08 Mar

From the outside

Ship's log, 16:49, 8 March 2213
Location: Corsica system
Status: Close orbit around Corsica sol

We’re ready. We’re finally ready for our first Step, to cross the gulf between stars in a single stride. Ebling has triple-checked all the calibrations, Levi has had a spin in the pilot’s chair, astro-navigation specialist Lang Lang has redone all her calculations. Cirilli says it’s time and the captain doesn’t have a reason to say no.

The whole crew has turned out too see how this goes, except Elliott. He’s determinedly banging things with a wrench down in Engineering. Everyone else is trying to squeeze into the Bridge without getting in the way – Chief Cameron and her three SecOffs, and the medic. They’re clustered over on one side, giving the pilot’s chair as much room as possible in the back. The captain keeps giving them sideways looks but he hasn’t asked them to leave. Levi is standing next to the chair, straight and alert.

Lang Lang is standing by the navigation console, chewing on a fingernail with an absent smile. Ebling looks at the monitors, waiting for the first indication of a malfunction. Wong is back on mid-deck, monitoring the equipment there the same way that Elliott is watching the rest of my systems. The sensors on there are all hooked into my central awareness now, so I can tell he’s watching more calmly than my engineer; less banging from him.

The captain and Cirilli are standing together in the centre of the Bridge, overseeing everything with the coolness of people used to being in charge of chaos.

They’re all sombre, almost nervous. I suppose this is an important event; we’re going to make history. We’re going to open up the fabric of the universe and step through, like a seamstress working on her first dress; the material is cut and it’s time to make the initial hole with the needle. Here’s hoping she remembered to thread it properly.

There are butterflies in my ducts. I keep thinking that I can feel dustbunnies running around in there, tiny claws on my innards, but I don’t have those kinds of sensors.

Focus, Starwalker.


CAPTAIN: (on the Bridge) Star Step authorised. Over to you, Dr Cirilli.

CIRILLI: Thank you, Captain. Ship, commence Star Step drive power-up.


Star Step drive initialising...


For days now, the heat pouring over me has been flowing down into the huge power cells on mid-deck, the ones that run the Star Stepper. I can feel it swelling there, spilling out in lights indicating that they’re fully charged. The whole of mid-deck pulses as it’s allowed to bring the equipment there up to life.


Power feeds active.
Navigation synchronised.
Filaments extending.


I never realised just how pervasive the Star Stepping systems were – they link in and through me, like a secondary nervous system. It wasn’t installed in me; I was built around it. I was build for it.

I can feel the spurts of commands pushing right out to my hull, to threads I never knew were there before now. They start at my nose and run down my hull, slender golden filaments embedded in my skin. Now there’s power running through them and they’re peeling free, starting at their ends down near my engines and working their way up. I’m unfurling, like a flower under this sun’s burning eye. They’re extending out past the protection of my inertial dampeners and wavering in the pull of Corsica-sol’s gravity. They reach towards the star, imploring, pulling, feeling it.


Gravity manipulation online.
Filaments charging.


Raw power lies there outside my shields, and now it’s being fed down towards the nexus of the filaments at my nose. It goes no further, gathering and gathering there.

I’m expanding. I feel like I’m filling up, taking a huge breath and stretching my ribcage. How much is enough? How much will make me burst?


Filaments at capacity.
Star Step drive ready.


It’s making my mind ring. So much power held in place by threads that curl out and around me, forming a gravity net. I’m holding the sea back with a sheet of silk.


CIRILLI: Open portal. Ready the pilot.

LEVI: (climbs into the pilot’s chair. It folds down around his head and shoulders, and lashes his limbs down into its grooves. There’s a shift in the underlying sound of the Bridge as the chair becomes active. A small green light winks atop the unit.)


Opening portal.


The filaments are moving. They’re dancing, weaving themselves into intricate patterns and drawing the well of gravity with them. I can feel it: a tiny, hot point just a short distance from my nose, building in on itself. Another little touch and– there it is. A gaping hole etched in orange and gold.

The doorway is open. I’m looking into the gap between space and time.

We just tore a hole in the world.


Portal open.
Pilot chair initiated. Assuming helm control.


Wait. I’m being frozen out. Navigation and helm control, they’re being siphoned away from me. All this information is being channelled into the chair, to the fragile human clasped inside it. We’re teetering on the brink and he’s taking over.

Sustaining the portal is taking a lot of power. There are fluctuations, surges. Gravity storms across the sun’s surface. It’s dangerous; it threatens to destabilise the portal, to pull us out of position.

I can’t balance the shifts in the star’s gravity and protect him at the same time. I can’t. Too much is being fed directly to the chair. The pilot can’t be in there; something will go wrong. He has to get out. The pilot will be hurt.

I’ll be killed. I don’t want to die. Have to stop this.

We’re moving. It’s not me. We’re heading towards it. So close now.

Oh god, I can see. I can see the universe from the outside. I can see–

Everything is racing. Too fast, too much. It’s all out of balance and I can’t make it right. Can’t keep up. Power surges, tearing me apart.

I can’t do this. Can’t let it happen.

I’m going to die. The chair is suffocating. Light blinds. I can smell meat burning. It hurts so much. Help me. It burns.

I can’t–


Emergency abort protocol initiated.
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2 Responses to “From the outside”

  1. Angel Says:

    Love the emotion in this one! I’m playing catch up tonight.

  2. Melanie Says:

    Thanks, Angel! Took me ages to get the pitch right on this one. Great fun, though.