The voidship Venture had been lost for almost four hundred years.
In the dark between the stars, the Venture finally passed back into the light of an Imperial sun. As the ice vaporizes off the hull, its pitted surface showed the wear and tear of ‘stratum travel and the transition back to C space. As the sunlight strikes the hull, the radiation of the star feeds the living mind of the ship fresh photons, barely used, only dropped once, most less than a million years old.
Approaching service vessels scan the ancient voidship, verify its design, its manufacture, its hull number. Before they can deploy a crew, the ship awakens, scans its location and a pulse can be felt as the very fabric of space shudders.
Then the voidship Venture, disappears.
<CAUSALITY FAILURE IMMINENT >
I’ve recently lost my vision. It was a gradual thing, a wavelength here, some bandwidth there, an occasional blind spot which might grow as much as one-one-hundredth of a degree a year. Doesn’t seem like much but when you pile on the years, it begins to matter.
I worked for the Imperial Navy. I went into service over five thousand Standard Years ago. I had traveled to distant corners of the Imperium and over the years collected a tale or two, spun a few more and now most recently had become part of one or two. That happened if you live long enough, were good enough at your job and sought advancement with vigor.
When I retired, I began to work in medical trade and transfer. No matter where you go, if its alive, then sooner or later it will get sick. Except for the Foilians, who made of pure silicon, could make the claim they never got sick. For the rest of us, there were old-timers like me who, while now no longer capable of serving on the front line, could still help the ever-growing Imperium.
A voidship’s life is never dull.
<’STRATUM FIELD COLLAPSING>
The last run was a long jump from one end of the Imperium to the other. Long jumps are tricky because you travel in the substratum of C space, avoiding limitations such as the C Barrier. This substratum is vulnerable to the drive technology we use allowing ships to drop into this space, temporarily allowing us to exceed the speed of light. This is the relevant part, we discovered our stardrives affect the ‘Stratum causing disruptions we will eventually called warp storms. These disruptions are temporal, resetting local reality, or making voidships disappear altogether.
Travel through the void as it was called, became more regulated and technologies developed to see and detect warp storms. Like real storms however, it was an imperfect science. Our mission of mercy was caught by a rogue wave and flung back into C space. Our causality drive down, we would be restricted to C space and nearly three hundred years of travel to return home.
I have held the crew in stasis for over two hundred years. Of the original sixty crew members fourteen remain. The captain and first officer died twenty seven years ago and I assumed command of the mission. With only periodic wakings for course corrections, the crew would have to remain in stasis for another twenty five before we cross back into Imperial Space.
Our life support and stasis generation hardware was rated for two hundred years of superluminal performance. It was never designed for this type of sublight journey. I estimate at the rate of failure, only I will make the trip home.
It is my recommendation this mission not be undertaken. This message will be broadcast upon arrival in Imperial Space.
LOGID: Venture; voidship intelligence, Imperial Navy, Retired.
<PROBABILITIES SUPERPOSITION FIXED.>
“So it’s confirmed. Only the ship makes it back?”
“Yes. In thirty-three percent of the events. Otherwise, no one does.”
“Run it again.”
“But we already have. This is the thirteenth time. The rogue wave event always happens.”
“I’ll inform the crew once they’re stable. Lorencia has been lost to the War.”
The captain put down his long and disgusting cigar in his private quarters. He checked the stabilizers after the flight and prepared to sync the memories of the crew.
This would be the worst one yet.
His fellow crewmen looked stunned at each other as the previous reality folded itself into their current consciousnesses. Each absorbed their eventual fates, most with dignity, a few in horror, and one or two sobs could be heard in the mess hall.
Even the voidship itself grew quiet, its powerful engines which could always be felt thrumming through the walls, pondered its decisions in that fateful future. Being the only survivor of a mission is never good.
The PA system coughs before a gravelly voice filled the air of the voidship. “This is the captain speaking. The last medical delivery we were about to take into Lorencian space has been cancelled. I know many of you have family there, but it is… inadvisable for us to go. Another causality run will be attempted by another crew in two weeks.”
He paused before continuing. “Please report to medical if you have experienced any shock or trauma you want to talk about due to recent causality. All crew are granted two weeks leave after clearance from medical staff. No off-planet travel is authorized or recommended until superposition fluctuations have settled. If you feel yourself randomly moving in spacetime, seek stabilization immediately.”
The captain switched off his public address and stared down at his uniform. He had been in the military for nearly two hundred years, flown thousands of casualities. He had never once questioned his decision to be an officer on a voidship.
<UNAUTHORIZED SUPERPOSITION. PLEASE CORRECT.>
His world shuddered and he was standing on beach, looking at a folding chair, a towel a tall drink and a old fashioned book whose yellowed pages showed signs of many pleasurable reads with folded corners, a crinkled and barely visible cover. Reflexively, he looked at his wrist and the voidwatch quantum calculator. It indicated he was superimposed with another reality, one a bit farther from his home reality than most. The calculator pinged the local military base indicating there was a stabilizer there and the possibility of returning if he could make it to that military base less than ten minutes away.
He knew nothing about his current existence in this reality, he had no idea if he worked, what he did, who he was. His body was fit, he felt light, freed of the responsibilities of old. Watching his superposition timer count down, he waited, wondering if they would send anyone after him.
As it reached zero without incident, he released a sigh as the tension left his body.
He threw his voidwatch into the sea, picked up his drink and sat down to read the adventures of a Captain Ahab and his intrepid crew.
Superposition © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved