Author’s Note: This was my first draft for my Commonwealth Essay. I’m rewriting it now as it totally strayed out of point, focusing on the opportunity rather than the enterprise. This is my first time writing science-fiction and it’s been quite a thrill to do so. If you look closely, there is quite a number of references to Star Wars.
To boldly go where no man had ever gone before was never an option to his father.
A man in his mid-fifties, David Heaken was a person not to be reckoned with. His eyes were as sharp as knives, sending glares that could kill someone on the spot. A boxer in his youth, his arms were tough and thick as a buffalos’ hide that could probably deflect bullets. He took off his boxing gloves ever since his son was born and got a job at the most unlikely place—the police station. Known as “The Bull”, fearsome criminal syndicates trembled at the mere mention of his name.
His son, however, was a different case altogether.
Trent Heaken had neatly cropped dark brown hair and sparkling storm blue eyes that seemed to draw people’s attention to him in a crowd. His mouth was frequently upturned into a smile; he was a pleasant boy to be around. Everyone who knew him always commented that he was a splitting image of his mother, who had passed away from an incurable disease when he was only five.
His mother had been, and always would be, his greatest source of inspiration. She was the woman who had always encouraged him to express his creativity and to never be afraid when things did not go the way he planned. To him, the lovely woman that had sat by his side and told him the incredible stories of Greek and Roman mythology was his goddess.
Since young, he had always loved to explore. Trent would pretend to be the fearless adventurer, Indiana Jones, and draw out his long whip to save his mother, the “damsel-in-distress”. His father was not particularly amused, as Trent’s regular practice of the whip broke several expensive vases.
He had not understood much when his mother was diagnosed, nor did he understand that day when his mother started to whisper to him. She had seemed so weak that she gasped in between her sentences. “Tre…nt…e…strong…my…little…ad…ven…turer… re…mem…ber…” It was the last thing she said to him.
He had not fully understood the meaning of death. He always thought his mother had flown somewhere “really far away” as that was what the kind nurse had told him afterwards. He did not understand the sympathetic glances he received from teachers and adults, until he had approached his father.
“Dad, where’s Mum?”
There was no answer at first. Then, “Why?”
“Everyone behaves strangely around me when I talk about her. Mum is in another country right? When will she be back?”
“Soon.” It was a simple yet half-hearted answer.
“But I miss her! She’s been gone too long and—”
“—I want her with me now!”
It had been the last straw. His father slammed his fists onto the table, making him jump. “Trent! Your mother is dead! Do you understand? She’s never coming back, so stop bothering me!”
Stunned, reality finally drove a knife into his little innocent heart. His mother was dead, and she would never read him his favourite heroes or play his “damsel-in-distress” anymore.
And then he wailed.
He stopped his adventures then. No more fantasising about going off to a hidden, unexplored jungle and hunt for lost treasure; the only thing that mattered was just drowning in books all day. He never knew what he wanted to be, even though he was an all-rounder. Some teachers persuaded him to take medical science, but it was not for him. He did not like sitting in offices and talking to people. After much pondering, he realised, he had never grown out of his adventurous spirit. What he really wanted to do was to explore the unknown.
He was eighteen when the opportunity came. The posters around the town seemed to roar out at him: “Black Hole Exploration Confirmed! Aspiring Young Astronauts Wanted!” Scientists had managed to develop a new engine that everyone had long deemed only possible in science-fiction movies. The new space shuttle—or starship, as they called it—was able to explore further regions of the galaxy by using the most unbelievable method: through black holes.
It was common knowledge that black holes sucked up anything and everything, but until today, no one knew what was at the end. It had been proven by accident that black holes could actually act as portals to the other galaxies, because of an astronaut who hurled a tracking device into one after experiencing a bad day.
After much experimenting and tinkering, the starship was born, constructed of strong metal that could withstand the gravitational pressure of the black holes. And now, the missing ingredient was a team of astronauts. There was some debate and careful deliberation about the team. They had to be young and very fit so they could tolerate the high spatial pressure of teleporting. The age requirement, eighteen to twenty-five, was announced at a recent conference.
Trent knew it was the adventure for him. That night, he waited for his father to return and broke the news to him over dinner. But David’s reaction was far from his expectations.
“Do you take me for a fool? Do you have any idea how dangerous those missions are? Why, haven’t you heard about those astronauts who died the moment they got on the spacecraft?” David thundered. The tension electrified between the two of them that evening.
Trent had already resolved to go, regardless of his father’s consent. But he had not been seeking consent, but rather, his father’s approval. Determination ruled his mind, and he turned up for the selection tests and interviews for the mission.
He was thrilled when he was one of the five candidates chosen out of the four thousand hopefuls. He clutched the letter tightly to his chest, the feeling of success jumping in his heart, as if it was his own treasure. The joy sapped almost immediately as he remembered he had to obtain his father’s signature. He gritted his teeth in frustration. He would never approve! If only his mother were around…
And then his mother’s last words echoed in his mind, “Trent, be strong, my little adventurer. Remember.”
And Trent found himself facing his father, his hands clenched but sweaty, as he said simply, “I’m not changing my mind, Dad, no matter what you say.” He sucked in a breath, and with it, he found renewed courage. “So please, sign the form.” He pushed forward the document, nervously waiting.
David shifted his eyes from the newspaper he was reading to his son. The headlines screamed out at him: “Black Hole Starship To Be Launched! The World Awaits!” There was a crisp rustle as he closed it and set it down on the table. He stood up, and glared hard into those intense blue eyes. He faltered a little; Trent’s eyes had always reminded him of his wife.
His beautiful wife, the woman he loved. He closed his eyes, and saw her smiling in his mind.
Come on, David! What are you so afraid of?
David knew what he had to do. Without another moment, he drew out his pen and uncapped it.
“Launching black hole generator in ten seconds…” The crackle came over the radio.
The starship had stopped, floating in orbit, and all five of them were strapped in tightly. The team consisted of Paul Milton, captain, Bridgette Randall, co-captain, Leia Hamill, Falkner Vale and finally, Trent Heaken, the youngest. The team had bonded over the training sessions and simulations, and to Trent, they were like an extended family.
“Seven…” It still came to him as a shock, that his father gave his approval. The moment where his father had signed the paper was playing in his mind repeatedly, and he would never be able to get over it. But the most surprising of them all, was when David had turned up for the send-off, and kissed him on the forehead. That was considered a “Good luck” and a hug rolled into one.
“Five…” And then, there was the problem of naming their starship. Everyone wanted it to be slick, cool and most of all, meaningful. It had been a day before the starship team conference when they were all pressured into thinking about it. There was the “Apollo 20”, which everyone instantly struck off, followed by “Millennium Falcon”, but the one that struck something in Trent was “Andromeda”.
“Three…” It was then he suggested something. He told them of a story, of a boy who wanted to be an adventurer and had a goddess for a mother. He always thought of his mother of a person who had always brought him victory in his adventures, and so he called his mother the “Goddess of Victory”…
“Two…” Everyone approved of the name he said.
“One! Opening the black hole!” Paul shouted. The starship shot a beam of ray at the empty space in front of them, and a huge gaping hole started to swallow them.
Nike, exploration successful.