Never letting go: A Vortex Love Story by SilverSkye

Never letting go: A Vortex Love Story by SilverSkye

“I love you. You know that don’t you?” Dean’s eyes that usually twinkled with mirth were uncharacteristically serious.

“Yeah, of course I do.” I assured him as I reached up to stroke his cheek.

“And I love you too.” 

He smiled. Relieved. It didn’t quite reach his eyes but it was better than the sullen expression he had been giving all week. All month really since it was announced our proposal was going to be considered in the vortex. The vortex would decide whether we could be together. 

I buried my face into Dean’s shoulder as he wrapped his arms around me. The scent of oranges and cloves that lingered on his jumper caressed me. The meadow we were in was quiet at this time of year. Only the last remnants of summer remained as many had gone back to their home cities now summer break was over. I felt a peace I rarely did nowadays. It made me hopeful. Maybe stupidly so. I made a silent prayer that our proposal would pass. That the Cognitocrats would see what a good match we would make. That they wouldn’t deem us “incompatible” like they did Sara and Lazarus last spring. Sure the vortex rematched them and they actually seem happier with their new partners than they did with each other but, I couldn’t imagine my life without Dean. I didn’t want to.

“Darling?” I called to get his attention.

“Yes my love, my bunnykins?” Dean replied with a goofy grin. This is what I would miss. His fun loving nature and his humour. 

“Darling you need to shave. Your stubble is attacking me.” 

“Hmm and here I thought we were having such a nice moment.” He laughed as he began to rub his stubble on me even more.

“Dean! Dean let go of me!” I yelped between fits of giggles. 

“Never!” He roared while attacking me with tickles and kisses.


Strolling through the streets of Sapientia Regit was an assault to the senses. The old Roman style architecture, with its cobblestone streets and travertine buildings, clashed heavily with the imposing steel skyscrapers and sleek cars that zoomed about overhead on the mono rail tracks. Since the proposal to add magnetics to the mono rail, to ensure cars stayed on the track and to regulate traffic had passed in the Vortex, the rate of fatal accidents had dropped to near zero. It may have been too late for my mother but I felt proud knowing that at least some good came from the tragedy. That me and my team had made a difference by creating that proposal. In a secret place in my heart, I felt my mother was proud of me too. That would have to been enough.

We reached the bus stop just as it was arriving. The doors opened as we stepped inside and took our seats.

“You look amazing Cleo. Stop fidgeting with your dress.” Dean covered my hands in his, stilling them and settling my nerves.

“I just.. What if something was missing from our proposal? What if I left something crucial out?” My mind was spinning with all the ways the proposal could be rejected. The idea that it could be because of something I left out or did wrong was choking me. My lungs struggled to hold on to air.

“Hey! Hey! Cleo look at me.” Dean held my shoulders as he looked into my eyes. 

“Cleo everything will be fine. We will be together.” Dean assured me.

“You don’t know that. Anything could happen in there!” I felt wild with panic.

Dean slowed his words down and repeated, “We will be together.”

Each word carried a new weight and I got the meaning he was trying to convey. He was talking about running away. He had brought it up off handedly, or at least I thought so, a couple weeks ago. Now I know he was honestly considering it.

“You can’t be serious.” I balked. “Our families will-“

“Our families will be fine.” Dean said cutting off my sentence.

“I’m not willing to give you up. I’m never letting you go.” He declared with finality. His emerald eyes shone with earnestness. I knew he truly meant what he was saying.

“I don’t want to give you up either.” I admitted softly.

“Then we just won’t. We’re gonna be together, whether they vote for or against.”

He pulled me into his chest as the bus continued to glide across the monorail towards the heart of the city, towards the vortex.

The central square of the vortex building was a hive of activity. Screens lined an entire wall, all filled with proposals. 

“Look there’s ours.” I said while pointing. 


“Looks like the voting has already started.” Dean commented.

“Ok that’s good right? If it’s one of the first ones to be voted on that must mean it caught their eye.”

Dean grimaced. We both knew it could mean one of two things: either they really liked our proposal and it would be voted through with an overwhelming majority or… 

I decided not to dwell on the alternative. 

The swish of a purple coat caught my eye.

“Cognitocrat Evelyn!” I yelled while rushing towards the world-renowned relationship professor. Her thesis on neurology and love compatibility had revolutionised the field, creating 5 times more successful matches. As an expert in her field I was certain she’d be voting on our proposal today.

“Cleo. How are you?” she asked warmly while turning to face me.

“Our proposal is being reviewed today.” I didn’t need to say more.

