The Voyage
rating: +5+x

Arrival

When all had settled, almost all on earth was undone. Apollo had made clear Cygnus was not able to be appeased. Yet Mr. Lifeson was no more. In his place, a Director Lifeson. The director of Site-120 stood quickly in his office, instantly inundated with new memories. He staggers, falls, and catches himself.

"Sir?". Lifeson steadied himself. Looking upwards, he found the tall, imposing stature of one Dr. Harding. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, Harding. What did you come to see me about?"

"Just my report for the week. Are you sure you're okay? You don't have your radio on." Lifeson reaches for his hip. "No, not that one." Dr. Harding points to the back of the room, marking an old wooden box on a shelf. "You never turn that off." Alex shuffles off to the back of the room, studying the box. He presses the power button and the sounds of a daytime talk show blast out. A dial turn, a bit of a shake, and the sounds of crackling fade to music.

"Thank you. I'll take that report off your hands." Alex said, extending a hand. Gary cautiously places the folder in his hand and walks away, slower than usual. Before he leaves, he turns back to see his site director with his feet on his desk and his hands crossed on his chest. He sees a new man in front of him, for what reason he does not know.

A few changes came over the rest of Site-120 in the coming weeks, yet all of of the non-anomalous variety. Apollo had made Lifeson's path clear, by returning him to a place of power, retaining his memories. And he would choose that path, the path to free will. Whomever this "Cygnus" fellow was, they were to be bargained with, and to do so Lifeson had to find him.


Collaboration

"Have any of you gentlemen ever truly faced a god? Someone who has the power of a god? Anyone?" The room was silent. Lifeson was beginning to think calling a meeting this soon was a bad idea.

"Consider yourselves lucky. This is a suicide mission." Alex slaps a handcuff around one of his wrists. "I'm not who you all think I am. I was once but a janitor at this establishment, and not long ago I used an object of great power to create a utopia. Ess… see… pee… four one one two. It was not before the creator of this artifact returned to claim it, and in doing so instructed me that I was to make the world a better place through other means. Now I'm in the place of the director of this site." The dimensional remnant extends his cuffed hand. "So if you need to, lock me up, put me away for a while. But I think I was put here to prevent a greater travesty." Seeing no immediate opposition, Lifeson strode towards the white board and writes 'CYGNUS' in large font. "This is our opposition. The Foundations', humanities', any life within the known universe, this is who our enemy is. And I have no idea who this is."

"I recognize that name." The statement came from the back of the conference hall. A rather nervous young office assistant stood up, against the will of the people in the seats around him. "I've seen that in the star charts in the astronomical division!"

"And who might you be?" said Director Lifeson, rather calmly in spite of the echoing murmurs emanating from the crowd.

"My name is Researcher Lee, Getty Lee, sir."


Epiphany

"Can someone get this god damned handcuff off me? It was theatrics, not a suggestion." said the Director as he continued down a long hallway. A member of staff came forward with a set of keys and unlocked the cuff. "Thank you. Someone around here has a bit of courtesy."

"It's a real pleasure to work with an analetheism." said Researcher Lee, walking swiftly behind Lifeson and followed by a dozen other staff members.

"An analetheism? Isn't that a philosophy thing?" said the new director, sweeping open the doorway to Site-120's main warehouse.

"It's something or someone displaced within reality, someone who- Whoa!" The group stopped. Before them the large mass of what could not be denied to be an interstellar vessel lay before them. Obviously human in origin, the massive space shuttle was easily the size of a football field.

"Object came in through the mesh a long time ago. Obviously, there were no survivors, and most of the systems were compromised, but I think it's a start." A new guy, one Lifeson hadn't seen yet, had provided that information. He began to lead the team up the ramp and into the vessel.

"What's the… wait a minute, I know that one. Why do I know that one?" Director Lifeson held his head in his hands for a few moments and then shook off the strange feeling coming over him.

