Chapter 1: Earth

This is Captain Davis, Gold Pin, Captain of the USS Primis, signing on…what’s that? Oh, yeah. I guess it’s Commander Davis now. Thanks Iris.

Let’s try that again.

This is Commander David Davis — we’ll deal with the name later — Gold Pin, Captain of the USS Primis, signing on. I’ve been assigned to save humanity. If you’re hearing this, it means it worked.

Or maybe it was never necessary in the first place, and I risked my life and the life of my crew for nothing. That would certainly be par for the course.

Let’s back up. I’m getting sidetracked.

Earth is crumbling — or at least, it was when I left.

Climate change was bad enough, but then we had to go and hasten the end of days. We didn’t mean to, not all of us.

But between the experiments, and the war, and the fallout, it had all simply been too much. The fuel supply had been tampered with, and now the Sun had begun to grow large and red.

Or at least, larger and redder.

Scientists panicked. They’re still panicking. We were supposed to have a billion years, not perhaps a hundred…or maybe less.

People were real freaked out about the effects of our actions on the Sun. But for now at least, nothing’s seemed to change, at least past the first wave of change. We seem to have skirted the damage, to have gotten a ‘get out of jail free’ card for our extraterrestrial idiocy.

There were two dueling theories, both prevalent, neither universally accepted. One that we can fix the Sun and reverse-engineer the damage, that all will be well and everything can return to normal. That’s the popular one.

After all, is there anything humans love more than the thought of returning to normal? It’s a thought of stability, of happiness, of nostalgia creating a more flattering picture than what normal was in the first place. At last count, many subscribe to this theory, with their minds and their hearts. I do not.

I prefer the second, more logical explanation. We fucked up, and we can’t undo our actions. There were consequences to our stupidity, always have been, hopefully always will be. Far from standing and fighting for normal, far from trying to preserve our current life, we need to escape, to find a new normal, to bring life to a faraway planet.

The government’s official line was the first position. That was the happier one for their citizens, more hopeful, easier to stomach when sleep came calling every night. It keeps order. I get it.

But just in case, the top minds figured we should start exploring other planets. A precaution was what they called it. I saw it as an opportunity to give the richest and most influential a parachute out of this plane crash, should one be needed.

But hey, I was game. I always wanted to explore other planets. That’s why I took the job in the first place.

In fact, I had been on a previous mission when it all went to shit. The scientists had assured the politicians it was safe — no realistic side-effects — and the politicians acted.

Some of our allied nations had said it was a peace sign, a gesture of goodwill, a dramatic destruction of the world’s most powerful weapon. Some believed us.

Others believed it was a show of power gone wrong, an attempt to demonstrate scale and stockade of power that backfired because some scientists had miscalculated the impact an excess of uranium would have on the Sun’s core.

Don’t get me wrong — I love scientists. My life depends on them. In many ways, I’m one myself.

But fuck, can they ever fuck things up royally sometimes.

What’s that?

Sidetracked, right.

Back to the task at hand.

I’ve been recording these testimonials for the sake of capturing our mission, our purpose, and doing right by all those that share it with me. If we vanish, if we’re never heard from again, I want our sacrifice to not have been in vain.

Maybe you can find somewhere we went wrong here, and use that to better future efforts. Maybe it just serves as a testament to our life and legacy.

Either way, I’ve got nothing to do right now, and it’s part of the job, so…might as well.

Sorry for sighing. I’ll, uh, I’ll get back to it.

So, I was to lead a team of astronauts on the first mission to recolonize humanity, to find a new Earth. Or at least, to determine if it was possible. That’s currently underway. There’s eleven of us. I’ll get to them later.

First, let’s talk about my ship. Or rather, what I consider my ship, but the US government calls their property. Whatever.

She’s the USS Primis, the first spaceship powered by sunlight, or rather, starlight. The first Universal Solar Spaceship. I call her a starship.

She’s beautiful.

There were around fifty potential targets for our mission. Fifty exoplanets, all habitable, all near-Earth-sized. Twenty of those were better than the others. The goal was to eventually have starships travel to at least the best twenty, if not fifty. And multiple ships to each planet, if possible. Just in case.

For now though, it was just us, and we had narrowed our focus to a planet named Kepler-186f. That was too much to say every time. We nicknamed it Nova, as in Terra Nova, for New Land.

The planet was about 10% bigger than Earth with similar gravity, which gave it great expansion prospects. It was the first Earth-sized exoplanet found in its star’s habitable zone, so maybe we were just embedding, but red dwarf stars had many advantages.

Because they burned lower and cooler than our Sun, they tended to burn through their hydrogen supply less rapidly due to their efficiencies of consumption — while the Sun only burns through hydrogen at its core, red dwarfs consume all of theirs, inside and outside the core.

This stretches out their lifetime to trillions of years, which makes our Sun look like a little squirt, a brash upstart, in comparison. With a lifetime that long, theoretically, we could happen along at any point in its life cycle and we would be fine for eons and eons to come.

There was more good news. Despite the star being about half the size and strength of the Sun, it was also about three times closer to Nova than our Sun was to Earth.

Sunsets and sunrises would also be more enhanced due to this closeness, and if we could get over the image of this giant star being very close to us without panicking that it would consume us or crash into us, then we would be right as rain. Depending on the time of day, it might even appear similar to our own Sun, which was nice. A little taste of home, only about five hundred light years away.

Speaking of years, they’d be about three times quicker. The orbiting cycle was only about a hundred and thirty, a hundred and twenty days. The axial tilt was still uncertain, but it was theorized that even if there wasn’t one, we could cause one, which I would never allow.

That was a recipe for disaster, as likely to knock us off course as to make our planet spin. It wasn’t tidally locked, and though it was thought to have been quite cold at first, it was actually quite a bit warmer than expected.

Our guys were about ninety percent sure that the twenty planets were all habitable, and that Nova was the best one.

More observation was needed to be one hundred percent sure, but we didn’t have that time. If the Sun started showing signs of decay, the world would fall apart. We needed to go now, in case we never had another chance.

The plan is that eleven of us will climb on board in hypersleep pods. Technically, it’s called cryogenic sleep, suspended animation, cryosleep, whatever. But this feels like such a science-fiction adventure that we’ve all taken to calling it hypersleep. Maybe we just felt that would make it go by quicker.

It’s not that I’ve never experienced hypersleep before, but it’s always been in short bursts. Nothing like this. The other side of the solar system, max.

Not the other side of the galaxy.

That said, if all goes according to plan, I’ll come out of hypersleep earlier than the others when we’re four weeks away from Nova. I’ll make the preparations, set everything up, and wake the rest of the crew when we’re about two weeks away from the objective.

We’re not alone on the ship either. Besides each other, we have an AI that guides our ship while we sleep and acts as somewhat of a supervisor, like a babysitter who mostly just has to watch the kids while they sleep, while occasionally having to help them navigate to — and land on — an extraterrestrial planet. All while dodging asteroids and comets and all matter of space junk.

That would make a great book, by the way.

Anyways, we also had embryos. Lots and lots of embryos. The tech is in its infant stages, pardon the pun, but the idea is that we’ll establish a colony on Nova, and between the eleven of us and the AI, we’ll raise them and guide them as they become adults.

They’ll theoretically be humans in every way, except grown in a tube and birthed by being exposed to the elements instead of the traditional motherly journey. They’ve been engineered to be stronger, healthier, happier, and smarter than regular humans.

But still, how can you learn what’s never shown? So we’ll teach them, teach them how to grow and maintain a colony, how to communicate with each other, and how to be kind and decent human beings, among other things.

The bitch of all this is, of course, that Earth has no way of contacting Nova. It’s simply too far for a signal to reach, especially a reliable one when considering the space junk.

There’s a technical term for it, but I prefer space junk.

So even if we pull the mission off without a hitch, land, raise our little embryonic super children, and establish a thriving colony on another planet, thereby saving humanity as a species and proving this process could be replicated, those back on Earth would never know.

It’s like playing darts while drunk, except at some point after throwing, while you watch that dart head towards the board, the lights are turned off, and by the time they’re turned back on, the dart is gone and you have no idea if it ever reached its intended target.

Fun.

Of course, there’s always the possibility that the dart, also known as me and my team, dies a lonely, horrible death in the empty confines of space.

That’s terrific. Got that going for us.

Yay.

The hypersleep pods were the last thing holding us up. The current was, is, very fickle, running on an electrical wave that certain metals and other disruptions might cause to crash, which would wake us up whenever it did. That would be a problem, hundreds of light years away from our new home.

Though the pods have been thoroughly tested on Earth and on a space station orbiting the Earth first, there’s still doubts on how they’ll function when deployed over a long period of time.

Thank you for sharing those doubts with me, by the way, team back home. Really appreciate it. I’m very comforted.

I get it though. It’s one thing when we could control all elements and keep a constant eye on them.

It’s another when we’ll be relying on the starship’s instruments while all the humans sleep, away from the gravitational pull of Earth and the Sun in untestable situations in which any slight miscalculation or AI error can be deadly.

So you see why we care about them. We are pushing further than any human being ever had, risking our lives in the name of progress and survival. That doesn’t mean we want to die. Far from it.

Though we are certainly a good bunch to do so. Not that anyone ever was a good person to die, unless they had committed some truly terrible sins, but we didn’t have those that would miss us.

We didn’t, we don’t, have families, loved ones that we’d be leaving behind. We’ll never see anyone we ever knew again, never see our planet again, never see other regular humans again. It was best for everyone if that wasn’t a big deal. We’re trying hard not to make it so.

Personally, I had drinks with a few buddies from school at a local bar. Everyone was really worried about the Sun, but our mission was a sign of hope. They all wanted my opinion on the issues we were facing, when all I wanted was to just get shitfaced and spend one last night I couldn’t remember in the hopes it would all be easier to forget.

They made a bunch of jokes about me being the ‘saviour’ of mankind, then there were people-kind jokes, then jokes about me being Papa Nova, Father Nova, lots of dad-based humour. One of them asked if I was going to start my own religion when we got there and tell everyone I was God.

It was, you know, typical drinking buddy stuff. The idiots you rarely see but have a smashing time when you do.

So I showed up at the base the next morning, groggy as all hell, ready to spend my two month isolation period with the others as we all ramped up to launch. We had completed our training, our exams, all the meetings and ceremonies and press conferences, but now we were in the endgame. Quarantine. Just me and my ten best friends. I suppose it’s time I introduced them all.

Let’s get started.