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document contains the Letters from Jack Series of ficlets.
Letters from Jack - Devastation
sisters and I are devastated. It's terrible to lose a loved one.
When your mother died I was able to turn to you and your sister
for consolation. This is worse. Your sisters are taking it very
hard, as am I.
memorial service was yesterday. We didn't have a funeral. We just
could bring our selves to do it without any remains. I hope against
hope that you are alive, but the logical part of me says that's
impossible. The entire team at IASA has been reviewing the data
from the moment you disappeared. They cannot find any trace of Farscape
I. None. They are studying the phenomenon present at the time you
disappeared. It has very unusual properties, DK tells me. From what
I learned, it winked out a few minutes after you disappeared.
are starting a new project. The team at IASA is going to explore
what happened from the data they have. I hope to be part of it.
I feel you are still alive, but that is my heart talking. I am going
to talk to the director of the team Monday; DK is recommending me.
hope you will ever see this letter, or that I will ever see you
again, but right now, this is all I have.
Letters from Jack - A New Day
in part to DK's help and my connections, I started working with
the IASA team today. They were very skeptical about hiring an old
hack like me when I interviewed Monday, but I managed to convince
them I would be a valuable member on the project. We are reviewing
millions of bytes of data collected at the time Farscape I disappeared.
the increased solar flare activity was known at the time you took
your test flight, DK assured me the flares were not unusual, and
the readings fell within the safety parameters for the experiment.
The findings are preliminary, but it looks like an unknown phenomenon
appeared as Farscape I was starting the acceleration using Earth's
gravity. At that moment, energy and photons from exceptionally strong
solar flares reached the stratosphere of Earth.
me the scientist will be examining the data for months to come.
They do not know what they are dealing with, and don't know how
to recreate the event with any degree of probability. Right now,
we are all guessing.
on this project is to train the astronauts who will be on the mission.
And so I have to learn as much as possible before the astronauts
are selected. But I want to fly again.
I hope to be part of the mission that finds out what happened.
is absolutely no trace of your module. We can't even find an energy
signature once you disappeared. This is the one hope I cling to.
Without any solid evidence to the contrary, I will continue to hope
you are alive, somewhere.
Letters from Jack - Questions
been able to pretend you've just been away for the past couple of
weeks because I've immersed myself in the Farscape II project. Farscape
has come to symbolize much for the team, and for me it embodies
who you are (I can't use the past tense). But the dreadful time
of year is upon me, and I must do my taxes, and yours. I'm turning
everything over to the accountant; it's too much for me to handle
at the moment.
analysis hasn't been going well at all. The numbers are all over
the place. Some of the scientist think a black hole formed, others
do not. The data will start to fit one theory, and then disprove
are designing a probe to try to duplicate what happened to Farscape
I. The design hasn't taken form yet, but they need to meet a window
of high solar activity expected this fall. They are wrestling with
the issue of whether to make the probe the same mass or less than
Farscape I. I hope the budget doesn't steer them into the wrong
decision. Both DK and I think it should be the same mass as your
module plus your mass.
sisters don't know I'm writing to you. I think this would disturb
them a great deal. I am able to function thanks to the project at
IASA and writing these letters.
Letters from Jack - Probe
design is being finalized this week. We anticipate a prototype will
be ready to test some time in June. Everyone agreed the probes mass
needs to be equal to Farscape I plus the mass of a human. There
was never any issue. The data we do have indicate we must use an
object of at least equal mass.
is some question of what kind of measurement devices we should install,
and perhaps design. On a hunch, DK has gone back over papers from
JPL you researched together on wormholes. A major concern he has
is if a wormhole did form, and we can duplicate the conditions,
how will we detect it. We don't have the technology in place as
yet to detect it.
team is pinpointing the trajectory Farscape I was on before you
disappeared. It is extremely important we know where to look for
the phenomenon and the correct path to send the telemetry.
and neighbors are avoiding talking about you, and I don't encourage
it. They think I am being stoic, and don't want to upset me. If
they knew I was writing these letters they would probably pack me
off to the funny farm. I have been busy enough at Cape Canaveral
that I don't write as often as I'd like, but that is probably a
good thing. I try not to dwell on this, but it is very hard sometimes.
