Samantha dreamily slid her hand over the glass, as if trying to catch earth, now that it was still so close to her. As her fingers slowly moved lower over the thick, cold glass; more and more of Earth’s dark side was revealed. A sea of darkness filled with golden orange dots. The light of mankind. The crystal in her necklace gave off a faint blue glow, she looked at it as it floated in front of her and a grin pursed on her delicate lips. She didn’t turn her head when the door monitor beeped, she knew who was entering.
“Sam.” His voice still was candy to her ears. Slowly she turned her head towards him. His face, his glance … they still send shivers down her spine and woke the butterflies in her stomach.
“Hmmm?” Her eyes look at his, she loved him. He walked over to her seat and sat down on the armrest next to her, folding his legs against hers and wrapping an arm around her neck and shoulders.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” He almost whispered, she felt his lips move against her ear. She loved it.
“It is, but nothing is as beautiful as you.” She moved one of her hands to his chin and turned it, pulling his face closer for a kiss. His fingers lost themselves in her golden hair. They kissed until a roaring alarm disturbed them.
‘PLEASE ALL PASSENGERS MOVE TO YOUR SEATS AND FOLLOW THE FASTENING INSTRUCTIONS.’
She folded her hands around his face in protest. But with a grin and a suck on her bottom lip he Slid off her armrest and into his own seat, next to her. His hands moved over the seatbelts and clicked them in place, then he helped her with hers. Their eyes met again.
“I love you, Casper.” She said softly.
“And I love you, no matter where we are. On earth or in between the stars.” She smiled, he had a way with words. She reached for his hand and suddenly a sliver of fear appeared on her face.
“It… it won’t hurt will it?”
“No, not a lot in any case. It is like falling asleep after a night of drinking with your friends, you’ll feel heavy and tired. And then you’ll fade to black. Waking up is much the same, with a headache and slight nausea.” Casper squeezed in her hand and slowly her smile returned, pushing back the fear.
“How long will we sleep?” Her voice still had a soft tremble and it struck Casper in his heart that he was putting her through such stress.
“Not too long, we are going to a nearby system. The estimated travel time is 750 years.” He saw the flicker of fear in her eyes.
“Oh.” Sam was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness and loneliness. Deep down she had known it would be such a long journey. But that hadn’t kept her from hoping it would be much shorter, that she would be able to come back one day. To her friends, her family. Her life.
“Hey…” He squeezed her hand again. “You are sure you want to do this right? We can still call the emergency abort, it isn’t too late.” She felt her stomach turn. She could abort it. They would get the both of them out of the ship and send them back to station Alpha with a shuttle and then back down to earth. A part of her wanted to say yes. Scream yes. But she couldn’t. She knew how much it meant to him, and earth had no opportunities to offer them. At least none like the frontier did.
“No, it is okay. I want this.” She smiled at him and gently caressed his chin. “For you, for us. A new life, a good life. Out there, in the stars. A future for the both of us. Away from all of this..” She waved her hand at earth, bathed half in the light of the sun and half in that of mankind.
“I love you.” He said again, stronger. They squeezed each other’s hand again and then moved the helmets onto their faces. Checking all the locks. When they were ready they leant back into their chair and pressed the three buttons on their right arm rests. They flicked to green and the chairs gently folded open, backwards. Inclining themselves so that the both of them were laying down, as comfortable as on a real bed.
Sam felt fear clutch her stomach again, but she ignored. She was sure of her choice. She wanted this. She closed her eyes and listened to the machines around her and the automated voice.
‘PASSENGERS PLEASE PREPARE FOR SLEEP PROCESS. INITIATING SLEEP AGENT AEROSOL PROCEDURE IN 10..’
She squeezed her eyes shut tightly, breathing a bit faster than usual. She tried to think of Casper’s face. Of his handsome face. Her fingers dug into the soft leather of the seat.
She thought of the children they will make. The home they will build. The experiences they will share.
She tried to calm her breathing, as they had advised her on the briefing and explanation meeting. It would make for a better spread of the aerosolized gas, ensuring a more comfortable sleep. She revisited the photo’s and videos she had seen of Maridun, the frontier planet they would go and help colonise. In which they would build up their life together.
And finally, Samantha fell asleep.
Sam woke up to an alarm. She gasped for breath as her body jolted awake, gently spasming. Her fingers dug into the leather of her chair and ripped the fabric. Painfully she opened her eyes. The first thing she noticed was a red, flickering light in the room. She could barely see it through her helmet as her visor was foggy and dirty. The second thing she became aware of was a fierce, painful headache. She groaned in pain and brought her hands to her head.
