Something different today, the first chapter of the book I have been writing for past 4 years now. I’ll get there ….
(And Other Girls)
Copyright © 2015-18 Daniel Laurence Evans
All rights reserved.
For My Eden and everyone else who may see
the future that I won’t.
The Long Sleep
When I woke my first reaction was something must have gone terribly wrong. The air in the spawn tank was frosty and I exhaled plumes of mist from my nose. The glass that protected me from the main spawn room was frozen over with delicate star shapes but through them I could make out the lights of my companions tanks. I suddenly became aware of the intense cold and began the recall procedure. Tapping a few buttons mounted on the wall near my right arm the tank began to flush out the cold air and return the tank to room temperature. I would have to wait at least another hour before I could leave the tank. The tank may have been cold but the main spawn room would be at near absolute zero. Also the near vacuum would have killed me before the cold if I attempted to leave early. I would have to wait for the life support systems of the main ship to kick in properly so I lay there patiently for the ready light above my head to turn green.
I was still tired from my long slumber and must have dozed off again as the next thing I remember was the spawn tank door swinging away from me. Again I was shivering as the cold air from the spawn room flooded in around me. I pulled the intravenous drip from my arm, un-strapped myself and stepped onto the cold metal floor. I went to the locker and pulled out my clothing. Socks, pants, jumpsuit and finally boots were thrown on as quickly as possible. Slowly warming I looked at the five other spawn tanks in the room. The glass doors were all frozen over but I could just make out the slumbering bodies of my companions inside. I checked each tanks bio panels and made sure that nothing untoward had happened during the stasis. They all checked out Ok. I then made my way to the exit.
I hated this bit. The spawn room, gym, private quarters and the refectory were mounted on a cylinder that rotated the main ship creating two thirds normal earth gravity. As I climbed the ladder to the central passageway I would be getting lighter with each step until I eventually I hit zero gravity. The most disconcerting part was pulling hand over hand into the main passageway and looking towards the flight deck. As I clung there to the spawn room entrance way, I was rotating along with it while the flight deck door stood still on its axis. A large circular bearing lay about two foot in front of the flight deck door that supported the rotating superstructure. I pulled myself across it and looked back down the passageway. Now I and the door at the other end of the passageway to the cargo bay were stationary while the main part of the corridor rotated. It was all very confusing to the eye and not something that settled an already stasis induced queasy stomach. I was glad to finally get into the flight deck and be surrounded by its clear curves and a normal sense of perspective.
I strapped myself into the pilots chair and pulled across the view screen and keyboard. A small ear-piece and microphone headset was strapped to the side of the screen and I pulled it free and placed it on. The screen flickered to life with a small blue square in its center. I placed my index finger on it and spoke.
“Captain Adrian Dawson, serial ID 235-alpha …” The computer for some reason always took a moment to confirm voice recognition and biometrics. I’m sure its something it done to unnerve its users knowing that we were thoroughly dependent on the computer for nearly everything.
“Welcome Captain Dawson … It is 16:58 Wednesday 2nd June … would you like a status report?”
“Of course I do! Why have I been woken?”
“Course deviation caused by unknown local anomaly.”
My stomach turned. Although interstellar travel was always going to be a tricky business it had been perfected by humans for a few centuries now. Vast tracks of space had been mapped out and colonized. An expansion of the boarders of humanity like no other. Unknown local anomalies shouldn’t happen. At best I was hoping for a very unlikely computer error. At worst something new and undiscovered. I was pilot of a cargo hauler I had no intension of suddenly developing a sudden interest in stellar cartography.
“Plot a course around this … err … anomaly and return to previous heading.”
“Unable to comply, engines off line!”
“Why are the engines off line?”
“Unknown local anomaly has collapsed local space and time. Engines have been forced to disengage from faster than light travel are capable of only 0.000003% of normal capacity.”
“How long would it take to maneuver away from this anomaly and engage full power?”
“One thousand two hundred and eighty three years seven months and six days.”
“Pardon Captain? Term not recognized?”