Letters from Jack - The hardest week
has been the hardest week since you disappeared. Your sister, Allison,
and I had to pack up your apartment. Everything I touched reminded
me how much I miss you. She feels the same way. I am somewhat happy
Emma didn't have to go through this, I think she is taking it the
hardest. But her senior projects are due, and finals are coming
up, so she begged off helping us clean your apartment out. There were times we could barely look at each
other. At other times we are our only consolation. DK also came
over to help at night and I could see he was as affected as we.
I am putting everything that doesn't fit in the garage, into storage.
I keep hoping that you will appear just as suddenly as you disappeared.
I know I will have to sell the furniture eventually, but not now.
we will get the probe launched on schedule. We will be using this
first one to test the remote guidance, the instrumentation and to
gather as much data as possible without actually trying to recreate
the event. June is not the right time for the solar activity. We
expect it to pickup in the fall, reaching some peak activity towards
want to control the probe from MIR, as the international space station
won't be ready for at least another year. We are working through
that now. If we can use MIR, then we will be able to use the unmanned
cargo ships to MIR, and they can launch the probes and control them
from there. Otherwise, we will have to schedule shuttle launches,
which will be more difficult to schedule, and a good deal more expensive.
And we want to be able to control it from orbit because of the time
delay between issuing the commands to the probe, and the probe executing
the commands is smaller than from mission control.
I going into all this detail? You know all this, and you won't even
see these letters. Some
days I find it easier, I immerse myself in the project. Then I find
I am feeling guilty for enjoying the day. Both Allison and Emma
are recovering. They are starting to accept life without you. I
don't think I'll ever get to that point. What do they say the five
stages of grief are? Well, I'm still in denial.
Letters from Jack - Prototype
probe went beyond our expectations. We were able to launch it from
Earth, and control it here. The telemetry worked perfectly, and
we are able to calculate the needed angle and acceleration for the
real probes which will be launched in November.
use MIR after all. Aside from its unstable condition, and that it
will soon be abandoned, there was too much politics involved for
us. IASA finally put the kabash on using MIR at all. The Russians
are falling woefully behind on their module for the international
space station, and they argued any money that would go to MIR would
just further delay the new station. I suppose they're right, but
I selfishly am only focused on this project.
are effectively only four and a half months left before the first
probe is launched. We have a lot of work to do, and DK is working
on extending the signal range. We really need to get solid readings
from the phenomenon. We absolutely need these readings if we are
to have any hope of following you.
going to spend a week in Maine this summer. I don't want to go by
myself, what would I do? Your sister is thinking of going with me,
but I think I'd rather keep working.
There is a lot for me to do. There are days where I think
of you, where my heart doesn't feel tight in my chest, and I can
smile. I find I am saving stories for you. I'll see something or
someone, and think, I should tell John about this. I'll have to
keep it in mind. Those are good days.
Letters from Jack - Getting Ready
is the longest I've gone without writing to you. I've been extraordinarily
busy working on the probe. DK
has developed some ideas about how we can get information once the
probe enters the phenomenon. He is designing small capsules that
will eject from the probe every three minutes starting at the time
of entry. He reasons that while it may be impossible for our technology
to radio back from within the phenomenon, a solid object might be
able to be sent in an opposite direction from the probe. Each capsule
will contain the data collected to nearly the point of launch. All
the teams are very excited about this idea.
starting to recruit astronauts to fly into the phenomenon. I hope
to be one of the ones to go. If we get the information we need,
we hope to be ready to go early in 2001. Now that seems an eternity
away, but I know we will not have enough time to design a two man
module that will take us to an unknown destination. I hope it finds
you. The recruiting is going slowly, not too many want to fly into
the unknown as you did.
graduated from RPI with honors. I had hoped she would want to work
at IASA, but for now she is working at a dotcom to make lots of
money. She has many student loans to pay off and her company has
lured her with a huge sign on bonus and more stock options than
I can think about. She hopes to go to graduate school in two to
three years and is considering going to MIT to study Robotics. Her
grades are good enough that they would take her now, but she wants
to pay her own way. She knows I'd help her in any way I could, but
she says she's been sponging off me long enough, and it's time she
earned her keep. You would be very proud of your kid sister.
