“Daddy, what are those lights in the sky?”
“They’re called stars, Teddy.”
“What are stars, daddy?”
“Well, there is a big black curtain up there and behind it is a ginormous light. The curtain is very old and starting to get holes in it, so you can now see the light behind it shining through.”
“Why did someone put the curtain up, daddy, wouldn’t it be nice to have light all of the time?”
“If there was light all of the time, son, you would have difficulty getting to sleep at night.”
This explanation satisfied the five-year-old Teddy, but it also sparked a vague desire to go and see what was behind the curtain and fully see the light.
As Teddy grew, he became Eddie to his friends and Edward to the administrators of the astronautical program he had signed up to. Extremely intelligent, he was always destined to be the commander of any space-going vessel launched from earth. He embarked upon and maintained an excellent level of fitness that would serve him well in any extreme situation that he or his crew may face. His colleagues knew also that if they ever wanted to accompany him in exploring the vast universe, they would also need to be physically and mentally prepared to their highest level.
The countries of the world had contributed trillions of dollars, pounds, rupees, et cetera to make this potential colonising project work. They were hoping to find a new venue for Mankind and maybe to treat it in a better way than the one he and she were currently living upon.
No expense had been spared, no secret technology was withheld from their efforts to make the venture work. Week in and week out, all communication media was employed to make this lengthy building program seem fresh in the populace’s eyes. It was believed by many that Mankinds future rested on the shoulders of these few individuals. Whether it was true or not, billions were inspired and for the first time in history. Mankind could be seen as genuinely pulling together.
The space-vehicle was assembled in space away from gravitational influences as it was the size of a small town. When complete, it would ‘house’ tens of thousands of young fit and intelligent men and women in suspended animation for as long as it took to find a new world where there could be safely awakened for whatever faced them.
Eddie and his crew of two hundred and fifty were destined to die on route as the distances to be traversed were huge and could take hundreds of years. Supplementary crews would be awakened as the originals died off. Six ‘generations’ of crews had been allowed for and if it was seen that there should be additional crew needed, some intending colonists would be awakened and trained.
Eddie smiled to himself as he contemplated that his drive to seek beyond was originally motivated by his father’s silly interpretation. However, he mentally thanked him for an explanation that had somehow ignited him to achieve what he with many others would embark upon in the next few months. They wouldn’t use the moon as a ‘way-stop’ to the stars, as even the lighter gravitational field of this comfortable satellite could damage their vast travelling habitat. His crew would be the first to go beyond it and into a possible infinite space to maybe land on something truly alien.
“The Festival of the Stars” occupied the world for three months before the launch. Mankind celebrated and commiserated with each other that they had to take such extreme measures to ensure that Mankind was not lost to this universe. Religions put aside their differences in the gods and prayed together in a temporary amalgamation of prayer for the project’s success. The poor and disadvantaged were brought into the fold of universal care and a feeling of well-being radiated throughout the world.
During the Festival, Edward, the Commander, initiated many drills in the gigantic Spaceship whilst many of the final touches were being done to it and soon the great day of the launching from its orbit over Earth came. The ceremony with the predictable dignitaries came to an end and there was a silence over the world as Commander Edward Murrow pressed the button to initiate the start of the journey.
It was a very slow movement that the atomic engines started to push the gigantic spaceship to the stars. Gradually the watching people of earth became aware of movement and almost in unison shouted farewell and bon-voyage.
It had been decided that the ‘ship’ would broadcast as long as it was able, to keep the remaining Mankind informed and interested. It was readily acknowledged, that humans would very soon drift back to the familiar and customary ways of a degree of suspicion of their fellow Man.
Computers with Artificial Intelligence had long been making the lives of many humans easier and pleasant, and the crew of the Enterprise were there largely just in the remote possibility of the system breaking down. This possibly was Mankind’s last chance to save itself, and in matters of survival, Man could sometimes take an obscure or unusual element and conjure up a solution that a programmed machine couldn’t.
The psychologists and philosophers knew humans needed familiarity as well as variety if they were going to spend a lifetime in confinement, even though in this vast ‘arena.’ People needed the apparency of freedom from the restrictive walls of the vessel, so they made playing fields. They made streets of theatres and clubs. It was a human habitat of the familiar to stop them from going stir-crazy and it worked.
When everything is working perfectly and seemingly this will go on ‘forever,’ the crew indulged more and more in interests other than the supervising of the ship’s main custodian, the ‘Intelligent Computer.’ Edward relaxed his own vigilance with the acquisition of a beautiful partner whose role was that of being responsible for the maintenance of the atomic pile that kept the great engine running. She felt that she was largely superfluous as many of her colleagues did, but she was happy to attend to the needs of the Commander as he was tending to hers. It was a very satisfactory arrangement.
They were in the second year of their exploration when ‘Molly’ their computer informed them that they were rapidly approaching an obstacle that at their speed couldn’t be avoided. Edward issued an ‘all-stations’ manning to be ready in case the ‘obstacle’ did not do irreparable harm to their vessel and they could contain the consequences of the collision. Everyone waited with bated breath for the crash or whatever it was. Only the voice of ‘Molly’ rang through the ship as ‘she’ counted down to the point of impact.
“Ten seconds to impact,” said the uninflected voice of ‘Molly.’ “Nine, eight, seven…” Then arrival. The ship burst through a thick black curtain without sustaining any damage and into eyewatering light. There on the screens of the ship they saw an image of a gigantic light-bulb hanging from a cord that vanished into space above.
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You had a really different approach to this prompt and my dog's name is Teddy so extra points for that haha.
Thanks for reading. This really was the way that some of Mankind thought the stars were, and - sacrilege - they may not be wrong.