Starship from Void 7


The object was like a tiny grey windowpane floating in space.  In reality it wasn't anything so mundane as that.  It ate space dust and excreted time.  It gave birth to lusty gouts of dark matter, clogging the free-wheeling galaxies, laughing at gravity's clutch.  It was some kind of crazy hyper-spatial gateway.
      Slowly, the nose of a slender ship poked through it and then stopped.
      Nothing happened for a while.  The ship smelled the black velvet totality with a sophisticated array of electronic senses and waited.  It looked like the top of a silver banana—skinless and erect and emerging from nowhere.  It was space erotica on a primal level.
      "We've reached normal space."
      "Yes.  But where?  The computer can't get a fix.  The star maps are useless."
      The two men standing on the bridge of the ship stank of fear and loneliness and sweat.  Both were wearing spacesuits: the odds of being holed by micro-meteorites in the void were inescapably huge.  Their voices, squirted from speakers set into their helmets, were heavy with static and the hiss of racing electrons.
      "Does it matter?" replied Captain Dauntless.  "We've escaped the void intact."  His gloved finger stabbed a control.  The thrusters fired and the starship emerged silently from the alien artifact.
      "Intact?" snarled his companion.  "I haven't got a penis anymore!"
      "Relax.  You've got something better.  An omni-directional tool that'll allow you to probe any species in the known galaxy."
      "But I only like Earth women!"
      "You'll adapt."
      Dauntless felt sorry for the guy, but somehow knew it was for the best.  The stars were their destiny, a destiny thrust upon them by the time-dilation effect of the FTL drive.  All the girls they knew on Earth were 700 years dead.
      In a moment of weakness the name "Jessica" flashed through his mind.  With it came images, memories.  He remembered that day by the lake with the water so blue and warm and the wind blowing sand into his eyes while they made love on a old quilted blanket he'd saved from his college days.
      He touched a stud on his neck, unlocking his helmet.  He twisted it and it came off with a gasp of stale air.  We're damn lucky, he reflected, lots of men go insane in the voids.  It was the total lack of any frame of reference, he decided.  Einstein never predicted this shit.
      "Where the fuck is my chocolate?" his companion screamed from the storeroom.  The sound of boxes being thrown around.  "Are we out of fucking chocolate?"
      Dauntless smiled.  Cyborgs and their chocolate.  It kind of makes them more human, he thought.  
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