Letters from Jack - The Test
to launch a second probe to get the data we needed, but it worked
in the end. Fortunately, our contingency plan provided for a second
launch. We paid the Russians a prearranged amount to launch the
second probe. It wasn't hard to get their cooperation as their space
program has really suffered financially since their break up. It
came down to we needed a rocket, and they needed the money.
to make the probe equal to the mass of the module we intend to launch.
DK worked miracles with the bean counters. I don't know how he convinced
them to put out for the first module, let alone having to go through
it again, and at a much higher cost. I'm not going to ask.
unable to recreate the phenomenon with the first probe and it burned
up in the Earth's atmosphere. We did get the data we needed for
corrections to the second probe. We think the phenomenon is a wormhole,
but we are not sure. The capsule idea worked brilliantly. It's a
good thing too, because we lost all contact with the probe as quickly
as we did with you. We hope the data from the capsules will allow
us to design communication systems that will allow Earth contact
continuously, but we don't know.
tells me she is making piles of money from her stock options. I
keep telling her to sell, but she says not to worry, as she will
cash in as soon as she is allowed. She has to be with the company
a full six months before she can exercise her options.
Letters from Jack - Happy New Year
New Year. Happy New Millennium. The purists are quibbling that this
isn't really the millennium, it won't happen until 2001, but I don't
care. It's just another year. I spent the eve at Allison's, and
Emma came over too. She had to fly in from San Francisco. She hates
it there. The traffic is terrible and it's incredibly expensive
to live there. She's applying to MIT and hopes to start in the fall
for graduate work. I asked her to consider working as a civilian
at IASA once she cashes in her stock options. She can live with
me until she goes to MIT (I know she'll get in). She's thinking
about it. It would be good to have her around, even if it's only
for a few months.
going to start training with the six astronauts that have signed
up for Farscape II. Five of the astronauts have families, including
children. I doubt they will want to stay with it once they understand
that we don't know if we will be able to get back. I do keep warning
them about the risks, but I don't think it has really sunk in. The
sixth astronaut is a single woman in her thirties. I don't know
how much family she has, but she also needs to be as informed about
the decision as the others. She is a perfect candidate. In addition
to being a biologist, she also speaks twelve languages, eight fluently.
New Year. I hope you are celebrating it in some form.
Letters from Jack - Anniversary
grim at IASA today; exactly one year since you disappeared in Farscape
I. DK could barely look at me. In the meantime, I have been very
busy training the crew who will follow you. The capsules have revealed
extraordinary data, and I can see DK's excitement as he uncovers
its secrets. They are now fairly sure that a wormhole opened up
just beyond Earth's atmosphere. Although it wasn't the intent of
your experiment, it seems you proved something that was thought
only theoretically possible. The probe disappeared just as you did
exactly one year ago. But now I am hopeful.
to the astronomical data, we are in a very high sun spot activity
period. It's too bad we cannot launch this month. I have been assured
there will be enough activity for Farscape II in April of 2001.
I don't know how I'm going to hold out for a year, but I'll have
that we may not come back from this mission is finally starting
to sink in with the flight crew. I can see doubts beginning show
in their faces. I'm not making it easy for them, either. I'm basically
telling them to put their affairs in order, as this is probably
a suicide mission. At first, I don't think they believed me, but
I'm saying it so often, that it is becoming reality. I also learned
that these were the only six who would consider entering the program
at the beginning.
did cash in on her options, and she is working at IASA and staying
with me until September, when she goes to MIT. I can't believe how
much money she's been able to make off the options. She understands
what I am doing and is being very supportive. Emma will help me
break the news to Allison when the time comes. She also thinks they
will have no choice but to let me go. Emma sends her love.
