tripping the rift
The last thing Gene Patrick wanted was for his presence to compromise the mission.
"As you were people, this is Lt. Cmdr. Hinson's Flight Deck, not mine."
He strode up to Hinson and Kurama, bent down and whispered "Safe journey.", then moved to a free chair over on the wall and sat quietly.
Margie Youngman turned and tossed him a sealed water bottle. "You'll need this."
Patrick knew that was true. "Thanks, LC." He looked at the doilies all over her workstation. "Been busy, I see."
She turned back to him, grinned and nodded. "Yah, I'm making a sling for his Stick."
Patrick sat back in his chair a bit stiffly. "I probably didn't need to know that."
A male voice came wafting over her console. "Lotta strings. Gotta let it hang down, tap it from both sides. Need something to hang it in."
Patrick nodded and said nothing. He had no idea what Chuck was talking about.
He looked around the room, listening to the quiet hum of activity, then directed his gaze to the main nav console, where Melanie Hinson was doing a pre-checklist checklist. Celia Kurama was making herself as comfortable as possible, all the Kurama ticks and superstitions on display, the loosening of the neck, the wiggling of the steering stick, eyes moving constantly over her instruments.
Beyond her, between the two seats, the heads-up display, the dark rift sending back nothing, as void of telemetry as it was empty to look at.
Home, if they were lucky, beyond that void.
He heard Hinson flick on the P/A system. "Mission Control, this is Destiny Flight Deck, comms check, do you copy?"
Patrick watched Chuck Youngman's head as he bent over his own instruments and mic. "Copy Flight, have you loud and clear. Are you ready for pre-flight call down the line?'"
Patrick thought it amusing Chuck was the closest human being to Melanie Hinson outside of Celia Kurama.
Melanie replied as if Chuck were a million miles away. "Roger that, Mission, we are ready."
Chuck stood and Patrick realized it was because he needed to be able to move around behind his people and see what they were monitoring, check down his own little part of Universe.
"Roger Flight, stand by." Chuck and Margie were both standing now, walking behind their teams, checking the monitors themselves. Twenty seconds later, Margie looked at Chuck and nodded, then resumed her seat.
Chuck remained standing, flicked a switch on his workstation, picked up a small brown piece of plastic to fidget with, and spoke into his headset, the voice booming throughout the ships and pods which were the remnants of Earth. "This is Destiny Mission Control, we are advised Flight is a go, commencing calldown and confirmation all pods are go, counting down from pod 316. Beginning in 10."
The tension was slowly building in the room.
In a moment, Chuck said "On my mark, three .. two .. one .. mark."
And it began.
On Teb. Never give up, never surrender!
Is this the switch here? Oh, it's already on. OK, thanks We're Go.
Oh, for fuck's sake!!!
Patrick looked back at the console, Kurama already impatient at the long calldown, Hinson flipping through heads-up to keep her own tension at bay.
It would be a long five minutes for everyone but Margie and Chuck. With each pod coming online, Margie's crew was patching them in to their own telemetry, a new visual link was being established, each unglamourous pod in the convoy suddenly a full-blown ship with its own call sign, a number everyone would remember the rest of their lives.
And at the end.
Melanie Hinson was up again. "Flight is a go, Mission."
"Copy that, Flight, handoff on my mark. Three ... two ... one ... mark. Handoff initiated."
Hinson had it in hand. "Handoff confirmed, Mission." Melanie's voice had only been heard on Flight Deck up until now. Chuck patched her through. "Dragon Tail, this is Lieutentant Commander Hinson, be advised we are leaving on my mark three ... two ... one ... mark."
On the word "mark", Celia Kurama eased her stick forward and the heads-up display started to change.
Patrick felt a slight sense of movement, but his eyes were drawn to Margie Youngman, tracking each pod during the extremely slow entry to make sure they were coming in straight, calling the numbers to Chuck as each one cleared the entrance.
When she reached 320, Margie spoke into her headset. "Last pod is clear, we are 5x5, LC."
Hinson replied. "Copy clear, five by five, DragonTail."
She looked over at Kurama. "Punch it, Seal."
Celia punched it. "Fully forward, chica."
Patrick smirked at the new cameraderie.
"Telemetry on light and heat sensors engaged." Chuck, staring at his screens, the piece of plastic moving quickly in his fingers. "Sharp eyes, quick lips. This is a moving target, people."
A blip. "Oth sah, inda bag." James Fenster, the guy at the far end of Chuck's row of monitors.
Chuck moved down behind him. "Where, Jimmy?"
"Sri they." Fenster sat back with his arms folded.
