The Waiting Stars - A Traveller Roleplaying Dream

I was part of a joint mission: to send a 10,000 - ton exploratory ship accelerating towards a unique object flying through the fringes of Charted Space.

It was a joint mission between the Imperials and the Zhodani Consulate. The ship was sublight only, no Jump. 10,000 displacement tons, no room for armaments or facilities other than a massive 6G manoeuvre drive. The prow of the ship was reinforced against radiation, and the ship had rows of cold sleep berths for most of the crew. I was part of the crew whose mission was to get the ship there.

"There," in this case, meant a ship on its way through the galaxy on a slant, at 0.4 C.

The ship, it turns out, is big. Fifty billion displacement tons. A volume of some 675 cubic kilometres. Measuring roughly 3 by 5 by 40. That's kilometres.

More surprises in store. The ship's hull was a semi-organic design. Life readings indicated that it was, in some way, alive. I got the impression that it could pull an impossible acceleration - 600 G - and that, in a solar system, it could bask, extending vast solar panels and solar sails like wings hundreds of kilometres across to absorb starlight while its internal systems processed unrefined fuel into the organic matter it needed to survive and sustain its crew.

On board, I had some surprises for everybody when a medical scan revealed something strange about me - the scans were being blocked. By me.

Turned out that there were three things that they did not know.

One. Cybernetic implants enhancing my nervous system.

Two. I was Zhodani Tvarchedle' working undercover.

Three. Psion.

Of course, there were ructions - an undercover agent in the Imperial team, who turned out to be Thought Police and a psion, making me hated among both factions. But there was one more surprise they had not realised.

I had orders for both the Imperial mission Captain, and the beautiful Zhodani Ambassador who was leading the team of Zhodani specialists. Both from their respective leaders. Their orders: leave me be, so I could use my implants to connect with the thoughts of the ship.

There was also a warbot, released by a panicking member of the Zhodani crew whose father, a prominent Zhodani, had sent her the bot to protect her. The warbot looked like a pony-sized floating chassis the shape of an almond. It was in a corridor, heading for me, and all I needed to do was think at it and my implants connected with it, overrode its instructions and shut it down.

The penultimate part of this dream saw me investigating the massive dorsal hydroponics area, a garden more than a kilometre long, matched by a ventral one. It had a dome, which was normally open to the stars in normal space, but which was currently protected by huge shutters.

Whilst sitting in the garden, reprogramming the warbot and repurposing it as the resident gardener, I was scanning the ship, and noticed how the Ambassador, whom I'd fancied, had already chosen her mate - the Imperial Captain. My scan, part clairvoyance and part use of the ship's internal security sensors, revealed the two of them already mating in her chambers.

By that time I was already deep in conversation with the ship, which reminded me of Destiny from Stargate Universe apart from its shape. My implants were connecting me to its systems more than I could have imagined - a symbiosis that nobody could have anticipated.

Last of all, I found that the ship had wanted to die. It had accelerated to 0.4 C, and it had been steeling itself for a further push to 0.7 C - at which point it would have dropped its shields and let the interstellar particulate matter bombard her brain with gamma rays, frying her, erasing her personality and turning her into a near-lightspeed ballistic projectile heading out into the void. She wanted to die, because her old crew had disappeared - transcended their old flesh, become pure energy beings and abandoned her without a purpose. Her crew had been explorers, flitting from galaxy to galaxy much like Destiny in SGU.

And the ship had one final trick up its sleeve to show me.

Most normal Jump drives in Traveller are rated Jump-1 to Jump-6. A ship so equipped can travel a number of parsecs in one Jump equal to its rating, but it consumes much fuel: 10% of the ship's mass in refined hydrogen fuel per set Jump. A Jump-6 could make one such Jump, but it would have to need fuel equal to 60% of the ship's mass to do so. Once in, the Jump would last one week, no more, no less, and dump the ship out at its destination however many parsecs it had been set to Jump.

The ship had two types of Jump: a conventional one, capable of Jump-6, consuming a mass of fuel equal to 10% x the set Jump speed of the engine mass, not the ship - half to enter Jump, half to leave. This kind of Jump could last for weeks, Jumping 6 parsecs per week, more or less a parsec a day, for however long the voyage needed to get to the destination.

I said it had two kinds of Jump. The second was a Quantum II Jump drive. An intergalactic FTL drive, capable of some six million parsecs per week.

As the crew watched, the chaser vessel - the 10,000-ton unarmed ship that had been sent after this intergalactic leviathan - was undocked from the vessel and pulled by invisible forces into a hangar bay designed for the vessel's fleet of thousand-ton sublight fuel tankers.

The ship, it would seem, knew Telekinesis on a ship-wide scale, and used its TK abilities as a combination tractor beam and deflector shield. Very effective in deflecting particulate matter impacting on the ship while it was travelling at relativistic velocities.

Then, as everybody got into the acceleration couches in the chaser ship and it was moored to the interior of the flight bay, with me, the Captain and the Ambassador sitting on the Bridge ... the ship activated its QII Jump.

Next thing was, it came out of that Jump, decelerated to a standstill relative to its point of origin ... and came about. So we could see the Milky Way Galaxy behind us.

I looked at the Captain and the Zhodani, and told them that we could bring the ship back right now; or we could do something else first. Such as turn the ship around and send it hurtling off towards the Small Magellanic Cloud. Do a bit of exploration.

A short hop at QII speeds - shouldn't be more than a few hours to get there. We had the means; it was something no human had tried, not even the legendary Zhodani Core Expeditions; and the stars were waiting for us to find them ...

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