by Brian Dolton
mom told me u r going into space! that is so cool she says u r going a long way and will not be able 2 visit me 4 a wile but SPACE!!! How cool is that I will tell all the other kids at school. yay SPACE DAD!!!
Its been a year since you went into space. Mom tells me that I should send you a letter every year. She said something about time going slower for you because you are travelling so fast, so tho I only write once a year you will get them like every week or something. Thats weird. Anyway just wanted to say I miss your visits and hope space is fun!
It’s been another year. I miss you. Mom says I am doing great at school. I read everything I can about space and so I know more about time dilation now and the space drive that you are using and how come you can receive messages but not send them back and all that. It’s a shame you can’t send anything back because I really miss you. But I promise to keep writing every year until you are safely back home again.
Me again! You’re probably getting kind of bored getting a letter from me every few days. It’s kind of hard to know what to write. I mean I could tell you about school but it’s hard to think of everything I did this year. I’m being put into the corporate draft stream because my scores are so good, so I might end up working for the same corp as you – I might even get to go into space myself one day. Wouldn’t that be cool? There are a lot more people up in space now than when you left, there is a permanent station on the moon now, I think they were still building it when you left. Mom says I should tell you that I am not just a geek and that I am doing well in sports too. I do play a lot of b-ball. They actually did a special game on the moonbase a few weeks ago and it was wild because of the gravity. I hope I can go to the moon if I get in the right corp, but it would have to be with a corp because going into space is really expensive otherwise. I guess you’d know about that! They haven’t sent any more ships out like yours because it was so expensive but I am sure they will someday. Anyway hope things are going great with you!
So, another year gone by. You’re still out there heading towards the stars, and I’m still on Earth working my butt off at school. They’ve been whittling the corp stream down but I’m still just about holding on. It sucks big time but if you aren’t in the stream then things are getting pretty tough – the big corps just have so much influence over everything now – so I’m knuckling down and doing my very best. I don’t even have time to date, and I had to drop sports, because I can’t afford insurance.
Anyway, if I get a college place paid for then I’m going to specialise in astro-engineering. There’s lots of work opening up in that now that the Trojan station has been green-lit. It won’t be on-stream for five or six years at least but that’s fine, means I should be just about finishing university when they are looking to put people on board. I monitor the unmanned station feed all the time and Jupiter is just the most amazing thing up close. But of course the best I’m likely to get is another planet here in our solar system – twelve more years or so and you’ll be seeing completely new planets. Some of the kids are so jealous when I tell them who my real dad is! I’ll write you again next year,
Man, it’s been a rough year. There were a couple of times I felt like writing to you out of schedule, but I figured there wasn’t much point; you’re getting the corp’s feed, my messages are just tacking on to that, so you know as well as I do what’s going on back here. The war got real nasty for a while there but the board takeovers seem to have sorted things out for now. It’s changed the whole draft picture again, with the big mergers, and a lot of people are real uneasy and asking for the law to change back so people can veto a corp draft. But it doesn’t look like any of the Big Three want that to happen, and the corps pretty much call the shots now. You might be in the best place right now, no-one seems to know how this whole thing is going to shake out. All I can do is keep working hard, keep my head down, and hope that I come out of it smooth at the other end. And I guess you’ll know soon enough how it does – I’m the one who has to live through it day by day. Must be weird out there, like seeing everything in fast-forward. So, yeah, I’ll write to you next year and hopefully things will be better by then.
I just re-read last year’s letter. Man, remember I said I hoped things would get better? Didn’t turn out that way. The rebellion only lasted a few weeks and the Big Three are stronger than ever. There’s all kinds of underground agitprop that bubbles up so there’s clearly plenty of rebels out there keeping out of the corp clutches somehow. No idea how they do it because the corps are just everywhere now.
Since they got cash outlawed, it’s impossible to survive off the grid (unless, like, you are WAY off the grid, in which case they just don’t care much because, you know, what can you do to hurt them?). You got to pay to play, that’s the word these days. And of course, you can only pay to play if you got the means to pay. Mom’s been having it tough since she ended up single again (I’m not going to say ANYTHING about that, let her tell you if she wants) but we’ve been able to borrow against my prospects so we should be OK as long as I don’t flunk out. The pressure gets to me sometimes but, you know, the world is what it is. And really, I’m one of the lucky ones; I’ve got the smarts to get a good position. By the time I next write I should have gone through the final draft and then I’ll know whether I stand any chance of getting out to Jupiter orbit or not (man, I know you’re out in interstellar space but I still don’t get tired of my Jupiter feed; got it hardwired in now so it’s almost like I’m really there).
