Silence engulfs Branislav. He fumbles with the tassels of his purple robe, but even that small notion is not getting rid of his anxiety. He grips the handle of the observation deck and presses his forehead against the glass. Though its spherical shape obstructs his view, his heart still skips a beat as he tries to look below. He closes his eyes, but the blue radiance of the planet penetrates through his lids. He hopes that the brilliance would calm his anxious thoughts that are whirring away within. It doesn’t; he picks at his cuticles and drives his longest nail into his thumb, hard. The slight discomfort and pain give him an immediate release; he opens his eyes and slowly backs away to the center of the room.
“I knew I would find you here” a woman’s voice echoes through the chamber. He turns around to the slightly open hatch revealing Tress, a tall and slender woman, leaning against the frame. Her auburn robe clings to her body, revealing each curve appropriately. Her crossed arms give off an annoying demeanour, and she silently waits for him to respond.
“Couldn’t sleep” he turns his gaze back beyond the observation deck.
Tress slowly inches towards the center of the room; silence once again engulfs the atmosphere as she graciously glides without a sound. Her eyes fixate into the back of Branislav’s head, waiting for him to divert his attention her way. After a moment, she continues to speak
“Am I to assume you’re checking up on the project for the umpteenth time?” Her sarcasm is tangible; he turns his body in annoyance to deal with her directly.
“Pride is a lost quality amongst us” He takes a step forward but makes sure to keep his distance.
“There isn’t a reason to; it’s been self-contained for millennia.”
Tress glides toward the observation window and places her right palm against it. She closes her eyes and breathes in gently, as she slowly exhales her palm emits a red hue that dances behind the glass. The motion continues as an unmistakable veil emerges, circling the planet below. Both Branislav and Tress watch as the hue and veil become synonymous with one another and are gone in a flash as soon as Tress lifts her hand.
“There’s a slight tear in Sector 17, but it should fix itself.”
Branislav cannot contain his anxiety anymore and unclenches his hands before speaking
“It’s more than a tear, Tress; look at mine.”
He places both of his palms on the window, and with a ragged breath, his purple veil emerges below. It’s not as elegant as Tress’s and is circling at a certain speed that makes his breath inconsistent. It is not enveloping the planet as it should and exposes copious tears. He has memorized the five cracks for a month, but this is the first time he is showing anyone else. He snaps his palms away from the glass, breaking apart the purple illuminance below.
“There’s breakage in Sectors 2, 6, 19, 22 and 32.”
Tress does not blink but tries to draw in a long breath of annoyance.
“How long has this been going on for?”
“A little over a month” He claims “I was waiting to see if the algorithm would fix itself, but it isn’t.”
“You haven’t shown anyone else” It’s not a question, but she waits for his confirmation with her arms crossed against her chest once more.
“Very well” Tress turns for the door with her head slightly elevated, showing she is not bothered by the news. Branislav understands that she intends to leave the observation deck, but he interjects.
“Your dimension tear will get larger” He mumbles under his breath
Tress stops in her tracks but doesn’t move her body. Slowly, she turns her head backward and scoffs
“What do you MEAN ‘so?’ ” Branislav raises his voice in anger – his pride taking control.
“Listen, we both know that no one above us will listen to the issue at hand, so we might as well let it play out and see where it goes” She finally moves her body towards Branislav, waiting for his response.
“We only checked on two dimensions, Tress. If they don’t give us the control, we need to override the system – YOU need to override the system.”
Tress lets out a deep sigh and straightens her body. She grows two inches taller than before and towers over Branislav with a gleam in her eye. Branislav precisely knew what to say to stroke her ego. He sprints towards the door and gently closes it behind both of them. As he turns back, he notices that Tress is already at the board to the right of the observation deck, keying in several hieroglyphic-like buttons. A sudden whir of colours dance from the screen and emit onto the world below – There is an array of different colours such as yellow, green and blue. The yellow veil is beaming and only shows two tears; the green mask is faded and looks incomplete, showing the same amount of damage as the purple hue; Blue is pulsating which means there are too many tears to count. Tress’s eyes widen at the site below and quickly turns off all dimensions.
