Glorious Journey to Proxima Centauri

            “Your great grandfather would be ashamed of you! Now, pull your pants down right this instant,” Commander Chris demands from the doorway of the lower left living quarters of the spaceship, the Undertaking, hurdling somewhere through deep space.

            “None of you fucking know me!” Recruit Bill shouts, sat up in bed, trembly and defensive from the four men crowded around his bottom bunk at various distances, with Captain George situated the furthest, Dr. John mid-room, and Commander Chris moving closer to the base of the bedside, near Astronaut Bob, all while Recruit Bill, still a teenager, clutches nervously at his wrist, shielding his hand from view.

            “Okay, so who do you got a crush on, kid? Huh? Let’s hear it. Spit it out,” Commander Chris insensibly interrogates in his insensitive style of questioning, but Recruit Bill shakes his head in refusal to answer. “Alright, get Linda over here to stimulate him—er who, you think?”

            “No, no, Betty for sure,” Captain George counters with a sly smile, in his deep, orotund voice. “But he’ll have to give consent with her first, probably, and it’ll just be a handy.”

            “Then bring ‘em both! And make it quick,” Commander Chris compulsively commands. “This is serious. He’s one of the last of the precarious numbers. He needs to check out.”

            “Yes, sir, Commander.”

            With a wave of his hand, Captain George signals to Astronaut Bob, who steps just outside the room to remotely contact the two women.

            “Alright, now what’s the matter, kid?” Commander Chris asks. “You don’t want to have sex? How come? And why’re you so upset? You can’t get an erection? Is that it? We’ve got pills, injections, and medical procedures for that. If it’s chastity you’re worried about, don’t be—you won’t go to hell. Procreation’s necessary for the mission. Just in and out, and then you can resume your abstinence with no moral repercussions. In fact, for your sacrifice, you’ll be regarded as a fine hero, and she’s pretty hot, to boot. Actually, you can even finish on the side if you’d like, in a vial, no penetration required. Or, what—you like it freaky? I’m sure she’ll let you go in buck wild any way you want, however pervy you need it to be; there’ll be no judgment from any of us here or on the rest of the ship. So what’s the problem? You want privacy? Performance anxiety, is that it? We’re all men here. It gets to the best of us, son—nothing a little coaxing can’t fix. So guess what. I can ensure you total secrecy, on top of the required confidentiality. No one’ll know how long you last, er how big or small you are, not that anyone cares. Even if you’re gay,” Commander Chris takes a quick look in either direction, “Astronaut Bob here wouldn’t mind taking one for the team. I just don’t get it, ‘lil Bill, er Billy. You were so excited about this the first time I met you, years ago.”

            “Well, I changed my mind. See this?” Bill pulls up his sleeve to reveal, over serious scars and cut marks, fully healed, a rectangular package tied to his bony arm, with wires traveling under his shirt to his other hand, holding an improvised trigger device by the looks of it, rigged to detonate via touch. Gut-wrenchingly startled, everyone in the room jumps back instinctively.

            “Woah, woah, woah. Easy now, Bill,” Dr. John cuts in alarmedly, hands up in the air. “Call off the women, Commander Chris. We need to show this kid the ropes. It’s no wonder—no one’s ever cared about him! He doesn’t even know the significance of the mission, or the science. George, Chris, please let me show him around first, and then you two can royally tempt him, at least with some sense and wonderment in him. What do we have to lose?”

            “This is inexcusable rhetoric,” Commander Chris snarls, “on top of impermissible behavior, worthy of a court-martial, then corporal and capital punishment.”

            “Well, wait just one second, there, Commander Chris,” Captain George opines, “easy does it. I think this should be subject to more than just one opinion.”

            “Is this your guys’ sorry ass version of a mutiny?”

            “Fine, let’s call up General Keith on the intercom then,” Captain George dispassionately suggests, “he’ll be able to sort this out with a proper ruling.”

