A/N: Written for originalfic_las for the prompt: "alpha.”
Summary: She knew the litany from birth, that she would seek the Alpha Star, first and eternal…
The forward screens showed a dense cloud of gas, burning and throwing out fireballs across the cold blackness of space. Inside the perpetual firestorm was the heat of creation. The Alpha Star.
The first and eternal, the center of the universe, origin of the big bang, mother and father to all life and matter…
Anna Marie knew the litany better than her own name. It had been spoken to her unborn ears, chanted as she was expelled from the womb, whispered to her every time she drank from her mother’s breast. Her first words had been fragments of the litany. As had her son’s. Spoken in the darkness of the endless journey, sometimes with only themselves to hear it, it was what drove them on.
Anna Marie turned from the forward displays and walked along the long corridor of the ship. Every inch held a picture and a name. Her own was closest to the forward compartment, the oldest, closest to life-support chamber. That first photograph was ancient, but sealed against the hands of time. She touched the plaque below it, her fingers feeling the well-worn grooves of the date. Five hundred years ago. She knew the face in the picture as well as her son’s. Curt, at thirteen, was a younger version of him.
Anna Marie looked back up the corridor, the home to her family for seventeen generations. It had been rebuilt so many times that little remained of the original Ark but this wall. She moved back up the passageway slowly, her eyes now fixed on the fiery pyrotechnic display as the Ark penetrated the storm that surrounded the Alpha Star.
How many people had called them fools for seeking the center of the universe? How many had warned them they would never succeed, that the journey would take beyond their lifetimes to complete? Others had castigated her ancestors for condemning their children unto the seventeenth generation to fulfilling this selfish quest.
But when the stars had begun to burn and die, when the planets failed and the waters boiled, when darkness began to pull at the edges of the universe, Anna Marie knew they had wished they had followed her “foolish” ancestors.
Pity to them, that would not get a chance to experience this.
“Ma!” Curt rocketed from the front compartment, his face flushed and red from the brilliant, heated glow. “It’s a half-hour to breakthrough!”
He was all but bouncing on his toes in his eagerness. She remembered her father saying, “Thirty more years to breakthrough. We’re so close!” Anna Marie smiled at the thought that, for once, one of her family would have his faith rewarded immediately.
“Wake them up, son.”
Curt grinned and ran past his mother to the life support compartment. The compartment was filled with coldsleep pods, rank after rank of them, over three hundred of them. The oldest occupant was over five hundred years old.
Anna Marie remembered playing amongst the pods as a child, making up stories as to what her six times great grandmother Alice would have wanted to have for dinner, or why her eight times great aunt had kept a teddy bear at her side even in her pod.
Curt knew them as well as his mother, and ran to the control panel, eager to finally show off the sequence he’d learned as a boy. Anna Marie’s heart swelled as clicked through the controls flawlessly, the Ark beginning to hum.
Slowly, the pods shifted, coming away from their neat stacks along the walls to carpet the floor, like flowers crowding in a sunny meadow. All that was missing…
“Go on,” Anna Marie said, as Curt put his hand on the final control. He pressed it triumphantly, and the domed ceiling cracked apart as the Ark broke through the storm. Brilliant sunshine, that which hadn’t touched any part of the universe in a hundred years, flowed over the darkened pods, the precious solar energy activating them in a vibrant upswelling of life, bringing every function of the Ark to full capacity.
Pod after pod cracked open, releasing aunts and grandmothers, cousins and sisters, husbands and wives, each one put into sleep when age began to creep on them, to give the younger generation a chance to fly the Ark and bring the family to the Alpha Star. To brave the loneliness and ridicule, the uncertainty and fear, the awesome responsibility of so many lives in your hands. Anna Marie saw tears on every face as they felt the warmth of the sun, saw relatives they hadn’t seen in hundreds of years. She reached out to embrace Curt as Noah rose from the center pod, trembling and triumphant as he looked at the vastness of his family, joyful in the quest he had laid upon them, over five hundred years ago. His face was the one on the wall just outside the chamber, known to everyone here.
“Father!” Anna Marie called, and Noah looked at her and Curt, at his children and grandchildren and great grandchildren, over three hundred souls who hadn’t given up hope for a new life. “The Alpha Star welcomes us.”
“The first and eternal…” someone began, and as her family’s voices joined in the familiar litany, Anna Marie looked up at the brilliant star, knowing she was no longer alone, no longer saying her litany into the darkness. This was a new beginning, for all of them.