|Letters, part 1: Letters from Jack|
by unohoo, E-mail: email@example.com
About Letters, part 1: Letters from Jack
Rating - PG
Category - Drama
Spoilers - Season 1, "Premiere"
Timeline - Premier to beginning of Season 3
This series continues in The Other Side
Summary - A collection of 16 ficlets that explores what happened on Earth when John disappeared in the form of Jack writing letters to his son.
Disclaimer: They’re not mine, I don’t own ‘em, just please let me use your characters for a little while and I promise to return them as well as they began this ficlet. Thanks in advance.
Letters from Jack – Devastation
March 24, 1999
Your sisters and I are devastated. It’s terrible to lose a loved one. When your mother died I was able to turn to you and your sister for consolation. This is worse. Your sisters are taking it very hard, as am I.
Your memorial service was yesterday. We didn’t have a funeral. We just could bring our selves to do it without any remains. I hope against hope that you are alive, but the logical part of me says that’s impossible. The entire team at IASA has been reviewing the data from the moment you disappeared. They cannot find any trace of Farscape I. None. They are studying the phenomenon present at the time you disappeared. It has very unusual properties, DK tells me. From what I learned, it winked out a few minutes after you disappeared.
They are starting a new project. The team at IASA is going to explore what happened from the data they have. I hope to be part of it. I feel you are still alive, but that is my heart talking. I am going to talk to the director of the team Monday; DK is recommending me.
I can’t hope you will ever see this letter, or that I will ever see you again, but right now, this is all I have.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – A New Day
March 31, 1999
Thanks in part to DK’s help and my connections, I started working with the IASA team today. They were very skeptical about hiring an old hack like me when I interviewed Monday, but I managed to convince them I would be a valuable member on the project. We are reviewing millions of bytes of data collected at the time Farscape I disappeared.
Although the increased solar flare activity was known at the time you took your test flight, DK assured me the flares were not unusual, and the readings fell within the safety parameters for the experiment. The findings are preliminary, but it looks like an unknown phenomenon appeared as Farscape I was starting the acceleration using Earth’s gravity. At that moment, energy and photons from exceptionally strong solar flares reached the stratosphere of Earth.
DK tells me the scientists will be examining the data for months to come. They do not know what they are dealing with, and don’t know how to recreate the event with any degree of probability. Right now, we are all guessing.
My role on this project is to train the astronauts who will be on the mission. And so I have to learn as much as possible before the astronauts are selected. But I want to fly again. I hope to be part of the mission that finds out what happened.
There is absolutely no trace of your module. We can’t even find an energy signature once you disappeared. This is the one hope I cling to. Without any solid evidence to the contrary, I will continue to hope you are alive, somewhere.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – Questions
April 8, 1999
I’ve been able to pretend you’ve just been away for the past couple of weeks because I’ve immersed myself in the Farscape II project. Farscape has come to symbolize much for the team, and for me it embodies who you are (I can’t use the past tense). But the dreadful time of year is upon me, and I must do my taxes, and yours. I’m turning everything over to the accountant; it’s too much for me to handle at the moment.
The data analysis hasn’t been going well at all. The numbers are all over the place. Some of the scientists think a black hole formed, others do not. The data will start to fit one theory, and then disprove itself.
They are designing a probe to try to duplicate what happened to Farscape I. The design hasn’t taken form yet, but they need to meet a window of high solar activity expected this fall. They are wrestling with the issue of whether to make the probe the same mass or less than Farscape I. I hope the budget doesn’t steer them into the wrong decision. Both DK and I think it should be the same mass as your module plus your mass.
Your sisters don’t know I’m writing to you. I think this would disturb them a great deal. I am able to function thanks to the project at IASA and writing these letters.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – Probe
April 22, 1999
The probe’s design is being finalized this week. We anticipate a prototype will be ready to test some time in June. Everyone agreed the probe’s mass needs to be equal to Farscape I plus the mass of a human. There was never any issue. The data we do have indicate we must use an object of at least equal mass.
