Episode 4: Chipped

After hiking back through the Arbotretum Crimson dismissed Shaak-Rom with a curt, “Get some rest,” and clumped off to her own quarters to take her own advice. She had been sleeping before this whole thing started…

System jumps: Kladerine Collective technology that had been butchered and shared out to the rest of the galaxies. The exotic species of hundreds of worlds would still be trekking around in clunky, sub light-speed vessels like the Rival Bay if it had not been for the once benevolent, now defrauded cooperative of technical gurus who had invented the Jump Drive. Oh, they called it something else, but the Universal Language reduced the miracle of science to a childhood expression.

It wasn’t wormhole tech either. The Pilgravians and Solazge and maybe a few others used something along those lines. It no doubt helped that neither of them had traditional humanoid or organic forms to lose in the poorly documented ‘twisting’ that occurred in such a transition.

No, the ‘Collectine’ Jump was still flying through space technically. But it was wizardry for all anybody knew. Crimson had put her Mindframe to it once, and tried to crunched through the equations that a few rogue scientists had tried to ‘make accessible’ to the plebian masses. Something about pulling cosmic strings like a bow then releasing them with enough tension to bend through the 5th, 6th, and 7th dimensions. Something like that. Even her cybernetic implants did little to help with that. The masses were just too dumb, apparently.

Regardless, in 32 hours they would reach Khibarra.

It was a big step up from the age of stone-wheel anti-matter combustion and nuclear fusion.  Photon sailing was just a thing for the nostalgic, and the Sail Races of Bodyssee System.

 

A day and a half, roughly, of jump time. Earth II operated on a 22 hour day, and Crimson hadn’t seen any reason to deviate from that method. She assumed she was from Earth II. It must have been familiar to her subconscious. Her Mindframe seemed to recall facts about the galaxies most extensively from there; it was the human home world (except for Mars  in the Sol System; but that was so far afield in the estranged Milky Way galaxy it was sometimes considered more of an ancient sect of humanity than the first home world after Earth I). Twenty-two hour days made for 7-hour-and-20-minute shifts. A random number she had to admit, but it seemed a reasonable length for most crew to work. Many races throughout the cosmos were used to longer days, so complainers were fairly rare. If anyone griped about it, they were welcome to get off at the next stop. She kept contracts short like that.

They had a pecking order aboardship. She was the top. Andross thought he was second, but Gator actually was. Anybody could be conscripted to help with anything that went wrong. That mostly meant Gator pulled people into his services for labor duties maintenancing the massive ship. Even Crimson helped, and she made anybody who shirked work do double until they either fell in line or got off ship.

Gator kept their first day full once they hit Jump to Khibarra. After that crew had some down time to spend as they wished. Once in system, they had sub light propulsion to take them where they needed to be along magnetic tradeways. Six more hours until they reached Qualvana: their port of call.

 ***

 

Egg fu yung had brought Andross to the table. It was still hours to Khibarra System and then 6 more to Qualvana. Dinnertime was the most excitement he’d had all day. Basically a day off-duty, save for a shift monitoring the cockpit. He ditched his MiPie flight armor for a comfortable t-shirt and trousers, beat Krevvenar five times at darts, shot some hoops in the cargo bay alone, and did whatever else he could to stave off boredom until dinner. He slumped heavily into the bench in the mess hall. Just off the circular common area in the crew cabins, the kitchen/mess was another glitz of the ancient ship’s former glory back when space flight was a thing of the dark ages. Whoever the inhabitants of the generation seed ship had been, they’d left enough room for large shifts of the several hundred colonists to dine together. Andross was just glad Crimson had had the sense to drag two tables closer to the kitchen serving window so they didn’t have to carry food across the whole room.

The smell of that crazy old gardener’s cooking was a scent for sore nose. Whatever the eco-king had concocted was finally going to soothe Andross’ hollow stomach; one thing he didn’t mind about riding around the universe in the dumpy old Rival was the food.

He allowed his hopes to brighten slightly when Cort, the Ilslavian space-rat, and Shaak-Rom the red, white, and blue Trivven showed up. Maybe they could have a few laughs or Shaak would tell some crazy stories from the Legacy Order. Andross had left the brawling bars of Talconis VII and the high stakes races for this gig. Jumping punks and criminals was fun, but the incessant waiting between worlds and systems… Andross would almost rather face the Tax Man. Now that they were doing some dairy run for some funky spoor traders—spoors that could explode and poison the whole ship—there was little to look forward to at the end of the journey.

“Com’on boys and girls, I’m starving!” Andross banged his spoon on his plate.

“Hey! Don’t break my plates…!” The grumpy gardener-chef scowled over the serving counter from the low vantage point of his mobility chair, “… again!” He shoved a heavy pot onto the stainless steel work surface.

“Maybe it wouldn’t break if there was some food on it.” retorted Andross.

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