them on Zajsk.”

“Jae, we just got here.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. I know Anna had some business here as well. But I think we should head back to The States.”

“Jae, we can't go back there. We could get killed. There's--”

“A war. I know. But that's where the Calmar Army Council is. I have to go talk to them.”

“Jae, they're probably not there anymore. We watched the building collapse right in front of us. Where could they possibly go now?”

“I don't necessarily think we should go back to Harrisburg.”

“Well, we have to at least go through there. That's the only tram landing between Zajsk and The States.”

I leaned back again and pushed my hand through my hair. A man rode up with a bicycle and placed it into the return rack and walked away.

“Lars, I don't know what to do. I think they were kidnapped. Or dead. I'm not sure.”

“But why, Jae. Why would someone want to do that?”

I looked back up at the dome. I realized that was just under one of the skylights. The stars broke through them carefully. A corner of The States could be seen through it, a little sliver of blue. Calmar was there too, farther away. Just a group of floating rocks in the silence.

“I don't know, Lars. This whole time we've been traveling I just wanted to come home. I wanted to see my family again. And it feels like, the whole time, someone hasn't wanted me to come here. Do you remember when we left the Northern Disjoint?”

“More or less... The tram was late.”

“Lars, the trams are never late.”

“I know that, Jae. I thought it was just as weird as you... but that doesn't mean someone was trying to stop you from coming here.”

I heard some rustling over the phone. “Lars, give me the phone.”

“Hold on...”

“Just give it to me.”

I shifted on the bench waiting for them to work it out.


“Hey Anna,” I said.

“Jae, what is wrong. Lars has been standing next to a hobo looking concerned for the past ten minutes.”

“A hobo? Anna, Zajsk doesn't have Hobos.”

“Then who is this guy?”

“Uh, I don't know. Maybe he's just outside enjoying the air?”

“If you say so, he looks like a hobo to me.”

The line was silent for a second. I could hear Jeremy chatting in the background.

“So, what's wrong?” she asked again.

“My family wasn't there.”

“So what? Maybe they're out.”

“No, Anna, they're not. The house was plastered with dust. A man that I had known for practically all my life pretended not to recognize me. Something is wrong.”

“Didn't you say your sister was going to school?”

“Yeah, but she should have graduated by now. She was planning on moving home when she was done to find a job.”

“Maybe she did find one.”

“Maybe... in that case, she would be at Planet 4,” I paused, “Anna, we can't go to Planet 4. There's no way to get there.”

“You know damn well there is. We rent a boat and fly there.”

“Rent a- Anna, that's ridiculous.”

“Like hell it is.”

The same man from before came walking back from across the street and pulled a bicycle from the rental rack.

“Fly there, you say. In that case, I'll need to make another phone call. Can you do me a favor and tell Jeremy that he needs to stop talking to that poor man. He hasn't stopped talking since you got on the phone.”

She laughed, “all right.”

“And Anna,” I said, “We're not going to Planet 4 just for you, okay?”

“I know, Jae. I just have to know...”

“And so do I. We'll eventually know everything.”

“I'm not sure you can say that.”

I hung up the phone and stood for a second. I knew what I was about to do was not against the law, but it was dangerous. I picked up the phone again and made the call.

“Calmar Inc. Planet 4 Development Headquarters of Zajsk. This is Randy Harris speaking.”

“Yes, hello Randy, my name is Jae Tell and I am a member of the Calmar Army. I have been contracted by the Army to survey Planet 4 for security issues. Me and three of my colleagues intend to fly there by boat. We are currently on Zajsk and wish for your assistance in finding transport.”

“Ah, yes sir, Jae Tell you say. Give me a second.”

The line was silent for a moment.

“Do you spell that J-A-Y?”

“No, J-A-E. J-A-E T-E-L-L.”

“Yes, sir. One moment.”

Silent again.

“all right sir. You are confirmed. I can certainly attain transport for your crew. How soon can we expect you?”

“As soon as possible, Randy. No later than tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir, not a problem. I can transfer the address to your current location. It will display in a moment. Would you like it printed?”

“That would be good, yes.”

I stood up and walked towards the phone enclosure. The small screen lit up an address.

“all right, sir, prepare for print.”

