Tom was excited to go again. He was now accustomed to traveling to distant planets. The speed that the ships were able to go made what used to be impossible, just a few years out of your life. The unfortunate part was that life on earth proceeded at the usual rate, and when one returned from the first mission, friends and family were a generation older – or long dead. That sacrifice had been made long ago. There was now little to keep him from making another trip. Why not? There was little else for him to do.
Tom had been through all kinds of training for this mission. An obscene amount he had thought. Sure, there had been significant upgrades to the ship he would be on, but the rest really all boiled down to ‘I come in peace, take me to your leader’. Why did it take weeks to learn that? Tom would be taking a few ‘artifacts’ from earth, and a holographic projection display that would provide 3D images of plants, animals, people, and the geography of the earth. The images were full color and about as lifelike as one could imagine. Hopefully a holographic 3D image would be worth 1,000 words in an unknown language, with an unknown culture, to an unknown – species?
One of the reasons Tom had been selected for this important mission was his almost supernatural ability with languages. He had first developed this talent in his youth. His father’s military career had taken the family all over the world. In his youth, Tom had become quite fluent in German and Japanese, along with his native English. He liked languages, and his mother had encouraged him to keep up on this knowledge and ability. In high school he had added Spanish and French. And then while serving a Mormon mission he had mastered Chinese. It all came so naturally to him. Many members of his faith had told him how blessed he was because of his ‘gift of tongues’. He embraced this talent and made the most of it. His experience as an astronaut, his ability to pick up new languages, and the fact that he was here, made him the perfect choice.
Because he really had no family or friends to speak of, saying good-bye was not an issue. Who would he say it to? He had very few affairs to get in order. And the last few days before the launch seemed terribly long. He had become a bit of a celebrity because of all this, and even though much of the public would not live to learn the results of the mission, the excitement of what was going on was intense. Tom had become quite a loner, and was uncomfortable with all this attention. He was beginning to look forward to a few days of happy solitude, and several years of deep hibernation, as he prepared for this historic trip. He had never been an ‘alien’ before.