Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The grey muffling my senses relinquishes it’s hold. I find myself lying in the same chair I sat down in. I’m in the same clothes. My digital chronograph tells me eight seconds have passed. I look to my other wrist. The vintage analogue watch has stopped. I’ll do for that antiques dealer. He said it was in full working order. I wound it just before we set off.
I lift my head and look to my right. I can’t see Sasha, but I can see her arms where they play across the control panels mounted above her chair.
“Did we do it?”
She raises a finger in a ‘wait’ gesture. Time crawls by.
“Lewis, we’ve succeeded.”
Lifting my head again, I see her green eyes sparkling with tears. Triumph! We took a chance to do something people said was impossible, and it worked!
“Where are we?”
She stops smiling, looks puzzled.
“No idea. Beyond charted space.”
I roll myself up so I can gaze her way without straining my neck.
“What do you mean ‘beyond charted space’?”
“You remember the speech that Doctor Krakor gave? The one where he said that while wormholes were navigable, we had no way to tell the endpoint because the act of traversing a wormhole would collapse it?”
“Yes. But probes…”
She shakes her head.
“We couldn’t send a probe because that would collapse the wormhole.”
How on earth can you go somewhere without knowing where you’re going? GPS navigation doesn’t do that.
“So where are we?”
“A long way from the planet we grew up on, and all its woes.”
This is why I hate working with people who can’t grasp the complexities of life.
“That I know. How do we let them know I was right?”
Sasha just stares at me.
“Alright. How long to get back and deliver the news?”
“Longer than the lifespan of anybody on this ship.”
I release my upper belt so I can sit up.
“What? How can we not live long enough to get back when we got here so quickly?”
“Did we? My ten chronographs show varying elapsed times. The lowest is one second. The highest is 18,142 years. We may have inadvertently outlived human life on Earth.”
We what? The woman is babbling.
“Let me spell it out for you: find the wormhole and take us back.”
Sasha grins at me.
“What wormhole? It collapsed when we used it.”
I thought wormholes collapsing was like fuel. Not the one we were using!
“Then find another!”
“No point. The chances of finding one that will deliver us back to Earth within a reasonable time frame at that end are negligible. Plus, you’ll need to go and tell our single-use Casimir-Bordeg field generator to stop being dead metal.”
“So we were never going to be able to go back?”
Sasha rolls out of her chair and floats across to me.
“What part of ‘one-way trip’ did you not understand? How many of the rich backers who joined the mob of scientific misfits I recruited are expecting to get home for tea?”
“I don’t know. I gave each of them the same manual you gave me.”
She folds herself about to sit cross-legged in mid-air.
“Let’s hope they paid attention. We’ve got about a year to find a habitable world. There won’t be waiters, waitresses, or concierge services for a very long time.”
Sasha leans forwards.
“All the life replication equipment is keyed to people I trust, and none of it to me. We’re going to make a better society, not another hell on Earth.”