Stars were twinkling, the skies were pitch black and the "Horsehead Nebula" was bigger than ever. The fresh air was peaceful. It smelt like a warm moonlit night. Also seeping under the door was the odour of freshly cooked fish and the burning of scented charcoal. Looking at the clock I noticed the time five minutes before lunch. I was ready for the first meal during our trip. Men had to be in black tie and tails, women in formal dress.
I fumbled my tie. It was a black silk tie, one hundred years old. It belonged to my grandfather and was very dignified. I was thinking seriously about wearing a monkey tail. I had brought one along for the occasion. But that would be for the end of the journey.
Arriving at the table I found myself joined by ladies and gentlemen. We sat down after saying grace and before eating we had a little talk about each other's clothes and complimented the ladies. We then made a toast to the "Alpha Centauri Mission."
The mission was to find life on the planets that surround Alpha Centauri (this star being about ten times larger than our Sun). I am the Captain and radio operator. Joe Alphos and his wife May were Chief Engineer and Doctor of Biology respectively, while Judy Masey was the Astronautical Mathematician. We also had with us a German Shepherd, trained to kill enemies on our orders.
"Hey Dick," yelled Joe, "the radio is off." I ran as fast as I could to the radio room where the visual and radio contact with earth was kept. I checked the radio and sure enough the radio and television were out of order.
"We're only being cut off by the tide," I answered reassuringly.
"By the tide!" Joe answered mockingly.
"Yes," I replied, "the tides of electrically charged participles are constantly being emitted by stars, changing charges constantly. It's all right but we won't have contact with Earth for a while." So we continued on but with an uncomfortable feeling of not being in contact with Earth.
"Alpha Centauri dead ahead, two days to go", I called out. The whole crew prepared. Now out came the tails, the monkey tails, that is.
Three days later
Not a single sign of any planet. The planet the astronomers must have seen was that unusually slow comet we saw on the way in. After the scheduled two week stay we started our Nuclear Reactor and headed for home.
After seven days we struck the belt of charged particles but this time more severely. The whole ship was affected. The intercom caught static which deafened us for three days.
At last we arrived within radio communication of earth and sent the disappointing news of the mission. Much to our dismay we had proved once and for all that Alpha Centauri was encircled by comets and not planets.
Marc Wojciechowski 3D