Justin Douglas must have spent two years in orbit. He was personally selected by the president of the International Space Travel Agency straight out of college. Douglas has I.Q 150 and had unified the quantum and Newtonian Physics in his second year of his science degree. Soon after, he became a celebrity. Countless tech companies wanted him not to mention governmental departments. But his only passion in life was space. He applied for the graduate program for the ISTA and naturally he got in without trouble. Right after the orientation, he applied for the Inter-Planetary Travel Program - IPRP. The agency had a lot of acronyms. He also got into that without any issues. Justin volunteered to be the first man to travel to the Andromeda galaxy. At first, the agency opposed it as the theories and technologies have not yet been ironed out. But Justin insisted. With some bending of rules, the agency also approved Douglas' request.
That was ten years ago.
He was on a twenty year mission to reach a planet they dubbed as Second Earth in a coordinate that was classified top secret in the Andromeda Galaxy. He spent the last ten years on his own physically. But most of the time he was hooked up to a VR gear that allowed him to live out a normal life on Earth. The agency transmitted daily versions of life on Earth. He has spent his twenties up in space and the psychological department in the agency reported that, even if Justin made it to the theoretical planet physically, his mind won't be able to handle twenty years of solitude in space. That's when the agency and the company Meta joined forces and developed an elaborate VR system that allowed the user to live out a normal life whilst being on long periods of solitude.
The first year alone was the hardest. The deep space was not what he had envisioned or imagined. The vehicle that he helped design was travelling 1.02 times the speed of light. Light behaved differently in space. It was pitch black in all directions. No sound, nothing. He did daily space walks at 8am (Earth time) everyday. He knew that it was morning or night because the giant screen told him so. There were many times that Justin wanted to turn this ship around. But even if he wanted to he had a feeling that he might be lost.
At 9PM every night, he went to sleep. That meant hooking up to the virtual reality system that allowed him to live a life that he missed as a young man. At first his mind rejected the VR. It wasn't like dreaming or even having a lucid dream at all. The user was emersed in a life that was indistinguishable from reality in every way. There were few times when he almost activated the self destruction protocol. The VR was a self learning AI that was developed under a shroud of secrecy despite a massive opposition from most scientific communities. The VR machine adjusted it self so that Justin didn't lose it in space. The agency deemed that it would be bad if Justin was to lose his mind when he was to have a close encounter.
Over the years, he got used to the routine of waking up twelve hours a day and being hooked up to the machine at "night". The hardest thing was the sheer nothingness. Sometimes he stared out the window and would see a flickering of a star only to realise that it was just dust bouncing light from the screen in the screen.
That's how he spent the better part of the last ten years.
One morning, he was getting dressed to go for space walk outside when he saw something that he couldn't fathom. About a hundred thousand kilometres dead s ahead, he saw a craft heading straight for him, but at a much slower velocity...
TO BE CONTINUED...