Merlin sat in his capsule. Next to him was Elianna. She had also finished her preflight checks. A moment later Flight Center contacted them to tell them they had finished their pre-flight checks too. Everything was ready. Elianna took his hand in hers, gave Merlin a big smile, a little wink, and a squeeze. All of which Merlin returned.
“We will be out of here in a Flash.”
They both laughed at the old joke. For they were about to become the first Humans to ride a beam of light, and unlike Einstein, they weren’t dreaming. Their Motto was inscribed in Latin on their Uniform Patch:
“Ex Ignis, Muto in Lux. “
Out of fire, into the Light.
No chemical Rocket could even hope to approach the Speed of Light. Not even close. In the over three thousand years that have passed since the First Landing on the Moon, the best Humanity was ever able to achieve was about twenty three percent of the speed of light. That took decades of photon acceleration to achieve- and proved to be extremely inefficient for deceleration - not to mention…deadly. Many lives were lost before routes were established with decade long acceleration and deceleration bands free from matter and plasma clouds.
Even at just twenty percent of the speed of light, a collision with any particle of matter was a death sentence to the crew and passengers. Time distillation made those corridors hardly worth their use. Crews hated leaving their young brides, or husbands, only to come back to be met by their adult grandkids…and more often than not with the news that they were now widows, or widowers.
Once the first colonies were settled a little over seventeen hundred years ago…most interstellar travel became one way -either way. Earth got a fresh wave of Colonial Immigrants with advanced technologies on the return trips- and so it went for a millennia.
As Merlin and Elianna waited for the final countdown they thought back to how easy it sounded on paper.
(NOTE from the Archivist: “Paper” was a construction from wood pulp or cloth- used to hold a form of mechanical speech called: “Writing.” No living being has any idea what Paper looked like, felt like, or how it was stored. It is one of only three sayings to have survived the evolution to Star Travel. Along with the other two anachronisms: ”Times Up!” and “Shit.” "Times up” makes sense in only one of the ten known dimensions, and “Shit” still means a bad surprise.)
The Light Drive worked in three stages: converting all matter in the Capsules to Quanta - small packets of photons was the first stage. Then turning those Quanta of Light (Photons) into colored Quarks with one half spin was the second stage. The third stage - and the most difficult engineering feat ever attempted and resolved- was to “link” those spins to another Quark at the destination.
Then you simply (and that word made both Merlin and Elianna laugh out loud) reverse the process, building matter back up out of the seething virtual foam left over from the transit, restore the Universal Speed limit- the Speed of light, transferring the matter back into existence. Simple.
Merlin and Elianna would be the first to try the stages in order: reduction, translation, beaming, insertion, transfer, and then reverse the order back to matter.
All of this would happen, if all goes well, in a Flash.
A flash of light, nothing, and another Flash of light- the round trip would be over. For the team “launching” Merlin and Elianna…it would all happen in less than a second. Blink and you would have missed it. No one knew…yet…what would happen inside the capsule.
“Ten, nine, eight…three, two, one.”
The capsule was empty. They thought. Their instruments showed it was empty. Their senses said it was empty. It was not.
The capsule melted. There isn’t any other way to describe it. It just sort of puddled. In the middle of the puddle a glowing particle appeared. A moment later and the puddle had morphed into two balls of light - that as inhuman as they looked, seemed to be holding hands.
“Who are you?”
One of the Scientists managed to squeak out in the stunned silence.
One of the Light Balls spoke:
“In our youth we were known to you as Merlin and Ellianna.”
“In your youth? How old are you? Who are you now?”
The other Light Ball spoke:
“Time has no meaning for us now. We are older than this Universe. So are the others. We chose to come back to tell you something.”
“What? And who are the Others?”
Everyone in the room felt the two balls of light…smile.
“Why, it is you. All of you.”
The lead Scientist, who so far, had asked all the questions, asked one more.
“How can that be?”
Everyone felt another smile from the balls of light.
Then the one formerly known as Merlin spoke again:
“We don’t need this technology, it was a waste of time. ( everyone felt the balls of light laughter at the word “time") There is a simpler, much simpler way to travel the Universe, and not just this one. (Again, everyone felt the balls of light smile) All you have to do…is die.”
“What do you mean? Are we all going to die?”
This time the laughter went on between the light balls for quite some time.
“No. No. No. You are all going to live. Those bodies you care so much about are merely capsules. When you shed them, you become the others…like us.”
“We don’t need a capsule to go faster than light?”
(Again, the smiles were felt by everyone.)
“You already have capsules. You call them…Souls.”
There was nothing to see. The puddle, balls of light, and room were gone. All that was left was a feeling of well being.
The Lead Scientist shook her head in awe.
“We do have souls.”
The rest of the people in the room just nodded.
They had found something that travelled faster than light.