Icarus – January 28th, 2089

January 28th, 2089

We entered the Cans this morning. Yesterday was taken up by last minute adjustments to the propulsion and guidance systems. Jennie just thinks it’s a nervous technician crew wanting to say goodbye to their baby one last time. I’m tempted to agree with her.

So instead it was this morning that we floated down the tunnel to our acceleration coffins. I slid into mine, stripped and stored my clothes, and strapped in. Once ready, the Can sealed automatically. I placed my arm in the injection tube and grasped the rod within, telling the computer system I was ready for my shot. Unlike the needles given by nurses back home, this was quick. One good pinch and my body felt like it was swelling right up. At the same time, the Can filled with that lovely goop. It wasn’t long before I lost track of time. Breathe in. Breathe out.

If there was a sensation to look out for when we entered the Time-Vortex tunnel I didn’t notice it. I felt like I was in the Can for less than a minute before it began emptying. Those scientists are a real wonder, measuring your injections just right so as the goop goes away, you begin breathing air again.

We’d arrived at Neptune, or rather, a couple thousand miles from Neptune. After getting dressed and cleaned up we herded into the Science Division and Jimmy, Captain Anders, took us up to the observation deck. It’s small, barely big enough to cram all ten of us in there, and has an actual view port. The panoramic screen closes when not in use, shielded with ablative armor. When we opened them, we looked straight at Neptune with her thin rings and distant Triton. The other small moons looked like dust motes in the black. Beyond them? Nothing.

Have you ever stood on the edge of a massive chasm and looked down, unable to see the bottom? It does something to you, gives you a sense of vertigo and helplessness that threatened to reduce grown men to tears. There is fear in that kind of darkness, fear of falling forever to your death, only that death may never come.

That is how I felt today.

The Space Cantina – Thoughts, there are thoughts in my brain

Okay, because my little reader base here is still very small I get to get away with all kinds of stupid things. Example number 1, changing my header whenever I’m inclined. And so, I’m inclined.

I decided to do this because I’m getting pretty serious about this whole blogging fiction business. I enjoy it, I love having people come here, read my schlock and come back again for more. That is insanely cool. I don’ t even think insanely cool is proper diction. Doesn’t matter.

My name is Michael Lee Kern, and I’m a writer. I liked the sound of Michael Lee as a pen name but there’s about… a hundred million of us. So, I’m just going back to Mike Kern, which is what everyone really knows me as. I know, it’s a rough transition, but we’ll all get through this together. That is what teamwork is about. Getting me through things.

Okay enough yammering. This is also because I’m preparing to take my blog off wordpress and host it myself. For those inclined to prayer, please say one for my sanity?

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.

Icarus – January 25th, 2089 (Part 3)

January 25th, 2089 (Part 3)

We stowed our gear and made our quarters more like home. They are about the size of a loft apartment, with generous ceilings and monitors built into the walls to simulate windows. I’ve tuned mine to display a constant, but gentle rain storm on a Washington bluff. I once wrote an entire novel in a place like that, and I hope it will inspire me. I set up my personal computer next to it.

The bed is a queen and every inch of the bedroom is built for storage or utility. There’s a computer system built into the wall with touch screens and motion monitoring as well as voice commands. It calls me “your lordship” every time I walk in now. It’s one of the programmable options.

I sat on a park bench for nearly an hour while the rest of the crew made themselves at home. There’s a park to go along with the bench. The artificial trees look and behave so real that the leaves will drop when fall comes around and bud come spring. A breeze blows through from time to time, reflective of the seasons. The Captain can set the Earth-equivalent location for those seasons, though it will never snow. It is very peaceful, and the artificial bird-sounds are a nice touch.

We toured the engine room and I saw for myself the Time-Vortex drive. It’s a cylinder the size of a small house with points of light along its length that reminded me of a music box drum. It rotated like one as well, constantly humming at a frequency just inside human perception. After a few minutes it drove me utterly mad and I was glad we left.

Tomorrow we will go up to the bridge and witness the disembarking of the Icarus from Luna Station. We will broadcast one last beam to Earth before entering the Mars-Jupitor tunnel. I’ve heard our Cans await us just beneath the bridge. My excitement builds, I assure you.

[DELETED] said she would come by tonight. We’d talk about our projects and get to know one another. I agreed but now I find myself unsure about it. The ease of our companionship feels wrong somehow. It was never that easy with her. I chased her for years. That feels like a lifetime ago.

I suppose I ought to change the computer to say something other than “your lordship” anyhow. Perhaps something like “sir” or just Will. She always used to call me Will.

Christ. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough, I need to go.

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 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 23rd, 2089

January 23rd, 2089

Luna, God but she is a harsh mistress.

I won’t be beaming this to my Sat-Blog and if anyone ever reads this, it’ll be long after this is done. For now, I’m going to keep it for myself. Just in case. I don’t think they can tamper with it here.

Luna is locked down tighter than the sub-orbital penal colonies. There are blood scanners here, the kind that prick your finger to test your DNA. Then there’s retina scans and voice-print IDs, and that’s all just to enter the staging area for the Icarus.

I saw the damn thing today. It’s half a kilometer long and nearly solid metal, the kind with light-absorbent ablation plating. That stuff is used to take in the light of the stars, and convert the radiation to energy for the drive system. Pretty standard stuff but the level of ablation is ten times higher than the UN’s military vessels. What kind of radiation are they expecting? The Time-Vortex Tunnel puts off very little or so the egg-heads told us.

I trust the scientists as much as I trust anyone on this project, but what worries me is the military being attached with NASA up here. They walk around with armed weapons and fighting suits. I’ve never seen a Zero-G marine before, but the bulky armor reminds me of something straight out of The Forever War.