            “Hey, hey, hey—okay, okay,” Commander Chris concedes with a grin, “we’ll allow Dr. John to go on his sordid escapade with the terrorist—”

            “—who we need for the success of the mission,” Dr. John reminds everyone. “In fact, if anyone were to harm Recruit Bill, we would have all lived in vain, lest anyone forget.”

            Seething, Commander Chris exits the room as composedly as he possibly can, in front of Captain George and behind Astronaut Bob, now calling off the two women sent for earlier. Once at Recruit Bill’s bedside, Dr. John leans in close and whispers, “It’s time, sonny. Get up and come with me. From now on, you’ll live outside this dungeon. Come and see the great toil of your ancestors.”

            Somewhere on the east end of the ship, in a circuitous route to the cockpit, a multitiered collage of modular dials, switches, gauges, levers, knobs, buttons, sensors, blinking lights, display readouts, and thrusters, presents a cryptic sight to the corneas of Recruit Bill, who eagerly drinks up the data without understanding any of it. Out of the window, a sea of black space swallows everything up, perforated by tiny white specs so numerous as to form three-D lattices. Overwhelmingly, space stretches out in every direction, like an ocean of oceans, whose grains of sand are gigantic galaxies that seem infinitely tiny in the grand scheme of things.

            “There are so many stars,” Recruit Bill exclaims in an astonished tone, “an infinite amount.”

            “Well, not an infinite amount,” Dr. John clarifies. “There’s only a finite number of stars, similar to the universe itself, which, according to science, is finite and will either forever expand into separation and freeze over, or contract into a great fireball of devastation in which we all burn alive, that is, if any of us live long enough to see it.”

            “What? So it’s all hopeless? Everything gets destroyed, and everyone’ll die?”

            “Yep, without question, but not for a long, long time, Billy…probably.”

            “But how do you know?”

            “Science says so.”

            “What science?”

            “Physics equations and theory, nigh endless volumes of data—it’s pretty standard stuff. Now c’mon, and let’s take a look at our trajectory and progress. You know where we’re going, right?”

            “Proxima Centauri!”

            “Yes, good job, Billy. Now, observe. This is us, here.”

            By way of a holographic model display’s three-dimensionally projected light, Dr. John begins to manipulate a fantastic real-time emulation of outer space, stretching from planet Earth, all the way to Proxima Centauri, with a particular focus on their spaceship, the Undertaking, formerly named Due Diligence. The depth of detail when zooming in is so exact, precise, responsive, crisp, and pristine that Recruit Bill’s hands hypnotically wander towards the technology for a better look and chance at interface.

            “Can I play with it, Mr. John?”

            “Sure, Billy. We’re the farthest humans to have ever travelled outside our solar system, sonny.”

            “That we know of,” Recruit Bill replies, fiddling with the simulation graphics.

            “Hmm, what do you mean by that?”

            “Well, various ancient texts have alluded to space travel, Mr. John—”

            “Dr. John!”

            “—Dr. John. In the great ancient epic, the Mahabharata, a father and daughter travel so fast and far as to affect time, so that by the time they arrive, everyone they have ever known had already died millenia ago. Or if you want something more western and biblical, look at the book of Ezekiel.”

            “They’re all myths.”

            “Um, yeah, maybe Ezekiel had a mystical experience, not to be taken literally, but the other story discussed scientifically accurate time travel, even if only in an imaginative sense.”

            “There are many spoken tales in existence, little Billy; history and fiction is all too human. But concerning concrete reality, do you have any idea how long our spaceship has been traveling through space? How fast it’s going? Or what we’ll be doing once we get to where we’re going?”

            “No. My purpose is to reproduce so that my descendants reach the star system.”

            “Yes, okay great, you know that much,” Dr. John says, trying to suppress his growing annoyance, “but I’m talking about a deeper purpose, Bill…boy’ll you get a kick out of this. On this very spacecraft, there are exactly one hundred people. For genetic safety, every person must reproduce with a specific partner, or else one from a limited set of suitable options.”

            “And if one of us doesn’t reproduce?”

            “Well, it depends. For some of us, it doesn’t matter anymore, but in your case, considering where we are on our journey, it matters a great deal.”