Chuck watched the screen. "Okay, got it."
Fenster hadn't finished. "Todja's they, asj where it wuz. No need ta ged all sited. Sride dare inda bag."
Chuck was back at his desk, picking up Fenster's telemetry. "Send you the solution in a sec, Margie."
She paid attention to her monitor. "Okay, Chucko."
'Chucko'. Patrick hid his smile.
There was an unexpected click back into the convoy wide communications from old 'Chucko'.
"This is Destiny Mission Control. We have the new co-ordinates and nav solution for the exit rift, all pod commanders be advised we will need a wide arc of approach as it's right around a corner in the fold. Double check the links back to 316, hand it back up the line, when we get to pod one, Mission will clear Flight and exit from the fold will commence. This is Destiny Mission Control."
Hinson looked back at him. "How long?"
Chuck shook his head. "Dunno yet, we need to make about an 80 degree port bank, and we need these pods not to pile into the back of us."
Kurama looked back as well. "What if I go deep beyond it?"
Chuck and Margie exchanged glances and nodded at each other.
Margie looked at Kurama and nodded. "Good idea, go with it, just wide bank starboard first, maybe we'll get lucky and the end of the tail won't hit the far starboard wall."
Kurama settled back in. "I'm on it."
Hinson jumped back on the headset. "DragonTail, this is Flight, be advised we are taking a long starboard sweep and cutting back on the exit."
Chuck looked down the row at Fenster. "Ping for the far starboard wall."
Fenster was on it already. "Ri now, looghin far rahd wol."
"Miller?" Chuck looked at the man next to Fenster.
Miller replayed the sounds in his head. "I think it was more or less he's doing it already, looking for the right wall."
"Starboard." Chuck was rubbing his chin.
Miller nodded. "Yessir, starboard wall."
Fenster was talking under his breath. "Rahd, starbir, wha thuh fug?"
Miller opened his mouth to speak, but Chuck raised his hand. "I think I got that."
Fenster wasn't finished. "Khagsuggr doan unnerstan inglij."
Miller tried to shrink into his chair.
"Ghadid." Fenster had apparently found the wall. "Stu cloze, weghun hiddid."
Chuck walked back down. "How much too far?"
Fenster appeared to think a moment. "Mebbe too fifdy, sixdy, summer in they."
Chuck did some quick mental math. "When Pod 200 is furthest starboard, LC. Hinson, get on the gas."
Hinson did some math of her own. "I say one eighty, okay, Mission?"
"You're the nav." Chuck said it without sarcasm or disrespect. "Your ball game, LC."
"Copy that Mission, and thanks. Get me visuals on 180, guys."
Margie said "Copy, Flight." and routed the fore and aft cams from pod 180 to Hinsons heads-up. "You have them."
"Gottem, thanks, Mission." She looked at Celia. "When I see the fore cam with 179 to its port and the aft cam with 181 to port, so that's right-side, I want you to give us a quick burst of speed as best you can without breaking the links."
Celia nodded. "Okay, chica, you got it."
Chuck was still standing, staring at the screen, unblinking. "Maybe 25 seconds away, Flight, ballpark."
"Copy that, Mission." Hinson had the same sense on timing.
Kurama was looking hard port with her visual scanner. "I think I can see the hole." Her voice gained urgency. "Let me wing it, Mel."
Melanie Hinson didn't hesitate. "Go get it, Babe."
Patrick handn't heard the word "Babe" used on the Flight deck before.
With the exception of Chuck and Jimmy Fenster, everyone was looking at the heads-up display but Patrick.
Celia Kurama had a feel for the DragonTail of pods behind the Destiny, and no amount of telemetry could replace that.
He watched Chuck, and saw a smile start forming behind his fingers, saw his eyes look over at Margie, then at Patrick, and then Patrick saw the smallest of nods.
The heads up seemed to tilt one way, then the other, and suddenly the blackness was sprinkled with stars, the Destiny coming through the exit rift, and most eyes turned to the Destiny's aft cameras.
Hinson was watching as well, leaving the driving to Celia. When the final pod cleared, she slapped hands with Kurama, and got on the headset. "Mission, this is Flight, you can tell the people we're on our way to our new home!"
Chuck's grin finally broke loose. He flipped the switch. "This is Destiny Mission Control, all pods are clear and Lieutenant Commander Hinson and Flight Lieutenant Kurama are setting a course for the new homeworld." He didn't sign off in the usual way, just sat back down.
Patrick saw Margie flip a switch, and the combined cheering of 316 pods full of people filled the room.