There is some question of what kind of measurement devices we should install, and perhaps design. On a hunch, DK has gone back over papers from JPL you researched together on wormholes. A major concern he has is if a wormhole did form, and we can duplicate the conditions, how will we detect it. We don’t have the technology in place as yet to detect it.
A second team is pinpointing the trajectory Farscape I was on before you disappeared. It is extremely important we know where to look for the phenomenon and the correct path to send the telemetry.
My friends and neighbors are avoiding talking about you, and I don’t encourage it. They think I am being stoic, and don’t want to upset me. If they knew I was writing these letters they would probably pack me off to the funny farm. I have been busy enough at Cape Canaveral that I don’t write as often as I’d like, but that is probably a good thing. I try not to dwell on this, but it is very hard sometimes.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – The hardest week
May 5, 1999
This has been the hardest week since you disappeared. Your sister, Allison, and I had to pack up your apartment. Everything I touched reminded me how much I miss you. She feels the same way. I am somewhat happy Emma didn’t have to go through this, I think she is taking it the hardest. But her senior projects are due, and finals are coming up, so she begged off helping us clean your apartment out. There were times we could barely look at each other. At other times we are our only consolation. DK also came over to help at night and I could see he was as affected as we. I am putting everything that doesn’t fit in the garage, into storage. I keep hoping that you will appear just as suddenly as you disappeared. I know I will have to sell the furniture eventually, but not now.
DK thinks we will get the probe launched on schedule. We will be using this first one to test the remote guidance, the instrumentation and to gather as much data as possible without actually trying to recreate the event. June is not the right time for the solar activity. We expect it to pickup in the fall, reaching some peak activity towards November.
We ultimately want to control the probe from MIR, as the international space station won’t be ready for at least another year. We are working through that now. If we can use MIR, then we will be able to use the unmanned cargo ships to MIR, and they can launch the probes and control them from there. Otherwise, we will have to schedule shuttle launches, which will be more difficult to schedule, and a good deal more expensive. And we want to be able to control it from orbit because of the time delay between issuing the commands to the probe, and the probe executing the commands is smaller than from mission control.
Why am I going into all this detail? You know all this, and you won’t even see these letters. Some days I find it easier, I immerse myself in the project. Then I find I am feeling guilty for enjoying the day. Both Allison and Emma are recovering. They are starting to accept life without you. I don’t think I’ll ever get to that point. What do they say the five stages of grief are? Well, I’m still in denial.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – Prototype
June 20, 1999
The test probe went beyond our expectations. We were able to launch it from Earth, and control it here. The telemetry worked perfectly, and we are able to calculate the needed angle and acceleration for the real probes which will be launched in November.
We couldn’t use MIR after all. Aside from its unstable condition, and that it will soon be abandoned, there was too much politics involved for us. IASA finally put the kabash on using MIR at all. The Russians are falling woefully behind on their module for the international space station, and they argued any money that would go to MIR would just further delay the new station. I suppose they’re right, but I selfishly am only focused on this project.
There are effectively only four and a half months left before the first probe is launched. We have a lot of work to do, and DK is working on extending the signal range. We really need to get solid readings from the phenomenon. We absolutely need these readings if we are to have any hope of following you.
We were going to spend a week in Maine this summer. I don’t want to go by myself, what would I do? Your sister is thinking of going with me, but I think I’d rather keep working. There is a lot for me to do. There are days where I think of you, where my heart doesn’t feel tight in my chest, and I can smile. I find I am saving stories for you. I’ll see something or someone, and think, I should tell John about this. I’ll have to keep it in mind. Those are good days.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – Getting Ready
August 22, 1999
This is the longest I’ve gone without writing to you. I’ve been extraordinarily busy working on the probe. DK has developed some ideas about how we can get information once the probe enters the phenomenon. He is designing small capsules that will eject from the probe every three minutes starting at the time of entry. He reasons that while it may be impossible for our technology to radio back from within the phenomenon, a solid object might be able to be sent in an opposite direction from the probe. Each capsule will contain the data collected to nearly the point of launch. All the teams are very excited about this idea.
