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We Are Explorers

by Brian Grannan 2 months ago in space
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Is anyone out there?

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. That, of course, has never stopped us from trying.

Today is the anniversary of Sputnik 1 being launched into the void. At least it is back on Earth. I am currently about 4 light years from Earth where it is a bit harder to keep track of the exact date. But on a "day" like this, I can't help but wonder at what could have driven humanity to just brute force their way into the sky with just some gasoline and aluminum.

Which is effectively what happened 300 years ago today. Sputnik rode into the sky on top of a fiery, audacious monument of ambition. Since then, we have been relentlessly, desperately trying to follow it ourselves and all the while sending out an almost constant barrage of radio waves, x-rays, gamma rays, anything and everything that might give us a better picture.

Mapping space. Searching for life. That is our mission at ASI, the Allied Space Initiative. Founded in 2164, the ASI's purpose is to be a joint task force for space exploration and experimentation that represents humanity as a whole. Exploratores Summus is etched into the shoulder patch on mine and every uniform of the ASI, just below the image of a tightly gripped torch. We are explorers.

Standing at the front of the command deck, I stare out the main window of our ship. The Orpheus is the largest, and only, habitat ship built for long term travel. It took over 50 years for ASI to deem it worthy of its maiden voyage to Proxima Centauri.

Our nearest neighboring star system is still another week away. I watch the star in the window as I have every shift for the last four and a half years. We've been using a silver dry-erase marker to mark its growing size in the window. Like putting notches in a child's door frame.

Just below the notches someone had written This little light of mine and I smile and look around the command deck. This being the central hub of the ship, all 7 wings send their reports and requests here before they are reviewed, coordinated with, decided on, or just ignored. There are 18 officers on the command deck at all times and 2 captains for the ship who are usually out and about. I am one of the 3 commanders that runs the day-to-day operations and relays important decisions to the captains.

Looking at the officers, I notice the blue-green uniforms of my cohorts are a stark contrast to the dark and grey surroundings of our ship. I can see the excitement buried in the faces of the deck officers as they move about their tasks and read their reports. I see the same need in their eyes as mine and I know that what drives us goes deeper than just exploration.

Most people believe that is the reason for our drive to probe the stars. That we have an instinctual need to explore the unknown and spread ourselves to every corner of the cosmos.

I think the real reason we search so desperately is because we don't want to be alone. We scream into the void over and over and over, in every way that we know how, hoping that someone out there will hear us. We send out probes, beams of light, teams of people and they all ask the same question: Is anyone out there? Can you hear us?

"Sir." I look up, jolted away from my thoughts and over at the command station for the scanner wing. "The sensor team has picked up an object approaching."

"Size and trajectory?" I ask as I head towards the officer. This would not be the first or last bit of rock we have to dodge.

I take a casual sip of coffee as a walk, taking a second to wonder where this sudden sense of foreboding is coming from. There were no reports or projections for anything large that should be in our way.

"It's small sir, approaching from Proxima and will pass by us in an hour. Looks to be about 2 meters wide...." the lieutenant let the sentence fall away as he tilted his head, squinting at the monitor.

"Sounds too small to collect a sample for the science wing. Probably have to just wave at it as it passes by." I said, arriving just beside him.

"We should get the captains up here sir." His voice got quiet and urgent. His eyes grew wider as he said it. "We're getting a better picture of it now." He turned his monitor to me and stared, waiting for my reaction.

I frowned and leaned in, looking from him to the screen. Moving as fast as we are, just south of light speed, getting a clear image on scanners is tricky. Since everything we use to scan our surroundings sends out light in some form, we need to be almost on top of something to see it clearly right away.

I can make out the blurry shape of an almost square figure. I felt my jaw slowly fall open as my subconscious was a few steps ahead. Nature VERY rarely makes anything with straight lines and there are too many on the screen for this to be natural.

The noise of the deck slipped away from my focus. I couldn't hear the chatter of the other officers or their footsteps approaching behind me. The image was getting clearer as more data came in. I could make out a square, telescoping frame surrounding a central, triangular mass.

"It's a probe." Someone muttered into the still silence behind me.

Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say.

I turned slowly toward the window I just left, staring at the star we are speeding towards. The origin of this object. Is anyone out there? Can you hear us?

"We hear you."


About the author

Brian Grannan

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