Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer
None of us would have signed up for this had we known of course. There were now sixteen ships left in the convoy. Sixteen left from the original forty that had set out from Earth all those years ago. I had been a much younger man then. This was evident, partially from the graying on my temples, but mostly from the deep worry lines on my face.
I clicked off the light and exited the privy. There in the common area of our PSS1770 Luxury Bus sat my wife and our three children, all now in their twenties. Stuffed in alongside them were the six members of the Kim family. To their left were our most recently rescued refugees, Jim Bronson and his wife Peggy. We had no more room. All of the other ships were full too.
The warp bubble that we all shared had become compromised long ago and continued to shrink in random fluxes and undulations. There were always at least six ships flying point and scanning for sudden surges or flares in the bubble’s interior, as dark space continued to creep into our shrinking cocoon. We now traveled in strict close formation.
The first to go, way back, only six years into our journey, had been an old PSS1500 with the Rodriguez family aboard. At the time we weren’t expecting it so there was no rescue effort mounted. After the five hapless spacefarers had perished we quickly ascertained what was happening. There were still more casualties as time ensued, but we managed to save many by using escape pods and crawl tubes, airlock to airlock, to transport those in peril. But as mentioned previously, all of the remaining ships were now full.
We didn’t need to wait long to see what would happen next. A flare of dark space was detected, and it was determined that sections of the ceiling, or twelve-o-clock, of our convoy’s warp bubble had suddenly dropped down at least half a kilometer. The Choy family, flying high-noon-point suddenly found the rear bulkhead of their converted ore freighter being consumed by dark space.
Commander Harding’s voice came over the comm. She sounded near frantic. “Move away from the event surface, keep moving forward Choy family! Stay away from the aft section! We are sending help!”
Immediately an argument ensued over the comm. Who would go? Everyone was full. There was a scream from the Choys’ ship. “Center bulkhead breached! There is a shimmering wall of blackness eating our ship. My daughter Lilly fell in! Oh god, she’s gone… please help us!”
Suddenly the Esmeralda, owned by the Freemans, sprang into action. Two of the cruiser’s escape pods were launched at the quickly disappearing freighter. Meanwhile, the advancing wall swallowed another Choy family member. Finally the remaining five were brought to safety aboard the Esmeralda in time to watch the rest of their home completely disappear into nothingness.
But to what avail? Now the Esmeralda was badly overcrowded. Discussions raged over the comm. We were at capacity. The next victims would have to be left to perish. But how could we do that to our own? We were still over three long years from our destination, and there was no escape.
This preprogrammed travel environment had been created and launched from the Jovian dark matter processor back home. It would only begin to dissipate and let us back into regular space once we reached our destination.
Together our ships continued to huddle in tight formation as we all awaited the next casualty.