Icarus – April 12th, 2099

April 12th, 2099

I visited Kate today. She couldn’t stay in her Can forever of course, so instead they locked her in her quarters. Evan set it up so she couldn’t unlock or even open the door. One of us has to bring her meals and today was my turn.

We talked and of course she tried to get me to let her out. She tried to explain that this was all some kind of horrid misunderstanding but she knew it was useless. Where could she go if I let her out? After that she just asked about the body.

I told her what I knew, that the tumors were not cancer like Kira initially thought. The theory was that the Chinese ship came too close to Alpha Centauri’s prime star and the radiation made the crew sick. That theory was put to bed with a quick visual scan of the ship. Its ablative armor was intact.

The questions I wanted to ask were hard, but I asked them anyway. Why weren’t we told about the other ships? Why so much mystery and intrigue for a simple science experiment? She didn’t say anything at all, wouldn’t even open her mouth for me. All she did was look away.

As I got up to leave she did ask me one last thing. She asked how Kira was. It was such an unexpected question that I didn’t know what to say at first. I told her the truth. One of the tumors burst on her today and she put herself in quarantine for a few hours. Anne took her vitals and she appeared fine. The tumor was just a sack of blood.

Kate didn’t say anything and I was just about to cycle the door when she called my name. She told me to send a beam to Earth and when I asked what to say, she gave me a code. I didn’t understand it but it sounded military. I’ll go over it with the others later, but I doubt they’ll trust her enough to send it.

Trust is a word we hold like a dagger to each others’ throats.

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Icarus – 2099

2099

We are a decade into the future, relatively speaking. Rich was the one who discovered it after doing a calibration on the standard drives. Most of our power banks were low and recharging, so when he went down to look at them he saw the wear on the systems. From there he was able to determine how long we’d been under.

According to our Cans, we’d only been under for 4.85 years, which the Icarus accounted for. Rich and Evan both assume it was the extra burn time Jim had ordered. We’d traveled beyond the speed of light, causing more Dilation than we’d anticipated. The eggheads at NASA are going to have a field day with this.

If we ever get back.

As for Jim, Alex theorized that it was his metabolism that did it. He was healthier than the rest of us and might have burned off the drug faster. Add in Dilation and it paints a grim picture. The others weren’t convinced, Jennie and I included.

They locked Kate in her Can as a precaution. She was the last one in and something happened to Jim’s injection. Kate wouldn’t tell us what year it was and insisted that the laser systems be readied. The other ship was to be eliminated and our mission to proceed as planned. Well, none of us listened to that. Only she has access to the logistical computer and it is that system that controls our injections. She was the last one in and paranoia did the rest, so she was placed in hibernation.

This entry might sound like the writing of a man in full control of himself, but it’s far from the truth. It’s taken me three hours to write these few words, my fingers shaking with every one. I can still hear Kate screaming when they forced her into her Can and I keep remembering blood on Jim’s door.

They’re going to go over there, to the other ship. Alex thinks there might be survivors but I don’t think it’s possible. How did they get here before us when we burned beyond light speed? What happened to them? I can’t help but think about those stories I read, about astronauts going mad on those long voyages. Has that madness begun here? Already?

I look out my false window, tuning the screen to see the Chinese ship in its slow tumble. Something killed that ship. Everyone on board is dead, I know it. I’ve never felt so sure of anything in my life. They are all dead, and if we go over there…

It’s almost funny that I came here to escape my nightmares. Here, the nightmares grow worse and come to life. Maybe I’m still asleep, locked safely in my Can? I don’t remember dreaming in them during training but we were only in them a short time. Is any of this even real?

Or is this the madness I’d feared?

Icarus – Unknown

Unknown

Something has gone horribly wrong.

Jim is dead. Bree hasn’t said a word since it was done. Kira dosed her an hour ago to make her sleep. It was Alex’s suggestion, he said some rest would bring her around.

Kate is trying to get something out of that damned logistical computer so we can figure out what year it is. Once we figure that out, we might find out what went wrong with Jim. It seems that he came out of hibernation early, before the Can was ready to eject the fluid. He drowned. The question is, how long ago did he drown? There was not much left of him in there. The decay was excessive. I’m not going to describe it, but there was blood on the Can’s door. He tried to claw his way out.

