Letters From Andy: 8


I'm really sorry I haven't visited your grave until now. I know you're just a train ride away from the city, but I couldn't bring myself to go while I was getting my second and third Ph.Ds. It was too much to confront the fact that you were truly gone, so I just kept working, working, working. It was the only thing that I could do anymore. Clair passed away not too long ago, and it gave me the chance to reconnect with the kids. Both Roy and Alex have kids of their own now, isn't that crazy? It feels like just a couple weeks ago they were moving off to college.

But things have just gotten too chaotic. I have no idea what else to do, so I'm writing to you once again. I thought, "Imaginary Cecilia would know how to deal with this." I guess I should catch you up on the last couple decades.

Things started so well. I retired from my position at Stanford, because I was the oldest person on their faculty by a wide margin. I thought perhaps I had finally outgrown higher education entirely. But my brain was as sharp as it ever was, thanks in no small part to JuVen. I had decades and decades of knowledge, few in the world could come close to my level of experience. So it was practically a shoe-in to become lead scientist for the propulsion lab at Orbital Logistics. They needed somebody with comprehensive physics knowledge to make their rockets better, and I just fully invested myself in the work. I felt for the first time that I was working for the future of humanity. I mean, space travel is the future right?

But it wasn't really the future I was working for. I was personally in contact with the CEO, Ernest Doherty. If you were still alive you'd know exactly who he is. He's just a bit after your time I guess — the Elon Musk of the 22nd century, you might say. Jesus, remember that guy? I've been alive way too long.

I knew from the start Doherty was just as much a robber baron as fucking Carnegie. I should have known it wasn't worth it, but my work was the only place I got meaning anymore. So I ignored him, and just assumed that if we got humanity to space we would enter the Star-Trek utopian age we were always destined for. But he was operating on the same old-school business tactics that caused all our problems this past century.

You really died too early to see all that stuff go down, didn't you? Yeah, I had to hop around the world for a little while to wait for things to calm down in the U.S. But that was fine, because my work required me to travel anyway. I probably visited every country that has a functioning space program, because my team was far and away the absolute best at what we did. God, I've been so busy, Cecilia. We probably advanced humanity's colonization of space by a hundred years, modestly.

Sometimes I wonder if I would have served the world better if I had been a creative writing major, like you. I'm completely serious. Your work really meant something to your readers. It shames me to admit, but I looked down on your career my whole life. I had dreams of greatness, and I truly believed that I was the person whose breakthroughs would launch our species into the stars. But when I brought us there, it turned out nothing changed.

You caught the earliest stages of the lunar industry, but unsurprisingly things really picked up once more countries could get to space for cheaper. I actually went there, believe it or not, at no less than 120 years of age. You'd never guess it looking at me, though. 120 is the new 60, they say.

What sent me over the edge was when I met a kid whose parents died during an accident at their job — both at the same time, like mine. The child was well-off, to be sure. Doherty knew how to compensate the victims of collateral damage. Except this was a literal child, who had only known a world where industrial accidents on the Moon were commonplace. A world I helped create.

I tried to convince Doherty to divest from the company him and I had built. I pleaded with him to change, to tell you the truth. When that didn't work, I threatened to leak documents, to smear his name, to systematically undo everything I had built in the last forty years. But I can't maneuver the way his lawyers can, and nothing came of it. I was ousted unceremoniously, and his people will tail me for the rest of my life.

I had a dream the first night I got back to Earth. Remember how you used to love hearing about my dreams? This one was so vivid, I could have sworn it was based on a real memory. But the more I wrote it down, the more I realized how little sense it made. I was some kind of consultant for a construction company, and they needed me to take a look at the blueprints for a new facility they were building on the Moon. The longer I stared at the blueprints though, the more I realized it was actually my own face — then it was Clair's face, then yours, then my kids and grandkids. Then it became text. And the text told the story of my whole life. They said I had to put my signature at the bottom to approve the plans. I was too terrified to do it.

I'm back on the ground now, and back in New York. Probably for good. I wasn't entirely sure what to make of my life. For a while the only thing that mattered was work, but now I feel like a fool for ever thinking that was worthwhile. That was when I realized I had never visited you. How could I have been such a bad friend?

If only you were here to read all this.