Karta Imoji ul Nakodian was dozing lightly when the tone came over the local fleet frequency. The ear-rending sound that meant ‘important announcement incoming’ was specifically encoded with tones that worked as a minor system shock for fifteen known species. Members of every single one of them held a grudge against those responsible for this.
Imoji was one of those that would gladly join the mob kicking down the doors of whatever lab gave birth to that abomination. The word that followed didn’t put her in any better mood.
The voice was feminine, by the standards of humanity at least, and was tooth-grindingly cheerful. “A courtesy update from Brus-Caphera Transstar: The Bru-Caphera extended family regrets to inform our travelers, investors and crew that the Hel Caprese Bloom ship Pristine Blossom Before the Stars, will be experiencing a slight delay in departure time. The new departure time will be scheduled shortly. Thank you for your understanding.”
Cursing, Imoji slammed a fist down on the ship’s control yoke, belatedly thankful that it wasn’t powered at the time. Otherwise, she might have veered out of her position beneath the Blossom’s rotating habitation ring. The obsolescent AE-405 Klaatu short range fighter she was in wasn’t compatible with the more modern Blossom’s docking system and wasn’t capable of generating the Hel Caprese Bloom effect necessary for quickly bridging interstellar spaces, and so was forced to float in a spot that would be dragged along in the larger ships gravimetric field when the bloom occurred.
This always happened, it seemed. She and her mercenary wing would be summoned at the behest of some planetsider of stellar note for a job that sounded simple, maybe even fun. In this case, the part of the planetsider was being played by Her Most Beloved Duchess, the Grand Lady of Iior, Tor Raana Meru, who Imoji figured had never so much as set taloned foot on a space station. The job was to escort said wastrel and her retinue to Mektian, the third moon of Thrace.
Like an idiot, Imoji had argued in favor of taking the job against the others and, one by one, convinced them that not only was this a chance to earn good pay, but a ride to Thrace, whose second moon, Barada, was a veritable paradise. Now she was questioning her earlier judgment.
First, it turned out that the Duchess wasn’t worried about being killed on board the Blossom, her people sent a security detail for that. No, she was afraid of being caught in a ship to ship raid. Which would have made sense if she was traveling between planets in the same system. But bloom ships traveled inside a Hel Caprese Bloom, an envelope of energy that allowed the ship to travel between systems in weeks instead of decades.
Unless some Imperial Remnants out there had incredible luck and a desire to be caught in a relativistic explosion if they failed to match velocity even by a fraction during docking, she had nothing to be unnerved about.
Now, it appeared that the very same vacuous example of the new nobility was responsible for their delay. The Brus-Caphera corporation wouldn’t hold any embarkation for any lesser person.
Imoji huffed and shifted in her straps. The Blossom wasn’t providing data links until the bloom was active, meaning she didn’t have access to the recreational ship’s vast media library or communication arrays. She hadn’t thought this through and hadn’t brought any entertainment of her own.
Boredom set in quickly. The view wasn’t much to speak on; the habitation ring was relative down from her and obscured by her fighter’s hull. Relative up showed her the trunk connecting the ring with the engine stalk and the two metallic ‘horns’ that comprised the bloom drive. Purple plasmatic discharge sparked into space between the two spars at random intervals. Hidden by the trunk, somewhere out there, was the planet Lantriat, one nation of which was the Duchess’s Iior.
The rest was black. Speckled with the white points of distant stars, but mostly, it was the vast, perpetual black .The gulf between worlds. The killing nothing. Everyone she knew, or at least everyone she knew and cared to talk to, had lost loved ones to it.
Once, not long after Nikto’s death, the very sight of it nauseated her. But she’d become immune to that. Now it was just an analogy to the monotony of space. With the Empire gone, the only real action in the central systems was in taking on its remnants as they tried to destabilize the Peace. The Peace itself was a boring affair of petulant arguments and terrified new nobles, like the oh-so-queenly Duchess, who was still missing.
Another tone tore her eyes away from the blackness outside. Maybe it was good news. Maybe they were actually leaving!
“A courtesy update from Brus-Caphera Transstar: The Bru-Caphera extended family regrets to inform our travelers, investors and crew…”
She tuned the rest out and lolled her head back on her seat back.
Space. The great journey of endless adventure. Become a pilot, see the galaxy.
Yes, come see all the black.