Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The ship’s computer revived me from stasis. It took hours for my body to fully awaken, and for my muscles to respond to my wishes. But what could you expect from a woman that was 345 years old? We had volunteered for this one-way ambassador mission in the year 2136, shortly after the space probe Tycho Brahe passed through the Alpha Centauri system. The probe had sent back images of an Earth-size planet orbiting in “The Goldilocks Zone,” approximately 1.1 AU from Alpha Centauri A. But the most amazing images came from the planet’s night side. It was lit up like a Christmas tree. The planet (called Telles, after the Roman goddess of the earth) was supporting an industrialized civilization, estimated to have a technology slightly behind Earth’s. This assessment was based on the observation that there were no artificial satellites orbiting the planet. Earth’s central command wanted to send a manned vehicle for first contact, and we were eager to volunteer. The Tycho Brahe made the original trip in 53 years; but it was a flyby mission. Our ship needed to accelerate, turn around, de-accelerate, and achieve orbit. It also had to carry life support and enough food to last six people for two years (in case we couldn’t digest Tellean food). We also took seeds to grow food, if necessary. Anyway, it took our ship 312 years to make the trip. Now, it was time to meet the neighbors.

One of the first things I did (after peeing for five minutes) was check the ship’s logs. I didn’t understand what it meant, but our ship hadn’t received a transmission from Earth in 167 years. Then Jack reported that he couldn’t see lights on the night side of Telles. Elizabeth had the only encouraging news, the telescope revealed metallic structures in orbit. At least Telles had made it to the “space age” during our long journey.

After the computer successfully put our ship into orbit, we were able to confirm what we’d been dreading. Telles was lifeless. Electromagnetic imaging revealed that there had been life, and a bustling civilization, but everything is dead now. The cities were destroyed, and the atmosphere was contaminated with lethal amounts of radiation. It appeared that Telles had had a thermonuclear world war. Stupid bastards.

We didn’t have a lot of options. We didn’t have enough fuel to get back to Earth, and we couldn’t land on Telles for at least ten thousand years. So we decided to crawl back into stasis. Our only real hope was to be rescued one day, because it was unlikely that we could survive an additional ten thousand years in stasis. Before entering my stasis chamber, I sent a full report to Earth. It would be eight and a half years before a message made the round trip. I instructed the computer to wake me in nine. Why rush?

As the Stasisosane gas filled my chamber, I began to think of Earth. Why did they stop transmitting 167 years ago? Did they forget about us, or did they destroy themselves too? Is self-destruction an inevitable consequence of intelligent life? I hoped not. We may well be the last six humans alive. If true, we’d have to land on Telles one day, and attempt to repopulate it, assuming we survived one hundred centuries in suspended animation. However, if by some miracle we did, I prayed that our descendants would not be as foolish as their ancestors, or the previous inhabitants of their new world. Only time will tell. I closed my eyes and drifted into oblivion.

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