Elle Peterson rose stiffly from the navigator’s chair, standing back and stretching.
She nodded at Gregory as he took her place in the chair.
heading of 270.82 degrees by 14.23 degrees. Don’t forget that Midpoint is coming
up soon.” She tapped a red digital display on the console. It read;
The numbers ticked off with the passing seconds.
yeah, I know. Jesus, Elle, how come you always gotta treat me like a goddamn kid?”
He scowled as he slid his hands through the control grips.
you always act like one.”
for the door.
been pulling a bit to the positive Z axis. You’ll have to correct for that.”
closed with a pneumatic hiss and Gregory was alone on the Nav bridge.
that, El, it’s not like I haven’t been pushing this damn crate for six months already.”
sat back and glanced at all his screens, making sure all was in order. Everything
was, as usual. Boring as hell, really. Not even some floating chunk of space garbage
to take a pot shot at with the Point Defense Lasers. What he wouldn’t give for even
the minutest problem to divert his attention. Instead he had a slight positive Z
axis pitch. Wonderful. Whatever’d happened to the old days, like in the stories he’d
read when he was younger? About travel lanes choked with asteroids, pirates, and
strange viruses? Navigators were heroes back then. He’d almost prefer it if things
did go wrong for once, if only to relieve the monotony.
once he thought about it, this eight hour shift would be more interesting than most.
He’d be at the con during the Midpoint reversal. Hell, after six months of sustained
1.25 G’s of gravity, a few minutes of weightlessness might just be fun.
Gregory killed the few remaining minutes before Midpoint, whistling a little ditty
he had composed over his long sit-ins as Nav. As the numbers ticked down to the last
30 seconds, he sat up in his chair, checking all his instruments again. With his
right hand he flicked a comm channel open, speaking into his headset mike.
we’ll be arriving at Midpoint in T-minus 25. Are you coming to the bridge?”
There was a slight pause before the weathered voice of Captain Evharson filtered
through his headset.
watch from down here, thank you. Keep up the good work.” The line went dead.
Greg snorted. Typical. The Old coot sure was polite, but antisocial as hell. He would
be surprised if he’d seen the captain outside his compartment more than five times
in the entire trip.
count dwindled into the teens, Greg slumped into his chair again. There really wasn’t
anything to do but watch, the computer was in charge of the whole operation. As the
countdown hit ten, there was a crackle through the shipwide speakers as the computer
opened a line and “spoke” to the crew in a pleasant feminine voice. “180 degree turnover
maneuver to begin shortly. Please prepare for zero gravity.”
saluted the nearest speaker with his middle finger and growled.
cap’n.” Computers nowadays sounded too much like politicians. The ETA counter struck
rumble of the Walterium reactor, so omnipresent over the last six months that the
crew had ceased to notice it, suddenly lapsed into silence. Greg glanced around the
empty bridge with a sudden feeling of insecurity as the interior of the ship was
truly quiet for the first time in half a year.
the familiar tingling, stomach-rising queasiness of zero gravity set in, as the ship
ceased it’s forward thrust. He let his hand drift upwards on it’s own. How long had
it been since he’d been in zero G?
control displays, numbers were changing rapidly, and he turned his attention to them.
Though he was too far away to feel it, Greg knew that powerful conventional thrusters
on the bow and stern were firing, pushing the back up and the front down, causing
the more than quarter mile long ship to pinwheel slowly through space. On the Attitude
displays he watched a graphic representation of the ship rotate cleanly on it’s Z
axis. Due to the size of the ship, the maneuver would take a full minute to complete.
Once the stern was pointed in the same direction that the bow had been, the reactor
would kick back in at 1.25 G’s of thrust, and the ship would begin it’s long deceleration
to it’s final destination.
the displays as the ship came around, counting the seconds till the main engine would
kick in. As his own count reached zero, Greg heard and felt the giant Walterium engine
engage again. His hand, still floating in midair, dropped back to the armrest. He
glanced at the displays again, double checking the new course. Right on target. He
felt a slight twinge of resentment, he’d never have been able to nail the new course
like that. Damn computers. Always so perfect. Sometimes he wondered why he or the
other navigators was needed on this ship at all.
He was about to call Captain Evharson and tell him that the Turnaround had been managed
successfully, when he caught something unusual in the corner of his vision. He glanced
back at it. With a shock that sent his heart skipping, he realized that it was the
Attitude indicator readout. The ship hadn’t stopped it’s Rotation.
at the display in disbelief. The numbers kept changing, indicating that the nose
of the vessel was still moving down. His eyes widened as the numbers started changing
faster. What the hell was happening? He waited for the computer to correct itself,
but nothing happened. The ship began to tilt faster. Computer error? What was going
on? Then suddenly, with the numbers on the display changing faster than the eye could
follow, the rotation increased speed dramatically. Richard quickly realized what
was about to happen. The ship was turning with the main engine engaged. The maneuver
would cause a tremendous amount of stress to the hull. While a combat vessel could
handle this with ease, the unreinforced length of Gravlaw would be snapped like a
pencil. Even as he thought this, Gregory felt the pull of newly created, horizontal
gravity on his body as the momentum of the turn increased.
the computer either wouldn’t or couldn’t correct the spin, Gregory reached out and
seized the control grips, determined to get the ship back under control. Hurriedly,
he ran his eyes over the thruster readout. The display showed no Maneuvering thrusters
operating, which meant that whatever the problem was, it had to do with main propulsion.
He dialed the reactor down to neutral, watching the attitude readout with steely
eyes. The rumble of the engines could still be heard. A sudden shuddering cavitation
rattled the ship, accompanied by the unearthly, terrifying popping groan of overstressed
metal. Gregory’s mind raced.
engine wasn’t responding, at least not to bridge control. If he tried to counterthrust
with the maneuvering engines, it would only increase the strain on the strain on
the hull. If he used the thrusters to increase the spin, it would ease he stress
a bit, but the horizontal gravity would increase, which was extremely dangerous for
any unsecured crewmembers. There wasn't anything he could do. At least not from Nav.
Vaguely, he heard the bridge door open behind him.
hell are you doing?”
Elle. Greg glanced over his shoulder to see her struggling toward him, fighting against
the warped gravity. He frantically called back.
We’re in a powerslide! The engine won’t shut off!”
the Nav chair, holding on to the back to keep from sliding to the back of the bridge.
There was another, more violent shudder, and the displays began to flash overstress
Have them Scram the engine!” She shouted into his ear.
was incredulous. Why hadn’t he thought of that? He keyed open the mike, but his fumbling
fingers could not find the engineering switch. He opened the shipwide comm.
engines down! Scram! Scram!”
Long seconds passed, as the ship continued it’s deadly corkscrew. Then, with a severe
jolt and a thunderous waterfall-like roar, the engine shut down. A sustained groan
issued from the ship's hull as the metal unburdened itself of stress. They had stopped
the acceleration of the spin, but not the spin itself, or the horizontal gravity.
Greg immediately activated the fore and aft thrusters, slowly counteracting the spin.
The horizontal gravity caused by the spin diminished, then finally disappeared altogether.
The interior of the ship was again at zero G.
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