A bright spotlight suddenly blinded her as she focused straight ahead.
She became surrounded by clouds, holograms almost convincing enough to touch.
Several cameras turned on some distance away from her.
She started to float upwards as her feet were released from the floor.
The music started, and she began to sing.
“Makin’ believe and wishin’ someday, gonna fly high, just makin’ believe, wanna fly the high skies…”
Suddenly the music stopped and the display cut out. The communication screen behind the camera crew started rapidly flashing blue and red. Lumi looked around, confused.
“What’s happening?” she asked anyone who would listen.
“I don’t know, it looks like someone’s intercepting our Star Line signal!” said one of the crew members.
“Quick, someone turn the gravity field back on!” shouted another.
Lumi prepared herself for the impact as she hit the floor again. She rushed past the cameras where she joined the crowd of baffled people around the screen. There was still no image except a continuous flash of blue and red – what normally happened if the sender had no visual device – but a man’s voice was now issuing from the accompanying speaker.
“Good afternoon, Selena 30. Sorry to cut in like this, but there is a pretty big asteroid headed straight for your ship. You might want to get out of the way. Good luck. Bye!”
The flashing stopped. Everyone looked around in shocked silence.
“That can’t be true, can it?” someone said after a while, just as the screen lit up again, this time with a picture of the head of the flight crew.
“Attention, everyone,” he said. “I don’t know who that man was, but he was correct. Please brace yourselves.”
Lumi rushed for the wall and grabbed onto one of the many safety handles that was ejected from a quickly opening slot. All the other crew members did the same, just as the ship gave a strong jolt. The gravity field was holding, but it didn’t make up for the terrifyingly fast speed at which they were now swerving to avoid the asteroid. As she held on for dear life, Lumi started to wonder if this was actually a big joke, and tried to get up to check a window, but it was in vain. The turbulence carried on for five more long, frightening minutes, and then finally stopped.
Everyone got up. Most, including Lumi, ran for a part of the ship that had windows. She stared in awe as she saw, indeed, the big rock floating away from them through space.
It had been an uneventful day. Lumi sat in her room, re-reading The Complete Book of Greek Myths on her fold-out screen. She had always liked the older stories best. Aside from the deities, the world seemed so simple back then. She often wondered if, because of the lack of rapid transportation, the writers of those myths were confined to their native country just like she was confined to her space station, and if the stories were their way of saying that they wanted to see much more. Mount Olympus must have had something to do with imagination.
There was a knock at the door. “Lumi!” someone called. Lumi saved her page on the screen and ran to the door, opening it to see her favorite staff member from the space station recording studio.
“Jiro!” she exclaimed when she saw him. “This is a nice surprise! How are you?”
“I’m doing pretty well,” Jiro said. “What about you?”
“Okay,” said Lumi.
“I was just going to get some food from the kitchen,” said Jiro. “And, well…” He blushed.
“Yes?” said Lumi.
“I passed your door,” he said slowly, “and wondered if you might want something to eat as well.”
“I’m not hungry, thanks,” Lumi replied.
Jiro looked disappointed. “That’s… not what I meant.”
“What?” said Lumi. Then she smiled. “Oh, you mean you wanted me to come with you?”
“Uh, you were reading…” Jiro started to say.
“I would love to!” Lumi interrupted. “I’ve hardly been out at all today.”
“Great!” said Jiro, a little too loudly. Lumi giggled and stepped out, closing the door behind her. They walked down the hallway toward the kitchen.
“Do you know when the next tourist vessel is coming?” asked Lumi.
“I think it’s in about a week,” said Jiro. Space tourists visited Selena 30 every so often to get a look at a more living-oriented spaceship than the International Space Station.
“Good, I wanted to be ready for the rush of fans,” said Lumi.
“Oh, yeah, we just put out that new album, didn’t we,” Jiro said, laughing. “Brace yourself.”
Lumi laughed as well. “I hope I don’t have to practice my signature!”
They were still laughing when they reached a wider part of the hallway and saw a man step out of the door to a storage room. At first, Lumi thought he was part of the crew. It was only after they had passed him that she noticed he looked completely unfamiliar. Jiro stopped and looked back as well. The man was looking around with his hands in his pockets, a cheery expression on his face. Once he noticed that Lumi and Jiro were watching him, he strode up to them.
“Hello!” he said pleasantly. “Sorry to intrude, just passing through, anyone mind if I take a quick look around?”
Lumi couldn’t help but stare. The man looked European, unlike the majority of the Selena 30 crew. He was tall and thin and wearing an old-fashioned three-piece suit and a long coat, making Lumi feel oddly exposed in her light, iridescent dress. He could only have been a tourist, but it had been weeks since the last group had visited – and she could think of no reason why he would be in the storage room.
“Well?” he said.
“Hello,” Lumi and Jiro both said, one after the other.
“Sorry if I interrupted something,” said the strange man. “Where am I, by the way?”
“It’s called Selena 30 Long-Term Space Station,” Jiro informed him.
“Lovely. Selena, Greek goddess of the moon.” Then his eyes lit up. “Hold on – Selena 30? That must mean – are you Lumi Mizuguchi?”
Lumi was confused. “What? Yes… why?”
“Ah, brilliant!” he said, grinning like a child. “I must say, I’m a huge fan of you and Genki Rockets band! The music may not be my type, but live performances sent from space to holographic projections onstage? Brilliant!”
“Uh…” Lumi didn’t know what to say.
“I’m just curious – which language do you prefer? I know you sing in English, but your crew is Japanese and all that – I never know what to do when I meet multilingual people – gets tiring when you know every language in the universe…” Lumi noticed that he was alternating between Japanese and English with every phrase, as if he couldn’t help showing off. It was making her mind tired.
“Japanese, please,” she said, cutting him off. Jiro nodded in agreement. “Can you tell me who you are?”
“Doctor-san des,” he replied.
“That’s… your name?” Lumi asked.
“Yes it is,” he said. He turned to Jiro. “And you?”
“I’m Jiro Tamai,” said Jiro, waving.
