As seen at The Writers Community.
“Easy,” said the Alpha, holding out a hand level with her hip. “There’s no hurry, now.”
The pilot nodded and eased back on the ship’s engines. The Alpha glanced at him, then back up at the stars, which shone down through the clear, dome-like ceiling of the main bridge. Before her lay the swirling, technicolor expanse of a nebula; the young sun at its heart filling it with a soft glow. Particles of dust at the cloud’s periphery sparkled silvery as they slowly orbited at the edge of the fledgeling star’s gravity well.
The prow of the ship pierced the nebula and the Alpha shot another glance at her pilot, then at her navigator. “Dwarf planets?” she asked.
“Tracking.” said the navigator, then, “No objects along our flight path. Looks like smooth seas ahead.”
“Twelve, where is it?” the Alpha asked her Beta.
“Right were it’s supposed to be,” replied Beta 12GA, looking up from her console.
7RH, Alpha of the L-RR Special Fleet and Alpha Overlord of Sol Fleet Operations, straightened her back and took a deep breath. She and her crew were cruising towards the destiny of the human race at just over one-twentieth the speed of light. In orbit of that star lay something that would forever change the way the people of Earth saw their place in the universe. A new race of gods waited for them on the other side of the nebula, and with them a new family spanning a hundred thousand planets scattered across the heavens. Onward to the edge, sped humanity, no longer simply the inhabitants of a lonely, fragile, little world; a species sailing toward its own origins, toward its future, toward something that was as ancient as it was profoundly new.
12 stood up beside the Alpha, folding her arms behind her back and raising her eyes to the dome of softly iridescent clouds of gas and dust glinting above the bridge. With a quick tap of her finger, she had moved the telemetry information on the object from her console to her HUD. The ghostly image of humanity’s progenitor appeared and rotated before her as if suspended in the air, visible only to her. Sol Fleet had only recently begun to move away from its reliance on in-helmet Heads-Up Displays, instead feeding translated digital signals directly into the viewer’s amygdala via the optic nerve. 12GA’s armor system now provided her with visual information on virtually anything she wanted to know, all in the privacy of her own head.
“One million kilometers from intrasolar space,” said the navigator.
“Solid copy, one million kilometers from the internal edge of the nebula,” answered the pilot.
Moments later, dawn broke upon the ship. Before them, in its dense shell of vapor lay the star, a giant in its infancy. Less than eighty million kilometers from the ship, it blazed mightily, causing the bridge crew to shield their eyes against its light.
“Twelve,” said the Alpha to her Beta as sun shields were deployed over the bridge, making the light of the star bearable, “you have the helm.”
“Yes, Alpha,” said 12, relieving the pilot. She guided the ship closer to the sun until its burning face commanded most of the view from the bridge.
“I am detecting an object in the star’s atmosphere,” said the navigator.
“What is its position relative to us?” asked 12.
“Ten degrees to starboard,” replied the navigator, then, “Nine degrees, eight degrees, seven…. Beta, it appears to be moving directly forward of us, against the star’s orbit.”
“Good,” nodded 12. “Red, this is it.”
7RH squared her shoulders, staring off into the sun, which seemed to spread its glaring maw before the little ship now as the jaws of a wolf open for a mouse. “FC,” she ordered into the microphone on the collar of her armor, “engage the Core. RA, begin broadcasting Query Code: Fusion K-Gateway Primary. Engineering, kill the reactors. Networking, cut all COTs, now. Beta,” she added, looking up at 12, “full speed ahead, we’ve got a date with that star.”
“Wilco, Red.” 12 said, biting her lip.
“And Twelve,” said the Alpha, “check your corners this time.”
12 smirked and turned back to the helm. “Yeah, yeah.”
The Navigator looked from one of them to the other and took a deep breath. “Cers, I have to inform you that this is a fatal maneuver. If we do not change course, we will be destroyed.”
“Noted,” the Alpha and Beta barked in unison. The ship went dark with the exception of running lights, all systems that might upset the object in the star having been shut off. Together, the crew hurtled toward the great ocean of plasma and burning gas, the object now directly in front of their prow.
“Forty-five million kilometers,” the Navigator called out, “forty-million kilometers, thirty five million kilometers, thirty million, twenty-five million, twenty, eighteen, sixteen, fourteen, twelve.”
12 gritted her teeth, pushing the ship to give her all that it had. Before her, ridges of color appeared against the star’s surface, looking like waves in a vast sea. The sight was dazzling and terrible, the deadly beauty of the young sun dominating the view from the bridge.
“Ten million kilometers.” The navigator continued counting down the distance between the ship and the inferno, “nine, eight, seven, six, five, four.”
The Alpha leaned forward, her jaw tight and her fists clenched. She had seen the Earth from four million kilometers away, and she knew how big it looked from that distance. Outside the viewing window, she could see sunspots, great dark patches where the star’s photopshere was cooling, that dwarfed her home planet.
“Three million kilometers, two million, one.” the Navigator persisted, “Entering star’s corona!”
“Cut the engines, maneuvering thrusters only!” roared the Alpha.
“Prepare for heat shield failure,” cried the Navigator, “in five four, three, two -”
A sudden, intense flash of light enveloped the ship; a thunderous clap of sound stunning the blinded crew. They all stumbled for a moment, trying to keep their balance with their heads reeling. The Alpha caught the pilot with one hand, her other hand landing on 12’s shoulder. As her senses cleared, her ears filled with 12’s laughter.
“Would you look at that!” cried the Beta, “Would you look at that!”
“Mother of god!” the Pilot murmured, staring out into space.
The Alpha turned her eyes up, the hint of a smile tugging at her lips as she gave the order to slow the ship to cruising speed. She watched the shining, grey and white hull of another ship, so close to the bridge that the Alpha felt she could almost reach out and touch it as her own ship sped along beside it.
“It looks intact.” said 12.
“Is that what I think it is?” asked the dumbfounded Pilot.
“It’s nearly three thousand kilometers long!” exclaimed the Navigator.
7RH sat back in the Alpha’s chair and inhaled deeply. This was her prize, her destiny, her victory. This was the answer for which her species had searched for such a very long time. Humanity’s makers had built that ship, the source of the human race lay somewhere in its memory. Its massive, bullet-shaped frame, lit and sparkling in the glare of another young sun, was a signpost marking the way back to a home so ancient and so remote that it had been all but lost to the inhabitants of Earth. The pathway back to humanity’s origin began with this magnificent bread crumb.
Roggen Wulf, 2014