In an off-line conversation with Kanlaon, we discussed the original casting for the movie Passengers. Originally, Keanu Reeves and Reese Witherspoon were to play the title roles (!!).
“Eww, I can’t imagine they would have any chemistry,” I said. “What if it were Keanu and J. Law?”
“Now that you mention it, I can totally see a Keanu/J. Law dynamic!” she said.
And thus one of the most bizarre fan fiction mash-ups was born.
John Wick woke up in a white haze of silence.
Despite the hologram’s reassurance that his disorientation was only momentary, a side effect of his long hibernation sleep, he was immediately alert and aware of his surroundings, a habit of survival that had borne him in good stead these forty years.
The hologram continued prattling on about protocols, but John blocked out the automated message, taking note of the heavy hush all around him. Absent was the sound of shoes scuffing on the highly polished floors, the sigh of breathing, not even a cough to clear the stale recycled air from one’s lungs.
Instead, there was only this preternatural hush, as if he had awoken within a graveyard.
With the quick, feline movements of a cat he sprang up and vaulted over the side of his stasis tube, taking cover to one side while scanning the room.
Cautiously he stood up, counting the smooth, cream-colored capsules that lay in neat clusters of ten. In this bay, there were one thousand, exactly as many as there should be, the layout exactly as it should be, as he had memorized it before consigning himself to this expedition. Everything was exactly as it should be, except for one small detail.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of these capsules remained closed, their human passengers still peacefully in stasis.
He was the only one awake, roughly ninety years too soon.
First things first–John wanted pants and a gun, in that order. He located the suite reserved in his name, swiping his gold ID bracelet to enter. The same holographic image from earlier intruded again, insisting that he sign for his luggage, which appeared only moments later. Snapping back the latches on the square metal case, he shook out a black pair of designer slacks and an innocuous plastic barrel. His trademark black turtleneck was next, smelling of cold storage. Running a hand across his face, he deferred taking a shower until he had had a chance to inventory the ship.
“And find out what the fuck is going on here,” he muttered to himself. He slipped three more wristbands into his inner jacket pocket–silver, copper, and black. Leaving his feet bare, he cracked the cabin door open, checking the hall before slipping back into the corridor.
Still, there was no one and nothing moving.
In the second-class wing, John used the silver wristband to sign a receipt for Ms. Deirdre Lincolnshire’s personal belongings. Nestled amongst her lace delicates were two more strangely-shaped puzzle pieces.
There were two thousand hibernation pods in this middle class cargo bay; two thousand closed hibernation pods with two thousand sleeping passengers.
He repeated the process and the count in both the third-class level accommodations as well as in steerage, each time authorizing receipt of the passenger’s baggage and then searching it for more missing parts. At the last stop he assembled a compact plastic pistol which he held loosely in his hand as if it were a natural extension of himself.
And maybe it was.
All told, there were four thousand nine-hundred and ninety-nine dormant travelers within four thousand nine-hundred and ninety-nine sealed, fully functional hibernation containers.
He toured the ship from top to bottom, enjoying the quiet.
When he discovered the bar, beautifully appointed in the style of a bygone age such as that of The Titanic, John Wick knew he had finally found Heaven.
Six months passed before John realized what had really happened.
He was reading tech manuals on the observation deck and sipping bourbon when suddenly the lights went out. It was the third time in two weeks, which was why he had suddenly taken an interest in ship maintenance. For a long moment he sat in the dark, illuminated faintly by a passing G-3 star while he finished his drink.
After the lights flickered back to life, John waited another hour before getting into the elevator.
It was time to find some answers.
After eight days, twelve hours, and two more bottles of Karuizawa whiskey John identified the issue.
And cursed, deeply and with feeling, while brushing his long dark hair back from his lean, angular face.
The problem was really very simple–in two more days, everyone was going to die.
She was located amidst the second-class compartments; a strange place to stash a war hero, really. Still, after reviewing the passenger manifests again and again, she was the only one who seemed to have the mechanical expertise needed to keep the ship on course to their destination, the planet Homestead 2.
Katniss Everdeen her name plate read.
John considered himself more of a dog person.
Reluctantly, he keyed in the code that would wake her up from hypersleep, dooming her to a lifetime spent on this ship.
