12 Days of Fiction, Day Eleven: A New Mission

The spaceship crossed the void of space thanks to its faster than light drive. Someone had once defined the Alcubierre drive as the universal cheater: basically, since nothing with mass can travel faster than light within a local reference frame, the drive created a bubble of normal space-time round a ship, then contracted space-time fore and expanded it aft, effectively propelling the ship forwards at faster than light speeds by changing space-time itself. Still the interstellar distances were astronomical, as the joke went, and thus space travel took anything from days to weeks.

A hostess walked down the corridor of the spaceship, her magshoes anchoring her to the metallic strip on the floor. Or what was the floor for her right then, since she kept changing direction along the corridor, knocking on doors to the cabins that were placed in cylindrical fashion.

"Ma'am Greenberg," she said softly while knocking on a cabin. The hostess was now upside down relative to how she was at the beginning of the corridor. "We reach Clarke in one hour. You asked to be woken in advance."

"Thank you," came a sleepy voice.

Meghan Greenberg ignored the subtleties of the Alcubierre drive, but it mattered little. She always slept on space travels. As soon as she had entered her cabin, she had dimmed the lights to the minimum, and after nourishing she had gone to sleep. Meghan had set an alarm, but like other passengers, she liked to be able to rely on a human hostess.

She unbuckled from her bed and drifted off the metre that separated it from the bathroom. After a microwave shower (nothing beat the real thing: she couldn't wait to touch ground), she opened her small refrigerator. Pulling a bag from the inside, she drew the tube and connected it to her vein, and relaxed for a while, floating naked in the microgravity. One of the small luxuries of space travel that she had been joyful to discover: most people tended to get sick and vomit, which was always funny but not in microgravity, but she actually liked the feeling.

A few minutes later, the bag finished, she disconnected and disposed of it in the recycler. She took the sun barrier from her case and started applying it carefully on her skin in front of the mirror. The cream had a blueish hue that disappeared in a few minutes, so that one could apply it and make sure not to leave off any spot. Of course there were parts of her body she couldn't reach, but those were catered for with the next step of the dressing-up procedure: the body armour.

The fine fabric was made of reactive molecules: they would become hard like a shell before an impact, be it from a projectile or a blade, and as a bonus they were built to absorb all solar radiation. Perfect.

Meghan donned her black body armour unitard, and chose a dark red tunic to go on top. Standard-issue boots plus her case completed her attire. She looked at the mirror: the blue was already starting to fade, leaving behind the tingling sensation that she always thought was imaginary and had never commented with anyone.

The red alert lights came on: fifteen minutes for the ship to disengage her Alcubierre Drive. Meghan grabbed the arm of the chair and buckled up. She considered the mission ahead. A murdered diplomat was never easy: too many sensitivities could be hurt. But the reports made it all mysterious enough for her curiosity to be piqued. The alert panel showed the rotation had started, and indeed she noticed how the sensation of weight slowly returned.

Minutes later, the Alcubierre drive was cut off and the ship dropped to real space. Or something similar, Meghan thought. Who knew.

She unbuckled and found she could walk, the rotation of the passenger section creating enough gravity for people to move around comfortably. In half an hour or so they'd have landed on Clarke, and she expected an expedited pass through the customs. Meghan was anxious to start working.

She recalled what she had read of Clarke. One of the first colonies, three suns. Extremely short nights at irregular intervals: astronomers insisted they were not irregular, but they certainly looked so. Artificial day/night periods had been established in order to preserve the circadian cycles, though apparently the local natives were already adapting.

Meghan covered her head with the hood of her tunic, and put her sunglasses on.

A planet with almost no night. Not the best place for a vampire detective to work on.

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