We fastened our seat belts and Stabilizers as instructed, switched off all communication gadgets and sat in a relaxed meditative mode. The long hiss I heard during the initial take-off resumed. Then I experienced the ecstatic delight for which Space Leap was so famous. At first the sensation of linear movement was felt, then that melted away into a feeling almost akin to disembodiment. It was as if our bodies had become the spaceship itself with our minds directing every part of it. Everything became one and motionless. The ecstasy was not what words can convey. The only condition close to it is the bliss of meditation.
Slowly, after about 30 Hanian minutes, the sensation of motion was restored. The stars, which had become blurred during the Leap became individually crystallised again and we felt like people waking out of a soul travel session. We were refreshed and joyous beyond our imagination.
Then the announcement was made, ‘Our First Leap into The Space Highway has been very successful. We are already half-way towards Terra. Congratulations, everyone’.
There was a long standing ovation and cheerful banters among both members of the crew and passengers. Even Commander Roon came to the passengers’ deck to give a thumb up, grinning from ear to ear.
‘So, this is what Space Leap feels like’, I said.
‘Yes, son. That is Space Leap. A beautiful experience. Time stands still as distance is wrapped up. But it has to be done in phases so as not to overshoot the intended destination’.
‘Great. Thanks, Dad’.
‘For what, son?’
‘For such a wonderful opportunity’.
Another announcement was made, ‘ In the next two hours we shall make a stopover at our station on Planet Nagistari for routine Recharging and maintenance. Meanwhile, you may walk around, take your meals and enjoy yourselves. Have a nice time’.
My father and I sat at a table in the restaurant at the ground floor where, to my delight, we were served by people, not robots. The meal was very good. Healthy food, not the type synthetically or tele-produced.
My father later left me and took a walk around the spacious floor while I washed down the meal with a bottle of red wine.
‘Hi’, I heard the voice of a female and turned to see the Red Head who had earlier been spacesick smiling at me.
‘Wont you invite me to sit down’?, she queried in her sensuous voice.
‘Oh, I forgot my manners and I apologise’, I said, ‘Do take a seat. What would you have? Hey, waiter! Over here’.
She ordered for some tele-produced drinks and smiled at me.
‘My name is Julian’.
‘Jul..what? I sputtered, ‘that’s not a Hanian name. It sounds alien’.
‘You’re right, it’s a Terran name’.
‘Are you Terran’? I asked, bewildered.
‘No, this is my first visit. I was born when my father was off to Terra and by his calculation I was born in the Terran month of July, so he decided to give me that name to commemorate his first journey to Terra. Dont you like the name’?
Hesitantly I replied, ‘I do’. There was something about her smile that triggered an alarm in me. She was something other than what she claimed to be. It was not the name. No, I had no problem with that. This girl’s eyes were colourless and….well, I had to keep an eye on her.
Suddenly another announcement came over the telecoms, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is an emergency. Get back to your seats. A large Space Doldrum is eating its ways through space towards us at an alarming speed. Back to your seats and take all safety precautions in preparation for a diversion into Null Space to avoid getting caught’.
I looked at the direction my father had gone and was grateful to the Origin to see him hurrying back. I stood up and went with him towards our seats. Before then I looked back and was surprised to see Julian sitting calmly sipping her drink with a grin on her face despite the danger alert.
We sat down with some apprehension. I turned to my father, ‘What is a Space Doldrum’?
‘It is a very wide, dark expanse of negative energy that envelopes any metalic object, crushing it or liquifying it within 70 hours depending on the type of metal. So you can imagine what will happen to this ship, which is partly made of ‘starkra’ metal. The Doldrum is the only threat to ships, although I had never encountered it throughout my career’.
‘What do we do now?’ I asked.
‘The worst thing in this situation is fear. Fear kills your initiative. Remember who we are. All things were created for us and by us. If you keep this in mind, nothing will ever worry you’.
‘Good idea in any other different condition’, I thought.
My dad caught my thought telepathically. He turned to me and in a quiet tone said, ‘Have you forgotten your training at the Academy so soon, Shoram? Come on, son. Chant Hu and calm your nerves. An idea will occur to us. Yes, we can overcome the Doldrum. All we need is to remember who we are. We are creators’!
No sooner had he said this than we were plunged into a darkness so thick that all the lights in the ship were eclipsed.