By Robert Lynch
Lucas stood waiting in line, his boarding pass playing the holographic advertisement on loop.
“You’ve won!” The tiny holographic man squeaked. “This ticket gives you a free pass to Aristaeus Colony. Where the untamed beauty of Kepler-452b will astound you! Become an early pioneer on Aristaeus Colony.”
Lucas tapped the sound off on the ticket, not that there was much point, the ad was playing on plenty of other tickets around him and on the walls and surfaces of the terminal. He was amazed how many Lotto winners there were in the line. People like him holding a single carry-on bag all hoping for a new life on recently founded colony. They wore simple clothes, ready for the hard work ahead of them, no business suits just cheap, sturdy linens; the kind seen on poor immigrants throughout history. Aristaeus was the 7th colony that had been founded, but even now there were still so many volunteers to help build it that travel was chosen by Lottery.
After nearly nine hours of waiting, Lucas reached the service desk.
“Ticket, please.” The young check-in steward asked.
Lucas handed his ticket over.
“You understand that wormhole travel is one way.” The steward droned the legalese with so little emotion that the monotone words rang in Lucas’ ear like the rustling from a crumpled up piece of paper. “Until such time as the colony is able to construct a wormhole generator to create a return terminus, which is subject to many factors and could take additional time beyond the five years estimated to build such a terminus.”
“Yeah.” Lucas was well aware, the first colonists had left for Hermes Colony more than seven years ago and yet there was still no indication of a return terminus from the colony. Still, it had taken more than fifteen years for the Earth Terminal to be fine-tuned enough to hit the surface of Proxima Centauri B.
“Once at Aristaeus Colony, your bank accounts will only be accessible through Terminal Corp’s system.” The steward said. “If you would like to access your bank accounts from the colony you need to move your money into our system. Would you like to do that now?”
Lucas pulled his card from his wallet and handed it to the steward. The steward took it and in turn handed Lucas a bundle of paperwork. “Be sure that you understand this contract before signing it.”
Hours later Lucas stood at the threshold of the Wormhole. All seven of the wormholes were lined up on the wall of the terminal next to each other. The inside of the metal rings was darker than Lucas’ mind could comprehend. No light came from a spatial fold; it was darkness in pure form. Lines of people entered through each of the dark apertures.
“Be sure to breathe out as you enter the wormhole.” A different steward was telling the group. “Air pressure varies as you enter and exit, so breathe out as you go in and then breathe deep on the other side. It can be disorientating, so focus on your breath.
Finally, it was Lucas’ turn and he stepped up to the threshold.
He closed his eyes and breathed out as he stepped in.
A second later he tried to breathe in, but no air would come. He opened his eyes to find himself floating in the depths of space. Thousands of corpses floated in front of him. The whole colony.
He swung his arms and thrashed, throwing his suitcase to spin, trying to get back to the wormhole. The case wasn’t heavy enough to change his direction, it slowed him slightly and set him spinning. As he spun he saw others popping into space and thrashing around him. Not just from the exit point he had emerged from. There were six other points people emerged from, all lined up in a row.
Lucas screamed a soundless scream.