Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 41: The Wolf’s Time

This is the 41st in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Wolf’s Time, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 11th January 2012

Word count: 651

Theme: sci fi, apocalypse again, final hope, terrible sacrifice, space colonies, destroyed world

The story:

“It’s been a long time coming Professor,” the admiral said.

“Yes but time is why we’re here, Admiral Benson,”the Professor said dismissively. He loathed working with the military, but no one else would fund his research. The Professor was James Lupe, formerly of the Masterson University of Deep Space Technologies and Research on Colony 18. He was considered an expert on the principles that under pinned modern faster than light engines.

“So have you succeeded Professor? Or has fourteen billion credits been washed away?” the admiral asked, this was all a pipe dream to him, what was done was done, but those more senior than him felt otherwise. The admiral was a tall broad man, in his late middle ages, a veteran of many battles, though currently his black hair was taking heavy losses from the encroaching grey.

“In simple terms,” having been warned repeatedly about talking in nonsense, “Yes. I have completed humanity’s first, and only faster than time drive.”

“Tell me more,” the admiral said taking a seat, steeling himself against the torrent of jargon he expected.

“There’s not much to say, the drive itself is completed, the navigation system to handle it is just been put together now. Then we’ll fit it to the ship. It should be ready for its maiden voyage next week.”

“Oh,” the admiral said surprised.

The ship was ready to fly, but there were no pilots qualified, the next six months were taken up by recruiting, training, and briefing a small cadre of pilots to under take the experimental mission.

Then it was the time for the big event, the super fast ship had its finishing touches added, the pilots were ensconced. The pilots strapped themselves in and made ready to depart from the space station.

“Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow pilots, I am envious of the opportunity you have today. For two and a half centuries man has been using faster than light drives, compared with the vessel you are now in control of, they were walking slowly. I’m sure you are all aware of the risks of today’s mission, but steel yourselves, stay true and know you’re making a better future for us all.” The admiral cleared his throat, “Any words for humanity before you launch Commander?”

The commander in the seat behind the pilot and his navigator switched his comms to transmit, “Know we do this, not for our own glory, not for the glory of anyone nation, and not for the detriment of any one nation, but for the betterment of all humanity.

“We’re coming home Earth, we’re coming home,” he finished bitter sweetly, remembering the devastated remains of humanity’s mother planet.

“Commander, this is mission control, you are cleared for launch, god speed Rising Grace.”

“Acknowledged mission control,” the commander said, then he turned to the pilot, “You have the words Lieutenant Harvinder, have at it.”

The pilot acknowledged and brought the ship around, then he pushed the throttle, and for a brief moment everyone felt crushed into their seats before a dampening field rose to meet the challenge of the rapid acceleration.

Back on the station the admiral and the Professor watched as the ship accelerated away, and then rapidly blurred out of sight as it beached the light basket. After that they could only watch the subspace sensors track the craft, and as it broke the eighth light barrier it went out of range.

“When will we know?” Admiral Benson asked.

“I don’t know that we will, Admiral,” the Professor said, “Maybe we’ll feel it wash over us, maybe we’ll feel nothing. I’m hoping for the latter.”

Out there, beyond the sight of anyone alive, the Rising Grace receded from the known universe, vanishing away from time as we know it. It’s mission celebrated by thousands, yet none would ever truly understand the what the mission was, and the consequences the Admiral spoke of.

Time slipped away.