By William M. Edwards
“If you could kill somebody, and know with 100% certainty you would get away with it, who would you kill?” Harrison asked Tom, his neighbor at the long mahogany bar that curved gracefully into a circle in the middle of the elaborately detailed facsimile of an Irish pub. The insanely aggressive air conditioning also made the soupy New Orleans air clammy as an Irish winter.
“It’s supposed to be a two part question,” Tom responded, “first, ‘would you kill?’ and then you ask, ‘who you would kill?’”
“I don’t believe it,” Harrison said after sipping the facsimile Irish whiskey produced by specially fabricated bacteria that converted plastic reclaimed from a garbage dump in New Jersey. “Everyone has a person in his past who needs to die. Now tell me yours.”
Tom laughed. “It’s an easy question for me: My ex-wife. Twenty years ago, I went hunting in Alaska with my father. We killed a bison the same year America signed the Convention banning all consumption of freshly killed meat.”
“Nobody remembers what real meat tastes like.” Harrison said nodding.
“I kept one last bison steak in my freezer. I hoped to share it with my children one day.”
“And she ate it?” Harrison asked.
“No, she doesn’t like meat. She fed it to her boyfriend while I was on a business trip.”
“Ouch.” Harrison responded wincing.
“Now tell me yours.” Tom asked sipping his synthetic beer.
“If I did that, you might try to stop me.” Harrison said winking.
“Okay, but can you at least tell me how you would get away with it?”
“Four years ago, NASA received images of a planet from another system. It’s like Earth’s big brother but without 25 billion people crammed on its surface. Einstein’s theory of relativity provides that nothing can travel faster than light. In sixteen hours, I’m boarding a ship that will travel to this planet at near-light speed. Once this ship is launched, nothing can intercept it. Even radio transmissions sent hours after the launch will dissipate into space before they ever catch up to the ship. And it’s a one way trip.”
“How long will it take you to get there?” Tom asked.
“16 years to me. On Earth 160 years will pass. That’s Einstein’s relativity. Your grandchildren will be dead from old age when I arrive.”
“You might be the only humans left if the war starts,” Tom responded referring to the rising tensions in Asia.
“Yep. The 32 people on this ship will be all that’s left.”
“What if you’re wrong? You’re leaving everything,” Tom asked.
“Tom, we’ve taking real chickens, cows, and pigs. We’re going to plant real food, breath real air, drink fresh water and see the real sky like our grandparents did. A new world.”
A dark square inconspicuously pinned to Harrison's shirt vibrated softly.
“Yes?” Harrison said into thin air.
“OK. Thanks. I’ll give it to you when I get there,” Harrison said ending his half of the conversation. Harrison touched the square and spoke softly.
“Calling taxi,” chirped an electronic voice in response.
“My treat. My money won’t do me any good out there,” Harrison said pressing his thumb into the pay pad.
The driver dropped Harrison off in front of The Gentleman’s Taste, an upscale strip bar. Harrison walked around to the back door of the bar and gave it three loud raps. An enormous man opened the door casting a nervous look down the alley.
Harrison removed a package of cigarettes from his pocket and tucked it into the bouncer’s meaty hand.
“I’ll know if this is the synthetic stuff,” the bouncer threatened.
“This is the real thing. There are less than five hundred packs like this left. It’s worth what you make in a year,” Harrison responded.
Harrison headed directly for the VIP lounge ignoring the neon-lit women undulating to the obnoxiously loud music. The lounge windows muffled the music while allowing a view of the dancers.
“Hi Matt.” Harrison said to a man in his fifties stuffed into a gray business suit.
“Harrison? Let me buy you a drink.”
“Don’t bother. I’m not staying long.”
Harrison touched the pin on his shirt again without sitting down.
“Call taxi,” Harrison said softly.
“Harrison, I always felt badly about that patent dispute we had over my invention,” Matt said offering Harrison a synthetic cigar.
Harrison drew a small black pistol from his waistband and depressed the trigger three times. The club music drowned the soft “psst” “psst” “psst” sounds made by the tiny darts of depleted uranium. Harrison then turned the pistol and dispatched the witnesses.
“Electromagnetic hyper-accelerator. I’m just pissed you got the royalties when I bought this thing. How do you like MY invention now?” Harrison said to the dead businessman.
The intense light from GJ 388, the sun from his new solar system woke Harrison up on the morning of their final deceleration. The group of 32 on board had grown to 72 over the last sixteen years. NASA extensively screened the pool of potential passengers with the goal of achieving the most reproductively capable population to colonize the new world.
The ship detached from its final stage leaving only the landing module to touch down on a pre-selected landing site.
The group clamored behind the airlock while the outside sensors confirmed the presence of breathable oxygen. It hardly mattered what it detected. They were all dead anyway if the original assaying of the world was wrong about the atmosphere.
The door opened revealing an asphalt and steel spaceport not unlike the one they left. A crowd of thousands of people cheered excitedly as a band began to play.
The bewildered passengers slowly descended into the cheering crowd.
“Are you Mr. Sanders?” A man in a black uniform asked Harrison.
“Yes. How did you people get here?”
“Mr. Sanders, it’s because of Matt Curtis, the inventor of the electromagnetic hyper-accelerator. Modified and on a large scale, it punched the ship right through the light barrier. Our grandparents settled this colony 60 years ago. Now, sir, I need to talk to you about some deaths that occurred in New Orleans the night before you left. I have the video and, there’s no statute of limitations for murder.”
Bio: I went to the University of Kansas School of Law. I now work for the government as an attorney. I live near Kansas City with my wife and new son.