To the moon and back - free web novel

To the Moon and Back – Chapter Five

Chapter 5: Two of a Kind

Alana and Jeffrey returned to the Lunar Oasis under the cloak of night, a heavy silence hanging between them. They walked in silence, lost in their own thoughts, each burdened by the weight of the ominous fortunes they had received at dinner with Jinjing.

When they finally reached their rooms, they bid each other a quiet goodnight, their voices hushed with the heaviness of unspoken worries. Alana slipped into her room and closed the door behind her, the events of the evening replaying in her mind like a haunting melody.

Alone in the darkness, she couldn’t shake the feeling of unease that lingered in the air like a palpable presence. She paced the room restlessly, her thoughts consumed by the cryptic messages of the fortune cookies and the sinister words spoken by their host.

Meanwhile, Jeffrey sat at his desk, a furrow of worry etched into his brow as he pondered the implications of Jinjing’s ominous proclamation. The moon, once a haven of peace and tranquility, now seemed fraught with danger and uncertainty, a battlefield where their fates hung in the balance.

However, amidst the turmoil that engulfed them, there was one constant source of solace: Patty. The mischievous tomcat had curled up on the couch, his soft snores filling the space with a sense of peace and contentment. Unlike his human companions, he slept soundly, free from the burdens of worry and fear that plagued their minds.

* * * * * * * * * *

Chef Bot bustled about the kitchen, whipping up a delicious breakfast of pancakes and egg sandwiches. Alana and Jeffrey sat at the dining table, their appetites overshadowed by unsettling events that had transpired the night before. They pushed their food around on their plates, lost in thought, while Patty devoured his bowl of grilled sardines with gusto.

After several minutes of tense silence, Alana finally broke the quiet, her voice hesitant as she addressed Jeffrey. “Jeffery, we need to talk,” she began, her eyes meeting his with a mixture of determination and concern. “I need to know exactly what happened between you and Jinjing back in your college days. I need to understand what we’re up against.”

Jeffrey’s expression darkened at the mention of Jinjing, a flicker of annoyance crossing his features. “Alana, I’ve told you before, Jinjing and I were… acquaintances. We ran in the same circles, that’s all.”

But Alana wasn’t convinced by Jeffrey’s evasive answer. She could sense that he was hiding something, something important, and she couldn’t help but wonder what it was and why he was so reluctant to share.

“Jeffery, please,” she pressed, her voice soft but insistent. “We need to be honest with each other if we’re going to have any chance of figuring out what Jinjing is planning. I need to know the truth.”

Jeffrey sighed heavily, his gaze dropping to his plate as he wrestled with his inner turmoil. Finally, he relented, his voice quiet as he began to recount the events of his college days, the memories dredged up from the depths of his past.

Alana listened intently, her mind racing with the implications of his words. For in the shadows of their shared history lay the key to unlocking the mysteries of Jinjing’s intentions. She knew that they couldn’t afford to overlook any detail if they hoped to emerge victorious.

* * * * * * * * * *

“We were almost inseparable back in college,” Jeffrey began, his voice tinged with nostalgia. “We were both the smartest ones in class, always competing to be at the top. But it was a playful competition, you know? We’d win some, lose some, but in the end, it didn’t matter because we were friends.”

to the moon and back - Jeffery and Jinjing

Alana nodded, understanding dawning in her eyes as Jeffrey continued his tale.

“And then there was Vinci,” Jeffrey went on, his voice growing softer. “We both fell for her, but we made a pact. We wouldn’t let her come between our friendship. We’d let her choose, and we’d accept her decision, no matter what.”

“She chose Jinjing,” Jeffrey continued, his voice heavy with regret. “I was sad at first, but I got over it. Our friendship remained strong, until the final semester.”

Alana nodded in encouragement, so he would continue.  Jeffrey paused, his gaze distant as he recalled the events of that fateful time.

“The final project of our course was going to be life-changing,” he explained. “We were both building prototypes of our imagined space crafts, competing for the ultimate prize. And in the end, I won. I scored his dream job at NASA, and… he wasn’t happy.”

Alana’s heart went out to Jeffrey as he spoke, knowing that the rift between him and Jinjing had only deepened with time.

“And then, to make matters worse, Vinci wanted to break up with Jinjing and be with me,” Jeffrey concluded, his voice heavy with emotion. “It was the last nail in the coffin of our friendship.”

As Jeffrey fell silent, the weight of his shared history with Jinjing hung heavy in the air. Alana couldn’t help but feel a pang of sympathy for both him and Jinjing. The complexities of their friendship and the wounds that had been inflicted upon it ran deeper than she had initially realized.

“Did you and Vinci…?” Alana began tentatively, her voice trailing off as she broached the delicate subject.

Jeffrey shook his head, a bitter smile playing at the corners of his lips. “No, we didn’t,” he admitted quietly. “But even though I didn’t pursue anything with Vinci, Jinjing was still hurt and angry. He couldn’t understand why things turned out the way they did.”

“Jinjing was always obsessed with the algorithm,” Jeffrey continued. “His every move was planned, calculated, like he thought he had it all figured out. And then… I was the one who ended up with everything he’d ever dreamed of.”

