Welcome back to the blog! I’m Timothy Scott Purvis and this is Story Time With Tim! An ongoing series where I share my old stories that never went anywhere, are still gathering dust, or have been self-published and this serves as a way to remind readers that they still exist. I have a whole year’s worth coming up so I hope you’ll stick around to read those entries in the near future!
Anyhow, this is part two of The Day The Laser Died, a story inspired by real life news about scientists planning on sending a fleet of small probes towards the Alpha Centauri star system propelled by a series of lasers. They are supposed to hit 1/5th the speed of light making the journey in just twenty years. Will it work? Who knows. But the conceit is amazing.
Hope you enjoy the work and come back next week for more Story Time With Tim!
Check out Part One here –> The Day The Laser Died Part One
THE DAY THE LASER DIED PART TWO
THERE WERE SEVEN bridge crew personnel. Doug Holland and Colleena Merricks, of course. But then there were also:
Payload Specialists, Guile and Sela Thandan—responsible for ensuring supplies were in order and unloaded properly.
Mission Specialist Tyra Burnes—whose focal task included atmospherics and hydroponics.
Mission Specialist Fredrick Fitzgerald—whose primary duties were ship fabrication and maintenance.
And Flight Engineer Amiko Ryūgawa—essentially the pilot and communications operator.
With the bridge crew awake, and the thirteen colonists (as they technically were) still in their pods and verified healthy and alive via diagnostics, they were now ready to attend to ship operations and verify the coordinates demonstrating they had arrived right where they had intended.
Their destination: a newly discovered world capable of harboring life. Rich in oxygen and liquid water. The world of Therseus within the Sisyphus star system which was formally called Proxima Centauri (now the entire Alpha Centauri star cluster was known as the Ephyraen systems. A title referencing the former glory ofWestern civilization as a humorous joke among the Ministry.)
Their mission: Colonization.
Ten men and ten women randomly chosen to represent the Shou Meng Federation of Nations in the expansion into surrounding star systems. It was a great ‘honor’ to ‘serve’ the Ministry in this endeavor.
But first, breakfast.
THE MESS HALL was a cacophony of crosstalk and chatter. Doug could only imagine what it’d sound like with the remainder of the crew awakened. Probably a small concert, he considered. Colleena was in a deep conversation with Fitzgerald about something involving their trip. Her curly blonde locks danced animatedly as she tossed her hands up and shook her head with a laugh. Her bright blue eyes gleamed in a joy he knew she couldn’t be feeling. The olive-skinned Fredrick, on the other hand, seemed very full of joy. Joy of finally being out of the hibernation pod. Doug didn’t know him personally, but the mission brief on the crew told him the man had eagerly volunteered. No family to speak of, no reason to stay. His black eyes were fixated on her in rapt attention. His bright smile a stark contrast to his flesh and short onyx hair. Handsome was the least apt description for him.
Near them, Ryūgawa, the Thandans, and Burnes were clustered into a group sharing engineering stories from their work across the Federation.
Tyra was a brunette, long hair in a braided ponytail. Her skin was a dark tan, and her eyes a deep brown. She was originally from the United Empire of States (those the Federation called the Imperial Hegemony), before fleeing south into the Sovereign Collective. But her personnel file suggested she was reliable.
Guile and Sela were originally from the Republic of India (a territory of the Federation). They both had dark brown hair and hazel eyes making them look like twins (save for the fact Guile’s hair was a buzzcut). They had risen up through the engineering ranks via an exchange program. They had come highly recommended.
Amiko came from the Federation territory of Nihon (once the independent state of Japan). She wasn’t as tall as some of the others but rumor suggested she was a jovial firecracker. And he could tell too. There was a blue streak running through her black, shoulder length hair, suggesting a whimsical nature. The glittering rhinestones on her glasses’ frame sealed that thought in his mind.
He only knew Colleena in this group, but he was acquainted with two persons still in hibernation. However, he was resolved to getting to know them all a little better. After all, they’d be spending the rest of their lives together on a desolate world over four light years away from Earth.
First thing was first, though. He needed to tour the ship to make sure nothing was damaged or out of place. He turned from the group and made his way up towards observation.
Doug took his coffee with him as he walked into a roomy corridor. There, a wide stairwell led to the top deck along the stern side of observation. Observation ran in a circumference around engineering and the sciences facility. Anywhere on that deck, one could see quite the view of space. The stern and aft observational sections offered a near three-hundred-sixty-degree view of the space beyond the viewports. There was a viewing window above the engineering section, and a window on the belly of the ship in Hydroponics on the lowest level.
At the summit of the stairs, Doug came out into the stern observation section and walked toward the domed window encasing the tip of the forward end with a circular frame around its midsection and arms of support beams running up and into the ship’s hull. There was a walkway that dead ended into a circular deck overhanging the space between the massive three-story dome. The void of space and its billions of pinpricks of light glittering brightly went on for an infinity. He sipped his coffee and looked over the deck’s railing. Two decks down, he took note of Hydroponics’ lounging area that offered its own view of space. The deck he was on had a few chairs scattered here and there, but nothing like the couches and cushioned seats below.
Doug paused for a second and looked all around the view he could see here, and then towards the corridors on the port and starboard sides that ran alongside engineering, disappearing around the bends of the dividing walls to that facility and its research wing beyond.
“What the hell?” He muttered and decided to start walking the portside corridor looking out the viewports as he went. He saw the solar sails rising up on the portside and completed the circuit of the second deck where he saw the sails on starboard. He stopped, heart beating faster.
