I’m far too busy this week. Just far too busy. I only just realized that I missed posting my Worldbuilding Wednesday thing this week. *sigh* But at least I didn’t forget today’s Free Fiction Friday–Hope you enjoy!
Piloting was dangerous, especially when you grieved. Keola knew that better than most. The Wave drive affected electronics, making them unreliable. It also affected human minds, sending them chasing after memories and too distracted to pilot the ship.
It didn’t matter. Keola had a job to do and her grief at the loss of Scarlett would have to wait until she rode the Wave all the way to the end of the line.
Into the Wave is a thoughtful science fiction exploration of surfing, science and the nature of grief when you have nothing to grieve over that is sure to stick with you.
Into the Wave
By Meyari McFarland
The sound never stopped, rushing around Keola as if she was trapped inside of the curl of a wave, surfing endlessly through that shining blue tunnel where the ocean held you in the palm of its hand with destruction only a tiny mistake away. This was so similar. It wasn’t water rushing around her but the death was the same, the sense of being held by something greater, infinite, beyond all comprehension. Keola never felt smaller than when she took the ship into the Wave.
Scarlett loved it. She’d always loved going into the Wave but then she was a dare devil who lived for any adrenaline rush she could get. The last time Keola saw Scarlett it had been on the loading dock, Scarlett waving over her shoulder as she marched up the ramp and disappeared into the squat black block that was her ship.
Keola’s ship was more graceful, longer, leaner. It had gun pods and sensor arrays like the patches on the sides of an orca. Scarlett’s ship had been a squat freighter but she’d been happy enough to be a pilot, to get to fly into space, guiding humanity beyond Earth to other solar systems, that she hadn’t cared.
No day dreams. A light flashed to Keola’s right. She tapped her fingers on the controls, dismissing it and refocusing her attention on the Wave. It wasn’t easy. It never was. Keola’s instructors had told her outright that the Wave dragged at your mind, pulled you away from what you were doing. The slightest slip could mean the destruction of your whole ship.
Yes, there were computers and back up redundancies. Every ship had a backup pilot in a secondary command module, with at least one more waiting during the trip into the Wave. Programs and sensors and specially designed systems to make the trip into the Wave as safe as possible but none of it mattered compared to the simple fact that the Wave messed with electrical systems and only an organic brain could consistently pull itself back onto track when the Wave pulled you towards destruction.
All disappeared ships were recorded as pilot error.
Scarlett’s squat little freighter included. Keola resented that. When she focused, Scarlett was the best pilot around no matter what the military commanders over Keola said. Brave, fast, smart, and like a laser into the night, Scarlett wouldn’t have lost herself in the Wave.
But her ship was gone and there was no bringing it back. No contact, no messages, nothing at all had been found. Maybe once they got to the system they’d find something but right now everyone believed that Scarlett had crashed into the Wave and taken her ship, all nineteen sailors and cargo with her even though that was ridiculous. Scarlett wouldn’t wipe out.
Keola might. Frankly, it would be easy. The warp space curled around the ship just like the curl of a wave off Hawaii. It felt so familiar, so very much like coming home that Keola had screamed the first time she’d taken a ship into the Wave. There wasn’t the same sense of the Wave moving underneath you. Inertial dampers ensured that the ride was smooth as silk, as soft as the petal of a plumeria with its golden center surrounded by delicate white petals.
Still, the sensors told Keola what she needed to know. It was so much like crouching on her board, toes curled down and arms stretched before and aft so that she could trail her fingers in the surface of the wave. The sensors were the fingers, telling her what the Wave was doing. Her chair, marvel of engineering that it was, was her toes and legs and the shift of her body minutely this way or that. And their ship, of course, was the board, the great scientific marvel of a surf board designed to carry people beyond the speed of light and into the vastness of space no matter what they encountered.
“Ort cloud ahead,” Beckham murmured into her ears, his deep voice gone tinny over the comm.
“See it,” Keola replied as she studied the pop-up display he provided. “Thick one. Warn everyone there’ll be some shifting about. Give me more feedback on the chair, Beckham. I’ll need it to ride the Wave properly.”
Riding the Wave through interstellar space was an easy thing. Open space, no gravity wells, just the gentle rise and fall of various solar systems off in the distance. Once you moved into a gravity well it was much more challenging. Even if objects were millions of miles apart their gravity affected the Well Drive, pulled the ship towards them and it was Keola’s job to ensure that they didn’t wipe out, becoming a tiny, short-lived black hole.
It was a thick Ort cloud, heavy with planetoids, comets and icy asteroids. Average distance between the objects was less than half what Keola was used to. She had to assume that there had been really huge body in the inner solar system that flung most everything out as it spiraled towards the sun. There didn’t seem to be much explanation other than that.
“Course?” Beckham asked. Three screens popped up showing various ways of punching straight through the obstacle course of gravity wells.
“No,” Keola said. “Straight through is suicide, Beckham. We’re taking the long spiral in. It’s slower but safer.”
“Captain wanted us in there as quick as possible,” Beckham replied and even over the comm his worry was obvious.
“This is as quick as possible,” Keola replied. “I won’t risk everyone’s life for speed. It’s doable. We just need to ride the Wave instead of forcing it.”
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