Sunday, 2 October 2016

14.09.2354 - Another Sleep

Distance: 12.01 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public

We’re on our way out of the Tau Ceti system. There’s a certain irony that on our journey we’ll pass close (astronomically speaking!) to the Solar System. We’ve still received no communication from Earth and I don’t know what that means. I will have to enter low power mode to conserve energy for the long trip ahead, but I must make the most of this opportunity, so I’ve altered the flight plan for the flight to Epsilon Indi.

I’ve programmed the navigation computer to power me back up at the point of the closest approach. We’ll transfer a compressed version of our findings so far – there won’t be enough time to transmit the raw data, but my conclusions and some of the key information will be of use. Our power profile is tight, but if my calculations are correct then we should remain in budget.

I wish I’d decided to follow the Visitors sooner. I won’t be able to catch up with their vessel until long after they have arrived at Epsilon Indi. This causes a problem – I won’t know where they are heading next until I’m approaching the system. Based on the little I know of them, I think it’s unlikely that they will remain at Epsilon Indi for long. This is compounded by the fact that the escape velocity for that system is much higher than Tau Ceti, and over 3 times that of the Solar System at 63 km/s. With barely any fuel for the MPD drive, I will have to rely on the momentum gained on my departure here and any gravity assists, which limits my options for attempting an intercept.

I’ll need to have the sail unfurled for longer than I’d like and leave its control to the automated systems. That far out, and with Tau Ceti’s less luminous star, the pressure is below what I’d normally consider acceptable for operations. However, I need to squeeze as much speed as I can, so I’ll have to take the risk.

Our power budget also requires me to adjust our profile for low power mode. Not only will the higher level functions like myself be closed down, most of the low power systems, including communications, will be turned off as well. As a result, I won’t know if mission control tries to contact me. I have transmitted our course to Earth, but have no idea whether they will receive it. Obviously this is a far from ideal situation, but I must seize this opportunity.

The energy output from the sail will all too quickly drop below operational levels, so the power-down sequence will soon be initiated. Passing so close to Earth, I am torn between carrying on and heading home to ensure that what I’ve discovered is available to mission control. The lack of contact for so long is frustrating, but also concerning. I know that if I do that then I’ll never get the chance to follow up with the Visitors. At best another mission would be mounted, one I doubt I’d be involved with. There’s also no way they’d be able to catch up with them and the trail would be too cold to follow.

So I’m forced to continue with this plan. A plan with a margin of success far below what I’m comfortable with. On top of that, I know very little about the Visitors. While the secret message indicates that they aren’t as trigger-happy as the Cetians’ official history stated, I don’t know what to expect if I do catch up with them.

It’s too late now – I’m committed. Once again I shall enter a long sleep and will hopefully awake in 90 years as we pass by the Solar System.

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