// I’ve heard whispers//
Audrey felt, for one of the first times in her life, completely out of place. It’s so easy to fit in when you’re walking the red carpet, waving and smiling and being the “it” girl of the moment.
The world had changed so very much in the past 18 months. Finally her research had brought her to the small college observatory where she had told Eddie to met her. She remembered the first time they had met in Florida. She was a bright eyes youth, taking acting classes, but also the head of the astronomy club. They had raised enough for a trip to the Weintraub observatory in Florida. During part of the trip, she had wandered off on her own to look at the interactive star charts, comparing them with her notebooks filled with drawings. She had always pretended when she was little that she were the stellar cartographer on the SS Enterprise and told the captain where to go. A pipe dream she knew but it didn’t stop her from making her imagined charts.
It was there that she had met Eddie and instantly a fond sort of friendship had formed. Her group had found her in the cafe four hours later, chattering about her love of the heavens and stars and her dream to live among them one day.They had parted ways, exchanging numbers, and as her own star had risen in Hollywood she often sent him notes or texts. Three years had gone by though since her last message to him and it had seemed almost a Hail Mary play to contact him the week before. He had said yes though and now, in the middle of a small restaurant in Michigan, she sat at the table and waited for him to arrive. Ever the military man, he was 10 minutes early and she stood to greet him, inviting him back over to the table where a beer sat waiting for him.
“It’s been a long time.” She said, matter of fact, smiling her usual thousand watt grin.
Edward’s life was like a constant roller coaster ride – there were always ups and downs, and they usually left you absolutely breathless. When he’d first got invited to work for the NASA, to pilot an actual space shuttle, he’d been overjoyed. For more than a year, he’d been ridiculously happy and excited because his childhood dream would actually become true. Being from a poor family in a war-torn country, the stars had always seemed so far away to him, but he’d never given up his hopes and in the end everything he’d worked so hard for seemed to pay off. That was, of course, until he’d made a few choices that didn’t sit well with his superiors. He’d ignored very precise orders, saved people that had been meant to die and eventually this resulted in getting dishonorably discharged. He didn’t only lose his job with the NASA but also all his military ranks. Once again, Eddie’s had no other choice but to leave the ruins of his life behind and try to move on. It wasn’t the first time and he was slowly starting to get used to it.
A few weeks after losing everything once more, a silver lining appeared on the horizon in the form of Audrey Gray’s melodic voice on the phone, asking him to meet her for a job offer. Eddie was excited to hear from his old friend again. While he and Audrey had never been very close, he’d always valued her greatly and admired her intelligence, talent and beauty (inner as well as outer beauty), so he immediately agreed to see her, of course.
Feeling hope spark inside of him again, Eddie picked out a nice suit to wear, slicked his (now longer) hair back, shaved his three-day stubble and prepared a detailed CV before heading out to meet Audrey in the restaurant she picked. He almost felt nervous when he finally shook her hand, a small, soft smile on his lips.
“Longer for you than for me. I always watch your movies.” He replied, trying hard to be charming and ever the perfect gentleman. He thanked her profoundly for the beer and even pulled out the chair for her before sitting down himself.
“It’s very good to see you again.”
Audrey smiled again, a slight tinge of pink on her cheeks. She should be used to compliments by now but a small part of her would always retain that down home charm and innocence. The one that told her that she was fortunate to have what she did, and that her humble beginnings would always bring her back.
After a few moments of light chatter, the conversation took a serious tone. Audrey, like the rest of the people left on this godforsaken planet, was now a refugee in her own world. Granted there were some good things about having the position she did, money being one of them and while she hated to flaunt it, it had been more than useful in getting the research and plans off the ground. The ones she was now unfolding and showing to Eddie.
“NASA said no, they think it’s a pipe dream and that the world will only get better from here on out. But that’s the thing, things haven’t gotten better. I’ve vested my time and energy into these plans and I need to know if you could even see something like this getting off the ground.”
She paused as she put her own drawing of the ship, simply a concept at this point, on the table. “Eddie, the Earth is in danger, people on this planet aren’t safe any more. Ever since space travel was opened to the public when NASA decommissioned the rockets, there have been whispers and rumors that it was a cover up for something far more dangerous. I’m taking my plans to the Russians, I think they can help where America won’t but I need to know if this is even something you think is possible. You know I’m not a pilot, I’m nothing more than an actress, but your opinion means more to me than all the tea in China. Could something like this happen?”
