April 12, 2113; 5:26 a.m. Zulu; Countdown is T-minus 56 minutes 13 seconds to launch for Mars trajectory.
Over 7 years of training and design has taken us to this pivotal point in our lives…well my life anyway…since I am the one who is actually alive. I often considered Cassandra to be “alive”, but she is different; she would not age and I would. I often wondered if our relationship would have the dynamics and the fireworks that we have now in another 30 years. One day as we walked and talked I vowed to myself to have that conversation with her. I trusted her to be able to talk to me about the subject. I kind of figured that she would evolve emotionally with me, but if we never had the conversation I would never really know. But there would be plenty of time to have those types of discussions on the long mission ahead. Now there was only the mission and the mission was here and now. “We aim to please!” The Astronaut had told mission control as he bounded across the rugged regolith in the lunar rover with his fellow Astronaut. I remember that I couldn’t get enough of the early moon explorations and the daring men who walked on the moon. They were all long since gone by the time I was born, but their exploits still riveted me to view their history long into my teenage years. Now over a century and half later, I was going to be at the forefront of human space exploration and my love, the extraordinarily capable and gorgeous android, Cassandra would be my partner and fellow space explorer. Enough adjectives could adequately describe everything that she was would need to fill in a book, so single sentence descriptions of her were simply inadequate. But now we were working on muscle memory going through our checklists as if we were both androids.
As Mission Commander, I have overall responsibility for the ship and all of its systems; the entire crew, including welfare and discipline issues if required; and with all communications with Earth and with Mars. Cassandra is the pilot and she is to share the navigation responsibilities with me. We are quartered together in the Command Section of the ship. Lockheed was careful not to use the term Command Module, because the Command Section of the ship was the ship, for all intents and purposes. The Master Command flight deck has a sleeper, galley, head, and a spartan exercise area for Cassandra and me. The Mars Lander, Crew quarters and all of the Equipment modules can only be accessed by us via spacewalk, should some mishap occur, but that also means that access to us is the same way. On the other hand, it means that command is fully insulated from any potential mutiny in the face of problems.
Historically, the typical rout to Mars is called the ‘Hohmann Transfer Orbit’. Since the Earth orbits the Sun a little less than twice the speed that Mars orbits the Sun, timing is critical for fast transit times. Making things more interesting, the orbits of both planets are not perfectly circular; they are slightly elliptical and both have different ellipses. Making things even more interesting, this is both the first ship completely assembled in Earth orbit and it is first fully functional Ion Drive. There are, however, several chemical rocket maneuvering thrusters. This is also another first, in that this trip will be made using a modified ‘Hohmann Transfer Orbit’. Our course will take us on a very close flyby of the Moon so that we can get a slingshot effect out to Mars. This maneuver is designed to cut 5 weeks off of our transit time. Cassandra and I have been working so hard to get to this point, that we have not had enough intimate time together and we are both a little edgy; not irritable edgy-we seemed beyond that since that day that I found out who-what-she really was. The edginess was more about desire, built up having been pent up for so long. I often felt a hollow pit in my stomach, almost a sinking feeling that could lead to depression if I was not always kept busy. For her part, every time she came close to me, she seemed to understand and I often got the feeling that she was undergoing her own withdrawals from our super passionate very close relationship. Perhaps we might be able to rekindle the sparks on the long flight to Mars.