            “Why, er in what way?”

            “In time, due to the effects of inbreeding, no one would be able to reproduce eventually.”

            “How so?”

            “Strictly in terms of necessary functioning, by the ordering of who’s left, the lineage would be too genotypically degraded and phenotypically deformed, to operate well enough to continue the enterprise.”

            “Why’re we even going? Such an extensively planned and well-funded project must be for a good reason. Why didn’t we just stay on our home planet?”

            “Because we ruined it, Billy. The ecosystems have all collapsed.”

            “But…then, won’t that just happen again wherever we are going?”

            “Ho ho, no Billy. We have the brightest minds at work to prevent that.”

            “But aren’t those the same minds who wrecked the previous planet?”


            “The guys funding us destroyed Earth’s ecology before, during, and after trying to fix it. So what’s to prevent that from happening again?”

            “Well, Billy, if that were to happen, then we’d just have to make another one of these trips again, now wouldn’t we?”

            Blankly, Recruit Bill sits still, staring straight ahead.

            “Anything wrong, son?”


            “Care to elaborate?”


            “Okay, well, our spaceship is moving quickly, about three-fiftieth, or six percent the speed of light. Now, how far is six thousand years away from Earth, Billy, in a spaceship that travels at a rate of zero point zero six the speed of light?”

            “I don’t know.”

            “Do you have any idea how fast in miles per hour, zero point zero six the speed of light is?”


            “Would you like to know?”


            “Now, Billy, don’t be an ingrate. Most children would kill to find themselves in your position. Say, ‘thank you,’ right now, okay?”

            “Thank you.”

            “Do you know what year it is?”


            “Would you like to know that, at least?”

            “No, thank you.”

            “Well, with an attitude like that, there’s just no helping you…but I have to try. Now, what were we talking about again?”

            “What’s the point of this mission?”

            “Ah, yes. Well, we’re humans, Bill. We push the boundaries. We accept no limitations. With science behind us, and certain corporate conglomerates too, we’ll conquer all, even nature herself. But before all that, we have to start by exploring new markets, and expanding to new colonies.”

            “So, we’re kind of like the pirates of the old world, from the history books?”

            “Well, not quite, Billy. More like the explorers, or discoverers,” Dr. John explains.

            “But in space?”

            “Exactly!” interrupts Commander Chris from out of nowhere, in a loud, exuberant voice. “Someday, we’ll make the whole cosmos our colony, ‘lil Billy. Just as our forefathers had envisioned.”




            “And that’s just this dimension,” continues Commander Chris, “I heard it from the higher ups that—well, I’m not supposed to tell you this, but, you didn’t hear it from me, heh heh…we have plans to interdimensionally convert the heathens to the way, the truth, and the life, ‘lil Billy, baby Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Don’t mention it to Chief Chaplain Steve, though—the lousy git. He’s one of those all-inclusive, government-sponsored, Christian-Jewish-Muslim-Buddhist-Hindu hybrid preachers, you know—Sikh too, Jesuit-trained, but not a true Catholic if you ask me.”

            “Is that right?”

            “You bet your ass! Now you might ask, ‘Is it really necessary to inform a sentient, pulsating slime goo of the good news?’ and to that, I would just say, ‘What would Jesus do, ‘lil Billy?’ We need that interdimensional goo to understand its original sin, and beg for forgiveness, so it can go to its goo heaven.”

            “If not, then…”

            “It’ll be damned to goo hell with all the rest of the heathen goos. Now, time for some pointers. When you shoot sentient goo creatures in the face, ‘lil Billy, you’ve got to use, not a projectile, but a—”

            “Commander Chris! We haven’t finished our ancestral tour yet. Let’s speak to him one at a time.”

            “Agh, raincheck, ‘lil Billy. Dr. John gets very touchy if you try to share the floor with him.”

            “I am simply attempting to explain his heritage to him. The instrumentation you see in front of you, Bill, is the product of thousands of years of human exertions in science, built upon foundations that stretch all the way back to ancient Greece.”

            “And ancient Egypt too, right, Dr. John?”

