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Dream Births

It is that time of year again: Parkinson's Awareness Month (April). As I've done for the past few years, I've written a poem for the occasion. However, this one is a bit different in that it doesn't...

R. L. Copple's Blog

Orion’s Integration

Note: the following short story is dedicated to Steve King, the husband of my writer friend, Lee King. Steve died of cancer recently after a long battle. May he find peace through his journey into the known unknown.

————————————

Wormhole Travel: A digital image by Les Bossinas for NASA

Wormhole Travel: A digital image by Les Bossinas for NASA

“Hard to believe we’re finally here.” Jill brushed her shoulder-length, brown hair behind her ears.

Daniel nodded as he adjusted a setting on the scanners. “At least we can say the money for this trip paid off.”

A vast array of light and color spun in the blackness of space outside the portal of the spherical spacecraft dubbed Giclas. So named after the nearest system to their destination: GJ 3379 or Giclas 99-49, the closest star to Earth in the Orion constellation.

However, they didn’t travel a little over eighteen years at near-light speed to check out the red dwarf. A probe could have accomplished that much cheaper. No, Earth Space Center had invested billions to verify the existence of the first stable wormhole just beyond the star.

From what Daniel could see, the odds they had found one looked good.

Jill focused on her instruments. “I recommend we slow to one quarter light speed. We’re close enough to obtain preliminary sensor readings. We need to find out where the event horizon is.”

“Do it.”

Jill pressed a few buttons before running her right fingers down the throttle controls until it read one quarter. The thrusters kick in, pushing Daniel forward. Several minutes of deceleration would be required to reach the new speed.

Jill stared again at the worm hole. “Honey, you want to know something crazy?”

Daniel shifted his gaze to his wife. Dressed in her underwear—being they were the only two humans in eighteen light years distance, uniforms seemed pointless—she turned her blue eyes toward him.

“As if where we are isn’t crazy enough. What?”

“Despite all the training, now that we’re here, I’m scared to go in.”

Daniel nodded toward the wormhole. “You’d be crazy not to be scared.”

“Remember the phrase from that old TV show: To go where no man has gone before?”

“How could I forget.”

“Did you ever think how that applied to everyone?”

“No. Do tell.”

She spun her chair to face him. “Simple. Change the ‘no man has’ to ‘I’ve never’.”

Daniel smiled. “Ah. Where I’ve never gone before.”

“When we were married, I was excited, but scared. I had high hopes, but I didn’t know what pains we’d face together either. We were explorers of our unknown.”

Daniel pointed to the swirling cosmic drain. “Though no one has been here before, or ever gone through a wormhole, for me and you it would be the first time no matter how many might have been here before.”

“Yes. Everyone is an explorer of life. Everyone is scared when facing the unknown.”

Daniel mulled over her words. “Question is will we live though this experience to tell anyone? Are we also explorers of death?”

———–

The probe’s signal flickered out. It had entered the wormhole and given them an introductory picture of what to expect. Gravitational forces were within tolerance levels, at least for the first few kilometers in.

They sat on the edge of the event horizon—on the edge of discovery or death.

Jill punched buttons, now fully dressed in uniform. This historic moment would be recorded. In the event anyone ever saw the vid, best to be professional.

“Sending the data to Earth Space Command. In a few years, they’ll at least know we made it this far.” A whoosh vibrated the ship as a communication array shot toward Earth’s system at near-light speed.

Daniel leaned back in his chair and swiveled to face Jill. “This is it. There’s nothing left but to go in.”

Daniel stood, and Jill followed. They wrapped each other in a hug. Skin on skin, lips on lips, heart on soul. This could easily be their last moments together. Her body squeezed against his reminded him of all the memories they’d shared. To think this might be the end seemed unfair, but he knew eighteen years ago that this day would come.

Her lips parted from his. “I love you.”

“Forever.” Daniel gently planted another long kiss as he pulled her tight against his own body.

They released each other with a sigh and seated themselves at the controls. Daniel activated the video and sensor recording. He faced the camera.

“This is Commander Daniel Miller and Lieutenant Jill Miller of the spacecraft Giclas. The first stage of our mission has finished successfully. We have arrived at the wormhole and can verify it is here. We’ve done preliminary studies of the phenomena and sent that data back to Earth. This recording, should we make it back to Earth, will be a record of this historic moment. We’ve checked all systems, finished all needed task.”

Daniel turned to Jill. “Lieutenant, take us in.”

