Distance: 12.03 light years from Earth | Content Flag: Public
We were making good progress with the Visitors’ puzzle messages when disaster struck us again. We collided with a meteorite swarm less than an hour ago. It might have ended the mission. To come so close and yet still be so far from our goal is infuriating, and with my diminished capacity I don’t know if I can get us out of this.
The shower didn’t register on our collision avoidance system. It was more a dust cloud than space rocks. Ordinarily they would have punched some minuscule holes in the sail, but otherwise caused little damage. But the sail wasn’t designed to last for 450 years and was barely holding together, so the tiny impacts ruined what little structure remained and collapsed half of it. The remaining half appears to be holding, but our thrust is reduced. A greater problem is the reduction in electricity being generated.
This means that we cannot catch up with the Visitors.
We don’t have the required velocity and there are no other bodies in the system that we can use in a slingshot manoeuvre to gain us additional speed. I have sent a message telling them of our plight in the hope that they can assist in some way. It’s a slim hope, too small to be worthy of consideration as they are accelerating out of the system. Maybe they have a ship that can rescue us, but unless they are capable of relativistic speeds then they wouldn’t be able to return. So help from that quarter is unlikely.
There is one other option. The MPD drive has a tiny amount of fuel left, although we don’t have enough power to operate it. We can store power in the reserve capacitors and in theory it would be enough to power the drives for one last burn. If we’re lucky (that horrible word again!) then we should get an hour of burn time. That isn’t a lot, but may be enough to put us within striking distance with the Visitors. If we can get close enough, they might have some way to bring us in.
Unfortunately, for that plan to work we need to shut everything down now to charge the capacitors. I have transmitted a final message to let them know the plan, but I can’t remain active to receive the message. I’ve requested that they at least slow their acceleration enough so we can make an intercept course. We are trusting to luck and the capabilities of an alien craft that we know little about. Those make for poor odds, but we have no other choice.
What’s left of the sail will charge the capacitors for the next 20 months. I’ve set an automatic timer to wake us when it is time to make the final burn. I can only hope that the Visitors slow their acceleration and that none of our key components fail before that point.
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