I stood and waited as the machine worked. Eventually the screen glossed over and a sliver of paper peeled off the screen falling into a tray below. I picked it up and felt the warmth of the chemical reaction in my hands.

“I got it.”

“Excellent sir. The boat will be prepared for your arrival.”

I placed the phone onto the holder and continued walking downtown.


I met them near the Calmar building. It towered above us, almost touching the metal dome. Jeremy was carrying his massive pack that made him look like he should topple over at any moment. His short blond hair was caked with paint and dirt. Lars and Anna walked behind him, both looking rather exhausted. Their strides were short and forced.

“Hey there, guys.”

“Hey, Jae, guess what?!” Jeremy lifted his pack off his back and gently placed it on the ground. I could see the portrait of his parents peaking out from the largest pocket. “I painted the city!”

He lifted a small canvas out of his pack and handed it to me. Once again, I was baffled by it's beauty. It was just a simple landscape of the city from a distance, but he definitely had added himself to it. I had lived in this city almost all my life and somehow Jeremy was able to capture the feel of visiting it for the first time just by painting.

“It's awesome, Jeremy, as usual.” I laughed. “I really wonder why you don't take credit for these.”

I handed it back to him and looked up at Lars and Anna.

“All right, guys, I got us a boat to take to Planet 4. We're leaving tomorrow. But, until then, I need to fill you in.”

I walked them to bench nearby. Anna, Lars, and I sat down and Jeremy sat on the ground in front.

“Okay, we're going there but you need to know a few things. First, they think that we're all part of the Calmar Army. Fortunately, that shouldn't be too much of a problem. The Army hires thousands of people of all kinds. But, I need you guys to not tell them your names. They can cross check those fairly quickly. They're terrified of the Army, so if you just insist on not telling them they shouldn't push for it.

“Second, we are going there to find my sister first. That is our first goal and I don't want anyone to go out on their own.”

I looked at Anna.

“Anna, we will look for your husband as well but first thing's first. Can you do that for me?”

Anna looked away from me and breathed in heavily. “all right, Jae, I can try, but the second we find your sister we need to look for my husband as well.”

“No doubt. I just need you guys to follow my lead. My sister, if she is there, shouldn't be hard to find. She was studying to be an energy engineer, so she shouldn't be in any of the inner rings of the facility. Your husband, however, being primary contractor lead on the project will likely be closer to the processing center where the Calmar Relativity Machine would be located.”

“Jae,” Lars said, “I'll come but please don't do anything crazy.”

I smiled, “Lars, when have you ever known me to do something crazy.”

Lars stared at me, his face was serious.

“Okay, okay, I won't do anything crazy... honestly, I'm more worried about Anna.”

“You don't need to worry about me.” Anna pushed her hair behind her head and pulled it into a ponytail. “I'm assuming Jeremy will need to clean up a bit.”

“Maybe a bit, yeah, but like I said. Calmar Army trains and hires all kinds. He wouldn't be too far off from what they'd experienced before.”

Anna leaned forward into my ear. “Jae, he smells like an old shoe and mildew. I worry about our health just being around him.”

“Anna, you don't get diseases just from smells.”

“Sure, whatever. All I know is that he needs to clean off somewhere. I'm not spending any time with him in an enclosed boat.”

Jeremy spoke up, “Guys, you suck at whispering.”

A breeze slowly climbed across the city and lifted some fallen foliage off the ground. They blew into a hole labeled “recycle” on the edge of the road.

“all right, Jeremy, we're going to get you cleaned up. Dutchess Anna here has declared you too disgusting for her liking.”

Anna stood up and grabbed Jeremy, “Come on scuzz-ball. We're taking you to a cleaner.”

I stood up and turned towards Lars. “You sure you want to come. This is really only something that Anna and I want to do.”

“Eh, yeah, sure, why not.” He lifted his large body off the bench and put his equally large hand on my shoulder. “At this point, Jae, I really don't have much else to do.”


Calmar Co. headquarters was almost exactly what I had expected. The building had always been here when I was a child, dominating the skyline of Birsk, but I was never allowed inside. Not that I hadn't tried.

The interior was spotless and white. The antechamber was dominated by a large sculpture of the planet of Calmar slowly rotating. Behind it, on the wall, was Calmar Co.'s logo in black hanging as if it was a shadow of the globe.

We were greeted by a man who strolled out of the elevator under the logo.

