Author : Viktor Kuprin

Jump drive, hyper drive, quantum drive, there were many names for the exotic-vacuum engine that propelled our ships to the stars. In the CIS Space Force, we called it the Super-Space Drive, the S-Drive.

Thirty of us lined up outside the training ship’s control-simulator bay, everyone wearing light suits, helmets clipped to our belts. Only a few in our squad had experienced a jump. The rest of us were simultaneously excited and terrified. A jump can affect people in different ways, not all of them pleasant. Anyone who couldn’t take it would be immediately washed out of the astrogator program and reassigned to a non-flying career track.

Someone tugged at my suit’s collar ring. It was Sturms, the cocky, muscle-bound creep who always harassed me when I pulled dorm-guard duty.

“Hey, Kreminov, loan me 500 rubles,” he demanded.

“Nichevo. Forget it, Sturms. You got paid last week just like me.”

He snarled and grabbed my collar ring, pulling me face-to-face to him. “You lousy lickspittle! I’ll be looking for you later!”

Squad leader Medvedkov shoved Sturms away from me. “Belay that or you’ll answer to me!”

He knew better than to cross Medvedkov, but Sturms had to get the last word: “I can’t wait to see you two during jump. You’ll be pissing in your light suits. You’ll scrape paint off junk ships while I’m flying starcruisers!”

Chimes sounded, and the training bay hatch opened. We marched to our stations, each console fitted with a dark-turquoise astrogator-control simulator that we would use to mimic the jump’s setup and execution. I read the destination preset: Epsilon Eridani; Distance: 10.5 light years. I plugged my suit into the flight seat, sealed my helmet, and started my pre-jump checklist. The vacuum alarm blared as the bay’s atmosphere started venting away. No military ship maneuvers when pressurized. Neither did our training ship.

In nine minutes I had my plot. I entered the solution and keyed my console. A green-light reply returned from the instructor. Yes! I was one of the first to finish.

I could feel the ship’s rumbling vibrations as we accelerated. The initial energy that triggers a jump comes from the conventional engines running up at full power, and the greater the acceleration, the less veer during transition.

Then I felt the giddy exhilaration I’d heard about. I inhaled deeply and the walls of the training bay contracted and expanded with my breath!

I began to see the electro-photonic glow around my body, around the other cadets. Next to me, Medvedkov held out his hand. I saw Kirlian sparks leap between our fingertips when I touched him. We laughed hysterically.

On the bay’s huge televisor, the stars began turning blue. Then came the long, terrifying shot-out-of-a-cannon rush of final transition. The screen showed a black void dotted with slowly tumbling colored orbs.

I felt something slam into the deck behind me. It was Sturms, curled up like a hedgehog, his eyes wide, crazy with terror.

Medvedkov keyed his helmet-mike: “Welcome to S-Space.”

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