Burning in the Void – Chapter 17

the drake _Dominic

Behind Dominic the far wall and ceiling of the room rose up from the deck in a seamless clear curve of synthetic hypercrystal, visible only where the dim track lighting set around the perimeter of the floor reflected from it in distorted points of light. Beyond the window, the universe swirled in a hypnotic blur as shaft four spun on its axis. Dominic waited until Kamon had stepped into the room, then sent a command to the ship network to seal the room and disengage the observation deck. The door through which they had entered, actually a set of doors which moved in concert, allowing both the deck and the ship to remain sealed when the deck disengaged from the body of the ship, slid shut with a hiss. A moment later the whole room trembled under their feet as the locks holding the observation deck to the rest of the shaft disengaged and electromagnetic accelerators slowed the rotation of the deck relative to the shaft.

“Your stomach and ears might feel a little odd,” Kamon said, laying a hand on Sera’s shoulder. “Gravity is about to go away for a little while.”

Dominic stepped up to the hypercrystal window and watched in silence as the swirling blur of light and color slowed and began to resolve into a view of the bow of the ship. When the observation deck came to rest, the view ahead showed the vast expanse of the Drake’s core, stretching away for over a hundred meters of rugged steal, studded with the glittering light of crystalline windows, before the shimmering bulk of the ice shield, which curved across the front of the ship in a vast hemisphere of dark blue.

Behind him, Sera began to breathe quickly in loud, ragged gasps.

“This is the Drake, Sera. She’s an interstellar ship, designed to carry thousands of humans from our homeworld to a distant star. You see, you do live inside the body of vast being that shelters you, but that being is not a god. It is nothing more than a giant machine designed about three hundred years ago by people not very different from us.”

Dominic turned to face Sera and smiled at the sight of her gaping mouth. He pushed off the floor gently and drifted to float beside her, enjoying the sight of her eyes widening as he flew. Though he had hundreds of hours of actual zero gravity experience, and thousands more in Incarna simulations, Dominic still recalled his own joy the first time he flew in zero gravity. He couldn’t imagine how it would feel to experience weightlessness for the first time if he had never even known that such a thing existed.

“I…” she stuttered. Her mouth moved without any words coming out as she looked around wildly. Finally she seemed to get her breathing under control and whispered, “I don’t know what stars are.”

“Just wait,” Kamon said, seeming to warm to the show. She drifted away from the Sera’s bed to a control panel set beside the door and began tapping icons. After a moment the walls thrummed, then the dark outer covering pulled away revealing that the curved floor of the observation deck was also constructed of translucent crystal. Millions of stars blazed in the distance, bright sparks flaring against the black void. Dominic accessed an astronavigation routine and watched as it drew colored circles around several of the stars, connecting each to an alphanumerical identifier that appeared hovering in the air in front of him. He faced forward and grimaced as the routine drew wireframe path predictions across the star scape beyond the ice shield that protected the bow of the Drake. The lines traced out across space to a single yellow star, seemingly larger than all the others he could see, showing that the Drake was still on course to arrive at its destination star. Then the routines sketched out a series of flat walls across their path, each a different color marching from yellow, to green, back through yellow, and finally a large red wall. Those, he knew, represented the points in space at which the Drake would need to begin applying braking thrust if it was to come to a stop in the destination system, rather than plowing through at interstellar speeds and continuing out into the emptiness beyond.