Gravity fell from the sky, crystalline shards of light orbited. Somewhere under the main deck a sickening groan was heard, like the death throe of some colossus, a dying whale. First officer Aastrand Grimnes scanned her instrument panel, the gyroscopes and internal stability indicators dancing madly before her eyes. Grimnes was a veteran of wormhole transit but the process never failed to unnerve her. Too many times had she heard tales of vessels straying too close to the event horizon, of poorly maintained vessels developing fatal stress fractures in their hulls, of crews found madly tearing at one another after perfect transits, their ships hanging aimlessly in space, drifting. Too many times had she seen near misses first hand.
A single warning indicator began flashing a sickly sodium alert to her right accompanied by the tinny, electronic hazard indication clacson. The aging computer mainframe was overloading. Judging the situation with usual alacrity Grimnes quickly shut off power to the now none essential triaxial stability system. There would be no planes of x, y or z soon and the wormhole would be doing the work in any case.
As she had done countless time before, Grimnes swore that this would be her last transit. To hell with the fact that she would never be able to return, she would find a new life and make of it what she could. Transiting specialists and colonists, wool and wood to these outposts reaped billions for her employers but all she saw was risk and time wasted. This work had a shelf life and she felt that she had been pushing her luck for some time. When she noticed the overhead diagnostic displays folding in on themselves she knew that she had overstayed her welcome.
The UMC-TD ‘Lucky’ was three generations old and had made thirty eight previous transits. As it alerted its three man crew of its imminent structural compromise it took about it a radiant hue of amber and gold. Within 640 milliseconds the superstructure of the 154 meter long craft had folded in on itself countless times. Grimnes would never dream again.
Twenty years earlier she found survival easier to come by. Darting about the slums of New Manchester Aatrand found friends a plenty and delighted in unfound places. Father stood angrily eating his meal at midday. Mother worked bitterly in an administration role, somewhere in the hospital. School was general procession of tedium and fear. Aastrand hid as best she could during her education but failed to conceal her talents from Mr Dunn, her elementary mathematics teacher. Dunn pegged her immediately for a career in the United Mars Corporation. Talent was rare since the grand exposure.
She might have thought that her future was hers. Grimnes was always shocked at the good fortune and opportunity that life had dealt her. She thought this way almost until the moment she died.
Richard shook sleep away like a dead man chasing ants. Auditory and visual alarms blazed around his inert form. He hit the alarm reset button. Seventeen times. Arising he took the most cursory of ablutions and dressed as arrogantly as he could manage. Ship loss was quite usual, factored in even. The name of the ship was remote, the cargo more so. Richard was anxious about the poor understanding he had of the lost ship. “Wool, wood, people”. Staring at the underground tunnel which he hoped to deliver him from his uncomfortable reverie.
Grimnes lifted her left arm to hit the hat switch to her left isolating the Forced Guidance Control System…
Richard’s very stupid and very handsome cat chose this moment to stand on his head.
Amber warning, disable all non essential flight systems, all non essential life support.
Richard wishes that he will be a small part of the space programme.
Arriving late to work he keeps his head down. Mars work.