Undo of a Lifetime | Teen Ink

Undo of a Lifetime

May 10, 2019
By IffatMemon SILVER, Carbondale, Illinois
IffatMemon SILVER, Carbondale, Illinois
5 articles 0 photos 1 comment

“A-117. Foreign energy detected. Sending signature now,” the hologram chimes on the big monitor of the dome shaped room. The images and audio are from our team in MacNem’r Galaxy – a galaxy that was clouded by foreign dark swirls in the past. To them, this mission may have felt like days or months, but they had been gone for three years to farm resources on a planet similar to earth. This was the first time that they had found an energy signature quite like this. And scarily enough, it was one we researched here at the Skadayr Center for Research – Subdivision of Space and Black Holes. We could get to locations faster than NASA or those on earth; we had the advantage to being in space already. Often times, it was these very sorts of foreign signatures my research branch particularly liked. The phenomenons experiences lined up.  
“REEL US IN! REEL US IN!” Annah, a member of the crew screams as the suit camera falls back, the view pixelated and blurry. They show on the holographic display furiously tapping away at the retract button on her suit, trying to reach the space craft. Ernie’s transmitter and heath stats flicker, and soon disappear from the display. Soon, the others hazily disappear, and the holograms stop altogether.  
Everyone in the room starts to scream in alarm and scramble in disarray. “EVERYONE!” I shout, “I need you all calm. We have to retrieve them. The ship is still sending mild signals and is on reserve power for right now. We find their coordinates, retrieve them, and return. We’ll cut down on power used to send and receive communications. I know it’s doing to be hard, but us researchers have to send out an emergency expectation... I need a team. I’ll lead,” I say to the group. 
“But Eira... You’re our head researcher... what are we going to do without you?” Jade speaks up. 
“Those staying here on base will suspend the research and switch to monitoring the various rovers and trackers. We can’t let the parent company find out about the issue and shut us down. We don’t have long... any volunteers to come?” I ask, uneasy from how complex the situation is getting.  
“Kaia, Marshal, Natalie, and I can come,” Gared says, “We also have had space experience and we can help because of our aerospace engineering backgrounds.”  
“Yeah...Anything to help out,” Kaia says, sincerely concerned. 
“Alright. Gear up. We leave in 2 hours,” I address my team and assign them tasks for this mission.  
Kaia, Marshal, Natalie, and Gared soon begin to pack their bags up for the emergency rescue. The thoughts of the distance and time didn’t occur to me. I hadn’t properly been in a ship since eleven years ago. That too was an emergency evacuation. I guess that was the problem with privately funded missions. There were no regulations for these types of things. The bigger sharks just throw more money at the media and researchers and all will be fine. They expect miracles to happen.  
I informally took the job to be able to do more than the confines of NASA. They had accomplished great things but plateaued over the years – particularly after 2022. As NASA became obsolete, more private companies began taking over and initiating more. At Skadayr, we studied biotech and eco friendly fuels and natural resources…and then expanded. We looked beyond earth and had joined the private sector space race. And we were in it for the long haul.  
As my mind raced with thoughts, I prepared all my gear. Getting the spacecraft loaded brought back vivid memories. Flashbacks of the last failed mission caused my muscles to tense. My palms glistened with sweat as I began to sweat profusely. I took the controls and familiarized myself with the system. Most of the controls were automated, but I was always a firm believer of being in control of my own fate. I didn’t want to risk dying because of a faulty wire or system. Only if in lines of crisis did I rely fully on the machine.  
We drifted through space, passing various markers. I began feeling queasy and lightheaded. Even through my helmet. I shifted my controls to automatic. I couldn’t sleep. My eyes were wide open and fixated on the journey ahead.  
“I’ll take over for a bit,” Natalie speaks up, walking up to me and offering to help in a kind, gentle tone.  
“‘M fine.” I reply shortly.  
“You’re clearly not. Let me take the reigns. I’ll give it back once you’re better. Promise,” she pleads. I know she had good intentions, but it frustrates me that she wants control of the ship. I don’t know why.  
I sit in my bunk and lay awake, unable to process anything, my mind cloudy. My chest began to have sharp pains as I realize how small this aircraft truly was. It could barely fit the five of us. How would we take the others home? What were we getting ourselves into? What took them? How did we go from researching to this?  
Focus. Breathe Eira. Breathe.  
I just have to breathe. The walls aren’t closing in on me. No no. Not at all. See. The others are playing cards and floating freely. It’s fine! It’s fine! 
“It’s fine!” I laugh hysterically.  
 After what felt like just a few days, we finally reached our destination. We were in the same planet that the other crew was before they disappeared. We could tell because we saw their ship. The once white, bright ship with the colors of our nation had faded into a odd yellow color.  
“Planet Runlew. I remember when we found this planet. Didn't think it existed fully. At least we confirmed one research theory?” Marshal says, trying to keep positive. He stops for a moment and is in deep thought. He shakes his head and instructs us, “Keep all helmets and gear on. Don’t take any bit of it off. Radiation spews like geysers here.”  
My crew began to activate our radiation monitoring systems that were attached to the side panels of the aircraft and try to find the same energy signature that was sent to us by the team we came out to rescue. 
“One panel is malfunctioning. I’ll go out and fix it and come back. Stay inside and make sure everything is closed,” he says sternly.  