“I know this is a nerve-wracking time but, everything will truly work out for the best. You will see.” Cognitocrat Evelyn and her husband had their proposal voted through with a record breaking 98.9% 23 years ago.

“Not everyone can be as lucky as you.” 

“Maybe not. But luck is not necessary. Your proposal will be considered against the best research in love and compatibility available.” 

I nodded. I’d seen the science behind this and witnessed the positive results for myself. It’s just that being the one up for review produced a nervousness I just couldn’t shake.

“I better go in and cast my vote.” She said as she turned to leave. I remained still where I stood as the clack of her heels grew fainter. After a few deep breaths to centre myself, I returned to my seat next to Dean.


The screen had updated the progress of our proposal. The votes began to pour in, with each vote being transparently recorded on the blockchain. I looked at Dean as my mouth began to feel dry. We need 66% plus 1 vote for our proposal to be successful. Over 40% of governors were taking part in the voting so whatever the result ended up being would be valid.

62%, 63%

The crawl towards 66% was agonising. Suddenly, the screen began to flash. The vote had concluded.


Relief flooded every cell of my body. But before I could celebrate the screen began to flash again.


My stomach fell to my feet and my eyes instantly filled with tears. I turned to Dean. He looked shattered. Not a single trace of his usual light heartedness was on his face. That broke my heart more than anything. The shock was mind numbing. The highest ranking Cognitocrats with the most Cognitocratic Measure had vetoed our proposal. Vetoed our future. 


The question reverberated in my head without answer. Out the corner of my eye I saw Cognitocrat Evelyn approach us. 

“Come with me.” She said.

Silently we followed. She led us to a windowless room with 2 chairs. Each chair had hundreds of wires and nodes attached to it. A man in a white lab coat entered the room.

“You may be wondering what all of this is.” He began. The confusion on our faces must have been answer enough because he continued.

“This is the Dato AI simulator. The newest model. It can create unlimited alternative realities using artificial intelligence that feel hyper realistic to the user. All you got to do is wire in so to speak.” He said while gesturing at the abundance of wires and nodes.

Evelyn began to speak, “Lately too many proposals have been going through that have ended up in unhappy relationships. Me and other experts in the field have been working on this for years. A way to truly determine the quality and future success of a relationship.”

I trusted Evelyn research. I’d been a fan of her work since the beginning of my college days. I looked at Dean to get an idea of where his head was at. He gave a subtle nod. 

“We’ll do it.” With in a couple of minutes we were hooked up to the simulator and then everything went black.

The feeling of weightlessness was the first thing I noticed upon waking. That was quickly followed by a profound thirst. I opened my eyes to my surroundings.

“A space ship?”

I tried to remember how I got here. But my mind couldn’t remember anything past my own name. Odd.

I began to manoeuvre myself around the ship until I found the water I was seeking. Asleep by the water fountain was a man.


My brain supplied a name and with that came a rush of memories. I made my way towards him.

“Dean! Wake up!” I lightly tapped his face as I shook his shoulders. He startled from his sleep.

“Cleo.” He sounded like he was testing my name out for the first time, like it was an unfamiliar language.

“Cleo.” He repeated sounding much more aware and clear minded than before.

“Are we on a spaceship?” We looked at each other before bursting out in laughter. The madness of the situation had caught up with me.

“Yes, I suppose we are.”

He stood up and walked towards the window of the ship.

“The earth is so beautiful from up here.” He commented. I joined him at the window to look down at the planet.

“Like a big, beautiful, blue marble.” He said.

I smiled. I guess that’s exactly how it was. Just a blue marble floating through space. I reached out to hold Dean’s hand. I might not know how we got here or how we would get back to earth but, in that moment being with Dean was all that mattered. 

As we continued to look out the window a bright, white streak flashed across the horizon.

“That’s amazing. Look at that shooting star.” I pointed out the star passing over earth to Dean.

“There’s another.” He replied. Sure enough a second shooting star joined the first and before we knew it a shower of shooting stars filled the night.


The ship shook violently as shooting stars began to pelt the outside.


The ship made a worrying groaning sound. Suddenly, the lights turned red and an automated voice boomed out.


A tv screen in front of us suddenly came to life. A man appeared on the screen and began to speak.

“If you are viewing this message, the ship door has been compromised and you will begin rapidly losing air pressure.”

I looked at Dean in panic.

The man on the screen continued. “Unless a member of crew goes outside of the ship to remove the ship door and replace it with a new one, air pressure will drop to a non-life supporting level. You will find the replacement door in a compartment at the rear of the ship. Once air pressure has been stabilised the ship will begin it’s auto pilot decent back to earth. Good luck. Transmission out.”

