[USS Vanguard] RP: Into the Great Wide Open

  • From: Andy <andywoho@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: ncv80221@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2011 18:28:52 -0500

Commodore Dominic Santos
Starbase Roebling
Concurrent with all recent posts
Lt. Maribel Reyes and Cadet Takashi Sutton sat in the two forward seats on
the Runabout Yamdrok-Tso, leaving Cynan Mandrake with the starboard
operations seat, the one that faced a bank of monitors covering the
starboard wall of the runabout. It was an awkward seating arrangement which
forced Mandrake either to stare at the monitors or to turn toward the front
and stare at the backs of the heads of the Roebling officers.

Mandrake finished studying the schematics of the Yamdrak-Tso on the
runabout?s monitors and turned his chair so that he faced Reyes and Sutton.
He tuned back in and found Reyes in the middle of discussing the runabout.

?...with the bio-neural upgrade, one of the first things we did was
reconfigure the co-pilot?s board so that up to a quarter of its computing
power is devoted to ?cloning? the pilot?s board. The co-pilot?s board
monitors not only the pilot?s board, but also her chair, body language, body
temperature, speech patterns, et cetera.? She turned to look over her
shoulder at Mandrake and smiled at him, proud of the advances they had made
since he was an officer aboard Vanguard. Reyes was aware of Mandrake?s
service history and even to some degree, his service record. Because he had
served with her commanding officer, that demanded some degree of respect,
but he had begun to wind down his career at the same time she had been
preparing to take her first psych test to enter the Academy, so to Reyes,
the Vanguard was ancient history, making its officers and crew nothing more
than interesting footnotes in her CO?s records.

Mandrake was aware of this and smiled back at Reyes.

She continued, ?...If the pilot becomes incapacitated for any reason, the
co-pilot?s navigational computer knows it almost before the pilot knows it
and begins to make decisions about the state of the ship, the state of the
co-pilot, whether control should be granted to the co-pilot immediately,
whether it should assist the co-pilot or inform the co-pilot. A thousand
decisions that race through the co-pilot?s mind and slows his response time,
routed through the bio-neural gel packs which settle those questions in a
fraction of a second . It?s an excellent system and has saved many lives.?

Mandrake continued to smile. ?I?m glad it?s working out for you.?

Reyes smiled back, puzzled at Mandrake?s response. Maybe he didn?t
understand what she was trying to say.

Mandrake scratched the back of his head. The headrest in runabout shuttles
had become not one bit more comfortable since he last sat in one. ?Did you
happen to notice the author of the technical documents you followed when you
installed this system?? Reyes turned toward her board. Mandrake knew from
the motion of her hands that she was bringing up a screen that displayed the
history of the shuttle, from the document authorizing its construction to
the flight record which included this flight, current to the previous .0001
second. The document that recommended the use of bio-neural technology in
shuttle missions shot forward on her board. She studied the third line, its
authorship. ?Commander Cynan Mandrake, USS Vanguard,? and the last year of
his service. She turned and looked at him. He winked back.

Then, suddenly, two things happened. The latter occurred so quickly after
the former that aside from a bio-neural gel pack computer being able to tell
the difference, they seemed simultaneous.

First, a klaxon screeched in the cabin as the pilot and co-pilot boards
changed instantly to tactical displays. On the tactical displays, the space
in front of the runabout appeared. The runabout had dropped out of warp.
Reyes, Sutton and Mandrake all turned toward the boards. Their eyes studied
the displays. The displays showed a funnel shaped object 500 kilometers
directly in front of them. In space, a purple streak that looked like a tiny
comet streaked past the runabout and exploded. The computers had detected
this object and based on its trajectory, concluded where it would land and
what it would do.

For a millionth of a second, it stopped in space. Then, it exploded and
seemed to expand.

In the runabout, the klaxon was joined by every light in the cabin suddenly
turning red, as if reinforcing the message of the klaxons.

In the operations seat, Mandrake?s eyes went from the boards then outside,
in space. He registered what the object was half a second before Reyes, and
a full two seconds before Sutton, whose Academy training, while one of the
best educations in the galaxy, had not yet prepared him for something like

Mandrake?s eyes grew wide, and he clenched his fists. He was out of his seat
before he took his next breath, and instinct took over. He was working on
adrenaline, which flooded his system before the panic took hold.

The Runabout Yamdrak-Tso was under attack, and the aggressors had fired a
miniature black hole in the path of the ship.

Mandrake put his hands on the runabout?s controls just ahead of Reyes.

?No!? he shouted. ?Pilot it toward the black hole!?

?What?? Reyes shouted back.

Mandrake didn?t have time to explain. He grabbed the controls, and his right
hand danced on the controls above their heads as his left entered the new
flight command. The runabout went to warp near the black hole?s core, where
its gravity was so strong that if they were caught in it, it would be akin
to a Galaxy-class starship crushing a cockroach.

Mandrake felt the black hole like a living, breathing thing, just born, and
already drawing on nearby space with its incredible, indescribably massive
gravity well, reaching for matter, light, anything in its path. The runabout
seemed to hesitate, as if it knew it was doomed. Then, a second later, the
runabout went to warp, bending space-time to its will, racing away from the
black hole by factors of the speed of light.

They were clear. In space, the rainbow trail of the runabout seemed to bend
as it neared the black hole, but any energy or light the black hole
captured, the runabout did not come with it.

[To be continued]

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