Another Day, Another Blog

April 7, 2007

Cry me an ocean of stars

Filed under: ficlet, sci-fi — iamza @ 1:32 am

“We could try the orbitals?” James suggested, voice uneven, and broken by panicked breaths.

I hesitated. The orbital engines could, in theory, get us home. If we knew where we were, and how to set the navcom back on track. But the reset after the asteroid avalanche had killed the navcom’s memory, and left us stranded in deep space.

We were lost. Looking out at a river of stars banked by an empty void that stretched to infinity. James had the chair, and I had the wheel, and we neither of us knew what we were supposed to do next.

“If we use the orbitals without the navcom,” I said, “we could end up anywhere. Or nowhere. We should wait. Mitchell will get the system back up.”

But I was lying, and we both knew it. Mitchell’s AI chip was reset when the navcom went down.

For once, James didn’t argue. He wanted to believe that we’d be fine just as much as I did; that miracles could happen, even out here on the edge of the known universe. 

I ran my hands over the stained cherry wood of the wheel. When the Captain had first had it installed, the shipping world had scoffed. Crazy Captain Pete and his bunch of ragtag hangers on, lost in a time so out of step with the rest of the United Federation that we might as well have been outcasts. Throwbacks to a history that nobody else wanted to acknowledge.

I confess, at first I’d agreed with the scoffers. Whoever’d heard of a wheelhouse in a spaceship? What need had spacecraft of sails of spun silver to propel them between the stars when orbitals allowed ships to surf wormholes between galaxies?

And yet, and yet. The Titania was the largest spacecraft ever designed for intergalactic cruises. And Captain Pete was smart enough to realize that a wheelhouse and sails were anachronisms that would draw wealthy voyagers from far and wide. Why travel by cryotank and orbitals like the common riffraff when one could travel in style aboard the Titania, enjoying endless starlit nights beneath solar sails?

The wheel was smooth and cold beneath my fingers. Habit had me hold it steady, even though I knew the sails and rudder were gone. The avalanche had seen to that.

“Do you think–” James stopped, his mouth still moving but no words coming out. 

I shook my head. I knew what he was trying to ask, and I didn’t want to have to answer. Were there any other survivors? Could the passengers have lived through the avalanche? Was Captain Pete still alive, lost amongst the shredded remnants of silver that drifted about the breached hull — driftwood caught in seaweed in a vast black ocean? 

The sad truth was that it didn’t matter. The wheelhouse was cut off from the rest of the ship. We couldn’t help the passengers, and we couldn’t help Captain Pete.

We couldn’t even help ourselves.




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