"Your transit wasn't an instantaneous displacement. The reason you have these memories is you, the branch of the oak tree from an alternate timeline, were grafted to our figurative maple tree of a timeline. You're still an oak tree, but you're fed nutrients from the maple."

"I'm pretty sure you can't graft an oak tree branch to a maple. That would kill one or the other."

"Who knows, I'm a pataphysicist, not a botanist. Although botanists are pretty cool." The young man, upon noticing his lack of identification, introduced himself. "Researcher Evereds, sir. It's a pleasure."

"I've never heard of pataphysics before. What's that?"

"Oh uhh… I'm sure it will come back to you with the rest of the memories. Anyways!" He quickly whirls around and swipes his hand across a keyboard swiftly. "This vessel is pretty fast, but it's not speed of light fast. And not FTL, like we need. The object you described in the void seemed to be a black hole locked behind a permeable membrane, correct? Well, that and the name Cygnus brings to mind Cygnus X-1: one of the first black holes to ever be discovered. If you're looking for this entity, that's where I'd reccomend searching. And it happens to be over six thousand light years away. Holding a 20 person crew aboard this thing would be easy, but you would need to be in stasis the whole time."

Lifeson shook his head. "Stasis is fine, but that length of time is impossible. We can't afford 600 decades of influence." He looks around the enormous hangar-like warehouse. "Isn't the anything in here that could could get us here in a month?" The crowd began murmuring.

One hand raised from the back, while Senior Researcher Harding struggled to stifle attention given to it. "No, Mantell. NO. We are not using-"

"This could be the Directors only opportunity! He have to at least-"

"NO!" Harding looked around as the small group, who had all turned their attentions to him. "Haha, this guy Mantell always kidding around, what a joker right!" He then quickly whispered something vehemently into Mantells ear.

"Researcher Mantell? You have something to contribute to the conversation? Any idea how we're going to go…" Lifeson looks up for a moment "74 trillion kilometers per hour?"

Dr. Evereds looked stunned. "You want to get there that fast? That violates every law of physics written or thought of! I'm totally in."

"And I don't even know how I came up with that figure so fast. So I repeat: have you any information?"

Dr. Mantell sighs. "Research Team 9 has been… R&Ding. We have a device that might help but it can't leave the planet. It's Level 5 clearance."

"And what's your plan? What's it do?" Lifeson rubs his brow. All this discussion, combined with the flow of new memories every moment was giving him a headache. But mostly the discussion.

"Mantell, if you tell him, you're breaching confidentality, and O5-9 will kill you. He will kill you and no one will remember you. You absolutely, DO NOT want to do this. He'll kill off every one of us." Harding was visibly shaking, his imposing stature betrayed by fear.

"Alright, alright! I'll just use the device briefly on an ERSiG. Maybe I can get a battery or something… anyways, Director Lifeson, I can get you a long range warp. The breach has to be massive… It's over such a large gap… and I can't guarantee too much accuracy. Maybe within a tenth of an AU… I have to go. Don't worry about the technobabble, I'll have it done in a week or less!" Mantell quickly walks out of the room, followed quickly by a worried Harding.


Philosophy

"If he can get that done in a week, you can get this thing repaired for spaceflight and loaded with the necessary amenities in a week too, correct?" Lifeson says while gesturing to the rest of the team.

"Are you sure we want to to be so hasty with that, Director Lifeson? Are you sure we should even be going this fast?" It was Researcher Lee.

The Director sat down with his face in his hands. His last year had not gone the way he'd wanted it to at all. Just a simple janitorial job, he'd told himself. Now there was more on the line. "Every moment we sit here is a moment people suffer because of this entity. We do it soon, and we do it swiftly, for whatever this authority undeservedly bestowed upon me can give."

"Do any of you think maybe this being stays up there in his black hole because he's in fear of what he's wrought here on Earth?" remarked Lifeson.

"I never even got her email." replied Researcher Evereds.

"What is a… what does that have to do with anything I just said?"