“Yes, sir.” She raised the throttle and the ship lurched forward as engines responded with a whine.

Daniel watched the event horizon inch closer on the sensor display. He felt like he did the first time he had jumped off the high-diving board at the public pool as a kid. He would reach the point of no return and fall in.

“Here we go,” Daniel called out as they pierced the edge of the horizon.

The ship quivered for a second, then the wormhole sucked it in. Dazzling light, colored like a rainbow, swirled about them. Though Daniel didn’t sense any movement, sensors showed the end of the entry had disappeared, along with the stars of their galaxy. Pulsing lights and colors radiated around them.

Daniel glanced at Jill. Her eyes beamed back at him. He grinned. “We’re not dead yet. What speed does the ship register?”

She examined her display. “Same speed we entered the wormhole.”

“Doesn’t feel like we’re moving.”

She frowned. “What if we aren’t? We have no idea how long this will take. What if the trip takes months or years? Or if we aren’t moving, we’ll sit here forever?”

Daniel scratched his head. No telling how long to reach the other end. “Accelerate to zero point seven five light speed.”

“Yes, sir.” She reached for the controls.

In a flash the light of the wormhole vanished to be replaced with stars. Sort of, anyway. Not nearly as dense, and they appeared blotchier. Off in the distance two planets sat in space. One of them radiated light like a star, yet didn’t appear to be on fire. More like the whole planet shined with its own glory.

The other planet, however, lay dark and lonely. Even the light from the first planet appeared to be absorbed by it. Like a benign black hole floating in space.

“Wow!” Jill stared at her display. “You’ll never guess what sensors are picking up.”

“How far?”

“Not sure. Spectral analysis is telling me those lights we’re seeing aren’t stars. They’re galaxies.”

“Galaxies!” Daniel rubbed his eyes. “That’s why they’re so spread out. We’re not in a galaxy. But where? And why are two planets floating this far out without sun or galaxy?”

“Oh my.” Jill hit more buttons. “I can’t believe this.”

“What?”

“Sensors are reading numerous wormholes surrounding these two planets.”

Daniel swung around. “Seriously?” He breathed in deep. “Like all the galaxies of creation are tethered to this location with wormholes. Where are we?”

“You haven’t realized it yet?” a man’s voice rang from behind them.

They both swung their chairs around. Daniel shielded his eyes. Whoever he was, the light emanating from him blinded Daniel. His heart pumped hard and his body trembled.

“Who are you?” Daniel managed to get out.

“Do not be afraid.” The man touched Daniel on the shoulder. Daniel stopped shaking and the blinding light dimmed. Daniel lowered his arms. A bearded humanoid man stood before them, dressed in clothing much like their own.

Daniel breathed deep. “Who are you and where are we?”

The man smiled and stretched out his hands.

Daniel examined them, then fixed his eyes on the man. “So?”

“Don’t these scars tell you anything?”

Jill gasped and covered her mouth. “Jesus?”

The man grinned.

Daniel shook his head. “No, no, no. This alien is reading our thoughts somehow, and appearing as someone familiar.” Daniel pointed to the two planets. “Next thing you know, he’ll tell us those are Paradise and Hades.”

“Excellent, Daniel. You’re showing progress.”

“Seriously?” Daniel rubbed his forehead. He glanced at Jill who appeared to be mesmerized by him. “So if those are Paradise and Hades, that means we’re dead. Did the wormhole really kill us? This is the afterlife?”

The man’s face fell. “You’ve been close to death for a long time. But you are not supposed to be here yet. You’ll need to return.”

Jill nodded. “That was the plan. Take initial readings and return through the wormhole if at all possible.”

Daniel pointed into space. “Yes, and future expeditions would return to explore further based on our findings.”

The man grinned. “Of course. The tower of Babel all over again. Look, return as soon as possible. Wait too long and you may be stuck here. Right now I can’t guarantee you’ll end up on Paradise.”

The man vanished. The control room grew darker in his absence.

Daniel shook his head. “We had better go back. Do you have all the sensor data you can get?

Jill jerked her head toward him. “What?”

“Sensor data? Is there any more to get?”

“Oh.” She swung her chair back around and examined her display. “No. We’d have to land on a planet to get more. I’m done.”

“Good. Turn this ship around. Let’s see if we can get back to our galaxy.”

“Yes, sir.”

Her formality reminded him of the video. He pressed the button to stop recording. “We should have him on the video. Which is good, because they’d never believe this otherwise.”

