The End of a Project
© The author reserves all rights to this work.
This story is of an adult nature. It is not intended for minors nor for those whose law in their land forbids them to read this material.
This story is entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental and unintentional.
NB: Words found between asterisks (*) refer to words exchanged in psychic or telepathic communication.
Date: 7 October 2674, Wednesday
Frank Robinson stood at his study window and looked out into the Uranian landscape. He was not looking at anything in particular. He was deep in thought. He was considering the changes to his family’s life since he accepted the position at the Uranus University. It all started three years ago when the government project he was working on suddenly ended. For all these months, the event was still fresh in his mind …
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Date: 19 July 2671, Wednesday
“Frank!” called Lt. Jerome Anderson, “we’ve situation here!”
Frank Robinson was just about to call home. He left everything on hold and ran to the control room. “What’s the matter?”
“I’m reading an object on collision course with the Aurelia.”
“What? Why haven’t we seen this before?”
“I checked the records of yesterday, they registered the object on the sensors but the trajectory didn’t intersect the Aurelia’s. Apparently, it’s just started to change.”
“How long before impact?” asked Robinson.
“About fifty-seven hours and twenty minutes, give or take a few minutes.”
“Have you tried to change the Aurelia’s course?”
“I executed a forty degree pitch on the Aurelia and the object made the corresponding corrections after a few minutes.”
“Maybe we can retreat for a few hours and see it’s reaction.”
“No can do. It’s travelling faster than the Aurelia.”
Frank looked at the Lieutenant’s display. Then he thought for a while. “Do you think it’s a spacecraft of some sort?”
“If so, it’ll be the first alien species we contact but what a way to make contact!”
Frank called out to one of the thirty personnel below, “Long range composition sensors. What are you reading regarding the object?”
“From initial comparisons with our database, it seems like an asteroid. There seems to be a lot of metallic ore within it.”
“What kind of ore?”
“At this distance it’s not easy to determine. Initial data suggests iron and nickel.”
“Damn!” Frank shouted. “There’re two magnetic minerals within the asteroid. No wonder it’s attracted to the Aurelia.” Punching up some schematics and making several calculations, Frank came up with some figures. “This is where our problem lies. We’d to use electromagnetic moving parts to keep the size and mass of the Aurelia down. This magnetic field was just enough to attract the object. If we make the course correction for the forty degree pitch you made and then turn off most of the electromagnetic parts, then we may be able to keep the object at bay.”
“Sir,” another of the thirty personnel below sounded, “I’m reading another object heading the Aurelia’s way. It’s twice as far but it seems to be travelling faster.”
“How long before collision?”
“Slightly less than three days, sir.”
“Keep your sensors on it. We’ll deal with it when we’ve finished with the first.”
Lt. Anderson made some of his own calculations and said, “We’re cutting it very close, Frank. We’ll have only a few minutes to react to the second threat once we pass the first.”
“I know. Once we correct course and see that the first object is no threat to us, we’ll be able to think of a better course of action for the second threat.”
“Making course correction now,” sounded the woman who was manning the flight controls.
“Turning off the electromagnetic moving parts,” another man in military dress said.
“Keep half of the lasers in full function,” Frank ordered.
“Yes sir, half of the laser’s are turned on again.”
“There’s nothing more to do but wait,” Frank said.
After an hour, sensors showed that the first object had not changed its course. This was good. However, the other object which was heading towards the Aurelia did not show anything better. It was not on a collision course, but it would pass the space probe with very little space in between and would almost certainly cause damage.
Hernandez, a Spanish physicist had a strange idea. “If we could make them collide each other, then the problems would be solved.”
Immediately there was a buzz and a solution was found. They would indeed turn on the electromagnetic parts to try to attract the first asteroid and cause it to be in collision course with the second. After collision, the object would be broken up and the smaller pieces would be no problem for the defensive lasers to pick up. The lasers were there to disintegrate particles large enough to damage the hull as the probe moved through space.
The plan was executed and things were looking up. The objects were heading towards each other instead of for the probe. The electromagnetic parts were switched on to change the course of both objects. Then a course change was made and then most of the electromagnetic parts were switched off. The collisions of the objects was supposed to happen behind the probe. During the wait for the plan to unfold itself, heads met to create a contingency plan if such a situation happened again.
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Date: 22 July 2671, Saturday
“Two minutes to impact!”
Frank and the other scientists came out. The collision occurred as planned, but the break-up of the objects was not. Somehow, a large chunk of the first object was hurled towards the probe.
“Get the lasers on it!” shouted Lt. Anderson.
They could not manage to get it disintegrated in time. It hit the rear sensors and communications module. They had lost contact with the Aurelia. The personnel hung their heads. Everyone was sad because they were so close to reaching their target co-ordinates where they would set up another relay and the Aurelia would be retired.
