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.

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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 – January 26th, 2089

January 26th, 2089

The Bridge.

When I was a kid there was this TV show where everyone stood around on the Bridge of a starship and pretended to be in constant panic. Somehow I always imagined it would be like that, with a command chair and everyone around it doing a job. The Icarus is nothing like that.

First, it is entirely automated. The room itself is roughly fifteen feet wide and ten feet long and is very cramped with nearly every inch of it filled with computing power. Unlike previous spacecraft, Icaris has no viewports and all the “seeing” is done via computer displays and mathematical wizardry. I was told to think of it more like a submarine than some kind of movie spaceship.

There are two seats on the bridge for Captain [DELETED] and Lieutenant [DELETED], one massive communications computer, one similarly sized logistical computer and a guidance computer to the rear. You enter through the floor via a tunnel from the Science Division. The Bridge and the tunnel are both in free fall, which makes your stomach lurch every time you go into it from artificial gravity, but [DELETED] says we’ll get used to it.

That tunnel splits, one way going up to the Bridge and the other going down to the Cans. They aren’t all in one large room like they were back on Earth. Instead, they are like little holes in the side of the tunnel and we climb into them, still in free fall, and seal them up. I’m also told the Cans act like escape pods should the ship be need to be evacuated.

I asked why the tunnel had no gravity, as I would have preferred ladders to massive vertigo. [DELETED] told me it was to save energy and also for speed. I couldn’t argue with that fact. Once you got the hang of falling, getting to the Bridge or the Cans only took a matter of seconds.

We’ve been ushered back to Recreation and our Quarters for disembarking and I’m typing this last beam from beneath the window-monitor as Luna Station’s lights flicker and go out. Distantly, I now hear air popping and metal connecting. I promised myself I wouldn’t do this but it can’t be helped.

This is to my readers. I’m looking back at you now, watching the Earth over the horizon of the moon as I prepare to leave this solar system behind. Soon we’ll be hard burning for the Mars-Jupitor Time-Vortex Tunnel where we will make a short hop just beyond Neptune. Once there, it’s our longest burn to Charon, the marker that leads us to our next Tunnel and Alpha Centauri.

After this beam, I can’t say when my words will reach you. I’m in a very unique position as I am able to say the words ‘goodbye’ to whomever I wish. There is only one person I would say that to, but she is no longer listening.

January 25th, 2089 (Part 2)

January 25th, 2089 (Part 2)

The hatch was closed and there was no going back now.

We were given an informal tour of the ship by Captain [DELETED]. The Icarus is much smaller than it looks from the outside. You’d think half a kilometer of ship would afford you a little breathing space but almost everything is taken up by sensor equipment and other scientific apparatus.

The docking hatch is mid-way along the Icarus’s hull, so we worked backwards and then forwards again. We toured the Science labs first. The hallways are just wide enough for two people to walk side by side and the ceilings are claustrophobic at just six foot, five inches high. Doctor [DELETED] informed me that this was to promote the crew sitting rather than standing, as the artificial gravity has negative effects on the spine if one remains vertical too long.

The labs themselves are alien planets to me, full of beeping equipment and suspensions for samples. Some of the sensor data is fed into this area as well, so any new planets we discover can be analyzed. It’s all very white and sterile and smelling of new metal and plastic. The eggheads were simply giddy.

[DELETED] and I share an office just across the hall from the laboratory. We each have a computer terminal with access to the light-band in order to beam our stories back to Earth. It’s only worth doing so until we reach Alpha Centauri since after that, it will take the beams longer to reach Earth than we will.

Moving aft of the Science Department is Engineering which allows access to both the Icarus’s standard drive and the Time-Vortex insertion drive via insulated tunnels. This area of the ship was a little more open than the previous, with ceilings reaching a stunning seven feet. The hallways are big enough you can walk two abreast and allow someone to pass between you, sideways.

Beyond that is Recreation and our quarters. A marvel of starship design, it has absolutely no artificial gravity and is instead a continually rotating cylinder. I hadn’t seen it from the outside as the entire habitat is shielded on all sides by a coffin of ablative hull. The ceilings here are so high I can reach a hand up and still not brush my fingers across it.

I vowed I’d never leave.

Icarus – January 25th, 2089 (Part 1)

January 25th, 2089 (Part 1)

I said goodbye to everything ten hours ago.

When we boarded the Icarus, I never saw the ship. There were no windows, no monitors, not even a still image to show us our new home. There was only a white hallway and men in white sterile suits. We were in our mission jumpers, similarly white but on our sleeves was a single patch: NAS Icarus 2089. It showed a streak of blue passing over a white crescent moon.

