By Harry J. Bentham
As he seated himself at the glossy black coffee table, reflecting the infinite depths of the looming constellations through the large window of the Officer’s Lounge, Captain Sannox felt wistful. Beyond the hardened pane of transparent alloy waited everything, and yet nothing. When he gazed there, space itself seemed to stare back ominously.
In truth, there was no course. Nearly a thousand people under his command were being taken further and further from their home with every passing day, and each day the chances of them ever returning to Earth became more and more astronomical. Their destination: nowhere.
Science Observer Wade interceded, “George, what’s on your mind?”
“Our mission,” Sannox said, “what are we searching for out here?”
Wade gave a look of concentration, for a moment. “We fled the Solar Authority, due to its xenophobia and oppression,” he reminded the Captain. “Perhaps we’ll never return. But our lives mean something, as long as we can maintain a living community aboard the ship.”
“I’ve led them astray, all of them,” Sannox said.
“Well, who’s to say we won’t eventually return?” Wade suggested.
“Right now, we’re safe. If our sole objective was to escape, we have accomplished it. So, why not cut power to the engines and live out the rest of our lives on the ship?” Sannox suggested.
Wade looked at Sannox in disbelief, and the Captain continued. “Is it time for us to turn back? Has our search for safety by fleeing the Authority’s space been a waste of time? Do we not, eventually, need to return home to face justice?” Sannox asked.
“We are not here as some kind of selfish exercise to prolong our lives,” Wade said, “we are here to explore. Our civilization has reached a point of crisis. You have said that, yourself. The only way we can resolve this crisis is by discovering new worlds, new species, new technologies, new futures, and new kinds of existence. If the crew didn’t understand this, they would have mutinied in turn against you. You command this ship, because this crew respects its Captain. There is nothing official in it, at this point. People believe in this journey.”
“How could you possibly know that?”
“Because they signed a petition,” Wade said. “The crew understands why we are out here, and they have committed to this journey. Human existence is a course to nowhere, George. What we are doing is glorious.”
“A petition questioning the orders of the Captain is not acceptable onboard a Solar Navy starship.”
“This isn’t just a ship. It’s our home. Where else could we have an honest conversation about our future?”
Sannox knew what it meant, but he was determined not to show any sign of satisfaction. “Earth,” he said, as his eyes returned to the big observation window. “It’s so distant now, it’s irrelevant. So far away, a thing might as well not exist.”
Sannox knew they could be the only humans for nearly a thousand light-years. And what did this make him? So far away from humanity’s cradle, he felt like the leader of a whole species now, isolated in the universe.