Chapter Two -- 1 MD: Behold Motherlode

Behold Motherlode. The behemoth. The prodigal moon. The satellite with no sun.  A craft of wonder and desperation. An arc heaved at the stars. Behold as she pulls through the gloom. A glittering sheath pulsing silently, billowing at her back. A faint sheen surrounds her, an electro-magnetic shield deflecting the trash of space, harnessing disparate hydrogen ions from the near-vacuous interstellar medium. These minor collisions providing Motherlode its most precious and sustainable energy source. The reactive mass. Behold the lustrous, glittering cape, feeding on the still-present radiation of the sun, even as it propels Motherlode into the celestial miasma.

Behold her immensity. 3,450 kilometers long, her circumference just under that of Earth’s old moon. 6.93x108 km3, her volume more than vast enough to sustain the generations of diasporic homo sapiens to come. Behold her smooth surface, remaining flawless after the great distance traveled, protected by Motherlode’s absorbent field.  Behold her bridge of burnished metal and transparent glass, covered in wall-high screens, a raised platform at the fore, astride it the captain, Roan Oake, her second, Ben Cromartie, and behind them, their crew—a rota of engineers, pilots, and technicians. They who work tirelessly to track Motherlode’s accelerating course through the depths.

Behold Roan. She of straight lines and flinty resolve and young, harsh features. Her deep-set and ancient eyes, twin blue beacons wearying under the strain of scores of sleepless nights. A stark contrast with her dark skin. The monsoon within, swirling in her gut as she plummets… as they all plummet, headfirst into the impossible. Headfirst into the slow death of hundreds of years and light years traveled. Headfirst into the knowing that their children, and grandchildren, would be born in their graves. Knowing that they themselves were buried there even now.

            Behold Captain Roan Oake and her crew, a queen and her hive, working in tandem. Kept alert by necessity and by doses of stim, Roan’s operatives monitor Motherlode’s multitude of functions: those reporting the hull’s integrity, the fluctuating accretion of hydrogen and the output of energy, Motherlode’s growing velocity as it creeps bit by bit toward c, lightspeed, those searching for potential obstacles (black holes, relativistic fields, asteroids and dead planets, the densely packed nebulae which might overwhelm the ship’s pervious forcefield) that could threaten the success of humanity’s attempt to promulgate among the heavens.

Behold the astronomers and their charts, their calculations dancing across constellations, delineating confirmed exo-planets, and rumored planets outlined therein. They argue the merits and risks of each potential destination—listed by distance, by type of star, by the likelihood of a suitable match—pacing back and forth in a conference room adjacent the bridge.

 “Will no one even consider 186f for a moment? It may a little further than the other potential sites, at 500 light-years, but it’s the first, and most concretely confirmed Goldilocks planet…”

“GJ 682 is the obvious choice here. Only 16 light-years away, it could be reached in the next lifetime provided we maneuver through enough matter!”

“You’re mad, Brennon! We all know exos orbiting red dwarfs can’t be counted on…”

Their bickering is a cacophony to Roan when compared to the roaring needs of Motherlode, mankind’s ship, her ship. So much was unknown, so little guaranteed. Even now, they were further from their home, now merely dust and shadow and memory, than any man or woman had ever traveled before. Behold Roan and her fear, her own doubts whispering. You will fail. You will die. You will all die adrift in the cold.