Chapter 1 – Autumn
Autumn, the season of change. As the baking sun obscured itself behind the biting wind, there was a sense of apprehension. As the pastels of summer faded to the grayscale of winter, there was a brief period of sepia, when the whole world seemed to be slipping away right before our eyes. This time was different. This year, the dejected leaves of brown and gold brought a new beginning, a fresh start and a promise of discovery. This was my first autumn away from the safety of home, my first venture into a world of risks and rewards beyond compare. My journey would take me beyond the comfort of the regular seasons, outside of the influence of the Earth’s spin. I was not the first to leave – not by a large margin – and I doubt I’ll be the last, but the trepidation I felt before boarding that shuttle…I may as well have been the first human to leave orbit.
I was bound for the newest of SERN Corporation’s ‘habitats’, huge spaceships designed to hold thousands of people in comfort as they make their way out towards the stars. At that time, they were stationary, awaiting the last shuttles before they began to accelerate away from the central docking station of the Kuiper belt. We all knew the destination, but none of us would get there - the journey would take at least 400 years. Although mankind was now able to travel further into space than ever before, we still only had two options for maintaining a crew on our vessels: Cryogenics & Reproduction. Cryogenics was an expensive affair reserved for small crews on exploratory missions, leaving the only option for a large ship of thousands of civilians as reproduction. There were twelve habitats in total; all bound for the same destination, my ship was to be Hervande - named after the inventor of the new engines that the habitats would use. The engines allowed the habitats to accelerate indefinitely into space, as they did not require fuel, but used electricity alone to propel the ship. Not that this would be noticeable to us on board, the acceleration was very gradual and most of the journey would be in empty space. We were expected to continue our lives as normal on the Hervande, despite the knowledge of what we were involved in. We were assigned a section of the ship in which we would work and sleep, although we were not restricted to our own section for our time off. Just a short shuttle trip and I would be immersed in a new world, a new life and a new opportunity to make a difference, after 26 years of failure, I could finally do something right.