We are starting to recruit astronauts to fly into the phenomenon. I hope to be one of the ones to go. If we get the information we need, we hope to be ready to go early in 2001. Now that seems an eternity away, but I know we will not have enough time to design a two man module that will take us to an unknown destination. I hope it finds you. The recruiting is going slowly, not too many want to fly into the unknown as you did.
Emma graduated from RPI with honors. I had hoped she would want to work at IASA, but for now she is working at a dotcom to make lots of money. She has many student loans to pay off and her company has lured her with a huge sign on bonus and more stock options than I can think about. She hopes to go to graduate school in two to three years and is considering going to MIT to study Robotics. Her grades are good enough that they would take her now, but she wants to pay her own way. She knows I’d help her in any way I could, but she says she’s been sponging off me long enough, and it’s time she earned her keep. You would be very proud of your kid sister.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – The Test
December 6, 1999
We had to launch a second probe to get the data we needed, but it worked in the end. Fortunately, our contingency plan provided for a second launch. We paid the Russians a prearranged amount to launch the second probe. It wasn’t hard to get their cooperation as their space program has really suffered financially since their break up. It came down to we needed a rocket, and they needed the money.
We decided to make the probe equal to the mass of the module we intend to launch. DK worked miracles with the bean counters. I don’t know how he convinced them to put out for the first module, let alone having to go through it again, and at a much higher cost. I’m not going to ask.
We were unable to recreate the phenomenon with the first probe and it burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere. We did get the data we needed for corrections to the second probe. We think the phenomenon is a wormhole, but we are not sure. The capsule idea worked brilliantly. It’s a good thing too, because we lost all contact with the probe as quickly as we did with you. We hope the data from the capsules will allow us to design communication systems that will allow Earth contact continuously, but we don’t know.
Emma tells me she is making piles of money from her stock options. I keep telling her to sell, but she says not to worry, as she will cash in as soon as she is allowed. She has to be with the company a full six months before she can exercise her options.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – Happy New Year
January 1, 2000
Happy New Year. Happy New Millennium. The purists are quibbling that this isn’t really the millennium, it won’t happen until 2001, but I don’t care. It’s just another year. I spent the eve at Allison’s, and Emma came over too. She had to fly in from San Francisco. She hates it there. The traffic is terrible and it’s incredibly expensive to live there. She’s applying to MIT and hopes to start in the fall for graduate work. I asked her to consider working as a civilian at IASA once she cashes in her stock options. She can live with me until she goes to MIT (I know she’ll get in). She’s thinking about it. It would be good to have her around, even if it’s only for a few months.
I am going to start training with the six astronauts that have signed up for Farscape II. Five of the astronauts have families, including children. I doubt they will want to stay with it once they understand that we don’t know if we will be able to get back. I do keep warning them about the risks, but I don’t think it has really sunk in. The sixth astronaut is a single woman in her thirties. I don’t know how much family she has, but she also needs to be as informed about the decision as the others. She is a perfect candidate. In addition to being a biologist, she also speaks twelve languages, eight fluently.
Happy New Year. I hope you are celebrating it in some form.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – Anniversary
March 19, 2000
It was grim at IASA today; exactly one year since you disappeared in Farscape I. DK could barely look at me. In the meantime, I have been very busy training the crew who will follow you. The capsules have revealed extraordinary data, and I can see DK’s excitement as he uncovers its secrets. They are now fairly sure that a wormhole opened up just beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Although it wasn’t the intent of your experiment, it seems you proved something that was thought only theoretically possible. The probe disappeared just as you did exactly one year ago. But now I am hopeful.
According to the astronomical data, we are in a very high sun spot activity period. It’s too bad we cannot launch this month. I have been assured there will be enough activity for Farscape II in April of 2001. I don’t know how I’m going to hold out for a year, but I’ll have to.
The fact that we may not come back from this mission is finally starting to sink in with the flight crew. I can see doubts beginning show in their faces. I’m not making it easy for them, either. I’m basically telling them to put their affairs in order, as this is probably a suicide mission. At first, I don’t think they believed me, but I’m saying it so often, that it is becoming reality. I also learned that these were the only six who would consider entering the program at the beginning.
