Archive for February 8th, 2011

Fortnightcap: Field Trip

Field Trip

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

The sunshields went from opaque to clear, and the kids went silent for the first time in the trip.  The vessel beyond was huge.  It had to be.  Larger than the star jumper they were in.  Larger than any vessel these kids had seen.  Likely larger than all the star ships they’d seen combined.

“Class, this is the Generation Ship Eden.  The very first generational ship that was sent out from earth.  This is how humans first left Earth to settle new solar systems.  It was designed to hold thousands of people for centuries.  Can anyone tell me why?”

A hand went up.  “They didn’t have star drives?”

“Very good, Billy!  Yes, these ships were sent out in the years before star drives existed.  Back then it was believed that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light.  Can anyone tell me the speed of light?”

No hands.  They were still just third graders.  They wouldn’t get into astrophysics for two more years.

“Well, let’s put it this way, the speed of light is such that light traveling from Sol to the earth takes only eight minutes.  We call that eight light minutes, the distance light travels in eight non relativistic minutes.  A light year is the distance light travels in one year, and from one solar system to the next is dozens if not hundreds of light years.  And thus without star drives, those old ships could take centuries to reach their destination.  So these generational ships were sent out, designed such that the crew that arrived at the destination would be the great great great grand children of the crew that left.”

A hand went up.

“Yes, Michelle?”

“How many years was the trip of the Eden?”

“It was launched in 2105 towards what we now call New Caldonia, the first planet outside of the solar system confirmed to be habitable by humans.  The Eden was rediscovered in 2340, and ever since it has been maintained as a museum.”

She waited.  This was the time where the smarter kids got to show off their math skills.  A hand went up.

“Yes, Billy?”

“Has anyone told them about the invention of the star drive yet?”

“That would disturb the historic nature of the ship.”

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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