I Shot an Arrow into the Air

 “I shot an arrow into the air,

It fell to earth, I knew not where;

For, so swiftly it flew, the sight

Could not follow it in its flight.”

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

            Veni, vidi, vici. It is the slogan of the human race. To eat or be eaten. To kill or be killed. It is simply a lust for power; a yearning for manifest destiny, never satisfied, and as long as this universe is infinite, never stopping. It is also painted; it troubles me to say, in harsh square letters on the wing of what should be a miracle of science. A life’s work has been reduced to a cruel joke in the eyes of “our” enemies. It is truly a waste. A terrible, terrible waste.

-Edwards Aerospace Launch Facility, 0600 hours

            Fleet Admiral Howe kicked his chair back and stood up, towering over the smaller man in the room. “What do you mean, ‘It’s not ready’? This project has been in development for more than ten years. Not only that, but I personally requested that you supervise every second of it, and you tell me now that it isn’t working?”

            “With all due respect, sir, budget cuts have made it difficult to-“  

            “To what? Think?”

            “-Do much work outside the theoretical realm. There has been no real field testing of any kind.”

            “But it flies, correct?”

            “Yes, but-“

            “Excellent.” He pressed a button on his intercom. “Contact Bowman and his crew. Have them on the tarmac at 0800 hours and get ground control to clear any flight paths in the vicinity.” The intercom beeped and a response came through in a calm female voice. “Right away sir”

-International Space Station, 0900 hours

            The launch had been exhilarating. It always was. The feeling of euphoria experienced at the edge of space, the feeling that you are closer to the stars than many people have ever dreamt is simply overwhelming. The infinite blackness of space stretches before me, an infinite number of stars twinkling faintly in the distance. I breathe deeply, taking in all that is around me.

            Static on the COM system breaks the silence.

            “Approaching ISS. Provide docking codes and registration or change course immediately.” My colleagues, doctors Susan Hart and Gerald Gehr, sigh along with me as the ISS slides into view, replacing the majesty of space with the harsh, rigid lines of mankind’s greatest achievement. It pains us to see that there is not one place man will venture without leaving its mark.

            “This is David Bowman and the Endeavor on behalf of the USAF, requesting permission to dock. Registration codes are 12386512 and 1756317.”

            “Permission granted. Please disengage your controls, and the electromagnetic beam will guide you in.” The beam quickly took hold and the Endeavor shuttered, causing the lights to briefly go out. Faulty wiring, I thought, and dismissed it. I’ll have it looked at when we dock.

            There was a hiss as the airlock door engaged, and we were greeted by a stern military figure that saluted immediately. “Welcome to the ISS, Dr. Bowman. The operation will commence in one hour. Lieutenant Sawyer will join you and your team in the prep room.”

            “I wasn’t aware that we were taking any passengers”

            “You aren’t. As of now, the Lieutenant is officially part of this operation. Last minute, I know, but it was the Admiral’s request. He wants one of his own people on the team, sir.” I frowned. I could tell what was going on; the Admiral wanted us watched to make sure we didn’t do anything unexpected. Nevertheless, this was my one shot at making history, and I was not about to let some military bastard ruin it for me. So I sucked it up, pushed past the guard, and made my way to the control module.

            Prep was routine, as always. Systems checks, suit checks, health screenings. There was tension in the air, however. For the first time in seven years, a single screw-up could mean death. This was no longer a simulation, and we all knew it; this was the culmination of years of research and development. Lieutenant Sawyer was already aboard the Endeavor strapping himself into the extra seat, so Hart, Gehr, and I took a moment to toast the occasion. “To seven years of hard work, to several miracles, and to the great men and women who assured that we will finally take our place in the history books”, to which we drank our imaginary champagne, clinked nonexistent glasses, and stepped aboard.

            The Endeavor hung motionless in the inky void, recognition lights glowing dully. “This is control to Endeavor, t-minus twenty to commencement” The seconds ticked by, and Doctor Hart and I removed silver keys from our jumpsuit pockets. “Control to Endeavor, t-minus two…one” Both keys turned simultaneously in their sockets. There was a small shudder as a metal cone detached itself from the underbelly of the ship and leapt forward, stopping abruptly to hang in space about fifty meters ahead. I began counting down; 3, 2, 1… There was a bright flash, and the world watched their television sets in awe, as space appeared warp around the silver cone and tear as if it were being pulled apart, producing a large jagged hole that bathed the Endeavor in glaring white light. I raised my hands in triumph. “We’ve done it!”, I exclaimed. “We’ve finally done i-” There was suddenly a massive tremor, and the computer screens flickered and ceased to function. Back on Earth, seven billion people watched their televisions, now in horror, as the craft went dark.

            Aboard the ship, it grew eerily silent, save the slowly dwindling sound of the turbines slowing down, the only light shining through the polarized windows from the fissure we ripped in space. I flicked a switch, then another. Nothing. Dead in the water. I silently put my head in my hands. To fail now, after coming so far…It was devastating. I looked out through the spaces between my fingers and stared at the miracle we had created. A hole in space-time that would finally make space travel practical. And we would never get to use it. After a few minutes of disuse, it is designed to collapse in on itself, and the solar conditions required to create it would have completed their cycle in the next hour. It would be years before they were seen again.

            “David?” I looked over at Dr. Gehr with a defeated expression on my face.

            “What?”

            “We’re moving”, he replied, and pointed out the polarized viewscreen. I followed his gaze, and I too could see, quite plainly, that the rift was growing larger. Or we were getting closer. It’s pulling us in, I thought, as the cockpit grew loud with the sounds of creaking metal. I returned quickly to my seat next to Hart and the controls. We began flipping switches and pressing buttons with a frenzied manner, but the consoles remained dark and the engines remained off. I looked at her and placed my hand on her shoulder. She stopped trying, and looked back. We both knew that there was nothing that could be done, not now anyway. We solemnly strapped ourselves in, and motioned for the others to do the same.

            The Endeavor hit the event horizon moments later and we were drawn swiftly inside the rift by some unknown force. The universe proceeded to stitch itself neatly up behind us, and we were gone.

           

           

 

           

           

 

The End

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