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Journey

Posted on Fri Mar 27th, 2020 @ 12:01pm by Lieutenant Commander William Rogers

[OOC: The version of Everyone Says Hi I used for this is the cover by Fyfe Monroe if you want to listen along while reading]


William drove down the highway, away from the city of New York. The city still showed damage from the War but it had started to rebuild. Something he needed to do himself. His car may have been old but thankfully it was still roadworthy. A Ford. Blue and dented.

o/` Said you took a big trip,
They say you moved away,
Happened oh so quietly, they say o/`


The car sat on the driveway in a suburb in Florida, a stone's throw from the Kennedy Space Centre. Identical condominiums arranged in parade ground formation. A place for astronauts and their families to call home. The car had seen better days. It's been vandalised. Recently.
Shards of broken glass surround it, glittering in the sun. At the house William Rogers worked on painting the exterior walls, trying to erase the graffiti daubed thereon. Gene freak. Race traitor. Augment.

o/` Should've took a picture,
Something I could keep,
Buy a little frame, something cheap,
For you,
Everyone says hi, o/`


The spaceship was a marvel of human engineering. Atop a rocket over 400 ft tall the nose caught the light of the sun even at an ungodly hour of the morning. Tethered to the gantry by massive clamps and entwined by fuel transfer pipes Ranger 3 waited. Great clouds of steam boiled away into the air as the solid fuel propulsion tanks were primed. Security guards cleared the last of the protesters away from the gates as the crew made their final preparations before departure.

o/` Said you sailed a big ship
Said you sailed away
Didn't know the right thing to say o/`


On the television the host droned on about the state of the art DY-100 ship being used on this mission. About the future of humanity it represented. About the controversy of including a genetically enhanced individual on the crew. In New Jersey William's family sat clustered around a small TV. Estranged, but compelled to watch all the same. With half a minute remaining on the countdown the television studio switched from the studio to camera's facing the launch pad. Blast off. Engines roared to life. Fire and steam erupted from the base of the rocket as it punched skywards.

o/` I'd love to get a letter
Like to know what's what
Hope the weather's good and it's not too hot
For you
Everyone says hi
Everyone says hi o/`


At the tiers of desks that made up the control room for the Ranger 3 mission the members of White Shift worked with an energy that bordered on panic. On the telemetry screen which dominated one end of the room Ranger 3 moved further off course. Accelerating. There is no idle chatter. Conversations are held at whisper level. All await call and response from the Flight Controller.

"Guidance. Go/No Go for corrective burn?"

"No Go, Flight: Ranger 3 reports LOS on navigational transmissions."

"CapCom. Go/No Go for emergency crew revival?"

"No Go, Control: Negative response from Ranger 3 environmental control."

"Anyone got any ideas on how we can bring our people home?" Mission Control asked the room.

Silence.

Ranger 3 continued to accelerate.

o/` Everyone says
Don't stay in a sad place
Where they don't care how you are
Everyone says hi
(Everyone says hi) o/`


There is only minimal lighting in Ranger 3. Kept off to conserve power, programmed to activate when the crew reanimation cycle begins. Outside of the command module there are no view-ports of any kind. It is darker than dark. In their cryo-pods the crew sleep. Side by side the pods provide the only illumination in this part of the hold. Displays, back lit by blue white light, chart the vital signs of their occupants.

o/` Everyone says hi
(Everyone says hi)
And the girl next door
(Everyone says hi)
And the guy upstairs
(Everyone says hi)o/`


The black town car pulled up in front of the house in New Jersey. A man got out and approached the front door. A government man. His suit gave him away. A young girl answers the door and runs to fetch her father.

John Rogers Jr would barely remember the details of the letter. Ranger 3 was beyond recovery. For all intents and purposes William B. Rogers was dead. The news was received with indifference. The idea that Ranger 3 could be recovered was always small, and James's relationship with his brother was as distant as the two men were now. The weight was felt more by his wife and daughter. They knew only the enhanced version of William. They would never understand. Could never. They had not seen the change.

o/` And your mum and dad
(Everyone says hi)
Everyone says hi
(Everyone says hi)
And your big fat dog
(Everyone says hi)
Everyone says hi o/`


They draped the coffins in flags. Purely symbolic gestures. Both empty. Families stood at feet of the coffins. A big deal was made of the funeral. A 21 gun salute. Honouring the lost explorers. Highlighting national pride. Boosting morale during a time of rising global tensions. Those who viewed the burials were told that the astronauts' sacrifices would never be forgotten. All to soon atomic fire consumed their legacy.

o/` If the money is lousy
You can always come home
We can do the good things
We can do all the bad things o/`


In the empty dark between stars Ranger 3 continued its journey. Side by side the crew slept, and side by side they died. A micrometeorite strike somewhere on the ship. A blown power coupling. Computer error. The culmination of decades of use beyond the crafts expected lifespan. One by one they died. Cryogenic chambers became tombs. One by one the lights on the pods shut off. When the first cryo-chamber showed signs of malfunction Ranger 3 broadcast a warning in the direction it believed Earth to be. A cry for help swallowed by the void.

o/` Don't stay in a sad place
Where they don't care how you are
Everyone says hi o/`


Under the light of trinary stars a ship approached Ranger 3. A disc coupled two pylons. White. Black words stencilled across the disk. USS Venture.


o/` Said you took a big trip,
Said you sailed away o/`

 

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