Jim and Ted have been hard at work sealing the Valiant Explorer with trinite, a new metal that will shield the spaceship from the impending supernova. Just as the supernova is beginning, Jim appears to show signs of overexertion. Ted, with an offer that can only mean his own death, tells Jim to go back inside and seal the door. The next thing Ted knows, his vision blurs and he passes out. Jim tries to reach him but fails. To read the story in its entirety please click on the Supernova link on the top of the page.
Jim turned around in time to see Ted’s eyes roll back in his head. He reached out to grab his hand but missed as Ted closed his eyes and floated away.
“Okay Jim, I’ve incapacitated Ted, but he cannot breathe this mix indefinitely,” said Stella, “after about an hour he will not wake up again.”
“Oh great.” Jim said “Stella, go ahead and fix his air.” Ted was floating away, this wasn’t part of the plan. Jim wasted no time. Stepping back out on the ship’s hull he rechecked his own tether and then reached over to the rope attached to Ted’s belt. Slowly he reeled him back in, wincing a little when Ted’s helmet lightly smacked the ship at one point. He drew the tether back hand over hand, until Ted was close enough to grab. Suddenly, another bright flash of light erupted. The ship shuddered and Jim nearly lost Ted again but he held on tight with his trinite hand.
“I’ve fixed the oxygen mix,” said Stella.
“Thank you.” He proceeded to relay another set of instructions as he tethered Ted to the floor of the cargo bay. He didn’t want him to be floating when gravity and atmosphere returned, he needed to be lying flat on the floor. Jim saw that Ted was moving his arms, and when he put his helmet to Ted’s he saw that Ted was moving his head. He would be fine.
Jim stood and went back out the cargo bay door.
“Okay, close the door and reinstate atmosphere.”
“Closing cargo bay door.”
Another blast of light and the ship lurched, throwing Jim off his feet. Thank the Lord for his tether! The big hose from the trinite machine was waving around. Several minutes later Jim got his feet back under him and managed to reel it in. By now Ted was at the cargo bay door trying to talk to him.
“Jim! What are you doing? This isn’t what we agreed on!”
“Ted, go get into your pod. This is the way it has to be,” Jim replied.
“Why are you doing this?” Ted asked. “I took the last straw.”
“Don’t worry about it Ted,” Jim said. “I got to thinking about what you said, about getting to meet God before I did. Umph!”
“Jim! You all right? Jim!”
There was no answer. There was a rectangular viewing portal in the door and Ted did his best to look out but was unable to see the old navigator.
“I’m okay, I just… tripped over the hose.” Jim moved back into view.
“That’s what you get old man,” Ted said with a shaky voice. “I thought I lost you.”
“Ted go get into your pod there isn’t time!”
“What about you Jim? What about…” He couldn’t say it. What about when the sun explodes? What about dying?
“Ted, I’m going to be okay. You know what? I’m done. That’s it, the ship is sealed.” Ted released the hose as another blast knocked him off of his feet and spun him around. “Whoa…” He said out softly.
“You ought to see this Ted. Plasma is blowing off the sun in great big chunks… it’s happening. Oh, It’s beautiful Ted.”
“Jim! Ah God, Jim!”
Warning lights started flashing and alarms began screech. Stella announced over the loudspeaker.
“SUPERNOVA IMMINENT. ALL PERSONNEL TO THE CRYONIC CHAMBERS AT ONCE. SUPERNOVA IMMINENT. ALL PERSONNEL…”
“Goodbye Ted,” Jim said calmly, “Go to your pod. I’m turning my sound off.”
Ted choked back tears. This man was giving up his life, literally everything, to save the people on the ship, most of them total strangers – and he was doing it willingly. The parallels between Jim’s and another momentous sacrifice did not escape Ted. The things Jim had told him suddenly made perfect sense. His eyes widened in surprise and he drew in a deep breath.
“Alright Jim, I understand.” Ted yelled into his microphone as he put his helmet against the window and finally made eye contact with Jim on the other side. “I understand God’s sacrifice.” He choked the words out.