“Wake the rest of the crew … and do your best to gather as much info as you can about this anomaly. There must be some way to get around it.”
“Yes Captain.” Replied the computer with no alteration in its emotion than the rest of its conversation.
I waited patiently in the refectory drinking too much coffee It seemed stale but the caffeine was still active. It would a take an hour or so for the rest the crew to rise. Every fifth minute I would ask the computer for an update on the anomaly but it turned up very little information. All I had was a smeared picture on the refectory view screen of a what looked like a faintly glowing fried egg about twenty kilometers wide. Radio, Ultra-Violet and Infrared scans brought up even less information. What ever it was it had crippled the ships engines and that was serious.
“Boss what you looking at? We home yet? Is there any food?”
Jason had entered the room. He was I our engineer and sometimes had a habit of asking strings of questions and not waiting for the answers.
“That!” I said pointing at the view screen “Is a serious pain on the arse!”
“Kinda looks like a fried egg to me. What’s so painful about it?”
“Ill explain when the others get here.”
Slowly they all arrived. Anna the first pilot laughing at some joke River had cracked as they entered together. River was our ensign or rookie. All crews took a rookie as a kind of interstellar work experience. They had there uses although River seemed to spend most of his time telling very poor jokes and cracking onto Anna. Next to arrive was Rose the ships medic and second pilot. She said very little but was efficient and competent and as we spent most of the flight in the tanks, sleeping, talking was never really called for. Last to arrive was our Sophie. Her domain was the storeroom. We were a haulage crew and knowing where everything was packed was a job in itself on a ship this large. They all gathered on the table around me and looked at me expectantly.
“So is this a mid trip social or what?” spoke Anna.
“I wish it were.” Said I as Anna rose me out of self contemplation “We have a slight problem ….”
“Jesus a thousand years, can we spawn for that long?” spoke River in a panic.
“Well the tanks won’t rust or degrade in vacuum but I can’t be as certain as to whether we will. Rose is the only one with any clue on that” replied Jason turning to Rose expectantly.
“Well it’s never been done before but if we have to, we have to, I guess. What I’m more worried about is if there will still be anything worth returning too in a thousand years. Everything we know would be gone.”
“Well that’s part of deep space haulage. You know you’re going to return home one day and all your family and friends will be old while you haven’t change a bit. I’ve already got used to it. When we left earth for this trip my younger brother was already technically older than me.” replied Anna in her cool calm southern American accent.
“Well just so you know this is my twenty eighth deep space haul and all my family are long gone. All I have left now is some distant nieces and nephews.” I spoke trying to sound as collected and responsible as possible. “Sophie what’s your thoughts?”
“Well I doubt the colony we are going to will want any of the goods were carrying in thousand year’s time. Means we may well be carrying some valuable antiques or a hold full of outdated junk. I am with you on the family thing though.”
“Hey hold on I still have a family to go back to.” Interrupted River still with wild panic in his eyes. “There must be some way round this thing.”
“Left a love behind you haven’t told me about hey River?” Laughed Anna
“No River I have tried for a couple hours. I could try all week and get no further. Besides the computers spent weeks studying it while we deviated course and slowed down.” I said softly but firmly. “We are not a science vessel and simply don’t have the tech or the know how to combat this thing. I’m sorry guys and girls but we really don’t have a choice in the matter.”
“But Captain why hasn’t this be noticed before. This isn’t a new route were taking is it?”
“River this thing is only twenty kilometers big and seems to disturb space for a few hundred million kilometers. When you considered the distant we are traveling and the fact that position in faster light travel doesn’t always match the physical normal space position its quite easy to miss.” I replied somewhat explaining it all to myself at the same time as settling River. “Also if this anomaly has been found by anyone else there going to be the same position as us. Stuck for a thousands of years while there engines crawl them away from it!”
“This seriously sucks!” shouted River as he stood up “I’m going to check on that stupid computer. This has to be wrong!”
“Sit down River” said Jason with some authority “There’s nothing wrong with that computer. I ran diagnostics while I was waking in the spawn.”
