matapam (pamuphoff) wrote,

_Crux_ part 3

They managed to maneuver the frame into the canted orbit they needed, and then accelerated it out of orbit, aimed more or less at Beta Sing.

Luke would meet them, latch on about an hour shy of the singularity. Jamie chewed his fingernails over the shortness of adjustment times, but there was nothing else to be done.

Other than watch the supernova blast front engulf the other pair of stars. The blast broke up as predicted, brightening as the 'surface' of the star was finally breached and the hotter following material rolled past the suns and reached hungrily for them. Luke matched their velocity with a final braking fire, and then used the maneuvering jets to squeeze in to position. He grabbed the rear of the magnet and Jeri grabbed the back of his ship. Side grapples out to Althea and Allan, and the singularity was dead ahead.

Jamie could feel it, like ants climbing all over his skin and a persistent dull headache. His instruments concurred, and he warmed up the magnet. The field was weak and irregular. He must be insane. He switched power to his little electromagnets, turning them carefully to interact with the larger field, smoothing it out, getting it closer to the spherical ideal.

He'd grown up on a jump ship, an accident that was never reported. A pirate attack that almost succeeded, a female pilot, who was in labor before anyone realized that one of the pirates had _raped_ the brain-dead wired-in mutant. He'd looked normal, so the isolated crew had raised him as if he were theirs. His four uncles had done a good job of raising him, had even found papers for him, had never, ever, let the Snatch government know that a pilot had given birth.

So he'd sailed with them for most of his life, and when his mother had died, he'd gotten his uncles home. They'd lied again, then, about how they'd managed that, lied about when she'd died, how far he'd taken them.

And now he did it again.

Pictured the mouth of the singularity, and watched as the bubble around him leaped into its embrace. It corkscrewed, and he tapped out commands to the electromagnets. The composite ship spun and twisted down the hole. He swerved away from the vivid orange mass that reached out from one wall, then pulled away from an ominous dark cloud. Curved up and around as the wormhole squirmed, stretched and spit them out.

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Opened them and started bring up all of his instruments. Started taking pictures fast. Losing the location of the singularity from this side would be bad. He could figure it out later by analyzing the pics.

"There's a sun, G or K by the color." Zack was ahead of him. "Christ. If we find a habitable system we're rich."

"And a red one, low M probably. Bearing, ah, who knows?"

"Yeah, no orientation satellite here."

Jamie spotted both stars. "Can anyone get a velocity on either star? We need to figure out where to go."

"We're nearly stationary in respect to the G, the red is moving off to, well, my right. Damn it, we need . . . ah. Look, the magellanic clouds. That way be southish."

"Do you have any X- ray detectors?" This was a strange voice, good to hear that Luke had some passengers.

"I do," Jamie admitted.

"Run it around the plane of the galaxy, the Milky Way. The hotspot is the center of the galaxy."

"Ah. Gottcha." Jamie fiddled for a moment. Read off the bearing. "Roslyn, you have the best nav gear, don't you? Why don't you work up the co-ordinates and we'll take 'em from you, so we're all plotting things the same."

"Excellent idea. Can you spot the galactic center? I don't suppose it'll be Sag A from here, will it?"

"We're close enough that some constellations will be recognizable. See the three bright stars in a row? Bottom one right in the Milky Way? Use the bottom one as the direction to galactic center, it'll be close enough for our kind of navigation."

"Excellent. A line from there through the G star will be the X co-ordinate, Y will be a perpendicular through the Milky Way on both sides, and Z will be galactic north and South, with the Clouds the south direction." After a long moment she resumed. "Well, Y will be below the Milky Way on both side, equally. We're far enough south that we're clearly, visually below the plane of the Galaxy."

The results poured into Jamie's nav computer, and he sighed with relief as the comp replotted everything and gave him some perspective on the system. The two stars were eighty AU apart, plenty of room for planets around the big one. Red was just too small to be interesting, although he supposed it could have planets as well.

Red and yellow stars. "I thought the scouts gave beta sing a pass because it probably went to that pair of M classes to the south?"

"Sometimes wormholes bypass near systems and reach for further stars." Another new voice, this one female. "But that's usually to reach an exceptionally large gravity well."

"Maybe the singularity started here, and reached around the two reds to go for the three blues." Yet another.

