No great ball of flame erupts from StarDancer’s cryogenic tanks, and no white-hot flames engulf the cockpit. Just silence and a trail of debris, frozen fluids and vapor are all that’s left of Jeff and Jennifer Bindl’s attempt to travel faster than the speed of light.
Now, the four sons of the space travelers who lost their lives are thrust into the spotlight as the world’s only private space corporation investigates the accident to determine what went wrong and how the impossible feat might yet be achieved.
Alec, the oldest brother, must battle internal demons as he seeks to determine whether to join his brothers to pursue what their parents could never accomplish: FTL, or traveling faster than light. Ty and Orion, the twins in the middle, must assume positions of responsibility far earlier than anticipated. And the youngest, Zach, must show that his immense intellect can usher in a new era of creativity for space travel and world security.
But in order to accomplish mankind’s greatest achievement, the brothers must overcome a myriad of obstacles, danger and surprises as they seek their collective destiny in Mission to the Stars.
The StarDancer seemed to be slipping through the vastness of space as easily and silently as an ancient Tall Ship through calm ocean water with a strong wind at her back. The ships speed and magnetic pulses had also left the distant stars and space surrounding it swirling in a multitude of colors. Jeff Bindl, not anticipating the impending doom, turned his head toward his wife Jennifer, strapped into the co-pilots seat next to him. “Beautiful sound isn’t it?” He was referring to the Magna Drives rotations humming in sequence with the other, as if they were writing a beautiful concerto. She was pushing buttons and touching keypads on the holopanel in front of them. With every touch the image gave a slow plasma ripple as if water. To Jeff , as he looked on, each movement she made was in harmony with the drives, and more graceful than the previous. “Every time!” she gleamed, “Approaching MARK point.” (The point at which the ship would reach and then pass faster than light (FTL) speed.) Jeff reached down to his side and pulled out a laminated sheet. Th is was the fi nal checklist before reaching FTL speed. Th is being the fi rst manned FTL fl ight, his heart raced as he tried to stammer out the checks. “Forward obstruction sensors?” “Online.” “Rear obstruction sensors.” “Online” Jennifer excitedly replied. “Star map nav system.” “Online.” “Star Magnetic fi eld sensors.” “Online.” “Field locations.” “Locked.” “Plasmat engine one.” “Online.” “Plasmat engine two.” “Online.” “Magna drives one through three.” “Online.” “All Conventional engines.” “Online, all drives and engines operational.” “Drive syncro sensors.” “Green.” The checks continued for several more minutes, but now history was at hand. “Engage Magna Auto Drive on my MARK” Jeff announced steadily. Drawing a deep breath, Jennifer reached down to her side with her left hand and fl icked a toggle switch, then slowly moved her hand behind the toggle and gently rested two fi ngers on a set of buttons. She then heard her husband’s voice, for the last time. “Mark!” he barked out. She pressed the keypads simultaneously. The bluish energy shield that protected the ship fluctuated, and failed. Alarms began echoing throughout the cabin. Rapidly trying to diagnose the problem, nothing she was doing seemed to work. Jennifer threw a horrifi ed glance at her husband, which, he never saw. In that one moment, she knew it was too late. The StarDancer seemed to hesitate, the swirling colors that had engulfed the ship dissipated instantly and it then began a skipping motion as if it was a stone being tossed on a clear placid lake. It then began to accelerate, upon doing so the circular Magna Drives faltered and shifted from a rhythmic circular motion to something that seemed to reflect the way pistons move in conventional bore and stroke engines. When this happened the ships front section began to turn and twist in ways that it was not designed to. The rear of the ship stayed level and unmoving as if in a different dimension. Jeff had no time to react, only to think. In those thoughts he knew that this was wrong on every level. His head was spinning now; he could not even move to see if Jennifer was still there beside him, she was not. A hole about four feet in diameter had opened in the bulk head to her right and in an instant she had vanished into the vast nothingness. The ship was still jerking, bucking, twisting, turning and rapidly disintegrating around him and he knew it. It was then he seemed to slip into a hypnotic stage. He could not move or breathe now, but he could see. What he saw brought peace to his soul for the moment. He saw his wife’s engaging smile; he felt joy. He saw Alec at nine years old, lying on a grassy hill next to him and asking if he could someday fly up there with Dad as he pointed to the stars. He saw Jennifer on their Wedding Day; she was clutching a yellow rose. Was that the one he had given her on their first date? He felt heartbreak. He saw Jennifer lying on a hospital bed; she was holding their newly born twin sons, Ty and Orion. With an internal blink he saw the birth of his youngest, Zach. He felt pride. Then suddenly, as if a final statement as to what was happening to him, he was standing precariously on the edge of a chasm with Jennifer. The boys were standing, watching in horror; being held back by Pitor Axion dressed in a Senatorial outfit. What was he doing there? He felt confusion and anger. Suddenly, holding on to each other tightly, the ground gave way, falling, falling, never reaching bottom. Coming back to consciousness for a brief moment, still strapped to his pilot’s seat, he fought the blackness that was enveloping him. He knew that his life was ending; he understood that their failed discovery would now be in the hands of his four sons. Could they continue? Would they want to continue the most important quest of all time? In his final moments he prayed that they would. Then he saw nothing; he felt nothing. It was done, no great ball of flame erupting from the rupturing fuel and cryogenic tanks. No white-hot flames engulfing the shattered cockpit. Just silence and a trail of debris, frozen fluids and vapor spread over a half of light year long. And, all of this, in a matter of mille seconds…
Ted Iverson, a longtime fan of science fiction, lives in northern Illinois with his family. He is currently working on the second book of Mission to the Stars.