Author : Elijah Goering

The light from the unstable star took four hours to reach the scientific survey ship that was orbiting it. Consequently, it was four hours after the warning was sent before the ship’s one man crew reacted to it. The star was now too unstable, and the jump gate would have to be closed.

The jump gate, requiring rather a lot of energy to operate, orbited the star at a distance of just one light second. Although the warning was weeks in advance of the closing of the jump gate, it still felt a little late to the lone researcher billions of kilometers from the jump gate.

For nine and a half hours the man lay in his bed sustained by the ship’s machinery as his ship accelerated toward the star at three standard gravities, using up a little over two thirds of his fuel. The remainder was reserved for slowing down once he had passed through the jump gate. The ship would never be retrieved, but at least if he slowed down enough he could be saved.

After the acceleration came free fall. The man floated around his ship for weeks and watched the evacuation of the solar system. The private ships of the wealthy went through first. Then the massive government transports carrying the population of the system’s inhabited planet. The people from the moons of the gas giants came behind them. Then the colonized asteroids, outfitted with powerful engines, fell from their orbits in precise spirals. One by one they passed through the jump gate. Research vessels from around the system went through at all stages, but none had been nearly as far as the deep space explorer four point three billion kilometers out. He could only watch as they all went through.

The last ship through the jump gate was the enormous space station which had anchored the space elevator above the planet. It had disconnected from the elevator at precisely the right moment and been flung toward the sun and right into the jump gate.

At last the man was left alone, light years from the nearest human being. He spent long hours each day staring at the jump gate, his only remaining link with his species. There was no way to tell whether or not it had been deactivated. It was pure black, absorbing all light that hit it. The station that encircled and housed it appeared black as well, silhouetted against the dying star behind it. If it was still active he would pass through it and find himself flying away from another star light years away. If not, it would do nothing to stop him from plunging into the dying star at a thousand kilometers per second.

It was seven weeks after he had received the message when the day, the hour, and the minute arrived. The computer needed no adjustments after it had set its course forty nine days before. It was only in the last second that the jump gate finally came close enough for the man to see it with his own naked eyes.

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