(ღ˘⌣˘ღ) (deplore) wrote,


- - -

A secret that Sunggyu does not tell anybody else, though he suspects that maybe some of the others already know: he spends most of his scarce free time in front of a mirror, staring at himself and picking out his weaknesses and teaching himself how to hide them or brush them aside or crush them. This is how it must be if he is to lead the Infinite - he cannot simply be human, because that is not good enough, nor is it what the six he will lead deserve from him: he must be as Joshua leading his people to Canaan, as Joan of Arc leading her army to victory, as Caesar crossing the Rubicon. Anything less will not be enough. Anything less makes him unworthy.

He had thought that he understood what sacrifice was before, but he realizes that he hadn’t even scratched the surface until now. This is what the mother lion feels when she throws her life away to save her children. This is what the martyr feels before burning at the stake. This is what the oracle feels when she predicts destruction she will never be able to prevent. They all must give up more than any normal human could ever fathom, Sunggyu knows, and does his best to destroy his regret, along with the sinking dread that he will never be able to reach the heights he needs to.

- - -

Out of all the people chosen, the one Dongwoo wishes he could make decline is Sungjong, because Sungjong is too vibrant and too bright and too full of the future to give it all up on this one mission. Sungjong is the youngest of all of them but a genius in his own right - coming into Woollim, he had already attained a medical degree from a prestigious university, and went on to make a name for himself in the research on the physical and mental effects of long-term space missions. Years at medical school and Woollim have left Sungjong tough and capable, perfectly able to fend off the competition he has and the people who murmur in jealousy over his accomplishments and recognition, but what scares Dongwoo about the idea of Sungjong going into space with them is that sometimes when the light catches his face at a certain angle he can look so childlike, so fragile, and Dongwoo is seized with the desire to protect that. It is, he thinks, the same for the rest of them, because they all dote on Sungjong in their own ways - they can all see something in Sungjong that they instinctively want to keep safe.

It’s a moment like this - one when Sungjong looks painfully innocent - that Dongwoo can’t stop the words from spilling out. “Please, don’t take this the wrong way,” Dongwoo says, and hopes he does not sound as desperate as he feels, “but Sungjong, can’t you reconsider this? Being part of the Infinite?”

For a moment, he looks taken aback, like he doesn’t know how to reply, but then Sungjong scoffs and says, “I’m going. I have to go, I have to. There’s nobody else in this agency who has the training and knowledge to be able to monitor and treat the crew’s medical conditions besides me - there’s nobody else even close. You need me there - the Infinite needs me to be there.” His eyes are defiant and prideful and Dongwoo can see his own history repeating himself as Lee Sungjong: he can tell very clearly that there is nothing he can say or do that will make Sungjong stand down, because he was once the same as Sungjong is.

“I understand,” Dongwoo says softly. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” Sungjong says, and his eyes soften as he reaches out to touch Dongwoo’s shoulder. “I know how you feel, I think, and I’m glad - I’m happy that you feel that way. But I can’t, I just can’t. I have to go. Would you turn it down, if it were you?”

“No,” Dongwoo admits. He wouldn’t, for so many reasons (because he is proud to be have been chosen, because he has come to love the six others who are part of the Infinite and would not be content letting them go and staying behind, because he would not want to have to send somebody else in his place, because there is nobody else he would trust to keep them safe), and he knows it must be the same for Sungjong, as it is the same for everybody else.

“Please don’t ask me something like this again,” Sungjong says, and Dongwoo dips his head in silent acquiescence.

- - -

Over the course of their training, Woohyun and Sunggyu learn to be extensions of each other, so in tune to each other that when they sit in the cockpit together they can communicate bounds of information in short, clipped syllables. Oftentimes, Sunggyu will look over to his right to tell Woohyun to adjust something on his side, only to see Woohyun moving his hand, almost as if subconsciously, towards the dial before Sunggyu even has to say what he wants done. They do not think of things as who is in command and who is in back-up - instead, they both lead and follow each other simultaneously.

