Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer, and Steven Odhner
The crew took their positions in Earth’s first faster than light spaceship, The UESS Hermes, named for the Greek god of flight. Its maiden voyage was planned to be a short three light-minute jump from the Naval Construction Station orbiting the Earth to the Space-Dock on Phobos, Mars’ largest moon.
Systems check completed, the Hermes left the Station and aligned itself with Mars. With a mixture of apprehension and excitement, the captain gave the command to activate the Alcubierre Drive and the computer announced that a warp bubble had been formed, and was dragging the ship toward Mars at just over the speed of light. However, after three minutes, rather than return to normal space, the ship began to accelerate toward the outer solar system. “Bridge to engine room, the warp drive didn’t disengage. Can you shut it down manually?”
Chief Engineer Travis “Slim” Wheeler, who had helped design and install the propulsion system replied, “The drive itself is off, Captain. The warp bubble is somehow sustaining itself!”
“Chief, we’re entering the asteroid belt and accelerating. If you can’t collapse the bubble, can you at least turn us around?”
“Negative, sir. Once the warp bubble is created, the ship will move in that direction until the bubble collapses. It doesn’t matter which direction we’re pointed; we’re just going along for the ride. Unless…” he added as a crazy plan formulated in his head, “I’ve got an idea. If we turn the Hermes around and create a new warp bubble going in the opposite direction, the two warp fields should cancel each other out. That, or tear the ship apart. To be honest, sir, it could go either way.”
Just then, the emergency klaxon sounded, followed by an announcement by the computer. “Warning. Collision alert. At the present course and acceleration, the ship will collide with Jupiter in 60 seconds.”
“Well,” stated the captain, “I guess that makes my decision easy.” He nodded to the helmsman, who rotated the ship 180 degrees, and activated the Alcubierre Drive for a second time… but nothing happened… “Chief, we need that second bubble in 45 seconds, or we’re all dead.”
Chief Wheeler mumbled something about safeguards, grabbed a three-quarter inch box wrench, and straddled the Alcubierre Drive like it was a Brahma bull. He tore off the cover plate, said a quick prayer, and jammed the wrench between the power transfer coupling and the high voltage terminal. The ship seemed to stretch and twist as the cabin was filled with a terrible screeching noise – and then there was silence. Main power and artificial gravity had cut out. The emergency lights flickered on.
“Captain,” announced the helmsman, “we’ve returned to normal space, but there’s a fifty percent drop in air pressure in the engine room.”
The captain scrambled toward the engine room, but when he arrived, he was blocked by the sealed vacuum doors. Through the small window in the door he saw nothing but loose wires floating lazily in the center of the empty room. The walls were completely intact, but the Alcubierre Drive was gone, and the only person who could hope to understand what had happened had vanished along with it.
The captain watched the drifting wires sparkle in the bright sunlight that was entering the engine room through the starboard porthole. “Sunlight? There shouldn’t be…” Then he realized that the new warp bubble must have flung them back toward the inner solar system before collapsing. “Damn,” he said, as he watched a solar prominence arch past the porthole as the Hermes plummeted into the fiery furnace of hell.