Eddie’s mood had switched from pleasantly curious, to worried, to excited and finally to intrigued. When Audrey had first contacted him, he’d have never expected what she was asking him now. He’d figured she might need a pilot for some private jet of hers, and he was one of the best, after all, but the real reason for their meeting fascinated and interested him so much more. He studied the plans for a while, brows knit together in concentration. His fingers brushed over the drawing, almost as if he could already feel his friend’s ideas coming to life. For the longest time he said nothing, kept Audrey waiting for the reply he slowly formed in his head like a sculptor formed clay. What she’d asked him needed a well thought-out answer, and he wasn’t even sure he could give one.
“What is essential for your plan is faster-than-light travel. I’m not a physicist so I can’t tell you if it is possible. You also need to contact some engineers…and they need to be the very best you can find. Personally, I think you can make it happen if you find the right people. If you incorporate NASA technology into your design, or any other technology I’ve worked with before…or something that is at least similar to something I’ve worked with, I will be able to fly this ship. I still have some friends in the NASA…some people who believe that what I did was right…so I will do my best to help you. Just tell me what you need me to do. You know me I would never turn down a friend. You have my full support.”
Audrey couldn’t help but grin wildly, her excitement building as she cautiously reached out to grab Eddie’s hand. “I may have already found someone to act as our engineer, his name is Garik and I think with him and you on board, we might have a decent presentation.
It means travel though, and soon. I have a very small window of opportunity and another contact of mine will be meeting me at the end of the week. I’m willing to pay for air fare and accommodations if you’re willing to leave basically all you know behind and follow me to Russia. I know I’m asking a lot on such a short notice but it has to be now if we’re going to get the backing we need.”
Audrey realized she had been rushing and was wearing her “intense getting shit done” face but Eddie was the last piece to her American puzzle. The rest hopefully would fall into place once they got to Russia. She had a meeting scheduled with them in less than a week and, being punctual and organized, she was trying to get her ducks in a row early. She could only hope that this would be the final push they needed to get off of Earth and to begin exploring the galaxy like she had always dreamed of doing.
„You’re not aware of my current situation, are you? There’s nothing for me here I could leave behind. I’m unemployed, my mother died half a year ago and I already left most of my friends behind the last time I moved. Just tell me when we leave and I’ll go and pack my things.”
Eddie smiled crookedly even though his life wasn’t really a smiling matter at the moment. He really had lost everything he’d worked so hard for and with his mother gone he no longer had any family to speak of. At least, he told himself, this left him free of all ties and bonds and allowed him to join Audrey without even having to think things through first. He needed a job, he loved excitement and he’d be working together with an old friend. There really was no way he’d get a better job, especially now that he was stripped of all his ranks and titles.
“I really think we can make this work, Audrey. The Russians have the necessary know-how and some of the best people. If you want, I’ll talk to some of my NASA colleagues and maybe some of my old buddies from my military times as well. I did a lot of networking and I think this will pay off now. Just…just give me as much info as you can.”
He started gesturing with his hands as he spoke, a clear indication of how excited he was himself. He’d come close to flying to the stars himself before, but when he’d lost his job, it seemed like this dream would be forever out of reach, but now there was a chance again. Eddie knew Audrey had the money, and he’d heard rumors that FTL-travel really was possible. All they really had to do was bringing the right people together now, and for someone like Audrey, this probably wasn’t too much of a problem.
“Oh, Eddie, no I didn’t know. I’m so sorry to hear about…your mother and your job…” She trailed off, touching his hand slightly in a sympathetic gesture. His attitude changed though, and the excitement that he suddenly had for the project bolstered her confidence.
“Well you already know my plans and that I have an engineer. We need someone to help us with the ship, I need to make contact with the heads of the FTL committee. I have a list of numbers of people to call, and I’ve been making headway slowly but you said you have contacts? I’m scheduled to be in Russia by Saturday and I’d like to leave Thursday night just to make sure. I’m meeting Garik tonight at a seedy little bar in the next town over tonight but…I can count on you? I mean, I didn’t even know if this would be able to happen until now.”
She was beaming by now, more than thrilled that her little pipe dream was now starting to look like a full fledged mission to mars. “Thank you Eddie, really thank you. You have no idea!” With that she pulled out a USB drive from her purse and handed it to him. “This has everything you need to know, plans, details, contacts, and confidential information that I can’t talk about here. You have my number, I’ll see you Thursday night?”