They do not get to this point naturally: they force their relationship along more quickly than it would normally have formed, spending all their free time together and speaking their thoughts aloud constantly until they intimately understand how each others’ minds work, until they get to the point where it would be easier to fool themselves than each other. At first it is deeply uncomfortable for both of them, because neither are people who easily open up to others. There are many nights spent lying awake, staring at the ceiling, murmuring secret, private thoughts to each other. They listen, and learn not to judge each other.

“Dongwoo,” Sunggyu murmurs one night. “I worry about him the most. He tries to carry all our souls and weighs down his own the most and sometimes I think I can see him splintering and I just don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to tell him he doesn’t have to. I don’t know how to tell him he’s needed just for being himself in a way that he’ll listen to me.”

Another time, Woohyun confesses, “At university I would always say that I wanted to become an astronaut because I thought it would impress girls, you know? But then I actually really wanted to be an astronaut and I started studying harder and ignored all the girls and then I ended up here. I should’ve said I wanted to be an idol.”

“My first kiss was a pity kiss. I’m completely sure of it,” Sunggyu says, and sighs. “I hate being pitied the most. I’d rather be punched in the face a hundred times than pitied.”

“When we first met, I thought I would hate you, but you’re okay,” Woohyun tells him another night. “No, I really did hate you for a while. But now I don’t. Now I’m happy we met, and it’s weird, because I’m pretty sure this is the first time that I’ve ever felt like I changed just because of one person.”

They have an unspoken rule of always listening, never replying, but just this once, Sunggyu does. “I could’ve been blind and deaf and I would have realized that you hated me, Nam Woohyun. And you could’ve been too and known that I hated you back. But I’m glad now, too. Glad you’re piloting with me. Glad you’re here with me.” There is a pause, and Woohyun can the sounds of Sunggyu rolling over in his bed. He imagines Sunggyu burying his face in his pillow, cheeks heating up. “Ugh, never mind. I’m not good at talking about stuff like this. Forget I said anything.”

Looking back, both of them will think that this is the time that they finally, wholly come to realize how to rely another person, completely and unconditionally, perhaps for the first time since they have been children, who gave away their trust freely and learned how to hurt because of it. If it weren’t for the Infinite, it would have been a much warmer feeling.

- - -

Hoya sees a lot of things that the others don’t. It is not that he is particularly perceptive or has a strong intuition, but it’s because he looks where the rest do not realize that they should, and it is because of this that he understands a lot of important things about the other people who will fly on the Infinite that might otherwise be lost between the lines.

He watches Sungyeol get into dozens of arguments, make countless flippant remarks, and complain endlessly, but it’s not until the first time that he sees angry tears burning at Sungyeol’s eyes after he fails to make his equations come out right for the fourth day in a row that he realizes that maybe Sungyeol actually loves the Infinite more than any of the rest of them. It’s a subtle sort of love, something he can only see out of the corners of his eyes, and he thinks that maybe Sungyeol is scared to show how much he feels for them, scared that he’ll look at them and realize they’ll never love him as much as he’s come to love them.

He notices Woohyun leading their leader, quietly keeping the secret that Sunggyu is just as human and scared and fallible as the rest of them, just as easily as he can see Sunggyu trying his best to hide his imperfections from the rest of them. Dongwoo struggles to find his place between them, trying to fill in the spaces that they don’t, but no matter how much he bends his limbs it will always be a tight, awkward, uncomfortable fit, and Hoya thinks that Dongwoo would be better, happier, more himself if he didn’t try so hard, because the trust between Woohyun and Sunggyu is completely different from the kind between Dongwoo and Sunggyu, or Woohyun and Dongwoo.

