Decades Lost – Excerpt 1

Last night I had the nightmare, always different and yet the same.  Eight years I have had this nightmare.  Each time I find myself on the ship, but then something goes wrong.  It often changes.  An engine blows.  A tear in the hull suffocates and freezes everyone.  A plague breaks out.  Someone goes insane.  The jump tears everyone apart.  Each time I watch my friends and colleagues die in some new horrifying way.  And each time I am an invisible observer, knowing their fate yet unable to warn them or assist them.

My therapist says the dream is a manifestation of my guilt.  I didn’t need a therapist to figure that out.  He did suggest I keep a journal, I’m doubtful this will provide a breakthrough just like every other method we’ve tried.

It is fitting that I had the nightmare last night.  Today marks the 8th anniversary of the disappearance of the Decades Lost.  Eight years of not knowing what truly happened to the 87 lives aboard the ship.  Today I will start my day with a brief ceremony were the names are read aloud as a flame is lit for each life lost.  Each year there are fewer people at the ceremony.  Fewer faces I struggle to avoid.  In a way, I am envious of those who have stopped attending.  They have moved on, continued their lives while I am stuck.  I might have well been on the ship when it left, I haven’t moved on since that day.

My therapist tells me I have survivors guilt and I need to find a way to forgive myself.  Intellectually I understand and agree with him, emotionally I don’t understand.  I was meant to be on that ship. As the lead theorist on the jump drive I should have been there.  I was meant to be there to see my creation on its maiden voyage.  But I got the cold.  A week before launch, my doctor diagnosed me with the common cold and I was pulled from the mission.  Instead I watched from the control room as my friends and colleagues disappeared into the sky.

My therapist tells me I have survivors guilt and I need to find a way to forgive myself.  Intellectually I understand and agree with him, emotionally I don’t understand.  I was meant to be on that ship. As the lead theorist on the jump drive I should have been there.  I was meant to be there to see my creation on its maiden voyage.  But I got the cold.  A week before launch, my doctor diagnosed me with the common cold and I was pulled from the mission.  Instead I watched from the control room as my friends and colleagues disappeared into the sky.

We had done test runs with small ships and mammals.  The rats exhibited no physical ailments and only mild disorientation that subsided with in a day.  But the jump drive had to be calibrated for a single jump.  It would not be able to travel across the universe, only hop from one planet to another.  While this would cut down on intergalactic travel, our goal was to build a ship capable of traveling through the universe with a seemingly unlimited amount of jump locations.  The only way to calibrate the drive was onboard, there was no way to trigger it from outside of the ship.

The drive also can interfere with ship-to-ship comm.  The procedure that was agreed upon was that the crew would shut down their ship-to-ship com 15 minutes before starting up the drive and once they reached the destination, orbiting Io, they would turn comm back on and send the official report of how the jump went.  To be safe we even rigged the comms so that they could not be turned on if the drive was running and visa versa.   It’s possible something went wrong in those 15 minutes.  It’s possible something went wrong with the jump.  The only data we have are scans from nearby ships, that show it was in the location for the jump and then the ship disappeared.  There was just no way to get a message out.

They didn’t even get to say goodbye.  Today I will stand at the memorial and wonder what each of them would have said if they knew it was going to be their last chance.  I wonder, but I don’t even know what I would say.

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