His quarters were just as requested, a near genetic replica of his study back on New Praetoria at the RARCom bureau. Solid oak furniture with brass trim, a grand clock, shelves filled with the long since obsolete physical book, and a blue leviathan skin high back chair. Harrison Kloch, Apex Professor of RARCom, an organisation of many faces and motives now found himself sitting, contemplating the new responsibility handed to him, this ship, was like nothing before built by RARCom, Praetoria, or the known universe for that matter, it was to use one word, alien.
*Beep*, “Come in” the door opposite his desk slid open, with the crackle of a forcefield lowering as it slid between hull plates. “Professor, we’re ready for our handover, I have the reports ready.”, Harrison glanced, making swift eye contact. “Don’t read when you’re addressing me Karl, it’s damned rude”, the red glow on the skin of Karl’s eyes flicked off, as the oculus implant shut off. “Sorry sir, it was a good paper, I think it’d interest you”. Harrison stood, brushing off some imaginary dust he’d accumulated in the 10 minutes he was sat. “Not now, we have a handover to complete, and a mission to start”
The door to central command was a small armoured porthole, Harrison ducked to avoid hitting his head on the bulkhead, slowly he stepped into the darkness, he couldn’t see a damn, his oculus implant swapped to night vision, but even then it was hard to make out more than shapes. The door sealed with a bang, then the loud sound of pressurisation, and a separate life-support systems coming online, as the air felt less stale with the second. Harrison held onto what he believed was the back of a chair, he could make out a few figures in the room, manning various stations around him. “Well, lights anyone?”. A form flickered into existence, one instantly familiar to the crew, it’s ghostly glow being the only light source in the room. Young, pale, and red-haired, the figure was of Newton, the single omnipresent AI that inhabited all parts of the Empire at the same time. “Good evening. preparing central command startup… data spooling… feeds established… camera drones deployed… Starting.” the was a shaking, as if the floor was moving, then a sudden stop. The flash was blinding, even with his eyes tinting, Harrison and the rest of those trapped in the room covered their eyes, the flash quickly faded revealing the form of central command. It was a spherical room, a good 70 metres in diameter, the walls of which had holographic overlays, displaying a full view of the space around them, he looked down through the transparent polymer floor to see men working on the gantry that surrounded the ship, the whole central platform suspended without physical aid, floating in the centre of the sphere, the workstations were minimal, and was sparsely populated, while the bridges of Exodus and Inexorable class ships had dozens of crew on them, central command here had 11, Harrison included. No guards, and for a good reason, the whole room was temporally shifted, making accessing it impossible, the only connection they had with the outside world was through Newton. Harrison knew this design well, as he oversaw the engineering team that created it, he knew the intricacies of the hundred odd camera drones now circling the ship, each the size of a needle head, that provided this view of the space around him, he knew of the computing power needed to interlace all these images, and combine them into a coherent display, that looked as though they were inside a glass ball in space, not entombed within the confines of a super-capital starship.
“All procedure’s complete, all functions nominal, vessel ready for departure, dock master certificates transferred.” The holograms head turned, making eye contact with Harrison for the first time, “On your order professor”. Harrison noticing he was holding onto his own chair, pulled it around behind him, it moved effortlessly, levitating in the air just like platform, as he sat, he could feel the antigravity motors compensating, giving a small bobbing motion. “Take us out Newton, 150 vels until we’re clear”
The frame surrounding the vessel in space slowly began to retract, umbilical lines were cut, and gantry’s removed, in front the massive bulkhead that dominated their view opened like a scissor, revealing for the first time a clear view of open space. the vessel moved slowly out of its confines, and more of the view filled with the void of space. “Dock has been cleared, navigation is coming online” the hologram had barely finished as above the platform appeared the projection of the projection of the local system, with it the vessels projected path out, it zoomed out showing the star cluster, the galaxy and then the galactic cluster, it’s route to a nearby dwarf galaxy plotted as a thin green line. the projection lowered until galaxies were eye level with the crew. “Switch to auto-pilot Newton, then put me on loud speaker to the crew”. The outside view moved more and more rapidly, as the vessel quickly gained momentum, and then in split second a trans-tunnel opened, the view was quite spectacular, there own reality overlaid against a thousand overs, with stars moving by like flashes. “Loud-Speaker active professor, dilation at 5%”, Newton gave the professor one last like, then evaporated back into whatever domain he resides. “This is Professor Harrison speaking to all departments and schools, I apologise for the audio, but I’m speaking to you from 2 seconds in the future, and apparently no amount of correction will fix that. As you know this vessel exists as our most prized creation, a marvel of science and engineering, and a temple of knowledge and discovery. For it’s first official mission, we will be visiting R9-280Z, a dwarf galaxy A mere 4 million light years away. Our mission is simply to bring the ship back in one piece, an odd task, but a critical one none the less. I have faith in all departments, and believe you will function impeccably, Harrison out.” With his speech concluded, Newton reappeared. “We’re 5 minutes away from the Rendezvous with our support fleet”.
