★彡[ᴘᴜʟʟ ᴏꜰ ɢʀᴀᴠɪᴛʏ]彡★
Sao hates weight. He hates the weight from the force of gravity keeping him to Earth, he hates the weight of reality slamming him to the ground, he hates the weight of his Neptunian tears, and he hates the weight of his heart, which plummets and cracks and breaks.
This isn’t fair.
At seventeen, he was swept into the program. At seventeen, with no ambition or plans for the future, Cosmos Administration convinced him to join. They promised a life of chasing shooting stars and living on neighboring planets and piloting machinery that had previously only existed in fiction. A kid’s fantasy come to life. A purpose. How could he refuse?
It was easy to grow attached during the following two years—to the program and to space.
The people of Earth—who have never flown a ship, who have never seen the beauty of Mars or Mercury up close—do not hold that sentiment, that attachment. To them, to those who have not raced past comets, space is a waste of time. They think humanity has no business colonizing Venus or Jupiter. They think humanity shouldn't waste money and resources on inventions that won't be used back home. They want every alien in Cosmos Administration to return despite being the ones who pushed them away in the first place.
So now, by popular demand and societal pressures from the people who shouldn’t have a say, who will never understand, after years of dedication and hard work, Cosmos Administration has announced its disbandment.
It would be gone in a few days.
Sao’s legs hit the side of his bed, allowing himself to fall backwards and tumble onto the sheets. His chest heaves as he exhales, his gaze fixating on the ceiling above with a blank stare. Reality doesn’t feel so real.
The gravity of Earth has always had some hold on Sao. No matter where he was, Earth has always pulled. But to ban him from space? But to give Earth’s gravity total control and full permission to hold him back? That was the worst kind of weight. That was hell.
“This is too… sudden,” Sao whispers. “I’m not ready.” He raises an arm, covering his eyes. He feels sick. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. After its all gone, I mean.”
“We’ll figure it out.” The mattress dips as his roommate, Caju, takes a seat beside him. Sao sits up but doesn’t meet his eyes.
Will we? Sao’s heart sinks, heavier.
“I don’t wanna be stranded on Earth any more than you do and I don’t know how we’re gonna rejoin the society who didn’t want us. But we have to and we’ll figure it out. Somehow. I fucking guess!” Caju throws his hands in the air, exasperated. “God, this is stupid. They’re stupid. It’s all stupid. I’m pissed!”
Sao slides closer, hesitant to intertwine their fingers (he decides not to). “I didn’t mean to get you all worked up.”
Caju’s anger is louder and more significant than Sao’s sadness; Sao is quick to forget his own feelings, thankful for the distraction. He’s good at that: at running away.
“Too late now,” Caju says. “Maybe I’ll leave our room right now and go curse out Titan and Pandora and every other higherup, right to their faces. Maybe I’ll kick and scream. Maybe I’ll punch and bite.”
Sao bites his tongue, trying not to laugh. “They’d deserve it.”
“They would!” Caju exclaims. “I bet Saturn would enjoy watching the show.”
“Probably,” Sao agrees.
Titan and Pandora are easy to spite, although, Sao doesn’t have the guts to be as obvious about it as everyone else. To be that blunt, to be that honest? That is not a luxury Sao has. Instead, there is the weight of chains. They’re suffocating—but they also feel safe.
Caju opens his mouth to continue their conversation and is interrupted by a knock. He looks to Sao, who shrugs. “Well, I’m not answering it,” Caju says. “I’m too mad.”
“I’ll get it, then,” Sao replies. He gets up but Caju grabs his wrist.
“You don’t need to answer it either,” Caju tells him. It’s an invitation: to continue wallowing in the weight of their present, to continue venting.
But Sao has already run away from that. He doesn’t want to come back. “It’d be rude not to answer, though,” he chides.
Caju frowns, releasing Sao from his grasp. He doesn’t try to argue.
“Oh,” Sao says upon opening the door. “Hello, sir.”
The Director of Pilot Operations, Titan is a foreboding man with a permanent scowl. Most pilots of Cosmos Administration would avoid him like the plague—or try to, at least. It was a near impossible task since the program and its members orbited around him as if he were the sun.
“Sao,” he greets. “Let’s have a chat.”
“Okay,” Sao responds, monotone.
Caju insists on hearing whatever Titan has to say, and Titan doesn’t care enough to refuse, so he lets Caju listen. The task is simple: Sao needs to go to the colonies in space, retrieve what can be salvaged, and destroy what can’t.