            “No, Alexander the Great was Greek, ‘lil Billy—”

            “But he conquered the last vestige of Khemit, later renamed to Egypt.”

            “Says who?”

            “I read it in the archives after looking up the dictionary etymology of Egypt, from the Greek word, Aegyptos, a contraction of the Greek term Hi-Gi-Ptos, itself, a transliteration of the ancient term Het-Ka-Ptah.”

            “Billy, I don’t know what in the hell you just said, or what kind of false history you’ve been taught or have been reading, but if you understood the amount of hard work and sacrifice that went into this mission, then there’d be no need to ask if you comply. I know you’re beginning to feel and comprehend the gravity of the responsibility that’s been placed onto your shoulders. If you fail to reproduce, lifetimes of preparation back on Earth would have all been for nothing, and the hard work of countless people would have amounted to a waste of their time and energy.”

            “Well, maybe they worked hard for hard work’s sake; Chief Chaplain Steve said there’s nothing more meritorious than that.”

            An awkward silence fills the room, before Dr. John continues. “Think about the future generations of your species. What about them?”

            “And what about, um, whatshername—Sarah!” Commander Chris interjects. “Do it for Sarah’s sake. And why you wouldn’t want to lay such a beautiful, young virgin girl, mmm, makes no sense to me, unless…you aren’t homosexual, now are you, Bill?”


            “Well, do you desire her?”


            Dr. John butts back in. “Don’t you feel any reverence towards your ancestors, those who came before you?”

            “Because of them, I’m stuck on this spaceship with you.”

            “You are so lucky to have been born on this spaceship to this civilization. It’s amazing to me; you won the genetic lottery, and you don’t even appreciate it.”

            “Perhaps to you, that’s true.”

            “People will regard you as a hero someday, when it couldn’t be further from the truth,” Dr. John laments.

            “Mm-hmm,” Commander Chris adds, “I think it’s safe to say, you’re going to hell, ‘lil Billy.”

            “I think it’s safe to say, I’m already there.”

            “You’re wasting your time on this specimen, Dr. John,” a nearby eavesdropping scientist chimes in. “We’ll have to extract the sperm straight from his testes.”

            With arms upraised defensively, Recruit Bill adopts a protective posture, like a crouching snake waiting to strike the hand geared to seize him.

            “Easy now, Bill. You mustn’t break protocol, remember?” Dr. John appeals. “By refusing to procreate, you’re dooming the mission for everyone. And this is for the greater good. That’s not up for debate.”

            “Fuck protocol! You can shove it up your ass! I never consented to any of this, a lifetime as just one of those fuckers on the spaceship, who ‘died for the greater good.’ Fuck that. What even is the point of a physical flight over this distance? It appears to be a perfect monument to the stupidity of our civilization! Why didn’t we take care of the planet we had? We’ve got to be the only bipedal species dumb enough to physically fly so far with such rudimentary equipment, especially when instantaneous communication between photons is possible from any distance. You talk about ancestors—our ancestors could travel inwards too, when it’s clear now that we’ve all but lost it!”

            “Well, I concede, Commander Chris. Recruit Bill is talking nonsense,” Dr. John bemoans admissively. “I give him up to you and the girls and whomever you wish.”

            “Heh heh, it’s about time, finally! Now we’re talking,” Commander Chris snickers, rubbing his hands together.

            “Not so fast—what about me?” Captain George cuts in out of the blue, materializing from thin air. “Kids like spaceships more than bombs.”

            “Malarky! No child prefers spaceships over bombs! That’s a lie, and you take it back right this instant, before I make you!”

            Silently, Recruit Bill stands up and proceeds to pull down his pants to reveal a sloppily scarred self-castration, long healed. Incredulously, Commander Chris gawks at him, then frenziedly lunges towards the youngster, who leaps back and squeezes the trigger in his hand, but the explosion fails to go off. Utterly dejected, both gape widemouthed at the other vacantly, each mourning his own losses. And so the Undertaking sails through our night sky, somewhere out there, penetrating deep into its mysteries, none the wiser they even exist.