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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Monday, May 28, 2018

Centauri Captain: A Science Fiction Story

In the year 2140 Adriana was convinced she had found the perfect man: a man who was young, brave, very handsome and very intelligent. He was Victor Goodman, chosen to be the captain of the first interstellar voyage. Adriana had won a place as a crew member on the same voyage. Their romance had blossomed as they trained for the long mission that would take up twenty years of their lives. There were seven other female members of the crew, and they were all jealous of Adriana because she had become engaged to the man chosen as ship's captain for the voyage to the nearest star system, that of Alpha Centauri.

But a few months before the spaceship was supposed to set forth for Alpha Centauri, a big problem arose. The crew had already had their genomes tested before they were chosen, but a second analysis was done of their genomes, looking for rare genetic deficiencies. Something was found in Adriana's genome. She had a rare genetic problem that would require a special medicine. There was no way to store up a twenty year supply of the medicine for the voyage, for the medicine had a shelf life of only six months. The mission planners had no choice. Adriana was removed from the mission crew.

When they heard the news, Adriana and Victor were devastated.

There's only one thing I can do, my darling,” said Victor. “I'll have to tell them I can't go on the mission. I'll stay here on Earth with you.”

But you've dreamed for years of an opportunity such as this,” said Adriana. “How can I make you give up the chance of a lifetime?”

Maybe there's a way I can go on the mission,” said Victor. “We could get married, and just agree to be faithful to each other for the twenty years that the mission will take. We'll be light-years apart, but you'll still be the queen of my thoughts.”

Very well, my dearest,” said Adriana. “We're only in our twenties, and we'll still be fairly young when you return.” People in their generation used anti-aging pills that allowed them to have youthful bodies until the age of 80.

But how will I be able to live without you for twenty years?” asked Victor.

Yes, that will be the hard part,” said Adriana.

Victor and Adriana arranged a quick marriage. Because of Adriana's genetic problem, they decided not to aim for a baby. Their wedding received wide coverage in the press. Adriana was hailed as a paragon of wifely devotion, a woman with the strength of character to wait for her husband for twenty years.

The day of the lift-off into space was a tearful one for Adriana.

Goodbye, my darling,” Adriana said. “I will be the most faithful wife ever.”

And I will be the most faithful husband ever,” said Victor. “You will be in my thoughts every hour.”

And you will be in my thoughts every minute,” said Adriana, weeping.

The rocketship lifted off into space, taking the crew toward the interstellar spaceship which had been constructed in space. After the crew got to the spaceship, it set forth for Alpha Centauri.

During the first days, Adriana and Victor had video conversations every day. The spaceship had on its top a large antenna which transmitted the video feed back to Earth. But while the spaceship was traveling through the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, all transmissions from the ship stopped. There were no replies to any of the radio messages sent from Earth.

Back on Earth, people speculated about what had happened. Some thought gloomily that an asteroid had destroyed the spaceship. But Adriana was optimistic.

It's probably just some glitch that they'll fix soon,” Adriana said.

But the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, and there was still no radio transmission from the spaceship. Adriana wept every day, tormented by grief and uncertainty.

Before long a rich, handsome and very famous suitor named Carlo began to court Adriana. He suggested that there was no point in her being the faithful wife any more, on the grounds that her husband's spaceship must have been destroyed by an asteroid. At first Adriana resisted.

But then later she began to ask herself: why bother being faithful to a husband who was probably dead? She began to stop resisting her handsome suitor Carlo.

When it was finally one year since any radio transmission had been received from Victor's spaceship, Adriana filed a court petition asking that Victor be declared legally dead. After a further delay of a year, the court finally ruled in her favor. Then Adriana and Carlo married. Their marriage received much attention in the press. Carlo was already famous, and Adriana was famous from being the former wife of the world's first starship captain.

But the marriage of Carlo and Adriana lasted only two years. Adriana grew tired of Carlo. What she wanted most of all was a man who would make her completely forget about Victor. And Carlo failed at that task. So Adriana asked for a divorce.

Adriana then began a long series of affairs with many men, many of them famous, some married but most single. She had very many lovers, wedding none of them. Adriana kept looking for a man who was so attractive and charismatic that he would make her stop thinking every day about Victor. But she could never find such a man. Adriana's flings and affairs were widely reported in the press, for people still loved a good gossip story.

Adriana became famous as a woman who had more romances and affairs with celebrities than any other woman in New York City. The press gave her the nickname of “Lady Lust.” Eventually people started to say that Adriana had slept with half of the famous men in New York. This was an exaggeration, with the actual fraction being no more than a third.

After more years passed, it finally got to be the year 2160. It was twenty years since Victor's spaceship had departed. Adriana hated such an anniversary, which reminded her of the man she was trying so hard to forget.

Then a startling news report suddenly appeared. Astronomers detected a space ship entering the solar system. Some thought it was an extraterrestrial spaceship. But before long the astronomers announced that it was the same spaceship that had left Earth twenty years ago.

The spaceship went into orbit around Earth. The ship's landing craft left the spaceship, and landed on the great lawn of Central Park in New York. A crowd of many thousands surrounded the landing craft.

Victor emerged from the landing craft, holding a large bag. Authorities gave him a microphone so he could address the huge crowd. He had not heard a word from Earth in twenty years, because the antenna of his spaceship had been destroyed when a space rock hit it. 

Sorry for not sending any radio transmissions!” said Victor. “It was because our ship's external radio antenna got smashed to pieces by a space rock while we were traveling through the asteroid belt. But our ship was fine, and we made it to Alpha Centauri. We landed on one of its planets. And we found life there!”

The crowd roared its approval.

Let me show you some of the treasures we found on the distant planet,” said Victor. “Here is a tiny ruby I found.” He took out a ruby the size of a softball. The crowd roared its approval.

And here is a little emerald I found,” said Victor. He took out an emerald the size of a basketball. The crowd was delighted.

And here is a trifling little diamond I found,” said Victor. He took out a glistening diamond three times as big as a man's head. The crowd laughed and applauded enthusiastically.

Do you think I gathered these huge jewels for museums or scientists?” asked Victor. “Not at all! I gathered these gigantic gems only so I could place them at the feet of the most faithful woman in the world, my virtuous and steadfast wife Adriana.”

First there were gasps and murmurs from the crowd. Then they turned into giggles that spread throughout the crowd. Then a wave of convulsive laughter started to rise. Soon the entire crowd of thousands was enjoying the biggest belly laugh anyone had ever heard. The crowd realized that the “faithful and virtuous” Adriana mentioned was the city's most notorious libertine, known as “Lady Lust” for her countless licentious trysts and promiscuous carnal affairs.

Why are you laughing?” asked Victor, baffled. “Did I say something funny?” He could hear the crowd cruelly chanting “Lady Lust,” but had no idea what they were referring to.

After finishing his speech, Victor asked where Adriana lived, and was informed of her address in Manhattan. When he got there, he found that she had made a quick exit from her apartment, clearing out her jewels and finer clothes in a hurry.

Adriana went off to live somewhere far away in secret, and was too ashamed to ever speak again to Victor. Victor was devastated when he found out about Adriana's behavior. But after a few months he got over it. It was hard for Victor to sulk too much, since he could enjoy the limelight as the most celebrated hero of the world, the only man who had ever commanded a successful interstellar mission. Adriana, on the other hand, fled from the press whenever they tried to track down where she was living. After a few years the press lost interest in her.

Across the world many a faithful wife who heard about Adriana thought to herself truly enough something like, “The story would have had a happy ending if I had been in her shoes.”

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