Equinox: Beginnings

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One gigantic leap

The main viewer showed an impossible sight the moment his finger made contact with the touch screen, activating the faster than light drive. The serene view of the stars on the screen only moments ago now looked distorted, as if each star had left a light trail behind.

Jason’s eyes seemed to be playing tricks on him as well. The bridge floor was suddenly stretched out far below him while the control panel was impossibly far away. His arms seemed to go on forever yet he could still feel the control panel with his fingers. The sensation caused him to experience nausea and disorientation.

He could also hear a shrill shriek which seemed to originate somewhere to his left. He didn’t recognise the sound as any of the ship’s alarms and it took a few moments for his confused mind to realise that it was Eve’s voice. He was just relieved that it wasn’t a system which had failed.

“Thank goodness it’s just Eve,” he thought to himself.

Within a few seconds all the distortions and disorientation cleared up and everything appeared to be normal again except for the main view screen which now showed a myriad of colours, as if they were flying through an endless rainbow at tremendous speed.

Jason reasoned that the distortions which they had all experienced were a result of the various field emitters and induction coils not being properly synchronised together. He figured that the millisecond time difference between the closest and furthest arrays being energised during the acceleration phase was to blame.

“I’ve got to fix that before the next jump,” he thought to himself.

Aloud he said, “Its working! It’s really working!”

He had a look of disbelief and wonderment on his face now as he realised that his theories were in fact correct and science fiction had just become science fact.

He quickly glanced around the bridge.

“Is everyone ok?”

They all seemed to be fine except for the pained expressions on their faces. Vince and Eve were visibly shaken up from their recent experience and even Bart looked ashen sitting at the gunner’s station, though he remained silent.

Jason knew that the rainbow effect being displayed on the main viewer was just an illusion because the viewer relied on external cameras and sensors which in turn relied on light in order to generate an image, and since they were travelling faster than light, the cameras were rendered useless.

Even so, the technical explanations didn’t make the view any less amazing and breathtaking. Jason could tell that both Vince and Eve were as mesmerised as he was by the light show playing out on the large screen.

“You’ve really done it, Jason,” said Eve, still wide eyed from the events of the last few minutes. It was only a minute ago that they were about to be fired upon by the Earth Command vessel trying to stop their getaway, and now, here they were, the first humans ever to travel faster than light.

“No,” replied Jason. “We’ve done it, as a team.”

Vince rose from his station and walked over to Jason, extending his hand and giving Jason a firm handshake and a pat on the back.

“That’s one gigantic leap for mankind, my friend,” he said proudly.

Their narrow escape from the United Earth Government was a bittersweet victory as many lives had been extinguished in the process.

“Let us observe a moment of silence for those who did not make it,” said Eve bowing her head.

Jason interrogated the instruments in front of him and looked up again at Vince who was also trying to read the data from where he was standing.

“We’re travelling at five times the speed of light right now and we should be able to maintain this speed for the entire journey without burning out the drive,” said Jason, almost reading his friend’s thoughts.

“So, we should arrive at the Alpha Centauri star system in a little over nine months,” said Vince performing a quick mental calculation.

“That’s just impressive!”

“More technical talk!” interrupted Eve, pretending to show contempt. “Humph!”

Jason informed the rest of the ship’s crew over the intercom about their progress.

In the greater scheme of things, nine months to travel the four light year distance to Alpha Centauri was impressive, but nine months was still a long time to spend cooped up on a ship and Jason was one who got bored very easily.

“However will I pass the time without going crazy?” Jason thought out loud.

“Oh, I’m sure you’ll survive,” said Eve, touching the back if his hand which was resting on his console, startling him. He looked up into her smiling face and smiled back.

Eve had the ability to make anyone smile no matter what, and her positive energy was contagious.

“But I’m still very upset at you for causing the deaths of those men when we made our escape!” she continued, waving her finger at him. “Upset and very disappointed. How could you?”

“I’m sorry,” said Jason, “But I had to, or we would all be captured or dead now.”

He tried to read her expression and she seemed genuinely upset at him. He knew he had made the correct decision for the sake of everyone else but he hated that she didn’t approve. He liked her a lot and her opinion mattered to him.

“See you around, Jason,” she said, leaving the bridge.

He could have easily manipulated her mind with his ability but he had promised his friends never to use his ability on them and he was one to always keep to his word.

“I understand your decision,” said Vince, “Though I don’t know if my conscience would have allowed me to do the same and I’m glad I wasn’t the one who had to choose.”

Jason just nodded, not knowing if Vince was also upset with him or just trying to make him feel better. Either way, the nine month journey time seemed to get a whole lot longer.

“I’ve locked the autopilot onto our destination,” he said to Vince. “This ship will practically fly itself all the way there.”

Vince also took his leave, leaving Jason alone on the bridge, alone with his thoughts.

Somehow, mankind’s greatest achievement didn’t feel so great anymore now that his friends were upset with him.

Jason wondered if there was something wrong with him for still feeling unapologetic over the deaths of the men in the generator room. It was regrettable but he believed that he had made the correct decision. Given the chance to do it over, he’d act no differently. He was just sorry that his friends didn’t feel the same.

