Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Captain Jennie Ray arrives on the bridge to find her entire executive team bent over monitors or indicating things to one another on diagnostics displays. It’s a picture of activity she’d usually associate with blaring alarms and an air of mild panic. This is too calm. She coughs loudly. The 2XO spins about.
“Sorry, Captain. Good morning. We were hoping to resolve this before you arose.”
“Too late. As you’re not all running around, I presume nothing is broken. So what have you lot discovered to make my watch interesting?”
The 2XO looks almost embarrassed.
Jennie claps her hands together.
“Marvellous! You know I love coming across old vessels. What have we got? Freighter? Battleship? Liner?”
“Freight and passenger.”
“A free trader? Out here? That’s got to be a Barsoomian Soomsak. When would that be?” She gazes off into thin air for a moment before nodding to herself: “24th century, 23rd if we’re lucky.”
The Engineering XO turns from his sensor screens, shaking his head.
“Try 19th century, and Jasoomian.”
Jennie elbows a couple of slow-reacting subordinates out of the way so she can see the main display. Her eyes widen.
“You cannot be serious…”
The vessel is covered in ice, sparkling in the light from the nearby star. Between the two masts a single funnel protrudes from the minimal upperworks. The hull is long and rather narrow.
She reaches out to magnify the view.
“There are people standing on the deck!”
The 2XO moves up next to her.
“Flash frozen at point of transit is the most likely explanation.”
She looks at him.
“Portal uptake casualty?”
“That’s what we were trying to confirm. Back then, the only vessels touching Jasoom were Blemenase or Zetaret raiders. That ship is over 90 metres in length. Which means it could only have been scooped up by the portal field of a Blemenase Vortern. Even they should have recorded a transit uptake error of that size.”
Jennie gives a low whistle.
“Those things were huge. Would have taken this and a fair swathe of ocean along with it. I pity those on board, but at least it was quick.”
“I’m not sure how close to absolute zero portal non-space gets, but you’re right. They would have frozen solid before they realised anything.”
“Why are you having problems?”
“That sailed centuries ago. Even in the twentieth, records were minimal. Now? It’s barely above guesswork.”
“Get the scout to move aft. They often had the name and other identifiers painted on the stern back then.”
Surprised looks are exchanged. The image blurs, then stabilises.
The Engineering XO mutters the strange words under his breath before speaking out loud.
“S.S. Ismailia, Glasgow.”
There’s a flurry of activity. The Navigation XO speaks up first.
“1873. Lost with all souls aboard on the way from New York City to Glasgow.”
Jennie turns to the 2XO.
“Permission granted for Freespace Grave Beacon placement. Send notice that some of those once lost have been found.”
She looks about. Everybody on the bridge straightens up. Head coverings are removed. Jennie takes a slow breath, then says the words they all hope never to have read for them.
“There lies another vessel that did not return to port. Grant those who fared forth upon her peace, oh powers, and let them return at last from the long night to the heavens they call home. Blessed Be.”
If you enjoy my stories on here, you might like to try my flash fiction collection – https://lothp.org/book/between-the-thunder-and-the-sun/ – or some of my other books.
They’re available as ebooks for all devices, paperbacks, hardbacks, and OpenDyslexic font paperbacks. You can find details of all currently available titles on my website – https://lothp.org/published-work/ (each book page has non-affiliate universal links for every available edition).