There’s only a small opportunity for one of us to make it out of here alive. I lost my oxygen filter, and I feel disoriented from breathing the air in this facility. Not to mention my left arm is in excruciating pain, and I can barely lift it. I think it's broken, but I have to do everything I can to assure Beth gets to the ship alive. There’s smoke everywhere, from me breaching the hanger doors open with an incendiary grenade. All I can hear is a piercing alarm echoing all around us, and a red light constantly strobes, reflecting off the steel walls.
“Beth get up! You have to make it to the ship and TAKE OFF NOW!”I yelled in desperation.
“I don’t think I can make it Wes”… Beth whimpered with a look of shock on her face.
I grabbed Beth’s shoulders and shook her, desperately attempting to focus all of her attention on me. “Look at me… This is bigger than the both of us. If you don’t pull yourself together, then everything will be lost. YOU HAVE TO WARN THEM BETH! There’s no other option.” I said helping her get to the ship.
"I...I don’t even know how to fly the ship, How do I get back?” She cried.
“Corey told me there’s an emergency navigational system that was implemented in case something happened to him. Once you get on the ship, input the launch code, and you won’t have to do anything else.” I hoped my response would provide her with some reassurance since that was all I had left in me to offer.
I looked at Beth one last time before I screamed for her to run. Even though Beth was way out of her element, I had to believe she would make it back alive. I couldn’t face the reality of what would happen if she didn’t… what would happen... to all the people. I pulled my last incendiary grenade from my left chest pouch as I watched the ship take off with Beth inside. I could hear the sounds of heavy footsteps slamming and echoing off the metal floor as they ran towards me, running on the metal floor towards me. I knew my time was up...
I received a call a few days ago from my former Commanding Officer, requesting my presence at the aeronautical facility he was currently running somewhere in the Mojave Desert. I hadn't seen Captain Jacob Hall since my time in the Navy. Needless to say, it piqued my interest when he called me out of the blue. So I decided to go see him.
When I arrived, I walked into a large conference room where Captain Hall was sitting at an oval shaped table in the middle of the room. There was a red headed woman sitting to his left, an older man with salt and peppered hair sitting to his right, and directly behind him stood a short older man: with white hair, thick glasses, wearing a lab coat, and holding a black folder close to his chest.
“Wes, My friend, please come in and take a seat. It’s great to see you.” “Captain Hall said to me as I cautiously entered the room.
“This is the guy I was telling you all about." He said looking at the 3 other people sitting at the conference table.
“Where are my manners? Wes Cleary, this is Corey Levans, he’s a former Navy pilot. Served 12 years in the Black Aces Squadron. Next to him is Dr. Beth Anderson, an Astronomer, and expert in all things space related. Lastly, next to me is Dr. Alex Murphy, a leading planetary scientist and Professor from Oxford University. He’s been here for years now conducting various research here at this facility.” The Captain explained.
I could tell by quickly scanning the room, that everyone was just as confused at their attendance here as I was. Just as I took a seat Dr. Murphy turn the lights off, and there was a huge screen that simultaneously turned on directly behind him.
“Hello everyone, Thank you so much for joining us here today. You’re probably asking yourselves the reason for this impromptu meeting. Hopefully I can clarify what this is all about. How many of you have heard of the New Horizons space craft?” Dr. Murphy said while opening a folder in front of him.
"“Horizons is an interplanetary space probe that was launched as part of the New Frontiers program.” Beth confidently replied.
"Correct! It was a probe launched into space January 19th, 2006, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The objective was to perform a flyby study of the Pluto system, and the Kuiper belt.” Dr. Murphy said.
"“Ok, so what does a space probe have to do with all of us?” I asked, to hopefully get to the point of this story.
"We’ve found an anomaly on the far end of the dwarf planet, and since then we’ve been unable to make contact with the Horizon probe.” The Captain replied.
“That’s correct, if you can all please turn your attention to screen behind me.” Dr. Murphy said while displaying a picture.
The picture was a little blurry, grainy, and really hard to make out. It sort of looked like an aerial view of a few buildings stretched across a black dessert. Not like a city though, something else, but I couldn’t think of it... What was it? Then it finally came to me.
