Eddy becomes a captain, twice
Lucky are those who happen to be in the right place at the right time to see an intergalactic spaceship emerge from deep-space drive into three-dimensional sub-light speed - lucky indeed.
Compression of time and space ceases when the directional pressure of joy power is reversed. Multiple dimensions rushing to fill dimension voids cause the ship’s wake to appear as visual thunderclaps of sparkling rainbow splashing outward in luminescent circles centered on the spacecraft itself. The display from inside is equally stunning. Just as sailors are mesmerized by a sailboat hull slicing through the sea, space travelers are entranced by an iridescent rainbow of donut-shaped cosmic compression waves flashing outward in rings from a spacecraft hull piercing spacetime.
Eddy, youngest member of the fleet, watched the last fading deceleration waves be replaced by an endless sea of stars. He felt the ship slow and turn toward planet Pacifica as it joined in precise orbit with his destination ship, a huge Delfinian transport vessel. Human colony transport spaceships had seemed large to everyone until they experienced the scale of Delfinian transports able to carry fifty to one hundred thousand people. The planet glistened below in the peaceful light of its own star as if Doom Cloud did not exist.
The ride back to planet Pacifica aboard the survey ship had been uneventful, though shorter than Eddy wished. A shorter flight meant the monster was closer. He had the calculations down pat; a nine-hour trip from Midway meant Doom Cloud was eighteen hours out, using deep-space drive. Although it takes awhile to reach full speed, eighteen hours using joy power still made the average trip speed five and one half times as fast as Doom Cloud was traveling. Numbers are simple things; multiply 18 hours by 5 1/2 and the result is 99 hours every time. That works out to four days and three hours until the terrible moment when planet Pacifica and its moon would become a battleground.
Eddy had been so absorbed reading the ship manual during the trip back to home base that it hadn’t occurred to him to ask where the Admiral’s spaceship was located. He had been completely surprised to discover it was also on the survey ship. Eddy pushed the Doom Cloud travel time numbers from his mind, picked up his travel bag, and hurried excitedly to the docking bay, to find his new ship, Admiral One.
When the green light into the docking bay blinked ready, he turned and waved to the dock controller with the casual manner of someone who does this sort of thing every day. The controller laughed in a friendly way as he waved back, he was jingling the keys to Eddy’s new ship in his hand. Eddy laughed at himself as he walked back for the keys. Waving again, this time not trying to cover up how excited he was, he stepped up to the ship and unlocked the door. He was truly happy as he surveyed the interior of his sleek new craft – the kid who was kicked out of flight school for being too young had been assigned the ultimate ship, Admiral One: fastest of all fighters, big enough to carry both heavy weapons and light defensive firepower, and Eddy was the new captain.
He sat down in the pilot seat with the ship manual in his lap. Even though he had read it thoroughly during the flight to Pacifica, the Admiral’s ship was so perfect it gave him the jitters to think of doing anything wrong. Having the manual handy seemed the prudent way to start out. Watching the docking bay door open out of the corner of one eye, he brought the ship to life, switch by switch. He was pleased that he had memorized the manual so well he didn’t need to refer to it even once. As soon as the docking bay door was all the way open he smoothly and cautiously moved out the door and into wide open space.
Reaching in his pocket for the translator collar, he put it on and called over the radio, “This is Eddy McGregor, captain of Admiral one, calling Cecric. Repeat, Eddy calling Cecric.”
“Greetings, Eddy, I am Cecric. Our plan is for you to take the Admiral One for a training flight. You are scheduled to return here to the forward docking bay in two hours. I will be waiting for you there.”
“Okay, we rendezvous at your docking bay in two hours,” Eddy responded, using his most professional pilot’s voice, barely suppressing a shout of excitement.
He quickly moved a hundred kilometers away from the other ships. Pointing the ship upward from the planetary rotation plane around the sun, he slowly applied power. The Admiral’s special craft leapt forward. He activated first one and then the second deep-space joy generator. The smooth and extremely powerful acceleration was even stronger than he’d dreamed it would be.
