Four hours later, he had not returned — nor was he ever seen again. His name was added to the Cenotaph. Every spacer lost in the search for a way out of this system had their name engraved on the battle steel monument. Four hours may seem like a short time before declaring someone lost. But he’d been investigating a wormhole and after four hours it was gone. Even if he shows up years from now, we still lost having a life with him.
We go on anyway. Mom kept credits in the accounts, I got dinner on the table, and Asha kept us in smiles. In our spare time, we all study the Belt. Planetary hobby really. The Belt is the huge ring of inexplicable matter that no space worthy craft we’ve been able to invent can circumvent or cross over. Everyone has a different opinion on what the Belt is: quantum paradox, a loop in time, purgatory. I’m not big on the science or the hell, but every time I look up at the ripples in the sky I’m put in mind of a river. A river rushing so fast that the spray that shoots off it makes a barrier nothing can cross. Asha says we’re in the stomach of a space whale and the Belt is the lining. She mainly says it to annoy Mom, but it does hold out hope that there might be an exit somewhere.
Kinda puts me off my dinner though. The scientists say their understanding of the Belt grows better every year and that the combined minds of the three inhabited worlds is essential to grow that understanding. Which sounds good. But there are no new breakthroughs and at this rate of progress six hundred years doesn’t seem like a long time. Why six hundred year? Because that’s when the star keeping us all alive goes boom. So we all study the Belt. And when anomalies happen in the sky, we jump in our ships and chase them down. Even if we end up as a name among hundreds of names on the Cenotaph, because it means we never gave up.
I’m a thief! I stole this first line from a BabblingBuzzard. Check out her blog for the story I thieved from. (I ended that sentence poorly. I am sorry.)