I’ve had two physicals since I arrived around 2300 last night. They gave us the first one, a full turn-and-cough detail, the minute we stepped aboard. We exited the airlock, had ourselves a quick look around the stark, white hallway and then off we went to the medical bay.

My quarters are located near that medical bay. They have no windows and are about the size of a college dorm room, just big enough for a twin bed, a small dresser for clothing and a bathroom with a cramped shower and toilet. The toilet is an honest toilet, not a suction job. Gravity on Luna Base has been increased through science, something about electromagnetic fields. I’ll have to ask one of the engineers about it sometime.

I’ve had a long time to brood in this little room and a long time to remember her. Talking with [DELETED] yesterday helped distract me from the memories Niagara kicked up but now they’re back. I don’t want them back. God I don’t want them back. It’s time to be honest with myself.

I’m here because I’m running.

Darkest Hour – Chapter 3

As one, we rose against the coming darkness with blade in hand. One by one we fell, each life like a star snuffed out of the night sky. Those who remained huddled in prayer with eyes closed and hope so frail that one word might shatter us all.

– from The Cycle of Rebirth, Chapter 13, Verse 1

Chapter 3

Jump Zero, Five Years Prior

“What do you mean she’s problematic?”

“Mister Wolfe, I assure you we did everything we could to make it as easy as possible-“

“Again, what do you mean she’s problematic?”

The doctor stood in the doorway, his gray hair perfectly in place, his features flat and unreadable and his clothes unrumpled. I found it unsuitable that a man fresh from two hours of surgery should look so pristine and unworried. They won’t let me see her.

He sighed. “Are you family, Mister Wolfe?”

The question angered me even more. “What? No I’m her friend-“

“Then during visitation hours you will be able to see her all you want. Now I really must get back to work.” He turned to leave but I grabbed his arm. Immediately, two solders pulled me away but my biotics flared to life. I drew it in, felt its power grow in my pores, within my very blood as my adrenaline kicked it into overdrive. I reached out and Pulled. All I managed to do was draw the doctor’s pen from his pocket. It floated uselessly toward me. Continue reading

Icarus – January 9th, 2089

January 9th, 2089

I’m going to talk tech-geek for a bit which should be interesting.

Time-Vortex Tunneling is a tricky subject. I am a writer and not a scientist and I briefly considered having one of the others write an article for me on the subject. I stopped considering this when I saw her writing. How someone with a Dual-PhD in Astrophysics and Zero-G engineering can write so poorly, I will never know but she manages with flying colors.

That said, I’ll do my best to explain. Several decades ago, Scientists proved that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was wrong. He assumed that speed and time in Space is constant but it’s not. If they were, there is no way the Universe could have expanded to its current size in the time it’s been around.

Time-Vortexes are pathways through space that operate at a higher speed than the rest of the universe. They exist all over the place and about twenty years ago, we developed technology to find and track them. They are essentially tunnels through Space where one might travel near the speed of light. Some scientists believe that there are tunnels in the far reaches of the galaxy that travel beyond the speed of light. Please put on your flashers when passing, thank you.

Assuming the calculations are correct and we will reach near the speed of light, reaching Alpha Centauri will take nearly five years. Project Icarus is a huge risk but a very exciting one. The funding needed for the vessel itself is enormous, more than [DELETED].

Is this all in the name of science or is it more in the claim? The Chinese have developed a drive that can travel nearly half the speed of light, something the North American Alliance can’t at this time. We are in a Space Race, that much is certain, but with the Alliance still recovering from the Collapse, how much can we really afford to sink into such a venture?

I wonder.

For now I won’t worry about it. The Can does odd things to your senses and judgment and I am definitely not looking forward to being in it for long jumps. My natural paranoid nature is making me see things I’m probably not.

Anyway, now that our tests are complete and the crew finalized, we are going out for drinks and then heading to Doctor [DELETED]’s home for something he calls the “Uranus” brew. Obvious jokes aside, we’ve heard he’s a master at drunken revelry and despite my discomfort with these people, I’m going. I have to spend a decade with them, and you know what they say about drinking companions.

Darkest Hour – Chapter 2

They say we are the lucky ones, we who survived the first cataclysms. To live a life alone amid so much loss is to die a hundred thousand deaths. Those who perished in the beginning and did not know this suffering, they are the lucky ones.

– from The Cycle of Rebirth, Chapter 1, Verse 8

Chapter 2

Three days ago Leah and I had dinner with Rachel and Elani across the hall. Rachel was a biochemist working for the University of Pennsylvania. She was an amazing cook, blending local custom with off-world traditions in ways I couldn’t begin to understand. We had prime cuts of sirloin marinated with butter and Seguthi sauce from Thessia, Elani’s home world. I could still taste it if I allowed myself.

We found them in the bedroom, Rachel’s hand still grasping Elani’s. Ebony skin intertwined with light blue, coated in dark blood. They’d put up a fight but it was clear they’d been overwhelmed. Several husks lay around the bed, and I could feel the latent residue of eezo in the air. Elani’s biotics weren’t strong by Asari standards and Rachel was only a lab tech. They hadn’t stood a chance.

I finally tore my eyes from the sight when Leah put a hand on my shoulder. A deep sense of loss came over me, not just for losing new friends but that two lives so intertwined would be removed without reason or need. Elani spoke with me just last night about their plans to travel once Rachel had sabbatical. She wanted to take her to Thessia and then to the Citadel. I reached for Leah’s hand, reflexively, but she moved away.

“Come on,” Leah said and we left the room. On the way to the door I found an image recording of the two of them in John Kennedy Park, standing in front of some old piece of art that simply said “Love.” The simple cliché of the image made me smile and I tucked it away into my belt. If there was ever a memorial here in Philadelphia, I’d make sure it was added. Continue reading