Silver Wordsmith: An author's journey
What Boro did know, is that Drain Vortexes were, by and large, a useless cosmic phenomenon. Appearing within or around the Known Reaches once every twenty or thirty years, they allowed for well-shielded ships to travel through them over great distances in a fraction of what it normally took, which on the surface sounded appealing, but the wormholes usually led to some random desolate spot in Dead Space and had the irritating tendency of collapsing on themselves without warning after only a few months. When the Iastret lost several ships to the sudden closing of the last Drain Vortex, leaving more than a hundred of their people stranded about six years from Iastret space with provisions to barely last a year, one would have assumed all interest in the wormholes would have faded. This would have been true for pretty much any other species, except the Iastret were crafted from a different cloth, and as though proving the utility of the wormholes would somehow avenge their lost people, they set out to dissect the data they had collected in earnest.
What they found was whereas the technology currently used for faster-than-light travel was able to skip a vessel along the surface of subspace, the Drain Vortexes acted as a whirlpool that created a passage of normal space through the surrounding subspace. They further concluded that with the right equipment and technical expertise the details of which made Boro’s mind slip through his own Drain Vortex to a secluded beach somewhere in the Mer Pacific, a ship could penetrate through the walls of the wormhole, and find itself fully immersed in subspace. From there, provided that everyone on board the ship survived the journey, which the Iastret whole-heartedly assured they would, the data that would be collected would be analyzed to allow the ship to puncture a hole back into normal space, and then freely back and forth, cutting down interstellar travel times down to fractions.
To get this mission financed, the Iastret had essentially promised the whole galaxy – if there was anything of worth out there beyond Dead Space – a crossing that would theoretically take almost half a century would take less than a year. And similarly, a crossing of the entire Known Reaches would be a matter of a mere couple days and not six months.
The Iastret were smart. This was a truth generally acknowledged, like the fact that the Thorians were arrogant bastards, and that the Hatvan were stuck-up bastards. But were the Iastret smart enough to break through the surface of subspace without crushing the ship to the size of a grain of sand? Boro wasn’t sure how keen he was to be a willing participant in that experiment.
Not to mention that what remained unsaid during that briefing, despite hovering like a cold razor against the necks of the whole crew, was the main reason why the ship had to maximize its provisions at Yshot Station. This wormhole’s other end was flung out about a four years’ journey into Dead Space. If it were to collapse when they were on the other side, or worse, while they were still in it, best case scenario was being stranded several years’ journey from home without a single planet with even a shred of organic life along the way.
Less than a week after the incident in the galley, just when Meslina started showing her face there again and even shared a laugh with Meeron as if nothing even happened but for the slight undertone that if something were to ever happen again, one of them might not live to laugh about it, Boro thought that he could make it to the end of the rotation without another pressure valve releasing all over his day.
He was on bridge duty, a place that had frequently grown more crowded and where he was forced to appear more and more often. Yshot Station itself was in a far-flung corner of Iastret space near the frontier of the Thorian Empire, but the quickest way there lay through relatively dense confluence of Iastret and Vaparozh space, which required a bit more vigilance to stay off sensors. Increased vigilance, however, was pretty much where the excitement peaked and Boro spent most of the time on the bridge talking to Surch and trying not to gag whenever the Parsk Nahur moved and wafted some of his strong aroma in Boro’s direction.
The little cautioning sound that came from Surch’s console nearly startled Boro into a call for red alert.
“Report.” Boro ordered.
“Report?” Surch chuckled. “I know you’ve got your infinite love for paperwork, but I don’t think I can squeeze an essay out of this one.”
“Just tell me what’s going on.”
“Rounding down? Absolutely nothing. Looks like there’s a small drop in power to engines, but nothing worth writing home about.”
Surch had been using the phrase more and more frequently as they neared Yshot Station – the one time they would be given the opportunity to write home before going off the grid as they entered Thorian space. The way Surch joked, nothing ever happened on the ship that was worth writing home about and claimed that the only content of his communication back to Earth would be, “Hey ma, send samosas.”
The alarm and the problem it identified were trivial, but trying to sneak a ghosted ship through a narrow strip between busy shipping lanes made Boro all the more aware that all trivial problems had ambitions to become something greater. Even if Surch, who was used to mostly flying single-person starfighters that required looking at issues with a narrow lens, was unphased by it, Boro liked to think there was a reason he had earned a command position well ahead of his classmate, and that was his ability to see the big picture. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a reliable insight into the big picture was conspicuously quiet.
Maggie Okoth, the Techever, was standing leaning with her back against the far curved wall of the bridge. She never sat, which for whatever reason bothered Boro.
“Maggie, you have a read for me on that engine trouble?” Boro asked.
Surch cleared his throat.
“On that minor engine abnormality that Lieutenant Guraty guarantees won’t kill us in the long run.”
“Nope,” the Techever answered, a baffling smile across her lips.
“Pretty much a big ‘nope’.”
Michael is a husband, father of two, lawyer, writer, and is currently working on his first novel, at a snail's pace. A very leisurely snail. All opinions are author's own.