We entered through a hatch that looked like some old bank vault, as white and sterile as the rest of us. When we stepped through, I expected to feel something different, an equilibrium change maybe, or a buoyancy like you do on a water-based boat. There was none of that. I stepped from solid metal plating onto solid metal plating.

From there we went straight ahead through another hatch that was the same as the first. Inside was a round room filled with a number of Extra-Vehicular suits. This was a Ready Room of sorts for preparing any of the crew to go outside in vacuum should there be need. I’d been briefed and trained on the suits which were not what I expected. They were tight-fitting and moved with surprising ease. Ceramic platting was attached to the outside of the suit which gave it the look of futuristic plate mail armor. The helmet was a clamshell affair with a 270-degree field of vision. You could see just fine out of them as long as you were looking side-to-side. Looking straight down was impossible, the helmet simply didn’t move.

We sat and had our last briefing from Colonel [DELETED] and Doctor [DELETED]. Then they handed us each our full assignment details, all of which we’d read before, and a complimentary box of snacks. It was a small box. The least they could do was give me a few years’ supply of Swedish Fish but it wasn’t in the budget I guess. They shook our hands and left.

Then the hatch closed on us.

Icarus – January 24th, 2089

January 24th, 2089

Sleep is impossible here.

Everything is white and sterile and constantly lit as if those who built it desperately wished to keep the darkness away. Man has an inherent fear of the dark and Luna Station took great pains to push away that fear.

In part I’m happy for this. I’ve read of the madness of the men and women on those first deep space expeditions. [DELETED] described the slow fall to insanity, the distrust of their companions and the inhumanity that followed. Psychologists blamed it on the eternal darkness.

The scientists tell me the Icarus is built to combat this. If it is, I hope it at least has a night cycle. I think eternal light would drive me just as insane. Lord knows I’m a walking zombie without sleep as it is.

It’s 0400 and I spent the last hour pacing the room. Anxiety and a growing apprehension grips me in these early hours. Today we’ll be boarding the Icarus and sealed inside. Why does that feel so final to me? This isn’t a death sentence. It isn’t even that dangerous by our current definition of space travel. The Time-Vortex Tunnels have been studied for years.

Those aren’t my only issues. The lack of sleep isn’t helping rid my thoughts of her either. I came here because of her, I know that now. I see her in every piece of clothing I’ve re-folded and re-packed. I sat down to write a few pages of the novel and every time I described the love interest, she looked like her. It’s bad. I need a drink and there’s only tea or coffee or water available.

By tomorrow I’ll be gone and everything will be better. Earth will begin to fade like a bad memory and I’ll be able to say goodbye to it all for a good decade. For the first time, I’m looking forward to this.

Someone’s knocking. It’s time.

Icarus – January 22nd, 2089

January 22nd, 2089

My vacation to Niagara was refreshing and creatively stimulating. I wrote five entire chapters of my novel while I sat comfortably on a reclining chair, gazing out at the splendor of the Falls. She always said nature was the most beautiful piece of art in all of Creation, but she always said things like that.

She also would have asked how I could leave this all behind.

It’s easy to explain. The spectacle was moving but only on an academic level. I found myself studying the way the water tumbles free of its rock bed and crashes with a roar upon the river below. The mist that rose captured my artistic eye and I found several passages within my chapters to use the imagery. This was the only emotional tug Niagara had on me. It gave me the words to work.

Any real emotion lately comes from anxiety about my upcoming voyage. I am eager to cast off my doubts and put myself into the arms of Icarus as we set off toward a new star. Once we are under way, I can do nothing about it, can’t quit, can’t turn back. The security in that lack of choice is what I yearn for now.

I find myself unable to eat as the time draws near. As I write this I’m sitting in the boarding arena, waiting for the shuttle to Luna. The other nine members of the crew are here with me and while I can not divulge their names, I can say that each of us has a partner that was chosen for us based on psychological compatibility. They are of a sex that we prefer and apparently we are encouraged to… well I believe you can grasp at the concept.

I don’t put much stock in the government’s IQ-breeding programs but their personality matching system is apparently very good. I heard it was a remnant of some online dating algorithm used half a century ago. Suffice it to say that my assigned partner is attractive and attentive. She knew I was a freelancer right away, though that doesn’t surprise me, considering her credentials as an investigative reporter.

We’d spoken about writing for hours and I’m glad she’ll be along. I think if the only conversation in town for ten years concerns the equations of a Time-Vortex Quasar Node, I just might go insane.

The boarding light has just come on. The next time I’ll have a chance to write will be from the moon! Here we go.

Goodbye, Earth.