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?

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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 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 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.

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 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.

Next week’s stories

Now that The Squire has made its full run, it’s time for something new! I’ve got some big plans for the coming weeks and I hope you (and all your friends who you’re going to tell, right?) will enjoy it. I’m returning to Science Fiction full time with two new stories. One is fan fiction again, this time featuring Bioware’s Mass Effect universe and the second is an original.

Before I get into the stories themselves, I’ll be updating 3 times a week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I’ll be taking the weekend off, though I’ll still be writing. A writer’s job never rests.

Fan Fiction Mondays

Every Monday I’ll be posting the newest chapters of my Mass Effect story, Darkest Hour. In the event that I’m unable to post on that Monday, I plan to feature someone else’s fan fiction for your enjoyment.

Wednesday and Fridays

On Wednesdays and Fridays will be updates for my original Science Fiction story Icarus.

Now to tell you about the stories themselves:

Darkest Hour is a brand new piece of Fan Fiction set in Bioware’s Mass Effect Universe. For those who have played the games, it takes place during the events of Mass Effect 3. For those who haven’t played the games, giant, sentient, synthetic machines are invading and mankind is on the verge of extinction. If it sounds a little like the premise of Battlestar Galactica, you’re not half-wrong. 

Synopsis

Lieutenant James Wolfe is having the worst day of his life when the world decides to end. His girlfriend refused to marry him, his mother has announced that she has an incurable form of Eezo infection and his sister’s mental condition is worsening. When the Reapers land in the city of Philadelphia, he joins the desperate and futile attempt to fight back. Despite overwhelming loss of life, hope remains when the local resistance receives a strange transmission stating it contains vital information on defeating the Reapers. Unfortunately, no one can crack the security code the plans are concealed in.

No one except Kylie, Wolfe’s sister.

With a little help from an eccentric infiltrator and the powerful biotic who refused to wear his ring, James must carry this transmission into the rural reaches of Pennsylvania. The group must evade Reaper forces and mercenaries gone rogue in the vain hope that Kylie will be able to crack the mysterious code during Earth’s darkest hour.

Read new installments of Darkest Hour every Monday!

Icarus is a brand new, original piece of Science Fiction about mankind’s reach for the stars. Ever since I was a kid, I would look up at the night sky and wonder what existed out there beyond the distant lights of Deneb, Betelgeuse or Altair. In this story, I try to explore that sense of wonder through the cynical eye of a writer who accepts a dangerous assignment to travel where humans have only dreamed.

Synopsis

NASA’s prototype deep-space science vessel, the Icarus, is going to Alpha Centauri and William Shriver is not the kind of man you’d think to send.

He doesn’t know the first thing about the Time-Vortex Tunnels or how a star drive works. He doesn’t even read Science Fiction books, but when the pay and opportunity to spend ten years away from Earth comes up, he can’t help but volunteer. As a writer, his job will be to experience the trip and write down his observations in the hope that once he comes back to earth, he will have one hell of a story to tell.

Hell could be the story he brings back.

Written in the form of Shriver’s journal entries, Icarus tells the story of mankind’s first journey through the mysterious Time-Vortex Tunnels. These fluxes in space-time allow a ship to travel a great distance in a fraction of the time. It will take the Icarus approximately four and a half years to reach Alpha Centauri, but an extended stay in cramped quarters with a group of strangers isn’t the only problems awaiting the crew of the Icarus.

Like the fable, will the Icarus fly too close the far-distant star, daring what mankind should never dare?

With new entries coming every Wednesday and Friday, Icarus will feature short entries that you can easily digest in a few minutes, the perfect thing for when you have an itch for fiction but not a lot of time to read. Be sure to check it out and if you enjoy it, tell your friends!