"I thought we were referencing… nevermind. It will be done, sir."

As Lifeson left the room, he knocked the name tag that read "MESSER" off of the desk and into the trashcan next to it. He owned this desk now.


Reassurance

All too soon, the device was completed. Mantells secret project was untestable, but the math checked out. The ship would be able to make several successive jumps within a month. It was an hour before the official launch, and Lifeson was getting anxious.

"What about the life support. Have we triple checked it? Does it have a backup system?" he said, running down the list of everything that could go wrong with an interstellar craft constructed in a month.

"Everything's in perfect condition. Onboard computer ran several diagnostics." replied a forgettable Researcher Danton.

Lifeson was skeptical. "Onboard computer? How big is it?"

"Only about 50 feet by 50 feet sir. Experimental tech. They call it an "Artificial Intelligence Construct". Talks damn near like Shakespeare, too. Codename P.E.A.R.T.: Personal Experimental Artificial Researcher & Technician. You can treat it like a staff member."

"I'm not big on it. What if it goes mad? You've seen 2001, right?".

Danton looks disapproving. "Sir, you're the lead on this. If you're not confident, you can scrap it. But may I give you a bit of advice?" Lifeson looks upwards. "If you're not confident, your team won't be either. At that point any mission this dangerous is as good as doomed."

"Thanks, Danton. You're a good man. Say, you're not coming with us are you?"

"No sir. None of Research Team 9 are. We're needed here for Project SEPULCHRE. You know the deal." he says with a hint of dismay in his voice.

"The best of luck then. And… take care of that Mantell fellow. A bit timid, but he's gonna need it." The intercom crackles to life suddenly.

"ALL MEMBERS OF THE CYGNUS CONTINGENCY, PLEASE REPORT TO THE LAUNCH BAY."


Celebration

"We have gathered here today to begin a tremendous undertaking. To free us from the constraints of a diety. Our goal here at the Foundation has always been to lock things up and throw away the key, without thinking of who decides to contain us. I've had fears of this mission, and therefore I know so have all of you. You and I must both worry about this life no longer being left to chance, that we might be a planet of playthings for this power. But you and I must choose to take refuge in the idea of free will, lest our fear consume us and be the true cause of failure."

"And with all the preaching out of the way", Lifeson continues, "It's time to christen our craft!" He extracts a bottle of champagne from beneath the podium he speaks from and walks across a bridge to the bow of the spacecraft. "I christen thee-" He strikes the bottle over the hull, spreading foamy alcohol over its nose. "- The Rocinante!"

A cheer comes over the crowd. One rather enthused member of the crowd yells something along the lines of "I love Quixote!". Alex returns to the podium. "Actually, it's the Steinbeck one, but great guess." sends the crowd in to a laughing fit. "Now get to work gentlemen, T minus 30 minutes!"


Ascendance

"Flight systems?"

"Check, Captain."

"Weapons systems?"

"Check, Captain."

"Hull integrity? Shields?"

"100 percent. Check, Captain."

"I think that means we're ready for launch. Engage thrusters."

"T MINUS 30 SECONDS."

"God be with us all." said Researcher Evereds.

"Not one for God myself but let's go with it, yeah." replied Lifeson.

"T MINUS 10 SECONDS"

"T MINUS 5 SECONDS"

"T MINUS 4 SECONDS"

"T MINUS 3 SECONDS"

"T MINUS 2 SECONDS"

"T MINUS 1 SECONDS"

"LAUNCH INITIATED"

The lift of the ship was almost unbearable. Each booster engaging and falling away was a lurch that threatened the lives of each member of the 20 person crew. The shaking and tumbling, the all out rush for the skies…

and all of a sudden…

everything was at peace.


In the depths of space, far in deep reaches of the Milky Way, a once much closer void swirls. An ancient force had sculpted the stars and influenced the conventions of man long ago, and deep within that system, Cygnus waits for a confrontation.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License