The trail began as a scattering of random elements in space. The crew of Lairise Way, excepting two, lay in Coldsleep for the journey to Goodonyacuz.
Though not a large ship, Lairise Way held thirty thousand transportee’s in Coldsleep along her spine, flanked between valleys of thick ice shields woven around the Boss/Hudson drive running from the funnel in the front, through the centre of the ship into the matter conversion domes evenly spaced at the rear.
1st Navigator Calvin Tindal had woken the ships engineer Traci Gregorian on the premise of a faulty con-dome and had needed little excuse to engage her in other activities. So there they were, limbs askew in the freefall sphere, both concentrating on keeping it all together as their sweat coagulated into perfect orbs to orbit their bodies in motion as the starlight flickered just outside the tri-diamond transparent bubble.
Soon their motions turned gentler as they whispered to each other, which was kinda fortunate when a blue ‘attention required’ glowed on her com bracelet, accompanied by a quiet chime. Cursing mildly she sighed as they untangled their limbs while he swatted distractedly at the bubbles of sweat in their orbit.
“You gonna answer that” he asked, after the fourth chime sounded from her wrist.
“SAL would handle it if I was in Coldsleep”, said Traci. “She’s just being a lazy bitch”.
“And SAL knows when the appropriately skilled person is on duty, she can handball it” replied Calvin.
“And the duty officer happens to be you” countered Traci.
He grinned and said “Lucky I’m the pilot and you’re the engineer then; otherwise it would have been me”.
“Yea, I’m so lucky” she replied archly. “Report please, SAL”
SAL: Boss/Hudson funnel sensors have detected exotic matter within funnel. Quarantine enabled by containment fields Exotic matter confined Analysis enabled Analysis incomplete Human intervention required
“And there you have it” said Tracy, “Exotic matter!”
“Exotic hey, that’d be right up your alley”, quipped Calvin, half dressed in a standard shipsuit.
“Good thing it wasn’t grey matter or you would have been jealous”, retorted Traci as she stepped through the airlock into the main corridor.
“Bit like mind over matter, babe”, chuckled Calvin, “if you don’t mind…”
“…then it doesn’t matter” laughed Traci as she walked away towards the science lab.
The Lairise Way had three separate main computers that controlled the various systems on the ship then directed the information to SAL. It was up to SAL to dilute that information to where it would best be used, but it was still the Captains chair in Command and Control or C&C as it was easily know as, that could access that undiluted information. Calvin had dressed and was accessing various systems from ‘The Chair’ as it had come to be called, when Tracy chimed him from The Lab.
“Are we anywhere near a planetary system Calvin?”
“Accessing navigation and charts… and that’s a negatory morning glory! We are alone out here.
“I have found more than exotic matter in this… looks organic in origin. I’m going to give the local area a Gamma burst and see what glows in the dark”
“Geez Traci, can you be bothered? It’s probably an advanced form of algae, like space algae coming to get us!” He began to make slurping, sucking noises over the com and Traci suppressed her giggles while powering up the Hobbs Field surrounding the ship. His slurping and growling began to alternate into howling noises he knew she would like while she pressed the button to burst the field outwards.
Invisible to the naked eye, the gamma burst lit up the smallest of particles in the surrounding space for parsecs around which was picked up by the various sensors dotted about the Lairise Way’s hull for SAL to create a multi-dimensional map of their surrounds. The howling from her com abruptly stopped.
“Calvin?” she tapped her com again to check it was still active and repeated herself.
Worried by the silence, she left the lab and began to make her way to C&C.
“Traci, you better come up here” said Calvin abruptly over her com.
Whilst relieved, she could tell that something wasn’t right. Arriving in C&C a few minutes later she saw Calvin in front of the holographic display in the middle of the chamber. In the centre of the display was a blue miniature of the Lairise Way. A green representation of the exotic matter exposed by the gamma burst was slashed through space to one side of the Lairise Way for parsecs across. Their projected course ran almost parallel to the slash, turning slightly on one side where their course continued on to Goodonyacuz.
“Wow” was all she could say.
“We must have caught some of the drift of this stuff as we passed by but this is too long to be anything natural. It goes off the range of the gamma burst and continues forever in this direction”.
He turned to her abruptly. “You said there were traces of organics in there as well, eh?”
“Umm, yea. Thou its not really my field, SAL found just that, traces”.
“Animal, mineral or vegetable?”
“Calvin, I’m an engineer. That means I know about engines, the frames engines hold on to and a bit of electrical stuff, no animals, no minerals and unless you include my ex husband, no vegetables.”
“No buts Calvin. Wake up the granny if you are curious. Just give me the chance to get into Coldsleep again before you wake her. She’s still miffed with me about the you know what, with you are who”
“Traci, this could be the big one”. He looked about himself theatrically. “You know, Aliens”.
Traci was quiet as the smile crept up her face. It was a well known fact that Calvin was a big science fiction fan and had always believed in the existence of extraterrestrials despite all the evidence to the contrary. Gently, she gripped his arm and tried to think of a way to be tactful. When nothing came to mind she decided to be blunt.
“Calvin“, sweet sweet Calvin, there’s no fuckin’ thing as Aliens. It’s a myth and not even a good story”.
“No Calvin, no such thing. I mean, it’s been at least a thousand years since humanity abandoned that mud ball of a planet they called Earth and on all the planets settled not a stain of intelligent life has been found. Give it up babe”
Calvin looked crestfallen but nodded. The strength of her conviction wasn’t worth the argument and since the unification of religions centuries before the dispersing of humanity; God had travelled with the faithful to the stars. Scientists worked on the physics of the universe with indifference towards the faithful that claimed to already know all the answers. While sometimes abrasive with differing opinions, the system worked for both parties and that was that.
“Okay, you win. God made the universe and everything in it then filled one planet with the only intelligent life capable of appreciating it” he said. “Humanity then turned that planet into shit and left to revel in the glory of Gods greater work” he lifted his arms in mock salute. “The universe” “so now we can turn that into shit as well”
She smiled at his theatrics and silently prayed for his immortal soul, but felt that his reluctance to change his beliefs was no big’gy in the great scheme of things. She had a fondness for Calvin that went beyond the sex they both enjoyed. She believed it was her charge, at least for the duration of this voyage, to help him to open his heart to God and, quite frankly, she was enjoying the challenge.
“In your own way you have faith in Gods plan and I don’t mind…” she smiled with him as the familiar term came into both their heads;
“Cos it doesn’t matter” he finished for her.
“Not in the short term anyway” she said.
“I’m not going to give up on the exotic matter thou”, he said with some conviction. “I’m gonna clean up the freefall sphere, put you into Coldsleep and then wake up the Granny”
He began to head out of C&C with determined steps and was through the airlock when a “hey” caught up with him. Turning, he saw her slowly walking after him while beginning to undo the Velcro tabs of her shipsuit.
“Want some help with the freefall sphere?”