I have been working on my own special Cassandra project for the last 41 months in my spare time. My goal is to level the playing field, so to speak, with Cassandra’s considerable empathic abilities to read my desires and to send erotic feelings back to me; even her ability to project erotic images into my dreams and to put me into unnatural and fantastic scenarios in my dreams. I could not hope to compete with the complexity that she uses on me and yet my brain waves are way more complex than hers are. Essentially, all I really needed to build was an adaptive signal analyzer with a digital voice synthesizer so that I could really understand her true thoughts and a voice encoder that would rebroadcast my signal back to her as desires and feelings. Since she didn’t actually sleep, I didn’t even try to duplicate what she could do for me during my own deep REM sleep. I took my inspiration from my knowledge of Operation Ivy Bells. During the Cold War, the United States wanted to learn more about Soviet submarine and missile technology, specifically ICBM test and nuclear first strike capability. In the early 1970s the U.S. government learned of the existence of an undersea communications cable in the Sea of Okhotsk, which connected the major Soviet Pacific Fleet naval base at Petropavlovsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula to the Soviet Pacific Fleet's mainland headquarters at Vladivostok. At the time, the Sea of Okhotsk was claimed by the Soviet Union as territorial waters, and was strictly off limits to foreign vessels, and the Soviet Navy had installed a network of sound detection devices along the seabed to detect intruders. The area also saw numerous surface and subsurface naval exercises. Despite these obstacles, the potential for an intelligence coup was considered too great to ignore, and in October 1971 the United States sent the purpose-modified submarine USS Halibut (SSGN-587) deep into the Sea of Okhotsk. Divers working from the Halibut found the cable in 400 ft. of water and installed a 20 ft. long device, which wrapped around the cable without piercing its casing and recorded all communications made over it. The large recording device was designed to detach if the cable was raised for repair. The tapping of the Soviet naval cable was so secret that most sailors involved did not have the security clearance needed to know about it. A cover story was thus created to disguise the actual mission: It was claimed that the spy submarines were sent to the Soviet naval range in the Sea of Okhotsk to recover the Soviet SS-N-12 Sandbox supersonic anti-ship missile debris so that countermeasures could be developed. Incidentally the cover story for the cowling on the back of the USS Halibut that housed the cable tap was that it was a prototype DSRV (Shown in The Hunt for Red October), but to my knowledge, the DSRV never existed.
For me, the real trick was to actually develop an Empathic device that I could wear as a small compact wrist band that was blue-toothed to a micro ear bud in my dominant ear. It took two years to design the micro-electronic circuitry and almost another two years to build it. Once I had it working, one way from her to me, I listened to her think and I was astounded at two things; that it worked as well as it did and the complexity of Cassandra’s thought processes. So this was what it was like to use 100% of your brain all the time. I had to be careful; I had to approach her with the concept and tell her my plan, because if I sent something into her without telling her, she might see that as a violation. Yes, she had been doing much and much more of that to me since the first day that we met, but I sort of knew I was getting into the wild ‘Let’s find out what’s out there’ world of exploration and trust had to be established. Now that a deep level of trust was there between us, I would need to disclose my plan and need her permission to implement it-but I would also pick the right moment.
Earth Orbit Staging Complete
April 12, 2113; 6:22 a.m. Zulu; Countdown is T-minus 13 seconds to launch for Mars trajectory.
“T-minus 13 seconds…Flight Deck you are go to engage main circuit breakers…T-minus 9…8…7…6…Go for master fuel mix on…2…1…ignition…Gods Speed Mars Command!”
The slow easy burn produced an acceleration of one G. The straight line distance to the Moon is 250,000 miles, but we were going to going into an elliptical orbit of approximately 450, 000 miles from our launch point. We would accelerate through the Lagrange point of zero gravitational pull from either the Earth or the Moon and then assisted by lunar gravity, we would rapidly accelerate toward lunar orbit, but our velocity would be too great to be captured by the Moon’s gravity, the high speed ellipse ending in a blistering 50,000 mile per hour velocity towards a rendezvous with the Red Planet in approximately 214 days. Cassandra had hit every navigation point with a precision no greater than 20% larger that our ship’s diameter, which is remarkable considering how big this ship is. She has not left the flight control console since we broke Earth orbit. I, on the other hand, have had to eat, sleep, and perform heavy strength training exercises for two hours a day to keep up my muscle mass; in short, I have had to keep up a regular routine, besides my regular command and communications tasks.