Hoya sees Myungsoo reconciling between the himself he presents with the himself that he is: lately, he sees the Myungsoo that he is peek out a little more - pulled out by Sungyeol, more often than not - and that Myungsoo is bright and shy and strange. But Hoya thinks that both sides of Myungsoo are the same, two sides of the same coin, and he thinks both sides are just fine, even if Sungyeol prefers one to the other.

And Sungjong - Hoya thinks it’s harder to get a read on Sungjong than the rest of them, but when it comes to Sungjong, what he doesn’t say or do speaks volumes more than what he does. He seems older than he is because he’s quiet when he doesn’t have anything novel to say, and acts with considerable care and thought, almost as if he’s playing a game of chess where he has already come up with his next three moves as he considers his strategy: it is through careful planning that he presents his image. It’s only in those few moments when he lets down his guard that Hoya can see that Sungjong is still an innocent, still full of a youthful cheerfulness that comes with a certain amount of naivete.

He watches as these people - strangers, when they first met - interact with each other, get caught in each others’ orbits, and become drawn in by each others’ gravities. Seven separate people slowly, slowly move closer and closer together, until the dorm doesn’t feel small - it feels more like a place to call home, a place that is distinctively theirs, a place that they will regret leaving.

Hoya sees all these things and wonders who is left to observe the observer.

- - -

As they change out of their equipment for underwater simulation training, Sungyeol suggests to Myungsoo, “Let’s fall in love.”

Myungsoo has to resist the urge to look around nervously, to see if anybody has overheard, even though there is nobody around. “Why?” he replies softly.

“Because when we get back,” Sungyeol says, “by the time we get back, there may not be nobody else left for us to fall in love with.”

It is the first time any of them have acknowledged it. Somehow, just by hearing the words said aloud, Myungsoo realizes, for the first time, the true depth of how scared he is of the future that they will return to. “Falling in love doesn’t work like that,” he replies.

“Sure it does,” says Sungyeol. “One of the factors in attraction is proximity. You are significantly more likely to fall for somebody who you are with often. We could fall in love, if you gave it a chance.”

Myungsoo knows this: attraction is neurons firing and hormonal imbalances and the brain interpreting things in ways that might not actually be. But there is something about the way that Sungyeol says it that does not sit well in his stomach: they have not been friends for long, but they already know each other profoundly enough that sometimes it feels like they have actually known each other for years, and Myungsoo can just tell when something is not right and Sungyeol is in one of his darker moods. “Sungyeol,” he asks, “are you really being serious? Are you? Because I don’t believe that you are, and I - just, I don’t like it when you talk like that. Like there’s something more to what you’re saying that you want me to hear, but I can’t.”

For a moment, it looks almost as if Sungyeol is resisting the urge to flinch - for the first time, Myungsoo sees something intensely vulnerable in his expression. “I’m as serious as you want me to be,” he finally replies, but his tone has fallen flat.

Myungsoo considers this answer. “I’ll take your suggestion seriously when you decide that you want to be serious about it for yourself,” he says. He means it, and he can tell that Sungyeol knows that he means it.

Sungyeol sighs and roughly pushes his air tank into its storage container. “That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear,” he says. “But I think it might be the answer I needed to hear.”

As with many things, Myungsoo tries to not think about what that means. He puts his air tank into the storage container next to Sungyeol’s, neater and more gently than Sungyeol did, but when he turns back around Sungyeol is already gone.

- - -

“How was your day?” Sunggyu asks, as they all crowd into their dorm’s communal space for their nightly talk before going to bed. Woohyun is settled comfortably on the floor with his back against the couch, pressed between Hoya’s legs on one side and Sungyeol’s on the other. Sungjong sits sandwiched between them, knees pulled up so that his toes just barely brush against Woohyun’s shoulders if either of them shift their weight. Dongwoo and Sunggyu are leaned against each other, almost unconsciously supporting each other’s heads on their shoulders.

“Mine was good,” Dongwoo says, and smiles.

