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Throwback Thursday – The Plague

Going way back in the time machine on this one. This is probably early-mid-80s (high school)… as I’ve got the original dot-matrix printout to prove it! Once again, any and all feed back is welcome. Enjoy.  #throwbackthursday

Plague

We didn’t need a view screen to see what lay before us. Our heading was zero, ninety mark two, toward the great unexplored heart of the Milky Way: the Galactic Core.

Not that we ever had a prayer of reaching it. We were one of seven vessels covering a ninety degree arc across the interior spread of the galaxy. Our mission, simply map space, and more importantly, discover intelligent life.

No. Not just life. Martian probes in the early 21st century confirmed what scientists had hoped all along, simple prehistoric life forms, dormant and frozen beneath the red planet’s polar cap.

And now here we were, hurling ourselves along at a dramatic 3c, looking for bigger and better life. Fat chance. This mission was doomed from the start and about as impossible as catching a meteor with a butterfly net. Operation SWEEP as it has been labeled by the World Space Agency, WSA, owes its thanks to the failed colonization of the solar system (Mars and Jupiter’s moon Europa in particular). The expensive project was designed to increase public interest and generate money. Before the decade could end, seven ships were hastily constructed in earth orbit and fitted with the new untried star drives, destination: the center of the galaxy.

It was a beautiful idea, a cosmetic bandage for a floundering space program and world economy. The public ate it up. Money poured in from every direction.

And now here we were. The lucky ones. Fourteen of us, two to a ship. Alone. For God knows how long.

By the way, my name is Joe Trapp. I was born in space, and worked most of my life in space, shuttling asteroid material from the Belt to mineral processing stations. That was until the WSA yanked me, put me through six months of training, another six months in an Esper Coven, doubled my salary, and gave me the impromptu rank of captain. This was all for the media, of course. It wouldn’t do to have an ensign piloting the fastest ship to ever come across man’s assembly lines.

And they called this one the Enterprise, named for the prototype of the first reusable space craft in the late 20th century, and perhaps more significantly, for the ship on a video show in the late 1960’s which inspired interest in space among millions. The name brought a fleeting image of the ship to mind. A swan floating through the currents of space, the engines swept back like wings, poised for flight, glowing, pulsing with power, life.

Better than this hulk it was certain, a pie wedge of a ship with three unsightly holes in the back, spewing behind it a plume of invisible radioactive material. There was nothing graceful about it at all. I doubt it will last as long as the video show, still populating a range of frequencies, its message as relevant as it ever was.

A whistle called across the bridge, indicating the passage of another relativistic hour. My co-pilot, one Alan Drews, looked slowly up from the status console, obviously annoyed. Despite that he and I were of similar backgrounds, nature had been less kind to him. His face was fleshed out, his jowls red and swollen. On his long nose and beneath his greasy mop, was a pair of thick glasses (Drews had refused implants to correct vision problems). It seemed that space travel did not suit him.

“Want me to take care of that?” he asked, or rather wheezed. Drews never resorted to telepathy, and I was glad. It was an intimate, personal experience I didn’t care to share with him.

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