Since Marshal had the second most amount of experience in repairing, I don’t object, nor does anyone else. He replaces the panel and welds the side of the ship back together. He smiles goofily and does stupid dances while in his suit. The bulky helmet gets in the way, but it was nice to have a small laugh. Suddenly, he has his hands around his throat and was struggling to breathe. He turned around and tried pounding on his chest. 
“Look!” Kaia says, motioning to his slightly open suit. 
Radiation seeps through, causing him to fall to the ground with a thud. His eyes held tears. “Go without me,” he mouths, taking off his helmet, surrendering to the nature of the harsh planet, spewing greenish-yellow bile. 
I scream. I scream at the horrors of all this. I wish I could undo it. I wish we had never came here. I wish we had never tried to do more than what was asked. I was so naïve with my research. 
Kaia comes beside me to calm me while Natalie and Gared identify where the signature of the foreign energy source is. Gared takes the controls this time. I’m too emotionally drained. I look up and notice the lack of movement. Or maybe it was just me? 
“Hey ... this isn't your fault. not by any means,” Kaia whispers to me and hugs me tight. 
“I just wish I wasn’t so stupid. Why did I decide this would be a good idea? Why research black holes? We don’t even know what we’re looking for. The other team is probably long gone by now. Their ship looks like it was deserted ages ago,” I say bluntly. 
“You’re right. I’ve been journaling and doing some calculations. I think time dialation is to blame. We were going awfully fast trying to reach the other team, and we didn’t realize that because of it, we were zipping through time almost in a sense too.” Kaia seemed to have been thinking about this longer than I have. I understood what she meant, but the magnitude of it didn’t stick until she continued speaking, “If I remember correctly, the magnetic and gravity fields are also different here. I don’t know how long we’ve been here in earth time. It could be minutes to us, but hours or days on earth. We can’t exactly ask anyone really because we cut the comms before leaving.”  
“Yeah. It’s all my fault. I should’ve thought about it more as the team leader,” I begin to cry. 
“NO. None of it is our fault. We need to now focus on either getting back home or saving the crew if they’ve made it thus far.” 
I nod my head. She was right after all.  
“Guys? Hate to break it up, but we have a problem,” Gared says, coming up to us and suspending the throttle. His voice was nervous and laced with fear, “the radiation and energy source is coming from there.” 
He pointed to an area where it was just…empty and black, with a slight gold ring in a circular area. My eyes open wide as sense was knocked into me from seeing the phenomenon. “Oh god. Black hole. Try to go past the gravity. Kaia, take the copilot seat… go! We can’t get sucked in!”  
I’d read up on all of this, I knew all of Hawking’s theories and astrophysics related ideas.  I knew if we got sucked in, we’d most likely die. Perhaps the other team suffered that fate.  
“I’m trying. But it won’t budge! I think we’re also low on fuel… it’s been nice knowing you E,” Kaia said.  
“Keep trying!” I urge her and Gared. 
“The force is too strong!” Gared yells, releasing his grip on the controls. 
As we fell back, the radiation gage detected small flashes of green tinted gamma rays being jetted into the air. Falling into the black hole felt worse than Hawking described. It felt like crashing into rocks and rubble over and over and over, swirling faster and faster as we descend. The ship crashed and plunged against the walls of the black hole. Holes were beginning to form in the ship itself.  
More falling caused the ship to tear to pieces. My helmet kept my head safe, but the same couldn’t be said for my coworkers. I blacked out and didn’t re-awake until I finally hit something. 
I wake up throbbing and can feel blood oozing around outside the spacesuit. I took large breaths of the oxegyn remaining in the tank and can see small bubble-like items floating around. I began to approach them, slowly and carefully. In a few of the bubbles of the past, I could see the events of what brought us here. I could hear what was happening vividly.  
“A-117. Foreign energy detected. Sending signature now,” the hologram chimes. 
“REEL US IN! REEL US IN!” Annah screams. 
I am tempted to go in. To go in and stop this trip from happening. But if the research findings still pointed to the existence of black holes, someone would be close enough to getting in this position. Going to a black hole and get stuck. Only to end up dying. I decide go back further. Further back all the way to my days at NASA where it was only I interested in studying black holes further than what we had already. I walk inside to the scene and log in to my old computer. The room I was working in was a basement of the grand headquarters office on earth. Was this a good idea? What if something worse comes out of this? I shake the thoughts from my head and delete all the files relating to the subject. Wormholes and black holes were nothing to be messed with.  
I cue up the notes app on the 2017 MacBook, leaving a note to my past self that read: 
“Don’t keep looking into this. They’re extremely dangerous, and if you know what’s good for you, stop while you can.” 
I hide behind a cabinet as I spot my past self walking back into the room. I fade to dust and before I know it, I’m brought back to the present day.  
I wake up exhausted with the most vivid flashes of space exploration and black holes. It scares me all day long as I work with biofuels and biotech. All my friends – Kaia, Annah, Natalie, Marshal, Gared – work here with me – and I’m happy to see them once more after the crazy experience. 

The author's comments:

This piece is inspired by the recent photo taken of a black hole. It was written as a research short story. Iffat Memon, the author of this piece, is a senior in high school at the time of submission and will be attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and will study in business. She is involved in many extracurriculars, including National Honors Society, Women in Leadership, Future Business Leaders of America, Art Club, and Creative Writing Club. In Creative Writing Club, Iffat has been president for two years and is the Editor-In-Chief of her school's literary magazine, Quill.

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