The speeches were done. Literally. The platform was thankfully quiet. Joyfully speechless. Allman wondered if anyone had seen him doze off. He had certainly given them opportunities to see it. President deLyon had sat uncomfortably close. Anytime applause started, he seemed to start it, and every time it started, he seemed to poke Allman.
Allman was surprisingly unconcerned. The whole ceremony was for him. He could not have given a crap. Not a big, fat, ass-ripper and not a dingle hopper of a small, balled, water plopper. Allman had better things to do. Like change the air in the tires of his soon to be classic and ever so antique 2015 model Ford Corvette.[ Me , 5/13/17, 10:26
Need to show this and not tell it!]
Allman was about to take a trip so big it was the trip of lifetimes. It would take nothing less to attract the speechmakers that had been assembled. President deLyon, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Karl Oss, the CEOs of fourteen different aerospace firms, and the Reverend Al Sharpton all sat in the front row with Allman. The Project Manager Dr. Otto Rotcod had to stand on the edge of the platform to even be seen.
It was all Otto’s idea anyway. His puppy, his swan song, his brainchild. Everyone else on the stage would only stand to share the limelight if it all went well; even though they would not be around to find out if things did not go well. Except of course for Allman. If something went wrong, he stood to not stand at all. Allman had been only nine when the project gained focus.
The infamous year was 1996. Finally, someone found another solar system. How they had done it, was never as important as why they had done it. Life was the question. Was there life, could life exist, what was it doing, did it breathe oxygen, were they friendly, did they play twenty questions, were they looking for us, were they more advanced than us, were we more advanced than them, how long did they live, did they have a cure for cancer, how did they reproduce, were they looking for us, why could we not find them sooner, how did they communicate, had they intercepted our television broadcasts, would they hide from us if they had, did they have domesticated animals, did they look like us, did they believe in God? On and on the questions went, but they all boiled down to one big question: How can we find out? Otto had the answer.
If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears, does it make a sound? More importantly, how do you know the tree fell? If you did not see it for yourself, how do you know? Someone had to go. Otto was prepared to send someone. Otto started the snowball snowballing.
Before Allman hit puberty, Otto had a grant. The work was slow but steady. Before Allman finished high school, Otto had presented the proposal to the President. Immediately there were available funds for the project. Before Allman graduated from college, Otto started looking for the right person. When Otto found Allman, he stopped. From there on, the whole project was focused on getting Allman to the nearest planet circling the closest star. From that point on, things got tough.
Allman rolled into the wall. Again waking up on the wrong side of the bed. Imagine the luck of being able to sleep in space. Every day for the last… how long had it been? The days were like months and the weeks like years. “It could have been worse,” Allman spoke aloud to no one, “After all, seven days to the year couldn’t be all bad.”
Why had he not held out for a faster ship? Why did Einstein decide we could not exceed the speed of light? Who did he think he was the inventor of the largest weapon of mass destruction ever created or something?
Allman smacked his lips loudly as he crawled out of bed. Hanging in zero gravity, he pondered the dilemma again. It was not with the toiletries, it was not with the toothpaste, it was not with the cleaning supplies, and it was not in the freezer next to the metaphorical banana guacamole. Where was his toothbrush? Surely, he had not taken such a monumental trip, arguably the most monumental trip in human existence, and left it behind. There were no convenience stores to pop into, no bellhop to call, and no concierge to direct him to the nearest spot to pick one up.
The nearest bellhop was as close as the next nearest toothbrush. An unknown, incalculable distance away on the home planet, the start of the travel, the end of the trip if all went well. Well, not incalculable, a gauge did that for him. Not that Allman understood any of it.
The first American astronauts had been either military men, engineers or both. They could figure a logarithm and use a slide rule faster than Allman could spell logarithm and he had never touched a slide rule. By the time he was recruited for the program anyone could get into space. They had to have a lot of money, but anyone could go. Astronauts still got a free ride, but they no longer had to be as smart as they were in the early days of space exploration. They still had to pass some physical tests to make it into the program, but being able to add, multiply, and conduct spatial reasoning was not a prerequisite. Lucky for Allman.
Allman knew less about why he had been selected then what he had known about being an astronaut. Otto had been in charge of that criterion. He had taken great lengths to search for the type person he needed. Some of them were even legal. The big consideration was a strong immune system, for many reasons. No one knew what would be encountered at the end of the journey, but also no one knew what would be encountered along the way. No sick Schirras or hazy-headed Haises would do on this journey. The ride of a lifetime would be made by someone with the constitution of lifetimes.
In fact, despite the fact he had not realized it, Allman had never been sick a day in his life. An IQ off the charts, physical fitness, no remaining relatives, and having lived a solitary existence all helped. Together they made Allman the one in a half-billion candidate for the trip.
On a planet of eight billion, that still left other options, but Otto stopped looking once he had found Allman.