“Pleased to meet you, Jiro Tamai,” said the Doctor. “Now, can you tell me what year it is?”
Lumi and Jiro looked at each other. “Really?” said Lumi.
“Yes, really,” said the Doctor nonchalantly.
“It’s 2037,” said Lumi.
“Then gravity fields have been in use around… fifteen years?” said the Doctor.
“Yeah,” said Lumi. “That’s why I’ve been able to stay in space for so long.”
“First human being ever born in space,” the Doctor said thoughtfully. “You must be honored.” Lumi said nothing. “Also,” he continued, energetic again, “that’s why over the past years space tourism has, well, skyrocketed, hasn’t it?” They nodded. “So what does it take to make your gravity field work?”
Jiro explained it to him. Lumi didn’t understand most of the technical terms, but she did know about the powerful generator that every spaceship used. When Jiro mentioned how much energy was needed to power each gravity field, the Doctor looked taken aback.
“That’s one big number,” he said. “Well, you’re still in the first twenty years, it’ll get more efficient later. Actually, maybe I could help with that. Anyway… tell me more about life in space.”
“Where do I start?” asked Lumi.
“For example,” said the Doctor, “has anything exciting happened recently?”
“Not really,” said Lumi.
“Well, it depends what you mean by recently,” said Jiro. “We had to avoid an asteroid and–”
“Jiro, that was three weeks ago!” Lumi nudged him.
“That counts,” said the Doctor. “Do tell.”
“We nearly got hit by an asteroid while I was filming for a TV advertisement, that’s all,” explained Lumi.
“That’s all, is it?” The Doctor looked surprised. “What do you mean, nearly? It’s not every day you avoid one of those.”
“We swerved,” said Jiro.
“But then how did you even know it was there?” asked the Doctor incredulously. “If I remember correctly, and I usually do, there haven’t been any asteroids large enough to be detectable in the earth satellite zone for at least a year!”
“You… must not have remembered right then,” said Lumi. “We could see this one from the windows.”
“We weren’t expecting it,” Jiro continued. “The flight crew only found out it was there when we got a message through Star Line.” He gestured to the screen farther down the hallway.
“That’s the… communication system?” the Doctor said.
“Yeah,” said Jiro. “It was actually the first time anyone has ever intercepted our signal, but it’s a good thing that it happened.”
“Someone sent an audio message and told us to get out of the way of the asteroid,” Lumi clarified. “He kind of sounded like…” She looked between Jiro and the Doctor, unsure whether to continue or not. Suddenly, the Doctor’s eyes widened.
“Er, sorry, I left something in the… storage room…” he said, running off. Lumi could hear him muttering to himself, “asteroid, three weeks, ontological,” as he disappeared behind the door. She and Jiro looked at each other.
“What were you going to say about the intercepter?” Jiro asked her.
Lumi looked nervously at the storage room door. “Doesn’t really matter,” she said. “Did you still want to get a snack? I could eat now.”
Jiro smiled. “Yeah, of course,” he said, blushing. Lumi giggled and grabbed his hand and they started walking, again, toward the kitchen.
“Found it!” said a voice from behind them. They turned to see the Doctor running back toward them, tucking something into an inside pocket of his suit. “No, keep going,” he said when he saw they had stopped. “I haven’t had anything to eat since 1939 – well, actually, a few hours ago – anyway, don’t mind me, don’t let me stop you.”
Deciding to ignore the 1939 comment, Lumi and Jiro continued walking to the kitchen in silence, too embarrassed to say much with the Doctor following close behind them. They had just passed one of the bigger windows when they noticed he had lagged behind a few paces.
“Lumi, Jiro,” he said quietly, staring out the window.
They approached him slowly. “What is it?” asked Lumi.
“The asteroid almost hit you three weeks ago,” said the Doctor, turning his head to face them.
“You sound like you don’t trust us,” said Jiro.
“I trust you completely, Jiro,” the Doctor said seriously. “But asteroids usually move at extremely high velocities, and there haven’t been any others of noticeable size around for the past year. The question is,” he lowered his voice even more and looked back out the window, “why is it still out there?”
Lumi looked out the window herself. She saw the International Space Station hundreds of miles away, its many solar panels gleaming with the energy they were taking in. She saw the circles of satellites orbiting the earth, with lights blinking from each one. And she saw the asteroid.
“It does look like the same one,” she said.
“It is the same one,” said the Doctor, “and it looks like it’s not moving.”
“You can’t really tell those kinds of things in space,” said Jiro.
“Oh, believe me, Jiro, I’ve been in space a while,” the Doctor said. “That rock has slowed down to almost no velocity at all since it almost hit you three weeks ago.”
“It slowed down?” Lumi repeated incredulously. “But asteroids can’t do that, can they?”
“A free-floating object would have to stay at about the same velocity in empty space unless acted upon by gravity,” Jiro said. “Conservation of energy.” Lumi looked at him, admiring his intelligence.
“Exactly,” said the Doctor. “Which gives us a problem. And the most likely solution is that that” – he pointed to the asteroid – “is not just an ordinary rock.” He took a pair of glasses out of a pocket in his suit jacket and put them on, then leaned closer to the window, as if to get a better look at what was out there.
“What else could it be?” asked Jiro.
“Well, for starters, it must be controlled by something,” said the Doctor.
“Like, remote control?” said Lumi.
“Well, yes, or,” the Doctor said, “there could be something inside it.” He pointed. “That’s the ISS?”
“Yes,” said Lumi.
“Then what’s… that?” he said, moving his finger to a much smaller structure, also covered with solar panels, that was emerging from behind the asteroid.
“Tourist vessel,” said Jiro.
“How many people does it hold?” asked the Doctor.
“Ten tourists plus three for flight crew,” said Jiro. “Thirteen total.”
The Doctor must have heard him, but he was too busy staring at the asteroid, muttering to himself, “Silver…”
“What?” said Lumi.