River hovered half way between sitting and standing with a perplexed look on his face. I felt for him. This was not the way a first flight should turn out. Even I was somewhat overwhelmed of thought of stasis for over a thousand years and I had no love for the passage of time.
“That’s an interesting point though.” spoke Rose quietly.
“What is?” said River returning to his seat.
“Others. I mean if anybody else is caught in this maybe there near by. We should at least look!”
“So what if we find someone else stuck here. It doesn’t get us out it just gives us some company.” replied Anna in her off hand way.
“I agree it’s worth looking though” said I trying my best to sound hopeful “Jason any final ideas on this?”
“Yeah actually. Radio waves!”
“Radio? What good is that? It would take light years to reach anywhere.” yelped River who was obviously still in the throws of panic.
“River for god sake try and be positive, go on Jason, what about radio waves?” River was seriously getting on my nerves already and he had barely been awake long.
“Well we can’t send a hyper spatial message probe because like us that would be trapped to a very slow sub light speed by the anomaly. But maybe radio isn’t affected. If we activate a radio based distress beacon maybe in five years or so when it finally reaches someone they can send a science ship to get us out of here. At the very least it could act as a warning for others.”
“Ok that’s a good idea get on to it.” Jason got up and headed to his domain in the engineering bunker. “Rose help Anna with a deep range scan in the flight deck and see if you can find anyone else trapped in the anomaly.”
“You got it” said Anna with a snappy salute. As the three went about their orders I was left with a nervous River and a bored Sophie.
After a thirty second pause River looked at Sophie then me and then piped up,
“What do we do Captain?”
I stood up and went to one of the lockers and pulled out a deck of cards.
“You ever played shit head?”
Five hours later after River and Sophie finally got bored with me winning the card games and had left for their quarters; I entered the flight deck.
“Anna any news on the scan yet?” said I hopefully.
“Nothing captain, were either the first to find this anomaly or the scans are just as ineffective as our engines.”
“I have coded the radio transmitter captain.” spoke Jason turning round from the engineering console to face me.
“Ok I guess that’s the best we can do. Anna have the computer plot the best course available away from this thing and then all of you meet me in the spawn room.”
I left the flight deck and sighed. I know most of the crew would face up to the long spawn we had ahead of us but was worried how River would react. As a last resort I guessed I would just have to have Rose sedate him. I made my way to the spawn room and began to prepare my tank.
I stood in the spawn room shifting from foot to foot waiting for the others to arrive. I was getting scared for the first time since these events had unfolded. My main worry was if I would ever wake up again. The what ifs of the spawn tanks failing during the millennia of sleep kept running through my head. Even thought Rose had assured me that she had made the necessary alterations I checked my tanks bio read outs again.
“There fine captain, I’ve loaded extra IV’s for the sleep and the computer has been wired to wake you if anything untoward should happen. Also your be the first to wake in case …” Rose’s voice trailed off.
“Is case of what? Rose.”
“Just in case the galaxy isn’t a place you would want to wake us for.”
“Hmm do you think it would of changed that much?”
“Captain I know it’s a lot of responsibility for you but if the galaxy in thousand years has mutated the human race into a bunch of carnivorous bipedal lunatics don’t wake me.”
I laughed “We already are a bunch of carnivorous bipedal lunatics!”
“I know, funny but really if it’s all changed beyond belief and you don’t think I’ll be happy to live in it don’t wake me.”
“Ok, I promise!”
The others entered in silence and began to undress and wire themselves into the spawn tanks.
“Jason is the radio signal active?”
“Yes Boss, hope it does some good.”
“It might.” I looked at the others solemn faces as they all stood upright in there tanks. I should have said something inspiring to take away there fears but all I could think of was the most futile of thoughts. How much interest would I get on my savings account if I ever made it back to earth. Somehow the thought of collapsing my banks profits by the huge amounts of money they would owe me in a thousand years filled me with an ironic sense of hope. In the end I said an uninspiring,
Then the spawn tanks doors closed and the world faded away.