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Ben looked through the telescope at the black hole. He couldn't see any progress, but after putting on the Decade Lens, he noticed a change.

He noted the improvement.


Scientist Ben Carpenter was part of the elite team aboard the Decem X, along with his wife, scientist Kristen Carpenter, and engineer Mark Smith.

Their mission was to travel to the edge of the known universe and halt the increasing mass of a black hole.


The Decem X had on it a large laser, which hit their target with enough radiation to, in theory, cause it to shrink. Eventually, it would shrink out of existence.


The trouble was, they couldn't see their progress, at least not in the present. In order to see if it worked, they had to use a pair of glasses known as the Decade Lens, and peer ten years into the future. Only in the future could they measure the diameter of the black hole to any distinction. Its distance required looking into the future to see their progress in the present.


They'd all had direct orders not to use the glasses outside of research. They were only to view through a telescope at the black hole, and view through a microscope samples from passing asteroids. Any clues about how their target affected the known universe could prove vital.


After five years aboard the ship. Time seemed to halt. Day after day. It all felt the same. If not for the blinking screen, which prompted their tasks for the day, Ben wasn't sure he'd be able to tell one from the next.


Eventually, curiosity got the better of him.


* * *


Ben put the glasses on. Aside from wear and tear on the walls of the ship, everything looked normal. He considered finding his wife and testing the glasses on her.


He found her sitting in the canteen. When he put the glasses on, she disappeared. He removed the glasses and there she sat. What happened?

It suddenly clicked. He'd only see her in the location she'd be in ten years from the day.


He ventured to his and Kristen's living quarters. Would he be inside? Did he want to see what he'd look like in the future? The door slid open. Empty.

He decided to check Mark's room. When the door opened, his eyes grew wide.


"Kristen!" he shouted.


He threw the glasses off.


"What is it?" she shouted. She appeared at his side. "Are you okay?"


"The glasses," he said. "I saw you and…"


"You wore the glasses around the ship?"


"You and Mark. How could you?"


"Mark and I? What do you mean?"


"You were together. In his room."


"I would never. What's come over you?"


Ben stormed off.


* * *

Ben sat in the canteen with a bottle of moonshine.


"Mind if I join you?" asked Kristen.


"Go ahead," he said.


"I used the glasses. I saw what you saw. There's no explanation for it. At least not yet."


"Where are the glasses now?"


"I put them back by the telescope. There's a reason we're not meant to wear the glasses around the ship. Seeing into our own future could jeopardize the mission. What were you thinking?"


"It was inevitable. Sooner or later, one of us would get curious." He paused for a moment. "It just happened to be me."


"Whatever we saw. We don't know why it's happened. Maybe it doesn't happen at all. Isn't that why we're here? We're looking into the future every day. Looking for progress. Looking for hope."


"Hope. I remember hope."


"Sober up, Ben."


* * *


After sitting alone for an hour, Ben decided he wanted to find himself in the future.


He made his way to the telescope room.


"Mark," he said.


"Ben," replied Mark. "Kristen tells me you've been playing with the glasses. You know we're not supposed to do that."

Ben took the glasses and walked away.


He scoured the ship for a glimpse of his future self. As he searched, he felt himself growing tired.


* * *


Ben awoke to the emergency alarm.


He ran down the blinking red halls to the command center. Kristen and Mark sat at their stations.


"What happened?" he asked.


"We've been breached," said Mark.


"Looks like a rogue asteroid," said Kristen. "One of us should do a spacewalk to check the hull."


"I'll go," said Mark. "I have the most experience."


"No," said Ben. "I'll go." He locked eyes with Kristen. "I've got this."


She walked over to him and placed her hands on the sides of his face.


"Are you sure you're up for this?" she asked.


He nodded.


"Kristen, I'm sorry about—"


"Don't apologize. I love you. And I always will."


Ben kissed his wife.


"We'd better get you suited up," said Mark.


* * *


Ben waved goodbye before stepping into the airlock.


The door to the outside opened. He grabbed a handle on the side of the ship.


"Ben, can you hear me?"


He heard Mark in his helmet's comms.


"Loud and clear," he replied.


"The foreign object hit the hull thirty meters toward the nose. You have grips for another twenty meters, but you'll have to make a leap to the next set. You're tethered, so if you overshoot, you can pull yourself in and try again."


"Got it."


"Good luck, Ben." His wife's voice filled the voids of his helmet.


Ben held the handles along the ship. At the end of the twenty meters, he took a deep breath. No worries. Just like Mark had said. If he overshot the jump, he could always try again.


He leapt forward.


By the time he was halfway, he could tell he was moving too fast. He overshot the next set of handles. He’d have to try again.


He grabbed hold of the cord attached to his suit, only to find himself drifting away from the ship.


They'd never secured his tether.

Copyright 2023 - SFS Publishing LLC

The Decade Lens

Don't look too far

Dan Leicht





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