“That’s what the rock’s made of. Partially, anyway,” explained the Doctor. “Silver is the most conductive pure metal there is. Immediate slowdown right after a failed collision course – no, it can’t be… That’s impossible…”
He didn’t have a chance to say any more, because the communication screen near them lit up with a picture of a woman.
“ISS, Selena 30, this is ISTA, respond,” she said in English, while a Japanese translation scrolled across the screen.
The picture shrank on screen and two more appeared around it. One, Lumi knew, was George Yuriyev, head of the ISS flight crew and a good friend of her father. The other was the head of the Selena 30 flight crew, Kousuke Satou.
“ISS received,” said Yuriyev once he had appeared on screen.
“Selena 30 received,” said Satou.
“What’s ISTA?” said the Doctor quietly.
“It stands for International Space Tourism Association,” whispered Lumi back.
“I regret to inform you,” said the woman from ISTA, “that Tourist Shuttle 119 has been destroyed.”
Both Yuriyev and Satou gasped on screen. Lumi and Jiro did so as well.
“How can you tell?” asked Yuriyev.
“Their Star Line signal cut out,” said the ISTA woman. “We received no information about a power shortage, so we can only assume that the vessel is no longer functional.”
“Do you think it was a collision?” Satou said.
“That is the most likely possibility,” said the ISTA woman.
They continued talking onscreen, but the Doctor had wandered back to the window.
“What is it?” Lumi asked, approaching him.
“The fragments of the tourist vessel are staying close together, while they should be flying off in different directions,” said the Doctor. “What’s more, the asteroid is moving again. My theory has been confirmed.”
“Grenerions,” said the Doctor.
“What?” said Lumi and Jiro together.
The Doctor pointed out the window. “That’s not an asteroid,” he said. “It’s a spaceship, and a very cleverly disguised one.”
“How?” interrupted Jiro. “Where are the solar panels? How does it get energy?”
“I’m getting to that,” the Doctor cut him off. “The things that are inside that spaceship are called Grenerions. Grenerions are beings made from energy. They live and breathe energy. They are energy. The only way they can do anything is by absorbing and emitting energy. So,” he nodded to the spaceship, “they have to give off enough of their energy to power that.” He put his glasses back in his pockets and leaned against the wall, sighing. “And there aren’t that many ways they can get it.”
“Doctor, please, slow down!” Lumi said. “How can you know all this? Where did you come from? You never told us.”
“Oh…” said the Doctor. He seemed a little embarrassed. “Over… that way,” he said, gesturing. Lumi looked where he was pointing, then looked out the window. The earth was in the opposite direction.
“You’re from space?” Lumi guessed.
“Well, not exactly,” the Doctor said. “Not like you are. Anyway, the point is, Grenerions can’t keep themselves moving in space for long with transport like that–”
“Are you from another planet?” Jiro asked.
“Yes, it’s called Gallifrey, you’ve probably never heard of it,” said the Doctor. “The only energy they can absorb outside of nebulas is kinetic–”
“You’re not human?” said Lumi, taken aback.
“No, I’m not,” said the Doctor. “And the only way they can get that kinetic energy themselves is from a good collision – CRASH!” he finished energetically.
Lumi and Jiro just stared at him. Lumi couldn’t follow what he was talking about, let alone get his point.
“What are you looking at?” the Doctor asked them. “Has my hair suddenly turned ginger or something?”
Lumi could only shake her head slowly, still thoroughly confused.
“Shame about that,” said the Doctor. “Anyway, where were we?”
“Doctor,” said Jiro, “you told us you’re an alien from a planet we’ve never heard of, which means that you would come from millions of light years away… which means you shouldn’t exactly be here right now unless you’re millions of years old. I’m still trying to understand that.”
The Doctor’s playful expression disappeared and he became very serious. “I am a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous. I have been traveling through space and time for close to nine hundred years. I am going to help prevent any more lives from being lost, but you need to trust me.”
Lumi was slightly intimidated by his sudden sternness. She didn’t have the strength to say anything back. Jiro, however, looked the Doctor in the eye and nodded.
“I’m ready to do whatever you say, sir,” he stated.
The Doctor smiled. “Good… don’t call me sir, though, just Doctor. Right then,” he said. “A few beings of energy in an asteroid spaceship manage to get to the earth zone, almost collide with Selena 30, expend too much energy and slow down, and manage to run into a tourist ship while doing so. The question is, what’s their next move?”
“Why are they out here? They seem to be so far from their home,” said Lumi.
“Yes, that’s a good question as well,” said the Doctor thoughtfully, “but one that might have to be answered later.”
“Why did they want to crash into Selena 30 in the first place?” asked Jiro.
“Given that they absorbed all the kinetic energy from their most recent collision, it seems they were low,” said the Doctor. “They needed to absorb more in order to be able to move again. That tourist ship was awfully small, though. They could have used one of those satellites instead – it was much closer and no lives would have been lost.”
“Maybe they… want people?” said Jiro. He was the one to move back to the window this time.
“No… hold on…” said the Doctor. “They went straight through the satellites the first time and didn’t take out any after… AH! GRAVITY FIELDS! They’ve been using the generator!”
“Don’t they have a gravity field of their own?” Lumi asked, confused.
“They might, but that’s not the point. You’re generating a colossal amount of energy to keep the gravity on your space station intact. Satellites don’t need that kind of power, because they don’t have to carry humans. So the Grenerions only want space vessels manned by humans and generating gravity fields. And the nearest thing to them like that right now would be…”
Jiro looked back at them from the window. “Doctor, it’s the International Space Station.”
The Doctor rushed to the window. “What?” he said, shocked.
“The Grenerion ship is much closer to the ISS than it is to us,” said Jiro, “and it’s getting even closer. They’re on a collision course.”
“You can tell them to swerve,” suggested Lumi.
“No, that wouldn’t work,” said the Doctor sadly. “Something as big as the ISS couldn’t move fast enough, and the Grenerions have enough energy to catch up with it.” He looked over at the communication screen. “Although I could still send them a message.”
“Saying what?” asked Lumi.