"So, Luke, how many passengers do you have?" Jamie asked.

"Six. We really ought to spread them out, my recycler is getting a bit backed up, you know?"

"Eww. Yes." Jamie looked down at the scopes. "We should run in closer to the system, check it out while we're here. How long will it be before the Crux region cools down?"

"Years." The stranger was male and sounded old. "We'd better hope there are other wormholes from this system."

A long silence greeted that statement. Jamie finally broke it. "We don't carry much in the way of gravity detectors, not something sensitive enough to detect a singularity."

"Damn." Jeri growled. "Do you realize that this means we _all_ owe Frank Hansen our life savings?"

They snickered at that.

"I wasn't foolish enough to bet." Roslyn informed them smugly. "And I've been taking some shots of the G star's inner system. I think I've spotted several things in orbit. May I suggest we head that way? Jamie, you've got the slave controls for all of us."

Jamie checked the course she'd sent his computer, but hesitated. "Shall we leave the jump frame out here?"

"Yeah, no point in shifting the mass. Let's redistribute passengers and head in independently." Zack was enthusiastic. Probably hoping for one of the female scientists.

After a bit of chat, Luke wanted solitude for his recycler to catch up with the the, err, backlog, and Melinda's ship was too small for two. The two female scientists joined Roslyn and Althea, and the guys took the guys. Zack grumbled good naturedly.

Jamie found he'd gained the station's director and head astronomer as a passenger, and showed him to the shower, first stop.

After a politely brief absence, the man reentered the main cabin. "Thank you so much. Dr. Clint Coutts." The man offered his hand. "I'd never quite realized the results of living in a space suit for over a month." He eased his seat in the chair, carefully. "The suit may be designed for it, but the human body is emphatically not."

"Jamie Kleven," Jamie met him with a firm grip. "I've done nearly that long twice. The second time was worse, because I knew what was coming."

The doctor hunched up a bit. "I think I'll burn the suit. Easier than cleaning it, and, well, I'm not sure I could make myself put it back on." He looked around and grabbed the bag he'd towed along with him. "Now then, I wonder if my computer survived?"

"Why don't you take over my assay station, here. It's got plugs to connect to the ship's computers. We've got a distributed communications board, so you can keep in touch with your people and meet all of us."

Jamie reached for the latches on the spectrometer, but the Doctor intervened. "No, no, we're going to need that if we find anything. I'll just clamp this down here, and plug it in . . . ah. Excellent. Isn't it odd to invest so much emotion in the survival of a hunk of plastic and wire?"

"I expect you'll be wanting your records of the supernova eventually," Jamie took the network plug from him and hunted through his adapters.

"In theory all the data was sent off to more distant stations and relayed along. This was to be the most studied supernova _ever_."

Jamie grinned, "Right down to a eyewitness account of being boiled alive?" He found the right combination and connected the comp.

"Well, that part was not planned, except as a horrible accident."

"I'm surprised you got out alive."

"So are we." The doctor deflated suddenly. "Dear God. We did get out, didn't we?" He blinked back tears, but the corners of his mouth turned up a bit.

"Yep, and a good chance of staying that way, from the looks of this system." He tapped the doctor's comp screen. "They've found four planets already." He shifted back to the pilot's chair, a matter of a few meters, and scanned his instruments automatically.

"Oh, excellent," the astronomer said. "And Odessa has us located on her star charts. So to speak. We're very nearly in line with A Crux, so there's very little observational . . . do you know, given the location of beta sing relative to the three stars and our current position, I surprised we came out of that wormhole in one piece, it ought to have had a corkscrewing bend from hell. And it was long, too . . . I wonder if there was an effect from the supernova . . . the electro-magnetics might have . . . "

Jamie cleared his throat politely. "Where are we?"

"Oh, 489 Crux, roughly seven hundred light years from Earth. In a generally southward direction. As that woman with the beautiful voice mentioned, we're well below the Galactic plane. That should make for some rather dramatic night skies. Visible full time out here, of course."

"So, no one's ever been here?"

"No, we've definitely set a distance record in this direction, although I think perhaps some Survey ships have reached a greater absolute distance from Earth . . . "

"I only ask," Jamie interrupted, "because this side of the wormhole seems to have a beacon."


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