‡ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ‡
Date: 7 October 2674, Wednesday
After the disintegration of the Aurelia, a huge debrief was conducted and a salvage team was set up. A small probe would be sent to see if it was possible to continue the project. There was a discrepancy in the reports sent back by the probe. This led Frank and his close colleague, General Aaron Evers to suspect a conspiracy. General Evers and Frank Robinson had subsitituted two large titanium rings with gold. At the time, they had thought that as aurelium was Latin for gold, the Aurelia should have some gold in its parts. They made the substitution without the knowledge of anyone. The salvage team had managed to collect back 90% of the destroyed Aurelia. Whilst they did not find gold in the debris. They showed more titanium than that which was actually in the Aurelia.
The two friends met and planned. Frank would leave the project so that he could investigate the situation covertly. His teaching post at Uranus gave him the opportunity to work with one of the most advanced telescopes at the edge of the solar system. General Evers would continue to monitor things within the government side. General Evers could not uncover anything on Earth. Frank had hoped that the telescope would yield some answers to what really happened to the Aurelia, but he had found little. He had tried to find out the origins of the two asteroids which crashed into the Aurelia but came out empty. All asteroid fields in the vicinity of the crash did not have high nickel-cobalt content. He wondered if he was dealing with something too overwhelming. Of course, his worries didn’t centre round the Aurelia alone.
His biggest worry had been his youngest daughter, Chiara. She had be quite unhappy when she was told that the family was moving to another planet. However, within a few months of reaching Uranus, she got used to the dim sunlight, the quick rising and setting of the small sun, and she did not complain much. He had feared that the change would make her sullen because it meant that she would have had to leave her friends behind. However, she had made more friends here and had also kept in contact with her friends on Earth by mailing them regularly.
His next older daughter, Lelia was never the one to complain. She was the most sensible of all his children. His wife was worried because she was just entering into her teens and it was the age of teenage rebellion. According to his psychologist wife, friendship ties at that age were very important and the move could cause emotional problems for her. Fortunately, Lelia had not given the family any problems.
Frank had anticipated objections of the move from Stephanie, his oldest daughter. Instead, she simply asked if she could stay on Earth to complete her studies because her boyfriend was there. Her boyfriend seemed trustworthy enough but Frank was not naive. When Stephanie made the request, he had already suspected that the both of them were sleeping together. He only hoped that they would not be too careless or reckless. Now that they have broken up, Stephanie has come back to stay with them on Uranus. Somehow, he was sad that the two had broken-up. Frank was fond of his daughter’s ex-beau, Mark Keith.
Of all his children, he had the least worries for Jacques, his eldest. Frank had expected that his son would get a position in research. He was surprised to find that his son had other plans. He had grabbed the opportunity to be involved in the first solar system cruise. Jacques had decided to do something totally outside his sphere of study at the Academy. Initially, Frank had disapproved of his son’s plans but his wife had a talk with him. She led him to discover that it was that same sense of adventure that caused Frank to get involved in the project that would send a space probe to Alpha Centauri. Of course, Jacques showed a lot of courage and maturity to come out publicly as a gay man. In addition, Frank could not have asked for a more suitable partner for his son. Heath Williams was a nice man, with a good head on his shoulders. Frank only hoped that Jacques and Heath would get married. Frank was old-fashioned in that way. He felt that if the two of them were really in love, they should settle down officially.
Then he thought of his wife and himself. They had gone through so much over the years. He was really lucky to have such an understanding wife. One thing that he was thankful for was the fact that Geraldine never demanded for sex. Being a gay man, it was very difficult for Frank to initiate sex. Usually, he would have to psych himself up to do so. In the early years of their marriage, it was easier. He had more energy then. He had admitted to his wife recently that sometimes he would imagine his wife’s with a man’s body just so that he could get on with the intercourse. His wife had smiled and said that even if he had thought of a man, she’d understand. Lately, the couple had not had much sex though they would spend hours kissing and caressing each other. Sometimes he would masturbate his wife in bed and then masturbate himself in the bathroom. His wife probably knew what was going on but she never asked. She would wait for him to come back to bed before sleeping. It was probably because they were already in their fifties that they were able to carry on like that. Frank knew that it was also because they truly loved each other, something that had stumped many doctors and psychologists. Frank was gay and was in love with a woman. He knew he was not bisexual because he never desired sex with a woman. He had sex with his wife out of duty at first and later because he cared enough not to deprive her of that aspect of their married life.
He turned back and stared at the screen on his desk. There was a letter from Captain Michael Brown, the captain of the ship that Jacques and Heath were working on. It was a proposal and it demanded an answer. If he accepted the proposal, it would bring in another path in his career as an astroengineer and yet another slight change to the Robinson family. If he refused, he’d be missing a very good chance to apply what he had been teaching in the university. Furthermore, being a consultant may help in swaying the university board to give him a higher grant for his research. Yet, he was happy with the way things were. He decided to sleep on it. He thought of saying something to his wife just before going to bed. Whatever the case might be, he would need to reply the next day.
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