“To turn off their gravity fields,” replied the Doctor.
“Wait, that means three quarters energy usage,” Jiro cut in. “Turn off the gravity fields and you shut down the generators.”
“Exactly,” said the Doctor, “which means that the Grenerions won’t want to crash into the ISS anymore. They won’t be able to get any more worthwhile energy from anything.”
Lumi looked at him, worried. “You mean… they’ll run out of energy for life? They’ll die?”
“If they get all that energy from the ISS they’ll have enough power to collide with the earth,” said the Doctor. His voice was sorrowful, but sympathetic. “It’s the only way.”
“I think he’s right,” said Jiro. He reached for Lumi’s hand and held it.
“There must be some other way,” Lumi tried to argue, but the Doctor was already heading toward the communication screen. He got through a few menus on the touchscreen, but soon took out a metal device, about as long as a pen or a stylus but at least twice as thick, with a blue light on top that made a buzzing noise. Somehow he managed to get the screen to display “ISS”.
“You can’t get to Star Line outside of flight control!” said Jiro.
“Yeah, well, I’m clever with technology,” said the Doctor. He folded his arms and watched the screen. “ISS, this is Selena 30, respond!”
There was a pause before George Yuriyev’s image flickered into view. “ISS received. Who are you?”
The Doctor pulled a wallet out of his pocket and flashed an ID at the screen. “Doctor John Smith, certified science and technology expert. Now, there’s dangerous solar flare activity coming soon, so you’ll need to shut down all major generators that get their energy from the solar panels. That means you’ll have to switch off all your gravity fields for” – he looked at his watch – “about thirty minutes. By then the most severe flares will have subsided and it will be safe to use the solar panels at full capacity.”
“Will we have to shut down the main non-gravity generator as well?” asked Yuriyev.
“If you reduce that one to half power, it should be safe to leave it on,” said the Doctor. “Just remember, no gravity fields.”
“Copy that. Thank you for the warning, Doctor Smith,” said Yuriyev. The screen went blank once again.
The Doctor turned back to Lumi and Jiro. “That should be enough time.”
“Solar flares aren’t powerful enough to break solar panels in earth orbit, are they?” said Jiro.
“No they’re not,” answered the Doctor, a little amused. “Good observation, Jiro. Well, they wouldn’t be strong enough with a star like your sun. But I couldn’t exactly tell him that there were aliens made of energy on their way to suck up all the power from the generators. Let’s just see if…” He came back to them and looked out the window. “Good, they’re slowing down.”
“They must be so far from their home,” said Lumi, half to herself.
“How do they survive on their own planet?” Jiro asked the Doctor. “What’s it even called? Gren-earth? Grenerionsphere?”
“Altragrenera,” the Doctor corrected him. “It has the perfect environment to support beings of energy, much like Earth has the right environment to support humans. It revolves around an extremely massive star, which, along with two others, revolves around a black hole. They have three suns. Furthermore, their solar system is right in between two nebulas. They’ve got no shortage of energy sources.”
“I don’t see why they would want to leave that kind of place,” said Lumi. “If it’s perfect for them…”
Meanwhile, a junior astronaut named Ivan floated around in his laboratory room on the International Space Station. There was no point. His research had told him that solar flares couldn’t disrupt the generators for the gravity fields, and even if they could, turning the generators off wouldn’t help anything. There was no one else around. Groping his way along the wall, Ivan found the switch. He pressed it and fell back onto the floor.
“It’s been amazing here in space,” Jiro told the Doctor. “I just want to go farther and farther out.”
“Ah, you want adventure,” said the Doctor energetically. “The fun never really stops. Millions of galaxies, billions of planets, and it just keeps getting bigger.”
“I’ve always wanted to see new planets,” said Jiro.
“Well, if I don’t get dragged off by a Cyberman, you might just get your wish,” said the Doctor.
It was Lumi’s turn to look out the window, and she thought she saw something that made her start to worry. “Doctor?”
“Alright, tell me the secret, how do you get here from millions of light years away?” asked Jiro.
“I have this, well, ship” the Doctor began, “that doesn’t just travel in space but also –”
“Doctor?” Lumi said again. “Jiro?”
Jiro turned to her immediately. “What is it, Lumi?”
“The spaceship,” Lumi said, pointing out the window. “It looks like… it’s started moving again.”
“What?” the Doctor exclaimed. He ran to the window, staring in horror.
“Oh no…” muttered Jiro. “This can’t be good…”
“No, no, no,” said the Doctor, panicking to the point of pulling his hair. “There’s nothing else I can do! They’re going to die!”
“There has to be something,” said Lumi.
Jiro grabbed her hand again. “How did you get onto Selena 30?” he asked.
“Wha?” the Doctor panted, looking back at them.
“If you can get inside our ship…”
“…you could get inside theirs?” Lumi finished. At first she didn’t want to express her idea, but now that Jiro seemed to have the same one, she became more and more confident.
The Doctor just seemed speechless.
“If you convinced them to stop, then maybe… I don’t know…” she trailed off.
“If there’s one thing I learned from your songs, Lumi,” the Doctor said slowly, “it’s that you’ve always been focused on love and peace. I admire that.” Lumi smiled. “But it’s not that simple,” he continued. “I could get onto their ship and even transport it home – I’ve thought of that. It’s just too dangerous. If I fail, everything would go to waste.”
“But we could come with you!” suggested Jiro.
“No, I’d be putting both of your lives at stake,” said the Doctor.
“You said you trusted us!” Jiro protested.
“I still do. It’s not a question of trust. We’re dealing with something that even I haven’t faced before. I can’t let you go through with it. I just can’t.” He buried his face in his hands.
“But Doctor…” Lumi said, touching his arm.
“You said I was hungry for adventure and you were right,” said Jiro.
“They’re so far away from home,” said Lumi.
“This could be a chance to have some adventure.”
“They must miss their own planet in some way.”
“Between your experience and Lumi’s sheer positivity, there must be a way to change their minds.”
“I know we can help them.”
“We can do it!”
