Author : T. King

His eyes fluttered open. The hatch hissed as he pushed against it and steam began to swirl around the cold metal floor. Other than a huge kink in his neck and some joint stiffness, he was feeling fine. Evans had been sleeping for a long time. Now he got to see if the experts back home had done their calculations right.

“Computer, what is our current position?”

“Hello, Mr. Evans, I hope you slept well. We will be beyond the Oort Cloud in approximately 15 minutes.”

So, they had really done it. Evans was about to be the first person to see beyond the Solar System. This mission had taken years of planning, but it all was going to pay off.

“Computer, contact base.”

“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Mr. Evans.”

“And why not?”

The computer was silent. Evans slammed his palm on the control panel.

“Why the hell not? What’s going on?”

“Perhaps I should play for you the last incoming signal from base.”

The voice of his boss filled the room. There was plenty of static (not surprising, considering how far away Evans was at this point), but Evans could just make out what his boss said.

“Evans, look. I’m really sorry to tell you this–I mean, if I’d have known, we wouldn’t have sent you obviously–but I’ve got some bad news. Right after you settled down to hibernate or whatever, things back here at home got pretty screwed up. I mean, I don’t have a lot of time to go over the details–I suppose it doesn’t really matter why, in the end–but there was a huge nuclear arms standoff. Everybody had their trigger fingers twitching at the ready and some idiot fired off their missiles, which meant we all had to, you know? Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to tell you in what little time I have left is that this will be your last message from any of us, unless by some miracle Earth isn’t a barren hellhole when this is all over. Complete your mission, Evans. That’s all you can do.”

Evans’ mouth hung open in shock. As he looked out past the edges of the Solar System to the billions of stars that lay beyond, he didn’t feel a sense of awe or wonder.

He felt alone.

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