Cartwheeling in happy abandon, Eddy cut back into reverse direction and stopped smoothly. He then ran the ship and himself through a full series of serious training maneuvers. When he felt confident with the ship, he returned to planetary orbit and approached the Delfinian docking bay. It was already open and ready for him. He slipped into a landing completely relaxed and familiar with his new ship.
Eddy stepped out of the Admiral One after a brief wait for pressure equalization. He was once again impressed with how rapid this process was on delfinian ships. He realized once again that there was much more to learn from the delfinians than medical technology. Cecric was waiting for him on the water side of the barrier as he walked from the landing bay into the main part of the ship.
“Hello, Cecric, I have heard much good about you,” he said using the delfinian greeting Admiral Castro had taught him.
Cecric smiled and bowed, “I have heard good about you also, Eddy. It is nice that you have learned our way of greeting.”
Eddy returned the bow to Cecric. “Is it the custom of Delfinians to bow in greeting?” he asked.
“No, not always. We are especially grateful to you for your bravery while in the grip of Doom Cloud. Though you are still young, your courage has impressed every Delfinian.”
“Everybody thinks I am brave because I’ve been trapped and barely survived,” Eddy said, with a nervous wave of his hand and a brief glance into distant images. “I have to be honest and tell you that I was totally scared. The only reason I went in there was because I have no doubt Doom Cloud will eventually get me right here on the planet unless I do something. I was close to frozen with fear the instant my fighter left the cruiser and started into Doom Cloud.”
Cecric's eyes briefly examined Eddy from head to toe. She then looked directly into his eyes. He watched her eyes open wide and then go completely still. At that moment he felt a bolt of conscious energy snap between them. “Of course you were frightened,” she said. “You did it anyway and that’s what counts.” Then she pointed to the water barrier. “Put your clothes in the waterproof bag, jump in the water and follow me.”
Eddy was still a little surprised and a touch disoriented by what Cecric had done; he did as he was told and then followed her to the flight control room. A smaller water barrier surrounded a dry area containing the copilot’s seat. She pointed to a ladder and he climbed up and over the barrier into a dry zone. He dried himself with a towel from the bag and put his clothes back on. Cecric moved into the pilot’s position and latched onto an underwater ring with her third hand.
“I’m going to teach you how to fly this ship, Eddy. We are carrying the last load of Delfinian passengers to the subterranean world. Once the ship’s top level is drained of water, we will carry humans beneath the continent for shelter during the battle as well. You will be able to help other human pilots learn to fly these ships, so watch me closely. Our primary maneuvering systems are similar to yours, the main difference being that instead of using joy forces as you humans do, we have learned to ride gravity waves. We describe it as a little slippery but not too difficult once you get the feel of it.”
Cecric eased the huge spacecraft out of the orbital parking area. It was procedurally very similar to what Eddy had done on Admiral One except that the ship was enormous. Eddy noticed the flight controls had been modified to more closely match those on human ships. One additional control caught his eye. A round ball was mounted in a socket on the flight chair arm, a row of buttons formed a half circle around the ball on the forward side. Eddy placed his fingers on the buttons and noticed that the ball then fit into the palm of his hand. “What does this control ball do?” he asked.
“That’s the gravity-wave controller. It’s not turned on so you can place your hand on it and get the feel of how it works. The buttons turn it on and off and set pull or push. The ball rolls under your hand for direction — push the ball down for greater speed. We will ride straight down once we’re in position. Visualize the ship floating on top of a water geyser with the water slowly being turned off and letting us down to the planet. Keep in mind that the planet drags spacetime with it as it turns. Use the ball to keep us centered on top of the geyser as it develops a twist with spacetime, that’s the slippery part I mentioned.”
“Wow, this is amazing!” Eddy exclaimed. “Does the ship take-off the same way?”