The trans-tunnel collapsed, depositing the vessel near the star of a system on the galactic fringe. A few seconds later the support fleet also appeared out of its own tunnel and back into reality. “Good, Newton, have the support ships form up and prepare for an extended trans-tunnel… Now, is it ready?”, There was an unease in Harrison's voice as he posed the question to Newton. “The entity is ready to purge”. “OK then, when the fleet is ready, purge the entity” Harrison smiled at the literal power he was about to wield. “The fleet is ready, purging entity in 5…4...3… Aborting, a vessel has been detected exiting trans-tunnel”, Harrison jumped out of his chair, “Magnify on projection!”, the culprit was a small Vanguard-Class Frigate, a mere 10km of the starboard. “Incoming communication professor, override priority given”, with that the communication channel opened, giving a large 2d projection out of nowhere, it filled half the forward view. The man was recognisable instantly to the crew.
“Cromwell, Blast it man, another 5 seconds and you’d be flying into a supernova, what are you doing out here?” The surprise was visible on Harrison’s face. “The situation is urgent, we are requesting you scrap your current mission, and conscript into the second fleet.” Cromwell was as always stone cold serious. “Slow down, that isn’t your call to make, this is a RARCom vessel, not some military toy, our mission is paramount to our research, it wont be scrapped.”, “Professor we need to speak in person, this is sensitive, I have Commanders Blaque and Jane of MoI with me, and I can guarantee you this trumps any butterfly chase you had planned”. Blaque and Jane? Harrison couldn’t think what reason would bring two of MoI’s top brass to him, let alone what would make Cromwell risk getting eaten by a supernova just to meet with him. “Very well, docking arm ‘A’ if you would.”
Harrison should of asked for a bigger lounge, while the dimensions were perfectly good, he never thought he’d have such ego’s filling it. Cromwell prided himself on being the most serious person you’d ever meet, and Blaque the most cryptic, Jane was down to earth though, probably thanks to her humble beginnings. “Are you sure one of the conference rooms wouldn’t be more appropriate? this room really isn’t suited to more than entertaining guests.” “This place doesn’t have projectors, right? at least that’s what the plans say, no projectors, means Newton can’t eavesdrop unless one of us brings him up on there oculus, it means no one other than us knows what is said here.” This was Cromwells serious face again. “Fair enough then, what is it that is so important that it’ll hold up progress on project the next day?”. Blaque stepped up to the question, his arms closed posture changed into something more threatening, hands pushing down on the desk, him rising ever so slightly out his chair, “We have agents burning themselves across the Third Alliance to bring us this, Bavaria is building something big, and it appears to be a threat Fleet Command can’t deal with.” “A new Super-Capital is your problem not mine, I’m trying to do the R&D for the project of the century, and this mission is part of that.” Cromwell Stood up, his stance more overbearing than blaque “This isn’t another dread, this is the first real threat we’ve faced in years, more so than anything else thrown at us, we are dealing with a weapon that can make it to New Praetoria.” Harrison was in shock “Make it to the homeland, a weapon from Bavaria, you can't be serious men?” For the first time Jane spoke, “Sir, I remember your lectures on inter-galactic travel beyond our methods well. We believe Bavaria is incorporating the kind of technology you spoke of into a weapon system, one of many, and plans to unleash it on us all, the details are sparse, but the intelligence is good.” An old student of his, so that was why they brought her, Harrison knew what damage an extragalactic threat could cause. “Very well then, the ship is yours for the time being, but know that I won't let you exploit it”.
Blaque and Jane had left to return to their frigate, but Cromwell insisted on a word alone. “You know some psychology right professor?” “A little, it’s one of the more abstract sciences, why do you ask?” Harrison knew why, he hoped they wouldn’t have this conversation, “As friends, Harrison, we go back, you knew me back when I met Payton?” Harrison REALLY didn’t want to have this conversation, “How could I forget, you somehow split your little carrier into two halves, you and me were flying one half from what was left of the bridge, and she the other from tactical.”, Cromwell gave a smile, this worried Harrison “It was love at first assist, wouldn’t you say?”, He hated to do it, but it must be done, “She’s dead Cromwell. I know, we both worked on the science, but you came back from New York without a body, it isn’t happening Cromwell, look past it and focus on your work”, “But they took the ship, it wasn’t destroyed, and I bet they took her as well”.
Someone will be needing god on their side, Harrison thought.
“This isn’t why you stayed here is it, there’s something else?”, Harrison knew that while Cromwell was hopeless, not even he would make a friend suffer this if there wasn’t something else. “There is, Project the next day. I want to move ahead with the eternity project.”, NO, he couldn’t be serious, “Cromwell, I vowed never to let that occur, the evolution project yes, but not the eternity project, it is wrong, even for you to go through with it.”, Cromwells ego shrunk, it was him who was at the mercy of someone else for a change. “If I don’t find her, then what do I have left? This is me asking you as a friend, continue with the research, and have it ready should I fail, or should I succeed.”