I MADE IT!!! Got drafted and sponsored and the offer was better than I hoped. The deal covers pretty much everything you could hope for – Mom’s medical coverage, a partner allowance (yeah, that means maybe I can finally find time to date, and that makes me a good catch so it’s time to PARTY!), everything. It’s a really sweet deal. No word yet on whether I’ll get out to the Trojan station – it’s a couple years behind schedule, anyway – but I’m still hoping, and I’m certainly going to be working on something in the space field. So, following in your footsteps as best I can! Got to go, they are keeping me real busy, but you’ll be hearing from me soon!
“You’ll be hearing from me soon”. That’s how I ended my last letter. I didn’t know. No way I could have known, they had such a lid on the information, I could have been eight layers deeper in and still not heard. You know how it is, they want confirmation of everything in triplicate before they release it.
So, anyway, now I know about the problem with the ship. We all do. You should have been turning, decelerating by now, but all the telemetry says it’s not happening. And of course we’re years behind where you ‘really’ are. Maybe you guys have fixed the problem by now and are dealing with it, but you missed the window big time, we know that much.
Man, I hope you’re okay out there.
It’s bad enough here in system. Takes me hours just to get messages to and from Earth (yeah, I’m out working on the Trojan now, part of the current construction shift; I’ll be back on Earth in about eight months, according to the current plan, then back out here two years further on). From where you are… it’s just crazy, man. I heard the corp have spent more than eighty billion so far on ftl-comm research and they got nothing to show for it. People are saying that it’s pointless, that people will never travel to the stars – like they’ve forgotten you and the guys, and that burns me, Dad. We may never do it again, but we did it once, even if… even if it didn’t go right. Whatever else, they can’t take that away from you. You’re farther from Earth than anyone can really imagine or understand. I just…
I just hope, somehow, you can make it back.
I love you, Dad. Love you and miss you.
I’m sorry, it’s been three years since I wrote. The corp shut down the beam for a while because telemetry showed that you weren’t where they thought you were. They had no idea what was going on for a while but they put some of the real whizz-kids on it (the guys who make me look like a Neanderthal – these are the augmented brains and man, they are something scary). They reckon they know now what happened and what’s wrong and why you guys haven’t turned round. The only thing they don’t know is whether you’re still alive. They re-ran simulations and built a test rig and everything and there are still too many variables for them to be sure. Last they let me know they reckoned there was about a 20% chance you guys made it through when things went off. I kind of feel like I’m writing to Schrodinger’s cat. If you read the letters then you’re alive….
But the big news isn’t even that. The big news is what we picked up on the Jupiter scan. I’ve seen it myself – there’s no way they could keep this one under wraps.
We’re not alone.
Man, it feels so weird to say that. I mean, it’s not as if there aren’t enough people who believe in aliens, even think they’ve seen them, but now we got proof. Though we don’t know nearly enough. Everyone’s frustrated as all hell because all we saw was a big black sphere in front of Jupiter, and then it disappeared. Nobody even realised at first until someone worked out that it wasn’t a moon transit. I mean, that’s what it looked like, just a big black shadow, but then they turned the gain up on the records and proved it was a real object. It was there; an alien spaceship, right under our noses. But if they tried to communicate we didn’t pick anything up (believe me, again, the corps have been combing back through the chatter for anything), and so no-one knows who they are or what they look like or even how their ship works! Nothing’s shown up on the scans since, so really all we know is that they exist, and that there is some way of travelling from one star system to another.
But we’ve got the best minds in the corps all working on this one (you can bet that each of the Big Three wants to be first to crack THIS little trick!) and just knowing that something CAN be done is half the battle. We’ll crack it. We’ll get into space, for real this time.
And when we do… we’ll come and find you, Dad. I promise. I’ll come and find you.
Brian Dolton has sold stories to a range of markets including Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and twice previously to A&A itself.