He’d been captain of this boat for over a year. Granted it was old, a late model Mercury class that had seen more than its share of odd missions, but he was finally the boss man. Last year the boat went into dock for an ‘Exo’ conversion. What that meant, Ivan never really knew but it was supposed to be able to handle heading out beyond the Pluto orbit; the ongoing joke was that ‘Exo’ conversions just meant bigger mess halls in the ship - full bellies meant complacent crews.
The trip out to the Pluto colony was uneventful. The upgraded JOkR plant and VTD, something the company had been splashing out on in order to avoid buying new ships, sped things up but damn, Pluto is far away. Why there’s even a colony there was always a mystery to Ivan.
Cold beyond imagination, dark, and if things went south, help was not going to get to you in time – if at all. But there it was, several thousand people digging shit up and send it back into the system for processing. There was rumour that the EMA had some sort of secret lab out there, doing all sorts of secret squirrel stuff; being ‘secret’ probably was a good bet no one was ever going to know about it, so it’ll always just be rumour...
A week of rest and prep (drinking the local brew and ensuing debauchery every night could hardly be called rest), saw Ivan finally pointing the DS Nagano into deep space, and off they went. Then at the obligatory 100,00km mark, he opened the stage 2 orders; it was nice to finally know just what the fuck he was supposed to be doing out here. Ivan read the orders once. Then twice.
Then he sat down.
Go out beyond the 9th orbit, turn around... and come back?
That’s what it said. That’s ALL it said.
So months of doing nothing, to do nothing? How he was going to explain it to the crew was going to be interesting to say the least. No one expected excitement on a company boat, but months of boredom for absolutely no reason, that was going to a big pill to swallow. This was certainly not how Ivan saw his first big mission playing out...
Like every corner of the system, everyone worked and lived to Earth GMT time. 24 hours in a day. 7 days in a week. 52 weeks in the year, regardless of what the locale was doing. So it was about 23.30 when the intercom chimed and the somewhat panicked first officer called him up to the bridge. Seriously, what could be so urgent out here? They were floating through complete and absolute nothingness.
Or so Ivan thought.
The first officer, Henry was his name, was in a state. For that matter the entire bridge was in a state. Alarms, red lights, everything going off at once. Ivan drifted over to the window Henry was frantically pointing to, no point looking at instruments at this stage.
Ivan became very awake.
What he and the three other crew on the bridge were looking at was not quite clear to them. It was round, spherical maybe? A giant marble was what came to Ivan’s mind…. Einstein-Rosen bridges, wormholes, existed, but were long ago discounted as not being stable enough to be seen; in fact a new paper just released on the topic was on Ivan’s reading list - being a ship's captain, this sort of stuff interested him. After what seemed like an eternity of gawking passed, what became very clear was that the Nagano was drifting right towards the ‘thing’… that explained all the alarms going off at once.
The reason Ivan was captain became very clear. Quietly and sternly he calmed the bridge down and got the situation under control. The Nagano's drift was unable to be arrested, this much was clear. If it was able to be arrested, the ship’s systems would have made it happen by now, so there was little point in fighting it. So the options were really pretty limited. Either they could continue the drift and see what happens, or take control and see if they could ride it through.
Considering no one actually knew what they were looking at, it was all guess work.
It took five tries but Colonel Spires was finally on the bridge of the TS5 Hammersmith, the first successful Transverse System Ship to negotiate the Magellan Rift. In all, the cross over was uneventful, if you discounted the fact that it felt, and looked, like you were passing through Dante’s Inferno. What surprised him the most was the length of time it took. Spires didn’t have any preconceptions, who could have, but he did think it’d be sort of quick. It ended up taking a day and a half to pass through the 'Rift', as it was now called (a wormhole by any other name), and without warning they were spat out the other side.
Initial scans revealed they were in another system. Five class A planets orbiting a Sol sized Red Dwarf. What was a little alarming though was that they seemed to have exited right into a debris field; only a little alarming because the Hammersmith’s hull would not even blink, having been engineered for Rift travel.
What was odd though was that the debris field was coming up as identifiable mixed materials... man made mixed materials
Being where they were and doing what they were doing – the first ship to traverse the Rift, Spires had little choice but to send out a pod of drones to investigate the debris. He didn’t expect too much, they were small and of no real form, but he had to make a report - command would not be impressed if he did not at least attempt to identify the stuff.
It took an hour but the drones eventually brought back five pieces big enough to at least stand a chance of being identified.
Spires and three crew stood around the five pieces on the loading deck floor in quiet reflection. They all knew the minute they walked in what they were looking at, what remained of the markings made it perfectly clear. This is, was, the Nagano. It vanished without a trace 8 years ago and many thought had it fallen prey to pirate boats that supposedly hid out past the Pluto orbit. Spires thought he was the first to take a ship through the Rift but it now became clear he was not.
He was only the first to do it in one piece…
© 2018 G.Thomas/Play Forest
Other things related to this tale...
More tales from a time yet to be forgotten...
It took five tries but Colonel Spires was finally on the bridge of the TS5 Hammersmith, the first successful Transverse System ship to negotiate the Magellan Rift.
But still, strapping a rail gun to a Replicator? That was madness, surely?
For months Jones had been messing with trying to get a small Fusion plant to work. Not as a commercial idea mind you but as a one up on his racing competition.
On a clear night it’s like being on the inside of a crystal ball looking out, it’s a view that never gets boring and certainly not something you ever quite get used to.
‘Scamander.’ That’s the name they gave this desolate rock. Was that a piss take? ’Scamander’, the river god that wove his way outside the walls of Troy. Geezus, did anyone have a look around before they named it?
The drone had spent 6 months making deep level scans of the three most obvious candidates. Every metric collected, extensive feature graphing made, and every byte of information relayed back to the base ships that had been in rift orbit for the past 9 months.
At first they seemed random, anomalies, background noise lost to the throb of the mechanics of business. A mishap here, a crew vanishing there. Not enough to warrant investigation but more than enough for rumours to thrive.