That was the last voice that Jim Rivers would ever hear in this physical body. A smile spread across his tired and weathered face as he turned off the sound to his helmet and waved to Ted. Then he slowly reached down and released the tether from his waist. This is peace, he thought. He was finally going to walk in the garden with the Lord. Jim could have cried he was so looking forward to the reunion.
“NO NO NO!” Ted yelled and pounded on the door but there was nothing he could do.
SUPERNOVA IMMINENT. ALL PERSONNEL TO THE CRYONIC CHAMBER AT ONCE. SUPERNOVA IMMINENT…”
“STELLA! Shut that thing off!” Ted yelled. He slapped the green panel that raised the cargo doors over and over but of course it would not work. Stella silenced the alarms and then appeared in front of him.
“Ted you must move to your pod immediately. Jim would not want you to die here.”
“But I can’t just leave him…” Ted looked around quickly, surely there was something he could do.
“Jim will have died for nothing if you do not make the effort to save yourself.” Stella said. “His efforts will have been in vain.”
“Jim…” Ted’s voice broke. Stella nodded.
“Nevertheless, it is time. I cannot guarantee your safety any longer.” She put a nonexistent hand on his arm and there was friction. “How curious.” She said, looking at her hand. She looked back at Ted. “This is what Jim wanted,” she said. He nodded, rubbed a tired hand across his face. He looked at Jim one last time.
“Go with God Jim,” he said to the man that had given up his life for them. He turned around and ran for his pod, several units away. Stella ran with him. Her holograph blinked into and out of sight several times. They ran down the segmented hall, dodging blasts of steam and past flashing red and amber lights. Their boots made a metallic clunk as they ran, wait, what? Her boots? Eyes wide Ted looked over at her. Another blast of plasma hit the ship and Ted stumbled to his knees. Stella bounced into the wall. Sparks flew heavily as she hit, how does that even happen? Next he saw her inert form on the floor nearby, flickering in and out of sight. A few last flickers and her body was gone. Then the lights went out.
A moment later the emergency lights came to life. Stella was still on the floor but wasn’t moving. Holographic images don’t “pass out,” Ted thought as he went to her and crouched down. Reaching out he expected his hand to pass right through her but it didn’t. He jumped back in shock, then crawled forward again, he just had to see… he poked her again in the shoulder and watched as her head rolled to the side and her mouth fell open. What?
There was no time. Ted threw her over his shoulder, she sure weighs a lot for a holographic image he thought as he ran to the pods. He stripped off her flight suit and (gross!) inserted the life support hoses. She never woke. He checked her vitals as the lid closed, sealing her inside. He had to get to his own pod and figure out how to keep himself alive. Another blast rocked the ship. The ship resumed its dire warning. The voice was curiously electronic.
SUPERNOVA IMMINENT. ALL PERSONNEL TO THE CRYONIC CHAMBER.
A few minutes later, Ted looked over at Stella through the closed glass of his pod. She looked as though she was sleeping peacefully and he hoped that she would be okay. He thought of Jim and the message he had brought. The drugs were coursing through his body and his mind was getting fuzzy, but the last thing Ted thought before he went to sleep was that Jim was right. It was all true. It had always been true. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Critical mass was obtained and the white dwarf entered thermonuclear runaway. An incredible explosion shook the Valiant Express, flipping it end over end and battering it mercilessly. Hiding behind the larger sun had been the smartest move after all, the most devastating part of the storm passed by them on its way to obliterate every planet, comet and molecule for trillions of miles around – all in less time than it takes the heart to beat a single time.
Jim was alive right up until detonation, praying and praising the Lord’s mercy and grace. His body was atomized the split second the supernova occurred. The Valiant passed right through the cloud of mass less than a second later, spreading the atoms that had been Jim throughout the ship he had given his life to save. He would have found it a fitting end. Oh, and the very last voice that Jim Rivers ever heard?
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”