Author : J.D. Rice
“Icarus to Daedalus! We have primary stabilizer failure! Repeat, we have primary stabilizer failure! We’re losing altitude. Please advise!”
The lieutenant was shouting, screaming into his microphone, trying to raise his voice over the sound of his ship as it careened off its intended arc. Their test flight was supposed to bring them in a slingshot around the Sun before launching into deep space. Daedalus had been given the higher, safer arc through the Sun’s coronasphere. Icarus meanwhile had apparently strayed too close to the Sun and was now plunging towards its surface. The historic irony of the situation was not lost, even in the midst of crisis.
“Icarus to Daedalus, please respond!” the lieutenant shouted, trying his best to steer the ship up, away from the ever growing solar horizon, and back on its intended arc. Bolts rattled, engines roared, warning lights beeped and blared all over the cockpit. It was everything the lieutenant and his copilot could do to keep themselves from plunging directly into the Sun. As they continued to try to hail the Daedalus, their eyes met briefly. Each saw the look of cold acceptance dawning on the other’s face.
“Damn!” the lieutenant said, tossing his microphone aside. It was like something out of a nightmare. They’d trained for this mission, run countless simulations. They’d calculated and practiced every detail. They were ready. And despite all that, they found themselves in a hopeless situation. The cockpit was getting ever hotter, ever closer to the bright, burning star below. There was nothing the two men could do but steer into it and accept the inevitable.
The lieutenant checked his instruments, ran the numbers in his head. It might work, but they’d risk being boiled alive in the process.
“Take us down!” he shouted.
“We’re not giving up yet!” his copilot answered.
“No, take us down! Take us closer! We can increase our speed and take a different arc out!”
The copilot said nothing, but just looked at his superior in disbelief.
“The computer can plot the course, just do it! That’s an order!”
Knowing there was no time to argue, the copilot nodded. Believing it to be the last act of his life, he turned Icarus’s nose down into the horizon and set the engines to full burn. His grip on the steering controls tightened, as the sweat on his hands evaporated at a rapid rate. His hands, his face, even his lungs felt like they were on fire. Inertial dampeners began to buckle, causing the man to feel himself pinned to his chair. He could barely keep the ship on course as his vision began to fade. Seconds, minutes passed as he clung to consciousness, almost wishing that death would simply take him and end it all. Any second their wax and feather wings would finally burn up, and Icarus’s journey would be over.
And then they saw black skies ahead, stars shining faintly, then brightly before them. The heat dissipated. The shaking stopped. For the first time in what seemed like ages, they could hear themselves think. Icarus had survived her journey, with the lieutenant and his copilot intact.
“Icarus to Daedalus…” the lieutenant sighed. “We made it. Superstition be damned, we made it…”
Nothing but dead air come back over the line. There was no sign of the Daedalus anywhere. Somewhere along the line, she’d lost her flight path as well. But unlike Icarus, she had not emerged on the other side of the star.
Daedalus was gone.
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