When the lift plate touched down, Daniel didn’t move. He just stared at the airlock high above him.
As the Afterthought's engines hummed to life, Daniel felt nothing. Or rather, he had so much sadness it felt like he felt nothing.
The scaffolding shuddered around him as the ship pushed forward.
Jeska wasn’t wasting time. She hadn't even retracted the lift.
He could hear the metal creak and tear as the Afterthought broke away, leaving the defunct elevator sitting alone in the dark Visitor’s Bay – a broken lift for a broken man.
As he watched, the Afterthought rotated 180 degrees in the air; the front of the ship now hovered 5 feet in front of him and 30 feet above him.
Then it descended, its heavy bulk easily crushing the piles of paper and cloth beneath it.
And Daniel found himself staring into the ship's bridge.
Jeska stared back.
Why are you doing this? he thought.
“I don’t understand,” he said.
She said two words, and the ship’s speakers amplified her voice so Daniel could hear her clearly.
“I’m sorry,” she said. She was crying openly now.
She looked away, and the ship began to rise.
Then the Visitor’s Bay lit up, revealing a gargantuan chamber of polished white and blue. His reddish brown ship stood out against the room's ceiling like a stain.
And Daniel hated himself at that moment.
Because, even as Jeska prepared to drop him like so much garbage, he couldn't make himself hate her.
Hope she put out that fire, he thought reluctantly.