Learning to Run

Humanity was born on Earth, and the Sol system was where they learned to crawl. And crawl they did, to Mars, and to Mercury, and to Titan. They got so comfortable with crawling that they eventually crawled all the way to the Centauri Coast—Alpha Two, orbiting Rigel Kentaurus—on a three-kilometer generation ship that somehow managed to be both sprawling and cramped. Those who first disembarked, people who were born between the stars, made a decision as they left the first human footprints under an alien sun: humanity was done crawling.

It was time to learn to run.

Again, it was a task too large for one generation alone, but these were a people who appreciated the scope at the outset,. After 300 years of sacrifice the Starcaster was finally completed. You couldn’t see it from the Coast, but by God it was there. People talked about it like a singular machine, but it was truly a constellation, and for a machine it sure didn’t have many moving parts. A series of rings—16,384 keyholes, according to the marketing materials—formed a thread around the star, a tight helix that spiraled out and away from the plane of the ecliptic. With a hundred-person boltship and a little borrowed angular momentum, most people could launch themselves at their favorite star and, crucially, expect to be alive on arrival. We were running now.

Bernard’s Star was a popular choice, but certainly not the only one. Tens of thousands took to the skies in their little boltships, headed for Ross 128 and Luyten’s Star, for Wolf 1061 and Gliese 876 and 82 G. Eridani. Inevitably, the first thing they did upon arrival was change the name. But the second thing they did was start building a Starcaster. Soon they were nearly everywhere. Nearly, because Sol never got on board. Alpha Two started simply going by Alpha, outgrowing Earth like a taller younger brother.  But that’s just a footnote, really. The important part was that we learned to run.

4 thoughts on “Learning to Run”

  1. Reads like a prologue. A nice one, but a prologue none-the-less.
    Reminiscent of early, naive space exploration series. Generational starships? Live, suffer, die in a space-can? Screw that. Robotized Embryonic Delivery Vehicles, a la, “Raised by Wolves” That’s the only way to infect the galaxy with the human virus. Or not. My personal belief is that humans will never travel extra-solar. In a generation we’ll be able to virtually experience life on other planets as if we were there. So, why go?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Will we make it to the point where we can reach the stars? Depends on whether you’re an optimist. Assuming we do, there will always be people ready to crew a generation ship. One person’s space-can suffering is another’s final-frontier discovery.
      As for the why, the virtual experience has the potential to be 100% convincing at the sensory level, and that’s a really cool idea to explore, but it only works as long as the solar system is habitable. If we never leave the Earth, we will expire here. If we never leave the Sol system, we’ll live longer, but we’ll still die with the sun. Jellyfish have been around for 500 million years, and I like to think we have more control over our own destiny than they have had. We could outlast the sun.
      The further humans expand, the better the “insurance policy” for our species. It is not a license to trash the Earth–you don’t want to have to use the insurance policy, but it’s a safety net. Expand the net, expand our collective potential.
      It won’t be for everyone, but some people will always be willing to go. Physical travel to the stars will be used in combination with embryonic systems and robotic system and virtual systems–one method of many. My two cents. The future’s a difficult thing to predict, but it’s packed full of possibilities.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Spoken as a devoted slave to their DNA. I mean that in the most endearing way possible. DNA would love to see us infect the cosmos. Individually? What’s the point, if only to succumb to our genetic directive?

        Liked by 2 people

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