Friday, June 12, 2009

Safe, Part IX

After almost two weeks and countless conversations with her crewmate, Daniela had realized that Samir was definitely not an experienced pilot. His dream of colonization found his interests deeply rooted in civil engineering and city building. Although he might be an expert in these fields, she was surprised at how little he knew about space flight. Sure, he knew that people boarded ships which zoomed through space to their destination – as for how this was accomplished, he had no idea.

Daniela felt it was her duty to explain it to him. After all, propulsion was her main course of study (and the only course at the Hub that didn’t bore her to tears.) When Celia left, Daniela realized her life had no real direction. She came to the same conclusion as most young people in her shoes – she decided to enter the Hub Academy. Her first year of schooling was proceeding rather well when she received the call from Command, asking her to join the mission. Now she was onboard the Freya, traveling at roughly one and a half times the speed of light, and about to dock with another ship – all without slowing down. Daniela loaded up a short Hub tutorial for the two to watch as the final computer docking programs took over.

“Sit down, Sam-Ear. Watch this. I want you to understand how it is we’re doing what we’re doing.”

Samir looked perturbed. “We’re about to dock, we don’t have time to watch anything. And quit calling me that.”

She coined the nickname a few days ago. She loved it, he hated it.

“We dock in” –she checked her viewer—“eight minutes. The tutorial lasts four. And besides, me and you don’t have to worry about docking. The Hub prepared a full schema of pre-programmed approach models.”

He stared at Daniela, blinked a few times.

“That means the ship will be on autopilot when we dock,” she said.

“Ah -- right.”

The docking trajectory flashed off the viewscreen and the tutorial sprang to life. “The speed of light is the universe’s ultimate law” said the narrator. An animated ship was floating in front of a manufactured starfield. “To circumvent these laws, a loophole was found and exploited.” (The cartoon ship flew through the eye of a huge animated sewing needle and the image changed.)

The narrator continued. “Surely you’ve all seen a photo of an old radio receiver, from the days when radio was first invented?” The tutorial showed an old radio for those viewers who’d never seen one and began playing an old song.

“Saw one of those in a museum once…” Samir said.

“Shut up and pay attention,” Daniela snapped.

“Imagine you had one of these radios and it was tuned to a station,” said the narrator. “Perfectly tuned, the music could be heard as clear as day. This is similar to a ship in normal space. Further imagine that you make a tiny adjustment on this old analog radio and minutely tune the station dial a bit to the left.” The view zoomed in on the animated radio dial. “You begin to pick up static; the station is no longer in clearly in tune, but you can still hear it, no?” The tutorial was still playing the old song, but it was no longer perfectly in tune.

“This is space-prime. Using quantum physics, we “tune” our ships a tiny bit out of phase with our universe; we tune our ships into a different universe, a different reality that is only slightly askew from ours. Our wave-drive technology can then propel our ships faster than the speed of light. We need not follow the laws of our universe in space-prime because those laws don’t apply. In space-prime the laws are different.” There was now a replica of the Cornucopia on the viewer zooming through space-prime; it looked like normal space, only the stars were much dimmer.

“You get it?” asked Daniela.

Samir looked puzzled. “Well, yeah. I think I actually…might.” He was surprised. It was the first time that space-prime had been explained to him in such a way. “Maybe with another ten years of study, I’d completely understand.”

* * * * *

By the time the Freya had docked, Celia was halfway through the logic partitions Huffold had set up in the Cornucopia’s nexus. She was flying through the code, planning two and three structures ahead – all at a speed which surprised her. When every logic system was back in her control, she threw up a defense program to dissuade Huffold from trying anything like this again. Satisfied with her work, she sprinted towards the closest lift. She knew she had to get back to the safety of her quarters as soon as possible; back to the weapons.

Celia stopped running. She stared at the ground.

Wait - why did I just think that? What weapons?

The gun and the knife that we took from the Weapons deck, came the reply.

How do I know this?

Because we did it.

Celia was confused. She knew Zoe was responsible for taking the weapons, but didn’t know how she knew it.

How did Zoe do this? Her body is no longer alive.

Zoe no longer needs her body, she has yours.

So I took the weapons? She felt like she almost remembered it. Am I Zoe? thought Celia.

We are Zoe. We are Harvin as well. But ultimately, we are Celia.

How is all of this possible? This is my mind, my body. I am in control!

Your control is weakening. Harvin speculates that in breaking the barriers and liberating two consciousnesses, we have diminished the structural integrity of the other barriers.

Once again, Celia felt as if she was remembering something long forgotten. The 395 people in her head were getting restless. They wanted out. It was all starting to make sense when the daggers returned.

Celia crumpled to the deck. As the headache roared she screamed in sheer pain, her head in her hands.

Make it stop!

We all wish it to stop but do not know how to...

The voice trailed off so that it was no longer audible and an intense ringing took its place in Celia’s ears. This headache felt much worse than the first – this time she was frozen, couldn’t move. It felt as if her forehead was being slowly sliced open, the blade on fire. As the tears welled up in her eyes she realized she could do nothing but wait for the pain to run its course.

Twenty minutes later, when Samir and Daniela found Celia in the middle of the hallway, she was still unconscious.


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