While You Slept

Elvira Martuuk had been sitting at the helm for several hours now, lost in thoughts while staring at the bright yellow and white star in the distance. In fact, the distance to the star was huge, nearly 1,800 light seconds. And still it was a huge ball of nuclear fire seemingly at an arm’s reach. Well, figuratively speaking.

Andrew was still lying in the bunk, taking some rest after a hard days work zigzagging through the nearly infinite band of low mass stars and brown dwarfs. The Synuefe Badlands they were called and every once in a while quantum distress calls could be picked up in the Bubble: Stranded explorers and adventurers and their fuel scoops that just couldn’t handle deuterium, methane or alkali metals.

She had never really told Andrew but she used to be an explorer herself back in the day. Not that it really mattered now that she was a booked out engineer but she had been out here more than once and she did her share of travelling the Synuefe and Synuefai regions up to the great California Nebula. She even tried to cross Barnard’s Threshold and go into the permission zone but her firmware hacking just wasn’t good enough to break the permit lock then and she had to leave empty handed.

She heard Andrew rousing from his sleep and getting up from the bunk. It was just two meters behind her below the scoop controls and the emergency fuel release. She wondered why he never bumped his head when getting up but of course he knew his baby inside out, even when at sleep.

„Oh, you’ve been taking her around?“

„Yes,“ she smiled. „I couldn’t resist. I took a turn or two some years ago, you know. You can’t modify an FSD without having engaged it a few times and see it working.“

„Of course. No offense.“

„None taken.“

Andrew took his seat in the fold-out chair that was standing beside the helm since they had wandered off. He took a good look at the holographic map and then smiled knowingly.

„Alpha Persei?“

„Yes,“ Elvira said. „One of the closest bright supergiants and the central star of Melotte 20, or Collinder 39 respectively, the Alpha Persei Cluster. It’s also called Mirphak. Sounds like one of those old languages and I’m sure it means something.“ She winked at him: „Care to elaborate, Professor?“

Andrew grinned while he took a good cup of coffee from the micro oven: „Why of course, Miss Martuuk. It’s Old Arabic in fact, meaning something like ‘elbow’. It’s full name is ‘mirphak al-thurayya’, the elbow of the noble lady. It’s an asterism. The Arabs put their constellation a wee bit differently so here you see the elbow of a noble lady who proudly displays her jewelled necklace. The necklace are the Pleiades.“

He pointed out of the canopy towards a blueish nebula on starboard. „There: In every culture looking for answers in the stars you will find the Pleiades.“

He briefly thought about what the man had said down at the bar not so long ago: About human imagination and belief. Finally, he turned to Elvira: „You wanna fly her for a bit? You seem to have a thing or two about flying a ship so why not?“

„A thing or two? Yeah, you pirate! I damn well know where the airlock is so next time you wake up from some nap please don’t be alarmed to find yourself in one with just your panties and a hoverboard to go gravity surfing.“

Andrew had to laugh. „Yeah, right. Just me in my pants, huh? You’ve been living under a rock far too long. Now get this bucket to HIP 14769 please without bumping the star, will you? I want to show you something and it’s gonna be something for an engineer’s heart.“

He shook his head in pretended disbelief. „Pants! Tssk.“

Trip Advisory:

  • Wredguia XD-K d8-24 (S Carbon Star, Jumponium-rich)
  • HIP 16011 (Neutron Star)
  • HIP 15556 (A III Giant)
  • 39 Delta Persei (Black Hole)
  • HIP 14472 (B III Giant)

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