Icarus: Epilogue – August 9th, 2143 Subjective/August 9th, 2145 Objective

August 9th, 2143 Subjective/August 9th, 2145 Objective

AFTER ACTION REPORT #452
SYSTEM REPORTING: ALPHA CENTAURI; PRIMARY ALPHA
COMMAND: CSS PERSHING, 4TH FLEET
CO: 06 CPT KILLIAN, JAMES

The wreck discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri’s dwarf planet EISIN B is confirmed to be the North American Expeditionary Science Vessel Icarus. Presumed lost over fifty years ago, rediscovering the wreck will shed some light on the NAEF’s Time-Vortex technology. Following the Collapse, much of it was lost.

It appears that the ship collided with an asteroid approximately the size of a human fist at roughly one-third the speed of light. A good chunk of the forward hull was ripped away by the force of the collision. My tech officer also reports that the ship was outfitted with a type of ablative armor, though most of it seems to have been burned away.

Three crew members were recovered from the wreck, all three remarkably well preserved. They all appeared to have died of exposure, though tests will be run once we return to Earth. We simply do not have the facilities aboard the Pershing to examine them here. In the meantime they’ll be put in cryo freeze for the return trip.

We also recovered a portable computer terminal. It was found on one of the less preserved bodies and exposure has all but destroyed it. Perhaps something will be recoverable, though the technology is rather ancient. Our IT department will have a field day with it I’m sure.

For now the Pershing will be returning to Earth immediately. Once she hears about this, we’ll be made to come straight home anyway. I hope they can discover what made the Icarus operation such a failure. From what I hear, they fell off the grid the moment they went into the Vortex. Poor bastards.

Well, at least now their families might get some closure after all these years. Most have forgotten perhaps but if I know Sarah… well she won’t. Fifty years and she finally convinced the Council to send a ship here.

I’d love to hear her story some day. Seventy and can still boss around a Confed Council, no wonder she never married.

THE END

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Icarus – April 29th, 2099

April 29th, 2099

There is nothing brave about me. You need only look back at my previous entries to understand that, but there is something inside me besides fear. These past few days I’ve been living in a dream, following Sarah down this rabbit hole to my destruction. I loved her, more than I ever knew. She urged me to leave my desk job behind, to follow my dream and write my book. I was too scared then.

But now, in this I’ve found a kind of a strength. Here, at the end of everything, beyond the reach of mankind, I’ve found the courage to do one last thing. Sarah showed me how to steer the ship, to turn it toward the Time-Vortex Tunnel. She wants me to come home, but I’m following another dream.

All of the infected bodies and all of my crewmates are still aboard, waiting for me. They will wait until I come out and join them. Together we are poised to return to Earth and spread. I won’t allow that to happen.

We’re going to visit Alpha Centauri’s primary star. I’ve set it to hard burn and locked myself out, destroyed the panels with a wrench. It’s too late to be scared or feel sorry for myself. We’re all going to burn, flying so close to the star that we incinerate into flecks of dust.

Now I can close my eyes and let her come to me and I will accept her with open arms.

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.

Icarus – April 9th, 2099

April 9th, 2099

We have a date now. It’s April back on Earth and I can almost picture my old apartment with its large windows soaked with spring rains. I hated it. It was so full of Sarah’s memory that waking up there alone was miserable. Still, I stayed, stayed and pretended that every shadow didn’t make me turn around, thinking I’d see her come home. It was a lie I almost let myself believe, just like the lie I told myself when I came aboard the Icarus. I thought I could start over out here. In space, I’d find myself, become stronger, more… in touch. That’s what she’d wanted, for me to be more in touch.

I wanted to be less in touch today. They’re all dead, all twelve of them over in the other ship. Jennie made me go along and I don’t know why I agreed but I did. It was horrible. Something killed them, vented the pressure on some and the others… God, I don’t know what happened. They were clawed, their skin ripped to shreds in places and torn off in others. It was like an animal had gotten loose but we found nothing, just eleven dead Chinese and one poor Russian. He must have been taken hostage, a scientist taken from one of the watch posts.

Kira brought one of the bodies back to study. There’s something wrong with it beyond the flash freezing and shredded flesh. The eyes were all black, the whites and irises gone completely. There are pustules on his flesh too, like golf ball sized tumors. They’re filled with something liquid, like blood or something. Kira and Anne are going to have a look at them in quarantine in case it’s contagious.

As for me I’m staying in my quarters. Jennie wants to write about the procedure but I have no taste for it. I don’t want to see that body again. It was the eyes. Did all the dead men have those eyes? I can’t remember and I’m so tired I could fall asleep at my terminal. This whole place is one nightmare, so maybe the horrors I dream of will be more pleasant than the waking ones.

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.