Saturday, August 13, 2011

Land Leave 8

The Oort cloud, it's about .3 to .8 ly from the sun. Getting to the edge would take 13 days at lightspeed.

Somehow this story just keeps on going:

“Ok, we're ready to make our final approach.” Bill's hands were shaking, it was about to get really tough. They had just left the perimeter of the repulsor field and were waiting wading through a debris field of large chunky red rocks. “You ok James?”

“Peachy keen,” James spoke through gritted teeth, a particularly spiky rock had just passed overhead, “I'm starting to pick up the distortion.”

“Roger that, same here. Wait until we hit the event horizon and we'll move to stage two. You wanna mark?” Bill was getting very uncomfortable in his flight-suit, his armpits would have deep sweat stains forever—which could be just a few moments more.

“No, but I will. I'm at 78% threshold; I'm calling at 98%, you copy that?” James tapped his lateral thrusters to avoid a rock.

“Copy. We have go on your mark.” Bill almost screamed as a family of five rocks nearly slammed into his rear thrusters.

“Alright. 83%. Steady.” The sensors started beeping to signal the shift in gravity, James remained focused. At a steady sound, the two ships would be within 5% of the event horizon and the ships would start shifting. “All sensors on, we have go in three,” the beeping had almost turned into a tone, “two,” the sound was steady and the pitch was rising, “one,” James crossed his fingers, “mark.” The two ships blasted forward, and the gravitational pull of the cube suddenly scooped the two ships out of a collision course.

“I can't believe this. We are set for an elliptical approach. Now shifting to counter the force of the cube as we approach.” Bill had a burst of confidence as his muscles settled back into the seat.

The cube was large and almost featureless. It had a diagonal line across two corners and a circle inscribed on the center of one face. Apart from that it was a large cube with a dark-gray matte finish, even the material was indeterminate about it. As the two came within 15 meters of the object, they threw their thrusters to counter the force and fired their ret beams. They were attached to the cube.

“Smooth sailing from here Bill.” The relief in James' voice was evident, “Eve, this is ensign Rojas, we have a package, returning to ship. Be advised, gravitational field is still active on the package.”

It really was a package; Bill thought about the anticipation that Kelvin and Bacchi must be feeling. He was not incurious, he would like to know what he had risked his neck for. The gravitational field of the cube would repel objects as they made their return, staying connected was all they had to do. Bill had no misconceptions; the two of them had been lucky to make it out of there.

Bill and James realigned the cube and pulled it into the bottom holding bay. The cube would be held steady between the fins in a sterile and unpressurized bay. It was the largest bay on the Eve and even it was a tight squeeze. Most likely, Kelvin and Bacchi would only be able to do preliminary observations on the cube before studying it fully at the Phobos science station.

The two docked their ship and made their way to the bridge. Once there they were greeted by Sorensen, the captain, and the two scientists. After the congratulations, the captain stepped forward and spoke, “Thank you so much, we have sent out a relay to command and the Hestia. We will now head back to Mars via wormhole, and you two are ordered to stay on as support detail for Drs Kelvin and Bacchi until we break Mars orbit. Also, do you two like awards? I'll put you both in for something.”

James and Bill smiled at each other. The whole thing had gone off without a hitch and they were getting commendations for it. Working with the cube meant two things: less strenuous work, and first dibs on anything inside the cube. They looked over at Kelvin and Bacchi; it was obvious that the scientists were ready to suit up and start investigating the thing. The captain noticed too, “I can see you are anxious to figure out what's in the box, I won't keep you. Dismissed. Sorensen, can I see you in my office?”

“We have a problem. I've gotten a positive ID on the bomber—Theodore Cooper He was a Jovian factionalist. He fought in the Callisto uprising and believed in the AmU solar conspiracy. What does this mean? It means we have a nut-job basically. He was a paranoid that could have been taken advantage of by a myriad of groups. Thoughts?”

“Well sir, my first thought is that I find it odd the ship that is following the Hestia did not follow us. Our long range sensors picked them up and maps noted that they are underway with a course set for the inner solar system. It is as if they were just watching for the hell of it,” Sorensen was totally lost.

“Hmmm, keep me updated on that one. But I know the Jovians want that cube. If they got hold of it, they would have the military legitimacy to expand their empire. Winning any engagement with the Eve would be a major blow to the AmU's military leverage, and I'm not convinced we are out of the woods yet. It's doubtful that Cooper acted alone. Keep your eyes peeled and I want the strictest security observed for all vital systems. Open a wormhole and try to shoot for just shy of Mars, we'll be docking for repairs and new information.”

Sorensen left the room and ordered a pinhole opened through space and time. The outer organs of the ship kept space on the inside 'normal' as the ship stretched into an elongated thread. A burst of x-rays emanated from the event horizon, and the Eve disappeared from the fringes of the solar system.