Eyrie Productions, Unlimited
Jun-01-17, 09:52 PM (EDT)|
"(Someone Else's Mini) Blind Jump"|
Disciple 9-01 shivered and groaned as its reactor spun up, fine-veined radiators going from pure black in the main hull’s shadow to an ever-so-faint brick-colored glow. A hundred and twenty meters away from her, at the other end of the ship’s jagged, skeletal dumbbell shape, neutron poison rods withdrew from the carefully shielded reactor chamber and the uranium isotopes deposited along its walls worked themselves into the violently incandescent plasma fog that would energize the main drive.|
Reactor in the bow, reaction mass, computers, and habitat spaces at the stern, and in between, a hundred meters of naked tumble-bush wiring, feeding power from the reactor’s thermocouples to the magnetic pinch generators that would control the uranium plasma pouring over and energising the ten drive coils.
Sidok Lada Idet Perstra thought about the details and shape of her massive charge only in as far as her mind instinctively called them up for reference as she went through the final checklist, confirming and reconfirming that everything in the spaceship was as it should be for this, the last and most important test.
Then she took a deep breath and let it out and spoke clearly into the microphone at her chin. “Control, Disciple,” she said, “I have a complete blue board here. Disciple says, ‘Go’.”
“Disciple, Control. We concur. Control says, ‘Go’. Initiate any time.”
“Understood, Control. Beginning plasma injection.” With the computer programmed with the full flight plan - it could have run the entire mission itself, at least up until the moment when something went wrong - triggering the next stage was literally as simple as touching the correct pre-slaved control.
By this point the groan and rumble of the increasing energy levels in the reactor chamber had faded away to a faint susurration and whine as the magfields held most of the hot mass away from the reactor walls and pumps whisked coolant by the outside and into the four sail-like radiators that stretched away from the reactor housing at ninety degree angles from each other. Both noises built, to a throbbing rush and a grating howl, as the valves sealing the reactor away from the drive feed ladder opened and the radioactive ionized uranium flowed through the entire system.
Despite all that the electrical preheaters had been able to do, the carefully forged drive coils pinged and groaned as the hot plasma began to flow across their relatively cold interfaces, and the rumble-rush of the pumps kicked up a pitch as the system took the load that kept them from melting.
For nearly an hour, Perstra monitored the entire system, the behavior of the pumps and the temperature of the coils, giving them time to warm up all the way through. Even with the way the uranium’s radioactivity would be affecting the coils’ composition, subtly transmuting them an atom at a time, that was less of a risk than having one crack because of temperature shock. Eventually, though, she looked at the displays showing camera views of Disciple’s hull. “...Control, Disciple. Are you getting the external visual feed?”
“Disciple, Control,” the voice on the radio line responded. “We were wondering when you’d look up. Looks like Doctor Thon won the bet.”
On the screens - and outside - an eerie violet glow was bleeding out from the heart of the drive section, the heat and radiation and natural luminosity of the uranium plasma shifted in wavelength into the visible spectrum by the incipient spacewarp gathering passively around the partially charged drive coils.
“Looks like. Control, I show coil temperature completely stable for the last five minutes. I think she’s as ready as she’ll get.”
“Disciple, we confirm. Control says ‘Go’ for final faster-than-light commitment.”
“Understood. Disciple says ‘Go’ for final faster-than-light commitment. Beginning upcycle.”
And then she hit the second toggle, that brought the reactor from ‘standby’ load to ‘full’. On and on the rush and throb and scream built into an alarming cacophony that, when she spoke up to report, forced her to raise her voice even through the massive radiation-shielding protecting her cramped nest at the very stern of the ship. “Control, Disciple, I show reactor at full and core temperature rising. Estimate one and one half minutes to overheat.”
At which point the Potassium-Sodium ‘alloy’ used as coolant would begin to boil and matters would become quite rapidly disastrous.
“Disciple, Control. Initiate faster-than-light at your discretion, and know that a world’s prayers go with you.”
“Control, Disciple,” Perstra said, and reached for the last toggle. “‘Let me know no dread at the night, for the unknown is beauty unveiled.’ Initiating FTL.”
Disciple 9-01 screamed as her drive took the load - and reality smeared around her, the cold diamond dust of the starfield fading into redshift as tiny atoms of interplanetary dust caught in the warpfield and exploded into incandescent streaks as the distortion of reality tore them apart. Reaction sent rattling impacts through the entire ship with every one, as the warp coils jolted against their mountings from the energy transferred to the fields that they anchored, but that had been planned for, expected.
For three minutes, then four, then five, the trip continued... and then, at last, Disciple dropped back to sidereal space in a blaze of decelerating photons, and the portside camera showed the gas giant Maden glowing in the center of its field like a small scarlet dot, right where it should be.
“It works,” she whispered, not at all conscious of the recorders, and started the reactor downcycle to let the drive cool.
There was plenty to do while she waited for that to happen - deploying the long-range com antenna and sending her report, using the short-range one to check in with the five automated probes in Maden’s vicinity, prepping the tiny robot rover that would do an external inspection of Disciple, looking to damage, melting, or other risks, and checking radiation levels and structural fatigue.
And then, of all things, the proximity warning pinged.
A quick slash of one finger brought up the feed from the appropriate camera, and then she spent a long, long moment staring at the screen, mouth dry, as her mind raced to catch up to the complete realignment of her universe.
There was a ship on the screen, a shape like a stretched, flattened lens, with vertical keels above and below supporting wings that were tipped by long, slender pods with luminously clouded windows running much of their length. Writing, in an alien script, arced across the floodlit hull towards the bow, and slit-like windows and other structures decorated its sleekly curved surface.
A quick glance at the rangefinder display and some mental arithmetic produced an estimate that it was about two and a half times Disciple’s length, and the difference in configuration made it many more times the experimental ship’s mass.
Perstra took a deep breath and keyed through four different menus to find and send the carefully prepared package of electronic data that no one, no one at all, had expected to need to use.
She had expected to need to wait for the response, if any, but reality had another surprise in store for her.
“This is Lanata Sonok of the United Federation of Planets Starship Ashanti to Disciple 9-01,” a man’s voice came over Mission Control’s radio channel, calm and dispassionate. “Sidok Idet, permit me to extend my congratulations on a successful warp flight and to welcome you, and your people, to the interstellar community.”
Realized, thanks to the other thread, that I apparently hadn't posted this here.
Iä! Iä! Moe fthagn!
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