After months of calling, I’d had a reply. I was so excited, I had to talk to someone, so I went to Vanhya’s party. I wasn’t invited, they weren’t my friends, they were just the people I knew. I went anyway.
Beautiful Vanhya opened the door, ‘Oh, it’s you.’ She wore a few strategically draped rose and lemon ribbons, her hair sleek and perfect. I had on my usual – flat shoes, a plain dress. She dismissed my clothes from the top step. ‘I’m having a party.’
I rolled my eyes, ‘I know.’
Deep inside the house, someone called Vanhya’s name. At the same time, her Sleeve began to chime. Distracted, Vanhya went back inside. She left the door open, I followed her in.
Everyone was out back, beside the pool, under the palms, it really was a perfect day. I went over to the bar and helped myself to a drink, a handful of canapés. A few of Vanhya’s friends looked me up and down like I was a freak, like they were better than me, then returned to their conversations with each other, or on their Sleeves. I knew their names, I wanted to go over and sit down with them and tell them what I’d discovered. They wouldn’t care, they’d listen with fixed smiles, then move away.
I saw Wilf. He was tanned, he looked great. So did everybody else – leggy Vanhya, handsome Daihid, her uber-cool black-eyed friend back down the skyhook after another joy-ride in his space-yacht, the rest of her crowd. Wilf and Vanhya stood very close together. He was being really funny, everyone could hear Vanhya laughing. Daihid kept looking at me, the only one who ever did. He smiled and waved, but he never came over.
I sat on the lawn on my own. The grass was just the right length, with a scatter of clover and little white daisies. I dragged my fingers through the clover, the leaves made a satisfying ripping sound. I thought about the ship, its crew, the captain, what I would say to them when we finally met.
‘You do realise you’re talking to yourself.’
I looked up, and it was Wilf. His shoulders were broad, his bare, tanned shins lean and hairy, his jaw line strong. When he smiled at me, his teeth were really white. I liked Wilf, I knew he would understand. I too have perfect teeth.
‘Wilf, it’s here! I’ve had a reply!’
Wilf looked around the lawn, back at Vanhya, then crouched beside me. ‘What is, Appie?’
I laughed, he was teasing me. I liked it when he did that. Then I realised he really didn’t know.
‘The Mesopotamia,’ I said. ‘The ship from Earth.’
His eyes went wide, ‘You mean it actually made it? It’s already here?’ He wrote something on his Sleeve, then pursed his lips at the result.
‘Already? Three and a half centuries, one hundred and fifty light years of sub-luminal space. You do realise it was launched a hundred years before this colony was founded?’
Wilf gave a quirky smile. ‘You’re full of facts, Appie.’
I laughed at his ignorance. ‘Here’s another - it’s not here yet, it’s only just crossed the heliopause.’
Mesopotamia - the biggest artefact mankind had ever built. A miles-long, asymmetric dumbbell, archaic fizz-fuzz engines lay behind a plate-like rad-shield at one end, the crew quarters, cryo-labs and incubators formed a moonlet-sized sphere at the other. From a time before SPQR engines, it was the last, titanic effort of a dying world – planet Earth.
I had been broadcasting twice a day on the orbital array transmitters ever since Mesopotamiapassed through the Oort cloud, tight-beam signals across a broad swathe of the electro-magnetic spectrum from long-wave radio to laser light. The crew should have been able to receive me, but after so much time who knew what failures they had endured, what jury-rigged substitutes they now relied upon to communicate.
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All Your Futures Are Belong To UsScience Fiction
I was chatting with my son, Tom, and we got onto the pace of technological change. Long-term space flight seemed problematic to us, because once you’ve launched you’re stuck with the technology you started with. ‘Wouldn’t it be funny,’ Tom said, ‘if...