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10: Unfamiliar Forms

For the past twenty five years he’d worked the ship yards, watching as humanity reached further into the blackness. The commonality of the years spanning that quarter century was that nothing changed that much; man reached further into the void astride ships that were little more than tin cans strung together with spider webs.

Sam Joberinski started as a ‘Ship Architect’, when the term ‘architect’ was used to dress up what was in actuality a structural engineer. Back then the traffic ways between the colonies were plied by craft made from boxes, connected with gantries. Glamorous they were not, but in a very engineering manner they did the job, well. So well in fact no one thought to change the methodology, because as the axiom goes, ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it?’ So while the ships got bigger, the drives more powerful, they continued to resemble their origins. But things do change, usually when you least expect it and after twenty five years, Sam was not ready for what came next.

The whispers had been circulating for long enough that they were now more like tall tales; not something anyone who thought themselves respectable in the business of ship building took seriously. The yards of the outer’s, it was said, were working on zero-g cast hulls. Everyone already knew that they had broken though with fusion powered drives – some clown canyon racer, apparently, stumbled on how to get small scale fusion to work. But zero-g cast hulls? That was something no one was ready to believe and even if it could be done, there was no metal known suitable for the process. So while the whispers continued, the tales growing taller, they were held safely at arm’s length by people that had real work to do; as it was business as usual thank you very much.

The sound of his own breathing was the only thing registering as Sam floated in the dock, watching the… ‘ship’ pull in. It was there in front of him but his brain, trained, accustomed, to the reality of a quarter of a century, silently refused to interpret it. He inwardly felt like a bug trapped in a spider’s web, he wanted to move but his body would not willingly comply.

How to define it, that was the issue at hand. The ship drifted closer but the closer it came, the harder it was to describe. The hull undulated in a continuous, organic flow. Lumps and bumps marked the surface, yet all he could think about was that pickle thing he’d once eaten down some gravity well. The surface, its dark grey colour spalshed with colour belied the not so smooth texture, unlike anything he understood – metals, composites; it was more like a semi smooth stone. Out the back, a tangle of pipes that he could only guess was a much speculated Singularity Drive. It looked less like a drive and more like…. more like a what?

Sam kept on staring, stunned. It drifted closer, manoeuvring into dock with the agility of a cat.

Someone, somewhere, discovered the future and his quarter of a century’s worth of knowledge and experience evaporated before his eyes. The rules had been changed and Sam realised they’d all been asleep at the wheel.

Story Arc MAG-100

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22: Pop Guns

And just like that, conflict changed. Sure, there were boarders, or industry, or pride to protect, but now a bit of money could be made on the side.

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A collection of hard science fiction tales written and illustrated by Gerard Thomas.

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