Pandora: First Step
There are parts of our universe so far beyond reach that we're tempted to consider them dead to us. Dead that is, unless we're able to see them, touch them, bring them to life. Until then we can only hear their distant and fading cries: civilizations built, lives lived and torn down, battered by time and forced into dust -- only echoes of their existence remain, all around us.
These were far more than echoes to Pandora Sheridan though. These were lives, individuals, and thriving cultures. Yet with all that humanity had learned since the Great War, she was still more interested in the simpler things, even just the names they once called each other. Pandora had been haunted by those mysteries for as long as she could remember.
She stood on the platform, a trickle of dust lightly blowing over her feet. Her eyes followed the contours of the Lewis and Clark and she smiled dreamily to herself. Sitting here was now her chance to put some of those nameless ghosts to rest.
There was no denying it was going to be a dangerous, risky mission. Not only did she have a difficult time getting funding required to purchase the materials needed for the expedition, but some of the materials themselves were hard to come by. As a xenoarchaeologist, she'd spent many years studying, observing, researching all she could. Now, she was finally admiring the fruits of her labor. From childhood she was enraptured by the mysteries of the Ancients, watching as her father hunched over old documents, examining strange yet beautiful artifacts, and waiting at home impatiently for him to return from distant expeditions - this was her life.
Human exploration had shown that unraveled mysteries aren't always pleasant. And whatever lies just beyond our reach is so distant that only the bravest and most adventurous of souls even attempt to venture there. They are the souls that forge the path for all that follow. The edge of the galaxy was a place full of mystery, of dead and dying stars, and whispers of rare dangers. Nonetheless, Pandora couldn't have been more optimistic. Those dark places far in the reaches of space she chose instead to see as places that once held life - and which still hold the promise of more.
"Enjoying the view, Dr. Sheridan?" Sacagawea asked. The A.I.'s holographic form, an ethereal Native American woman clad in blue, appeared and stood over a nearby pedestal. "The Persephone class vessel is not noted for being particularly pleasing to the eye. More robust than it appears, yes, but not aesthetically notable."
"Beauty is said to be in the eye of the beholder, Essy," Pandora replied light-heartedly, but there was little reaction from the A.I. "This is the opportunity I've been fighting for."
Sacagawea nodded. "I look forward to it, as well. It will be a challenge to navigate regions of our outer galaxy that no one has previously visited first hand." Pandora thought she noticed a slight twinkle in the avatar's eyes as she spoke the words. "It will not be a standard slipspace jump. Probes and long-distance surveys from the areas near where we're heading can only give us so much data. I will need to make frequent navigational checks during travel. While I don't predict any major problems, it is always better to be safe than sorry."
Pandora was glad the A.I. was enthusiastic, such as an A.I. could be, anyway. She'd gone through great pains to procure such a quality construct, although some of those pains weren't entirely... legal. Sacagawea wasn't a military grade construct, but she was well above and beyond the standard civilian A.I.s Pandora had worked with before.
With the rest of the team already inside and making final preparations for the voyage, Pandora reached out and ran her fingers along the surface of the crate they'd be calling home for what could feel like an eternity. Had she not chosen to take advantage of cryostasis the trip would take far too long, but even in cryostasis one still dreams, and the dream-world itself was an unpredictable, timeless universe.
Pandora stepped back, looking one last time over her ship's name branded along its hull: Lewis and Clark. She had absolute faith that her small team of four specialists would make it to their destination. She took a deep breath. "Let's go chase ghosts," she muttered. Sacagawea nodded, then flickered from view as Pandora stepped onto the loading ramp.
>>S:Log//Pre-launch mission observations/Addendum:3547
Dr. Sheridan's enthusiasm and spirit will be a benefit to this mission and her team. Perhaps, however, I should remind her that any time one decides to go 'chasing ghosts', one must be prepared to stand face to face with the underworld.
Another time. If we are set to journey to this underworld, then there is much preparation to be done if we also hope to emerge from it afterward.