Emma did cash in on her options, and she is working at IASA and staying with me until September, when she goes to MIT. I can’t believe how much money she’s been able to make off the options. She understands what I am doing and is being very supportive. Emma will help me break the news to Allison when the time comes. She also thinks they will have no choice but to let me go. Emma sends her love.
Your loving father
Letters from Jack – Fourth of July
July 4, 2000
Last year DK and I decided to work through the July 4th weekend. We couldn’t face the barbeques, picnics, or baseball games that people normally have on this holiday. This year, Emma and I decided to have a few people over. Allison and DK, of course, and Andrea Walker, one of the astronaut’s training for this mission. The other five all have families of their own, but she is alone. I’ve learned a lot about her, and her story is truly tragic. Mine, in comparison, is a walk in the park; and I have hope.
She’s an only child and lost both her parents when she was in high school. Her mother died when she was in her freshman year, and her father followed her two years later, never recovering from his grief. From then on she stayed with her grandmother until she married while still in college. She got her PhD in biology at a rather young age and had a baby too. She was finishing a post-graduate position at Yale when a drunk driver in a head on collision killed her husband and daughter. Andrea was waiting for them to pick her up at work; instead the state police met her.
And so, there is nothing to hold her here. We work well together.
Emma is a delight to be with. She is very excited about going to MIT this September. She has friends in Cambridge who have an apartment with extra room. It will be a good situation for her, and much nicer than living in a dorm, even one for graduate students.
Your loving father
P.S. Emma wants to write something.
Hi Bro’! I hope you are out there somewhere. I feel you are alive, I think I caught it from Dad. Sheesh, he writes so formally, like he’s applying for a job. Love ya… I hope you read these letters.
Letters from Jack – Reflection
August 23, 2000
Emma’s comment at the end of the last letter made me think of how stiff I must seem. I don’t know how else to be. I’ve been trying to write this letter for over a week now, and it keeps coming out the same. You’ll just have to live with it. Oh God, please be alive!
Emma and I have talked a lot about this mission. She has mixed feelings. I think I’ve convinced her that you are out there, but she doesn’t want to lose me. I hope, more than I know, that you are out there and that I will be able to get you back. DK has a team working on what I’ll need to be able to return. We really got a lot from those capsules. The result is Farscape II is much bigger than your module, and will have enough fuel, supplies, and instrumentation to reverse the process and to take the necessary time (we hope).
Emma is getting ready to go to Cambridge, but she wants to tell you herself.
Your loving father
Hey! There’s no hope for him, is there. I’m off to MIT to study Robotics and I’ll be working in the Media Lab. I’m very excited.
I’m glad I quit my other job and came here to be with father. He is determined to go. Allison is probably taking it harder than me, but that’s because I’m part of the team now and I have hope, too. I’ll have to have some heart to heart with Sis. She knows he has to do it, but we’ll miss him terribly.
Oh, BTW, I quit the dotcom just in the nick of time. Two weeks after I cashed in my options, the bottom fell out of that stock. Crazy!
We love you!
Letters from Jack – Thanksgiving
November 26, 2000
The three of us got together for a small Thanksgiving meal. Allison made all the fixings, Emma made desert, cranberry and apple pie. Last year we didn’t celebrate it at all, which on looking back, was a mistake.
Everyone at IASA is excited and stressed at the same time. Each day we get closer to the launch, the more we hope. It’s now official, Dr. Andrea Walker and I are the two man crew for Farscape II. Both DK and Andrea were instrumental in getting me on Farscape II. That, and none of the other candidates were sure of going. Dr. Walker went to Detroit to see her grandmother this Thanksgiving. She needs to tell her and the rest of her family about her plans. I agreed to speak to her grandmother should that become necessary. I sure put myself in a spot with that. I selfishly want her on the mission, as they won’t send me alone, and she is a perfect candidate. But I also see it from the other side. I don’t want to put any one through my experience, so I’m torn.
Allison is starting to come around to accept my decision. I have Emma to thank. I know that without her support, Allison would be much more forceful about keeping me here. As it is, she is not happy, but she will not interfere.
Emma had to get back to MIT. She is working on some very exciting projects herself. She left a letter for me to include with these.
