The distant stars twinkled brightly as Max Well watched them pass by the viewport. He finally had a few minutes to relax after a long night of monitoring the ships machinery.
Max Well was the senior technician aboard the deep space survey ship Bennington. His main duty was to observe a few dozen data recorders while the ship skimmed through space at nearly the speed of light. Max had always been amazed how the stars looked viewed from a spaceship moving at the speed of light. Watching them seemed like the ship was not moving for the stars remain many light years distant.
Three years ago, the Earth orbiting space dock had just completed the final preparations for the new survey ship Bennington. Main component for the science labs and the medical bay. The crew compartments had been completed two days prior and the ship galley was stocked with the best supplies for feeding the crew.
There were ten crew members including Max and the ship Captain, Lawrence Pepper. Max was in charge of the duties of the crew and Larry Pepper was in charge of the ship along with everyone on board. He would depend on Max for the pulse of the crew. Most were technicians. With one chef handpicked by Max himself.
The departure of the Bennington was broadcast on every news station on Earth. The mission of the ship was kept secret until the ship left Earth orbit. Then it was announced.
“This is Lawrence Pepper, the Captain of the new deep space survey ship Bennington”. The announcer said proudly to the crowd in the conference room.
“Captain Pepper and his crew will embark on a voyage of excitement and discovery.”
The announcer turned over the mic to Captain Pepper.
“Citizens of the world, I am proud to be taking this magnificent ship to the far reaches of the Galaxy. We are going to prove that reaching other worlds that were only visible through our most powerful telescopes is finally possible. We plan on reaching the latest discovered Earth like planet Columbia 2 after only two days of our goal of nearly light speed, hopefully faster. We will be in constant contact with Earth during the trip. And sending the first ever closeup images of planet Columbia 2.”
There were photo opportunities and handshakes for the entire crew as they said their farewells to families and the world. Then one by one, they returned to the Bennington and made preparations for getting under way.
Once the entire crew was on board the Bennington, Max situated each member into his assigned place for the launch then joined Captain Pepper in the control section.
As Max strapped himself into his seat, Captain Pepper looked over at him and smiled.
“Well Max. This is what we've been training for. It is all finally coming true. First the discovery of Columbia 2, then the conferences, the meetings, the picking of our crew and the intense training. I tell ya Max, this is exciting!”
Max smiled as he double checked his side of the control panel.
“ Not half as excited as the donors who are making this possible. Let's hope we don't let anyone down. Don't want to go missing like the first unmanned probe. That was a disappointment to say the least.”
“We will be okay Max, no worries. I have faith in this mission. Relax.”
Max returned his thoughts to his panel. Noticing the miniscule rises and drops in the numerous readouts. So far all of the meters and sensors remained in the green.
The crew who had nothing to do at the moment sat quietly talking to each other. A couple of them were even calm enough to sleep. Scott Daniels, the ships chef was quietly studdying a set of menus and going over the list of supplies. Creating meals in his mind as he looked over ingredients.
As the world watched on thousands of view monitors, technicians began the intricate task of starting the launch sequences.
Clouds of below zero vapor began rising around the launch bay. Water Jets began pouring tons of water across the platform that held the Bennington snugly.
As a hidden technician made the final flip of a switch, the massive engines of the Bennington roared to life.
The crew felt shaking and vibration as the giant ship made it’s two minute flight into Earth orbit. The engines were performing flawlessly. They were built to slowly begin the transition to light speed within ten minutes after the launch. The crew had rotated their seats to prepare for the powerful push beyond the solar system.
Captain Pepper looked at his dials. “Here we go Max in 3……2……1.”
Suddenly, Max and the Captain and the crew felt their bodies being pushed back in the seats. The Captain began reading out the accellerometer.
“Mach six……Mach eight……Mach 12. There it is Max, the magic number. We are now the fastest humans.”
Max didn't say a word. He just looked over at the Captain and nodded.
It had been six hours since the Bennington left its home system and Max found himself watching the stars pass by.
Thinking that he was in a dream, Max closed his eyes and thought of his home by the lake. Peaceful, serene, plenty of fish.