“We need to engage protocol 6,” she says matter-of-factly and presses the orange button at the bottom of the console. The switch starts to blink on and off. Branislav knows that at any moment a member of the senior counsel will be upon them – he continues to pick away at his cuticles with anticipation.
The steel door bursts open and ricochets an echo throughout the room. A lanky & blonde woman enters with a mustard robe and centers herself to the middle of the room. She does not wait for the two other men behind her to follow suit as she engages her dimension just from her fingers. As the yellow illuminance brightens the deck, two men simultaneously enter through the door frame in their gray robes. They set themselves to the opposite ends of the woman and wait in silence.
“Sector 17 and Sector 32,” She says out loud to no one in particular and drops her hands to her side. The yellow hue fades almost immediately as she clasps her hands to her side and is about to leave. Branislav knows what her thought process is – it’s not big enough to warrant an emergency protocol.
“32!” Branislav yells out in desperation.
Tress cocks her head to the side and gives Branislav a disapproving glare. He is not bothered by it and continues on
“Sector 32, my tears are significant there as well, not to mention the other dimensions. We’re going to need an overhaul to correct this issue.”
The blonde woman does not move from her spot and directs her glare to Tress
“I trust you will deal with the situation and proceed with the protocol” She does not wait for an answer and glides her body towards the door with her entourage in tow. As soon as the door closes, the room settles back to the uncomfortable silence. Branislav continues to pick at his thumbs, unaware of its raw texture and the trickle of blood forming under his nail. Tress slowly inches towards him which makes him uneasy.
“Branislav, this is a delicate matter, and we will handle it accordingly.”
He nods in agreement and waits in anticipation for her to continue with a plan. When she does not do so, his eyes dart back and forth from the planet below to his hands. He starts to overthink his situation and worries about all of the human species he has helped to create below. The tears from his dimension would affect their emotional state, and since the majority of humans lacked empathy, he feared the worse. The other dimensions harboured more problematic issues than his, and he wondered what ‘illusions’ were appearing in Sector 32. Tress snaps her fingers in front of his face to bring him back to the present.
“I need you to be alert for this” Tress states unsympathetically. Her hand motions towards the panel as she keys in specific numbers that Branislav wouldn’t know. Green light starts to flash internally, and three hidden spotlights turn towards the planet below.
A siren can be heard faintly behind the door as the intercom interjects “Protocol 6 for Planet 9865 in effect.”
Branislav gets caught up in the commotion and saunters over to the observation deck – his hands, no longer trembling, are holding on tight to the bar that separates him from the window. He has never been present for a protocol of this calibre before and is trying to take everything in without letting his emotions take over. Tress is in her zone and completing the necessary steps even to discuss what’s happening below. He was about to open his mouth to ask what was going to happen to the livelihood below when the planet disappears from existence. Thinking his eyes were playing a trick on him, he blinks rapidly for a couple of moments.
“Where did it go?”
“Hmm?” Tress did not hear the question over her rapid keying in of buttons.
“Tress – where’s planet 9865?”
“Exterminated” she claimed nonchalantly as the spotlights diminish in the background.
Branislav is perplexed. His vision starts to blur, and he hunches over in desperate pain. He was unaware of what Protocol 6 entailed, and his heart aches for all of those affected below. Empathy always being his strong suit, he could feel the loneliness and desperation that were no longer tangible from the world below.
“Don’t worry” Tress placed her hand on his right shoulder “Just take solace in the fact that on some other plane, one Branislav got it right.”
She glides towards the door and opens it, not waiting for him to follow. As she exits, she turns towards the entryway and reaches above the frame towards the numbers “9865” – she touches the last digit, and it automatically changes itself to a 6. A whirring sensation can be felt throughout the ship as they gear up for the new creation of Planet Earth, version 9866.