Then again, if she wasn’t able to fix the gaping hole in the engine room, the rest of her life wouldn’t be that long, anyway.
“I knew this was too good to be true,” he grumbled, stepping back as the chrysalis lid swung open and effectively ended his solitude.
Katniss woke up screaming. A soothing voice told her that she was simply experiencing a momentary disorientation that was a very natural side effect of the hibernation sleep process.
“I can’t see!” Katniss cried, her voice cracking. She threw out her hands in front of her, blinking rapidly to purge the sandpapery grit from her eyes.
Someone grabbed her hand, and she yanked back with all her strength, whacking her head on the wall of the container.
“Careful,” a man’s voice said calmly . “We’re all going to die if you don’t pull it together.” She felt a touch on her arm and then a glass pushed into her palm. “Drink up; the dry-mouth is a bitch.”
Slowly, she guided the glass to her lips, taking a tiny sip. Water had never tasted so good. She took two more big gulps before splashing the rest in her eyes.
As her vision cleared, the blurry shape of a man resolved in front of her. He was tall and dressed all in black. The look on his face was one of somber patience.
She wondered if he was Death personified, shook her head, and dismissed the idea.
“Where am I?” she asked, swinging her legs over the edge of the pod. “Why are they all still sleeping? Are we still in Panem?”
“Look,” the man said. “We don’t have a lot of time. Here’s the short version, according to the manifest I read before waking you up. After you shot President Coin, after your husband Peeta Mellark died during the Bread Riots, you asked to be placed in cryonic suspension.”
“How long has it been?” Katniss asked. The entire landscape was smooth grey metal and elegant twisting curves, without a single green thing in sight.
Nothing looked familiar.
“By my count, about 500 years,” the stranger continued.
Katniss stared at him, her mouth wide open.
“That’s not possible,” she protested, backing away from him, from all of them. In her mind’s eye she remembered the Second Rebellion; the explosions that haunted her sleep; Gale’s forced heroism; Peeta’s gentle smile…
“Your room is H-3372,” the hologram interrupted, materializing over the lid of her opened capsule and gesturing to the left. Katniss stumbled down the corridor that lit up with arrows to show her the way.
The man in black stayed behind.
“Shit.” John Wick sighed, checking his watch.
This wasn’t going well.
And they were nearly out of time.
Inside a small white cube that felt like a prison cell, Katniss followed the directions to receive her effects. Inside the standard luggage cube were a few familiar things–her father’s jacket, an empty quiver, two pairs of plain clothes, and a letter.
She recognized her own handwriting from the first line.
It turns out I’m not very good at making friends, even without a war, even when I’m supposedly some kind of hero, the message began without preamble. I can’t walk down the street without someone wanting to hug me or hurt me, and it’s harder and harder every day to tell the difference between the two.
Peeta is gone.
A single tear dripped onto the ancient paper.
After Prim, after Gale’s betrayal…it’s too much.
I’m tired. I’m tired of being a symbol; I just want to be a person again.
They say that I can go to sleep and wake up in a hundred years in a new world. Of course, it’s the government saying this, so I’ll probably just wake up dead.
Katniss laughed, despite herself.
Still, it’s worth a shot.
I just hope there aren’t any more nightmares where I’m going.
Katniss put down the letter very, very carefully. Sniffling back her tears, she yanked on her clothes, battered and soft with use just as she remembered them.
Braiding her hair back away from her puffy face, she left the room on whisper-quiet naked feet.
The man in black had said there wasn’t much time.
That was even less time than she had thought.
She found him still waiting in the cargo area, surrounded by hundreds of unconscious people who looked like life-sized dummies. Curious, she looked inside one labeled Christopher Pratt; he was vaguely handsome yet instantly forgettable.
She turned away.
What does it matter?
None of them were the boy with the bread.
In front of her, the man in black spoke.
“Thank you,” he said. “My name is John Wick.”
John admired how quickly she adjusted to the current situation as she asked him to take her to the tool room and to guide her through the freighter. He explained the meteor damage, and she nodded to show that she understood. She did not talk much.
It was only as they passed one of the viewing windows on the way to the last elevator that Katniss came to a full halt.
“Wait a minute!” she shrieked, and he raised an eyebrow as his hand automatically went to the weapon that never left his side. As he scanned for threats, she turned her incredulous face to him and said, “We’re in space? In actual outer space?”
