“Othalbar SysCon, this is IS Star of Miragrann preparing to initiate fittle-flight per filed intentions. Please reconfirm entry vector.”
“Star of Miragrann, SysCon. We show you initiating fittle-flight at 8201-06-09:2+11-54. We confirm your entry vector as computed and valid for twelve-pulse window. You are clear for entry at your discretion; squawk null. Good hunting! Over.”
“SysCon, squawking all zeroes. We’ll bring you back a present. Star of Miragrann, clear.”
Captain Sarizar looked out over his bridge, and smiled slightly. “By the book, people. Run the clock.” Punching the button for a direct line to the maneuvering room, he added, “Ninety percent power, please.”
“Extending frameslip ring.”
The flight geometry display over his Exec’s head showed the struts which mounted the segments of the frameslip ring slipping out from their sub-light positions alongside the ship, moving the fittler’s nodes to their optimal position for the envelope, when the maneuvering watch came over the intercom.
“Reactors ramping. You have sixty percent power.”
The sailing master had the next set of checks.
“Auxiliary drives show shutdown and are safed for transit. Vector-control core switching to frameslip mode.”
“You have seventy percent power.”
Back to the Exec, and then over to Relativistics. The flight geometry display was now, indeed, indicating full extension and all segments locked in place.
“Frameslip ring is extended and locked. All external sensors show zone clear.”
“Preferential-frame buffers integrated and synchronized. Frame trap executed. Geodesic trajectory successfully mapped to empire-time manifold.”
“You have eighty percent power.”
It was all in the sailing master’s hands now. Well, the sailing master’s programming’s hands…
“All stations report secure for transit. Vector-control manager confirms frameslip mode active. Board reads blue across. We are ready for entry commit.”
“You have eighty-five percent power.”
“We are now entering the entry window. Timer abort set.”
“You have ninety percent power, and holding.”
A last glance around at his repeater displays, and Captain Sarizar performed his primary, and indeed only required, action in the fittle entry checklist: “Commit.”
“Entry is go on autosequencer. Envelope forming. Fittle in three, two, one –“
The sensations of a normal entry surrounded him, the rising hum of the drive coupled with the creaking of the hull and the peculiar and familiar twitch in the guts as the forming drive envelope’s side lobes tickled the starship’s interior —
And then —
A thunderclap from astern, the sound of an inconveniently inconceivable amount of energy being dumped into whatever buffers and sinks were available.
The sickening sensation of an uncontrolled envelope collapse, as the space-time stress that had been pumped into the drive envelope relapsed, converting itself to gravity waves – fortunately, almost entirely directed outward.
The hissing roar of untold gallons of thermal goo vaporizing and pouring unimpeded into space.
And, in contrast to those, the sound of his crew taking all the correct actions when all those things happened.
“Null engage. We have a null engage. Autosequencer reports successful entry abort, core spindown in progress –“
“– running flash-accumulator bleed-down, preparing to vent secondary heatsinks –“
“– transmitting splash advisory on guard channel –“
He punched for external communications.
“Othalbar SysCon, Star of Miragrann. We have experienced a null engage. We’re holding orbit and running an interference manifold computation” – he glanced over at Astrogation, unnecessarily confirming that his astrogator was already on it – “up here, and we’d appreciate it if you could do the same on the big brass. Data follows. Our intentions are to recompute entry and execute as soon as we have reliable data.
“Also, if the interference manifold matches available flight records, we’d appreciate the address of record for whatever chesdinye durchevi didn’t bother to file a flight plan.”