by Deep Bora
A fifteen-foot square chrome steel board attached to the rear units of an interplanetary orbital satellite appeared unusually bright in the star-filled expanse of the solar system.
“That, I believe is the marker which signifies an end to our present journey,” the astrophysicist remarked casually, seated neatly into the confines of a passenger chair.
True to his sudden statement, which was nevertheless anticipated, the remaining members of the interplanetary voyage crew gradually reverted their sight in unspoken abeyance. Their targets were individual computer screens mounted upon flight panels in the flight control cabin.
Seated inside an interplanetary rocket ship, the research group was on an unusual journey in deep space.
The words glared in a combination of unearthly colour; as nearly 15 feet long letters constantly changed colours, adorning a vertically placed interstellar board. This board was carefully parked at a charted route leading to star walks beyond the solar system of 5634 C.E.
The six-member interplanetary research group appeared like any usual outer space voyage team. They appeared preoccupied and satisfied with the culmination of a journey to the end limits of their solar system; for they now collectively watched a large, flat computer screen — of paper-thin width. Conversely, colder than average conditioned air was beginning to create an aura of discomfort as they gradually realized an intended meaning of that interplanetary signboard. Parked at few light years away from the actual end limits of their solar system, its relative light-years distance did not mean much in their 5634 C.E. days.
However, the three and a quarter light years distance between their interplanetary rocket and the “end limits” was a thoroughly calculated distance.
With interplanetary rocket now temporarily parked at an almost total stop in the wilderness of space flights, this matter left them with no time to brood over their recent state of affairs.
“The space-walk board parked approximately three and a half light years prior to actual end limits of our solar system is a direct landmark... rather a space marker!” The astrophysicist continued.
“Do you think Earth Command will favourably judge our present course of space journey?” The man seated immediately at his left asked deftly. His obvious query was in direct reference to the interplanetary space marker.
“Hmmm, I don’t think so, for our total progress in outer space appears like a moving blip in Earth records, particularly on the computer-radar screens. Then, there are other machines, which continuously trace our rocket’s journey paths — our trajectories — and print it upon paper and computer records upon Earth and Pluto. This is therefore the surest method of remaining within records of World Council, my dear sir!”
The third gentleman added, “Therefore our proposed visit beyond the outer limits of the solar system stands cancelled.”
“Well, we thought we could somehow deceive our people back on Earth!”
“You know without doubt that one cannot hoodwink our World Council members. Their ears are glued to every sound outer apace can produce — at least that is how serious their reputation is.” The astrophysicist stated deliberately. “Then, they will report to their senior hierarchy... Earth Command. Again, how about the World Governor?”
“Yes, he refers to the totally close knit coordination and function of Forward space research laboratories. He has also taken into account the innumerable interplanetary intelligence agencies at work, which deal solely into outer space and extraterrestrial matters. Then there are the interplanetary star-fields agents working directly under Earth Command.” The first gentleman countered leaning back upon his individual chrome-steel chair.
“Are you missing out the interplanetary star fields counterintelligence people?” A light, silky voice permeating across the confines of passenger cabin contained rings of metallic tones. It took them by surprise. That voice belonged to a conversation computer voice built and devised for the most arduous and longest deep space voyages. All interplanetary journeys were assuredly converted into pleasure trips because of its favourable companionship in form of verbal speech.
However, the group of six interplanetary research cosmonauts remained unmoved on this occasion. The computerized voice did not seem to affect their moods to joviality for it also pointed out the stark truth facing them. They were toying with the idea of crossing over to the other side — beyond boundary limits of their existent solar system and into uncharted realms of space. All amongst them except two — one, the astrophysicist, who changed his decision immediately he spotted the interplanetary orbital satellite — the second person seemed to be a nondescript fellow human who had grudgingly consented to accompany the group back upon Earth stations. The astrophysicist was observing them turn by turn and commented after a five-minute silence.
“We shall need express consent from none else than the highest governance body of our worlds — The Earth Command! You all know the rules very well. Even World Council — which ranks directly under Earth Command, is not allowed to okay our deep-space exploration projects. This implies voyages out of our solar system. Then there has to be the final okay by our World Governor.”
“One... We shall be unable to cross over even for the simple sake of a pleasure journey. You see, we have a transmission computer located at the ship central sector payload banks. This particular machine regulates the forward thrust of our rocket and shall be immediately deactivated the moment we cross over solar boundaries.” He referred to an actual line defining territorial limits of their solar system.
“Secondly?” The fourth outer space companion and traveler was quick to query.
“Two, our interplanetary rocket ship shall be blasted out of regular orbit by long-distance laser beams. These beams incidentally, shall be fired from that interplanetary orbital satellite!
“The very first volley of calculated laser bursts will damage our rocket’s propelling engines, thereby deactivating every protonic battery. As a result, each mini-explosion of non-nuclear origin — there are one million such explosions occurring every second — shall subside. The resultant, dormant-propulsion mechanisms, which are activated in relay at every fifth second, shall also cease to function.”
“And then.” The fifth gentleman’s eyes were becoming opaque.
“Well, those primary laser blasts shall simply perform a uniform deactivating procedure. This will happen as soon as our proton dry cell batteries’ performances are cut down to performance-zero levels. The bombardment of lasers is auto-controlled by sensor mechanisms within the interplanetary orbital satellite and will cut down the thrust function mechanisms of our rocket ship. However, our ship shall continue to experience a forward thrust procedure of an unknown kind; even our remote guidance autopilot shall be rendered inoperable. Our manual flight controls need not even be considered as an alternate method of maneuver in outer space!”