Hoya nods in agreement. “Long, but productive,” he says. “Dongwoo and I got a lot of things done.”

“Mine was alright too,” Sungjong adds.

“You guys are all too cheerful for this time of night,” Sungyeol says, and he sounds grumpy but everybody knows he’s not serious. “I’m tired. And the coffee still isn’t strong enough.”

“You could maybe consider buying some for yourself?” Woohyun suggests, and rolls his eyes exaggeratedly.

“We’ll get the coffee, someday,” Sunggyu says diplomatically. He promises this almost every night, and it has yet to happen. None of them mention that someday is starting to run short for them.

Unbidden, Sunggyu thinks back to their first few weeks together, when he almost didn’t believe that they could be as close as they are today. They have come a long way, but still, there is an unspoken question lingering: is it enough?

The months upon months of training pass like sand in an hourglass: at first it seems like time passes slowly, too slowly, and then as more and more sand falls to the bottom one realizes that it’s actually running too fast.

The week before their departure is the first week that they get off since they were first chosen. It is suggested to them that they visit their family one last time, so they do - none of them tell their families exactly what the parameters of their mission is, of course - but all of them return within two days, and their last precious few days are spent together.

- - -

Through all the years of training together, Hoya knows Sunggyu well - maybe too well, he thinks, because he notices a strange sort of melancholy clinging to Sunggyu when they all return from their trips home, so he comes to Sunggyu with a box of tissues, holding one of them out to him. “Cry,” he says, and it sounds almost like a command.

“I don’t need to cry,” Sunggyu tells him, stiffly. “Put that away.”

But Hoya will not budge. “You say you don’t need a lot of things that you do,” he replies. His voice softens slightly. “I think you’ll feel better if you do it now, before -” there is a hesitation “- before we won’t have a chance to anymore.”

“Hoya,” Sunggyu says, a warning mixed with a plea.

But he is resolute. “Right now - with me - you don’t have to be Kim Sunggyu, the leader of the Infinite right now. You just need to be Sunggyu. I want you to be just Sunggyu - the person that I met on the first day I got here, and I got lost trying to find the canteen, and you were the only one who stopped to help me. The person I complained about training with every night. The first person here that I called my friend. So... please. If not for you, then for me.”

There is silence, until Sunggyu whispers, just loudly enough that Hoya can hear him, “Okay,” before the first tears fall.

When Sunggyu cries it is quiet, but his whole body shudders. “You already knew it, didn’t you? That I didn’t go home,” he admits, in a voice so strained that Hoya can barely understand him. “I didn’t want to regret leaving it behind, I didn’t want to be weak -”

Hoya curls his fingers into Sunggyu’s side and blots away the wetness at his cheeks with uncharacteristic delicacy with his other hand. Sunggyu has known Hoya to be rough with everything except for when he is keeping track of all the mechanisms needed to fly a space plane, and the lightness of his fingers is touching in more ways than one. He holds onto Sunggyu tight and coaxes all the tears out, and when Sunggyu is finished crying, Hoya tells him, “We’ll come home together.”

Sunggyu wants to laugh, full of bitterness, and tell him, “Don’t say things like that when you don’t know our future,” but then he looks at Hoya’s face (raw and emotional and real) and the words die in his throat. It’s not fair, he thinks, because Hoya knew him before either of them knew the Infinite. It’s not fair, because Hoya is the only one who will never be completely fooled by him.

When he is Kim Sunggyu, commander pilot of the Infinite, he must keep every promise he gives. But as Sunggyu, a single person struggling towards his fate, he has no such obligation - he is only human, and there are bounds to what promises he can fulfill. He is not sure which is the one that replies when he closes his eyes and echoes, “Yeah. We’ll come home together.”

- - -

“About what I said before,” Sungyeol says to Myungsoo as they sit on the dormitory rooftop together. “About falling in love with each other. I decided.”

“Yeah?” replies Myungsoo, pretending that his heart does not start beating faster.

