Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part I: End of the World

Ray Patch was piloting one of the frigates that carried the last remnants of humanity away from Earth. He watched as the planet grew smaller and smaller, almost as an afterthought. He could track the rest of the fleet on the navigation board, but he preferred a visual link, so there was precious little opportunity for him to feel nostalgic about losing his homeworld, which itself was about the most universally historic moment that could have happened. His frigate alone carried a little over twenty thousand souls, from across a variety of ethnic, regional, and economic distinctions, but he was alone in his cabin, and the only pilot aboard. All told, there were a million survivors, spread over a dozen frigates, which to Ray looked almost like snowflakes. It was a better image than the one he was trying to avoid.

Many of his passengers had already petitioned for an open comm line, but he had vetoed it, preferring silence in the cabin to an endless stream of suggestions, thoughts, lingering fears...If he was going to be the only one responsible for flying them into space, then he wanted to be alone with his thoughts. If anything...He corrected himself, if anything else went wrong, he wanted to be able to accept full responsibility.

From take-off, it had been a relatively smooth ride so far, something Ray was particularly proud of, given the hurried nature of the hours preceding launch. No glitches detected in the frigate's systems itself, even, which as Ray followed the reports from the rest of the fleet, hadn't necessarily been common. He was busy wondering if he should have named it already when it happened. At first, it seemed like random turbulence. Several hours into the journey, past the familiar solar system, the frigate had begun to rock. He sat a liitle more straight in the cockpit. He glanced to make sure the rest of the fleet was still there, which itself seemed to be an innocuous thought, but was startled to see that what was supposed to be a field of stars was instead a bright light. He shook his head, just to be sure. It had happened so suddenly, just a little rocking, but everything was wrong. He had officially lost contact with the rest of the convoy, and he could offer no explanation.

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