Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Search (Mission Impossible - 6)

Fenie had been up beyond 'nighttime', which was the simulated shiptime. The darkmatter starcraft had seemed to hum in the night, though that was clearly her imagination. The humming would have only occurred just before a jump. Not a constant hum which she seemed to hear all night. She had finally been able to plot a spidery line to the nearest galactic disk... after traversing the dwarf galaxies which had seemed like little pearls. They had crossed incredible distances. Sagittarius dwarf lay ahead, it was a satellite galaxy. They would visit this first, since the Hnnet seemed to come from there. Extrapolating the vector backward was not the best approximation, but they had nothing else to go on. Fenie had almost passed out from exhaustion. She had left a ping for Piteer to clear the flight plan with the captain and had staggered off to bed.

Piteer was just getting dressed in his fatigues, and he rushed though a quick breakfast of pills. Always the pills in space. He hurried off to his console just as ship 'day' broke and the lights brightened. He felt fresh and rested. Dranke was already at the bridge, checking their progress, He looked up "Hey Piteer. Get yourself caught up on our flight plan which Fenie has mapped and lets get to business. I want to scan planets which could be likely targets. Look for unexplained radiation emissions." He went back to his dark coffee analogue and his screen as he spoke. Piteer nodded unnecessarily "On it boss."

Dranke and his team had quite the adventure, finding an alien fleet on a path which seemed to go to Earth. Instead, it seemed that the alien fleet was a mining expedition which just happened to come close to the Sol system, before traversing the galactic disk of the Milky Way. The aliens had confronted Dranke's darkmatter starcraft; and raised more questions than provided answers. But now spacecommand knew there were extraterrestrials out there. They would not rest till they found them. Dranke and his crew were tasked with tracking them down.

Piteer pulled up the starmap and drew lines across the grid pattern overlay "I have over ten thousand solar systems which could be targets. We need to filter them Sir." He looked at Dranke in askance. Dranke sighed. "It's hard to eliminate targets based on Goldilocks zones. The aliens obviously do not share our physiology." He pondered the issue. "Instead of planets, can we look for artificial structures? Anything that could be a power source for example." Piteer nodded "We have only about twenty outliers. Something strange in all of them. Let me plot a course to the nearest one.

In merely a day, they would traverse a distance which all of humanity had not been able to do in all history put together. And ahead lay a nondescript solar system. The only strange thing was it had a trinary star system. And multiple planets. Piteer had chosen well.

Two new crewmembers Dex and Sette were being trained on the starmaps and feeding in variables for the mapping of routes. They were working well together. It was a game for them. It was always that way for new recruits. After spending three years on simulators and game consoles that prepared them for the darkmatter starcraft, they knew how it all worked. But the reality was something they had to come to grips with. That piloting the ship involved real dangers, and jumping into a star would not just end with joshing in the mess, but would be fatal.

Fenie was up and getting a hot beverage. The pills were never enough. She ignored the fact that all liquid had been recycled. Some of it was used to protect them from space radiation and filled the walls of the ship. Other water was cleaned, filtered and reused. They were literally an ecosystem by themselves. She plodded to her console and looked at the approaching trinary system. "Captain, are we planning to land?" Dranke looked up from his console and nodded "Soon now." It looks like there is no electromagnetic emissions from the planets in this system, but my plan is a quick in and out on one of the planets." He marked out the planet he had chosen.

The darkmatter starcraft approached the looming planet. It did not have water and looked like a brownish-purplish ball. Fenie worked on the logistics and landing protocol. They would find out soon enough. The all hands message went out as the first of the logistics drill and the ship came to life as the crew scurried over to their consoles or positions. It was the first time the darkmatter starcraft, now named Raven was landing on a planet...

Pic courtesy: "Kepler11" by NASA / Tim Pyle - New Planetary System image: . Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

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