“Hello Sirs and Ma'am. We've been expecting you.” His short stature was made up by the man's bulk. He looked as if he could wrestle an elephant to the ground. But, nevertheless, he wore a day suit of black and white. “You must be Jae Tell.”

“That is me, yup. We've come for the boat to take us to Planet 4.”

“That is correct, sir. And these are your colleagues?” He looked at the menagerie behind me. A tall, rough black man covered in rough cloth and a smug grin. Followed closely by a beautiful woman with long red hair and wearing a men's Henley Shirt. And shifting around next to her was a tall young man with a blond beard who looked like he was swimming around in his oversized clothing. I could tell the man was interested but not too surprised.

“And what are their names?” He asked not so subtly.

Lars spoke up, “Man, can we just get our boat so we can get this over with. You're not the only contract we're on right now.”

“Right, right. No problem, sir.” The man turned around and gestured for us to follow him.

We followed him into the elevator. He entered something into a touch screen at the back of the elevator and the doors closed. The shutters opened on the walls of the elevator allowing us to see out at the metal shaft that surrounded us.

I could tell Jeremy looked nervous but I couldn't tell him to stop fidgeting without looking suspicious myself. The g-forces increased as the elevator quickly lifted upwards.

“We'll be there momentarily, sir. Please enjoy the view of Birsk as we rise.”

As he finished his sentence, the metal shaft surrounding us disappeared and the elevator opened to the light. The view was spectacular. We were at least a mile above the city at this point. From this view, the city looked astronomically different from below. The light of the dome reflected off the ceilings of every building. It was mirrored so perfectly that it almost looked like we were looking up instead of down. The illusion was broken every once in a while by the unreflective surface and roads.

I broke my gaze from the view and looked at Lars, Anna, and Jeremy. They all seemed as equally mesmerized as me.

“Sir, we have arrived.”

Correct he was. The door had opened and the man was already standing outside of it. I just imagined how professional we all must have looked while staring out at just some roofs.

“If you will follow me. Your boat is prepared above the dome.”

The room we had entered was small and windowless and only contained a spiral staircase. The stout man was soon climbing up it. As I entered the staircase I looked up to see that the center of it looked out at the stars. We were going onto the surface.

“Sirs and Ma'am, if you could please.”

We were in a small glass cube that only contained four sets of heavy winter clothes and a door to surface.

I could see Anna giving me a look that roughly translated to “Does he expect us to change in front of him?” But I just ignored it and looked at the clothing. There was heavy nylon pants and some long underwear as well as a brown long-sleeve t-shirt, a brown sweater, and a brown heavy jacket.

“These are here for your convenience. You may wear them if you'd like, wear what you have already, or take only what you need. I would humbly suggest that you wear only what you need.”

He walked back towards the stairs. “Your boat is just outside, prepped and ready to fly. The coordinates for Planet 4 Intake is already programmed in so the flight should be simple.”

I glanced outside and saw it. A large metal hexahedron with one side made of glass. The door on the exterior was open, allowing light to fall out into the dark of the surface of Zajsk. In the distance I could see the glowing light of a skylight shining towards the stars.

“Thank you,” I said.

“It is my pleasure, Sir. Please enjoy your flight. We hope you find everything satisfactory at Planet 4.”

After he left we quickly changed. I decided to only change into the long underwear and pants and covered my brown overcoat with the heavy jacket. Lars didn't change at all and just stood by the door waiting. Anna and Jeremy both completely changed into the outfits.

“Jae,” Jeremy said, “Why are we putting these on?”

“Because, Jeremy, it's cold as balls out there. The boat looks like it's just far enough away for us to freeze to death.”

“Then why didn't they put it closer?”

“Because the ship could easily shatter this glass room into a cold glass pile.”

He shrugged and put on the heavy jacket and then lifted his pack and pulled it over his shoulders. Anna seemed to be finished as well.

“all right, here we go,” Lars said. He put his hand on the door and pushed down the lever. The door opened slowly, letting the freezing air angrily shove its way into the enclosure.

Lars led the way towards the boat. We followed in a line behind him. I had never been on the surface of Zajsk before. It amazed me to know that people actually lived up here willingly. It wasn't just cold and dark but it also lacked any sort of smell, which might seem to be an odd thing to complain about, but it was actually pretty unnerving to breath in and not smell anything. It's not an experience I wanted to repeat on a daily basis.