Within a few minutes, Jill had accelerated the ship toward the wormhole. She stood and held out her hands. “Congratulation, Honey, we did it.”

He met her halfway and fell into her embrace. “Yes we did. And we’re not dead.”

“Not yet, anyway.” She glanced over her shoulder. “We’re almost back to the wormhole. Then another eighteen years to Earth.”

Daniel smiled. “The last eighteen were some of my happiest days, because I was with you. I imagine the next eighteen will be just as great.”

“That’s so sweet of you to say. There was a time I didn’t think you wanted me around.”

“I was a fool. Too caught up in my work to realized I had missed out on what was important.” Daniel’s lips met hers as they sank into the event horizon of the wormhole.

———–

Darkness. No stars, no planets, no ship. Daniel lay on something. A beep pierced the void, then another. A regular pattern emerged, reminding him of a heart monitor.

Light glowed in the distance, growing stronger. Cloth rubbed against his fingertips. Pains in his back and butt throbbed into existence. He lay in a bed somewhere. His eyes. He should open them.

He moved muscles that at first resisted, but gave in and responded with a jerk. He quickly shut them as light flooded in, blinding him. He remembered the alien claiming to be Jesus. Memories surfaced. Something must have gone horribly wrong in the wormhole. Was Jill okay?”

The beeping sped up. A shuffling sound met his ear. Footsteps. Jill must be okay. He cracked his eyes open, giving them time to adjust. A blurry face hovered over him.

“Oh my God.”

That didn’t sound good. He tried to call to her, but his parched throat couldn’t create a sound. He opened his eyes wider, and Jill’s face came into focus. She was smiling, but tears ran down her cheeks.

She fell onto his chest, sobbing. “Oh thank you, God. Thank you!”

A door opened and footsteps hurried into the room. Where did this person come from? Nurses scurried around him, busy taking his pulse, blood pressure, adjusting things.

Another woman entered. “Give him some water. About five CCs to start with.” She moved over Daniel. “Mr. Miller, can you understand what I’m saying? Nod yes if you can.”

Daniel forced aching muscles to nod his head yes. A straw entered his mouth.

“Take some water, Mr. Miller. Not too fast.”

Over the next few minutes, nurses took readings and asked him questions. The water helped him to start talking again. Finally they started leaving the room. The doctor parted with the promise of scheduling an MRI.

Jill pulled a chair up beside him and held his hand. He squeezed it.

She laughed. “You don’t know how long I’ve waited to feel you respond.”

Daniel smiled. “Eighteen years?”

Her smile fell. “How did you know?”

“Obviously we’re back on Earth. The last thing I remember is reentering the wormhole. I’m guessing something put me into a coma for the eighteen year trip home.”

“Wormhole?”

“Yeah, you know. In the Orion constellation?”

She blinked her eyes.

“Remember, we met Jesus on the other side of the wormhole?”

She sighed. “Honey, we never left. You were involved in a car accident. You’ve been in a coma for the past eighteen years.”

Daniel would have been more animated if his body wasn’t so weak. “But it was real. All the time we spent in the spaceship together, alone. We became so close.”

Jill smiled. Her blue eyes sparkled. “How sweet. I’m glad I was with you all that time. I had about given up hope you’d ever be with me again.”

“Well, I’m here now. Ready to explore life with you.”

Jill cradled his face in her hands. “I’m just glad you’ve come back to life.”

“Well, I’ve explored death enough to know that life is all we have, here and in the next life. Forces you to put things in perspective. I’ve got two people to focus on. You and the man on the other side of that wormhole.”

“A man?”

He squeezed her hand. “You called him Jesus. Long story.”

She grinned and reached down to hug him. He found the strength to wrap his arms around her shoulders. Exploring new things was scary, but he had experience in that department. Who says the trip didn’t happen. It was real, coma or no coma.

He could tell Earth Space Command exactly where to find that wormhole, but he wouldn’t. People weren’t ready to explore death. Nor would they expect to find life. Most didn’t believe the man on the other side of death’s wormhole.

About R. L. Copple
R. L. Copple enjoys a good cup of coffee and a fun story. These two realities and inspiration from the likes of Lester Del Ray, J. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, among others, caused him to write his own science fiction and fantasy stories to increase the fun in the world and to share his fresh perspective.
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One Response to Orion’s Integration

  1. Lisa Godfrees says:

    Kind of bittersweet but I enjoyed it. Nice of you to write a tribute. :)

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