The dark planet was once again in front of him, just floating there, mocking him. Zean looked around, but there was nothing there except a small dwarf star providing what little light was there. A loud rumble jolted him and he looked back to the planet. The hole was back and soon enough it compressed itself into the hated line. The planet opened again and swallowed him, but he didn't scream, he had stopped when the planet ate him for the fifth time…
But it didn't stop him from waking up drenched in sweat and panting heavily though. Something was different this time. Usually, there weren't any sounds in the dream but this time there was a booming rumble.
What does it mean?
He went about his morning ritual of shaving and showering before he got dressed and went up to the cockpit, stopping to inspect a small stream of water that crossed the hallway and disappeared into the engine room. He briefly considered following it and seeing where it ended up, but decided to leave it be and continued on his way to the cockpit. Lex was in the cockpit, trying to figure out how to playback what was on the black box.
"Any luck?" He asked and sat down in his expensive, suave captain's chair. He was met with a grunt from Lex.
"Not really," she said. "This technology is over six-hundred years old. Ancient, in other words. We need to take this back to Neptune. One of the museums there will probably be able to play it back." Zean glared at her, she glared back. "I know you don't like to go home, but how else are we going to check this out?" Zean glared at her for a few seconds more, and then he shook his head and sighed.
"Fine." he said disappointed and headed out the door, but as he set a foot into the corridor, he got an idea. "Lex, why don't we just send them the data in an encrypted message?"
Lex looked at him sceptically.
"Are you sure that's smart? Last time we did that, the message never arrived. Besides, how can we know that they will send the results back to us or won't take the credit for our work? I mean, museums are nice and all that, but I've yet to see anyone other than the museums take credit for new discoveries about settlers."
Zean flinched. What Lex said was true; there never was anyone but the museums and collectors who announced discoveries. He thought about it for a moment, and then he remembered something.
"I guess you're right, but I know a guy on Jupiter who owes me a favour. He can convert it to a viewable format for us, and we can encrypt it so he can't view it just to be sure. Roger's good with those. Also, that means we don't have to leave this area so we can't lose track of where these ships are, what do you say?" He looked at Lex expectantly. She agreed.
They encrypted the contents of the black box and sent it to Zean's friend on Jupiter. A few days later, it came back, converted and with clear signs of someone trying to break the encryption.
"I'm going to have a word with him about that," Zean said.
He gathered the crew in the briefing room and played the message back.
A thin, pale man with a large white moustache appeared in the hologram, looking very tired.
"This is captain Cord Inez of The Pride, reporting for what just may be the last time. The exodus has not turned out as we planned, which must be pretty obvious since you found this message. Before we left Sol, we asked each and every passenger if they accepted the destination we were aiming for, and they agreed. Eleven ships, including this one, were headed for the Canis Major system, in hopes of finding other worlds to colonize."
Inez adopted a tired look on his face.
"We travelled for twenty years before the first problem was encountered. We discovered that the Canis system was farther away than we thought due to miscalculations. How it could be possible to miscalculate the distance I have no idea, but that problem is a thing of the past, I suppose."
Inez straightened up from the slight slouch he had been standing in.
"We faced a choice: either turn back, or try finding alternate means of transportation that would take us closer to our goal. We looked for days and days on end, until we found what could possibly be our salvation…and mine. Many years ago, scientists on Earth located and observed for some time a large cluster of black holes, somehow being held up in perfect equilibrium. It was believed the gravitational force of each hole somehow cancelled each other out. These observations were later abandoned, under the pretence that the study of this field would never yield anything that could justify the funds that were pumped into the project. Well, we may just have found a use for it."
Inez half-smiled, half-frowned.
"We're going through it. By god, we are going to travel through a black hole. The scientists on board have located a black hole with a sufficiently weak pull and mass that may just allow us to slip through relatively undamaged. In honour of Professor Andrew Kane, who originally discovered this solution, we have renamed the cluster to Kane's Field."
"The black hole designated K-12 seems to be incredibly stable, as far as these things go, and while it is impossible to calculate where it will take us, I can hardly imagine it being any worse than trying to travel back to Earth. If we're lucky, we will find worlds we can terraform. If not…well, let's just say that we will all float in a ridiculously expensive coffin."
"Most of the passengers will, of course, be cryogenically frozen, but even they will die if the power cells give out. It is now only a matter of transferring passengers and supplies into the largest ship we have with us, The Ladybug, and recalibrating her shields to withstand the forces of the holes. After that…well, we will attempt something that has never been done before. May God have mercy on our souls. Cord Inez signing off."
The hologram fizzed out, leaving silence in its wake. The briefing room was silent. "That explains… a lot…" said John. Everyone murmured their agreements.
To be continued…
End of chapter two! Please read and review!