“Why can’t I do it?” Caju demands, jutting his chin up.
Titan regards him with obvious disinterest. “You know why,” he answers, unforgiving.
Caju’s eyes burn brighter than any star. “Fuck you.”
Caju shoves past Titan, stomping down the hall. Sao thinks about calling him back, or going after him, but he doesn’t.
Sao hangs his head low. “Why not Saturn?” Why me?
“I can’t trust him. You’re obedient and he’s not,” Titan says. “So: will you do it or not?”
“I will,” Sao replies.
“Good. You have two hours before we send you off.”
An hour goes by.
Sao spends much of that time searching for Caju, wandering through Cosmos Administration’s white halls, which were not unlike a hospital. He doesn’t know why he’s trying. The institution is huge (it has to be in order to house a dormitory, labs, training courses, mechas, and more). If Caju wanted to stay hidden, he could.
Sao considers giving up.
But then he’s rounding a corner—and there’s Caju.
Sitting on the floor, back leaning against the wall, it seems like Caju has been waiting for a while. Sao takes a seat beside him, taking a brief glance around. The hall is empty. Almost everyone has already left or is packing to leave; a former shell of what Cosmos Administration had once been.
Sao shakes his head, returning his attention to Caju.
“Shit,” Sao breathes, grabbing Caju’s right hand. At last, he’d noticed: Caju’s knuckles were bruised and bleeding. “What did you do?”
“I punched a trash can,” Caju replies.
“Of course you did.” Sao releases his hold. “Do you… want bandages? Or at least a paper towel to… wipe off the—”
“No,” Caju denies. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.”
Sao goes quiet. What a bad habit to keep all these years.
Caju looks down, studying the steady trickles of blood from the cuts on his fist. It wasn’t that bad, he thinks to himself. Not compared to other injuries (he is suddenly conscious of the bandage over the bridge of his nose).
It was not the first time he bled, and it would not be the last.
He understood that, and Sao understood that, too.
The two knew each other long before joining Cosmos Administration; knew each other better than anyone else could. They were childhood friends that, on occasion, teetered into something more.
They would hold hands. They would kiss.
They wouldn’t go further. They wouldn’t say “I love you”.
“Hey, Sao?” Caju says, leaning over to rest his head on Sao’s shoulder. Sao doesn’t react. “You agreed to do it, didn’t you?”
“Because I was asked to?” answers Sao, in a pathetic sort of way.
“I can tell you don’t want to,” Caju continues. “You could’ve said no. Grow a spine.”
Sao smiles. “Yeah, I could have. Sorry.” It’s not sincere.
It’s obvious that he doesn’t want to decimate the colonies, but he’ll do it anyway, because that is what’s expected of him. Who cares what he wants? None of it matters. What he wants is to not yearn at all. It’d be easier that way, wouldn’t it?
“…Which ship will you take, then?”
There are two options: Sao could pilot the Kuiper Belt or Sao could pilot the Kraken Mare.
The first ship, the Kuiper Belt, was truly his: an older model that only he was willing to pilot, the only ship he had ever flown. It was wounded, and in worsening condition, but it clung to life, and Sao clung to it. It’s a stubborn thing, for continuing to function, and Sao is just as stubborn for refusing to give up on it.
The second ship, the Kraken Mare, is impossible: the newest model built by Cupid. It radiated power. So much so that it made Sao nauseous. How is it real? It’s horrifying that it exists. It was a mistake to give it to him, a waste. There was a reason he didn’t test it out when Cupid first prompted him to, and why he’s since avoided it.
“…You already know the answer to that.”
“What can I say? You’ve very predictable.” Caju casts a side-eye. “You should absolutely pilot the Kraken Mare, though. You’d be a fool not to.” It’s Sao’s last opportunity to try. How could he turn it down?
“I couldn’t even if I wanted to,” Sao admits. “I checked where it was supposed to be when I was trying to find you. It’s not there.” Sao is supposed to have two options, but the Kraken Mare is gone. Not that he’s complaining: he would never pilot the Kraken Mare anyways. No matter how many people tried to pressure him into it, he wouldn’t touch that ship.
“Huh.” Caju stands, pulling Sao up with him. “Well, you should get going. The Kuiper Belt takes forever to launch, and you’ll need to make sure that ancient thing is still stable.”
Sao nods. “Bye for now, then.”
“Bye, Sao.” Caju watches him go. “Good luck.”