“Aaaahh… what is.. This… “ She tried to unlock the seals as fast as she could, but her nails were too long to allow that. She groaned as she broke them in her haste. But finally, she was able to pull off the helmet. She threw it aside and leant over her seat, throwing up. Only bile came out. The red flickering light was bright and came from a single bulb above the door. She now also was able to hear the automated voice through the alarm.
‘ALERT. ALERT. MISSION FAULT. CONTACT BROKEN. ALL PASSENGERS PLEASE GUIDE YOURSELVES TOWARDS THE ATRIUM AND ASK FOR INSTRUCTIONS FROM AN ON DUTY OFFICER.’
Sam threw up again, more bile. Her throat was sore and her head pounded. She coughed. The air was chill and stale. “Casper..” she asked in a weak voice. “Casper what is happening?” Casper-” she asked as she turned her head. But Casper wasn’t there, his seat was empty. “Casper?” Her voice became high and shrill as she started to panic. “Casper?!”.
She tried to get up from her chair but all her joints ached. The small computer in her wristband turned on, beeping and flickering a blue light. Sam quickly rubbed her hand over the display, cleaning the dust away. The small display offered her a variety of information. Feverishly she looked for the bit she wanted. It took her a few seconds to find it, with a headache clouding her thought process, but she did. ParLink. She clicked it and then quickly grabbed her necklace.
Unlike before, the crystal did not light up this time. She sighed and looked back at her wristband. Her fingers moved in a flash over the display.
ParLink Partner Status: On.
Location scan in progress: 2%.
She sighed again and looked around the room while her wristband was looking for Casper. The room had aged, badly. Every surface was dirty and dusty. The air was cold and stale and the ventilation seemed to stutter as if it was giving its dying breath. Everything in the room shows signs of ageing, except for her. Outside of her nails and hair, which grew on during the deep sleep.
With effort she sat over the edge of her flat out chair and clicked open a small compartment to the side. From there she pulled a small nail clipper and started to shorten her nails. Her nails were old, broken and fragile. A yellow-white in places. She hated them, it disgusted her. She always wore her nails extremely short. Once she was done she feverishly checked the display again.
Location scan in progress: 34%.
She grabbed her hair together and then started to braid it in a tight braid. Once done she stood up and started to flex her sore muscles and joints. Her whole body creaked like an old wooden stair. She moved to Casper’s seat and started to investigate it. Like hers, it had a small compartment. But it was opened and the clipper was missing. There was a second compartment opened, but that too was empty. She opened the same on her chair and pulled out a small data crystal and a nutrient tube.
Eagerly she opened the tube and swallowed the paste that she slowly pushed out. Once finished she checked her wristband again. Almost 64%. She looked at the data crystal and put it on her chair. It was empty, she remembered from the briefing. She groaned as she moved towards the small lockers opposite of the chairs. Casper’s was open and empty, hers still sealed. She entered her digit code and took out her clothes and belongings. Another fast glimpse at her wristband. 77%.
With an aching body she stripped out of her suit. It was ripped in several places, out of age. Just like everything else. But her clothes were fresh as new. The small lockers did their job well. She put on her skin suit and then the utility exosuit. She tucked her belongings, small trinkets and jewellery that reminded her of home and those she loved, away in secure pockets. Along with the empty data crystal.
Just as she was done her wristband gave of a dull bleep. Immediately she looked at it.
Scan completed. Partner status: Nominal. Location: Unable to calculate.
Sam frowned. At least it meant Casper was okay, but the ParLink wouldn’t be able to help her find him. In one breath she cursed the developers of the device. Her fingers danced on the display again as she activated the voice command module. She sighed as she leant against the cold metal wall beside the lockers. “Fix, what was my sleeping time please?” She asked the small wrist bound AI. The AI answered in a slightly different automated voice.
Sam frowned again. That was much sooner than Casper had told her. “Journey status?”
‘Information incomplete. Last received data from main ship AI was 7 years and 219 days ago. Analysis of last transmissions points out that our journey is interrupted. Critical systems failure. No Earth contact possible.’
Sam groaned as another bolt of pain rushed through her head. “Ahh.. can.. Can you tell me when Casper left?”
‘There is no exact data on this, but extrapolating from available data I can pinpoint this to a timeframe between 7 years and 19 days ago and 7 years and 145 days ago.’
“Can you locate Casper now?”
‘I can not. Ship Intranet is down and I can’t find any local networks in my range.’
Sam sighed and let her head rest for a moment by leaning it back against the wall. Then she got up and walked to the door, pushing the button. The door slowly opened, hissing and creaking. The corridor was dark, ill-lighted by only a few small lights. Of which most were flickering and sputtering. She sighed again and then stepped into the corridor.
“Casper… where are you.”
Part two can be found here.