A story that I posted to alt.prose and rec.arts.sf.misc, and unaccountably
forgot to send here.
The excitement of the moment was contagious. All seven of the people
currently cooped up inside the small cabin were unable to exercise the
calmness that was expected from such prestigious people.
All of the experiments said that what they were about to attempt could
take humanity to the stars. Or that they would die in a spectular fireball
of atomic dissolution.
The commanders took a deep breath and said, "Power systems check."
"All systems check out A-OK," replied the engineer.
"Navigational comp online and ready, stabilisation programs running," the
computer manager stated with calm assurance.
The crew ran through the rest of the check-list, even though they had done
so a hundred times in the past week, just to give themselves something to do.
A voice came over the intercom, "-Magellan-, this is -Challenger II-,
ready to begin test."
"Roger," the commander replied, "All systems are nominal, we're ready."
"Good luck boys," came the answer.
The commander looked around the cabin, knowing that he might be seeing these
men for the last time, "Well, this is it." He turned to the pilot, "Take us
out of orbit."
The pulsing thrum of the reactor rose in pitch as the thrusters started,
and the -Magellan- began its voyage into the unknown. They were all pressed
back into their seats as the engines throttled up to their full acceleration
A seemingly endless time later the engines stopped, they were free from the
Earth's gravitational pull. The pilot activated several small thrusters
dotted about the hull and the ship span around, so that they could see the
Earth, knowing that it might be the last time.
"Activate the overthruster."
The physicist who had invented the overthruster, and had proven that it
would allow an object to exceed the speed of light reached over to his
console, and typed a command into the computer. Various multi-coloured bands
flickered across the screen and then settled down at about two-thirds of
their maximum length, "Overthruster is ready. All systems are in the green,"
"See you on the other side, guys," the commander said, attempting to add
some levity to the situation. He turned and looked at the pilot, "Hit it."
The pilot flipped up the cover of a red button, swallowed hard, and the
pressed it firmly. The ship around them seemed to jump, shudder, and then
the lights faded. Through the screen the crew could see the stars change
colour, going blue, then violet and then vanishing as the light was blue-
shifted out of visual range.
The physicist called out, "Point eight, point eight-five, point nine, point
nine-five, point nine-seven," his voice began to quaver, "point nine-nine."
He paused, "One point zero-five! We did it!"
A huge sigh of relief was breathed by all seven people in the cabin. They
had exceeded the speed of light, the so-called Einstein barrier.
"One point two!" the physicist said, "We're still accelerating! One point
five, one point nine, two point four, two point nine, three point six!"
"Is something wrong?" the commander called out.
"No, I just didn't think that we could go _this_ fast. Five point two!"
The -Magellan- sped through the empty wastes of space, accelerating madly,
with no sign of needing to slow down.
"Can we stop?"
"Easily, we just reverse the overthruster and we'll slow down just as
quickly. Seven point eight!"
The commander reached into his flight-suit and pulled out a full bottle
of whisky that he had been saving for a special occasion. "I think that this
deserves some celebration," he grinned.
An hour passed, the crew were exceedingly mellow, when a strange voice
came over the comlink. "Hhrughhsh *crackle* yrhighsie ktraylu."
The commander blinked, "Did you hear that?" he asked the pilot.
"I think so, but what was it? I mean, how fast are we travelling?"
"Six hundred forty-eight point three c", the physicist replied. He was
probably the drunkest of them all, since he rarely drank anyway.
The commander leaned over and keyed the comlink, after two failed attempts,
"This is the -Magellan-. Who's that? Over."
The voice came over the speaker again, this time in English, "-Magellan-,
disengage your drive and prepare to be docked."
The pilot blinked in surprise, "This is a joke, right? The builders left
a tape in there somewhere?"
The computer manager pointed a quivering finger out at the side viewport,
"I don't think so."
They all looked out of the window and saw a huge ship alongside them,
matching their velocity without any apparent effort. The entire crew sobered
up very rapidly. The physicist typed in a command, and the sound of the
overthruster cut off, as it stopped pushing the -Magellan- along.
Two beams of light reached out of the huge vessel beside them and touched
the hull of the -Magellan-. Then, with a shudder, and a shriek of protesting
metal the whole world seemed to slow down, as they dropped to sub-light speeds.
The physicist watched in open-mouthed awe, "They slowed us down instantly.
Two columns of blue light appeared in the back of the cabin, and resolved
themselves into two figures. They could be called humanoid only out of
charity. Approximately six feet in height, they appeared to be, by human
standards, grotesquely fat. They had the same apparent layout as Homo
Sapiens Sapiens, but they skin was a dark shiny green. They both wore
identical clothes, dark blue trousers and shirt, with a cap of some sort, and
opaque glasses covered where their eyes seemed to be. They were also wearing
a shiny metal badge on their shoulders.
One of them said, "Who's in charge here?"
The crew all pointed at the commander.
"Do you know how fast you were going, sir?"
"I forget," the commander replied.
"Over 190000000 kms, in a clearly marked 300000 kms zone. What do you have
to explain this?"
The commander looked stunned, "What?" he just managed to say.
"You were speeding, sir. By quite a lot, if I may say."
"Speeding?" the commander croaked, "Who are you?"
"Lieutenant Gr!Taklch of the Physics Police, Sixth Division. And, sir, I
have to say that it doesn't look good for you at all."
The lieutenant swept a baleful gaze over the entire crew and landed on the
bottle of whisky, "Drinking _and_ speeding? This is not good for you at all,
you know. But first I need to ask you some questions.
"Where are you from?"
"Los Angeles, California," came the commander's reply.
"More general. What planet?"
The alien wrote something down a clipboard that he had been carrying, and
then turned to his colleague, who so far, hadn't moved or spoken. "Johea,
wasn't there a message out about watching for ships from that place."
The other cop replied, "Yeah. Those little guys from Zeta Reticulum have
been bitchin' about having a lot of their ships stolen. We've to look out for
any of the parts from them. The serial numbers are back on the ship."
The lieutenat turned to the commander, "It looks like we're going to have
to impound this vehicle, until we get this whole mess straightened out.
You'll have to come onto our ship."
With that the cabin seemed to glow blue as columns of light surrounded all
of the crew. When they winked out, the crew had gone.
They re-appeared in large, dark, and noisy room, filled with all sorts of
things, some of them apparently refugees from nightmares. The commander
turned to the pilot, "They'll _never_ believe this back home!"