T'Chorel sat on the dock while Kareneter loaded R'Zuti's equipment onboard the shuttle. F'Ve sat next to him, dozing lightly. A little dose of adventure, he thought, would be good for her. Sometimes that's all it took for one to decide that they were content with their 'less exciting' lives. Others found they had a taste for it. Either way, he would be happy for her as long as she was happy. He really was falling in love with her, which both excited and frightened him. It had been seven centuries since he'd felt like this. He wasn't sure how he should pursue his feelings or even if he should.
Kareneter waved to him. "Come on," T'Chorel said, touching F'Ve lightly on the arm, "It's time to go." He took her hand as they walked towards the shuttle. He paused at the top of the ramp and looked at the small crowd that had come to see them off. He knew that they were making the right decision by undertaking this mission, but he also knew that it was not a popular decision. Perhaps, he thought hopefully, I won't even need term limits to get out of office. He turned and steped into the shuttle.
The shuttle hovered slowly until it had reached the level of the treetops, then it shot into the sky as if gravity had reversed itself. The early morning faded quickly back to night as the shuttle left the atmosphere. Soon the ship was visible in front of them, it's distinctive purple glow differentiating it from the field of red, yellow, and blue stars. Kareneter activated the shuttle's Velig-Jentot Drive and the shuttle made the shift to the first shelf, travelling at exactly the speed of Igem particles. The stars took on a pale translucency but the ship gained clarity and solidity. Kareneter pulled the shuttle alongside the ship, matching its speed and course. He activated a viewscreen in the passenger cabin and they got their first good look at the ship.
There was little doubt as to the age of the ship. Six centuries of micro-meteor impacts pockmarked the entire surface of the ship, and interstellar dust had accumulated in a fine layer. The engine suddenly shut off.
"What happened," N'Tar asked noone in particular.
"It makes sense," R'Zuti explained, "The engine would only need to run for a few hours every few months to maintain velocity and course, and to recharge the internal systems. If F'Ve hadn't been stargazing last night, we would have never even known this ship existed. It would have fallen into the sun and that would have been that."
"Zaretio," T'Chorel read the nearly-obscured name of the ship. "Fate," he translated. "Makes sense that it's a Zarpi design. Their shields were never very effective against interstellar debris." He noticed R'Zuti's quizical look. "The shipyards at Zep have come a very long way over the centuries. They weren't always considered the best in the U.A." He looked towards the open door of the cockpit, "Kareneter, anything new?"
"I agree that it's a Zarpi ship. They've always insisted on putting tailfins on all their vessels, even the ones that were never designed to enter the atmosphere. The hull's intact. I'm still reading an Ero/Darf atmosphere. Temperature's real low, but we wouldn't have to suit up completely; the thermal suits will be enough. At least some of the systems inside are still online. Power levels are low but they're still there. And one other thing..." he trailed off. He typed several instructions into the computer. "There's indeterminant life readings. Probably just a really hardy strain of mold. You might want to consider suiting up after all."
"Kareneter, can you dock with the ship," inquired P'Ku.
"Are you sure we need to do that," L'Toddo added.
"It is why we're here," F'Ve said, excited, her eyes never leaving the ship.
There was a long pause before Kareneter responded. "I can do it. I'll have to use the cargo hatch. The ship's pre-Standardization; no docking clamps that we can match up to."
T'Chorel and N'Tar exchanged looks and nods. "Do it," N'Tar ordered. They were silent as he piloted the ship into position. "This might be a tad rough," he said just before the ship jerked, throwing them back against their seats. The shuttle groaned as it shifted, finally settling into place against the hull of the ship. "Get comfortable back there. It's going to be a little while before I'm sure the seal's holding.
A United Allegiance Tale
and © Copyright 1980-2009 Michael J. Ahlers. All Rights Reserved.