Letters from Jack - Fourth of July
year DK and I decided to work through the July 4th weekend.
We couldn't face the barbeques, picnics, or baseball games that
people normally have on this holiday. This year, Emma and I decided
to have a few people over. Allison and DK, of course, and Andrea
Walker, one of the astronaut's training for this mission. The other
five all have families of their own, but she is alone. I've learned
a lot about her, and her story is truly tragic. Mine, in comparison,
is a walk in the park; and I have hope.
an only child and lost both her parents when she was in high school.
Her mother died when she was in her freshman year, and her father
followed her two years later, never recovering from his grief. From
then on she stayed with her grandmother until she married while
still in college. She got her PhD in biology at a rather young age
and had a baby too. She was finishing a post-graduate position at
Yale when a drunk driver in a head on collision killed her husband
and daughter. Andrea was waiting for them to pick her up at work;
instead the state police met her.
there is nothing to hold her here. We work well together.
is a delight to be with. She is very excited about going to MIT
this September. She has friends in Cambridge who have an apartment
with extra room. It will be a good situation for her, and much nicer
than living in a dorm, even one for graduate students.
Emma wants to write something.
I hope you are out there somewhere. I feel you are alive, I think
I caught it from Dad. Sheesh, he writes so formally, like he's applying
for a job. Love ya... I hope you read these letters.
Letters from Jack - Reflection
comment at the end of the last letter made me think of how stiff
I must seem. I don't know how else to be. I've been trying to write
this letter for over a week now, and it keeps coming out the same.
You'll just have to live with it. Oh God, please be alive!
and I have talked a lot about this mission. She has mixed feelings.
I think I've convinced her that you are out there, but she doesn't
want to lose me. I hope, more than I know, that you are out there
and that I will be able to get you back. DK has a team working on
what I'll need to be able to return. We really got a lot from those
capsules. The result is Farscape II is much bigger than your module,
and will have enough fuel, supplies, and instrumentation to reverse
the process and to take the necessary time (we hope).
is getting ready to go to Cambridge, but she wants to tell you herself.
There's no hope for him, is there. I'm off to MIT to study Robotics
and I'll be working in the Media Lab. I'm very excited.
I quit my other job and came here to be with father. He is determined
to go. Allison is probably taking it harder than me, but that's
because I'm part of the team now and I have hope, too. I'll have
to have some heart to heart with Sis. She knows he has to do it, but we'll miss him
I quit the dotcom just in the nick of time. Two weeks after I cashed
in my options, the bottom fell out of that stock. Crazy!
Letters from Jack - Thanksgiving
of us got together for a small Thanksgiving meal. Allison made all
the fixings, Emma made desert, cranberry and apple pie. Last year
we didn't celebrate it at all, which on looking back, was a mistake.
at IASA is excited and stressed at the same time.
Each day we get closer to the launch, the more we hope. It's
now official, Dr. Andrea Walker and I are the two man crew for Farscape
II. Both DK and Andrea were instrumental in getting me on Farscape
II. That, and none of the other candidates were sure of going. Dr.
Walker went to Detroit to see her grandmother this Thanksgiving.
She needs to tell her and the rest of her family about her plans.
I agreed to speak to her grandmother should that become necessary.
I sure put myself in a spot with that. I selfishly want her on the
mission, as they won't send me alone, and she is a perfect candidate.
But I also see it from the other side. I don't want to put any one
through my experience, so I'm torn.
is starting to come around to accept my decision. I have Emma to
thank. I know that without her support, Allison would be much more
forceful about keeping me here. As it is, she is not happy, but
she will not interfere.
had to get back to MIT. She is working on some very exciting projects
herself. She left a letter for me to include with these.