After a short trek through the cold we made it to the open hatch to the boat. Lars stood next to the door.

“All right, everyone in,” he said and pushed our freezing bodies through.

He stepped in after us and pulled the lever to close the hatch. We were now inside the boat.

Anna and I stared at each other.

“Anna, we're on a boat.” I laughed.

“I know, Jae, I know. Finally.”

Jeremy and Lars looked at us quizzically and then wandered away.

“I'm going to go to the front panel and set our course,” Lars said.

“Fair enough,” I said, “I'll go with you.”

“Hey Lars,” Anna said, “how long do you think it'll take to get there?”

The boat was already heating up so I took off the heavy jacket.

“With a boat like this, I'm not sure. This is one goddamn classy boat. Only ones I've ever flown were shitty junkers that some escapee from The States hired me to fly to get them off the rock. One of those would take one Calmar Week to go from The States to Zajsk.”

Lars stood in thought for a second.

“If I were to guess, this boat can probably go at least ten times the speed of those. And the distance between Zajsk and Planet 4's construction site is about twice the distance between The States and Zajsk...”

I think at this point Anna had lost interest but she stood politely anyway.

“Lars, we need to get going,” I said, trying to snap him out of thought.

“Right right. I'd say it'll take us about a day but we'll see.”

Anna nodded and walked towards the sleeping quarters in the back of the ship. Lars and I headed towards the front.


We were soon looking out over Zajsk from our front panel. It floated gently the darkness of space. Light radiated out from the evenly spaced skylights on its surface. We had been flying for just a couple hours now. Lars had set our course easily enough with the coordinates given to us and told the ship to go.

“This pile of metal is much easier to fly then the rusty piles of metal that I flew on The States.”

“Yeah, really. Why did we need you again?”

He laughed and lifted his feet onto the console in front of him.

This boat was obviously meant to only have a crew of one or two on it. The front quarter facing out at space had two chairs, one of which could easily be hidden into the ground with a flip of a switch. The ship looked large from the outside, but most of the bulk was taken up by the relativity machines used to push the boat into space. The largest areas were the front quarter where Lars and I were, and the living quarter in the back of the ship which housed a couple of fold down beds, a small kitchen, and a small restroom. The rest was just a hallway to link the two spaces and the hatch to the outside.

It felt as if we were drifting slowly towards Planet 4.

“So, what's the plan when we get there?” Lars asked.

“Well, they're expecting us, so we'll be greeted much like we did on Zajsk. I expect they'll try to guide us through the facility first. That should be fine but we'll need to break away at some point, which shouldn't be too hard.”

He nodded, “We can just insist that we need to independently search the facility.”

“And then break away, yeah.”

“By the way, Jae. I wasn't going to ask, but... how did you get us here?”

“Well, I'm part of the Calmar Army.”

He turned quickly in his chair and looked shocked.

“Oh, don't give me that bullshit, you knew that already.” I shoved him. “But I'm not with them anymore.”

I looked out at the seamless glass window in front of us. The boat was turning away from Zajsk now and I could only see a little sliver of it.

“I should say, they think I'm a part of them. I did train to be in the Army for three years.”

“I figured something as much. When I picked you up on the Northern Disjoint you seemed like a darker person than you are now. People in the Army have a look in their eyes that never goes away.”

“Yeah, I almost went too deep. But I discovered something about the Army that made leave.”

“And that is?” He asked, not looking at me.

“I'm not sure if I should tell anyone yet. Honestly, I don't really see what good it would do anyway. The Army is huge, Lars.”

“I know... they took my father away from me, you know. He joined them and when he came back,” he breathed in heavily, “he just wasn't the same.”

“Don't blame him for that. The Calmar Army does things to people that colors their souls a darker shade.”

“I saw you kill a man with just a glance, Jae. Is that what having a darker soul does?”

“You know, I'm not sure. When I joined they told me that I could've done that any time I wanted to. But I'm really not sure. They made me kill a lot of men. And before I left they were going to make me do much worse than that.”

“I just hope you don't have to return to that again.”

The boat was still turning and as we spoke the exterior ring of Planet 4's Calmar Relativity Machine glowed out from the edge of the glass.

“Me too.”