Sungyeol nods. “I think,” he says, in a way that is unusually thoughtful for him, “that by the time we make it back, I will have fallen in love.”

By the time we make it back, Myungsoo thinks, and is not sure if Sungyeol is taking it for granted that they will make it back or if Sungyeol is trying to convince himself of that. “I wouldn’t mind it, if it were like that,” he replies, even though he’s not sure whether Sungyeol is even talking about him anymore.

“It’s not like I’m saying it will definitely happen, though,” Sungyeol says, almost as if in warning.

But Myungsoo smiles. “I know. But that’s good enough for me.”

“Okay,” Sungyeol says, and looks straight at Myungsoo - in Sungyeol’s eyes, Myungsoo can see all his fears, and he wonders if they are merely a mirror’s reflection or light passing through a window.

- - -

“I want to ask you a question,” Sungjong says. “Why did you become an astronaut?”

“Why are you wondering?” Woohyun asks in turn.

Sungjong shrugs. “I don’t know - just because. I’ve been asking everybody, but not everybody will answer.”

“What kind of answers have you gotten so far?”

“Myungsoo says it’s because he saw pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope and wanted to see the things in the photos with his own two eyes. Dongwoo, because he thought it sounded fun. Sungyeol said just because. Hoya told me it’s a long story, and Sunggyu told me to stop bothering him because he wanted to take a nap,” Sungjong replies, listing off each answer with a sort of detached thoughtfulness.

Woohyun’s tempted to laugh, because those are all responses that fit their characters well. “I’m not surprised at most of those, to be honest.”

“So what’s yours?” Sungjong asks.

Woohyun tilts his head and thinks about it for a few moments. “Besides to impress girls? Well, because I wanted to do something extraordinary with my life, I guess,” he answers slowly, thoughtfully. “I wanted to go somewhere that nobody else has ever gone before. To see things that no other human has ever seen before. To set myself apart, you could say. To be special.”

“I see,” Sungjong replies, and nods. “I thought it might be something like that. I think... that’s probably a good reason.”

“Whether it’s good or not, it’s mine.” Woohyun shrugs, and then asks, “What about you? Why did you become an astronaut?”

Sungjong sighs. “It’s not that simple.”

“Try me.”

“There are some things in life which were simply meant to be,” Sungjong says, in the same way that a professor might list off a fundamental theorem. “Maybe this is one of them.”

Woohyun laughs, but it is kind and not dismissive. “What’s so hard about that?” he asks. “Because there are some things in life which were meant to be. I can believe it. It makes me feel like we’re fated to succeed, somehow.”

Sungjong doesn’t say anything, but Woohyun can tell he doesn’t agree: just because it is meant to be does not mean that it meant to end well.

- - -

The journal of Jang Dongwoo is made up of lists and reminders, entirely unemotional and completely objective. He does not describe things in terms of how he felt about them, nor how they affected him - he simply records that they happened. In contrast, the last entry in his journal reads like this:

If I woke up tomorrow and it was the day we first met, back when the Infinite were only words and a vague idea - if I woke up and could do it all over again, what should I do?

I gave up a lot when I decided to accept but I think I got even more. I don’t want to let this go. I love them more than they can know sometimes I’m surprised at how much how deeply I can love them and I think maybe I love them more than I can know too

maybe someday people will find this and put it in a museum and call it History but if we go down in history then I want it to go down like this: the people on the Infinite that I have known are more beautiful and more radiant than you can possibly understand

These are people that I want to protect
stay with
keep safe
but I can’t do it no matter how much I want it I can’t make the future I can only walk towards it, walk with them

This is either a beginning or an end but if it is an end then let us end together.

- - -

Their last night together, they go outside and lie in the grass together. The breeze is light and the summer air is comfortable on their bodies. “Look,” one of them calls out. “A falling star.” And there it is - a single, solitary pinpoint of light descending across the sky.

