So Far, So Near: a short but long story by: GF Willmetts.

October 30, 2016 | By | Reply More

We’d been monitoring both Voyager probes leaving the Solar system for decades, even noting its swing in direction in the Kuiper Belt that always baffled us. The main bet amongst the astronomers and astrophysicists was that there was another body out there and there were only two things that could have that kind of mass, an unknown planet or a tiny black hole. So the search went on to see if any of the asteroids out there were having their orbits bent in a similar way. In the meantime, the budget was arranged to send a pair of probes every decade, both substantially more advanced in speed and tech to solve this mystery. If it was a tiny singularity, there was also a need to know whether it would endanger us if it grew larger. That also seemed a little fatalist, too. After all, if the Solar system was being dragged into one, what chance would we have to escape? Even the trips out to Kuiper were something that we couldn’t do. Probes weren’t carrying human cargo after all. At our fastest speeds, it would still take fifty years to get there and then a long trip back. A suicide trip. Well, you just wouldn’t, would you? It would be a one way mission that would make living on Mars easy by comparison.

The Kuiper probes were of a different order. The first was to dig deep with the second to monitor its activities and send the signals back on a tighter beam. As the Voyagers were faster than the Pioneer probe, then the Kuipers were faster again plus using Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, depending on their alignment to go even faster. With the speed our cameras worked now, if they did flash by, they would still take pictures and then we could focus on what was causing the mass shift and re-orientate the next pair to slow down and look. Even so, it would take some 18-20 hours to get the photos back to us. So what? It’s a shorter time than if we went ourselves.

From novice to head of department in thirty-five years. Life went on while the Kuipers travelled. Both my son and daughter shared my obsession and were working their way up through the department like I had done. One of them might even be in charge one day. One of their grandchildren might even have to make the final decision. The photos were ten years early. Mostly because of course corrections to the right point.

At first, we thought Kuiper One had just taken a photo of the stars until we realised it wasn’t our part of the galaxy. Kuiper Two showed what appeared to be a stable but very large wormhole. Well, that depended on whether it was natural or man…alien-made. It certainly wasn’t dragging anything through until it got too close but we didn’t know that at first. One gave more photos before we lost it and then Two followed the same route. Dragged in the same way. We would have a couple years to make course corrections for Three and Four not to go the same way. We wanted to study it now.

It had always been theorised, starting off with old Science Fiction writers, that there had to be a way around the limits of the speed of light. A wormhole subway fitted just that. We had one waiting wide open and ready to use. The only problem was it was still just of reach. Even a one way trip would be a generation ship and we didn’t even have the financial resources to build one of those neither. Who knew if we could come back the same way?

I don’t know what’s worse. Knowing that we had the means to go out into the universe or stuck by our own limitations that meant we would never be able to go. Work would progress on Artificial Intelligence and we would be able to send robotic life to do something we couldn’t do one day.

What if it met other life out there? Would they be robotic as well or organic? If the latter, would we be seen as an inferior species for not being able to go in person? Maybe they could come and visit us and we could share their technology? My luck, there would be lots of life out there and adding one more to the mix might seem a bit reluctant.

The universe was out there beckoning for us to go and we couldn’t afford the admission ticket…yet.



(c) GF Willmetts 2016

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Category: Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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