First of all, I’d like to quickly apologize for the sparseness of my posts over the past few weeks. I have been rather busy, but posts will return to their normal weekly routine now. I was unable to post this earlier, but here’s today’s post, Part 3 of my short story, “Truth in Space.” You can find Parts 1 and 2 here.
Warpagram: Storm kept me on ship. Stay another day?
Return warpagram: No, continue as planned.
October 12, 3021
I haven’t destroyed yesterday’s entry yet. I was interrupted while writing (thus the unfinished sentence), and I’ve been occupied ever since. I should burn it right this minute, but I’m hesitant for some reason. I think it has to do with the man snoozing at the other end of the ship. Yeah, he was my interruption. The sound I heard wasn’t the wind; it was Fergus creeping around the ship.
It’s a quaint name, Fergus. Sounds like someone you’d find in an old novel, not the Space Age. Yet there he is, gray tinging his surprisingly-kempt black hair and beard. He’s definitely human and he says he’s from Earth. And, yes, I believe him. Fergus has been on Vortega for five years.
He’s the original me. Not literally, of course, but positionally. Five years ago, the National Coalition for Space Progression, which began long ago as NASA, sent a three-person team on a mega-lightyear mission like mine. Only they didn’t tell the public about that mission. Anyone witnessing the launch must have thought it was a trip to one of the lunar colonies.
Fergus was the crew’s navigator. And the only survivor. When I heard him last night, I slipped outside to investigate. I came perilously close to shooting him with my laser gun when he jumped around the corner of the ship. I say perilously because I truly am a dead shot with the weapon. He looked so startled to see me, but he couldn’t have been as surprised as I was. I mean, when I’d been told that I would be the first to venture more than 500 light years beyond Earth, the last thing I expected to see was another human being. Took me several minutes to even think rationally. Keeping my gun trained on him was purely instinct. I finally let him come inside the ship once we were both shivering and I was positive he had no weapons of any kind. Then we stayed up all night as he told me his story.
Unlike me, Fergus was not a recent college graduate when he blasted off into space. Instead, he’d been a researcher for the NCSP for ten years. Before that, our stories are similar. We were both recruited right after graduation and had little contact with our parents during school. He studied space navigation and nuclear chemistry, while I majored in dimensional physics. But we’re both only children and A+ students. In other words, no one lifted an eyebrow when either of us went to work for the NCSP. We were the people everyone expected to succeed and no one truly cared about.
Sheesh! My lack of sleep must be making me overly psycho-analytical. Or it could just be the disturbance of Fergus’ presence. Or it could be both. Maybe I’m just going plum crazy. Anyway, Fergus’ story really rocked my world, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Thus the lack of sleep. He and his partners were sent on a year-long mission, like me, to the Zako Sector. Their first stop actually was not Vortega, though. It was a dwarf planet about fifty light years from here.
“It didn’t have a name,” he said. “Just a meaningless collection of numbers and letters. We named it Veritas, which is Latin for ‘truth’.”
He got really quiet at that point, looking around the cabin. When he finally focused on me again, he said they named it “Veritas” because that’s where they learned the truth. Up to that point, only the pilot knew the real purpose of their mission. Fergus and the engineer, Katherine, though they were mapping the sector and looking for signs of life. I’m shuddering now just thinking about his words. When he said them, I got violent shivers down my body. See, that’s what people all over Earth and the lunar colonies think I’m doing. Ignoring the fact that the NCSP essentially is the Western government, the public thinks I’m living out the fascination humans have had with space for over a millennium. Instead, I’m scouting out a place deep in the Zako Sector for a military base. The government of Western Earth is planning to wipe out the rest of the world, and I’m helping them do it.