It gets worse, much worse. After we found Jim, Kate went to the bridge. The rest of us sat around Medical while Kira and Anne prodded Jim’s remains. When she came back, she ordered us all up to the observation deck. We didn’t know why, but I think we were too shocked to ask questions.

She opened the windows and there we were. Alpha Centauri. Two bright stars staring at us like beacons in the dark. There are planets too, but we can’t tell how many, we are still too far away. And then, as our rotation brought us around, we saw the Chinese ship.

It was right in front of us, slowly spinning end over end like a giant white bullet. We were so close that we could tell there were no lights on it. Kate said there were no energy readings from it at all. It was dead. At first, I assumed that the Icarus’s lasers had hulled it but Kate said it had no damage whatsoever.

So we’re waiting now, waiting to hear what year it is and waiting to hear what we’re going to do about the Chinese ship. I don’t feel any older, don’t look any older either. There’s a pain in my chest when I breathe too deep but other than that, no change.

What had happened while we were asleep and, more importantly, how long were we asleep? The Cans should have brought us out at the correct, subjective time, but what if it didn’t? What if the Time-Vortex did something? What if the extra-long burn shorted something out in our timetables?

We are time travelers without a sense of time and men and women stranded and fearful. One of us is dead and nine more that all want to know why and how. I thought of Sarah and all those words she wanted me to hear. Had I really not lived then?

And will I ever live to find out?

Icarus – February 5th, 2089

February 5th, 2089

Kate and Jim don’t know if the lasers hit or not. The Chinese vessel went into the Time-Vortex Tunnel twenty minutes ago, just past midnight, Greenwich Time. The other eight of us demanded an explanation. Bree screamed at them both until Alex calmed her down. Jennie was pissed too, but she was asking more pointed questions: How did we miss something like this? Why risk another war?

The answers were simple because the military’s orders were simple. If we were to encounter an Eastern Coalition vessel attempting to enter the Alpha Centauri Tunnel before we did, they were under orders to destroy it. No mean feat considering there have only been two space battles in the history of mankind. This makes three. I’m living history.

I did ask two questions, the easiest ones I could think of. What now? Do we beam a message to Luna and ask for instructions? Kate informed me that there would be no beams leaving the Icarus until we reached Alpha Centauri. In that answer, she answered both of them. We’re going on ahead.

This sparked more argument and I thought Bree was going to cry. She’s a pacifist. During our training I discovered that she helped with the Ecological Fallout Repair Initiative back in ’78. She must have been a college student then. It’s a brave thing, going to that barren, irradiated country, trying to regrow life. I meant to ask her about Siberia and if someone was still there, but I never did. Better that I didn’t.

The fight ended like it began, explosively. Kate restrained her and Jim ordered Kira to dose her. When she hesitated, he did it himself, only he didn’t use an injection gun. I began to wonder if there are hypnotic monitors in our rooms, because we could use them now. Dissent this early doesn’t bode well for our decade-long jaunt.

But we’re going in. Really going in, despite everything. Never mind Bree’s hysterics and our anger, or the Chinese ship that had beaten us there. We were going in anyway.

Jennie explained something to me then. With the Chinese ship jumping nearly an hour before we do, it would reach Alpha Centauri almost six months ahead. It might well be gone by the time we get there. I hope it is. I didn’t sign up for a combat tour.

We’re headed for the Cans again. The Icarus will be at full burn for nearly the whole trip. Jim thinks it will help us overtake them. Evan’s reply didn’t make me feel so confident. He wasn’t sure the ship would react well to burning while in the Tunnel, but there was nothing for it. We’re going in, and we’re going to sleep.

For over four years.

I’ll be glad to wake up after that’s over. Hibernating is better than boredom. Still, if there is a God out there, I sure hope he knows something about biology. I don’t want to come out of hibernation too early and drown in red syrup. If I do, die that is, and this log reaches Earth, please do me a favor.

Find Sarah Boer in the EFRI and tell her I’m sorry.

Icarus – February 4th, 2089

February 4th, 2089

My fingers are trembling as I write these words. The account of what happened in the past 36 hours will never reach Earth in time to affect the outcome of this mission, and I don’t think Jim is going to let me send it out anyway.

We’ve been lied to. Kept in the dark. Mislead. We aren’t the only nation with Time-Vortex drives. The Eastern Coalition has them too. Jim and Kate both knew it or at least knew that it was a possibility. I had a horrible realization then, a reason for the military’s presence on Luna, a reason for them to be chosen instead of a NASA pilot. They’re not here just to pilot the ship, they’re here because they knew about the damned Chinese.

