The Structure, Part III (S3E6)
Part I can be found here. Part II can be found here.
Celestograph by August Strindberg
The Structure, Part III
The structure drew closer. It continued to avoid the sensors of the ship, even as He continued to insist it was present. Finally they drew close enough to see if with their bare eyes, a blank spot where the stellar background should have been.
Tamblyn put the finishing touches on her will — ceremonially written on precious paper — and put the octopus-ink pen down. She owned little besides a temperamental cat; she signed it all away to her aunt in the event of her untimely demise.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, then rolled up the will and sealed it in the little iron cylinder. She carried with her as she left her cramped office and headed down the hall, dropping the cylinder in a mail tube. She heard the pneumatic whoosh as she shut the door of the tube.
When she arrived at the landing bay, the others were already present, standing around the piles of supplies being loaded onto the exploration vessel. Raxton was speaking quietly to Father Pedra by the corner of the ship, interrupted by Alia picking him up and spinning him around, to much protestation. Thoman the journalist was sitting next to Liz atop a crate of provisions, deep in conversation about some esoteric topic in semiotics. Tamblyn rolled her eyes; she knew Liz’ preference in men all too well. Razin squatted next to one of the other crates, apparently double-checking the instruments he had packed.
Tamblyn stepped into the center and cleared her throat. Raxton and Alia immediately snapped to attention, while the civilians slowly settled down and turned towards her.
“Thank you all for coming,” Tamblyn said. “Obviously, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but I’m not going to pretend it’s without risk. I’ve already filed my will, as, I’m sure, have most of you. I wouldn’t have picked you if I thought you would turn tail and run.” She looked around at the group. She was met with determined expression all around. “All that’s left is to suit up.”
They donned their protective gear carefully, the glass helmet the only sure protection against whatever was aboard the structure. They boarded the exploratory vessel, not much larger than the average two-bedroom apartment in Starboardside, cramped even further with the crates of supplies they were bringing aboard. There was enough food, in the form of nutritional wafers, to last maybe a week, and enough fuel to orbit the structure a dozen times or so. Each had brought various supplies of their own, most notably Alia, who had a crate full of firepower.
Luckily, Alia was a pilot as well as a private, so she was left in charge of steering the vessel to the structure. All seven of them crowded into the cockpit, built to serve two, as they lifted off from the landing dock, a few of the pit crew waving at them as they did so. Alia gently pushed them forward and they raced out into the darkness.
The massive generation ship slowly receded behind them. All except Alia, strapped into the pilot’s seat, floated towards the ceiling as they left behind the background rotation of the ship that emulated the gravitational pull of Terra. They were steadily accelerating, reaching a measurable fraction of the speed of light, but the structure would still be a few hours away. Tamblyn patted Alia on the shoulder and floated back to the main room, followed by the others.
Raxton offered a pack of cards to pass the time, but, never having left the warm embrace of the ship, he wasn’t used to the freefall. The cards had floated away as soon as he opened the pack, to Liz’ muffled laughter.
After an hour or so, Thoman took off his helmet, depressurizing his suit.
“You really think that’s wise?” Tamblyn said. Thoman just shrugged. A few minutes later, the rest had done likewise, including Tamblyn.
After a few hours of boredom — punctuated by quiet chatting, the crunch of a nutritional wafer wrapping being opened, a game of poker when Raxton finished collecting all the cards — they heard Alia call out from the cabin. “I think we’re getting close!”
Tamblyn drifted back into the cockpit. The blank spot covered almost the entire viewport — only at the very edges could any stars be seen.
“Already on it,” Alia replied.
“We should put our—“
They couldn’t hear the crash because, of course, there is no sound in space.