Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer
She was giving me a lecture and I didn’t like it. However she was the captain so I listened.
“If you go any faster than 2C, you start to travel backwards as you travel forwards. You get to your destination before you leave. That is impossible and it tears the ships apart. No one wants that. Light and a half. That’s the sweet speed when the universe stops. The universe slows once you go past the speed of light and stops completely at 1.5C. Now, the thing about navigating at C and a half is that you have to be traveling that fast to navigate.”
I’d just come back inside the ship. Yes, I was a first-year telengineer but she was so full of herself. I left the plate off of the forward buffer sails during the initial checklist. Big deal. There were seven thousand plates on the buffers. I knew it was my first mission and that she was in charge but her voice was really starting to make me wonder what it would be like to see some fear on her face. I don’t like that feeling.
“Are you listening? The entire universe becomes a three dimensional, unmovable photograph. Once you’re holding steady with the buffers keeping us at 0 in space but 1.5 at lightspeed, it’s possible to send out a pulse through the super strings. Y’know, like a bat. Do you know what a bat is?” she asked like a children’s show narrator. She waited for a reaction.
I nodded, glowering.
“A very accurate picture of the obstacles on your journey comes back to the ship. After that picture is analyzed, you can nudge the ship forward in space to 1.6C and the magic happens. You are transported to your destination milliseconds after you left. You see?”
She clapped her hands once to get my attention, raised her eyebrows and smiled at me sarcastically. I looked sullenly at the wrench in my hand and tightened my grip on it. I couldn’t take another ten minutes of her condescension.
“Do. You. Hear. Me?” she asked.
“Yes.” I answered. It was an effort not to shout it at her.
She stared at me.
“The buffers. Doing the impossible so that we can have an accurate picture of the universe at rest. That way, we can move when nothing else is moving. No asteroids, no suns, no DUST can get in our way or we will perish. We can look at the picture and then we can zip there instantly. Do you understand me? The BUFFERS.”
She was getting agitated. She grabbed my chin and looked into my eyes.
“You left a plate off of the forward buffer sails. We are not holding at zero C any more. According to my calculations, we are holding at 0.0000000001 C. Do you know what that means?” she asked.
“It’ll take a little longer for the computer to calculate a safe route before we turn the buffers off, I guess?” I retorted with a sneer.
“Yes.” She answered. I saw her bottom lip quiver. “Do you know how MUCH longer?”
“I don’t know, a few minutes?” I was already bored with this conversation.
“A year.” She said. “Or close to it. Three hundred and eleven days by my calculations.”
“What?” I whispered. I finally started to understand why she was so angry.
I looked at her dumbly. I could see tears forming in her eyes. It was going to be a long year.