It was John’s turn to nod, unsure of what else to say.
Katniss took two long steps to the small circular porthole.
“It’s so beautiful,” she sobbed. Abruptly she turned about, giving him a sharp nod to proceed.
“Yes, ma’am,” John said, grimly appreciative of her single-minded focus.
They stepped into the elevator.
In the end, it really was a very simple fix. Although the ship itself was built with technology well beyond her understanding, a wrench was a wrench, and a breach was still a black void sucking all the oxygen out of the room and, eventually, the freighter as well.
As she worked, her hands remembering this hard-earned skill that she had used to fill her days and hours after Peeta’s death, she considered what other wonders might be in store.
Space travel, amongst the stars! If only…
Her amusement faded; there was no one from her time left alive that she could share this moment with.
“You fixed it?” John asked, firmly polite as they sat together in the cafeteria as if nothing had happened.
Katniss poked at the white mush that claimed to be potatoes with distrust.
Quietly, John got up and returned to the meal replicator. Scanning his gold ID badge against the red electronic eye, he returned with a medium rare steak, crisp green beans, soft white sourdough bread, and real red potatoes.
“I hate green beans,” Katniss said in acknowledgement.
“There’s no one here that is going to make you eat them,” John replied.
Two years later, when he re-read her file from an ancient history holo, he finally understood why she had picked up the bread from the white plastic tray and held it to her nose, inhaling the scent of it as tears silently squeezed out from the corners of her bright blue eyes.
“I think I had too much to drink, John,” Katniss said, stumbling against the smooth, curved walls. Laughing, she stopped, sliding down into a jumble of legs and knees. “Can’t I just sleep here? It’s the end of the world, after all!” Her forced glee subsided into a plaintive sort of mewl. “Please, John? Can’t I just stay here?”
John Wick sat down cross-legged next to humanity’s greatest hero, Katniss Everdeen, and waited patiently for her to pass out.
The trees were what Katniss missed the most, the sun-dappled branches and the quiet footfall of deer, the gurgle of running water and a rustle of feathers from birds hiding in the brush. In her dream, she was surrounded by giant redwoods that towered up, up, up into an impossibly blue sky.
“Miss? It’s time to wake up, Miss Everdeen.”
A cool breeze whistled through the forest, a forest straight out of one of her mother’s fairy tales, the ones she had never believed in.
“I need some assistance! The auto-doc was never intended for extended hibernation…”
Just one step further, Katniss thought. She could almost see the little cabin where she and Gale used to rest while on their hunting trips. The woods were welcoming and serene, beckoning to her weary spirit to give in, to rest.
“Two cc’s ought to do it…”
There was a sharp prick in her arm, and Katniss’ blue eyes snapped opened.
Several days passed before the Homestead Company, a division of Weyland Industries, would clear her as physically fit and a viable citizen of their new world. There was some confusion over her identity and how exactly she came to be on board in the first place. On the flight manifest, she was listed only as Katniss, no-last-name, sole heir to the fortune of the reclusive billionaire John Wick.
It was obvious that the records had been tampered with but much less obvious how to prove it.
After the first interminable meeting in which six men in suits talked and talked for twenty minutes straight, Katniss got up and left the room, to their shouts of protest. When they followed her to her temporary lodging, she hurled two handfuls of pure gold coins at the intruders and screamed, “Is this enough blood money? Is it?”
Apparently, it was.
As she walked under the deep green canopy at the outskirts of New Utopia, Katniss thought that all, all of this had been worth it.
In her hand, she clicked the small disk that would replay a holographic message she already knew by heart.
“Katniss, I didn’t know you for very long, but it was an honor to meet you in person.”
Her feet stopped at a fresh grave, the very first on this planet.
“You saved the lives of everyone, all total strangers to you, in a space and time that was strange to you, too.”
She cleared away a few leaves that had drifted near the base of the headstone.
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to give you my thanks in person. I couldn’t bear the thought of eventually leaving you all alone, on a journey you never signed up for. I hope you can forgive me, and I hope you find happiness on Homestead Two.”
The recording ended, and Katniss slipped the disk into her pocket as she turned and trudged back to the fledgling colony where no one knew her as the girl on fire, where she could finally have a fresh start.