“Yes. Push the palm roller ball for takeoff or landing, the up or down buttons are what changes our directional response to the gravity-force geyser.” Cecric smiled at Eddy as she reached to the control panel and turned on an image of the planet. The image showed their current location with a cross mark centered on the destination point. “Do you think you can maneuver to that X mark and turn the ship so that we are orbiting over it with our backs aimed in the direction we are traveling?”
Cecric was still smiling encouragingly to Eddy. He realized that she was beautiful and wondered if he was beginning to see all delfinians as beautiful or whether Cecric would be considered particularly nice looking among delfinians. “Sure,” he said. “Will you help if I mess it up?”
“The ship is yours,” she answered. “I’m here as your helper and my controls will override any mistakes, so relax and give it a try.”
Eddy had no trouble bringing the giant vessel in line with the cross-hair mark. He then positioned the ship in a stationary orbit so that they were zooming along exactly backwards.
“Perfect,” Cecric said. “Now switch on the gravity power control. Select and set the down button first, then push downward on the ball with the palm of your hand. Do it lightly until you get the feel. Roll the ball under your palm to keep the ship on the cross mark.”
“How does it work?” Eddy asked pushing downward on the ball. “Is gravity really some kind of wave?”
“No." Cecric responded. "Though gravity remains mysterious. Our levitation force is similar to riding a wave but is actually more like the fountain I described earlier. That is related to planetary spin dragging spacetime with it and is where the mystery comes in, for me. The ship power is used to amplify, reverse, or cancel gravity. Those descriptions are handy for thinking about waves, that’s the reason we sometimes refer to gravity itself as a wave rather than that there are fountain-like waves of gravity or waves in gravity. As I mentioned, the spinning planet drags spacetime with it in a sort of gravity friction; we harvest a tiny little portion of that and our scientists have described it as a fountain.
"For the two of us, here and now, there is no mystery regarding the actual flight controls; when you push down on the ball, the ship is slowed by reverse thrust and we descend. The levitation device allows orbit in place because enough velocity is canceled by our minor turbulence in the much larger planetary gravitational field. In other words, we surf on our slight disturbance in the gravity wave bent in distorted spacetime as we match our orbital velocity with height. The very idea is slippery, in my opinion.
“When we reach sea level, our orbital velocity will match rotation speed of the planet and it will feel like we are floating without moving. But that’s only because we have something other than distant stars to look at. Don’t forget, you are still zooming along at both planetary rotation speed combined with orbital speed around the sun. If you fall behind the target mark, roll the ball back and we will go lower without losing any speed and catch back up with the mark. Visa versa if you gain on the mark.”
Eddy became engrossed with pushing down on the ball and then adjusting position with the landing target mark whether he was ahead or behind the mark. Cecric watched his progress with satisfaction. “You have learned the principle quickly, now hold the ball down and don’t let it back up. Fly straight down.”
He pushed the ball a little deeper into the socket and glanced to Cecric, she smiled and pointed down. Pushing the ball downward with more strength, he felt it hit bottom. The planet’s image on the screen was suddenly rushing toward them.
Cecric waved without speaking and pointed to a switch in front of her, and then to another like it in front of Eddy. He turned it on and a second screen lit up with an image showing their vertical distance from the surface.
“This is as easy as docking in space,” Eddy said, glancing again at Cecric. She answered by pointing to another switch. He turned it on and a thin green line lit up above the surface line.
“That line is about the level of the highest cloud tops,” Cecric said. “Start slowing down when you are almost to it.”
Eddy was impressed. One screen image was an actual view from where they were, looking straight down. The other screen was a side view showing how high they were. “This is more like a computer game than flying,” he said.