The Doctor looked up. “You’re this determined.”
Lumi and Jiro both nodded.
“You’re prepared to risk your lives.”
They nodded again, Lumi a little hesitantly.
“Well, that just proves you’re like me.” He grinned and stretched his arms out, suddenly full of energy. “Right, Lumi Mizuguchi, Jiro Tamai, we’ve got a planet to save. Allons-y!”
“Here we are!” the Doctor said proudly as he opened the door to the storage room.
Lumi and Jiro looked inside. Lumi had no reason to go in storage rooms, so the clutter of pipes, boxes, and electronics was unfamiliar to her. She was pretty sure, however, that the big blue box right in the middle of the clutter had nothing to do with Selena 30. It was about the size of her vocal booth and said “Police Public Call Box” on top.
“Is this what they use to call the police back on Earth?” she asked.
“No,” said the Doctor. “Well, not for the past, oh, seventy years.”
“I was about to say, I never saw anything like that at home,” said Jiro. “Anyway, where’s your spaceship?”
“This is my spaceship!” replied the Doctor defensively.
Lumi was a bit put off by this, but Jiro laughed. “Oh, I see!” he said. “It looks nice! How small does the engine have to be to fit?”
The Doctor could tell he didn’t believe. “Oh, it’s not really an engine. Well, it is, but not the kind you’d expect. Care to have a look inside?”
Jiro nodded enthusiastically. The Doctor opened a door to the box and Jiro stepped inside, only to come rushing out a few seconds later with an amazed look on his face. He managed a “Lumi, you have got to see this” before starting to run around the box, seeming to check it from every side.
With the Doctor gesturing her on, Lumi put her left hand on a side of the box and stuck her head inside. She gasped. It felt like the two parts of her body were in alternate realities. The inside was a huge domed area, with lights all over the walls and controls in the middle. She looked to the left, but the wall where her hand was did not seem to exist anymore. She pulled her head back out – yes, her hand was still there.
“How is this real?” she exclaimed.
“What, bigger on the inside?” said the Doctor, amused. “Oh, nothing too out of the ordinary, not where I come from, anyways.”
“Is it, like, in another dimension or something?” Jiro guessed.
The Doctor sighed. “Jiro, I’m beginning to think you watch a bit too much sci-fi,” he said, “but… yeah, it’s in another dimension.”
“That is so cool!” Jiro could hardly contain his excitement. He ran back into the box-spaceship, with the Doctor on his heels and Lumi apprehensively following and closing the door behind her.
“It’s called the TARDIS,” the Doctor explained. “Stands for ‘Time And Relative Dimension In Space’.”
“Does it go lightspeed?” Jiro asked.
“Yeah, basically,” said the Doctor. “In a way, it goes faster, because to cancel out the effects of relativistic time dilation, it can go back in time exactly the amount of the difference – yes, it travels in time, I was about to point that out before – so I could get to the other side of the universe in an objective matter of minutes. It also goes through more dimensions… hard to explain.”
“Oh. My. God,” said Jiro. “This is incredible. If I could just get a little bit of how it works…” He reached for a lever.
The Doctor stepped in front of him. “OI! We don’t want any of this technology getting leaked too early! And you know what –” he lowered his voice slightly “– I think you should go talk to Lumi.”
Lumi was leaning against one of the big tree-like structures around the edge of the room. She was listening to the conversation between Jiro and the Doctor, happy that he was enjoying himself, but when Jiro approached her, she started to blush.
“Do I really look so lonely?” she asked.
Jiro said nothing.
“Go on,” Lumi said. “You were having fun. We’re inside a futuristic time machine in a space that shouldn’t exist – it’s a dream come true, isn’t it?”
“Lumi,” said Jiro, “do you know why I applied for a job on Selena 30?”
“You… wanted to go to space?”
“No, it was because I wanted to see you.”
Lumi gasped. She didn’t know what to say to that. She looked toward the Doctor, who was now busily operating the controls in the middle but smiled at them.
“I’ve been following you ever since ‘Heavenly Star’,” Jiro continued. “I got all your songs. I went to all the concerts. There’s something about you and your music that’s so incredibly uplifting, and all through my life, I really needed something like that. You made me into a better person, Lumi, even back then.”
Lumi was starting to subconsciously reach for Jiro’s hand to pull him closer.
“When I heard that there was an open position on Selena 30, I studied harder than I ever had before in order to be considered for it. I learned everything I could about astronomy, physics, aerospace engineering… and they took me. I couldn’t believe it – that was my dream coming true. And then I met you. And you were so… amazing…”
“But this is…” Lumi still couldn’t think of what to say. She was holding both of Jiro’s hands now. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I’m just a fan,” said Jiro, looking from Lumi’s eyes to the floor. “I didn’t want you to know. It looked like you started to have feelings for me too, and I wanted to keep that. You have hundreds of fans. I wanted to be something more…”
“But you are!” Lumi said, trying to meet his eyes again. “Don’t be ashamed. Dreams are always worth living for.” She smiled at him, and he managed to smile back.
“This is what I love about you,” Jiro said. “You always see the good in everything.”
“Well, you’re the best fan anyone could ask for,” said Lumi. She hugged him. He meant more to her now than ever. She just wanted to hold him close for as long as possible, her head resting on his shoulder, his hands stroking her back. She felt warmer, safer, and happier than she had ever felt in her life – the heavenly stars she had been singing about for years were right here, right now, in his arms.
“Lumi! Jiro!” The Doctor’s voice took them by surprise. Lumi snapped out of her trance, and she could tell Jiro did the same. “Come on, no time to lose! We’ve landed!”
The Doctor opened the door. Outside was no longer the storage room on Selena 30 but what looked like a sparkling cave. The walls were dark and rough, but they shined in odd places – Lumi remembered what the Doctor had said about the spaceship being made of silver. There seemed to be no light source in the room except from the inside of the TARDIS, but everything glowed red-orange.
“Travelers from Altragrenera!” shouted the Doctor. He stepped out into the cavern and motioned for Lumi and Jiro to follow him. “Stay close to the TARDIS,” he muttered to them.
