Abyss & Apex : Second Quarter 2009: Deep Moves

Deep Moves

by William Highsmith


NASAtext-Outbox: DeepSpaceContact (12/05/2045)
Subject: first move

I know why your sleep scientists did not volunteer for this mission. Be informed that I slept soundly for eighteen years, followed by seven years of occasional semi-consciousness and vivid dreaming. My reservations about accepting this assignment gnawed at me endlessly for the last three years. I knew homesickness would be an issue when I landed, but 25, 50, 100 years of torment on the way…not in the contract.

With only one hour for correspondence per 25-year maintenance cycle, I plead with you to ignore the senseless information quarantine, in view of our suffering, and tell us of our families. A small matter: I was promised a postal chess game. First move: P-KP4.

–Regards, Captain Hannah Martina, USAF


NASAtext-Inbox: Karen, NASA HR (02/03/2050)
Subject: re: first move

Congratulations on your promotion, *Colonel* Martina. NASA is now in Arizona, attached to the US Airports, Waterways, and Ground Transportation Authority. It does little research these days, but keeps track of our heroes in space. Sorry, but the info quarantine is still doctrine, but I’ll look into the matter. You have little time for reading, so I’ll not blather on. Good luck.



NASAtext-Outbox: MCS-DeepSpaceContact (12/05/2070)
Subject: re: first move

Semi-anonymous “Karen,” are you still looking into it? Or dead? I was offended that your email lacked Earth and family news after 50 years and made no mention of our sleep issues. Are there no recommendations for us? You also failed to make your chess move. First move: P-KP4. The crew’s and craft’s condition is nominal, full report attached, as always.

Karen, 50 years: have mercy.

–Hannah Martina, USAF.

From: postmaster:::serverfarm:gov (4/13/2080)
Subject: Returned mail

The following NASAtext Spacecom message had delivery problems:
Permanent Failure: user_unknown.


To: president@whitehouse.gov (12/05/2095)
cc: info@nasa.gov, info@house.gov, info@senate.gov

From: HMartina@NASA.gov
Subject: Argghhh!!!!

Dear Mr./Ms. President. I command the (forgotten?) Yr2020-MCS, micro-colonization spacecraft and have lost contact with NASA via the TRDS-XVI satellite. I’ve resorted to a VHF telemetry link with legacy e-mail support. With only one contact opportunity every 25 years, missing one is heart-wrenching. I demand answers: how *was* my family? Have you any recommendations about our sleep issues? I’m owed a postal chess match. To make up for lost time, please start after the predictable opening moves:

1. P-KP4. P-KP4.
2. KN-B3. QN-B3.
3. P-Q4. P x P.
4. N x P. ?

Sadly, your reply will arrive just after my Yr2120 cycle since I’m traveling at 0.2 speed-of-light.

–Col. Hannah Martina, USAF, retired


From: Carlotti@whitehouse.mil (23/09/2110)
To: HMartina@NASA.gov

Subject: re: Argghhh!!!!

Dear Major General Martina, congratulations on your promotion. I regret our failure to preserve your NASAtext TRDS link to the now-defunct NASA. The interim civilian government (long story) created the Near-Space Utilization/Deep Space Experimentation Administration which governs space policy, utilization and warfare matters. Transition from the military government could have been smoother. Your family is fine. Please amplify your sleep complaints. Records are presently disarrayed. As compensation, the reigning U.S. Human Chess Champion, Anatoly Anatov, will take up your match. He prefers the Sicilian Defense, and redacted your suggested moves:

1. P-KP4. P-QBP4.

Please continue using e-mail; between putting up another TRDS satellite and rebuilding public infrastructure…you get the picture.


Respectfully, President-for-Life, Pat Carlotti


From: CheapMedsGuy@yahoo113.com3 (04/03/2112)
Subject: Get meds cheapest ever


Get every meds you very wanting for giant 90% discount: http://www.medsmedsmeds3245.com3


To: president@whitehouse.mil (12/05/2145)
cc: president@whitehouse.gov

From: HMartina@NASA.gov Subject: re: Argghhh!!!!

Dear President-for-Life Carlotti: my family is fine? That’s it after 125 years? Here’s my report: your spacecraft and crew are fine. After a decent response, I’ll re-enable the ship’s telemetry.


–Hannah Martina, independent contractor


To: CheapMedsGuy@yahoo113.com4 (12/05/2145)
Subject: re: Get meds cheapest ever

Dear CheapMedsGuy, this sounds great! Do you deliver?


