A small vignette, set on the Outbound Journey to TRAPPIST-1.

A Timeline of Newer York


"Do you think they remember us?"

"Who?"

"Earth. Do you think they remember we're out here?"

They were in bed together, the Admiral and the Rebbe. In the one hundred and forty five years of the Outbound Journey so far, they were pretty sure they were the first Rebbe and Admiral whose partnership had gone quite so far. Oh, there were rumors about Yosef, the second Rebbe, and Admiral Grenada, the third to bear that title, but never anything substantiated. Rabbi Hannah and Admiral Ivan Korenski, though? Everyone knew about them. They'd made no effort to hide it. The Sanhedrin buzzed about it, the Crew shrugged at it, but the general populace seemed to prefer the idea that their leaders at least liked each other to the alternative, which many now alive could still remember; an ugly period from 121 YJ through 125 YJ where the ship had come the closest to a purely human-caused disaster.

But, back to the moment. Hannah and Ivan, in that post-coital lounging and musing state that some couples find comes easily, where the mind is floating free almost on the edge of sleep and random thoughts come to mind and then to mouth.

Ivan let the question roll around in his head for a few minutes. He knew what the proximate cause was. After years of not caring much, they'd decided to actually refurbish the antenna array and see if there was anything interesting to hear. The Outbound Chabad went through long periods of not paying attention to what might be going on behind them, or around them. For one thing, space was...space. Mostly empty.

It had been reasonably well established that there were no non-human civilizations lurking around the corner in this neighborhood, and Sol? Sol was the past!

Their name proclaimed their outlook: outbound. Forward. TRAPPIST-1 was what interested them, and the future they hoped to build there. Sol was old fish, and possibly dead fish. Humanity had been doomed, or so they thought, and it was part of the impetus to undertake the trip!

But sometimes, just in case, they listened. And this time, surprisingly, they'd caught a signal. Twenty years old—they were, by now, 20 light-years out. It wasn't directed at them. It was just some random amateur radio traffic, something still conducted in analog modulations. The language had shifted a bit, but it was English, plain enough. It had just been one part of what seemed to have been a pretty routine, banal conversation. It told them almost nothing about conditions on Earth, except that Earth still endured.

That had fired up imaginations all across Dream of Spring. Twenty years ago, Earth had still supported life.

Remembering finally that he had a question to answer, Ivan did so. "I'm not entirely sure they ever knew we left."

He could feel her stir next to him. "Really? I mean, great big starship being built in orbit. You'd think somebody would notice that."

"You would, wouldn't you? Space launches hefting material and people into orbit ought to be noticeable, even if you missed the actual ship hovering there. But the chronicles suggest everybody thought they were crackpots. They complained sometimes about the amount of money and resources going into the project, but nobody seemed to be able to work up enough energy to do much about it."

"So you think they forgot all about us after we left?"

"Yeah, I do. I mean, they probably have some rumors or stories about us. Especially if there's still any Jewish community left. Distorted tales of the crazy Rebbe and his notions about the great desert of space."

Hannah chuckled next to him. "40 light-years to TRAPPIST-1, 40 years in the desert, can't be a coincidence, right?"

He snorted at the old joke. Then there was another long silence, comfortable, languorous, thoughtful. And then he said, "I'll bet there's a space opera series about us."

"What, like The Star Lost, only good?"

The Outbound Chabad had preserved a great deal of Old Earth's science fiction canon. There never having been an actual journey like theirs, it was the only source they'd had for what it might be like to actually live out here. Even material widely understood to be of questionable quality had been mined for ideas.

"Something like that, yeah. Actually, thinking about how often things get rebooted, even here on the ship, there might have been several, and by now they might have forgotten it was all based on something that actually happened!"

"So...like...they did remember us, enough to write a fictional story about us, and then someone rebooted that, and then rebooted the reboot..."

"And now only the superfans have any idea there was ever a real generation ship named Dream of Spring that left Sol."

Another pause, each of them stretching, reveling in the feeling of bodies against each other. She curled up sleepily, tangling up her limbs with his. "I guess that's only fair," she mumbled into his chest. "I mean, how many serials have our people produced about what Earth must be like, now?"

"Dozens? I dunno. Was never really my preferred genre."

"Mine, neither." She was getting muzzier-sounding, clearly drifting slowly into sleep. Ivan was heading that way himself, truth be told. "My mother loved them, though. Especially...what was it...ah, I can't remember...something about zombies in Kansas maybe?"

He shrugged. He hadn't heard of it, and anyway, he wasn't even sure she was really still awake, until she said, just barely coherently.

"Hey. I love you."

He bent his head down to kiss her head. "I love you, too!"

They drifted off to sleep.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, specifically in the fledgling Arctic Union, which was enjoying a creative renaissance, people were settling in to enjoy the premiere of season seven of the latest reboot of Across the Desert of Space...