I always wanted to see the planets – Episode 25

Are we there yet?

Even being in the fastest ship we had in the fleet, it still felt like it would take a lifetime to catch up to the alien ship, and I had to wonder at the pioneers of space travel who had to hibernate for the better part of a year, and sometimes a lot longer, to get to the other planets.

For us, time versus distance was measured a lot less that it used to be, but it would still take a long time, and we were prepared for it. What the real problem was, how long it would take us to be in a position to rescue our crew members.

Or how they felt being prisoners on an alien space craft, and how they were being treated, or even whether the aliens were either willing or capable of looking after them.

It was going to be a very interesting conversation I would have with the captain if or when we finally found them.

But knowing we might be in a fruitless chase to rescue our crew members just added to the frustration. I divided my time between the day room and pacing the bridge, looking out into the inky blackness, at times wishing something, anything, would appear to break the monotony

The science department on the other hand had a plethora of data, and no shortage of theories, but little concrete evidence of what they were calling space corridors, which were much like elevators only horizontal.

Chalmers still stuck to his belief in what he called worm hole, but was unable to advance a theory of whether the pre existed, or whether the alien ships created them as a means if getting quickly from one part if the universe to the other.

My report to the Admiral was scant on facts, except for one, that we were not alone in the universe. It Waldo precipitated a meeting of the brightest scientific minds back on the planet on the subject of alien life, and the universe itself.

At least some people were happy.

Meanwhile, the question of the ship’s speed became another topic, and it was being suggested that with a little tinkering, we could push more out of the propulsion unit, ‘tinkering’ being the operative word.

The subject was quite technical and although I had some knowledge of the mechanics, it was not enough, and I felt a little out of my depth when included in the discussions, relying heavily on the expertise of the Chief Engineer and his staff.

It was quite daunting that they were mentioning speeds up to the speed of light, now that they knew the structural integrity of the ship was not affected by the higher speed. I was not aware that it could have been a factor, but then I hadn’t known the ship was made out of an alloy that some said came from alien technology found on our planet.

Like most I believed the story that the compound that enabled us to get onto space was a freak discovery, even despite the rumours. Now, within the confines of a select group on board the ship and back at space command, those rumours had become a reality.

It was a lot to take in and I had to wonder how much the previous captain knew, and whether he was ever going to tell me. Sometimes ignorance was bliss, or so the saying went.

We’d been hurtling through space for three days when the Chief Engineer called me. I was in the day room reading up on the protocols we were supposed to adopt if or when we met new entities, and at a point where I couldn’t believe some of what I was reading.

“Sir, we think we might be able the squeeze a little more out of the engines.”

I wondered how much that little more was.

“How so?”

“The technical explanation would probably take a week, but with a few adjustments we might get a hundred percent improvement.”

“Risk factor?”

“Nothing comes without a risk, sir, but more or less as it was explained at the last conference “

In other words, any risk was worth it.

“The downside being we could be stuck in space until someone could come and rescue us.”

“Provided life support remains up and running, yes. But I believe the risk is minimal. We all signed up knowing that in all likelihood it might be a one way trip.”

Stating the obvious didn’t make the decision Amy easier. That responsibility for over 2,000 others on board weighed heavily.

“OK. I’ll make an announcement to the crew. Be on the bridge in fifteen minutes.”

“Aye, sir.”

Fifteen minutes precisely, we were looking out into the inky blackness, everyone battened down. For the first time, I sat in the captains chair with the feeling that I should be there rather than just keeping the seat warm for when the real captain returned.

A strange phrase came into my head, just seconds before I gave the order, death or glory.

“Helmsman?”

He turned. “Sir?”

“Let’s go.”

© Charles Heath 2021

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