“Where do you think you’ll go when you die?”
The transmitter’s sockets are not aligning. Brent’s tongue is sticking out of the corner of his mouth. This is not a good time for stupid questions. Then again, with nothing between you and star-lit vacuum but a ten-mil layer of spacesuit electronics, who can blame the boy?
“I have no idea. Number three wrench?”
“I’ve always wanted to see the stars, you know? Here,” that’s the number three all right, but the joint is sticky. Frozen shut. “Try the heat-torch”, offers Reed. They work well together, despite all this chatter. “I know what they say, about the trips. I don’t care, I can take it.”
That’s easy to say. It’s a sixty-parsec jump to the nearest habitable. But the Ghost-squads are now jumping to places 200, 220 clicks away. Brent can’t even imagine it. “They say they’ve figured out the time thing. It’s two hundred actual years of subjective time. Two centuries, just you, yourself, and more you. Just to see another barren rock. Weld here, will you?”
Reed is a good partner, steady, quick. Brent’s had worse. But Reed is young. And stupid: “I’ve signed up, yesterday. Ghost-4201.”
“I signed limited, got pushed forward. Explorer class. Under 5000, you get earth-like, habitable. 3083 and 201 found life -“
“Microbes and depressed fish! Jeez, boy, limited, what’s that, forty?”
“Thirty eight. Look, it’s what I want!”
“You want them to come kill you in twelve years?“
“I want to travel to the stars! I don’t want to end up – “
The console lights up green. “Thanks, guys, you’ve got a real light touch”, says the transmitter. Jan Pieterse, engineer second class, deceased 2109. Ghost-180 390. Brent shudders.
Maybe the boy has it right.