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Chapter 27: Re-Entry

‘Can you hear me, TM?’

Something hit TM in the face.

‘Earth to TM!’

Somebody was moving around him, people chattering somewhere off to the side.

‘What happened?’

‘His circuit died, something went wrong, I don’t -’

Something went wrong?! That’s a pretty huge fucking understatement, don’t you think?’

‘I’m sorry! We couldn’t have known -’

‘Guys?’ This was the voice closest to TM, a familiar voice. Veggie? ‘I think he’s waking up.’

‘The stars look different from up there,’ TM said, opening his eyes.

‘Oh, fucking hell, TM.’ Veggie collapsed next to him, wringing his hands through his hair. ‘I thought you were dead.’

‘I’m not totally sure I wasn’t,’ TM said, sitting up.

’Where were you?!’ Derrida asked. He sprinted over, closely followed by Marty and Dominika. TM glanced around and noticed, to what might once have been surprise, that he was sitting on the floor of the warehouse. ‘You just went and then you just came back!’

‘I disappeared?’

‘The whole damn ship did,’ Marty said. His face was white; all of them, in fact, looked thoroughly shaken. TM supposed he could understand it. ’Just blasted into… nowhere.’

‘That space rock worked too well,’ Derrida muttered.

‘The… space rock.’ TM felt around in his pocket and withdrew Veggie’s space rock necklace, still on its chain. ‘Must have floated in there at some point.’

‘So what happened?’ Veggie asked, taking the rock from TM gently.

‘Oh, this is…’ TM took Marty’s cassette out of his other pocket and tossed back to him. Marty caught it, realised what it was and gave something halfway between a roar of laughter and a sob. ‘I was here and then I was somewhere else. Floating. The… the ship broke. Sorry,’ he said, looking around at everyone. ‘I know how much you put into making it.’

’Screw the ship, we thought you were broken,’ Derrida retorted.

‘You were floating?’ Veggie coaxed. ‘In space? With no ship?’

‘All of that, yeah.’

‘And you didn’t die?’

‘Seems that way,’ TM reasoned.

‘Well, thank fuck for that,’ Veggie said, hugging his partner. Then he withdrew, looking as if he knew the next question he was going to ask but didn’t want to ask it. ‘And… Ziggy..?’

TM breathed, remembering. ‘I met her, sort of.’

Veggie broke into a wide smile, then bit his lip. ‘She hasn’t come back, though?’

TM shook his head. ‘I spoke to her, but… she couldn’t come back. She wanted to, but she couldn’t.’

Veggie nodded, exhaling loudly through his nose. ‘I don’t know whether I really thought we’d actually get her back.’

‘Me neither,’ TM admitted. ‘I hoped.’ He sighed and scratched his chin. ‘You still think this is about Aster for me?’

‘Not sure,’ Veggie said slowly. ‘Maybe… partly?’

‘I think I get what you meant, though,’ TM told him. ‘When Aster left… it was because she wanted to. She just decided that it was time to move on, so I had to respect that and… I wanted to chase her, to bring her back, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even be angry with her, because it was just the right thing for her to do. But Ziggy, she didn’t want to go, so I could finally try to get somebody back. I could be angry about her being taken away.’

Veggie watched him. ‘And now?’ he asked quietly.

‘I’m still angry,’ TM said, ‘but she wouldn’t want me to be. So… I guess I’ll remember her, and live for her.’

‘Sounds like a plan.’

‘She told me to tell you all that she loves you, by the way,’ TM said, louder. Marty looked down at the tape in his hands; Derrida coughed awkwardly, looking as if he weren’t sure whether to smile or cry; Dominika blew a kiss skyward.

‘So… what do we do now?’ Marty asked, after a few moments of reflective silence.

Veggie checked the time on his phone. ‘We’ve got to get back to work,’ he realised.

‘Oh, that’s so dumb.’

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