Our greatest failure to date in our study of Alissia might surprise you. It came about because of a simple, logical goal: to learn if there were other land masses beyond the mainland continent. Because of the technology restrictions put in place by company executives, modern transportation was out of the question.
So we did the next best thing. We built a deep water sailing vessel in-world. Native timber, of course, but designed in consultation with some of the top shipbuilders on Earth. The Victoria. A 120-foot, three-masted schooner that would probably win most yacht races on Earth, if we’d built her there. State-of-the-art navigation, and stocked for a six-month voyage.
Captain Relling, head of operations for the Gateway Project, skippered it herself. Trained the crew herself. Capable wasn’t strong enough a word for them. They were air-tight.
The maiden voyage was a four-week excursion: two weeks to push west off the coast to look for nearby islands, and two more to chart the coastline before returning to our hidden port. The mission’s first two days were uneventful. The weather was fair; they made even better time than expected. Relling checked in every six hours like clockwork.
Day three brought sudden, resounding silence. No check-ins from Relling. For the first 48 hours, we thought it might simply be a communications disruption. After that, company executives grew concerned. Especially when the burst transponder — which gave us a direction and amplitude fix on the ship’s position — suddenly ceased transmitting.
What followed over the next three months is the largest scale search and recovery operation the company has ever conducted. Two hundred men searching day and night. Given the urgency, the executives even suspended the restriction on internal combustion engines. Motorized watercraft and highly trained personnel completed the search grid within two weeks’ time, and found not a trace of the Victoria. It was as if the ship and her crew had disappeared from the map entirely.
The Victoria represents the most devastating loss of life and property since the Gateway Project began. A hard lesson, but we learned it well. And we do not venture beyond sight of the mainland shores.
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