“I’ll go outside and replace it.” Dean declared.

“Dean we’re in outer space. If you get swept out of this ship you will die. Let’s figure out something else. Some other way to replace the door.”


The ship crashed. It sounded like something had collapsed.

“We don’t have the time.” Dean gathered me in his arms, kissed my forehead, released me, and began to make his way to the rear of the ship.

“No Dean! Please we’ll find a way. I’m begging you.” I ran after him with tears streaming down my face.

“Better one of us makes it than none.” He said. 

“I can’t lose you, we have to-“

I was cut off as a huge crash vibrated through the ship. A steel pipe fell from the ceiling knocking Dean on the head. He instantly collapsed to the ground, blood pouring in abundance from a newly formed gash on his forehead. 

He’ll bleed out.

I thought to myself. I numbly I forced my body to move and find a medical kit. Desperately, I opened the kit and began searching for something to stem the flow of blood.

Clot matrix. Stops bleeding in seconds.

The bottle read. I opened the bottle and began to spray Dean’s forehead. The flow of blood began to slow.

“Oh my goodness. Thank you. Thank you.” Just as the bleeding had almost stopped, the clot matrix bottle began to make a hissing sound.

“No no no no!” The bottle had run out but, Dean was still bleeding. 


My mind began to spin 


I thought to myself. 

All Dean needs is a doctor. A routine surgery could easily fix this. It’s just that all the doctors are on earth. Ok, ok all I need to do is get this door fixed and the ship will automatically take us back down. I can save him. I will save him.

 I looked at Dean still slumped on the floor with blood dribbling from the gash on his forehead. He was worryingly pale but, at least his chest was still rising and falling. 

He’s still alive. There’s still a chance. 

I located the door, replacement manual and space suit at the rear of the ship. After putting on the suit and locating the broken door, I began to read the instructions on how to replace it. Dean was right. It would have to be done from the outside. I gulped. Looking through the window next to the door, I could see there were some handles attached to the outside of the ship. They mirrored the handles attached on the inside. That would be all that would connect me to the ship. I found some titanium nano filament rope and tied it around my waist. If my hands slip from those handles I knew I’d be sucked out into space. Lost and floating forever. If I tied myself with rope as well, I may stand a chance. 


No time to waste. I tied my rope to the handle inside the ship and opened the broken door. Immediately the force sucking me out the ship was overwhelming. I quickly tied my rope to the handles on the outside of the ship

Double the anchor points equals double the chance of survival. 

I thought grimly to myself. I turned my attention to the door. According to the replacement manual, all I had to do was slide the replacement door and connect it on the hinges. I set to work.

Within 15 minutes the new door was firmly in place. All I had to do now was use the rope to pull myself back towards the ship. Suddenly I felt a ping vibrate through the rope. I looked up. The handle on the outside of the ship had been ripped off, now the only thing connecting me to the ship was a single anchor on the inside. I began to rapidly pull myself towards the ship. I was just a foot away when…

 Oh God.  I thought.

My last anchor to the ship dislodged and my world went black. 

The steady rhythm of a heart monitor was the only thing I could sense. I opened my eyes to the blinding lights above me and was met with the face of Evelyn.

“Welcome back. Here drink some water. Your hydration levels fell whilst you were in there. You passed. The way you were both willing to sacrifice your lives for each other demonstrated your undying commitment and love.” Evelyn smiled good naturedly. 

My memories began to flood back.

“Where’s Dean?” I asked while frantically looking around the room for him. 

“He’s outside. We’ve already discharged him.” I breathed a sigh of relief. It was all just a simulation. 

“Thank you Evelyn for giving us a second chance.”

“Of course Cleo although the rest of the voters couldn’t see it at first, I’m sure now you’ve both proved your love, the vote will be overwhelmingly in your favour.”

I stood up out the chair and made my way to the door, entering the main square once again.


As soon as I stepped out Dean pulled me into a hug. I breathed in his orange and clove scent. He was here. He was safe and well. Some lingering panic that lived in my gut unknotted itself with that physical confirmation.  

The screens that lined the walls sprang to life. 




One more vote. That’s all we need. I thought to myself.



Liquid joy rushed through my blood stream. We began jumping and celebrating in the square not caring if we looked clinically insane. 

Dean gathered me into a hug.

“I love you so much, Cleo.”

“I love you too Dean.”

“I’m never letting you go.” He promised while kissing the top of my head.

“Never,” I replied.