Robert, September 2018
For a while it didn't seem to matter that we were stuck on this colony, or that Addy and I were engaged but couldn't tell our family. For a while, no one questioned it. But a few years later, Addy and I got annoyed. I argued with Captain Matthews about not being able to even tell our parents—not see them or go to them, but just to talk to them. He kept waving us off, saying that it'd be impossible.
That's when it finally sunk in. Everyone here held on to some mad hope that maybe, just maybe, the UEO had gone and pronounced us all simply missing in action and left our families with something. But Captain Matthews' inability or unwillingness to help Addy and I confirmed it after almost eight years: they listed us—all of us—as killed in action. Dead. No further details, no hope for return.
That's when I turned to Charlie. I didn't tell Addy what I was up to, or explain why the two of us started hanging around each other a lot more. You see, I've always gotten along with Charlie and over the years since the project was shut down, we've gotten to be close friends. But onboard the Achilles, I was always too wrapped up in some military thing to ever really get to know him.
Now, however, I had him looking into some secret things for me.
I knew the security here was tight, but Charlie knew some people who worked IT back on Achilles who might possibly know how to get around it. I wasn't trying to break out of here or anything because that would be completely too difficult. I just wanted to send a message. Nothing else. Just a video—or even email—to tell Dad… anything, really. Initially I wanted to tell him about Addy and I, but since discovering the truth of my official military "status", that seemed insufficient. I should tell him everything. Anything I could get my hands on, I wanted to tell him.
The Achilles. This colony. Addy and I getting engaged, and our wedding planned for a few months from now. I just wanted to tell him.
It took Charlie's contacts a while to get anywhere and then get back to him, but finally he came to tell me the good news. "Just make a video message and give it to me. We'll take care of the rest."
It seemed too simple, too obvious. Way too easy. But I went for it anyway.
I sat in front of our Vid-Link terminal in our apartment, trying to decide what to say. I knew that once I recorded the message, I'd only have seconds to save it to a drive and delete it from the terminal's memory bank before it stayed in the logs forever.
I took a deep breath, and hit the record button. "Hey Dad," I waved, then frowned. "I know what you're thinking, and I'm sorry. The UEO or whoever came to you, they lied to you, Dad. I'm alive," I smiled, "and engaged. I meant to tell you about her the last time we talked when I was still onboard that ship. But now…" I looked down for a second, finding the words, then back up at the screen, "now I'm on an underwater colony designed to hold the entire living crew from the Achilles—the ship I was on. We were conducting research for a top secret project. Word about it got out, and then there was an accident." I left out the part about the accident still giving me nightmares. "They shut us down, isolated us and we're still here. We can't leave and no one else can come in. We can't even send messages to our family or friends. But I'm breaking the rules… I wanted to tell you about Addy and I, and about what really happened. My friend, he's helping me send this to you. I may get court-martialed if any of this gets found out but what else can they do to me?" I shook my head. "Nothing, that's what. I'm stuck here either way. It's prison enough."
I paused. I didn't know what else to say. "I love you and Mom, Dad. I hope this gets to you, and that you don't hate me. None of this was my idea. Well, except marrying Addy. I love her. I think you two would get along just fine." I smiled. "I hope I get to see you soon. Until then," I said, and waved again.
I cut the recording, saved the file to a drive, and then deleted it from my terminal.
It was worth the risk.