Your loving father
Letter from Emma
November 25, 2000
Hi Space Cadet ,
I want to write you myself, Dad has me believing you will read this. Yeah, I believe it too.
You’ll never guess what I’ve been doing. Okay, you’ve gotten hints from Dad. But you don’t know the details. I’m working on teeny-tiny robots. These little critters start at about the size of a teacup and get smaller from there. The smallest are what I call nanobots. One idea for the teacups is to use them to identify those dreadful mines left hanging around from all the different conflicts. Each of these robots is really cheap to make, and if they blow up a mine instead of marking it, it’s okay. The smallest, the nanobots, will be used for aiding surgeons where people have conditions that are currently inoperable. One neat thing to use them for is to deliver the chemo, where it can do the most good and leave the person feeling healthy. There are a gazillion uses for these critters!
You remember Rich and Jamie? I am sharing an apartment with them in Cambridge. It’s really been fun remembering our times together in high school. Sheesh, we were inseparable. You called us the fearsome-threesome . They are both working in Boston, and Jamie is going for his MBA at the same time. We are all very busy, but I couldn’t ask for a more perfect situation.
Take care of yourself; we all want to see you again!
You’re the best! Love ya,
Letters from Jack – Loose Ends
March 22, 2001
The second anniversary of your disappearance has come and gone. We had a small ceremony here at IASA command. This time our spirits were positive. Farscape II has infected everyone with hope and excitement.
Allison agreed to be executor of my estate. She will hold onto everything and pay the necessary taxes and bills unless she is sure I am lost too. We’ve put a time limit on when she should start. She is very unhappy about all this, but I think hopeful too.
I also spoke with Dr. Walker’s grandmother. It was a very difficult conversation. I think it is much more difficult for her not being physically close to Andrea or part of this team. Mrs. Greely has to take our word that we are doing everything possible to ensure we will get back. Hell, I don’t know if it’s possible, and I’m going!
IASA has a room set up for Allison, Emma, and Mrs. Greely for the launch. They will be analyzing the capsules as they are received. Both Andrea and I will be able to record our impressions. They will be transferred to the capsules as they are sent back.
I am looking forward to the day you will read these letters. I will be taking them with me, I want to hand deliver them. I’m also taking some of your Jazz albums and Mozart’s Requiem with me. I imagine you have missed your music.
Your loving father
Farscape II Launch Epilogue
Mrs. Greely, Emma, and Allison all watched from IASA command as Farscape II disappeared. Only Emma looked hopeful.
Emma turned to her sister and Andrea’s grandmother and said, "We will know in a couple of hours if they got through okay. Please put your fears aside until we know one way or another."
"You’re right, Sis, I just can’t help how I feel."
Mrs. Greely said nothing, but kept staring at the screen. Tears were running down her cheeks. Emma wanted to hug her, but didn’t because she turned away from John’s sisters. Emma hugged her sister.
"Thanks, I’ll be alright. Let’s just wait for the capsule recordings." Allison gave her sister a quick hug and sat down to wait.
DK walked into the waiting room with a grin from ear to ear. "I know it’s been very hard for you to wait. They have reached the other side and you can listen to them now. We also made tapes for you to keep. These are from five different capsules, so it will sound a little choppy. But the important thing is they are okay."
Emma squealed with delight, Allison and Mrs. Greely looked stunned and relieved at the same time.
"We’re in it now, committed. The wormhole looks like a silvery tunnel and we are feeling forces pulling us along its axis." Jack Crichton’s voice was clear and unstrained.
Next they heard Andrea Walker’s voice. "There is no evidence if any life within this tunnel. The silvery walls are giving off energy signals, and …."
Her voice continued, "…force. We are determining the properties now." Jack Crichton’s voice replaced Andrea’s, "The tunnel curves a little, but we don’t have to steer…."
"…avoid colliding into the walls. The forces within the tunnel are doing all the work. It looks like we may be about to exit. I see….." Jack continued.
"We’re through! We’ve exited at a planetary system. One of the planets has artificial satellites. What wonders will……" The recording ended with Jack and Andrea speaking.