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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lunar River (Episode 4)

As Umbraic Nova ventured into the pinky-red nebula, lightning sparks could be seen flickering from one end to another. The electrical energy here was intense. Ionised particle was moving swiftly against one and another. Nobody aboard could guess how large this nebula is going to be, not to say the two mirage images. They were both quiet and they had stopped speeding.

A soft beeping voice echoed in the deck. Vohne looked at the screen. He frowned, muttering, 'Impossible... impossible...'

'What is it?' Sylvina asked. She walked over and took a look herself. She gasped silently in disbelief. She was staring at the particle composition collected by the ship's passive sensors. The particles detected was not of heavy molecules or atoms created by a supernova. It consisted of high concentrations of hydrogen, helium, lithium and other super-charged ions, with some traces of metals.

Angel's Flare was used recently, about a decade ago.

Angel's Flare was not of human technology. It was created by an alien culture called Angels. Only a few millenia advanced than human, Angels, however, had been seeking refuge from the Vapidus. A few thousands of them had survived and now they were busy running through the galaxy to find some place to settle down. In a rare occasion, they had met the humans in the last three centuries. It was miracle but the communication between the two cultures escalated to a mutual understanding. Several toys were exchanged. Angel's Flare was one of the rarities.

Angel's Flare was fired to a particular volume of space of unadjusted range and yield. It was so unpredictable that no one tried to use it before. A cloud of super-heated and super-charged vapour seethed the space in less than 3 seconds after firing. If some part of the vapour condensed, a highly metastable state of cloud existed.

Metastable is a state where a delicate equilibrium is achieved. One slight interaction would cause the entire state to fall to ground state. The metastable cloud from the Angel's Flare was also known as the Angel's Scorch. Small meteorites that whammed passed the Angel's Scorch would result in a quick-expanding metallic bubble. It was superconducting and could destroy a ship even a small spark of electric energy was injected.

In other words, stay out of the Angel's Scorch.

There, the two anomalic blips were appeared to be the Angel's Scorch. It was located two hours ahead. They were moving, in a matter of fact. Both Scorches were rotating around each other, with one of them moving slightly faster.

It spelled bad news. It meant that two Scorches would collide eventually and liberate a huge sphere of bubble that could vaporise Umbraic Nova into ionised gas.

'We need to get out of here,' Sylvina said softly, trying not to be panic.

'Copy that, but doesn't it make you wonder who did this?' Vohne said.

'No time for investigation,' Sylvina said. 'We need to pull out as soon as possible. Can we calculate the rotational speed of the Scorches?'

'Too risky. Sensors might be fried dry,' Vohne said. 'We don't even know how large this... this blanket is.' He shrugged.

'The Angel gun takes exactly twenty-five years to power-up. If the passive sensors are right, we are seeing a criminal act thirty years ago, or a little earlier. Problem is, who will reach this point of space?' Sylvina asked.

'Angels themselves, perhaps?' Vohne suggested.

'I don't think so. They have problem in running away from the aliens. If they deployed such armaments, the Vapidus could track them down easily by sensing the wake patterns of the Flare,' Sylvina said. 'I am worried someone had used the Booster before us.'

'Engines off,' Vohne reported.

'What?' Sylvina was surprised.

'No worries, a common issue faced by jogging through the nebula. Electromagnetic pulse. We will be back on opto-electric system shortly,' Vohne said.

'How shortly exactly?' Sylvina asked.

'Thirty minutes,' Vohne said. Sylvina wanted to say something but he cut it. 'Don't worry, we have a residual drift towards the Booster by about 15 percent the speed of light. Take it easy.'

'Easier for you to say,' Sylvina said. 'I am just thinking the possibilities of the enemies lurking somewhere.' She paused. She checked the screen again. She shook her head. 'What? Three Scorches now?' She pointed at a new blip appeared on the screen.

'I don't think so. This Scorch is tailing us tight. We need to ramp up,' Vohne said. 'Ship, engines on!' he called out to the ship's intelligence.

'Power failure. Optimum state would be attained in twenty minutes,' the ship replied cheerily.

'Vohne, I think we will be slamming into the Scorch if we continue to have a residual drift,' Sylvina said. 'I think we can ignite our retrorocket to reverse.'

'Power is down, Sylvina.'

'Oh, great,' Sylvina said, rolling her eyes. 'Have you prayed enough?'

'Prayed? Never,' Vohne looked surprised.

'Then now it is the best time to do so. Hold on tight, I am going to do something you've never done before,' Sylvina said.

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