“That’s strange,” Asher said touching the large display in front of him. The diagram of the Raven increased in size, focusing in on the aft section with the engines and power reactors.
“What is it?” Emeric said as he turned around.
“Well, it looks like the Raven is experiencing some power fluctuations, and it isn’t going as fast as I’d expect.” The graphs and charts on the screen next to the image of the engines pulsed and swayed.
“Oh?” I said wondering what Asher was pointing at. In some ways it was very similar to the type of data I was used to from my medical devices, but the terminology and the expected information were all different enough that I didn’t have a basis for interpreting what I was seeing.
“What’s important is that at our maximum speed we will reach one light-year from Earth in a little over five days.” Emeric interrupted. He slid his command chair backwards until it was in between Asher’s console and my own.
I watched as Asher touched his screen again, sliding the enlarged representation of the Raven out of the way and pulling in a small map from the right edge. Tapping on an icon that represented Lalonde’s Dream, and then tapping on a sweeping white line, numbers appeared in a large block font in front of Asher. “That looks right to me.”
“That’s great. I’m glad you agree.” Emeric broke in again using a dismissive tone.
I turned my head back to my screen and smirked.
“Alright.” Emeric sighed as he got up from his seat. “We have some time to kill then.”
“We will be stopping to check on the Raven, won’t we?” I asked.
“Of course!” The captain said with a slight roll of his eyes. “But we have more than a day’s wait for that, so I stand by my earlier statement.” Sweat was still pouring down his face, and as he wiped it, I could see there was some shakiness in his movements.
Emeric began walking towards the door. “I’m sure that I have messages and news from home to catch up on. You guys might too.”
Asher pushed his chair away from his console and stood up. “I’m going to finish my diagnostic on our engines, then I’ll see if I have any messages from home.”
I nodded. My stomach growled lightly. “I think I’m going to grab a snack and check my mail.”
“The captain will probably call us for a meal.”
“I can’t wait that long.”
My quarters were spartan and slightly cold. A small bed, more comfortable than the cryopod, a bedside table with a single drawer and a small lamp were all that I was afforded. Displays on two walls meant that I could both set a more inviting environment and privately check on my messages. I set the walls to display imagery of a warm sunny day, with rolling hills and mountains in the distance. Standing by the wall across from my bed, I expanded the video display window for my messages from home. I queued up the list to find half a dozen new messages.
As I took a bite from the protein pack, I clicked on a message from Abarrane, my sister that was closest in age to me. I sat on my bed, trying to get comfortable, but with the knowledge that I was about to be reminded of how cut off I was from my family. Abarrane’s round face appeared on the screen. She had red hair like me, but it cascaded in effortless waves around her face, something that always made me a little green with envy. She had my pointy ski jump nose, but her eyes were bigger, her smile fuller, and her cheeks were plumper and healthier looking.
“Hey, Sweetie. I was so happy to receive your last communication! It came in this morning and that was extra special because today is Liana’s birthday.” She turned her face from the camera and called to her daughter. “Li, come here! Come say hello to Auntie Anaya!”
A little voice could be heard. “Okay Mom.” Bare feet slapping quickly on a hardwood floor could be heard for a few moments before my sister groaned as she lifted a little girl up into the frame.
My heart jumped in my chest and I choked back a sob. She was so big! Liana had been just a year when I left, learning to walk and talk. I had spent so much time playing with her, holding her as she fell asleep, but I could see in her eyes that she had no memory of me. I was just a face on a screen, intangible and unrecognizable.
“Hi Auntie Anaya,” she said, her eyes glued to a spot just down and to the left of the frame. I could only assume that she was looking at her own image instead of the camera.
“Tell her how old you are now,” Abarrane prompted.
In the background, I could see that things were different than the last video that I had received. Abarrane had grown up in the family home and taken it over when she started her family, but gone were the wooden accents and large windows, replaced by clean metallic lines, and large digital displays.
“I’m nine now!” She grinned and I could see her crooked adult teeth, still too big for her mouth. “It’s my birthday and I got-”
“She doesn’t want to hear about what you received for your birthday.” Another older voice called from out of the view of the camera.
“Torin!” Abarrane called. “You be nice to your sister! And come here and say hi to your Aunt.”
I was twenty when Torin was born. He had just turned four when I left. But since it was Liana’s ninth birthday, Torin was twelve when they recorded this. He was now half my age.
“Hi,” he said with a wave. He looked so much like his father. “Hope you’re doing good out in space. Mom misses you.”
Abarrane’s smile flickered from her face briefly. “We all miss you. Declan is out taking our little Sada to swimming lessons. She’s six now. I can’t wait for you to meet her when you get home.”
I wanted to shut off the video. Tears streamed down my face as I was reminded that my family was growing and there were people in it that I had never even met in person. I always enjoyed the messages from home, and Abarrane was always the best at filling me in.
“Oh, I have so much I want to tell you. So much has changed since you left. I saw the rest of our sibs at the family reunion this summer…”
She went on to tell me how our oldest brother was completely gray now, and the other was bald. She let me know that my other sister got divorced, for the third time. After updating me on my family, she went through a host of other things about everyday life on Earth.
When the playback finished, I wiped my eyes and took a deep breath. “I was chosen out of millions of people for this mission. I was the best candidate. When I get home, I’ll be able to help take care of them all.” My affirmation helped calm my mind.