Chapter 2 : Jump

Ship UNSS Beluga
Constructed       2410
Shipyard Eisenhower
Class S4
Weight 18,500kg maximum
Length 124m
Drive singularity
Crew 2-12
Passengers N/A
Cargo 4500kg
Speed 20,000c
Mission exploration and survey

Jack had been in the single seat of the Beluga’s cockpit for almost 24 hours, less a few minutes spent in the washroom. The seat’s foam was settling nicely to fit the contours of his considerable frame. The seat’s adjustment controls for pressure and articulation, after much experimentation, were now set optimally. It’s dark grey covering was permeable to moisture, so the problems of stickiness and sweat in the warm, close confines of the ship were under control. Jack felt at home, more so than he ever did in his apartment.

The past few days had been busy, in the simulator and in mission planning. There had been no time for Jack to think about his ex-wife Truce, or to reflect on his life and prospects. As a result he had a sense of contentment that had been missing for some time. However, the routine of spaceflight was punctuated by a few moments of stress. Right now his pulse rate was rising, for the point of maximum danger on an interstellar flight - the first jump - was approaching fast. For the first time, Jack really needed his energetic young co-pilot, Hugo Metz.

“What does the heliosphere map look like, Hugo ?”

Hugo was sitting in the minilab and heard Jack through the connecting doorway. He looked intently at the changing sensor readings.

“The boundary is uneven here, Jack. I’ll send you a course correction.”

The ship was crossing the turbulent boundary between the domain of the sun - the hot, pulsating plasma of the solar wind - and the cold interstellar medium. Beyond that, the Beluga accelerated towards light speed. It was imperceptible to the four humans on board, for this was not propulsion as Isaac Newton would have defined it. The Beluga, like all starships, contained a singularity, a concentration of energy so intense that it punched a hole in space itself. The singularity was God’s gift to the space traveler, without which they would still be examining the craters of the moon. By compressing the space around the vessel, it traveled faster without creating inertial forces; by distorting the iron core within the ship, it could push and pull and twist the vessel as hard as it’s structure could withstand; a different spin of the singularity generated the ship’s microgravity, making a career in spaceflight bearable.

Jack watched the celestial sphere of stars slowly draw into a disc ahead of the ship. The disc brightened a little, and the starlight was lost in an iridescent blue glow from the agitated particles around the Beluga. The disc drew in to a point, like a single twinkling star, then it too vanished and all was dark. The Beluga was cut off from the universe, from any communication or contact, making its own tunnel through space. It was heading, they all hoped, for Greenshoot.

“How does she look”, Jack called, inquiring about the status of the ship, recorded at the instant they entered the wormhole.

No word came from Hugo so Jack got up to check on him. There was more space back in the minilab, located behind the cockpit where the ellipsoid of the ship’s hull widened. It accommodated a crew of three but for this journey Hugo had it to himself. He sat in a dark corner, looking nervously into a monitor.

“Hey there”, Jack called. “What’s the magnetic reading from the core ?”

“It’s err … variable”, Hugo replied. “But not above 1.5 Tesla.”

It would be a couple of hour’s work for Hugo to check the logs and make a final prediction of where and when the ship would exit the wormhole. He would narrow the window, refine the calculations, and in the end offer his best guess. To some it seemed a crazy, dangerous and unpredictable way to travel. To some who had jumped across space thousands of times, it was no more frightening than a shuttle bus. But they all knew that the failure of a singularity drive was a very, very rare event.

go to Chapter 3 >