John Kirk is a 59-year-old Scot, with dual British and Canadian citizenship who has been resident in Australia since 1988. An ex-weightlifter and SCUBA diver he has traveled extensively, to every continent, using a 33- year IT career to fund that adventure while at the same time managing development and implementation of 9 major and 6 smaller computer system development projects in Western Canada, California and Australia. A long time love of sci-fi began in the 1950's with a British radio serial 'Journey Into Space? This is his first contribution to the genre.
which the crew awake from suspended animation; Ulysses arrives at Epsilon Cygni
5 and a mission is planned; Balfour’s lack of sociability is manifest and Art
Cram’s religious fervour.
bright point of light continued to recede, almost visibly; in a few more hours
it would be just another star, another speck in the void.
He wondered for the thousandth time if there were any limits to the
vastness, neither religion nor science had resolved that one yet. Science was
struggling with multiverses, multi-dimensional and temporal theories while
Religion claimed that, whatever Science came up with, it was all part of God’s
plan. He glanced routinely,
methodically but without hurry at the display of screens and gauges before him
and his fingers stabbed at familiar buttons adding yet another paragraph of
scientific data to the log.
the man felt at home with the infinite, afraid of it in some ways and yet one
with it. He wanted to belong;
constantly feeling out of tune with his own kind, his soul yearned for kinship
with the vastness. As the ship
continued on its way, he remembered his own sun and its captive planets; it
could be almost three years before he saw again the one called Terra.
thought briefly of the woman there he’d been involved with; maybe the split
she had wanted was best for them both, but his affection had been genuine and
the withdrawal pains were still bugging him after nine months. He shut out the
thought and turned again to the screens but an emptiness filled him and, almost
resignedly, he gave himself to it as the face of the dark-haired woman filled
his mind. He had obviously been the
more emotionally committed, since she had made a decision based on a mercenary
evaluation of the relationship for her. But who would ever want to measure it in
such terms; surely it wasn’t just about drifting along till you found
something better? Didn’t emotional closeness mean anything any more? Somehow
his reasoning seemed inadequate leaving only uncertainty instead of the
reassurance he sought from himself.
first day out of ‘suspense’, as suspended animation was jokingly called, was
always an emotional time.
man scanned the electronic displays once more, paging through screen after
screen of data with the confidence of one who had spent most of his life working
with computers. For ten minutes he
played with some orbital models and then, sighing, glanced at his wrist console;
it was almost midday mealtime and the one period of the day when the whole crew
assembled as a group. His unusual sensitivity made some of the others
uncomfortable; it wasn't telepathy, but some kind of awareness of thoughts and
emotions; there were times it almost seemed he could read minds.
reached the galley, headed for the food dispensers and began to press buttons
selecting a meal consisting of a chicken-flavoured protein/fibre complex, pulped
broccoli and a potato-and-cheese paste; the machine whisked his choice to
microwave and thence to him in the time it took him to select some cold fruit
juice from an adjacent unit. Only
then did he glance around the room to see which of the others had preceded him.
hand waved welcome and Balfour moved to the one big table and exchanged
greetings with Swedish biochemist Kurt Jensen and his biologist colleague
Rodriguez. Rayleen was a confident and extrovert American with a shade more
warmth in her smile than mere pleasantness dictated. Sexual relationships
amongst the crew were not unusual on space voyages when the crew was not in
suspense providing some companionship and therapeutic relief for emotional,
psychological and physical needs and wants.
guessed that the vivacious Rayleen made the most of her opportunities but, in
spite of a stirring of interest, he didn’t think he could feel much enthusiasm
for casual sex after the intensity of his feelings for Caroline.
came out of his reverie as Jensen spoke and he listened while the Swede rambled
on pleasantly about some test sequence he’d been working on; something about a
protein plasma that, when fortified with fibre and selected vitamins and
minerals, could be used as a complete foodstuff; four hundred grams of the stuff
a day would sustain life for months, Jensen asserted.
listened quietly; Balfour sensed the waves of curiosity and interest that
emanated from her with himself as the object of her deliberations; he tried to
ignore it but felt compelled to look up after a while and, when he did so, saw
that she wore a small and slightly triumphant smile ... and then he knew that
the projections had been deliberate and in the expectation that he would detect
them, with a twinge of annoyance he realised he was being expertly teased.
American was really striking with a strong healthy body which she kept in shape
in the gym; she was a touch too heavy in both bust and hips to look like a
typical athlete or body-builder but that hint of voluptuousness did nothing to
detract from her appearance as a woman and, complemented by shoulder-length
chestnut hair, with jade-green eyes and full lips she looked stunning in her
white coverall suit.
welcomed Kyung-Suk Kim, the Korean computer scientist who was Balfour's
colleague and who shared with him the responsibility for all shipboard systems
including astro-navigation, life-support, power supply monitoring, various
personnel and entertainment systems; James also voiced a greeting as she sat by
him. Something of a traditionalist, she produced a pair of chopsticks from her
bag and Balfour smiled as they zeroed in unerringly on morsels of food. He liked
Kim and they had worked together now for over three years although there had
been a gap immediately prior to the beginning of this venture.
made a good team and he knew she thought so too; she had turned down a major
Terra-based project to take this assignment, liking space missions and being
something of a loner like himself. They
were colleagues at the time he and Caroline had split up; she had seen him
bottle up the hurt by throwing himself into the work they had been doing then,
driving himself through the tough implementation of the project.
said the Korean, “what can you tell us about Epsilon Cygni 5, Kurt?”
probably best I tell you nothing,” teased the Swede, “I’m not going to
spoil it for you, but I’m anxious to get there myself; as you no doubt know I
spent nine months there about two years ago and I’ll be interested to see how
the base has improved.”
tall graying professor smiled enthusiastically, chewing for a moment before
continuing. “I started the
agricultural program back then and I understand that good results have been
obtained this last year: maybe we
won’t need my new protein complex if fresh produce is available.”
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