When the crew of Earth's first deep-space mission reaches a dead planet, they discover the strangest of anomalies and the shocking secret that it holds.
It had only been fifty years since the Father Richaud accident. And it had barely been thirty years earlier when, during the latter part of the twenty-first century, advances in FTL and quantum theory along with a greater understanding of cosmology allowed the first probes to explore the interstellar reaches. These early probes learned from trial-and-error the forces exerted on a spacecraft transiting from multi-dimensional space (the “hyperspace” from movies) to normal space was prohibitive for sending humans. Think of being smeared to a thin film of jelly on the inside of a can. Stronger ships with dampening systems were needed to counteract those forces. After decades of research, humans eventually built interstellar spacecraft to make the journeys, but with mixed results.
The Clarke was another advancement, the fifth version of a new model, it was stronger and more efficient than previous craft. However, unlike its other four instances, the Clarke was about to perform something never tried before – exiting multi-dimensional space after sidestepping twenty light-years. Although no one theoretically expected it to be different than what unmanned probes had experienced, what worried the science team was that the same thing was believed about the Father Richaud as well.
“Hagtham,” barked the captain firmly, “enable final n-space insertion. X-O, count me down.”
“Aye, captain,” replied Lieutenant Commander Michael Callan, “Insertion on my mark in ten.” After checking the readings on his monitor, he turned and addressed the navigator, “Hagtham, n-space entry in five, four, three, two, now!”
The navigator smoothly pressed another touch-screen button and then gently put his small, dark palms on the black, two-handed controller. As the ship squealed from the horrendous stresses the vertigo he expected hit. His training took over as he quickly performed a version of the Epley maneuver. He simply turned his head to the symptomatic side by fourth-five degrees and back, holding it for a couple of seconds and then repeating.
Once the feeling subsided, Hagtham focused on his in-console monitor providing the answer to the next question without being prompted, “N-space insertion complete, sir.”
“Excellent,” returned the captain. Quickly he added, “Structural and VASIMR status?”
This time it was the engineer, Leticia Gomez, who replied, “Ship’s hull-integrity at three-nines, as expected it’s two-nines and an eight forward and aft.” She stared at her monitor, and added, “Magnetoplasmas at fifty-four percent and climbing, we’ll be at three-nines momentarily.” Turning to the captain, Gomez smiled and said, “Welcome to 82 Eridani, sir.”
“Position?” asked the captain.