Just as Lumi had finished taking in her surroundings from inside the spaceship cave, the red-orange light started getting steadily brighter until what looked like its source entered the room from around a corner. It was a cluster of light, the same red-orange as the light all around the room, but it looked alive. A column of light stemmed up from a small “puddle” on the floor and branched out as it got nearer the ceiling, then hung down in even smaller branches, swaying in a nonexistent breeze. It looked like a blurry cross between a tree and a jellyfish.
“Is that a Grenerion?” whispered Jiro.
“Yeah,” the Doctor whispered back.
The tree of light – the Grenerion – was soon joined by nine others, coming in from entryways all around the room. They all stood behind the first Grenerion (if you could call it standing) and reached their hanging branches out towards Lumi, Jiro, and the Doctor.
“You are not welcome here,” one of them said, although Lumi couldn’t tell which one. The voice was toneless, genderless, and echoing.
“I am here to offer you help,” the Doctor said.
“We come in peace,” Lumi asserted. The Doctor looked back at her, as if to say “Good try, but leave this to me.”
“What kind of help is this?” asked the Grenerion.
“You have killed several innocent humans recently,” said the Doctor. “I understand that you were focused on survival, but I must ask you to stop this.”
“That is impossible,” said the Grenerion. “You still have not explained what help you offer.”
“I can take you where you can get all the energy you need, without having to sacrifice any other lifeforms,” said the Doctor, a little uncertainly. He took a deep breath. “I can take you home.”
All the Grenerions made a humming noise as their hanging branches tightened. “Then we have a problem.”
“What sort of problem can you have? You’re starving out here, you’re dying! Back home your environment is perfect!”
“We will not return to Altragrenera. When we have absorbed the energy of the artificial satellite and its planet, we will leave this solar system.”
“No, no, that’s not good enough! There are over eight billion people down there!”
“That is not our concern. Goodbye.” The Grenerions started to drift away back through the entrances to the room.
Jiro started to get desperate. “You can’t! Come back!” Driven by anger, he ran after the Grenerions, away from Lumi, the Doctor, and the TARDIS.
“JIRO! DON’T!” the Doctor yelled, but before Jiro could respond, he started to choke, staggered, and collapsed, unconscious.
Lumi stared. She searched him from afar with her eyes, trying to find any sign that he was still alive – and found it. A slow pulse still ticked away in his neck.
“Doctor, he’s all right! We can save him!” she said, frantically tugging at the Doctor’s arm, but he didn’t budge.
“Grenerions don’t need to breathe,” he said dismally. “The only air they need is for audible communication, and they don’t care how thin it is or what it’s made of.”
Lumi gasped as she started to realize what this meant. “But…”
“The TARDIS air shell is the only thing protecting us. If you went out there, you’d be knocked out before you could reach him. Even if we could get him safely back inside, his oxygen supply is too low to make a recovery.”
Filled with horror and hopelessness, Lumi couldn’t help but cry and reach out towards the boy who was once her most devoted fan and her best, closest friend. “JIRO!” she cried, watching his attractive face grow paler and paler with every worthless breath. The Doctor put a warm hand on her shoulder sympathetically.
“There’s nothing we can do,” he said. “I’m sorry. He’s gone.”
“Grenerions!” shouted the Doctor. “A completely innocent person has died as a result of your apathy! I demand that you return and justify your actions, with the authority of the Shadow Proclamation!”
There was no reply. After a few seconds, he reached into his jacket and produced the metal pen again and examined it closely.
“Doctor, what are you doing?” Lumi complained desperately.
“I’m trying to reconfigure my sonic screwdriver,” replied the Doctor, not looking at her.
“But they’re not coming back and I’ve lost Jiro forever!” she cried. “How is a screwdriver going to help?”
“Like this,” the Doctor said, and held it up. At once the room was full of a deafening buzz. Lumi immediately clapped her hands tightly over her ears, but even that couldn’t stop her from hearing it. The floor started to shake and sparks started to fly out of the silver walls as tiny cracks appeared in them. The Doctor seemed unfazed by all of this: Lumi could just see his calm and determined look while chaos happened around them.
The Doctor lowered his screwdriver again. The buzzing stopped. A Grenerion slowly emerged from the passage, followed by a few others. All of them were very stiff and glowing red.
“Why do you refuse to return to Altragrenera?” demanded the Doctor.
None of them said anything.
“TELL ME!” he yelled.
Again, silence. Lumi was frightened by the Doctor’s outburst, and she could imagine the Grenerions felt the same.
Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, one of them spoke up.
“We left because of the new regime.”
Lumi looked up at the Doctor, confused. She had read things of a similar nature in the electronic library, but having grown up away from civilization, she did not exactly know what it meant.
“Go on,” said the Doctor.
“The rulers of our continent have taken over the entire planet,” the Grenerion continued. “They have stolen all the best exposed areas. Anyone who trespasses is immediately drained. We and thousands of others were left to starve in the shade.”
Lumi gasped. “That’s horrible!”
“What’s more,” said the Grenerion, “is that they don’t just leave us to die. They drain for sport. Every so often they find someone to kill, to demonstrate their own power and keep themselves always at maximum energy. Sometimes they even throw members of the starving population into the horizon.”
“The event horizon,” the Doctor clarified quietly.
“They force Grenerions into the black hole?” Lumi asked, even more shocked.
“Exactly,” said the Grenerion. “We were nothing more than slaves to the leaders of the new Altragreneran regime, the masters of destruction. So we resolved to make our way as far from home as possible.”
Still upset, Lumi considered the Grenerions’ story. She couldn’t help but pity them, even though her own best friend had suffered an awful death because of their indifference.
“You left,” said the Doctor slowly, “because your world was being destroyed.”
The Grenerions’ branches waved.
“Yet by leaving,” he went on, “you have been forced to cause destruction yourselves.”
They stiffened again. “What do you mean?”
