I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 24

This is why we have technical people

It wasn’t such an outlandish idea, as much as it was hard to prove it was possible. That is, of course, traversing very long distances in a very short amount of time.

Yes, space is a vacuum, and stuff floats, and can be propelled quickly, just not quickly enough that it would not take a long time to get to the edge of our known universe, given our current technology.

And time wasn’t something we wanted to spend getting there and back

Now, out of thin air, a rather quaint but inapplicable expression to describe where we were now, we had two myths shattered, that we were alone in the universe, and that we were at the limit of how fast we could go.

I got the distinct impression the people we just met had the answers. We just had to find them, well, catch up with them first, and ask them if they would share.

Whilst we were standing by the ‘Ionosphere’, I summonsed both Chalmers and the duty scientist to my day room, to prepare for the update from number one, whom I had advised earlier to relay over the secure channel.

But before I got the time to brief them on my theory, number one reported in.

“Firstly, there had been only one casualty and as far as we can tell. Everyone was affected by what appears to be a short stoppage of the life support systems which virtually put everyone to sleep. All of the major systems are back on line, except for the propulsion unit, which, it seems the override cut in when the ship exceeded the maximum speed. The chief engineer is rebooting the controlling computer system which should fix the problem. No one, not even the designers of the propulsion unit, or the ship itself, expected it would ever exceed the maximum design speed, an error that the chief engineers will be taking up with the manufacturers if and when they get home.”

“We can assume then the ship will be able to resume its voyage.”

“Yes sir. I’ve advised the Captain we’ll be standing off until they advise everything is back online.”

“Any explanations as to what happened?”

The Captain of the ‘Ionosphere’ spoke, “One of the scientists discovered what could only be described as an anomaly, with the same sort of properties a black hole has, though it was not a black hole. We headed towards it and then suddenly we were being pulled into it, though there was no discernable hole on the viewer. We tried to escape it, and apparently failed. The last thing I remember, or anyone else for that matter, was the ship going dark, like everything had stopped. Until I was woken by your officer. I cannot explain how we got here, except to say that under normal circumstances, it would take many months to travel the same distance.”

“Did you see any other ships about?”

“We were the only people in that quadrant, as far as I was aware.”

Number one came back at that point, “The sensor log shows there might have been something out there, though it didn’t define what it was. I’m sending a download of the log over as we speak for analysis. One possibility though, based on the information we’ve been using to follow the ship that kidnapped the Captain, is that there is similar energy readings recorded just before the jump.”

Chalmers was first to speak, “When you say jump, what exactly does that mean?”

“We have been looking at the log, and it’s recorded a jump that started near Jupiter, to where we are now. Based on my understanding of astrophysics, and given the short time frame, the only logical explanation is that they were sucked into a sort of black hole, or a rupture in time/space. Whatever caused it, it’s in the realm of science fiction.”

“So was the notion that there was another intelligent life out here, and yet we have found that not to be the case. Whoever these people are, I suspect they have conquered the ability to travel long distances, very quickly, especially if they are, as they said, from another galaxy.”

“You have met other life?” The captain of the ‘Ionosphere’ seemed surprised.

“Yes. They attacked one of our freighters on its way to Venus and stole the plutonium rods needed to keep the base there going. They also kidnapped our Captain, and we were in pursuit of their vessel when we discovered your ship drifting. And it’s my theory your ship may have been dragged into a vortex left behind as they move from location to location. A theory my people will be working on, unless they come up with a better explanation.”

Number one came back, “I’ve just been advised by the Chief Engineer, everything is back online, and we’re no longer needed. I’ll make sure the data transfer is complete and we’ll depart. Anything else?”

“No.”

The transmission complete, I turned to the two scientists. “Soon as you get the data, find out what happened. When we run into these other people, I need to know the right questions to ask them.”

“The odds are we won’t understand,” Chalmers said.

“I thought it was universally acknowledged that if we did find intelligent life out here, the one universal language would be science.”

“That was true based on what we knew before today. Now we know there’s intelligent life out here, everything has changed.”

“Then buckle up for the ride of your life. I want answers sooner rather than later.”

© Charles Heath 2021

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