Cecric pointed to another switch among the instruments and Eddy turned the switch; a floor panel and an outer hull panel slid open revealing a small window near Eddy’s feet. Cecric opened one near her also. Although the screen images actually provided better views than the window, something about seeing with one’s own eyes makes things easier. Eddy relaxed completely and zoomed straight down to just above the water surface. Cecric pointed down, grinning. Eddy pushed on the ball with the palm of his hand and the spaceship eased into and then under the water.
“Now we are a submarine!” Eddy laughed out loud as he looked down through the floor window. Bright lights were visible far below.
“When you reach the lights, turn south,” Cecric said. “Roll the ball for direction, press it for more speed. The push and pull buttons will let us go up or down. That big switch is headlights. Please turn the lights on now.”
Eddy turned south as soon as the ship reached the lights. Cecric signaled him to push the forward speed to maximum, which he did. They cruised along in silence while Eddy studied the controls and memorized which was which.
Cecric watched the map on the screen, did a few calculations on the computer, and signaled Eddy to stop. “Turn around and head due north. We’ll go back to the lights after we let the passengers out,” she said.
“But we are in the middle of the ocean,” Eddy pointed out, swinging the big ship around to head north.
“Delfinians are at home anywhere in the sea,” Cecric answered. “Though we are mammals and share that bond with humans, our way of life is very different from yours. Every Delfinian on this ship is yearning to feel open ocean.
“I’ve seen pictures of your settlement houses and learned a little bit about humans.” Cecric continued. “When the Delfinians aboard this ship swim out the door, they will feel something like I imagine human must feel coming home after a long trip and walking in the door of their house.”
“We are the exact opposite,” Eddy said.
“Only regarding what we call home,” Cecric replied. “These last passengers are the closest to the cavern, we timed the drop-off points so everyone will arrive at the cavern before Doom Cloud reaches planet Pacifica. Delfinians and our ships will shelter directly under your pioneer settlement and its protective land based joy beams. I believe a rock ledge is there that is large enough for all the humans as well.”
“How many passengers do we have with us?” Eddy asked, while attempting to picture a technologically advanced way of life that didn’t include needing a home or possessions. He found the idea far too complicated to wrap into a single simple conclusion other than it might prove to be a path to more fun and contribute to healing planet Earth, somehow, someday.
“A little more than twenty thousand will leave the ship here. About one thousand will continue on with us.”
“That’s twenty-one thousand passengers!” Eddy exclaimed, instantly forgetting his speculations about Delfinian society and economics. “You let me learn how to land this ship with all those people – I mean delfinians – on board?”
“I had my hands ready to take over." Cecric laughed. "And you were right the first time; ‘People’ is the correct word. Both humans and delfinians are people. This is a new thought for us, too.” Cecric said this as she watched a line of red lights indicating the open doors that delfinians were swimming through to their new home. Hundreds, and then thousands swam gracefully past the windows. A few of the smaller children briefly pressed their smiling faces close, they peered in and waved before racing off to join their parents.
Cecric pointed forward when the row of door indicator lights had turned green and the Delfinians were safely out of the way. Eddy pushed down on the ball and the big ship slowly edged northward. They gradually resumed full speed after the ship was well beyond all the now swimming passengers.
“Neither of our languages has a word for what you are about to see, Eddy. Cavern is too small to describe what lies ahead.”
Eddy glanced up from the compass and looked at Cecric questioningly. He waited for her to continue.
“Two of planet Pacifica’s largest continental plates have pushed squarely against each other and raised upward, creating a vast inner world complete with an ocean and land features.
“There is a large prairie, far distant mountains, and at least one river flowing into the sea.”
“Is there any life there?” Eddy asked, looking through the floor window as they passed over the original destination marker lights.
Cecric turned to Eddy with a playful sparkle in her eyes. “You are the first human to see this. Even in the quiet before a battle for survival there are things good enough to enjoy. I will say this much about that, there is abundant life in this continent-sized cavern.
“Regarding our voyage, please slow to half-speed, the cavern entrance is directly in front of us now.”
continue to Chapter 16