“You escaped your planet into empty space. You’re starving. And what do you need to do to survive? You absorb other planets. What about all the lifeforms on those planets, hm? Where do they go? That’s right, they die. They’re destroyed. And you can’t help it, because you just want to keep going farther and farther out, never just sticking to one nebula or one megastar because that means lingering too long when you could escape more from Altragrenera. You kill billions to survive. And what were you escaping from again?”
“There is a difference,” protested one of the Grenerions. “They kill for power. We are focused on survival.”
“Yeah, yeah,” the Doctor said. “Why worry about anyone else if you’re starving? What’s eight billion lives compared to your spineless selves? Nothing justifies genocide on this scale. Do you hear me? NOTHING!”
The last word echoed in the cavernous hall of the Grenerion spaceship.
Lumi looked out at the trees of light, now extremely stiff and almost shaking. She cleared her throat.
“If you go back,” she said uncertainly, “maybe you can find some way to stop this – restore peace.”
“We have tried,” said a Grenerion.
“Well, try harder,” the Doctor cut in. “And you know what? I’ll even alert the intergalactic authorities. I’m surprised no one has done that.”
“You would do that? You would go through the trouble?”
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all!” the Doctor waved them down. “But you have to agree to come with me. I can transport you back, before you drain yourselves.”
“Whose service will we be in if we agree?”
The Doctor gestured around. “He was Jiro Tamai, she is Lumi Mizuguchi, and I’m the Doctor. We’ve come to help you.”
Slowly, one by one, the Grenerions loosened. They glowed a darker red now. “Very well. Transport us home. But we expect you to keep your promise about the authorities.”
“You’ll see I will,” said the Doctor. He turned to Lumi, smiling. “We’re taking them back. Come on!”
As she followed him back into the TARDIS, Lumi, in spite of herself, couldn’t help but smile a little too.
The Doctor ran up to the TARDIS controls and began rapidly flicking switches, pulling levers, and pressing buttons. Lumi closed the door behind her again as she stepped into the impossible room. She was going to another planet. It was possible.
“We’re taking them back home,” she remarked, her thoughts turning into words. “The earth and the ISS are safe… but I’m still not sure what to feel right now.”
“I understand,” said the Doctor. Then he got an idea. “I know, why don’t you sing something?”
“But–” Lumi didn’t know how to respond to this. Yes, she was a singer, but somehow it didn’t feel right. “I don’t have anything to sing to,” she protested.
“That won’t be a problem,” the Doctor said, and pressed yet another button. For a few moments, nothing happened. Then all at once music filled the room.
Lumi recognized it. “This is Hikari no tabi!”
“Yup!” said the Doctor gleefully. “We’re on a journey of light ourselves, so… might as well sing about it!” Lumi looked at him incredulously. “Go on!” he urged her. “I removed the vocals!”
Lumi cleared her throat.
“All the same time goes by, you and I hold on tight, we’re moving, speed of light,” she sang to the music. The Doctor kept pressing buttons with that cheeky grin on his face, nodding in time to the song. He motioned for her to keep singing and pulled out something that looked like a microphone and spoke into it.
“Hello, Grenerions, this is the Doctor speaking. Welcome to TARDIS transport. No need to exert any energy. Just sit back – if you do sit – relax and enjoy, with complimentary music by Genki Rockets.”
Lumi continued to sing as the Doctor ran around the controls. “We are living in diversity, yeah, you are my soul and identity, yeah, see multicolors passing spirals, my heart will feel you for eternity!” She waved her arms, activating the tiny fiber optics in the super-thin flesh-colored gloves she always wore, making her hands light up like flashlights. These were mostly for emergencies, but she also liked to use them when she performed. The Doctor saw this and flipped a switch darkening the room, so that Lumi’s hand lights shone even more prominently as she waved them around.
“Future’s bright, right on time, take a chance, don’t look back.”
She started to dance around, although it was difficult with the random bursts of turbulence in the TARDIS. Lumi wondered if the Doctor completely knew what he was doing, but she knew better than to ask him. The hand lights made bright spirals as she spun in circles.
“I only see you in reality, you are my soul and identity, yeah, my heart will feel you for eternity.”
The song ended and the Doctor turned the lights back on. He pulled one final lever and then ran to the door, standing in front of it until Lumi was close to him.
“Lumi Mizuguchi,” he said, slowly opening the door, “Welcome to another world.”
Lumi looked outside in awe. The ground was smooth and bright yellow. The sky was a light blue, similar to Earth’s sky, which she had only ever seen in pictures. The three suns glowed white overhead, though they were heavily obscured by purple clouds. All around were other Grenerions, mostly colored yellow, though some were orange and a few were green. Black, curvy structures rose up from the ground in some places, like swirly trees, taller than everything else.
The Doctor pointed to the cloud layer. “Absorbent atmosphere,” he explained to Lumi. “That’s why they can’t always get energy directly from the suns.”
They stepped out of the TARDIS and turned to see the asteroid-like ship they had just guided. A section of it folded inward and the Grenerions emerged from inside. As the light on their home planet touched them, each one changed from dark red to blue-green and lit up, reaching its branches to the sky. Lumi thought she could hear sighs of ecstasy as they started to shine with their new colors. It was beautiful to watch.
While she stood looking out at the landscape of a magnificent alien planet, she couldn’t help thinking that Jiro would have enjoyed it even more.
The journey back home was uneventful. Lumi watched in silence, if you could call it that, as the Doctor busily ran around the TARDIS controls, occasionally holding something when he asked her and stumbling when the room tilted and shook. After a few minutes, the noises and the turbulence stopped and the Doctor opened the door once more.
“Here you are, Selena 30.”
Lumi walked out. The storage room was exactly how they had left it: pipes, boxes, and electronics all neatly arranged with some tangled wires surrounding them. She paused near the door, looking back at the Doctor.
He tilted his head. “Aren’t you going to go home?”
She just stared at him silently, not really thinking about being back on her space station but about something else.
“You’re still sad about Jiro, aren’t you?”