Letter from Emma
to write you myself, Dad has me believing you will read this. Yeah,
I believe it too.
never guess what I've been doing. Okay, you've gotten hints from
Dad. But you don't know the details. I'm working on teeny-tiny robots.
These little critters start at about the size of a teacup and get
smaller from there. The smallest are what I call nanobots. One idea
for the teacups is to use them to identify those dreadful mines
left hanging around from all the different conflicts. Each of these
robots is really cheap to make, and if they blow up a mine instead
of marking it, it's okay. The smallest, the nanobots, will be used
for aiding surgeons where people have conditions that are currently
inoperable. One neat thing to use them for is to deliver the chemo,
where it can do the most good and leave the person feeling healthy.
There are a gazillion uses for these critters!
Rich and Jamie? I am sharing an apartment with them in Cambridge.
It's really been fun remembering our times together in high school.
Sheesh, we were inseparable. You called us the fearsome-threesome
<g>. They are both working in Boston, and Jamie is going for
his MBA at the same time. We are all very busy, but I couldn't ask
for a more perfect situation.
care of yourself; we all want to see you again!
the best! Love ya,
Letters from Jack - Loose Ends
anniversary of your disappearance has come and gone. We had a small
ceremony here at IASA command. This time our spirits were positive.
Farscape II has infected everyone with hope and excitement.
agreed to be executor of my estate. She will hold onto everything
and pay the necessary taxes and bills unless she is sure I am lost
too. We've put a time limit on when she should start. She is very
unhappy about all this, but I think hopeful too.
also spoke with Dr. Walker's grandmother. It was a very difficult
conversation. I think it is much more difficult for her not being
physically close to Andrea or part of this team. Mrs. Greely has
to take our word that we are doing everything possible to ensure
we will get back. Hell, I don't know if it's possible, and I'm going!
has a room set up for Allison, Emma, and Mrs. Greely for the launch.
They will be analyzing the capsules as they are received. Both Andrea
and I will be able to record our impressions. They will be transferred
to the capsules as they are sent back.
looking forward to the day you will read these letters. I will be
taking them with me, I want to hand deliver them. I'm also taking
some of your Jazz albums and Mozart's Requiem with me. I imagine
you have missed your music.
Farscape II Launch Epilogue
Greely, Emma, and Allison all watched from IASA command as Farscape
II disappeared. Only Emma looked hopeful.
turned to her sister and Andrea's grandmother and said, "We
will know in a couple of hours if they got through okay. Please
put your fears aside until we know one way or another."
right, Sis, I just can't help how I feel."
Greely said nothing, but kept staring at the screen. Tears were
running down her cheeks. Emma wanted to hug her, but didn't because
she turned away from John's sisters. Emma hugged her sister.
I'll be alright. Let's just wait for the capsule recordings."
Allison gave her sister a quick hug and sat down to wait.
into the waiting room with a grin from ear to ear. "I know
it's been very hard for you to wait. They have reached the other
side and you can listen to them now. We also made tapes for you to keep. These are
from five different capsules, so it will sound a little choppy.
But the important thing is they are okay."
squealed with delight, Allison and Mrs. Greely looked stunned and
relieved at the same time.
in it now, committed. The wormhole looks like a silvery tunnel and
we are feeling forces pulling us along its axis." Jack Crichton's
voice was clear and unstrained.
they heard Andrea Walker's voice. "There is no evidence if
any life within this tunnel. The silvery walls are giving off energy
signals, and ...."
continued, "...force. We are determining the properties now."
Jack Crichton's voice replaced Andrea's, "The tunnel curves
a little, but we don't have to steer...."
colliding into the walls. The forces within the tunnel are doing
all the work. It looks like we may be about to exit. I see....."
through! We've exited at a planetary system. One of the planets
has artificial satellites. What wonders will......" The recording
ended with Jack and Andrea speaking.
Here for part 2: The Other Side.
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