Episode 6 – Diplomatic Maneuvers, part 18

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“Acting-Captain Urle, the zerodrive is fully charged.  We may make the jump whenever you order it.”

Urle had, naturally, already been informed by his system, but it was still a good habit for the first officer to relay such important status updates.

His scanners swept the command center of the Eyes Gazing Upon the Bright Flower.

The Sepht ship was a marvel of engineering, by any measure.

While the Craton could break physics rather easily with merely seven fusion reactors to power her jumps, for ships whose hull was not made of tenkionic matter, it was an incredible feat to pierce the veil and sink into zerospace.

This ship was only eight hundred meters, pencil thin in contrast to the Craton’s spherical shape,

 yet contained twenty-one massive fusion reactors that could generate staggering amounts of energy.  Nothing less could have powered their zerodrive.

Where the Craton was gifted, the Bright Flower had to do the same through just hard engineering.  And as much as he loved the Craton, he had to admire that.

While the fore section of the ship was covered in the sensors that allowed the Bright Flower to fulfill its job as a scout ship, the latter half was covered in carefully-arranged radiators.  They extended far out from the hull, taking away the deadly thermal waste generated by their reactors – heated up until they glowed white.

And they were glowing now.  The ship was nearly at its maximum heat capacity, running perilously close to the red line, but that couldn’t be helped if they wanted to make a jump.

Her crew of eight thousand were, by bulk, mostly sensor operators and fusion generator technicians – masters of their craft, all.  For a ship like this, that pushed the boundaries of what was possible, they had to be.

“Order all crew to strap in,” Urle told his acting-Executive Officer, the original Captain of the ship.  Her name was Guono Daa, and she had offered Urle command as soon as he’d come aboard.

It was slightly odd, but she’d told him that he was well-known and respected for being the first officer of the Craton – a ship famous throughout the Sapient Union – and it only made sense for him to take at least an honorary command.

He did know that was an element of Sepht space tradition, and he had accepted the offer, however much it made him uncomfortable.  Sepht technology was not fundamentally different from humanity’s, through technological convergence and sharing between their species, but in some ways it was still alien to him.

“All crew ordered, Acting-Captain,” Guono told him.  “Entering zerospace in fifteen seconds.”

The command center crew had all strapped themselves in, bracing for the jump with the majority of their tentacles; the three they used as legs, while also those on their head that gripped onto grooves on the backrest of their seats.  Some of the chairs were much bigger than others, their occupants of the larger sub-species of Sepht, the Nolem.  They were tall enough to tower over him, and tended to be paler shades of blue or green.  The Vem em, including the captain, averaged only four or five feet tall, with much brighter colors.

Guono had sat down herself, leaning back in her seat.  She was a vivid shade of yellow and only a little over five feet tall – which was rather on the tall side for a Vem em.

Urle’s seat leaned back slightly too far for his comfort, but it was secure; they had constructed a handful of human-style chairs on board for him and Ambassador Decinus, while approximating a Hev seat as best they could.

N’Keeea had not complained, being oddly silent during the boarding, the reason for which Urle could only guess at.  Nervousness, perhaps?

“Energy levels crossing threshold for succesful irising,” the jump officer called out.

The Bright Flower ran a tight line every time she made a jump; there was always variation in how much energy you needed to open a portal to zerospace, and so any jump was a nervous moment for anyone on board.

The pseudo-gravity of zerospace would pull them forward, imparting great momentum, but if the aperture was not properly and fully opened and the ship passed through it . . . the results would be disastrous.

“Portal open!” Guona Daa called.

They made the jump.  The ship rattled a lot more than the Craton, with shimmies and jerks that would have been alarming if he hadn’t known what they were; for a small ship like this, her mass was low enough for the Pavlona Shivers, a strange sensation of movement that was entirely a hallucination.

He studied the crew as they went, seeing eyes jump and tentacles twitch as they felt their own shivers, but none seemed bothered.  He continued to be impressed.

“We have successfully submerged in zerospace,” Guono said, and rose from her seat.  “All may swim freely.”

The rest of the crew began to get up from their seats, not displaying the excitement he’d often seen in crews during a jump.  Perhaps it was nerves, or perhaps another effect on the mind, but  after a zerospace entry some felt elated – submersion euphoria, he’d heard it called.

He just thought it was excitement.  They had, after all, just broken the laws of the universe.

“Anything to report?” he asked.

“Negative, Captain,” Guono said.  “Estimated time of arrival at the third planet; two hours.”

After nearly three hours of charging the zerodrive.  If the ship hadn’t already been charging for such a jump, they’d have had to wait twice as long.

He undid the straps on his seat and sat up.  “The bridge is yours, Captain Guono,” he said, giving her a salute.

She began to give orders in the guttural command language of Sepht, one which did not rely on color signals.

< Ep 6 Part 17 | Ep 6 Part 19 >

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