With a flash of coruscating blue, the Vanguard dropped from the ethers and into Einsteinian space near Tripolitanika, the odd trinary star. Looming in the near distance, she could make out the binary set of the system. System readout showed that the third lay essentially behind the Vanguard. With a precision laser communication, Vanguard contacted the stations ahead of them – they were of typical design to most of the early colonization-era stations. Unlike most of the other stations around human space, there were three other stations. For whatever reason, Tripolitanika had turned into a central hub for the Greek and Arab emigrants, Sunni and Shi’a alike. The clutch of three stations in the null points near the binary were complimented by the odd station that orbited GJ 1245 B, the loose third of the trinary. Around that tiny red dwarf orbited the station of Bhilde’s Home, an enclave of poets and other artists seeking to emulate the spirit of Oscar Wilde.
The pilgrims and voyagers from the Arab and Greek stations of human space largely used Tripolitanika as a resting point before their longer voyage out into the unknown of space or on their hajj to Earth. Captain Spitzer watched the scrawl of the data from the stations, showing that there was no sign of the Plasmoids. At least, not yet. She turned to Aquico, but before she could even ask, Aquico put the data onto the screen.
“They’re stitching more weakly into the sub-ethers than we are Captain. The Starmada has never used the Crenixian drive with ships of this size – the uncertainty of the Transit vanes was deemed too much of a risk for the Argo Class ships.” Aquico changed the graphic on the screen, showing the predicted route and speed of the Plasmoid ships. “Based on reports from stations around the Condominium, it would be likely that the Plasmoids are somewhere between here and Earth. it would seem that they avoided this star and went straight for Earth.” The screen changed again, and Aquico showed a graph of lines. “Depending on what we’re able to do with this transit, we might be able to beat the Plasmoids to the Solar System.” Aquico turned in her chair. “I would defer to Jimmy’s judgment on the subject.”
Captain Spitzer reached for the speaking tube, but Van appeared in a window on the viewscreen. “I hope you don’t mind, Captain, but I’ve got Jimmy here already, and you can ask him. I overheard the direction of your conversation, and figured I’d save you some time, under the gun, as we are.”
Captain Spitzer stood nonplussed for a moment, then coughed before she said, “Well, Jimmy, what do you have to say?” When he didn’t answer right away, she pressed him, “Can the engines take it, Jimmy, or are you giving us all they’ve got?”
Van’s image disappeared and was replaced by video feed of Jimmy. “Sorry, Captain, I was running the calculations. There are quite the number of variables to take into account, but the long and short of it is that we can, and we can change the mix of the phlogiston to get us there in three to five less days than we would otherwise. We can thank Quil for at least eighteen of those hours. His vines that he’s given us have reduced the energy needs of the ship, both for oxygen creation and waste remediation.”
“That’s good news. How about the other defensive measures that we’ve installed?”
Jimmy nearly swelled with pride. “Jonesey’s prototype has had a few glitches, but it would seem that aside the minor troubles, it looks ready to install around the ship.” He looked to the Captain. “I’ve already got my teams hard at work, and we should be able to transit within about a half hour, unless we run into some other complications.” a clanging of metal behind him caught his attention and he muttered, “unless these mangey scunners manage to destroy one of the phlogiston vats.” he glowered at the camera pickup. “If you’ll excuse me, Captain.”
He didn’t wait for her answer, and she wasn’t surprised. She looked at the bridge. “Let’s give Jimmy all the time we can. I want a comprehensive system scan run on all major ship’s systems. Place replacement parts as near as we can to systems that appear at risk in the coming battle. That should buy Jimmy some time and give us a better advantage on the other side at Sol.” She looked to Birgit. “You have the bridge, Commander Vasasdotter. I have some business to take care of.”
She strode from the bridge and called the lift, heading for the guest quarters where they had lodged Quil for the duration of his stay. The doors opened on his hallway and the Captain stepped out, walking to visit with him. As she rounded the corner she was very nearly bowled over by a hulking man who caught her shoulders. She looked at the hands that held her, and they glittered with chitin, and she realized that the hulking brute that had bumped her was actually Quil. She looked up at him, his height increased by some 18 inches.
He looked down at her, his eyes averted in embarrassment. “Yes, Captain, it’s me.”
She snorted. “My how you’ve grown.”
His shoulders stooped a bit further. “It’s because of the changes that the Locus has made with me. I think I may be done growing, but I’m not sure. I’ve had to ask the quartermaster for new clothes three times since it started happening.”
Captain Spitzer smiled at him and patted his shoulder. “It’s not the least of our worries. Where were you going?”
He straightened a bit. “I was coming to relay a message from the Locus, Captain. Were you coming to look for me?”
Captain Spitzer nodded. “It would seem that we were predisposed to meet like this.” She gestured back toward his cabin and they walked down the hall. “I’ll tell you first that the vines you’ve supplied have all grown well, and are doing so well in fact, there is a reduction in the energy needs of the ship for basic bio-support.”
Quil nodded, keying his code sequence into the lock of his Cabin. While he waited for it to process and the door slid home, he spoke. “That’s part of the reason we use them aboard the world-ships and our other vessels. It reduces the energy requirements, as well as the weights that the ships have to carry. It lets us get more use of the engine capacity.”
The door slid home behind them, and Quil walked to the window-screen where he looked at the starfield projection, which the Captain noted was not the view of the stars from Tripolitanika, but rather, from Earth. She wasn’t very surprised to see this choice, and she looked at her guest. “You said that you had a message from the Locus?”