The day came when we had to depart our dear Planet Han. Friends and relations waited for us at the spaceport to say goodbye. I fondly remember my mother’s sister, Auntie Seri’s hug and tears before we all departed to the port where we saw my friends from the Academy and many of my relations too, some smiling, others looking grim.
The ship, Akhnaton 1, named after an ancient Terran king, was a giant oval monster; a huge, three-story ship with 700 psycho-engines and an equal number of digital ones. It was dark in colour and was capable of camouflage and outright disappearance from the view of all organic creatures.
All the the floors were guarded by armed personnel, though the second floor was strictly reserved for eight thousand passengers, complete with restaurants and conveniences.
The lowest deck served as a recreational section and for sight-seeing. The sides had wide windows with touchscreens where one could zoom in and out of the scenery outside.
I sat by my dad in the passengers’ floor beside a small window where I could see our Planet recede as we sped away. I must confess it was unnerving for me, being my first interstellar voyage. Before now I had only visited planets within the same system.
We were ready to go. I briefly looked through the window and saw friends and relations waving from the visitors lounge of the port. Then the usual pre-flight ceremonies started.
A female cabin crew member stood at the front and in a comforting tone began to instruct us on safety measures and acceptable conduct by passengers on board.
Each passenger was equipped with a Universal Viewer for scanning the universe, a Gravity Stabilizer Belt that roots to you comfortably to the floor or the ground of any planet no matter the gravitational fluctuations, a spacesuit to be worn in an emergency or whenever a harmful radiation was detected and even a space life-boat which was expected to automatically drop for each person from the roof in case there was need to abandon the ship due to a grave danger. We each had a Translator, which was a headset that automatically translated any language in the universe into Cosmolingo, so that communication with beings outside the Inter-Galactic Confederation would be easy. In addition to all that we were allowed to carry licenced light weapons and Field Protectors worn as a band on the wrist which can be switched on to produce an impregnable Force Field around the person wearing it, to ward off some category of external attacks. For example some bullets or laser beams may be rendered impotent.
There was a long hiss and we were airborne. We were lifted slowly as an honour to those waving goodbye on the ground. A sudden disappearance was never considered right. I could not look at my Viewer for long. Some of our friends were shedding tears as if we would never return.
Then the ship zoomed off noiselessly and within Hanian seconds I saw the round globe that is our planet receding. It was a beautiful spectacle. The main sun was shining in the overwhelming darkness of space and its light was reflected on the planet and moons, because their atmospheres could disperse light. The darkness enveloped everything else despite the three suns.
My father cleared his throat suddenly. We had not said much to each other all this while.
‘Smooth take-off’, he remarked. ‘The young navigators have learnt well. Taking off is the most serious part of handling a space-ship. Make an error, and you land yourself in a dangerous spot such as a Space Doldrum’.
Before I could ask him what a Space Doldrum was, a man in his middle ages approached our seats grinning from ear to ear.
‘Commander El Nuk. Glad to see you on board Akhnaton 1. You are assured, this will be a thrilling ride…and this must be your son, Shoram. Handsome chap. Reminds me of how you used to be when we were at the Academy…Oh, sorry, Shoram, my name is Maja Roon and I am the Commander of this ship. Your father was a former fellow student at the Space Academy and former co-navigator aboard the ship Sikak. He was very efficient, Shoram..’
My father acknowledged his compliments and the Commander went back to his quarters.
‘Nice man’, said my father, ‘and very efficient too. Relax boy, we’re in safe hands’.
By this time Han has become a spec in the distance. I zoomed on it with my Viewer and observed its bluish aura.
Just then there was a groan from a passenger behind us. Someone was spacesick and the medics were soon on hand to give aid. The sick person was a red haired female. Two medics ushered her towards the clinic on the far end of the deck. I smiled. What is a beauty like that going to do on Terra? Females! She may just be interested in jewelries for which Terra is very famous. What a way to waste resources! But it is really nobody’s business.
The girl returned with a smile and apologised for her behaviour.
Just then the announcement was made, ‘ Please get seated and brace up for the First Leap’.