The Slow War
The fierce blue star lied. It appeared to be in the center of a field of crowded blue and violet points of light all focused and pulled towards the front of the ship. It was the incredible speed that they traveled at that hid the truth of a warm yellow dwarf star. The glare of the star from this distance hid its collection of planets and asteroids.
Astrogator Vyron Rhoson preferred to see the ″real″ image of uncorrected light. Gazing at the floating images of the stars crowded ahead of him the universe assumed its familiar cast given by relativistic velocity that he had known since childhood. A universe of stars in all directions, without the blue-shift in the direction of travel did not really seem real to him, any more than the world outside the ship’s walls as more than an intellectual abstraction.
Rhoson activate the full scope of the sensor’s abilities once more. The fierce point of blue light became a warm yellow globe speckled with sunspots. The three large gas giants were easy to discern, and the various icy and watery planets and moons were visible as faint crescents and discs. The haze of the cometary belt glowed about the system as each item was located and updated by the computer.
These had been known for years; he was looking for minutiae in the haze of individual photons. He scanned carefully for the high-energy emissions of ship’s drives, power sources or communications. Nothing. Still, he double checked. While he would never live to see the star-system, the survival of his descendants was at stake. Would the ship decelerate and form a new colony, or would they enter into a radiation-filled battleground? Satisfied that the system ahead was still unclaimed, he made the call.
″Still no sign of the enemy in the system ahead, Captain.″ he reported. ″No high-energy signatures, no signs of industry. It looks like a good place to stop.″
″Thank you, Astrogator.″ the Captain replied. ″I want an updated navigational deceleration map and relativistic probe launch tracks for the meeting in two hours.″
″Yes sir.″ I looked like they were going to be stopping at last. They would not have to continue to drift along until they ran into the enemy in the Sagittarius arm. The system ahead would have everything needed for a colony: comets, asteroids and barren worlds. He was a little worried about that second planet and it’s oxygen atmosphere, though. Still, that temptation aside, the system would be a perfect location to fortify and prepare the next generation of generation ships. All of this would take generations of course. Only those that planned ahead went to the stars.
Vyron updated the projected paths for the relativistic probes. Each would speed silently by, dormant for most of their flight, sending bursts of coded data to the ship about the system ahead. The ship meanwhile, would then engage the powerful braking drives and fields, blasting super-heated particles towards the system at near light speed. Not only would Vyron loose his cherished view of blue stars ahead, but the stream of particles would be a loud alarm across the galaxy announcing their presence.
The light of their engines would race ahead of them though the centuries, and be received by the enemy. Slowly, inevitably, ships would be launched, or more likely, ships already in motion would change their course towards the new target. Even though all would take centuries, speed was essential.
Behind them lay a thousand light-years of conflict, where the expanding waves of human and alien colonization had met. He hoped that they had arrived here first, and may have left behind the conflict, for a while. Perhaps they may even be able to flank the alien’s expanding space, as had been intended when the ship was launched so long ago.
All around him were the faint, red-shifted broadcasts of the conflict they left behind. Haggard faces in slow-motion described the constant struggle. He listened to the last broadcast of a doomed world, watching as it died centuries ago. This would not happen to their new home, he swore.Continue reading