“You mean to state...” The first gentleman was clueless by now.
“Yes. Our rocket shall meanwhile utilize its own forward propelling force, which is supposed to be cut down to zero level one millisecond after crossing over. The absence of vacuum brakes, or reverse protonic explosive counter thrust will ensure we are hopelessly lost in hyperspace.”
After a minute of complete silence, he continued. “That is... until the nearest rescue team from either Mars, Jupiter or Earth stations locates us within due time limits and tows us. Rather, tows our rocket ship back to Earth. I can assure you, gentlemen,” his voice assumed tones of despair, “the return journey through space shall not be a pleasant one. For our allowed speed shall not exceed one micron throughout.”
He waited for them to compose themselves before continuing.
“Additionally, we shall not be allowed to indulge in any form of diversion — mental or physical — upon Moon central cities. There shall be no Earth water baths or good fresh food. Nor shall we be privileged with human company.” He knew without turning around to confirm that most of them appeared pretty glum and awestruck.
“Do you know the final outcome of deep space and hyperspace voyagers traveling without express permission of Earth Command or the World Council? Or even Earth Council for that matter?” He waited for the complete duration of a two-minute silence.
Finally satisfied that his companions were totally unaware of stricter Earth Command regulations pertaining to deep and hyperspace travel, the astrophysicist continued. “Deep space travel is a far more delicate matter and only applicable to select humans. Each top-level hierarchy upon Earth okays their travel plans and charted star-walks status. Approval committee also includes select members of forward and advanced research space labs.
“Secondly, the mechanisms within our puny interplanetary rocket ship do not correspond to deep space flight. Earth Command is tight-lipped about their modus operandi, and deep space cosmonauts do not talk. No way!
“Immediately upon landing on Earth, we shall be escorted to waiting zero-gravity transporting systems — to space observatories above 19,000 feet altitude. Unconditionally, our duration of stay there shall be in excess of a year. You see. Physicians and scientists will study us constantly from behind glass houses.”
“Do you state here that we shall be under status observation for more than a year?” An exclamation.
“Yes.” The answer was abrupt. “We shall be scrutinized under the highest form of earthly observation twenty-four hours a day and will have to cooperate in total! You see, it is highly probable we become carriers of unknown virus strains for hyperspace — as the relative area between outer space and deep space is defined — is rather vast and unending.
Contact with unknown virus and bacteria strains is a negligible factor, yet not completely ruled out. Therefore we shall be surely bound to Earth — status observation for an indefinite time period.”
He paused to rest for a while.
“Er, if we show signs of contact with... well, with the undesirable strains of a long-gone virus?” The voice of the first gentleman trailed away. “Or perhaps with an advanced bacterial infection for which there exists no present known form of treatment — are we therefore...? He cut short the sentence midway with a semi question.
“Yes?” The astrophysicist asked in acutely kind questions.
“I mean, shall we be placed on suspended animation therapy?”
His reference was drawn to the extreme punishment meted out to wrongdoers of the 55th Century.
“No, my dears, placing us on suspended animation is a long-gone art of punishment in our case. We don’t utilise such methods even for the purpose of deep space flights.”
* * *
In the mid-fortieth century, deep-space flight procedures required cosmonauts to rest upon special beds, which were intricately connected to advanced mechanisms available within deep-space flight ships, favoring inter-solar system voyages. Immediately prior to acceleration from hyperspace and interstellar boundaries, the cosmonauts would lie down upon those special beds. Special oxygen masks were also worn.
As the deep space-flight ship moved across unknown zones — or the ‘star-walks’ of the universe — the cosmonauts would gently experience the following feelings in physiological sense.
Body functions slowly decreased in comparative efficiency; rather the heart beat rate was recorded at the most unusual and efficient pattern: One heart beat for every six hours of Earth time. Accordingly, every correlated function of the human body functioned likewise. It was as if humans subjected to procedures of suspended animation were living a life of “forever.” Instead of the normal seventy-six heartbeats per minute their comparative heart beat rate registered one beat per six hours!
This factor was akin to a near halt of all biological factors in such humans — as their deep space-flight ship accelerated away at tri-micron speeds across unknown, uncharted star walks of the universe.
Travelling undisturbed and silently in deep space they covered great distances ordinarily not possible by humans. But the ageing factor! They did not age as in Earth terms during the distances covered. Simultaneously, travelling at such relatively fast speeds also meant they were bound to age faster as their bodies were subject to the ravages of accelerated speed and time factors.
However, being placed under suspended animation procedures meant:
One, they were successfully enabled to counter the ravages of accelerated time factors upon their physical bodies. Two, as a matter of explanation, a journey of two light years across uncharted space would create an impact of — living through about — six months of normal Earth time! Therefore realistically speaking, reaching a journey destination point of two and a half light years in deep space — then returning back through another 2.5 light years — would amount to a total of five light years journey.
Yet, upon reaching back to Earth or Pluto, Jupiter or even Mars they would not have aged more than one year of Earth time — the same as their age — contemporaries upon Earth.
Hence the standard calculation for deep space voyages under suspended animation implied five light years equals one Earth year.
* * *
However, in the mid-fortieth century, conditions were being created to facilitate further deep space travel. Cosmonauts would therefore travel for hundreds of light years in uncharted space; and remain as young as the neighbour next door in the future.
* * *
Senior heirarchy 5634 C.E. Earth Command secretly anticipated such a return flight from constellation Zebra. Located at the inner reaches of the fifth solar system, it was also neighbouring the third galaxy from the Milky Way... supposedly existing at a diametrical and opposite end of their portion of the Milky Way...
Copyright © 2004 by Deep Bora