Alana listened in silence; she could only imagine the depth of Jinjing’s resentment that had festered in his heart, as he watched his friend achieve that one thing he has chased relentlessly.

“But despite everything, I still tried to reach out to him,” Jeffrey admitted, woefully. “I tried to talk to him, to salvage our friendship, but he… he ignored me. Every time.”

Alana’s heart went out to Jeffrey as he spoke, knowing that the pain of rejection and betrayal ran deep. She listened with a heavy heart, absorbing the pain and regret that colored his words. She could sense the depth of Jeffrey’s admiration for his former friend, as well as the devastation he had felt when their friendship had crumbled.

“He was the social butterfly, the cooler one among us,” Jeffrey confessed, his voice tinged with a hint of wistfulness. “Everyone liked him, admired him for his ambition. And I… I looked up to him, admired him for everything he was.”

Alana nodded in understanding, her own memories of Jinjing colored by Jeffrey’s words. She could picture him vividly, the charismatic figure at the center of their circle of friends, his laughter ringing out like music in the air.

“But it wasn’t enough,” Jeffrey continued, his voice growing softer. “Despite all his success, all the praise he received, it wasn’t enough. And when things didn’t go his way, he… he threw our friendship away without a second thought.”

The pain in Jeffrey’s voice was palpable, a raw wound that had never fully healed. Alana reached out, squeezing his hand in silent solidarity, a silent gesture of support in the face of his pain.

“And then, years later, I found him on social media,” Jeffrey went on, a note of bitterness creeping into his voice. “He was doing great, had his own space exploration agency, a huge fan following… but he was a different person. Cold, calculating, driven by ambition above all else.”

“I’m sorry, Jeffery,” Alana murmured softly, her voice filled with compassion. “I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been for you. But know that you’re not alone. We’ll get through this together.”

A faint smile graced Jeffery’s lips. “Thank you Alana, I feel better sharing all of this with you. I’ve kept it all inside for far too long.”

“Did you reach out to him after that?” Alana asked tentatively.

Jeffrey chuckled sadly, an acrid edge to his laughter. “I did,” he admitted. “And to my surprise, he seemed genuinely glad to hear from me. He invited me to his beach house in Maldives, all expenses paid.”

Alana’s eyebrows shot up in surprise at the extravagant gesture, but Jeffrey’s expression remained somber as he continued his tale.

“I didn’t want to accept such an expensive gift,” Jeffrey professed. “But he insisted, so I finally gave in.”

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He went on to describe his arrival at Jinjing’s marvelous beach house, the warm welcome he received, and the revelation that Jinjing had won Vinci back; they had gotten married shortly after college. However, the marriage had ended in divorce just five months later, leaving Jeffrey feeling a pang of sympathy for his former friend.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Jeffrey, genuine concern etched into his features.

However, Jinjing’s response had been anything but grateful. Instead, he unleashed a condescending attitude, boasting about his wealth and success, all thanks to the “algorithm” he claimed to have mastered.

“I asked him why he hated me,” Jeffrey recounted, his voice filled with a mixture of confusion and hurt. “But he just laughed, like some kind of evil maniac, and told me to get out of his house.”

Alana gaped in shock. “How dare he say that? That is no way to treat anyone, especially an old friend you’ve insistently invited to your place!”

“I was shaken too,” disclosed Jeffery, “And I’m trying to understand what he wants from me now after all this time, but it eludes me.”

“Whatever he’s after or trying to accomplish, we’ll find out soon,” assured Alana, “I won’t let him hurt you again.”

* * * * * * * * * *

After breakfast, Jeffrey excused himself, retreating to his room to focus on his work, leaving Alana to her own devices. She made her way to her room, intending to immerse herself in writing, but her mind was too preoccupied with thoughts of Jeffrey and the enigmatic Jinjing.

Her pen hovering over the blank pages of her journal, she struggled to find the right words. She wanted to help Jeffrey, to ease the burden of his past and the weight of his worries, but she didn’t know how.

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With a sigh of frustration, Alana set aside her journal, her thoughts swirling with uncertainty. She knew that she couldn’t sit idly by while Jeffrey grappled with the demons of his past. She had to do something, anything, to help him find closure and peace.

After some contemplation, Alana made a decision. She would go see Jinjing herself, confront him about his intentions and try to uncover the truth behind his actions. It was a risky move, she knew, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that it was the right thing to do.

Determined to present herself in the best possible light, Alana carefully selected her best dress, a sleek and elegant ensemble that she knew would appeal to Jinjing’s sense of style. As she gazed at her reflection in the mirror, she realized just how much he cared about appearances, and she was determined to use that to her advantage.

Once she was ready, looking her best and feeling a sense of determination coursing through her veins, Alana set out towards Jinjing’s yellow spacecraft, parked just a ten-minute walk away from the Lunar Oasis.

With each step, her resolve hardened, her mind set on the task ahead. She didn’t know what awaited her on the other side of that spacecraft door, but she was determined to face it head-on, for Jeffrey’s sake and for her own. And as she approached her destination, her heart pounded with anticipation, knowing that the truth was within her grasp, if only she had the courage to reach out and seize it.

* * * * * * * * * *

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