Max was not able to get the thought of fishing into his mind when he suddenly felt a strong shudder coming up through the deck and feeling it in his feet. He rushed back to the control room where the Captain was.
“Larry! Did you feel that? It seemed like a sudden vibration inside the ship.”
“Yes Max. Take a look at this! You won't believe what just happened.”
Max leaned across the Captains shoulder to look at the gauge he was pointing to. Max was dumbfounded.
“My God Larry! That……that's not possible!”
“May not be possible, but it has just happened. According to this, we are now one hundred thousand light years from not only Earth, but from Columbia 2 as well. Whatever we felt inside this ship, it has somehow catapulted us farther out than we ever want to be. Unless we can figure out what happened, we will never see Earth or Columbia 2. Ever again.”
Max sat down in his seat and closed his eyes. He thought, 'this is not happening. This is not happening.’”Do you think maybe we went through a wormhole or something? A space warp perhaps?”
“I don't know Max. There is no explanation for this. We should not have been able to do this. Not with this ship!”
There were now crew members streaming into the control room searching for answers.
Captain Pepper and Max tried their best to explain the new situation. None were believing it. But they realized that the gauges were right.
Max looked out the view port.
“The stars are all wrong. I don't recognize any of them. Wait a second!”
Max moved closer to the view port for a better look.
“Oh my God, we've stopped! Look!”
Looking out the view port, the crew of the Bennington saw that the ship had indeed stopped and they were now looking at a blue and green world that the ship was closing in on.
The crew stared in awe at this fantastic world that they were seeing.
There appeared to be vast oceans if the blue was indicative of water. And great land masses. The world looked roughly the same mass as Earth.
The crew could not make out any civilizations yet. Not from this distance.
“Maybe when we get closer we will be able to see some sort of habitation. Hopefully friendly.”
The crew looked at the Captain with a worried look. Hoping he was right.
An hour later, the Bennington had automatically moved into a low orbit of the planet. Max was about to prepare the comms for the Captain to try for contact.
“All set Captain. Hope whoever may be there understands.”
“This is the Earth ship Bennington. Calling anyone on the planet below us. We are in a low orbit of your world. We mean you no harm.”
“We mean you no harm? Think you might have worded that differently skipper?”
The chef had a worried look on his face.
The Captain repeated the message during a full orbit of the planet. Then waited.
After a long anxious hour, the ship communication panel crackled to life, startling everyone.
“Ship high. We hear you. Meet you we will on our home. Look for bright on coast.”
The message was repeated three more times.
The crew fell silent. Max was the first to break the silence.
“Do you think we should look for a bright, whatever, along a coast?”
“And I will assume we can get down there with our ship.”
“You’re right. Let's get looking.”
The crew began scanning the planet below looking for a bright light or something reflected from one of the planet coastlines.
After thirty minutes someone shouted. “Captain! Could that be the bright?”
The maintenance tech point toward the planet and the crew saw a bright light on a western coastline.
“That has to be it. Okay, now let's get the ship into landing configuration. Seems we have no choice now.”
The crew returned to their flight seats as the Captain and Max set the ship into landing mode.
As the ship dropped out of orbit and flew along the selected coast, the Captain saw a large enough landing area.
“There! See that long wide stretch of beach? Looks good.”
“Looks good to me Captain, go for it.” Max braced himself.
The ship landed with a thud and heavy vibrations. After what seemed an eternity, the sensation of movement totally dissapated.
Max stood up and slowly looked out a view port.
There, outside the ship, stood hundreds of the inhabitants of this world that the Bennington was now a part of.
“Captain, uh, you're not going to believe this.”
The Captain stood up and moved closer to his view port. He stared out. Looking over the world, seeing ocean waves, green forests inuland. Long stretch of dark Sandy Beach. And there outside the ship, looking up at him from the beach were the inhabitants of this world.
And up on the hill just beyond a dune stood a large sign.
'WELCOME TO LOS ANGELES CALIFORNIA'
The man looked toward the sky and his gaze was focused on a faint vapor trail where a spacecraft was just seconds ago.
His thoughts were with the single passenger aboard that craft. A passenger who drew the short straw for this one way mission into space.
The man was Jake Buck. The cr...