All of them make a wish to themselves, and wonder whether they are all thinking the same thing.

Launching into space is no extraordinary feat by this day and age - space tourism is becoming more and more common as the cost of it goes down and the safety standards go up. Their ascent into outer space is nothing particularly special, and everything goes just as expected. They arrive at their projected point and begin a slow orbit, just barely affected by Earth’s gravitational pull. The easy part is over - their real challenge begins from here on out.

There are any number of things that can go wrong when they start their acceleration, though the most significant worry they have going in is that the technology that will stabilize their mass as they reach the speed of light is still new and relatively untested - there is very little data on how successful it is at normalizing organisms, though its effects on inanimate objects is almost completely reliable. This is their first and major stumbling block: if they fail here, then they will probably die, and their deaths would have yielded nothing in return. If they succeed, the mission goes on as planned.

“Systems are reporting as they should be,” Dongwoo says, just loudly enough that everybody can hear. “All mechanisms are ready to go at the planned time and location. Myungsoo, Sungyeol - confirmation?”

“Confirmed,” Myungsoo calls out.

Sunggyu nods tersely. “We arrive at our departure point in roughly three minutes,” he says, tone deceptively calm. “Everybody prepare yourselves. This is it.”

If there is a moment to discover god, then these 180 seconds are it. A merciful god might have killed them here and made them martyrs, rewarded their hard work with a graceful fall, human triumph overshadowed by technological failure and spared them the agony of the future. They would have died painlessly - seven human beings one second, a collection of disjointed matter the next.

But there are no revelations, no last regrets, no final wistful words. None of them can turn their backs on the science brought them so far beyond what they once thought they were capable of, even if it is cold and unfeeling. Sunggyu calls out the minutes as they pass: “Two minutes left,” he says. Too soon, it’s only one minute left, half a minute, and then he begins the final countdown from there on, clicking off the seconds with a preciseness that a clock could envy. The rest of them give no visceral reaction to the last few moments ticking away.

“Five seconds left. Four, three, two, one -”

The Infinite roars into life.

Here is a vision that you have often: It is early in the morning, and you are waiting in front of a door that is far too grand for you to enter a room that is far too important for you. You stand there, clutching a letter in your hands, and wonder how long it will be until you are let in. You are optimistic and wild-hearted and still overflowing with potential, exactly the kind of person that they talk about when they say the youth that will be our future, eyes and soul full of stars and dreams. You do not yet know that the future lies in the margins, between vague words and unclear intent, but perhaps you can feel it in your stirring in your bones. Do you hesitate to go in? Do you maybe sense the something that awaits you inside? Are you scared?

Young one, you have no reason to be scared, because your fate was sealed the moment you read the words in that letter you are holding so tightly to your chest. You are the youth that will be our future, for you are still without limits. You do not need to escape - you need only look forward. We have known from the very beginning that you would not turn away.


Out of a number of very promising, talented astronauts amongst our ranks, you have been chosen as one of the seven who will be boarding and manning the Infinite, on a mission that will carve a path to the new future of space exploration. Doubtless, you have already heard many rumors about what kind of mission it will be, some of which may be true, but many of which will certainly be false.

Because of this, we humbly request that you meet with us, and your possible future companions, on XX/XX/2XXX at the main conference room to discuss the parameters of the mission. We sincerely hope you will be joining us, and would appreciate a notification of your interest as soon as possible. Thank you, and we eagerly anticipate your response.

The midheaven is a point of definition that aims to find the part of the ecliptic that corresponds
to the highest point in a celestial object's apparent daily traverse of the visible sky,
midway between its ascension on the eastern horizon and descension on the western horizon.
The midheaven does not represent the point immediately overhead (our local zenith),
but the point at which that meridian intersects with the ecliptic.
The Midheaven is one of the most important angles in the birth chart.
It traditionally indicates career, status, aim in life, aspirations, public reputation, and our life goal.
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