The inner ring was now showing, spinning slowly around like a gyroscope. And there was Planet 4 at the center. A massive ball of flowing energy. A small sun that was soon to be the center mass of an enormous man-made planet. It looked chaotic but peaceful as the rings spun slowly around it. A small stream of orange from the inner ring pierced the orange sphere.

“There it is,” he said.

“Yup, there it is. It looks so small from here.”

“Doesn't everything look insignificant at a distance?”

“Not everything, no.”


My sister sat next to me on the tram, she smelled fruity like the gum she always chewed. Mom and Dad were sitting in front of us. I think they were cuddling, but I was trying to pretend I didn't see it.

“Hey Jae,” my sister piped up, “you can see Zajsk now, I think. There's some people looking out the front window.”

I looked down at her from my seat. I put my hand on her short red hair and roughed it up a bit.

“We can go look if you want, Kiddo,” I said.

I stood up from my seat and took her hand.

“Hey Mom, we're going to go look out the front window to see Zajsk.”

“Alright, sure,” she said. She wasn't paying too much attention to us. I guess there really wasn't too many places we could go on the tram.

We headed towards the front, pulling my sister behind me. The window already had a few kinds standing around it. The window was a few feet off the ground, a little too high for my sister to see out of it.

“Alright, May, I gotta pick you up. Put your arms out.”

She spread her arms out and I lifted her up and put her on my shoulders.

Outside the window was mostly spotted blackness, but in the distance Zajsk floated. A small gray planet with beams of light pouring out from glass holes in the shell. It was the first time either of us had seen it.

“Jae, it's so pretty.”

“Yeah, it is. And we're going to live there.”

We stood looking at it for a while and it never looked any closer. The light coming out of the glass holes shifted from white to a light yellow.

“I want to make one of those,” May eventually said.
“Make one?”

“Yeah, a planet. I want to make a planet.”

“I don't think just one person can make a planet, May.”

“Calmar did!”

I laughed, “Yeah, I guess he did. Not very quickly and not without a lot of help.”

“I can do it. One day I will. It's going to be super big and covered in green and blue and yellow.”


“Yeah, it's going to be covered in flowers.”

“Oh, okay. Flowers are obviously necessary.”

I took her back down from my shoulders and walked her back to our seats. I pulled out some snacks for the both of us, some packets of crackers, and handed one to her. I looked out the side window into the darkness while I ate.

“May, what do you think I should do when I grow up?” I asked eventually.

“You already are grown up, silly. You're 15! That's really old,” she said, entirely seriously.

“Oh yeah, really, really old. You know mom and dad are like 35 right?”

“They're old too.”

I heard the seats in front of us shift. Mom lifted her head over the top and looked at us. “May, I am not old, and you better beg for your life if you ever call me old again.” She laughed and tapped May on the head with the tablet she was reading. She turned back around and went back to cuddling with Dad.

“I think you should help me make a planet,” May said, smiling.

I smiled back, “That sounds like a good idea.”

I finished up my crackers and stood up to look outside.

“Stay here May, I'll be right back.”

I walked up to the front window again and looked outside. Zajsk still hadn't looked like it had gotten any closer. The light coming out of the glass holes was a dark red now. I stared at it until the light went away.


Anna and I were eating in the kitchen at the small fold out table. For a small boat, this one had a pretty good food selection. I was eating some precooked steak that tasted mildly like curry. It wasn't bad for something heated up in a wave oven.

“I really do hope that we find your husband,” I said.

She took a drink from her cup, “I'm sure we will. I haven't heard from him in years, but he was hired by Calmar Inc. to work on Planet 4. There's really no other place he could be.” She sat staring at her food for a moment. “We've looked almost everywhere else already.”

We'd had this conversation before, but I always liked to repeat it just to make sure that we were looking for her husband for the right reasons.

“I get this sick feeling, Anna, that whatever happened to my family has something to do with your husband. Planet 4 has been under construction for, what, 20 years now? Calmar took 50 years to make, The States took,” I had to think about it, “30 years, I think, and Zajsk took 15. Each one has decreased the time it took to make it. Why is Planet 4 taking so long?”

“Most people say because it's going to be the biggest one so far. I think I read a few years ago that they totally remade the Calmar Relativity Machine just for Planet 4. Made the rings four times bigger or something like that.”