To: ChessGod@yahoo230.com3 (12/05/2145)
Subject: deep space chess match

Anatoly, my man, was the pressure of playing a rank amateur so great that you had to start the game over? I’M IN DEEP SPACE! And you’ll be dead before my second move. (Sorry I shouted.) My move: N-KB3. You’re shaking in your panties, right?

–Hannah Martina, extraterrestrial chess champion (Whoa!)


From: JNajdorf@yahoo435.com7 (04/12/2170)
Subject: re: deep space chess match

Dear Hannah, through computer analysis chess has been classified a “perfect strategy” game, like 2D tic-tac-toe, and is out of favor. Four-dimensional tic-tac-toe is all the rage now. My 4D-TTT move is: X on 3,10,20,18, rules are attached.

Okay, that was a joke. Here is my chess move, my dear (if one may say that to a Lt. General whose picture in the history books has set my heart aflutter):

1. P-K4. P-QB4.
2. N-KBE. P-Q3.
3. P-Q4. P x P.
4. NxP. N-KB3.
5. N-QB3. P-QR3.

About your family: your brother’s son had a successful public school teaching career. Your sister gave you two nieces after you left, Hannah and Caitlyn. Their pictures (attached) are very sweet. I’ll research further. If I calculated correctly, I have a ten-year window in which to write you.

Yours always,
John Najdorf, U.S. Human Chess Champion, 2170


To: JNajdorf@yahoo435.com7 (12/05/2245)
Subject: re: deep space chess match

Dear Saint John, OMG! I pray medical science has kept you alive to read this: your kindness saved my life. (And your diabolical chess joke nearly took it back.) Your additional information about my family made my century. I’m sorry this is so short, but I read your emails thirty times and kissed my nieces’ images one hundred times. Bless you. Bless you! Bless you! 6. B-N5.

–With Deepest Love,
Hannah Martina, aunt

P.S.: about your heart aflutter: you’re a terrible liar, but thank you.


To: HMartina@NASA.gov (12/05/2280)
From: HMartina-2@NASA.gov
Subject: waiting desperately for you

Dear Great, Great Aunt Hannah,

Is “Aunt Hannah,” okay? Life is strange. So many tears I’ve shed reading your correspondence with Mr. Najdorf, which he forwarded to my mother once he’d found her. I’m a physicist like you, though not in military service. Here’s the irony, Aunt Hannah: I will have been waiting for you six months when your journey ends. I had benefit of the 0.48 LS craft that you fought for instead of the 0.2 LS craft you’re commanding. (I was the senior scientist during the design phase.)

Your fingerprints are all over my mission. I used your proposed graphene solar sail that could not be applied in the time line of your mission. I laughed sardonically at your program meeting minutes; you called the program manager’s argument about the schedule hit specious if a later launch with a faster craft arrived earlier than the planned craft. So here I am, your blood three generations removed, arriving before you. If I could get my hands around that guy’s neck….

More importantly, I’ve had a pleasant flight. A very smart man a generation before me took your complaints about sleep seriously. Thank you so much. I can’t imagine the suffering of your journey. (Um, we have a psychiatrist aboard specifically to treat your crew when you arrive.)

I’ve dreamed of my journey since I was a little girl, reading your biography. Even then I knew I’d go to MIT like you. I look forward to pioneering with you, but mostly, I look forward to being your niece. Sorry, I’ll be two years older than you, but you can still boss me around: you’re a full general now; your check is in the mail.

You may wonder why I waited so late in my flight to contact you. I would hate to have disappointed you if something went wrong with my craft. But now, I’m so close that my hope is soaring! (Be careful, please.)

I’ll be waiting for you in a plug-ugly Quonset hut with your picture in my hand. I’m moving in with you when you get here; I’ve seen your housing design.



William Highsmith has recently published two science fiction stories with Flash Fiction Online. Another story will be published with the Thoughtcrime Experiments anthology in April. He is a software engineer in the telecommunications industry who doesn’t consider writing punishment. He’s published several non-fiction articles in professional technical journals and a book chapter. He’s written many technical manuals that you wouldn’t want to read.



Story © 2009 William Highsmith. All other content copyright © 2009 Abyss & Apex Publishing. 

Above button is for PayPal. Donate any amount. All monies go to authors and web hosting.

Click here for Patreon to become a Patron for as little as $1 a month!


Art Director Steven Coker, Jr.