“It looks like a military compound.” I exclaimed.
I could tell by the layout, the buildings were squared off and solid, with plenty of open space for aircrafts to land. I also recognized what seemed to be communication towers, but not like any design I’ve ever seen before.
"Ok... So who or what is it?” I asked
"Ha-ha that’s the question Mr. Cleary. You see, Pluto is 4.67 billion miles away. It took the New Horizons probe 9 years, 5 months and 25 days to be in range of the dwarf planet. We didn’t have the technology to sustain human flight for that long. Dr. Murphy said smiling.
“We didn’t? As in we do now?” Beth asked.
"That is correct Dr. Anderson…For years I have been working with engineers to build the most state of the art, and technologically advanced space craft in history. We call it "The Wanderer.” Dr. Murphy said in excitement while displaying a new picture on the screen behind him of the ship.
It looked like an elongated cylinder with a front end that came to a rounded point in the front. There were white shield looking panels strategically placed all around the shift like puzzle pieces. It had 3 enormous thrusters perfectly fixed to the rear of the ship. There were running spot lights that stretched along the side, with a bright green light placed near the front end of the ship. Near the middle there was 2 rings placed perfectly around the spacecraft, and windows that wrapped around the ship all the way back to the thrusters.
“The Wanderer was uniquely designed to sustain life for 3 individuals max, during deep space travel.” Dr. Murphy went on to explain.
“Whoa, first off, why would anyone think I want to spend 19 years flying through space?! Are you out of your minds?” Corey said in disbelief.
“I was just getting to that Mr. Levans. We were able to build an engine with the capabilities to travel at a rate of 6.706e+8 MPH for more than half the trip.” Dr. Murphy Replied.
"I’m sorry doc, but you’re going to be clearer on what that means.” I said.
“He means the speed of light, but that’s impossible.” Beth replied.
"It WAS impossible… You see when traveling the speed of light the particles of an object get more massive in proportion, due to increased velocity. We’ve engineered these thrusters to compensate for the mass increase to expel more power. However, the ship can only travel at that speed in increments, to keep structural integrity. Allowing you to use the light speed once on the trip there, and again on the trip back. Eliminating 11 years from the voyage altogether.” Dr. Murphy explained.
“Listen, I know this is new territory for everyone here, but we wouldn’t be going through all this trouble if it wasn’t important. We have to find out what’s out there, and you all should feel honored to be a part of history.” The Captain said, in attempts to motivate us.
After the meeting, everyone agreed to be a part of the mission. Captain Hall asked me to stick around once everyone left the room. He went on to tell me how he agreed with my assessment of the picture. That he needed me to scout this site. That’s where I fit into this entire mission, I served on SEAL team 6 with the captain, and my job was intelligence gathering and recon before each mission. I would figure out: troop movements, unit sizes, enemy capabilities, and whatever else we needed to be prepared.
May, 2017: Launch Day
In the months leading up to the launch date, we all spent countless hours training to handle the travels, and to learn every aspect of the ship. Once the day finally came, we all strapped into our designated seats getting ready for launch. T minus 30 seconds came over the intercoms as I sat back in my seat. I wasn’t sure how this mission would go, there were so many variables to consider. My only concern was the team, how would they hold up? I'm used to going on missions with Navy SEALS, and I knew we were all equipped to handle any situation that came our way. I'm not sure that's the case with Beth and Corey. Regardless, it was too late to turn back now, I have to do everything I can to assure our success.. 5… 4…. 3… 2 … 1… Lift off.
“Dr. Murphy, it’s almost 3 AM. You better have a good reason for calling me down here.” The Captain said irritated.
“We've received a transmission sir, from The Arc. It’s Beth, and she looks distressed, but it’s hard to make out.” Dr. Murphy said in a panic.
"Well don’t just stand there... Play it for me!” The Captain replied…
Video: (Beth visibly hurt, and out of breath) Zzzzzt we were Zzzt wrong... I’m the only one Zzzzt coming… THEYRE COMING!
To be continued.