Doug turned towards the stairwell and hurried back down to the mess hall. There, some were starting to stand and mill about, but in no particular hurry to accomplish anything. He came around the table towards where Colleena sat still chumming it up with Fredrick. He leaned in close to her.
“I need you to come with me to observation.”
Colleena looked up at him with a furrowed brow. “What’s wrong?”
Fredrick’s smile vanished and he looked like he was going to stand and follow, but Doug held up a hand and shook his head, forcing an expression that said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’
“Alright,” she replied and stood up.
Colleena followed Doug back up to observation and he swirled around looking baffled. “There’s no Therseus.”
Colleena stood on the overhang deck and looked around. “That’s… not possible. The ship isn’t programmed to stop until we’ve arrived in orbit.”
“Well, I’ve walked the entire deck. Even the solar sails are still unfurled.”
She wandered over to the portside corridor and saw the arms stretching out from the pill shaped vessel holding up a collection of silvery sails making the whole ship look like a silver lionfish.
“Let’s get the crew together and check diagnostics. Maybe there was a malfunction and we got woken up during a dead zone. If that’s the case, we can just reprogram the systems to reconnect to the link.”
Doug frowned. “I hope that’s the case.”
THEY WERE JUST as noisy on the bridge. Only here, it was expressions of anger and disbelief. The bridge itself was halfway between engineering and scientific research with no view out into space but did have an overhead projector that could cast images from sensors surrounding the Starmancer. Right now, the seven of them were gathered around the circular console in the center of the room waiting for navigational diagnostics from M.S. Merricks. Doug stood leaning against a wall, arms crossed, taking it all in.
“It just leaves the question, how close to Therseus are we?” Amiko asked, hands patting the console counter before her.
“We’re all asking that question!” Fredrick yelled, face turning a deep red. “The damn computer brought us out into the middle of nowhere!”
Guile huffed, “Lower your voice, Fitzgerald. This is a time for calm and figuring out what happened.”
“Maybe there was an emergency beacon and we were brought out early to recover an alien lifeform that will slowly hunt us all down until I’m the last survivor of a doomed expedition?” Sela put in with as deadpan an expression Guile had ever seen.
The others stared at her in stunned silence, then the bridge erupted in a hearty laughter prompting a wry grin from Sela.
“God, I love you,” Guile smiled.
Colleena exited the enclosed side room that was navigation. The chamber was roomy enough, Doug supposed, but it was only designed for one navigator at a time. A frown adorned her face as she came to the command table and hit a switch. The domed projector overhead came to life showing a section of space. A blue dot in the middle of that space blinked into existence and then the computer zoomed in on a digital representation of the Starmancer.
Everyone was silent, looking to her expectantly. Some still fixated on the display and their winged pill ship.
“Here’s the situation, the Laser Propulsion System is offline,” she said garnering everyone’s attention. “We’re adrift roughly a light year and a half short of Therseus. We’re still moving forward, but at a significantly diminished rate. The sails just are not pulling in enough solar energy to drive us much faster than twenty kilometers per second.”
There was a stunned silence, then Tyra said, “So, then how long will it take us to reach Therseus?”
“Uhm,” Colleena rubbed her forehead, “well, we’ve already made sixteen Earth years, so I’d imagine, ten, eleven thousand years at the current rate?”
The din was unbearable as everyone started shouting and panicking all at once. Doug held up a hand, clearing his throat, “Okay. Okay. Settle down. Settle!” They kept raging. “Hey!”
The group turned to Doug and he coughed to continue. “Look. I don’t know what happened. So, before we start losing it and wasting our oxygen, let’s evaluate our options. First, did the Ministry leave us any indication as to what happened? We should have had some sort of light speed transmissions about it, if not now, soon.”
Colleena swallowed. “Captain, I looked through those files briefly. The last transmission we received was… uhm… five years ago. And nothing since. Just a void. The laser connection is completely broken.”
“Five years?” Amiko gasped, her hand coming to her mouth.
“That… that isn’t possible,” Fredrick looked like he was about to faint.
“Go sit down.” Doug came up beside him to pat his shoulder and point to one of the console seats. Fredrick complied without question and flumped into the chair numbly. “Have you reviewed the video feed, yet?”
Colleena looked over at him, dazed. “Huhn? Oh, uh, no. No, I haven’t. Just noted the time stamp.”
“Alright, then we need to review it. The rest of you, go take it easy in the lounge. Find something to keep your minds off of this. Even go to your stations and check their status, if that’ll help.” Doug looked around the room.
“Busy work, he means,” Fredrick said staring at his feet. “We’re adrift lightyears from home, out of contact, and with finite resources. It’s just us out here. No one’s coming to help!”
“That’s why we’re not going to panic. Once we have a good idea of everything we need to know, we’ll go from there.” Doug looked down to him. “We can’t breakdown. We need each other more than ever now. Why don’t you walk the ship? Make sure there’s no structural damage. Write up the report so I can review it later.”
Fredrick looked at him with a soft chuckle. “Right. Whatever you say, Captain.”
Doug noted his leg bouncing up and down rapidly on the chair’s footring. He sighed inwardly and turned to Colleena.
“Come on, let’s go see what we’re in for.”
They entered navigation and shut the door.
That’s the end for this week! Come back next week for more Story Time With Tim! Thank you very much for reading my work! I really appreciate it!
~Timothy S Purvis
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