It had been nearly ten years since the last transmission from Sagan 4 was received from the E.P.B.B.’s (electro-photon beacon buoys or ‘breadcrumbs’). The buoys were set out by the four ships that had already escaped the solar system and were charting their galactic journey which began several decades earlier. Using the radio focusing arrays to aim photon beams encrypted with data at other breadcrumbs along the trail, allowed the rapid transfer of massive amounts of data to ships following the same corridor into the void. The aim took months in some cases to lock on but the photon data firing was mere seconds. Each breadcrumb repeated it’s data along the line, whichever way the information was passing.
Data returned to Earth was most often concerning navigational issues unforeseen while in Earth orbit and ambient conditions in the target void that were immeasurable from Earth. It was determined about 20 years ago that it was not a void. The last series of messages from the Sagan 4 had been cut short, so little new information was gained about the void. Only that it had background radiation and a temperature of about 10 degrees above absolute zero. The new information did not cause concern about keeping it as a target.
The last data packet had been received years ago. Something had clearly happened to a ship or a breadcrumb to interrupt the signals which had been scheduled for six month intervals, but now, for more than a decade, nothing was discernible from radio waves being absorbed in the sector of space occupied by the ships.
A full compliment of communications technicians, or com-techs, process signals daily with determination in spite of the lengthy interval since the last reception. They send out feeler messages and attend their posts on ground based stations as well as aboard Aadaleus7, scanning the heavens for any signals from the first four ships. Most com-techs have never heard an actual deep space transmission in their entire careers. Only the messages about the solar system sent back in near real-time from the ships while navigating the magnetic fields of the giant planets as they exit the system forever.
The galaxy class ships are so large that the half-time orbit speed was chosen to place the ship at one half the rotation of the planet to prevent huge permanent shadows from damaging daylight crop growth areas on the planet’s face. Construction time has ranged from 30 years for the flagship, Tyson1 to what will be 10 years 2 months for Aadaleus7, putting it nearly 2 years ahead of it’s own schedule. During the time of the Tyson1′s construction there were no fields to farm so the light blockage was only an annoyance. The air on the surface started clearing up, but due to the constant shadow below the ship as it eclipses the sun partially on a daily basis, and spending half it’s time in the night sky as it rotates, the Earth always looked darker than life on the ship. Those who have already lived on the ship under construction for many years, call Earth, ‘The Dark Orb’.