Chapter 12 Summary
Professor Sullivan runs a very expensive operation at the bottom of the sea, so he has a lot to lose if he helps Jan, even in this new Age of Reason. He does not commit himself yet, but he knows that he will eventually do so. He realizes that he will never know the result; however, this is true in many aspects of the sciences.
Jan is having second thoughts. But Sullivan realizes that if he decides not to go through with it, he will regret it for the rest of his life. When Sullivan tells Jan that agrees to help, Jan decides he now must go through with it.
Jan writes a letter to his sister Maia to be delivered by Sullivan when it has become clear that his plan has worked. He tells her that when she receives the letter, he will no longer be on Earth, though not on the moon, as so many people are now doing. He explains that he has always wanted to go into space, but the arrival of the Overlords has stopped all human space exploration. He regrets the lost opportunities for humanity, who might have matured into discoverers of Mars or Venus by now, though it is also likely that mankind would have destroyed itself with the weapons that it had been creating in the twentieth century.
Jan tells Maia that it all started at Rupert’s party, when he realized that the Ouija board’s answer was a number from the star catalogue. The home planet of the Overlords is roughly forty light years away. A trip to the planet would take forty years of Earth’s time, but Jan assumes that the aliens can move close to the speed of light, so it will be only two months of shipboard time. Jan, with the help of Sullivan, has accumulated food and oxygen to last for two months and intends to stowaway on one of the Overlords’ cargo ships. He will inject himself with narcosamine, which will put him in a sleep-like state for six weeks. At the end of that time, he will be close to the end of his journey. Even if the Overlords immediately put him back on a return ship, it will be eighty years before he returns to Earth. All the people that he knows will be dead. He bids Maia farewell, asking her to tell her grandchildren about the uncle who might be coming home when they are old.