Our logistics computer identified the craft by its burn wake, but by then our telemetry equipment snatched pieces of an outgoing beam. They were going to beat us to Alpha Centauri and Alliance would be out billions of credits. I didn’t need Jennie to tell me about the political strings this would pull. This kind of space race had blood in it.

What unfolded in the wake of that discovery shook me to my core. Jim and Kate ordered Alex and Bree to their posts in Science. Evan and Rich were sent to Engineering. Jennie and me? We were sent to quarters. I don’t know what happened to Anne and Kira.

For an hour we were locked in our cabins, separately. During that time the ship shook several times and I felt the hair on my arms and neck go stiff while my heart seemed to skip a beat. Later, I learned why. The Icarus is outfitted with several gigawatt laser systems, hidden from the entire crew with the exception of Jim and Kate.

And they were fired at the Chinese ship.

Icarus – February 3rd, 2089

February 3rd, 2089

We came out of our burn a full day early.

The morning after we left Neptune we stuffed ourselves into our Cans and didn’t expect to come out again until we’d slipped out of Reality and into the Time-Vortex Tunnel. I’ve never been prematurely ejected from the Can until now and despite this being the slow-ejection, rather than the emergency one, it was still one hell of an experience. An electric current runs through the goop and shocks you fully awake while a flashing red light indicates an ejection situation is imminent. You shove your arm into the tube, there’s a pinch and suddenly the goop is draining and you’re a fish in open air, gasping and heaving the stuff from your lungs. It’s like an exorcism.

Ten naked, squirming, wet adults emerged, hacking and wheezing into Zero-G. If we weren’t all covered in a viscous liquid that resembled strawberry jam, I might have felt self-conscious. We were drawn up into the Science Division and Jim and Kate, our two military pilots, went to the bridge to consult the logistical computer and find out why in the hell we were pulled out early.

Jennie found us some robes and we stood shivering and pale in the stark, blue light of the Icarus’s warm-up illumination. No one said a thing. It was a very profound silence in which no one touched or even looked at one another. We were all thinking the same thing: how damaged are we and how far from Earth?

Jim and Kate returned a few minutes later, still covered in red slime and looking magnificently nude. It was Kate who spoke, her voice strong and trying to sound reassuring. Her words were utterly terrifying.

We are a million miles beyond Pluto and we’ve encountered another ship.

Icarus – January 29th, 2089

January 29th, 2089

I stepped outside today.

The size of the universe will steal your breath away. It’s like being submerged in cold water. It leaves you stunned and gasping. Stupidly, I found myself reaching out toward Neptune, hoping to brush my fingers across the hair-like dust rings but they are thousands of miles away. From out there, the stars are so bright you almost need to turn away. It’s not like back on Earth where they are dim and veiled in smog. Out here, with nothing but emptiness, they are everything: light and hope all in one.

So vast, so beautiful. God she would have loved to see this. She would have been inspired. I can almost feel how she would have felt. Even then as I stood on the arm of the Icarus’s payload crane, the words came into my breast. Had I a computer right then, I might have written volumes.

But I didn’t and when I came back in, I found myself exhausted and weary. Instead of a vast wonder I saw a vast pit of nothingness around me. It nearly made me faint. I shook for hours in my quarters afterward. Even now, my fingers find the act of typing strenuous.

Tomorrow we begin the hard burn to Charon, pushing out past the orbit of Pluto. Some are saying they want to stand there, on the edge of our solar system and stare into infinity. After Neptune, with its roiling vapor clouds and leaking atmosphere, I am not sure I want to see that. Part of me longs for that feeling of inspiration and wonder, and the other fears that great void of unknown.

Jennie is coming by. We plan to drink an entire bottle of the horrid wine we have on board. She didn’t like the sensation either and suggested we try and sleep it off, together. Even if it’s cheap and set up because of our psychological profiles, there will be solace there with her.

Already we are moving away from Neptune’s orbit. As I write this, Triton is coming into view. It spins opposite of its mother planet, something I find endearing. There is atmosphere on Triton, thin and toxic but it’s there. I hold up a hand in farewell and I imagine it does the same with spouts from its nitrogen geysers.

I turn toward the door and away from the darkness as she knocks.