He couldn’t have said it better. Thoughts of Jiro were still racing through Lumi’s mind – how admirable he was and how she would never see him again. She collapsed against the door to the hallway, steadying herself with the handle.
“I know how it feels,” said the Doctor. “I’ve lost people before… so many people, so many friends. And there is really no way to recover.”
“I already know there isn’t,” Lumi sighed.
“I’m sorry,” the Doctor said. “I’m so sorry, I really am. The only consolation I can give is that it wasn’t your fault – and that does make a difference, whether you know it or not.”
Lumi could tell it pained him to say this. She figured he was hiding something, probably a terrible past experience, from her, but she decided it was best not to ask about it.
“Is there anything else you can do?” she said instead.
“What do you mean?” asked the Doctor.
“Just… tell people about him,” Lumi suggested. “Make him well-known. It’s not fair that I’m famous and he’s not. He deserves it a lot more than I do.”
“I will,” said the Doctor. “I promise. I’ll spread the story of Jiro Tamai, lover of Genki Rockets, who died trying to save the earth.”
Lumi managed a sad smile. “Thank you, Doctor. Is this goodbye?”
“I’m afraid it is. My world is always moving, and I have to keep up with it.”
“Goodbye, Lumi Mizuguchi.”
He had just closed the door to the TARDIS when Lumi had a sudden thought.
He stuck his head out. “Yes? What is it?”
“You said you can time travel, didn’t you?” she asked.
“Okay so… Back when you first got here, there was a moment when you ran back into the storage room. It was right after we told you about the asteroid. Were you the one who sent us that message three weeks ago?”
The Doctor chuckled. “Course it was! Couldn’t have that warning existing without someone to send it!”
“I suppose I should thank you again then,” she said, a little amused herself.
He just smiled and waved as he closed the door again. Lumi backed away, hearing the now familiar grinding sound. The light on top of the blue police box started flashing. As it slowly vanished and displaced the air all around it, she could finally feel a breeze on her face.
Two hundred years later, the TARDIS materialized on the experimental satellite Curiosity. This was the Age of Eden: a time when the data archives of the internet had grown so comprehensive that they were thought to be the fountain of knowledge, information from the dawn of time. The Doctor stepped out into a wide room. On one side were two men, one in an orange shirt and one in a green shirt, working with a projector and a large computer. On the other side was Lumi.
She was in holographic form, but she looked exactly as the Doctor had just seen her before. Her long, dark hair hung down perfectly still and her short dress changed from white to blue to orange to purple and back. She was softly singing one of her songs, but something seemed to be wrong. She was not showing any emotion at all.
“Sir, you’re not allowed on this satellite!” shouted the man in orange, getting up. “Project Lumi is top secret!”
“It’s all right,” the Doctor assured them, approaching them and flashing his psychic paper. “I’m in on it. So how’s the project coming?”
“We’re almost finished,” said the man in green. “There’s only one problem left to resolve, and it’s pretty major.”
“Oh? What’s that?” asked the Doctor.
“We can’t access her memory,” replied the man in green simply.
“We’ve tried everything,” explained the man in orange. “We went as far as using the Eden base code. Nothing works. We know her memories are stored there but we can’t get to them. It’s like they’re cut off.”
The Doctor thought about this for a moment. “Have you tried high-frequency sonic activation?”
They shook their heads, confused.
“I wasn’t aware that you could sonically activate anything,” said the man in orange.
“Well then…” The Doctor paused. “Sorry, what were your names?”
“Oh,” said the man in green, “I’m Day and this is Chiman.” They both held hands for a brief moment.
The Doctor waved. “Nice to meet you. I’m the Doctor.” He moved behind the computer and pulled out his sonic screwdriver. “Now – Day, Chiman, watch and learn. If I can just find the right wavelength…” He switched it on and started scanning the screens with it. They flashed one set of complex symbols and equations after another. The pitch of the buzzing got steadily higher as the writing on the screens scrolled faster and faster, until finally they merged into a single word: DOWNLOADING…
The image of Lumi flickered. She stopped singing, but her eyes lit up with renewed spirit.
The Doctor looked up as she said his name.
“Welcome back, Lumi.”
Day and Chiman could only stare at the perfect reproduction in front of them. The Doctor stepped in front of the computer.
“You look just like how I remember,” said Lumi.
“So do you,” said the Doctor.
“Where am I?” asked Lumi.
“You’re a child of Eden now,” the Doctor told her. “It’s 2237 and they’ve brought you back.”
Lumi laughed. “I guess that means I’ve gone forward in time, just like you.”
“Well, yes, I suppose it does,” agreed the Doctor, smiling. He gestured to the two men behind him. “This is Chiman and Day. They’ll take care of you while you’re adapting.”
“Hello, Chiman. Hello, Day,” Lumi said.
“Doctor,” Chiman piped up, “now that Project Lumi is complete, there’s nothing else for us to do. We were hired specifically for this task and now it’s over.”
The Doctor turned to them. “I have another project for you. Can you bring up the complete crew list of the Selena 30 Long-Term Space Station from 2037?”
“Sure,” said Chiman. He typed in something and clicked a few times. The Doctor moved back behind the computer while Chiman scrolled down on one of the screens.
“That one,” the Doctor said, pointing.
Day looked closely at the name. “Jiro Tamai?”
“Jiro?” echoed Lumi from the projection.
Chiman clicked on Jiro’s name. The screen switched to a personal profile with a spinning headshot.
“If there’s one thing you can do for Lumi, it’s to recreate Jiro as well,” said the Doctor. “Make Project Jiro your top priority. Don’t stop until it’s finished.”
“We’ll try our best, Doctor,” said Chiman.
“Thank you,” said Day.
“No, thank you,” said the Doctor. He took one last look at the perfect hologram of Lumi and began to wander back to the TARDIS.
“Doctor?” Day called. “This Jiro disappeared before anyone could archive him. We don’t know what he’s like. How are we supposed to know what to recreate?”
With one foot inside the TARDIS, the Doctor turned around to face them.
“She’ll tell you.”