Author : Stephanie L. Dunn
Sol System: 4509 CE
“Final log: Every planet has people on it, most of the moons as well, hundreds of sovereign city stations scattered like a game of marbles between Venus and The Kuiper belt and a few brave colonies even further out. Twenty Billion people inhabit a ball shaped chunk of space roughly 100,000 AU, or two light-years in diameter. We long ago shed our gods, our guns, conquered disease and hunger – even hobbled death itself. It was not uncommon for a person to see their third century if accident or intent did not overtake them. Earth to Mars in a day, to Neptune in a week, to the most distant station a mere dozen weeks, our technology fast and safe.
So why have we never reached even the nearest star system, are we simply content to observe their glory from afar?
The distant stars bloom, blaze and die, some in violent and beautiful displays while others demurely came and went before they were ever perceived. We would get no closer to them than the length of our tether – our connection to our own star. The leash extended generously to the Oort Cloud where our sun becomes lost in the galactic background. What barred us from unclipping that leash was fear. To play in the shallows within sight of shore was pleasant enough but to lose sight of that beacon in the heavens, our sun, caused a deadly panic. Psychologists could neither fathom nor treat the insanity that drove pilots to ram their ships into asteroids or comets; engineers to sabotage their beloved engines, crewmen open airlocks exposing the ship’s occupants to heartless space. The suicide barrier, as it’s come to be known, was a line the human race couldn’t cross.”
*crackle* “Wayfair City station to unknown craft, please reply.”
“Computer, end log … open a channel to Wayfair.”
“Wayfair, this is the private yacht Vingilot registry HPL8472 of Ganymede, Captain and sole occupant Kaalyndahl Crafter speaking.”
“Welcome to Wayfair, Captain Crafter…”
“You may as well ask, you see it on your screen.”
“Oh … uhm. Records show you registered a flight plan into the suicide zone a year ago?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Okay. Station Commander Marsh would like to see you once you dock, please, follow the beacon in.”
“Acknowledged, Crafter out. Computer set course for the beacon and engage docking autopilot. *beep* Open and continue log.”
“No one has ever entered the suicide zone and returned sane, if they returned at all.”
“Now they will know their fear is valid, but there is nothing out there that can cause physical harm … because there is nothing out there at all. The distant stars and galaxies are but mirages caused by the Oort Cloud’s shell! We are alone in the universe, and I have seen the shimmering globe of our domain against the endless, starless void.”