Out here in space there were no days and nights, just vast open unending darkness punctuated by the light of the distant stars. The Equinox mimicked day and night internally by adjusting light levels and the environmental controls, reducing the temperature slightly when it was night on board, to make long journeys more comfortable for the crew and to mimic being on Earth.

The time passed by really slowly for Jason. He got bored easily and needed something mentally stimulating to keep from going crazy. He spent most of his time alone, on the bridge, just staring at the main view screen, lost in thought and wishing that Eve would return to her former jovial self.

If he wasn’t moping on the bridge he spent time in the gym taking out his frustrations on the weights and punching bag. He also wanted to grow some muscle and do away with his skinny look which was the one thing he didn’t like about his appearance. Just maybe Eve would be impressed by this.

By the end of the first month, they had explored the Equinox from end to end. As they had already known, she was fully equipped for a deep space mission, complete with mining vehicles and shuttles. The research labs and workshops were simply incredible, having almost every tool conceivable.

The officer’s quarters were large and fully furnished with all the luxuries one could expect on board a state of the art spacecraft.

Jason had decided not to release any more of the suspended prisoners as he didn’t want to deal with the likes of dangerous criminals, and to conserve resources, in the event that they were not able to replenish their supplies at Alpha Centauri. This was a thought he tried not to dwell on. As well stocked on food and other supplies as the Equinox was, they would still eventually run out if they didn’t find a habitable planet.

The rest of the months went by without incident. The trio still met every day for meals and Jason flaunted his cooking skills at every opportunity whipping up all sorts of flavourful dishes while dressed in a chef’s hat and apron which he found in the galley. Flavourful Thai and Indian foods were his favourites.

Vince had tried his hand in the galley too, but after a rather well cooked roast which couldn’t be carved by the sharpest knife and vociferous protests from Jason and Eve he decided not to try again.

Eve produced the most delicious Italian food when it was her turn and still made his coffee the way he liked it, though her attitude towards him had changed ever so slightly since they had escaped Earth.

And finally, after what felt like the longest time their journey to Alpha Centauri drew to its end.

Jason, Eve, Vince and Bart took their places on the bridge in preparation for their arrival.

“Now hear this,” began Jason on the ship wide intercom. “We will be dropping out of light speed shortly. I expect there will be some discomfort experienced again so brace for it.”

“Discomfort is an understatement!” retorted Eve. “It’s more like having a near death experience.”

“Dropping out of light speed in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1..,” counted down Jason into the microphone, deliberately ignoring Eve’s comment which happened to be an apt description of the experience.

As soon as his finger pressed the button deactivating the faster then light drive there was the familiar nauseating sensation of disorientation again which made him feel sick. The main viewer went crazy for a moment displaying all sorts of interference patterns while Eve shrieked loudly.

Within moments it was all over and the rainbow which had occupied the main viewer for the duration of their journey now gave way to the most breathtaking view of a twin star solar system in all its glory.

“It’s so beautiful!” exclaimed Eve. We’re finally here, but now what?”

“Well, now we locate a planet which could sustain life and we land,” replied Jason, “And begin our new lives.”

“I’m already on it,” said Vince coolly.

He was already busy at his station scanning the star system for any habitable planets. He knew the chances were slim, but like Jason, he kept this thought to himself.

A few tense minutes later the scanner had identified a small planet roughly the size of Earth on which liquid water could exist based on its temperature and distance from the binary star. Vince transferred the image to the main viewer.

“I’m setting a course,” he said.

“Yes,” replied Jason, “Do it!”

The little planet appeared blue in colour, like Earth and grew in size on the main viewer as the Equinox was propelled ever closer by her powerful thrusters. As they got closer still, distinct features became apparent. Oceans, mountains, land masses and islands were all visible now.

“I’m going to place us in high orbit,” continued Vince, manipulating his console.

Jason turned to Eve. “Could you please transmit a greeting on all radio frequencies? We must not appear hostile to the locals if this planet is populated by intelligent life.”

She nodded.

Vince confirmed that the atmosphere contained oxygen and the planet’s temperature was ideal to support life.

Eve still hadn’t received any response from her transmission as they approached.

“This planet is either unpopulated, the locals remain silent deliberately, or they don’t have the means with which to respond,” thought Eve aloud.

Jason hoped the latter was the case.

“Well, we haven’t been fired upon as yet,” said Vince, thinking the same thoughts as Jason.

“I can feel life down there,” quipped Jason. Vince, try to find a suitable landing spot on the half of the planet experiencing night,” he continued. “We can use the darkness to hide our approach.”

Vince didn’t doubt Jason’s ability to sense life given his new found powers. He complied and the massive ship began its descent into the unknown atmosphere.

Eve quietly continued to monitor her console, listening to Jason and Vince talk. She didn’t approve of landing on an inhabited alien planet without an invitation.

She knew the guys wouldn’t listen to her anyway so she just kept her thoughts to herself.

Jason and Vince both looked like wide eyed children full of excitement as they dropped lower and lower towards land. Vince had located a large plain just behind a mountain, which could easily accommodate their gigantic ship.

“Sometimes, all it takes is a leap of faith,” said Jason to Eve, sensing her disapproval. “We’ve come this far, haven’t we?”

Eve continued to remain silent, all through the descent to the planet’s surface.

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